An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction – they are not drawn to people sexually and do not desire to act upon attraction to others in a sexual way. Unlike celibacy, which is a choice to abstain from sexual activity, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are, just like other sexual orientations. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or better; we just face a different set of needs and challenges than most sexual people do. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community in the needs and experiences often associated with sexuality including relationships, attraction, and arousal.
Asexuality is a growing subject of research in psychology, sexology, and other academic fields. While estimates for the asexual proportion of the population are limited and may vary, the most widely cited figure is that we are roughly 1% of the population.
Many asexual people may experience forms of attraction that can be romantic, aesthetic, or sensual in nature but do not lead to a need to act out on that attraction sexually. Instead, we may get fulfillment from relationships without sex, but based on other types of attraction. Romantic attraction is the desire to be romantically involved with another person. Aesthetic attraction is appreciation for a person’s appearance. Sensual attraction is the desire to engage in sensual (but not sexual) activities with a person, such as cuddling, hugging, or kissing. Asexual people who experience these other forms of attraction will often be attracted to particular gender. These people may still identify as lesbian, gay, bi, or straight. The split attraction model has led some people to identify separate sexual and romantic attractions. For example, a person who’s asexual but wants relationships with the opposite sex may identify as a “heteroromantic asexual”. Most sexual people may not view their orientation that way, and may simply combine their sexual and romantic attractions into one characteristic if they’re aligned. Asexual people often feel the need to specify both sexual and romantic attractions to make it clear what drives them and what they’re seeking from other people.
For some asexual people, arousal (sometimes interchanged with “libido” in asexual dialogue) is a fairly regular occurrence, though it is not associated with a desire to find a sexual partner or partners. This could include, but is not limited to, arousal from hormone variation in a person’s menstrual cycle, or erections at certain times of the day. Some may occasionally masturbate, but feel no desire for partnered sex. Other asexual people may experience little or no arousal, often called non-libidoist asexuals. Both types are equally valid in identifying as asexual, as sexual orientation is about attraction and desire towards other people, rather than strictly physiological reactions.
Because we don’t have an intrinsic need for sex, asexual people generally do not see a lack of sexual arousal as a problem to be corrected, and if they do have a libido or experience arousal, they do not feel needs are unmet by a lack of sexual activity.
It is important to note that asexuality is different from medical conditions such as Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). HSDD is listed in the DSM-V, while asexuality is not. In cases of HSDD, there are underlying sexual needs that are not being met, to the point of personal distress. If not experiencing arousal or suddenly losing interest in sex is distressing, it is advisable to discuss this with a medical professional to get a diagnosis.
Asexuality does not limit a person’s emotional needs. As is the case for sexual people, we vary widely in how we fulfill those needs. Some asexual people may still desire romantic relationships. Other asexual people may be most satisfied with close friendships, or happier on their own.
Sexual or nonsexual, all relationships are made up of the fabric of interpersonal connection. Communication, closeness, fun, humor, excitement, and trust are all just as important in nonsexual relationships as in sexual ones. Asexual people who desire romantic relationships may have fewer cultural scripts to rely on, but they are still seeking an emotional connection of shared romantic love.
For asexual people who desire romantic relationships, the dating pool for other asexual people is very small, as we are a very small minority of the population. In addition to that, asexuality is often invisible and has a shorter history as an identity/community than other minority sexual orientations that may have established cultural venues of courtship. Due to this, many asexual people end up in mixed relationships with sexual people. Mixed relationships face challenges that often require compromise.
Most asexual people have been asexual for our entire lives, although not all of us have been aware of the term or the community for as long as we’ve recognized this. Just as people will rarely unexpectedly go from being straight to gay, asexual people will rarely unexpectedly become sexual, or vice versa. Another minority of people in the asexual community may only think of themselves as asexual for a brief period of time while exploring and questioning their own sexuality, typically in younger years, when exploring their gender identity, or surrounding major shifts in interpersonal relationships.
While academic efforts are being made to assist research with an Asexual Identification Scale, there is no test to determine if someone is asexual. Asexuality is like any other identity – at its core it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out, then communicate that part of themselves to others. If you find the word asexual useful to describe yourself, you may certainly identify as asexual. If you later experience things that indicate you’re not asexual, that’s fine as well. People in a stage of questioning their a/sexuality are welcome in our community, as we are happy to share our own experiences and perspective in helping you discover more about yourself. Many of our members no longer identify as asexual, but still participate to provide support and share wisdom to all types of people.