Friday 11 March 2011

Asexuality (or 'How I'm NOT an amoeba!')

Posted by Jenni

So, where to begin? I guess I should introduce myself. I'm Jenni, I'm 20, I study Philosophy and Theology, I enjoy writing, acting, reading, baking, sewing, generally crafting, I like dying my hair fun colours, I'm a geek, I love comics, and...oh - I'm asexual. That's right. Asexual. And not like a plant (awesome as that would be, it's not biologically possible for me. Sorry to disappoint you.) So what does it mean? Well, to summarise a label that's still coming into it's own as best I can - I am not sexually attracted to anyone. Yes, that's right - I don't experience sexual attraction. And just to answer some of the most common questions this gets me in a nice, easy to read list:

  • Yes, physically I am perfectly fine.

  • Yes, my hormones are all fine.

  • Yes, I can experience arousal.

  • Yes, I can have relationships (I am a romantic asexual)

  • No, I was never sexually abused.

  • No, I am not just 'celibate' - that is a choice, this is an orientation.

  • No, I am not frigid

  • No, I am not scared of sex

  • No, I don't need to meet 'the one', thank you.

  • No, having sex with you will not change my opinion.

There's probably more, but as you can see - asexuality is not something that's often understood. It took me until I was 18 to work out there was a word for what I was, and that I wasn't broken - all of my friends would talk about how 'hot' someone was, or how they would so 'do that'. And I just didn't get it. It wasn't until I found AVEN ( that I realised I wasn't the only one who didn't. Of course, it's now two years later, and I'm trying to get the word out there - I currently vlog for Hot Pieces of Ace ( who are a fantastic bunch.

I'm aware asexuality is a new idea for a lot of people, so I'm not going to go into too much detail this time round (leave me questions, I'll answer as many as I can on my next post or in the comments!) but I'll quickly tell you something important - we can be romantic! For me, romantic attraction and sexual attraction are separate things, and I only experience one. For some sexuals, they may be linked completely, but I'm sure you can imagine cases where you experience one apart from the other, right? That's basically how it works. Now, for me, this means that if I was in a romantic relationship with someone sexual, I would quite probably have sex. This is because I am indifferent to sex, and since I'm in physical working order, it'd probably be quite enjoyable. I just have no active desire to try it for it's own sake. For some aseuxals, this isn't the case - some are repulsed by the notion of sex, and others just don't fancy it. We're all different people after all.

So, that's my mini-introduction, more next time! I'll leave you with some of my fictional role models who can be read as asexual.

Sherlock Holmes - yes, yes, you slash fangirls, him and Watson are clearly meant to be. But you know, that doesn't exclude his asexuality. Since the Moffat and Gatiss BBC version came out, we've had an influx of younger aces (that's a common term for being asexual) being like "THAT'S WHAT IT IS." Sherlock has been very good for us as a community - people have looked up things about his orientation, stumbled across asexuality, and voila! Everything makes sense.

Sheldon Cooper - when asked "what's his deal?", the response was "I don't think he has a deal." You can't really get much more asexy than that, right? And, whilst there is the fact Sheldon is potentially Aspergers - you would not believe how often it's assumed that 'causes' asexuality, when in fact the two are separate things - the writers are good at never directly linking the two.

The 11th Doctor - Moffat seems to like his asexual characters (and we're not complaining!) Whilst different incarnations of the Doctor vary, Matt Smith's portrayal is particulary ace friendly - he is completely, wonderfully oblivious to sexual advances, and seems positively confused by them.

So, they're the big three - there's more, but I'm keeping this short and sweet and hoping for questions. Ask me anything you want!


  1. I'm aware of the concept of asexuality, but I'd never heard much about it. Thanks for the links, I'll take a look at those shortly. And thank you for coming out and talking about it too!

    While I'm here, though, I'll ask a few questions that come to mind.

    Firstly, you talk about romantic attraction. Is that gender-specific for you in any way? (My instinct is to try to use -sexual words, which clearly don't apply here…)

    The analogy that comes to mind when you talk about enjoying sex without desire is something like riding a theme park ride: I have no desire to go on one at any given moment, but occasionally I will if there's someone to go with, and I'll enjoy the experience. Does that seem a vaguely reasonable analogy for your experience of sexuality?

