Learning about asexuality

By Stephanie Ambroise

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Human sexuality is a fascinating topic for me. I believe it to be one of the most interesting subjects to discuss, especially in understanding people’s preferences.

There’s a whole lot to be said about sexuality though, and most of it has already been discussed thoroughly. To put it in other terms, some of those horses have been so thoroughly beaten they turned into glue.

One of the most common things said by people who are somewhat informed on the subject of sexuality is that sexuality is fluid, and that there’s a spectrum from gay to straight. Those people usually put homosexuality on one side and heterosexuality on the other, with many people falling somewhere in the middle. For those even more well-informed there is the Kinsey Scale, which gives you a number from zero to six referencing where you fall on the heterosexual-homosexual rating scale.

While there is a lot of talk about sexuality in the areas of human rights, there’s one aspect of sexuality that falls completely under the radar: asexuality, which is defined as a “lack of sexuality.” Those who identify as asexual do not experience any desire to have sex with anyone.

To be honest, asexuality flew under my radar as well until one of my friends came out to me as being “ace,” a term meaning asexual. When my friend did tell me I was extremely excited, because honestly, I did not know anything about asexuality. What I knew about my friend contradicted with that little I thought I knew about asexuality. I realized I might not be the only person with misconceptions about what it meant to be asexual. I wanted to learn as much as I could about it, in order to go tell others.

I knew that my friend has been attracted to several different people, and my idea about asexuality was that they felt no attractions or pull towards other people. That was the first of many misconceptions that got cleared up for me as I talked with my friend about her sexuality, or lack thereof.

I think the most common misconception about asexuality is that those who identify as asexual do not experience attraction. While I do not personally identify as being asexual, I had an extended discussion with my friend and did research on my own to find out that many asexual people do indeed experience attraction. They just happen to be “aesthetic attractions,” which means attracted by beauty, which may or may not be attributed to the sex of the person.

It’s an attraction to a person’s beauty and not their sexuality. They may very well think someone is good to look at, but they do not want to have sex with them. Their ability to notice someone’s good looks is not followed by the desire to be with them sexually. They may desire to get to know them, but in terms of sexuality, it stops there. One of the greatest things to find out while talking to my friend was how genuinely repulsed she was at the idea of sex, and how she was disgusted by the ideas of the exchange of bodily fluids from one human being to another, whether sexual or otherwise.

This lack of desire for touching or being sexuality intimate with another person brings us to the next misconception about asexuality. It’s the concept that a person who identifies as asexual doesn’t want to have sex because he or she has been through some traumatic experience while growing up.

While I am not about to claim all asexual people have not been through some traumatic sexual experience – because I do not know all asexual people – I can say that this is not a reason for their lack of desire for sex. While there might be some people who identify as asexual who also have been scarred from a traumatic event, that alone is not the reason why people, in general, are asexual. Their sexuality, or lack thereof, does not stem from any traumatic experience, the same way that being gay or transgender is not a direct response to some bad experience.

Those who identify as asexual simply do not have any desire for sex at all. Some people who identify as asexual may have a sex drive, in that they have a desire to experience sexual pleasure through kissing and other things, but not want to have sex. Others who identify with being asexual may not want to do any physical things with their romantic partner whatsoever. While they may see someone as being aesthetically pleasing, they may be more interested in having a relationship of the romantic sense, rather than the sexual sense.

This brings me to my next point, which is the idea that asexual people do not want to be with anyone. This is not true. Most people would like a human companion of some kind, to be with, to talk to and to cuddle with. Those who identify as asexual simply stop where they are still comfortable. They simply are not interested in sexual intercourse. They may love their romantic partner, they may be attracted to their romantic partner and they may even want children with their partner. The overall point is, though, that asexuality is not synonymous with unfeeling.

Asexuality is also not synonymous with celibacy. Celibacy is a choice to not have sex, whether or not you want to. Asexuality is just not wanting to.

One of the reasons why this new knowledge of asexuality appeals to me so much is because I think a lot of people fall into the mode of thinking everyone wants to have sex. If it feels good for you, why wouldn’t other people want to do it?

But, according to a CNN study, around 1 percent of the population has no desire to have sex in any respect whatsoever. The reasons are not often because they’ve been abused, or they have performance problems, or because they are incapable of love. They just do not see sex as something that is desirable.

If you speak to many people who have had sex, some speak of it in an almost boastful way, as if it’s the end goal of life; they say if you haven’t had sex yet, you better have it soon. Asexuality, to me, contradicts the notion that eventually you should have sex and want to have sex. Although 1 percent of the noted population is not a very high number, the fact that there are people who just simply have no interest in sex with another human being in our hyper-sexualized society is a wonderful thing to me.

Stephanie Ambroise is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].