Asexuality is an orientation, not a defect

A couple weeks ago, when I wrote a post about childfree women, I got this comment:

Thank you! I decided to be and stay childfree for the following reason: I’m asexual. The very thought of getting so close to a person repulses me. Also, I don’t like kids that much. But when people ask you this when you get a new job then that’s just horrible and a bit sad that they focus their attention towards this (you can’t get fired where I live if you get pregnant so that’s not a problem). Btw, I’m not outet do anyone but my closest friends so I guess even my parents might start asking questions…

I was intrigued by this comment, because I hadn’t heard anyone identify themselves as asexual before. I was also interested her phraseology, that she wasn’t “out” to anyone but her closest friends. That sounds like how people talk about being gay. I wondered: is asexuality is an orientation? And if so, how come I’ve never heard of it? If I thought asexuality existed at all, I imagined it was a phase, a result of some kind of trauma, something to be healed.

Because this is 2013, all I needed was Google to tell me how biased and ignorant I am.

Asexuality has 833,000 Google matches, not much compared to homosexuality at almost 27 million, but nothing to sneeze at.

An asexual person is defined as someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Asexuality differs from celibacy in that it is not a choice. Everything I found on the internet reports that asexuality is an orientation, not a defect. Asexual people have the same emotional needs as anyone else. They also can find people aesthetically attractive but still are not sexually attracted to them. They often have a romantic orientation. Emotional and romantic attraction are not the same as sexual attraction.Here is how the Asexuality Visibility Network describes it:

Many asexual people experience attraction, but we feel no need to act out that attraction sexually. Instead we feel a desire to get to know someone, to get close to them in whatever way works best for us. Asexual people who experience attraction will often be attracted to a particular gender, and will identify as lesbian, gay, bi, or straight.

Most asexual people have been asexual for their entire lives. It is not something that develops. It can be isolating and lonely to be asexual, but it doesn’t have to be. The key, as with everything, seems to be self-acceptance. Asexual people are often happy with who they are and many of them are also in long term, intimate but asexual relationships. Some are with sexual partners, but from what I’ve read so far, I don’t really get how that works. It seems to be a pretty individual thing.

After I read about asexuality, I was at a party and asked some people there about what I learned. No one I talked to had heard anything about asexuality. This group, by the way, included academics well versed in jargon like “heteronormative.”

To me, it seems like asexuality is further evidence that identity is far more complex and varied than we make it out to me. The way that many of us have one, rigid lens of looking at asexual people (as dysfunctional) that is so inaccurate, makes me think of the limited way people look at gender roles, so certain of ridiculous assumptions.

My guess is that we will be hearing more about asexuality in the future.