    You write that you experience arousal. That's confusing me, I think because for me sexual arousal and sexual desire are quite strongly interlinked. Would you be willing to explain more about how that works for you?

    (Semi-standard caveat for this sort of discussion: I am ignorant here, and I'm hoping to reduce that ignorance. If my foot is in my mouth or on your toes, I would be grateful if I'm called on it. I don't mean this as an excuse—my fuckups are my fuckups, and I'll not hold someone else responsible for them—this is just a statement of intent.)

  2. Let's see -

    Romantic Attraction can be gender specific or not, just like sexual. Just replace sexual with romantic - so, I'm a hetero-romantic asexual, but I could be pan or bi, or any other of those terms. There's also aromanticism, something I'll discuss in more detail at some point, but it's basically a lack of romantic attraction. That's not confined to asexuals - you could be an aromantic homosexual, meaning you find the same sex sexually attractive but have no interest relationship wise. Equally, because romantic drives are separate, it's possible to have all sorts of combinations - bi-romantic but heterosexual, or homoromantic but bisexual, and so on. Hope that's a bit clearer.

    The analogy you give is actually one I use all the time! So yeah, spot on for me - it varies from person to person, so there's some asexuals who (to continue the analogy) would never go on that ride regardless of who with because they just don't like it, but in my case you've got it pretty perfect.

    As for arousal - yay, the complicated bits! I don't have a particularly high libido, but some asexuals can do. Think of it this way: You can imagine yourself wanting sex, without wanting sex with a particular person. Since being asexual is just a lack of sexual attraction, that's how it would work for us - we can have the desire in the abstract, but not focused on a particualr person. (And there's lots of reasons to desire it with a particular person that aren't sexual attraction i.e. wanting to fulfil their needs). Also, physically, I'm in working order, so if you treat my body in a certain way, it will respond in a certain way, because that's how it works.

    Hope that's a bit clearer - ask if you want more info :)

  3. Yes, that's really useful, thank you! It's also given me a few things to think about regarding my own sexuality: it hadn't occurred to me to think about romantic and sexual attraction as entirely separable.

    No more questions just yet, but I'm very interested to read anything more you write about this. Thank you for putting yourself out here and talking about this stuff.

  4. Hi Jenni. Tanks for a really interesting post. I look forward to reading more!

    I have a question which is about something I experience, and I wondered if you experience something similar, and if you do, how it intersects with your experience of asexuality.

    It seems to me that women are still under some pressure to understand our worth in terms of our own sexual attractiveness, and our ability to make men desire us. Because of this, I sometimes find it difficult to separate my sexual attraction to somebody else and my desire for sex, from my desire to know that they find me attractive and desirable. I'm curious as to whether you, while not experiencing sexual attraction yourself, still experience the desire to be found sexually attractive by others.

    As always, if this is too personal or there's any reason at all why you don't want to answer it, please ignore it and accept my apologies.

  5. So sorry to have never noticed your comment Annalytica! You've given me an interesting idea for a post though.

    I've don't really experience that, and when i did, it was brief, but I come from quite a...well, unconvential viewpoint, I think.

    As a child, I grew up with a mother who'd grown up on a farm, a dad from a traditional scouse matriarchal family, a younger brother, and pretty much only boys for friends. So for a very long time, boys were just friends, and why should I bother to dress up to impress them? On hitting high school, I dressed up slightly more to avoid the cruel comments of some girls, more than to attract the looks of the boys. It was only really on hitting college that I started to want people to find me attractive - and even then, it awsn't really...well, in a sexual way. I wanted people to find me interesting to look at, to want to know who I was and to want to talk to me.

    The first time I ever really wanted someone to find me attractive in 'that way' was university - and that was a specific person, because I wanted their attention. Curiously, it's that very same person who made me realise that wasn't actually important, and I shouldn't get into the habit of doing so. Which was nice.

    But yes, not sure if this answered your question, or if it was a bit rambly - but the gist is that, well, as someone who was 'one of the boys' til at least 16, and even in college got the occasional 'bloody hell, I forget you're a girl!' moment in college, I never felt the need to prove my worth in the stereotypical way, and so never really got this. I don't know if it was my asexuality, or just my upbringing that inspired this though.