by Joan McDonough | published May. 3rd, 2014
Disclaimer: The stories and events shared in this piece are subjective to those who shared them with Reporter. Not every person’s story or experience may be similar.
“I remember that when I came out to my mom … she said I might have been masturbating wrong,” said Jack Meredith in an interview over the phone. “I don’t want to have sex.”
Meredith, a recent graduate of RIT, identifies as asexual. Asexuality is the absence of sexual attraction to other people. It is often misunderstood and people who identify as such face stigmas and misconceptions. Asexuality is an innate characteristic that many individuals from all walks of life identify with. It can change over time but that is not particularly common, just like any other sexual orientation.
Asexual individuals are not incapable of having sex. Some will choose to have sex if they want to express love toward a sexual romantic partner in that way.
People who identify as demisexual may experience some sexual attraction but only after an emotional bond (romantic or otherwise) has been formed with another individual. Gray-asexuals are individuals who can sometimes experience sexual attraction but it may be faint, fleeting or dependent on certain circumstances.
Meredith shared that finding a relationship as a romantic asexual can sometimes be difficult. “It’s kind of lonely to be honest,” he said. “There aren’t a lot of open asexuals.” He went on to explain that asexual individuals will often form romantic relationships with sexual individuals or enter into polyamorous relationships. On the other hand, some asexual people are just as content with maintaining close friendships and not seeking out romantic relationships.
Changing the Atmosphere
It’s common for asexuals to have to defend the way they identify to others. Meredith said that many people will assume that an individual will identify as asexual to avoid identifying as gay. He also said that he has had to explain asexuality “to a multitude of people” who were unfamiliar with it, which can be taxing.
Open communication about sexuality in general can go a long way toward dispelling misconceptions people have about asexuality. “It’s difficult to bring people out of that mold of sizing everyone up when they first see them,” Meredith said. Removing these misconceptions could take a great deal of time and patience but it is a step toward a more inclusive and understanding community.
“Treat it as any other sexuality,” Meredith suggested. “Or don’t worry about it in general; if they feel close enough to you they will [tell you] … I’d just like people to recognize that it doesn’t affect you, you don’t have to worry about it.”
In an attempt to clarify what asexuality means the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) contrasts asexuality with different preferences, tendencies and lifestyles that it is often confused with.
Asexuality is not celibacy; celibacy is a decision to abstain from desired sex while asexuality is when the desire for sexual intimacy is simply not present.
Asexuality is also not anti-sexuality; anti-sexuality is the hatred of sex by those who often view it as evil. Asexuals do not necessarily feel this way. Some may feel repulsion toward sex but they do not generally view it as wrong.
Finally, asexuality is not the same as aromanticism; aromantics have no romantic attachment or attraction toward others while asexuals may experience romantic relationships.