Oct 23-29 is Asexual Awareness Week! Meet Michael, another representative from the Asexual Awareness Movement.
Kendra: What is asexuality?
Michael: Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction. Both the words “sexual” and “attraction” are vitally important here. The latter underlies the fact that the label is independent of any type of behaviour: it is possible to have sex and be asexual, and to not have
sex and not be asexual. The word sexual is also important, as many asexuals are attracted to others in a variety of other ways, for example aesthetically, romantically and emotionally.
Kendra: Is there an asexual spectrum?
Michael: There is no evidence that orientations are discrete labels, with no in between. If one restricts to sexual people there is an entire
continuum of sexual orientation, from heterosexual to bisexual to homosexual, with possibilities in between too: for example one can be attracted to both genders but generally have a preference for one or the other. The same is true for the sexual-asexual range: between the
people who are sexually attracted to absolutely no-one and the people who are sexually attracted to, as far as anyone can tell, a “normal”
range of people (whatever that means!) there are those who are sexually attracted to a few people, but at a lower intensity and
frequency than average. These so-called “grey asexuals” or “grey-As” lie in the middle of the asexual-sexual spectrum.
There is some discussion about whether grey-As should be labelled asexual. By the strict definition of the term, an asexual is someone
who experiences no sexual attraction at all. However a person on the lower-end of the asexual-sexual spectrum may be far closer to the asexual label than any other, and will likely share many issues with asexuals; therefore it will often make sense for them to use the label asexual.
Beyond this, there is a huge diversity among asexual people: asexuals differ in their romantic preferences, in their own attitude towards
sex (from “repulsed asexuals” to “indifferent” to asexuals who actually enjoy sex) and in their attitude towards others having sex (from “sex-negative asexuals” to “sex-positive asexuals”).
All of the latter three spectra exist within the sexual population too. Regarding the first, one can find sexual people within an entire
range of romantic preferences, sometimes not corresponding to their sexual preference: for example, we have heard from people who identify as heterosexual and homoromantic or as heteromantic and homosexual.
For the second, it is worth noting that some sexuals are also repulsed by the idea of having sex with someone they are not sexually attracted
to while some are fine with the idea. Asexual people are exactly the same, except they are not sexually attracted to anyone. Finally, sexual people can also be sex-positive, sex-negative and anywhere in between.
It is very important to note that – for both sexual and asexual people – sex-negativity and repulsion are two entirely different things. I myself identify as a sex-positive repulsed asexual; while the idea of having sex myself squicks me out, I think sex is a clearly great thing for those who enjoy it.
Kendra: When did you realize you were asexual?
Michael: I realized I was asexual when I was around 15 years old in the mid-late 90s. I used the term “asexual” to describe myself, in analogy with the terms heterosexual/homosexual/bisexual.
Kendra: What are some common misconceptions about asexuality?
Michael: Some of the most common are that
(a) Asexuality has to do with sexual behaviour.
(b) Asexuality is about sex negativity.
(c) Asexuality is about repulsion to sex.
(d) Asexual people reproduce by splitting like microbes, and yet for
some reason no-one has noticed this all these years!
Kendra: When I see someone walking down the street I find sexy, I get interested and turned on. I might start fantasizing about them. What is this scenario like for you?
Michael: I might admire such a person in the same way I might enjoy the sight of a beautiful painting; I can be aesthetically attracted without having any sexual response.
Kendra: When I’m watching a movie and a hot sex scene comes on, I get turned on and feel squirmy. What is it like for you when you watch porn or see sex acts?
Michael: I am a repulsed asexual and generally feel uncomfortable at anything approaching a sex scene, or even kissing. It is important to note: (a) this is not typical of all asexuals, and perhaps not even of all repulsed asexuals (b) I am not against sex scenes in movies; these are just something I do not enjoy on a personal level.
Kendra: What resources do you recommend for those wanting to learn about asexuality?
Michael: The AVEN front page, the AVENwiki and, for academic studies, the sites Asexual Explorations and Asexual Studies.