An account of asexuality.
By AUDREY EFFENBERGER
The first time I heard someone my age say the word “sexy,” I was aghast. I probably would have used the word “aghast” at the time, too, because I had a slightly above grade level vocabulary that I was smugly proud of. “Sex” was not part of it, though. I knew what it was theoretically – 2 (or more?) people with their genitals in some configuration for enjoyment and/or procreation – but the concept didn’t register in my mind as something I should want to do. Not yet, at least. I was younger than most people in my grade, I figured, and it was okay if I was a little slow to pick up on some things.
But I did not. When my friends were gushing about how hot their crushes were, I didn’t get it. “He has well-defined muscles, and his eyes are an interesting color. That’s nice.” I tried to muster up the requisite enthusiasm that people seemed to have about body parts. “What do you like?” I’d dodge the question and offer what I hoped was a coy look to distract from the fact that there wasn’t really anything in particular I liked about people.
When I finally learned that asexuality wasn’t just a term that applied to unicellular organisms, it was honestly a relief. I was not stunted, or less human, or any of the other negative things that non-heterosexual people think (or are told) about themselves. Not feeling sexual attraction is growing to be more and more accepted, and (s)experts are beginning to acknowledge it as a legitimate sexual orientation that exists on a spectrum. That spectrum covers everything from sex repulsion to ambivalence or sex positivity – essentially, anyone who does not feel attraction can call themselves an “ace” (short for asexual), regardless of their behavior or habits.
Recognizing asexuality has also led to a better understanding of the relationships between asexuality, celibacy, and other nuanced facets of human sexuality. Whereas celibacy is a conscious behavioral choice, asexuality is an orientation that manifests itself differently in different people. Asexual people can have high libidos and lots of sex; they can also choose to keep their love lives PG. The notion that asexual people physiologically cannot enjoy sex is very much a myth, as many aces can attest.
Furthermore, many aces are very romantic. An ace can be homoromantic, biromantic, heteroromantic, or any other combination of prefix and suffix. While the new terms may seem confusing or unnecessary to some, they are important for understanding that aces form emotional bonds that are just as deep and meaningful without necessarily being tied to sex. On the other hand, some people may not feel romantic attraction. The growing awareness of asexuality has helped aromantic people find acceptance, in addition to a punny nickname (aro ace!).
Nowadays, there are plenty of online communities for aces, ranging from the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) to the subreddit r/asexuality. Groups like these help aces of all ages come to terms with asexuality, talk about common problems, and meet new friends who understand and accept each other’s sexual orientation. Aces have also found friends in the queer community – the A in BGLTQA+ now stands for asexual, aromantic, and other identities that embrace the absence of what some people assume to be universal.
I know quite a bit more about sexuality and sexiness than I did in middle school, so if you were to ask me now, I would probably be able to give a more “normal” answer. Yes, her butt is objectively cute. Your desire to do certain consensual things to your S.O. probably shouldn’t be printed in a newspaper, but is totally normal. What I want you to know is that being asexual is normal, too. We don’t need to set rules for sexuality. Our relationships will be all the happier without them.
But hey, if it were a test – I’d totally ace it.
Audrey Effenberger ‘19 ([email protected]) always has an ace up her sleeve.