Being asexual means different things to different people

Someone who’s asexual experiences little to no sexual attraction. Sexual attraction is about finding a specific person sexually appealing and wanting to have sex with them. However, everyone has a different experience with being asexual, and asexuality can mean different things to different people.

Here are the basics.

Some people don’t experience sexual attraction at all

Some asexual people don’t experience any sexual attraction. That doesn’t mean that they can’t experience other forms of attraction, though.

Aside from sexual attraction, you can also experience:

  • Romantic attraction: desiring a romantic relationship with someone
  • Aesthetic attraction: being attracted to someone based on how they look
  • Sensual or physical attraction: wanting to touch, hold, or cuddle someone
  • Platonic attraction: wanting to be friends with someone
  • Emotional attraction: wanting an emotional connection with someone

It’s possible for asexual people to experience all these forms of attraction.

Others may only experience sexual attraction in certain circumstances

Some people might only experience sexual attraction in very limited circumstances.

For example, someone who is demisexual — which some say falls under the asexual umbrella — experiences sexual attraction only when they have a deep connection to a person.

In other words, they might only feel sexually attracted to people they have deep romantic relationships with.

They have a libido or sexual desire, but it’s void of sexual attraction

There’s a difference between libido, sexual desire, and sexual attraction.

  • Libido. Also known as your sex drive, this is about wanting to have sex and experience sexual pleasure and sexual release. For some people, it’s a little like wanting to scratch an itch.
  • Sexual desire. This is the desire to have sex, whether it’s for pleasure, a personal connection, conception, or something else.
  • Sexual attraction. This involves finding someone sexually appealing and wanting to have sex with them.

Plenty of people who aren’t asexual have a low libido, or they might not desire sex.

Similarly, many asexual people still have a libido and might experience sexual desire. So, asexual people might still masturbate or have sex.

Again, asexuality doesn’t always mean someone doesn’t enjoy sex. It just means they don’t experience sexual attraction.

There are many reasons why an asexual person might want to have sex. For example:

  • to satisfy their libido
  • to conceive children
  • to make their partner happy
  • to experience the physical pleasure of sex
  • to show and receive affection
  • for the sensual pleasure of sex, including touching and cuddling

Of course, some asexual people have little to no sex drive or sexual desire — and that’s also okay! Asexuality means different things to different people.

They fall somewhere between or outside any of these scenarios

Many people view sexuality as a spectrum.

Asexuality can be a spectrum too, with some people experiencing no sexual attraction, others experiencing a little sexual attraction, and others experiencing a lot of sexual attraction.

Greysexual people rarely experience sexual attraction, or they experience it with a very low intensity. As the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) explains, greysexuality is often seen as a midpoint between sexuality and asexuality.

One thing’s for sure: It isn’t the same thing as celibacy or abstinence

Many people falsely think that asexuality is the same thing as celibacy or abstinence.

Abstinence is about deciding not to have sex. This is usually temporary.

For example, someone may decide to abstain from sex until they get married, or someone might decide to abstain from sex during a difficult period in their life.

Celibacy is about deciding to abstain from sex, and possibly marriage. This could be for religious, cultural, or personal reasons. It’s often a lifelong commitment.

Abstinence and celibacy are choices — asexuality isn’t.

What’s more, asexual people might not actually abstain from sex at all. As mentioned earlier, some asexual people do have sex.

Despite what you may have heard, it isn’t a medical concern

Many people think there is something “wrong” with asexual people. The world seems to assume that everyone feels sexual attraction — so asexual people might worry that there’s something wrong with themselves, too. Asexuality isn’t a medical concern. It’s not something that needs to be fixed.

It should go without saying, but being asexual isn’t the same thing as experiencing:

Anyone can develop one or more of these conditions, regardless of their sexual orientation.

There isn’t an underlying ‘cause’ 

As with homosexuality or bisexuality, there’s no underlying “cause” of asexuality. It’s just the way someone is. Asexuality isn’t genetic, the result of trauma, or caused by anything else.

