What’s The Deal With People Who Experience Little Or No Sexual Attraction?

Posted on December 23, 2015 in LGBTQ, Taboos

By Aindrila Chaudhuri

Asexuals resting during Stockholm Pride Parade 2012. Picture by Mikusagi
Asexuals resting during Stockholm Pride Parade 2012. Picture by Mikusagi

Asexuals lack an intrinsic desire to have sex with people. Life can be a bit difficult for the asexual community because not much is known about the topic in the society. Although to be fair, there has been some media coverage on the issue of late, but there still is a lot that can be done in terms of generating awareness on asexuality.

The asexual community comprises of asexuals, Grey asexuals and asexual allies (which includes sexuals etc). Grey asexuals are the people who might experience some amount of sexual attraction but it is quite low and therefore, they identify with asexuality more. Demisexuals are a type of Grey asexuals and they might experience sexual attraction towards someone only after they form a close emotional/romantic connection with them.

As a sexuality educator and an asexuality activist, I realized I had access to both the worlds – one that was ready to talk about sex and the other that wanted people to know that not everyone desires sex. And therefore, I began to use my skills and knowledge to generate awareness about the asexual community and our unique concerns. I wrote extensively on the topic and even made Youtube videos on how complex asexuality is!

However, speaking for the rights of the asexual community it is not so easy as it would seem. Asexuality is quite a new concept for Indian people. I came out to my family and friends some time ago but they could not comprehend what it meant at all!

There are certain awkward situations that I have to deal with almost on a daily level. For example, some very intrusive questions and comments can be thrown my way – which include “Do you masturbate?”, “Have you ever had sexual intercourse?”, “Maybe you are haven’t found the right person”, “You are a prude, aren’t you?”, “Just screw someone once and you will change your opinion” etc. These remarks tend to push a person out of their comfort zone and are never easy to respond to. Well, to be honest, self-introspection is NEVER an easy thing to do. Anything that makes us question our own biases can be difficult – and imagine it happening to you every day- well that can get a tad tiring after a while.

But, I have realised that some amount of personal discomfort can be disregarded if it results in the greater good for the asexual community. Plus, it’s a good sign that people are interested in the topic and are asking questions. I would prefer it over societal apathy any day!

A lot of people ask me “Why talk about asexuality? Why organize at all?” – And this comes from the misconception that not having sex should not be such a huge problem. But just try to imagine what it must feel like to live in a sex-obsessed world – how alienating it must be for asexuals. Our society is not that kind to asexuals, and we can often face ridicule, rejection, stigmatization, etc. simply because of the way we are. Sometimes, the asexual community might even experience violence – corrective rape being an extreme example. Therefore, it is necessary to talk about how asexuality is not a disorder that needs to be ‘rectified’ or ‘fixed’.

Also, if there is sufficient visibility, asexuals can openly support and connect with each other – along with highlighting the fact that asexuality is a legit orientation – and not some frivolous Tumblr movement (Yes, this is an actual statement that I read a few days back!). Not to forget, dating and relationships can be a bit complex for asexuals but talking about these things can make it easier for teenagers and adults.

Whenever there is a lack of information on a certain issue, there is sure to be confusion and misinformation around it. Some asexual myths are really bizarre and unfair to the community. The biggest and most harmful myth of all would be that asexuality is equal to sex aversion. That’s not true at all! Asexuals simply do not want to have sex. That’s all. They do not hate sex or the people who have it. In fact, there are many sex-positive asexuals and Grey asexuals who believe that if the society discusses sexuality in an open manner, it might become more accepting of non-heteronormative ideas. And eventually, be willing to accept marginalized identities such as that of asexuals.

The asexuality flag
The asexuality flag

Another myth is that just because asexuals do not have sex, they do not need to be in a relationship. There are a lot of other reasons as to why someone might seek companionship that go way beyond sex. In fact, a lot of asexuals are perfectly capable of forming and sustaining healthy romantic relationships. I, for one, happen to identify as a pan-romantic demisexual, which means that I may be romantically attracted to somebody irrespective of their sex or gender. And I might experience sexual attraction towards that person but only when the connection is very strong. But all this is never in my hands. My sexual libido is not something I can control or predict. And trust me, this can be really painful and confusing sometimes.

You can imagine why it is a tad bit annoying when people think that demisexuality is usually what a lot of people experience when they date someone – well that’s not completely true. There are many people who can have sexual feelings or thoughts about someone they are not romantically involved with. That never happens for demisexuals. And refusing to understand the intricacies of how demisexuality or asexuality works leads to erasure of our identities- which is extremely unfair. So when people say, “Oh that’s totally normal – why do you need to assert your demisexuality? It does not seem like an issue at all” – it is actually an insult to our daily existence and the struggles we face when we are dating or forming intimate relationships with people.

There is another reason why the asexual community has been actively organizing and trying to increase our presence in Queer spaces. Asexuals are not straight people. Asexuality is not the same as heterosexuality – both of them are different orientations. In fact, the asexual community is a part of the rainbow coalition of people that are against compulsory heteronormativity. But sadly, our community faces a significant amount of suspicion, hate or taunts – even within the LGBTIQI+ coalition.

There are some sexuality and gender activists who feel that asexuality might actually be harming the sexual rights movement. I mean, to some extent I can understand where this sort of thinking emerges from. After all, it has taken so long for feminists and queer activists to exert their rights to have sex outside of a heteronormative structure. And anything that might seem to threaten this could be scary for them. However, I tend to disagree with the idea that asexuality can harm any person’s fight for rights. How can one group’s fight for societal acceptance and recognition ever be against another’s fight for the same? Everyone’s identity and right to exist the way they are is valid and recognising this is very important.

We are all entitled to basic human rights and asexuals too face their share of discrimination and problems due to the very heteronormative ideas that are troublesome for the LGBTIQIA+ community and the rest of the society.

Also read: When Cake Is Better Than Sex: Growing Up Asexual In A Straight World