Our culture often attributes desire as the main motivator for sex. But there are many different types of attraction that inspire someone towards lovemaking. Asexuality is one in a vast and nuanced menu of sexual orientations.
Asexuality is also often misunderstood. Frequently, the assumption is made that asexuals don’t want to have sex. But there are many reasons why someone would want to engage in intimacy, even without experiencing sexual desire. So what exactly does it mean to be asexual — and how do you know if you’re asexual?
What is Asexuality?
Asexuality is a sexual orientation, such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality. Those who identify as asexual generally experience little to no sexual desire. But there is a wide spectrum of asexual identities and preferences, and the inclusivity of the community in recent years have empowered many people to come out as asexual.
Asexuality can also mean different things to different people. Some people only experience sexual desire in very particular circumstances, while some experience no desire at all. For example, romantic attraction or emotional attraction can be a big motivators towards sex, as well as a desire to connect with a partner. Sensual or physical attraction may be another reason someone chooses to have sex without sexual desire. For some people, platonic attraction has them seeking deeper intimacy and connection with others, without the desire for sexual encounters.
While the term asexuality is inclusive, it is not to be confused with celibacy or abstinence. Someone choosing celibacy is making a long term vow to stay unmarried and avoid all sexual activity. Someone practicing abstinence is making a choice to abstain from sex for a period of time. Both are conscious decisions not to engage in sexual activity — they however do not indicate a lack of sexual desire.
Many people who identify as asexual didn’t choose not to experience sexual desire — it’s just how they are. Other people may choose to identify as asexual because they don’t agree with the societal conventions around how people have sex.