Of all the myriad expressions of human sexuality, asexuality is probably among the least understood, although many people think they know exactly what it means; the opposite of being sexual. A few persistent themes can be seen in the way people think about asexuality; asexuality means you don’t have sex, right? You also don’t have romantic relationships (you can’t have those without sex!). You’re probably frigid and that’s why you’re asexual; maybe you’re afraid of sex or you’re refusing to face trauma. No healthy person rejects sexuality. You’re repressed. You’re not kinky or queer, that’s for sure.
Asexual visibility is low, even though the asexual community is vibrant and complex. Asexuality is just as vibrant as sexuality, and comes with its own jargon, slang, terminology, and language. Members of the sexual community expect people to understand their terminology, but very few people bother to learn the language of asexuality. Very few people bother to interact with the asexual people around them, and there’s a very good chance that there are asexual people around you, even if you’re not aware of it; you’re reading one right now.
I cannot educate you about the entire asexual community in a single post. I’m not particularly interested in doing that. There are a lot of asexual 101 resources available if you want to search them for information about asexuality. Consider this a thumbnail post to break down some common misconceptions about asexual people, because I’m tired of seeing them repeated.
Asexual people don’t have sex/not having sex is the defining feature of asexuality. Actually, asexual people do have sex. Some have sexual pasts, and others may choose to selectively have sex with partners, for a variety of reasons. Conversely, plenty of sexual people do not have sex; some sexual people choose celibacy, temporarily or permanently. But they still identify as sexual and they experience sexual urges and desires.
Asexual people don’t have romantic relationships. Some do. Some don’t. I’m an aromantic asexual, which means that I am not interested in romantic relationships, but other ace people are. They can and do pursue romantic relationships and may be involved in poly relationships as well as other types of relationship structures. The level of sexual contact in those relationships can vary substantially, but suffice it to say that romance without sexuality is entirely possible.
Asexuality is an expression of frigidity/repressed trauma/fear of sex. No. Some asexual people do have traumatic pasts. So do some sexual people. Asexual people do not experience sexual attraction. That can express in a lot of ways and for a lot of reasons but perpetuating the idea that asexual people are ‘damaged’ is really, really harmful. Some asexual people identify as sex positive and are interested in expressions of sexuality like porn. Others are not at all interested, and some may express active revulsion of sex when it comes to them, but this is, again, not the result of being ‘damaged’ or ‘broken’ in some way.
Asexual people can’t be queer/kinky/etc. Again, no. There are lots of asexual kinky people out there. (Hi!) There are also lots of queer asexual people out there. (hello again!) There’s a lot of debate about whether asexual people are ‘allowed’ to claim these identities, as though they revolve on being sexual and expressing them sexuality. Needless to say, I am not a supporter of policing self identification, and that includes things like allowing asexuals to label however they want, whether you are a queer aromantic asexual or a homoromantic asexual or any number of other things.
Asexuality has its own language and terminology, which it would behoove you a bit to explore if you are interested in engaging with the asexual community and understanding what we say and what we are talking about. I’ll leave you with a very brief vocabulary lesson I think you may find enjoyable:
Queerplatonic is a word for describing relationships where an intense emotional connection transcending what people usually think of as ‘friendship’ is present, but the relationship is not romantic in nature; people in a queerplatonic relationship may think of themselves as partners, may have sex, may plan on spending their lives together, etc. The ‘queer’ is a reference to the idea of queering relationships and ideas about relationships, not for describing the orientations or genders of anyone in a queerplatonic relationship. Anyone, sexual or asexual, romantic or aromantic, straight, gay, queer, bi, lesbian, poly, cis, trans, etc etc can be in a queerplatonic relationship, can have more than one such relationship, and there can be more than two people in a queerplatonic relationship; couples, triads, quads, whatever. The key feature is the idea of being deeply connected to someone, without a romantic element (though a queerplatonic relationship can be sexual).
I also want to note that there are many different kinds of queerplatonic relationships; we’ve been jokingly referring to them with different vegetables (‘she’s my zucchini,’ ‘I definitely think of ou as my eggplant’ etc.). The point is that this is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of relationship, rather than being rigid; it’s fluid!
This word was the result of a conversation between a friend and I; as aromatic asexuals, we are often frustrated by the devaluation of our relationships. Because we are not romantic, it is assumed that our relationships are weaker, less intense, less real. There was no word to describe something that was not a friendship, but also was not a romantic relationship. Hence, queerplatonic was born. I’m pleased to see it starting to spread.