How much of our lives are frittered away in the endless dance that is courtship? Just imagine how productive we’d all be if we didn’t experience sexual attraction – to anyone. In a sense, the thought is a liberating one—to live in the world without amorous desire, unbound by the conventions of lust and attraction. This is, in a way, what it means to be asexual.
According to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network:
“An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are.”
Like heterosexuality or homosexuality, asexuality is a sexual orientation, unique in that it is defined by its lack of sexual attraction—to anyone and everyone.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: if you’re asexual how can you form a relationship with someone else?
Simple: asexuals, or ‘Aces’ to be colloquial, are fully capable of being attracted to someone, just not sexually. For them, relationships need not be defined exclusively by feelings of sexual attraction. This might be difficult for some of us to understand, since we live in a society that implicitly assumes that everyone is animated by a sexual drive.
There are a broad range of attributes that we can find attractive in someone else, the vast majority of them being non-sexual. For example: a good sense of humor, confidence, intelligence, and so on. Aces fulfill their emotional needs, not through sex (though many still do have sex), but other means, and find different ways of getting close to someone they care for. Some enjoy being alone, others in intimate relationships with someone else, others still in relationships with a larger group of people—the configurations are endless and depend entirely on who you talk to and what their preferences are.
Studies estimate that one percent of people are asexual, which—if you think about it—is a pretty substantial number of the total human population, and evidence enough that asexuality is not some aberration. While Aces don’t experience sexual attraction, that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of having sex or experiencing orgasm. Many do, and some even engage in fulfilling romantic relationships with sexual individuals. Aces, like sexual people, can also have a preference towards a certain gender—or to no gender at all! Some define themselves as lesbian or gay, others as straight.
Commenting for The Atlantic; Ela Przybylo, a researcher of sexual cultures at York University, said:
“Sex has become so fused with our sense of self that we can’t even imagine how it might be any different. This is why asexuality is compelling, because it does imagine how it could be different.”
What makes asexuality so fascinating to those who are sexual is that it might challenge us to reframe our relationships with those who we care most about. We live in a culture so fixated on sex and sexual attraction; perhaps by taking a step back, we might be able to remove sexual attraction from its privileged place as one of the characteristics we use to define our romantic relationships. Who knows, with less nookie on our minds, we might be able to dig deeper and know better the people whom we love.