What does it mean to be asexual?
According to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, being asexual means that you are not sexually attracted to others (1).
Like many aspects of sexuality, asexuality exists on a spectrum (2). Some asexual people never get horny and abstain from sex completely, while others may experience occasional sexual urges, or choose to have sex for reasons unrelated to sexual attraction (3).
Asexual people can be any gender; they may identify as gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, pansexual, or none of the above. Some people who are asexual think of it as a sexual orientation; others think of it as an identity that makes them part of a larger community (2).
How common is asexuality?
Because asexuality can mean different things to different people, and because existing research on asexuality has been very limited, it’s hard to say accurately how common it is. Based on the existing evidence, it’s likely that at least 1% of people may be asexual (2).
Does disliking sex mean I’m asexual?
Some people may not like sex because they associate it with pain or trauma, because they experience body-image issues or gender dysphoria, because they believe it is sinful or immoral, or for a combination of reasons. This is not the same as asexuality. Many people who identify as asexual don’t actively dislike sex; instead, they are simply not interested in it (2).
If you don’t like sex, but do experience sexual attraction or desire, you’re probably not asexual. If this is the case for you, it might be helpful to connect with a mental health professional: The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) is a good resource for finding an experienced therapist who is knowledgeable about sexuality.
Do asexual people ever have sex?
Yes, asexual people have sex for a variety of reasons. Some asexual folks are partnered with people who are sexual and choose to have sex as a way of showing affection or responding to their partner’s desires; others are curious about what sex feels like and want to try it out (3). Some people who identify as asexual may experience physiological arousal and have sex to satisfy what they experience as a purely physical urge without the attraction, desire, and emotional involvement that many sexual people associate with sex (4).
Do asexual people masturbate?
Yes, research indicates that masturbation is common among asexual people, although their motivations are often different from those of sexual people who masturbate (4). Asexual people may masturbate to release tension, to help them fall asleep, because they are bored, or for other reasons (2).
Can someone who’s asexual be in a relationship?
Many people who are asexual choose to be in relationships. Being asexual is not the same as being aromantic, which is an absence of romantic feeling or desire (4).
People who are asexual may still want to experience the intimacy, emotional connection, and companionship of a romantic relationship. Some asexual folks partner with other people who are asexual and enjoy romantic relationships that don’t include sex. Others partner with people who are sexual and make compromises that allow both parties to get their needs met.
Are there different types of asexuality?
People who experience sexual attraction very rarely or only under specific conditions may identify as graysexual, since their sexuality falls into a “gray area” that is neither completely sexual, nor entirely asexual (5).
For people who identify as demisexual, sexual attraction to another person only develops after a close emotional or intellectual connection is formed. Because demisexuals only experience sexual feelings in very limited circumstances, they sometimes identify as part of the asexual community (1).
What’s the difference between asexuality and celibacy?
Asexuality describes a lack of sexual attraction or desire. Celibacy is the choice to abstain from sex, whether you experience sexual desire or not. People choose celibacy for a variety of religious, cultural, and personal reasons; asexual people, on the other hand, did not choose to be asexual, and may still engage in sexual activities (2).
What’s the difference between asexuality and Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder?
Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) is classified as a sexual problem in which someone experiences very little or no sexual desire along with resulting distress or relationship problems (6). Asexuality is not HSDD: Most people who are asexual are not bothered by their lack of interest in sex (4).
Researchers and members of the asexual community have theorized that increased awareness of asexuality as a valid identity could lead some people diagnosed with HSDD to instead describe themselves as asexual (4). Because identities, beliefs, and behaviors that are seen as outside the “norm” are often stigmatized or looked down upon, greater awareness and acceptance of asexuality may help people feel better about their asexual identity and live more authentic, fulfilling lives (7).
How can I know whether I’m asexual?
You are the only person who can say if you’re asexual. If you don’t experience sexual attraction or desire, you may choose to identify as asexual. If that label doesn’t quite fit, though, you are free to use your own words to describe your relationship to sexuality.
For some people, coming out as asexual is freeing and enables them to be their authentic selves, prioritize relationships that feel good, and connect with others who have similar experiences. Whether or not you choose to come out publicly, though, is entirely up to you.
The bottom line
Whether you identify as asexual, graysexual, demisexual, or something in between, you deserve to be respected and to have your needs met.