Asexual students speak out in hopes of creating visibility, education

The ace of spades is a symbol for asexuality.Photo: Margo Kinney-Petrucha

In a country where sex is so glorified, it’s hard to believe that someone could be uninterested in sex. And though some deny asexuality’s existence, it is alive and well, with the asexual community continuously spreading knowledge of its presence.

Asexuality is formally defined as “having no sexual feelings or desires.” It can be described as a lack of sexual attraction, not enjoying sex, or both. Asexuality exists on a scale from having little to no sex drive or sexual attraction to others to having a high sex drive or strong sexual attraction to others.

Asexuality differs from romantic orientation. Romantic orientation describes who you are attracted to, including whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, or pansexual.

It also differs from being aromantic, which means you don’t experience romantic attraction to others or don’t feel the need to have a romantic relationship.

One’s place on the asexual-to-sexual scale can vary dramatically throughout  one’s life. As children, we are largely asexual. It’s only when puberty begins that many of us begin to have a noticeable sex drive. Some people are more asexual in some relationships than others, and hormones can affect sex drive. Outside influences such as culture, peers, and family can also affect one’s sexual drive.

There are also different branches of asexuality. For example, demisexuality is when one doesn’t experience sexual attraction until they have formed an emotional connection with someone.

Because everyone’s place on the asexual-to-sexual scale can vary and because asexuals are a minority, it’s easy to dismiss or misunderstand asexuality. However, there are many people who permanently identify as asexual.

Jess GerberDolan, a senior, has known she is asexual for nearly three years, and recalls that many people had (and still have) a hard time understanding it. “Most people say it’s not a thing,” she said. “They say, ‘It’s just a phase,’ or ‘You just haven’t been with the right person.’”

“If I tell people, they usually don’t understand,” said Kay (name changed), another asexual student. “Then they ask a lot of personal questions, and  they’re like ‘Tell me everything about your sex life.’”

Kay described an experience she had telling her ex-boyfriend about her asexuality. “After I told him, he talked to me later and said, ‘I discussed it with my friend. You’re not asexual.’”

Kay also described the experience two of her male friends had dealing with people’s reactions to their asexuality. She believes they felt more backlash because of their gender. “Some people think if a guy isn’t having sex they’re weak. For girls, people [label them and say] ‘you’re such a tease.’”

Raj Kumar, an asexual ARHS senior, believes the opposite: “I feel like it would be more difficult for girls because guys are generally initiators in [heterosexual] relationships or hookup scenarios,” said Kumar. “As an asexual girl, you’d get asked to do things and have to use asexuality as an excuse, while I can just not do anything at all.”

For those seeking more information, there are numerous web sites about asexuality. The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) strives to create a community where there can be open discussions about asexuality among sexual and asexual people.

There are also many symbols for asexuality, which include a black, gray, white, and purple flag; an ace of spades; and wearing a black ring on one’s middle finger.

“I want it to be recognized as a thing. It’s just a thing, and that’s it,” said GerberDolan. “Just leave it be. Let me ‘do me’ and you ‘do you.’”