Asexuality 101: a recap

Between January 19 and January 23, University of Toronto’s Sexual Education Centre hosted Sexual Awareness Week—hoping to spread interesting and helpful new information surrounding the usually taboo topic of sex and sexuality. HerCampus is doing our part to help spread the information by sending our writers to a few workshops, including the Handjob Workshop and Asexuality 101.

Guess which one I went to?

The Asexual Flag: black symbolizing asexuals, grey symbolizing grey-sexuals and demisexuals, white symbolizing those with sexual attractions, and purple symbolizing community.

First thing to understand is that Asexuality—like most other things—is a spectrum.

 

One of the most popular symbols in the asexual community, it shows a gradient rather than a binary.

Asexuality is best defined as the lack of sexual attraction to other people; it is still possible for an asexual to have a libido (sex drive), aesthetic attraction, emotional attraction, romantic attraction, etc. Graysexuals can experience sexual attraction, but only under certain circumstances. Demisexuals, similarly, can experience sexual attraction, but only after a strong emotional bond has been established.

Confused yet? We’re only half way done.

Aromantics are like the asexuals of romance—they don’t feel romantic attraction to other people. Grey-romantics experience romantic attraction, but only under certain circumstances. Demiromantics can experience romantic attraction after a very strong emotional bond has been established. Romantics also exist, and sometimes defining their specific attractions with prefixes such as bi-, homo-, pan-, hetero-, etc.

It’s possible to mix and match different forms of sexualities with romantic attractions (even with identities outside of the ace spectrum). They don’t need to match up necessarily.

 

Feel free to take a break and google some of these. Helpful resources can be found at the end of this article.

Due to a lack of space, I’m just going to use the short form “ace” to include everyone who is included under either spectrum. (So I’m going to generalize a bit while using the word “ace,” but it can vary from person to person and I am by no means a perfect representation of the community.)

It’s really hard to get everything because it’s so broad.

Let’s begin with a few common misconception:

Celibacy is normally a choice to not participate in sexual activities even though the person may have a sex drive; abstinence is usually a vow to reserve oneself sexually until a certain partner. Being ace is different from being celibate and abstinent because it is an orientation. Although some aces do choose to be celibate or abstinent, some aces sometimes have sex. Whether it is a personal choice, a compromise with a partner, societal pressures, and so on, it does not make their identity any less valid or true.

Aces do not necessarily have any more of an aversion to physical contact than the next person—some dislike it completely, others are fine with non-sexual contact, some just don’t care. Speaking of which, aces do not attain their sexual preference necessarily as an result of an abusive or neglectful path (though it is possible for members to have been victims), nor is it because they can’t “get any” and need an excuse.

That said, aces are not “cold,” “inhuman,” “unnatural,” “a phase,” or any other description that the individual has not decided to claim. Aces do not need a doctor or be “fixed” because there is nothing wrong with how they identify themselves.

And, it just wouldn’t be a list without this: we don’t reproduce asexually. We’re still human.

 

When you’re Ace, that cake is rarely a euphemism. And when it is, it’s usually a euphemism for another dessert of choice.

So what’s the deal with cake? It started on the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) a few years back as a symbol for the lack of desire for sex. It actually became a niche popular meme that said “Have sex? I’d Rather Have Cake!” Everything was swell until it was realized there are people who don’t like cake (gasp!) and so the meme has taken the backburner as an asexuality symbol.

Another symbol that you may see will be a black ring, often worn on the right middle finger. It’s also a way to show asexy pride and helps to identify yourself to other aces.

 

Also adopted as symbols are the Ace playing cards. Often times the Ace of Spades for aromantic aces, and the Ace of Hearts for romantic aces.

The problem with being ace is that oftentimes society still has a hard time understanding asexuality. While aces do not face any concrete barriers, members of the community who also carry a separate identity still face the same amount of discrimination.

Aces also sometimes have a hard time being accepted by both the heterosexual community and the LGBTQ+ community because of their lack of sexual attraction. This problem is only made worse when the “A” in the acronym is made to symbolize “Allies” instead of “Asexuals,” because it makes things harder for an already miniscule community to be recognized.

Society still carries the association between “sex” and “normality,” and—as rebellion against more prudish Victorian standards—“sex is liberation.” A commonly held misbelief is that all people want to have sex—and if you don’t want it, something is wrong with you. It’s important to remember that sexual liberation, and control over your own body, is as much about not being sexually active as it is about being able to be active.

 

Actually, this is still missing a few things like “romantic attraction,” “sexual attraction,” “gender queer,” “intersex,” etc. We want to make sure we include everyone.

University of Toronto is fortunate enough to be located in a city with great resources for aces and anyone else who want to find a group to fit in. After the 2014 World Pride march that included one of the largest gatherings of aces, information is starting to spread and groups are becoming more inclusive. If you want to meet other aces in the Greater Toronto Area, check out the various events hosted by various LGBTQ+ groups around U of T, or Ace Toronto, which is a non-profit organization that hosts “regular social events for our communit, regular asexuality-theme discussion for aces, and offers occasional public educational sessions.”

Unfortunately, this is simply an abridged version of the information provided in the workshop and a condensed summary of the vast information that is available. If you’re interested in more information, check out the links posted below, and try to join the next asexuality workshop near you.

 

Asexuality 101: informational, and very fun.

 

 

Resources:

Ace Toronto: http://ace-toronto.tumblr.com/

World Pride (covered by The Star): http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/06/23/world_pride_toronto_asexuals_march_in_biggest_numbers_yet.html

AVEN (FAQ Page): http://www.asexuality.org/home/general.html

Asexuality Awareness Week Blog: http://asexualawarenessweek.com/asexuality-101/

Debunking 5 Common Myths About Asexuality (by Everyday Feminism): http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/10/5-myths-and-misconceptions-about-asexuality/

How To Understand Asexual People (wikihow): http://www.wikihow.com/Understand-Asexual-People

An Orientation on Asexuality (CNN): http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/23/living/asexual-relationships-relate/

WGS 160 at Vanderbilt (wordpress): https://wgs160.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/what-does-it-mean-to-be-asexual/

Picture Sources:

http://www.asexualityarchive.com/the-asexuality-flag/

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/1f/Ace-logo4.svg/2000px-Ace-logo4.svg.png

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/07/d5/f6/07d5f63c2b474339f4406c6649670d29.jpg

http://i.imgur.com/pK1Gn.gif

http://www.asexualityarchive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/BinaryFission1.png

http://www.campuspride.org/wp-content/uploads/ace-black-ring-.jpg

https://wgs160.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/asexuality_115666_top.jpg