5 Myths About Asexuality

October is National Coming Out Month and includes Atlanta’s Pride Parade. Also taking place in October is Asexual Awareness Week, which is October 22nd to 28th. Compared to other colleges, I think the Agnes Scott community is more likely to know what asexuality is or even to just know that it exists at all. Still, this is a good time to discuss some common myths and misconceptions about asexuality, because even at Agnes Scott I’ve had some awkward encounters.

hercampus1.jpg1. Myth: Asexuality is a medical condition.

Asexuality is a sexual orientation, just like heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, pansexuality and other identities.

But this myth plays into a long historical trend of any divergence from hetero-normativity being pathologized and seen as a medical issue. Homosexuality wasn’t removed from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) until 1987. As of 2015, the DSM-5 says that asexuality is not a medical disorder.

However, asexuality is still being pathologized and medicalized, and many asexual people have encountered people who treat their sexual orientation like a medical issue. When my grandmother found out I was asexual, one of the first things she did was email a relative who was a doctor, saying she was “concerned” about me. Other asexual people I know have had trouble getting mental health treatment, because instead of focusing on their anxiety or depression, therapists can become obsessed with trying to “cure” their sexual orientation.

2. Myth: Asexuality means not being interested in sex.

As I said above, asexuality is a sexual orientation. Asexual people do not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality is not the same thing as celibacy.

Actually, knowing someone identifies as asexual tells you very little about their actual interest in sex. While some asexual people are sex repulsed, others may have a completely neutral attitude towards sex and yet others may want to have sex, even though they don’t experience sexual attraction.

Being asexual means not experiencing sexual attraction. It doesn’t say anything about a person’s sexual interest or experience.


3. Myth: All asexuals are aromantic, and all aromantic people are asexual.

There are various types of attraction beyond sexual attraction, which include romantic attraction. Ever get a crush on someone? That probably involved romantic attraction. Just like sexual orientation, people have romantic orientations such as heteroromantic, homoromantic, panromantic, ect. Aromantic people do not experience romantic attraction. The asexual and aromantic communities are often bundled together, and while there are plenty of people who identify as both asexual and aromantic, that’s not true for all asexuals or all aromantic people.

I’ve had a friend tell me she just assumes all asexual people are aromantic. Please don’t do this! It’s generally not very nice to make assumptions about people’s identities, but conflating asexuality and aromanticism can be harmful for both communities. Alloromantic asexuals (i.e. asexuals who experience romantic attraction) can have a hard enough time on the dating scene as is, and aromantic allosexuals (i.e. aromantic people who experience sexual attraction) may want sexual relationships.

Basically, this just comes down to not making assumptions about people’s identities.

4. Myth: Asexual people do not have genitalia.  

I think I’ve already pretty well covered what asexuality is, but I figured I should mention this one considering how many times I’ve seen it used. I haven’t had someone tell me this to my face, but that may just be because I haven’t talked to that many people outside the Agnes Scott community about my asexuality. It’s pretty prevalent in popular culture.

I remember not long after I first came out sitting in a movie theater and seeing a trailer for Melissa McCarthy’s The Boss. It was the first and only time I’ve ever heard the word “asexual” in a movie theater. At one point in the trailer, Melissa McCarthy’s character expresses surprise that her assistant, played by Kristen Bell, has children, asking if they come from sexual intercourse and saying the assistant gave her an “asexual” vibe. Another character then remarks that he didn’t think of Kristen Bell’s character as having genitals.

Watching that was a horrible experience. I’d admitted to myself that I was asexual, but I was still struggling to accept myself. That short scene reinforced all the worst fears I’d had about being asexual, especially that I was weird, abnormal and freakish. It ruined what was otherwise a good night out with friends, and for the rest of the night I fought to hide how upset I was, as I hadn’t yet come out to friends or family members.

This myth connects to issues outside the asexual community as well, including surgeries on intersex children. Why is our society so obsessed with genitalia?

peter-hershey-282615.jpgPhoto by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

5. Myth: The “A” in “LGBTQIA” stands for “ally.”

Okay, look. The “A” in “LGBTQIA” doesn’t stand for “ally.” It stands for “asexual, aromantic, or agender.” And for the record, the “Q” stands for “queer” or “questioning” and the “I” stands for “intersex.” While the work allies do is very much appreciated, they are not included in the queer community, and taking the letter “A” further marginalizes the voices of asexual, aromantic, and agender people.

Over the last year, I’ve gotten more open about my ace identity, but there’s still always an element of fear whenever I write a new article or wear my backpack with its pride pin to a new place. But whenever I do these things, I’m reminding myself that there’s nothing wrong with my asexuality and turning fear and self hatred into pride. I also remember all the other ace Agnes students who helped give me the courage to come out and accept myself, and I hope that by being open about my identity, I can help others in turn.