I have a friend who dated this asexual guy for roughly three years. Most people suspected he was gay, others thought he had some type of little child syndrome and she guessed he was just shy. He would never initiate anything sexually, and the few times they did make love, the entire ordeal was more uncomfortable than satisfying for either of them. Aside from for the purpose of reproduction, he could not prioritize sex in his life because he did not enjoy how it felt and quite frankly found the physical act to be somewhat repulsive. He thought he was a robot, maybe even a sociopath, but I knew this could not be the case because he is a particularly caring and compassionate person.
My friend, who is extraordinarily beautiful inside and out, said she developed many insecurities and experienced self-doubt when dating him because she felt undesired by the person who was supposed to desire her most. Now, reflecting back years later, she finds him to be one of the best romantic partners she has had — and could maybe ever ask for — because his motives and desires were not centered around sex.
I was first introduced to the word “asexual” in my middle school biology class when learning about reproductive behaviors in amoebas and jellyfish. Living in a sexually saturated culture, a human not having the desire for sex is not only generally unheard of but considered an abnormality. We are told that sexuality is ubiquitous, vital and a fundamental part of being human. Intimacy is equated to sex, and couples who have sexless marriages are pathologized and referred to sexual therapy.
According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, asexuality is an orientation. Unlike celibacy, which is a choice to abstain from sexual intimacy, asexuality is based upon a lack of sexual desire. It is not necessarily a loss of libido due to some sort of traumatic or painful experience but is essentially having little to no sex drive to begin with. David Jay, the founder of AVEN, asserts, in an interview for MSNBC, that he views the world as full of different experiences and sees sex as one tiny sliver that he happens to have no interest in. He adds that this condition does not imply a fear of intimacy or a physical dysfunction and that asexuals can — and do — lead gratifying lives.
Although there are aromantic asexuals who do not experience the instinctual emotional need to be in a romantic relationship, many asexuals seek monogamous partners and value intimate connections just like sexual people. There are also those who identify in a gray area somewhere in between. They enjoy and experience some parts of sexuality but, due to a low sex drive, do not find it to be an important aspect of their lives.
In a study conducted by Alfred Kinsey, sexual orientation was measured from heterosexual to homosexual based on a 0 to 6 scale. Those who had “no socio-sexual contacts or reactions” were categorized as “X,” which virtually denied asexuals of a role in our society and marked them as a statistical throwaway. In 1994, an extensive survey of 18,876 British residents included a question on sexual preference, in which 1.05 percent of the respondents indicated that they “never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all.”
Dr. Anthony Bogaert, a sexuality researcher, continued the investigation of asexual demography in 2004 and concluded that 1 percent is not an accurate reflection. Due to the minimal scientific research that has been done regarding asexuality, not only has the plausibility of the notion been doubted, but people who may potentially identify as asexuals or gray-asexuals continue their lives feeling invisible and ignored. Many commit to sexual relationships that are straining, disagreeable and even painful, thinking their lack of sexual interest is not worthy of discussion, and fail to discover that there exists an entire community of similar individuals. Thanks to the anonymity of the Web, the topic of asexuality is burgeoning via blogs such as “Love from the Asexual Underground” and social media networks like Acebook and Asexualitic.com.
We like to feel complete, and we have included the idea of sex in our concept of a full, healthy life. As young teenagers, we begin using baseball metaphors, comparing running to “home base” with sex. If we “score” at the end of a night out, we can sleep feeling a sense of achievement. We use words like “finishing” and “sealing the deal” to describe the physical act of “consummating.”
If I learned anything from writing this column, it is that sex, as beautiful and powerful as it may be, is also something that can marginalize many people when talked about in a generalized manner. The discussion of sex is anything but complete and whole and is a conversation that deserves continuous exploration so that nobody, regardless of where they may find themselves on the wide spectrum of sexuality, goes on feeling less than or incomplete.