Confused by the title?
Good, that’s what I’m here for.
Let me be your guiding force as we take a look at one of the more underrepresented communities within the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Asexuality, often abbreviated as ‘Ace’ (god we’re edgy) can be reductively defined as a lack of sexual attraction towards others. It’s reductive because it really doesn’t explain very much. For example, how is it that so many asexual people are involved in sexual relationships? How is it that they find others attractive?
To really understand asexuality, it’s firstly important to be aware of the various types of attraction that exist. As well as the infamous ‘sexual attraction’ (think Miley Cyrus and Dua Lipa in a dilapidated tour bus), there’s:
- romantic attraction (desiring a romantic relationship with someone)
- aesthetic attraction (being attracted to someone based on their appearance),
- physical attraction (wanting to touch, hold or cuddle someone)
- emotional attraction (wanting an emotional connection with someone).
No, I won’t be asking you to differentiate between them via Brightspace MCQ’s. I’m telling you that they exist because with the exception of sexual attraction, I feel each and every one of them.
People often assume that if you’re asexual, you must be revolted by the touch of another human being (what a mood). I’ve even had other ‘woke’ LGBTQ society members say this to me before; they’ve assumed that any relationship of mine went no deeper than hand-holding because I was Ace. But that couldn’t be further from the truth (I’m a slag).
Many Ace people desire romantic relationships, they find others attractive, they want to be intimate with them, and they want an emotional connection. The only major difference is the sexual component. For some, this means they might not wish to engage in sexual activities at all. For others, they may do so for the benefit of their partners. Some even do so out of curiosity, as opposed to any inherent ‘need’, the way others feel.
In many cases in fact, someone could be in a sexual relationship and be Ace, but never openly identify as such. While often seen as a ‘privilege’ to be able to hide, in reality is just perpetuates the lack of awareness people face around Asexuality.
You might also ask ‘Why Brian, why would these people in relationships deny such an incredibly chic sexuality?’ Many reasons! Firstly, the lack of awareness. Virtually everyone knows about the gays, the bi’s, the lipstick lesbians. But a lot of people don’t know anything about asexuality. This can result in people suggesting that you either don’t exist (thanks?) or that you’re suffering from a medical condition. As someone who initially went through the emotional trauma of having my testosterone levels (among many others) checked, I can assure you, it’s not.
Worse still is the blatant stereotyping you have to suffer through. I was once broken up with when I came out as ‘Ace’, despite the fact that it had no actual impact on our sexual relationship. It was based on the erroneous assumption that I must have been faking my attraction or desire for intimacy towards them. Which again, I can assure you, is not true (I refer you to my previous comment about being a slag).
While on the topic of what asexuality can be, let’s discuss what it’s not. It’s not celibacy (imagine having the willpower to say no to Dua Lipa) and it’s not due to ‘sexual fear’. I’ve actually had three separate medical professionals awkwardly ask if I was ‘confident’ in my ‘abilities’. My response as a blatant narcissist remains to this day “Yeah obviously, look at me.”
Now that we’re slightly more aware of what asexuality is (a broad term, not just Jacintha who hates the touch of a man), we can discuss my own personal struggle. It wouldn’t be a dramatic article about sexual identity if I didn’t rope you in with emotional manipulation. But in all seriousness, it wasn’t an easy realisation to come to. I remember speaking to a TU Dublin counsellor about how broken I felt. How, no matter how hard I tried to fix everything wrong with me, this would always be a damaged part of me. I felt so jealous of others, who never had to worry about their sexuality. I didn’t feel ‘different’; I felt inferior.
It still makes me sad to think about how much I let it affect me. But I’m also so proud of where I am now. Because I know now that deriving pleasure from other areas of attraction doesn’t make me broken. I can look at myself in the mirror and know that there’s nothing wrong with me. The same way nothing is wrong with someone who doesn’t enjoy spicy food. While a crass analogy, it does illustrate this one fact: while I may not feel the same specific enjoyment as others (sexual attraction), I find pleasure in just about everything else (the non-spicy boi food).
I don’t feel damaged simply because I don’t feel the same ‘need’ as others might. I just feel different. The same way gay people feel different to heterosexuals. The same way trans people feel different to cisgender people. But ultimately we all just have different wants, needs and desires.
So in this new age of Ace visibility (I’m ashamed to admit I’ve literally watched dozens of Ace compilations on TikTok), don’t be ashamed. Don’t be afraid of what people will think. Be proud of the things that make you less boring! And don’t suffer in a relationship where you don’t feel like yourself. You deserve to be happy, just like everybody else (except anti-maskers, sorry).
As a final note, remember that if you’re struggling with your identity, there’s resources out there. From the TU Dublin counselling service, to the medical service, there’s always supports available. And if you want to talk to others like you, check out TU Dublin’s LGBTQ society on Instagram (@tud_lgbtq) and get involved – it was one of the best decisions I ever made.