As we approach the end of Pride month, it feels fitting to write about an often neglected topic—though not by The Huffington Post‘s Dominique Mosbergen, who recently presented an excellent and informative series of articles on asexuality. My post will use info from her articles as well as from social psychologist Bella DePaulo‘s work and the website of AVEN, the largest asexual support network.
Although asexual activists are making themselves known at some Pride events (“Who’s asexy?”), the asexual community is still not widely enough recognized as a legitimate part of the “queer” movement. Maybe it’s partly because of their numbers: “aces,” as asexuals sometimes refer to themselves, reportedly make up only about one percent of the population. Many non-aces don’t even know anyone who openly declares his or her asexuality.
And many of us, including therapists and those in the medical community, don’t even know what being asexual means. Speaking for therapists, while we’re likely at times to see clients with asexual behavior—due to such factors as a history of trauma or a fear of intimacy—this is not the same as having an asexual identity.
So, what does it mean to identify as asexual? One of the best places to find out is the website of The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), founded by David Jay. Right next to their name on the home page is a brief statement: An asexual person is a person who does not experience sexual attraction.
How does one know he or she is asexual? Says AVEN: “There is no litmus 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. If at any point someone finds the word asexual useful to describe themselves, we encourage them to use it for as long as it makes sense to do so.”
Some other main points:
- As with being gay, straight, and bi, asexuality is not considered by most to be a choice, but an orientation.
- There’s as much diversity regarding relationship needs within the asexual community as there is within any other community.
- Attraction for others on other levels does often exist, thus some aces also identify as lesbian, gay, bi, or straight.
- Lack of interest in sexual activity doesn’t have to mean lack of sexual arousal. Mosberger quotes one ace as saying that “everything works, we just don’t want to get somebody else involved.”
Sexologist and professor Anthony Bogaert released his book Understanding Asexuality last year. One of his concerns is that asexuals often get slapped with inappropriate diagnoses, e.g., Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD).
Sexual Aversion Disorder is another mislabel given to asexuals, states psychologist Bella DePaulo. In a Psychology Today post she clearly differentiates asexuality from sexual dysfunction. To those who jump to such conclusions, she states: “You need to stop along the way to ask how asexuality is experienced in an individual’s life. If you are okay with it, then everyone else should back off and keep their pathological labels locked in their file cabinets.”
This video clip is specifically about asexuals attending Pride events: