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Myths and truths about asexuality

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Aug 05, 2022

Myths and truths about asexuality
  • Although many of us instantly recognize the ‘A’ in LGBTQIA+ as ‘asexuality,’ it’s still a commonly misunderstood sexual orientation. Asexuality is the sexual orientation of having little to no sexual attraction toward others. Even within the queer community, a lot of people have harmful misconceptions about what it means to be asexual. 

    Misconceptions about asexual folks, or aces, are partially due to the extreme lack of their representation in the media. Less awareness about asexuality also results in many young aces thinking something is ‘wrong with them’ while growing up because they’re not aware that asexuality even exists.

    Asexual awareness is very important for the ace community, so let’s go over some of those common myths about aces. 

    Myth 1: Asexuality is a choice

    Just as with all sexual orientations, there’s a common misconception that asexuality is a choice. In reality, asexuality is not something one can choose, just as homosexuality, heterosexuality, and bisexuality are not choices. Some people even claim that aces ‘just haven’t found the right person yet’, a common phrase people also say to gay and lesbian people. However, asexual people do not choose to feel no sexual attraction toward others, it’s just the way they are!

    Many people confuse asexuality with celibacy. Celibacy is a choice to refrain from sex. Some asexual people may even be intentionally celibate, just as some straight or queer people might be. However, they are two completely different things. Celibacy is a choice, while asexuality is a sexual orientation. 

    Just like other sexual orientations, asexuality is a spectrum. Some asexual people may feel a little sexual attraction, while others feel absolutely none at all. There are different types of a-spectrum people, like gray-asexual and demisexual individuals. A gray-asexual person might feel infrequent sexual attraction and not consider themselves fully asexual, while a demisexual person only feels sexual attraction after a strong emotional connection is formed.

    The myth that asexuality is just a lifestyle choice implies that it is not a real sexual orientation. However, asexuality is absolutely real, and it’s not that uncommon either. An estimated 1% of the world’s population is asexual– that’s nearly 75 million people! There’s recorded evidence of asexuality as early as the 1800s. 

    Many people have an understanding that not everyone feels sexual attraction in the same way, so why is it so hard for some to accept that some people also don’t feel sexual attraction at all? Unlearning these misconceptions can help us better educate others and fully show up for the ace community.

    Myth 2: Aces have something wrong with them

    Another myth about asexuality is that it’s an illness or hormonal imbalance. A lot of people think asexual people are just sexually dysfunctional and can even be fixed. This is another misconception that implies that asexuality isn’t real. It’s a harmful one, as it can lead to asexual people believing that something is wrong with them. Unfortunately, a lot of asexual people grow up thinking that they are ‘broken’ because they don’t feel sexual attraction like other people. 

    Some people with asexuality may even get misdiagnosed as having Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder and Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, which are disorders characterized as lacking sexual desire. People with these disorders often feel distressed by their lack of sexual desire. Asexual individuals, however, just are who they are, and have always felt this way. Asexuality is also evident early in life, like other sexual orientations.

    Along with people believing asexuality is some type of illness, many assume that people are asexual because something traumatic happened to them. These people might believe that asexuality is just a fear of intimacy due to a bad experience or relationship. Although aces can have bad experiences just like everyone else, sexuality isn’t something caused by one traumatic event– it’s just a way of being.

    Myth 3: Aces are against sex

    There’s a common misconception that aces are strongly against sex and find others disgusting for engaging in sex. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Knowing the difference between disgust of others and disgust within yourself helps to break the stigma surrounding aces. Your ace bestie may feel grossed out having sex themselves but have no issue with hearing about yours.

    Although some aces might feel disgusted by the thought of sex, most aces only feel this discomfort when it involves themselves. This myth that ace people are anti-sex is harmful, as it’s alienating and paints the ace community as a ‘threat’ to sex-positivity.

    According to asexual activist and model Yasmin Benoit, “The misconception that asexual people are against other people expressing their sexuality, and that all asexual people can’t stomach conversations about sex, is quite an alienating one.” Benoit explains in her Teen Vogue article that asexual people can even have sex-positive attitudes.

    As sexual attraction and libido are two different things, many asexual people do experience libido and/or sexual desire. To illustrate, there are hetero, bi, and homosexual people who experience low libido but still feel sexual attraction. On the flip side, one can enjoy sexual pleasure without feeling sexual attraction toward other people, as is the case for many asexual people. In fact, plenty of asexual people do have sex, whether to feel good, make their partner happy, experience it, etc.

    Myth 4: Aces look a certain way

    There’s no demographic that asexual people fall into. Asexual people can be any gender, race, or ethnicity, and have any personality or appearance. Yasmin Benoit describes in her article that she is often told, “You can’t be asexual,” due to her looks and being a Black woman. She explains how the common stereotype for how an asexual person should look is a white, nerdy or someone who is ‘involuntarily celibate’ because they can’t get a partner.

    Benoit urges that there is no ‘look’ to aces, and that this stereotype is harmful because it excludes real asexual groups. Perhaps because WOC are often hypersexualized in society, there is much less recognition of asexual WOC. More representation in the media of all types of asexual people is necessary to help combat this and inform young and old people about asexuality.

    Myth 5: Aces can’t find love

    There’s a myth that aces can’t find love, typically due to the belief that sex is an important part of romantic relationships. Although sex is an important part of relationships for many people, there are plenty of fulfilling, meaningful relationships that don’t involve sex. For example, queerplatonic relationships involve two queer people in a committed, loving relationship that may not involve sex and/or romantic feelings. 

    Aces can absolutely find love, whether that’s with other asexual people, queer people, or anyone who simply loves them for them. Oftentimes, when people truly love someone for who they are on the inside, that’s all that really matters. There’s someone out there for everyone, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

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    Katie is a writer and creative person based in Seattle who is passionate about the arts, environmental justice, and all things vintage fashion. She celebrates queerness as a natural yet radical state of being, and she strives to make the world a more inclusive place for all. You can find her taking meditative strolls in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest channeling her inner Bella Swan, or just on IG @ktmarieeee.

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