Friday 23 September 2011

Asexuality and Celibacy

JenniPosted by Jenni

I guess I should start with the main point of this post, and that’s:

Asexual people are physically capable of having sex. Seriously, you’d be amazed as to how many people doubt this. I’ve been asked whether being asexual means I look like a Barbie doll, y’know, ‘down there’. I don’t, but thanks for your concern, I guess? It’s got nothing to do with how I’m built, but rather, it just means I lack sexual attraction.

Equally, celibate people are capable too. (Okay, so I know I’m generalising and there’s probably a few exceptions, but bear with me.) In their case, it’s a choice – they choose not to have sex.
Surprising as it may sound, asexual people are not always celibate people. After all, sexual behaviour does not define orientation - how many people have ‘experimented’ in a way that does not reflect their orientation?

There are many reasons to have sex, of which just one is sexual attraction. I’m sure that, if you are a sexual person, you can probably imagine cases where you may sleep with someone you don’t find sexually attractive - perhaps you want affection, perhaps you want to show them you love them, perhaps you just really want to have sex and don’t mind who with. So, surely it’s an easy step from this to being able to understand why some asexual people may have sex? If you’re still struggling to separate out sexual attraction from everything else, try this little thought experiment. Think of your favourite celebrity. Are you romantically attracted to them? Probably not. Sexually attracted? Well, if this experiment has worked the way I hoped, yes. The two are not intrinsically linked, and the former is just as valid a reason to sleep with someone as the latter.

It’s important to note here that there are all sorts of different things linked in around sex – as well as sexual attraction, there’s sexual desire and libido. Now, some asexual people lack all three, some just sexual attraction. But it’s the attraction part that defines the orientation. After all, you could be hetero-sexual and have an almost non-existent libido. If you only lack sexual attraction, but you’ve got a moderate libido and some level of sexual desire (for the actual act, not for a person), then it makes perfect sense for you to have sex – and still be an asexual person. I’m not sure how to make this any clearer, but do ask if it’s still a bit confusing sounding.

And just to throw one last spanner in the works – asexual people can also be kinky! Again, remember that it means lacking sexual attraction, and this should all be clear. After all, fetishes don’t necessarily involve finding a person sexually attractive, so why should it be surprising that some asexual people do have particular fetishes? There’s a thriving kinky asexual community beginning to start up, and once again, it’s fantastic for redefining how we view sex and relationships.

Assuming that all asexual people don’t and will never have sex is as bad as assuming all sexual people only ever think about sex. Both are blatantly false statements, and should be recognised as such. The easiest way to work out whether someone (be they a sexual person or an asexual one) wants to have sex is to do that age old trick of asking them. That’s right. I can’t guarantee people won’t be offended (I mean, really, it all depends on how you ask them), but I can guarantee it’ll offend them less than just making assumptions.


  1. This is interesting, thanks for the informative post. I too had made the assumption that asexual meant never wanted sex. So basically it's that an asexual person is into the concept of sex, but just never/rarely meets someone they feel a sexual attraction toward?

    Can I ask how this affects sex if you are not attracted to the person? I can't imagine myself having sex with a person I'm not attracted to, but that's just me. :)

  2. It depends on the particular person - I've not gone into it much here in order to not over-complicate it, but some asexual people are repulsed by sex and wouldn't consider it, others (like myself) are just indifferent to it.

    I'm not sexually attracted to people, but I'd be willing to try sex with someone I was attracted to in other ways (i.e. romantically). The thing is, it's not quite like having sex with someone I'm not attracted to - it's not like I'm not sexually attracted to them, but I am sexually attracted to other people, I'm just not sexually attracted to anyone. However, as I am a hetero-romantic asexual, I am romantically attracted to men. So as far as it clicks in my brain, I'm as attracted to that person as it's possible for me to be - I'm not aware that there's anything missing, if that makes sense?

    It does mean that for me it takes a lot longer for me to be comfortable with the idea of sex, because it's not an instictive "hey, I wanna have sex with this guy!", it's more of a dawning realisation that I'm really attracted to someone, and if they wanted to have sex, I'd totally be up for it. It's important to note that in my case, if I dated another asexual, sex probably wouldn't occur to me. That doesn't mean I'd just be putting up with it for my partner's sake, since I probably would enjoy it, it just means I don't have an interest in it unless that interest is sparked by a desire to make the other person happy and to be close to them in a way that they like.

    Hope that cleared it up a bit (it got a bit rambly, oops!)

  3. I just saw this on from your comment.

    This was very enlightening to me as I was quite ignorant about this. I know its really late to be commenting on this, but I wanted you to make sure you saw it.

  4. Thanks for the post. I've always had trouble clarifying how my lack of sexuality works, and you've put it very eloquently.

  5. Hi Jenni, I'm just wondering if you've met any asexuals who did have what they thought was a great interest in sex at one point (possibly in immaturity) but later realized that the interest in sex just isn't there? For myself, I've been with my boyfriend for a long time (8 years), since high school, but a few years into the relationship, I realized that I didn't ever think about sex. It just doesn't cross my mind except under circumstances of guilt. We used to have a very active sex life, but looking back on it now, I think that's what I was doing just because I thought it's what I was supposed to. I love my boyfriend, we have fun and I can't imagine being with anyone else, but I think i've been identifying as asexual for some time and I'm wondering if it would be easier on my relationship to explore this idea and possibly communicate it to my boyfriend? As of now, he thinks I've just stopped wanting to touch him and he's tired of my lack of initiation in the matter, but I'm not opposed to sex, I just NEVER have the desire to initiate it. I enjoy it when its happening though... but i'm 100% indifferent outside the act itself. Thanks for your honest post.

  6. Dear boyfriend.. you are zoned.

    1. No, he's not at all.

    2. Funnily enough, I've just been writing about this:

  7. Good article. Thanks. I've also just been reading the bbc article you did, first time I've seen asexuality mentioned in mainstream media, but that is probably due to my being very bad at reading more then headlines.