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All About Aces: Spreading The Word About Asexuality

International Asexuality Day is April 6. Read on to learn more…
 
By Courtney Hardwick
 
As sexuality becomes more widely understood as a spectrum rather than a binary, the assumption that everyone has to identify as one thing and stick to it is fading away. From gay to straight to bisexual to all of the above, every individual’s sexuality is personal and unique. But it’s also possible for someone’s sexuality to lean more towards “none of the above.” Someone who identifies as asexual, or “ace,” does not experience sexual attraction towards any gender, and has a very low or absent desire for sexual intimacy.
 
Some consider asexuality to be a sexual orientation while others don’t, but the limited research that has been done on the topic mostly shows how diverse the asexual community really is. As people begin to identify openly as asexual and talk more about their experiences, common themes and sub-identities under the “asexuality umbrella” have emerged.
 
Someone who identifies as demisexual feels no sexual attraction towards other people unless an emotional bond has been established first. A greysexual may feel vague or infrequent sexual attraction, but usually not strongly enough to act. Both may have had sexual experiences in the past and may be open to having them again but their desire for intimacy can be fleeting, inconsistent and unpredictable.
 
While asexual people don’t experience sexual attraction or feel the need for sexual activity, that doesn’t mean none of them have sex. Many asexual people are in relationships with sexual partners, so they may feel motivated to incorporate sexual intimacy into their lives in ways that make sense for them. Generally, most ace people can identify their views on sex in one of the following ways, although it may shift throughout their lives or depend on their partner.
 
• Sex-repulsed people do not feel comfortable with the act of having sex
• Sex-indifferent people do not have strong feelings for or against sex
• Sex-favourable people are willing to have sex with a partner in certain circumstances
 
Lacking an interest in sex doesn’t automatically come with no desire to be in love or to have a romantic relationship. While some are also aromantic (have little or no romantic attraction to others), many ace people do want to find a partner. In an effort to be clear about their preferences, aces commonly use hetero-, homo-, bi-, and pan- in front of the word romantic to describe who they are attracted to romantically.
 
For example, if a person identifies as hetero-romantic, they might be attracted to people of the opposite sex or gender, just not in a sexual way. The Split Attraction Model can help anyone, ace or not, learn how to separate sexual and romantic attraction and explore their unique preferences without getting caught up in strict binary labels.
 
Since sex can be such an important part of a relationship, ace people have to learn how to advocate for themselves, communicate with potential partners and create boundaries that they truly feel comfortable with. It’s still possible for them to find love and build the kind of relationship they want, but their path might look a little different than what society has deemed conventional dating.
 
Researchers predict that one per cent of the world population is asexual, but many will never know there is a word for what they are feeling and that they aren’t alone in feeling it. Online communities help educate and bring ace people together so they’re able to start understanding themselves and how to talk about their lack of interest in sex – and what that means for them.
 
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), founded in 2001 by American activist David Jay, is a community for people who identify as ace, suspect they might be ace, are in a relationship with someone who is ace, or just want to learn more about it. From answers to common ace-related questions to message boards where people can ask for advice or share their experiences, AVEN is all about removing the stigma and giving ace people the space they need to feel more confident in who they are.
 
In a further effort to spread the word about asexuality, April 6 has been officially named International Asexuality Day. 2022 is only the second annual IAD, but as more people learn about asexuality and feel comfortable being open about it, it will continue to become more accepted. The four main themes of IAD are advocacy, celebration, education and solidarity.
 
Although many aces report feeling alienated or “broken,” especially in their teen years as they start to realize how they are different from their peers, asexuality isn’t considered a disorder, dysfunction or medical problem that needs to be fixed. It’s simply another possibility on the vast spectrum of sexuality that continues to expand as more people choose to explore.
 

 
COURTNEY HARDWICK is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared online at AmongMen, Complex Canada, Elle Canada and TheBolde.
 

 

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