So, I’ve been meaning to write an Asexuality 101 post since, like, the day I started my blog. I figure it’s appropriate to do that before I start writing more in depth posts about asexuality. If nothing else, it looks like the Carnival of Aces is going again, and I want to participate in that, preferably without confusing the readers who come to my blog for other topics and have no idea what the heck asexuality is. Constructive criticism and questions are encouraged and appreciated on this post (on all posts, really, but especially on this one).
Sexuality is all about who you are attracted to. Straight people are attracted to people of the “opposite” gender. Gay people are attracted to people of the same gender. Bi/pan people are attracted to people of either/any gender. Asexual people are not sexually attracted to anyone. Note how I went from talking about attraction to sexual attraction specifically, here. Romantic attraction and sexual attraction tend to get lumped together and talked about as simply attraction. It’s important to separate these things when talking about asexuals, though, since asexuals do not experience sexual attraction. Many aces (ace is short for asexual) can and do experience romantic attraction. But even if an ace is romantically attracted to someone, they still won’t be sexually attracted to that person.
In depth explanations of sexual/romantic attraction would probably be helpful here. It’s a bit hard to explain, though, since people tend to have a variety of different experiences of things like sexual attraction. It seems like a thing that if you’ve experienced it you know what it is, and if you haven’t, no amount of explanation is ever going to make you entirely understand. Unfortunately, I’m one of those who hasn’t experienced it and will probably never quite understand it, so I’m just going to say that sexual attraction is the sort of attraction that makes you want to do sexual things (foreplay, groping, sex, kissing?) with a specific person, and romantic attraction is the sort of attraction that makes you want to do romantic things (kissing, cuddling, having candlelit dinners, sharing a drink, having a romantic walk on the beach, or whatever you find romantic) with a specific person.
I’m now going to talk about several different types of categories within asexuality, in the hope of providing a better and more nuanced understanding of what asexuality is, and is not. Continuing on with the discussion of romantic attraction, one of these categories within asexuality is romantic orientation. Homoromantic aces are romantically attracted to people of the same gender. Heteroromantic aces are romantically attracted to people of the “opposite” gender. Biromantic/panromantic aces are romantically attracted to people of either/any gender. Aromantic aces are not romantically attracted to anyone. These categories aren’t always applied just to asexuals, though. There are other people out there whose sexual and romantic orientations don’t line up. For instance, a person might be a homoromantic bisexual (sexually attracted to people of both genders, but only attracted romantically to people of the same gender), or an aromantic heterosexual (sexually attracted to people of the “opposite” gender but romantically attracted to no one), or what have you.
A less important distinction between asexuals is level of libido. Like sexuals (while I agree that sexual is kind of an odd descriptor for the category of people who aren’t asexual, and some people don’t like it, I haven’t come across a better term), asexuals vary greatly in how high of a libido they have. An asexual might have a high libido, or a low libido, or virtually no libido, or an average libido, or an extremely high libido, or anything in between.
Another way asexuals differ is in their attitude towards sex. So-called repulsed asexuals are really squicked out by some, or all, sexual acts. Other aces are indifferent to sex. They could take it or leave it. Other aces enjoy sex. They still aren’t sexually attracted to the person they are having sex with, but they enjoy the physical act. A lot of people seem to be confused by the idea that a person could be asexual and still enjoy sex, but asexuality is simply a lack of sexual attraction (to anyone) and nothing else. There may seem to be three distinct categories of asexual attitudes towards sex here, but they’re really just loose categories, and not everyone fits nicely in one category or another. An ace might be repulsed by one type of sexual act but enjoy another, for example.
I’m going to finish up by talking a little about grey-asexuality. Remember earlier when I told you that an asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction, period? Well, what about someone who has only experienced sexual attraction once or twice in their entire life? They might identify as asexual or as grey-asexual. A grey-asexual (or grey-a) is someone who experiences sexual attraction only rarely or only in specific circumstances or in some other way that makes them fall somewhere into the grey area between sexual and asexual. Grey-a’s are considered to be part of the asexual spectrum. Some, though not all, grey-a’s identify as asexual. This makes plenty of sense to me. Sometimes it is not worth making a distinction between “never” and “almost never”. On the other hand, some grey-a’s consider themselves to have more in common with sexuals than asexuals, although they are different from both. Grey-a is kind of a broad umbrella term.