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And it has nothing to do with being unable to find a partner  

It’s often assumed that asexual people will feel sexual attraction when they meet the “right” person — this is untrue.

Many asexual people desire romantic relationships — and many asexual people are in happy, healthy romantic relationships.

Sexual attraction and desire aren’t the same thing as romantic attraction and desire

Wanting to have sex with someone is different from wanting a romantic relationship with them.

Similarly, it’s important to remember that sexual attraction isn’t the same as romantic attraction. Sexual desire is also different from romantic desire.

One is the desire to have sex, while the other is about desiring a romantic relationship.

Many asexual people desire and have romantic relationships

An asexual person might not experience sexual attraction, but they might still experience romantic attraction.

An asexual person could be romantically attracted to people of the same gender, people of another gender, or people of multiple genders.

Many asexual people want — and have — romantic relationships. These romantic relationships can be with other asexual people, or with people who aren’t asexual.

Asexual people may engage in sexual intimacy with their partner  

As mentioned, some asexual people do have sex, because sexual desire is different to sexual attraction.

In other words, you might not look at someone and feel the need to have sex with them, but you might still want to have sex.

Every asexual person is different. Some might be repulsed by sex, some might feel nonchalant about it, and some might enjoy it.

Others may prefer non-romantic relationships

Some asexual people aren’t interested in romantic relationships.

As asexual people experience little to no sexual attraction, aromantic people experience little to no romantic attraction. Some — but not all — asexual people are aromantic.

Queerplatonic is a word that originated in the asexual and aromantic communities.

According to AVEN, a queerplatonic relationship is a very close non-romantic relationship. The people in a queerplatonic relationship are just as committed as those in a romantic relationship.

Anybody can have a queerplatonic relationship, no matter their sexual or romantic orientation.

Some may find that their capacity for attraction or desire shifts over time — and that’s OK

Many people feel that their identity is fluid.

One day, they might feel like they’re asexual because they experience little or no sexual attraction. Weeks or months later, they might feel a shift, and they might find that they experience sexual attraction more often.

Similarly, someone might identify as heterosexual, and later feel that they’re asexual. This doesn’t mean they were wrong or confused before. It also doesn’t mean that sexual orientation is a “phase,” or something you’ll grow out of.

For some people, their capacity for attraction is fluid and changes over time. This is completely normal.

If you experienced sexual attraction in the past but no longer do, your asexual identity is still valid

Asexual people might have experienced sexual attraction in the past but no longer do. Some people’s capacity for attraction can change over time. Just because an asexual person felt sexual attraction before doesn’t erase their identity now. It’s still valid!

The same is true for people who no longer identify as asexual

Similarly, some people might identify as asexual and later feel that they experience sexual attraction often. This doesn’t mean that they were never asexual, or that they were wrong to identify as asexual. It can simply be that their sexual orientation changed over time.

How do I know if I’m asexual?

Although there isn’t a test you can take, there are questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your desires and see if it aligns with common asexual characteristics.

This may include:

  • What does sexual attraction mean to me?
  • Do I experience sexual attraction?
  • How do I feel about the concept of sex?
  • Do I feel the need to be interested in sex because that’s what’s expected of me?
  • Is sex important to me?
  • Do I see attractive people and feel the need to have sex with them?
  • How do I enjoy showing affection? Does sex factor in?

There is no “right” or “wrong” answer here, but these questions can help you think about your sexuality and whether you may be asexual or not.

You can also read up about asexuality and speak to members of the asexual community. Consider joining forums like the AVEN forum or the Asexuality subreddit.

Ultimately, you should use the identifier(s) you’re most comfortable with

Only you get to decide whether you identify as asexual or not. The way you define your sexuality, orientation, or identity is up to you. If you decide not to use any labels to describe yourself, that’s OK, too!

Bauer C, et al. (2017). The 2015 asexual census summary report.
General FAQ. (n.d.).
Pasquier M. (2018). Explore the spectrum: Guide to finding your ace community.

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