Asexuality is common and normal, but due to misconceptions and societal pressures around sexual attraction and activity, many aces wonder what is wrong with them, and often think that they are broken or unlovable before discovering their identities.
Often asexuality and aromanticism are portrayed as flaws, disorders, or illnesses in popular media like movies and TV shows. Popular culture also tends to promote the false belief that assault is the cause of asexuality and sex repulsion. This kind of negative exposure leads to misunderstanding and ostracisation of aces and aros from their friends, family, and peers. While aces and aros can often be a misunderstood demographic in the queer community and outside of it, information about our identities is making its way into more conversations.
Here are five myths about asexuality that need to leave the premises ASAP:
1. Asexuality is like abstinence or celibacy.
FALSE! While abstinence and celibacy are choices made by non-asexuals to refrain from sex, asexuals generally do not possess attraction to others or a desire for sex and therefore do not choose to avoid it.
2. Ace and aro people are unemotional, asocial, or frigid.
FALSE! Ace and aro people have diverse ranges of emotions and friendships, and to equate sexual attraction with emotion is a harmful habit we need to quit!
3. Since asexuals don’t have sex, they aren’t at risk for pregnancy or STIs.
FALSE! Even though asexual people often don’t experience sexual attraction, some of us still do engage in sexual activity with others and need contraceptives or protection whenever we do.
4. Aromantic people will never experience love.
FALSE! There are many different kinds of love; aromantic people may not experience romantic love, but that does not mean they will not experience familial or platonic love. Nothing to be sad about!
5. Asexual people are missing out!
FALSE. Sex can be wonderful, but the truth is that ace folks are just not interested. There’s nothing abnormal about this, and the aces I’ve talked to don’t feel as if they’re missing anything.
Unlike celibacy or abstinence, asexuality is a valid sexual identity where the subject experiences little to no sexual attraction to others, or is not interested in sex at all. Someone aromantic, on the other hand, experiences little to no romantic attraction to others. Some ace and aro people have relationships and sexual experiences, while others may be sex-repulsed and avoid sex.
Like gender, sexual and romantic attraction exist on a spectrum of sorts, and many ace and aro people find themselves somewhere in the middle as opposed to on one end. For example, someone demisexual may experience sexual attraction only after connecting emotionally with someone, while many aces may have had one or two instances or relationships in their lives where they experienced sexual attraction. We are all different, and we all have diverse experiences. Some of us have identified as ace or aro for our entire lives, and others of us are only getting started, or move in and out of identities freely.
Many of us have had unsatisfying or broken relationships because of our confusion and internalized oppression. My pal Ky, an aro/ace combo, told me that after he found a community he could connect with, he became more radically honest about being himself. “More than anything, I find it so comforting to have solid ground to stand on in regards to my identity; a community to help me find answers about myself.”
“Asexuality doesn’t mean being single, or even not having sex. […] It’s the lack of desire to have sex that constitutes my asexuality.”
I got in touch with Caitlyn through the Aro/Ace Halifax support group. They are in a relationship with a non-asexual person (someone who experiences regular and consistent sexual attraction to others), and says that although it can be tricky sometimes, it’s not impossible. For ace and aro people, the possibilities for diverse relationships are endless, despite how pop culture often brands our identity as restrictive and confined.
In a culture that trivialises or ignores consent, aces and aros are often much more aware of boundaries when we are constantly navigating how our identities will work in a relationship. This awareness opens up a new world of transparency when it comes to sex and romance. Because our relationships often don’t involve expectations of sex or romance, asexual and aromantic people have developed radical possibilities for their friendships, partnerships, and interactions with others. By changing the narrative around relationships, we have learned that there is no hierarchy between types of relationships, and that our pals, lovers, and partners all have unique, important roles in our lives, as do we in theirs.
Laura Chan is the coordinator at DalOUT, Dalhousie’s LGBTQ+ Community Organisation. They are a trans person of colour who identifies under the ace umbrella. Drop by the DalOUT office for oodles of ace resources!