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Asexuality

Asexual individuals experience low or absent levels of sexual attraction and desire. Unlike celibacy, which is usually chosen, asexuality is an intrinsic part of a person’s sexual identity and it is completely normal. However, that does not mean that asexual individuals have absolutely no interest in romantic or intimate relationships. While some asexuals are happier on their own, others are happiest with a close group of friends, or even form long-term partnerships with sexual people.

Often identifying as lesbian, gay, bi, queer, or straight, many asexual people experience attraction, but feel no desire to act on that attraction in a sexual way. Instead, one may identify as asexual, but romantic and feel the need to get to know someone very closely without experiencing physical attraction. On the other hand, sexual arousal may also occur regularly among asexual individuals even though it is not associated with the wish to express this sexually.

Identity

Because there is a wide variety among people who identify as asexual, asexuality can encompass broad definitions. While some might identify as aromantic (no romantic attraction to anyone), others identify as:

  • biromantic (as opposed to bisexual)
  • heteroromantic (as opposed to heterosexual)
  • homoromantic (as opposed to homosexual)
  • panromantic (as opposed to pansexual)

Most asexual individuals have been asexual for their entire lives. Just as nobody will likely progress from straight to gay unexpectedly, asexual people will rarely become sexual or vice versa. Another small minority might think of themselves as asexual for a short time while exploring and questioning their own sexual identity.

There is no test to determine whether someone is sexual or asexual. Asexuality is like any other sexual identity and is a word that helps people to figure themselves out. While some asexual people do not feel the need to come out, others do so in order to spread awareness.

The State of Research on Asexuality

Until recently, asexuality largely remained a topic rarely discussed in the public. Accordingly, academic interest in the topic is just beginning to increase as researchers are trying to understand asexuality conceptually. Researchers are discussing whether asexuality can be defined as a singular sexual orientation (or lack thereof). Moreover, a great conceptual obstacle to studying asexuality is the apparent diversity within the asexual population, which poses challenges to viewing asexual individuals as a unified group. Other current research questions are: How are desire and attraction related? What is a healthy relationship for asexuals? What educational or health service needs might asexual individuals experience?

Challenges Faced by Asexual Individuals

Asexual individuals face very different challenges than most sexual people. First, each asexual person experiences relationships, attraction, or arousal in very different ways, because of the diversity among asexuals. Foremost, asexual individuals live in a society that constantly assumes that one is sexual. In a society, in which the media portray everyone as constantly sexual or tempted by sex, asexual individuals might feel marginalized and unrepresented.

Asexuals might experience frustration over people who cannot conceive of their reality. Or they might find themselves in relationships, in which they were expected to be sexual or feel pressured to fake sexual attraction in order to fit in. The question whether or not to come out to society as having no sexual attraction is a strongly debated issue among asexual individuals.

Additional Information

If you are asexual, or have more information that would be helpful to students and would like to expand on this section, please contact lgbtcounseling@stanford.edu.

  • Asexual Visibility & Education Network is one of the largest online asexual communities and offers a variety of resources on the topic along with helpful FAQ’s for people with various perspectives.
  • AVENwiki is like a Wikipedia for asexuality terms and provides information on the state of research on asexuality.
  • Asexual Explorations exists to promote the academic study of asexuality. A number of introductory level resources and a list of recommended sites are available.

Resources on Stanford Campus

Alongside Stanford’s CAPS Vaden Health Center, the LGBT Community Resources Center located in the Fire Truck House provides a warm and welcoming space for the extremely diverse population of students celebrating, questioning, investigating and struggling with sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Sources

This section contributed by: Jasmin Steiner, MA