As you sit in your seminar, bored of one grand theory or another, it’s all too easy to slip into a fantasy about having a special ‘grand theory’ of your own with the person next to you. How the mind wanders so quickly to sex. Not only is it in our minds, but it’s constantly on our screens and in our media too – living in this sexualised culture, it’s no wonder that sex is often on the brain. For most, that is, except for one particular group.

Asexuality is a sexual orientation describing a person that doesn’t experience any sexual attraction. Not to be confused with priests, who take a vow of celibacy (only later to break it with a mousy haired boy from Sunday school, but that’s a sexuality this article doesn’t have time to cover), or the Jonas brothers, who, let’s face it, no one legal wants anyway. Asexual people have no sexual desire. It’s no small group either: New Scientist in 2004 found that 1% of all people are asexual.

When first encountering an asexual it’s easy to jump to the thought that there is something wrong with them. This is the most damaging viewpoint we could take on the subject, unless we want to go back to a time where people were put in institutions and had their testicles messed with, which is a world I just don’t want to live in. Asexual people have normal hormone levels and their orientation is not born out of trauma. Much like heterosexuality and so on, asexuality is another orientation that, although no one knows how it came about, cannot be changed.

Emma Lightwing, a current student at Nottingham Trent University, gives her account of being asexual: “I have no sexual desire but I still have romantic attraction (with guys and girls), So I don’t mind physical contact but many asexual people like no contact whatsoever. I’m also a non–libidoist, which means no masturbation or solo satisfaction desire either.

“I‘ve told my family; they’re surprised and may not believe it’s real. They seemed ok with it but expressed concerns as I still want children, which would be hard, being asexual. I’ve only told close friends who seem ok with it; they can normally accept it but not fully understand it. I haven’t dated properly, but I imagine it would be easier with another asexual, or at least with someone who understands it and could do without sex. I think most people couldn’t, which obviously makes it hard to find someone, as there isn’t much choice.”

For asexual people who don’t want a romantic relationship, it’s hard to be within a society that values romantic and sexual relationships above everything else. Anyone who has been single for a long time might understand this feeling. This gets further complicated when we consider that many asexual people want long term companionship without any romantic attachments, similar to a twin or a best friend.
Most asexual people would not ever want to have sex, and when dating, it all too commonly becomes an issue. Looking at the forum on the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), it’s unfortunately filled with asexual people who have difficulty with the consequences after telling the objects of their affection that they are asexual. From a sexual point of view, it is all too easy to imagine the horror of being told that someone liked you but in a completely non-sexual way.

Alternatively, asexual people go out with other asexuals. Fortunately, asexual dating websites such as platonicpartners.co.uk are places where members thrive knowing they won’t be rejected after revealing they don’t want ‘physical’ relationships. Many find their happily-ever after, perfectly understanding partner this way.
Although not thinking about sex may be a blessing in some eyes, the asexual community still finds itself facing problems, the biggest perhaps being that of obscurity. Hopefully this article has in some small way helped people begin to understand the reality of having an asexual orientation and some empathy with the asexual community.

Shaun Reeve

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3 Comments

  1. Ellie
    January 24, 2011 at 03:54 — Reply

    I’ve just finished reading On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan which addresses similar issues. Anyone wanting know more about asexuality might find it an interesting but somewhat depressing read! McEwan’s novel seems to show the female protagonist as asexual because she is physically repulsed by thoughts of physical contact in a sexual way however, and I wondered whether this was true for all asexuals?

    • Heidi
      January 24, 2011 at 07:17 — Reply

      No, this is in fact not true; not all asexuals are repulsed by the idea of sexual contact. Some are simply indifferent to it, and many are not disgusted in the slightest, and in fact have positive reactions. There are even some asexuals who do participate in sexual activities such as masturbation and other forms of self-pleasure (libidoists).

  2. Paul Blakeman
    February 25, 2011 at 23:18 — Reply

    Great article, but I have to say the ‘mousy haired boy’ comment is a bit too far!

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