You may already be familiar with some of the many ways that humans express their sexuality. One expression of human sexuality that does not seem to get much attention is asexuality. Asexuality is understood by some as a sexual orientation in which a person experiences little or no sexual interest or attraction.
This is not the same thing as temporary abstinence or celibacy. Temporary abstinence is a decision to refrain from sexual activity for a period of time, often until marriage. Celibacy is a commitment, often motivated by religion, to abstain from sex, often indefinitely. A celibate person will maintain sexual desires while rejecting sexual activity. A person who is asexual simply does not experience sexual desire.1
I have been married for 37 years and our relationship is asexual. We are both fine with that and haven’t had sexual relations for 15-20 years. It seemed strange at first because our culture is so sexualized, but thanks in part to this community I now understand my (a)sexual orientation and I’m at peace about it, and so is she. – aces_wild on Asexuality.Org Forum
This does not mean that people who are asexual do not form romantic relationships. Romantic relationships, exclusive or otherwise, can exist in the absence of sexual desire, or even the absence of sex. People who are asexual also still have functioning sexual anatomy, and some of them masturbate or even have sex because it feels good, can help to relieve stress, and facilitates intimacy with a romantic partner.
My discovery of asexuality begins with irony. I had a really huge crush on a friend of mine- all of my friends knew I liked him, and were totally perplexed when I spent an entire year not doing anything about it. Finally, just before he moved away, I got the courage to tell him- but then he asked a question I’ll never forget: “If I liked you, what would you do?”
My response was an honest one- “Nothing… Either way, it doesn’t matter.” It frustrated me, and probably confused him a bit too. I realized that my crush on him, and the rare crushes I had in the past, were platonic at best. I never had the desire to kiss or doing anything physical. I never liked dating because I was afraid guys would try to put the moves on me. Two had, and I had shot both down. It occurred to me that I was different, but I didn’t have a name for it quite yet. – Anonymous Writer at asexuality.org
Consider this infographic by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network:
Sexuality is an important element of being human, but different humans experience it in varying ways and to varying degrees. If we are to be more compassionate towards other people, we need to understand that human sexuality comes in many varieties, some of which may not draw a lot of attention in public discourse and the media.
Sexuality draws out strong feelings in people, and rightfully so. Sexuality is powerful, and it can be dangerous. At the same time, science and many religious traditions are in agreement that our sexuality is important and life-giving. Whatever moral or religious concerns we may have with particular expressions of human sexuality, we must strive to understand and comprehend others, regardless of the judgments we may come to.
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- Varcarolis’ Foundations of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing: A Clinical Approach, 7th ed. (St. Louis, Mo.: Elsevier, 2014), 382.
- Anthony F. Bogaert, “Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample,” Journal of Sex Research 41, no. 3 (August 2004), accessed February 10, 2017.