Ace Is Some People’s Place


Debbie says:

When I came across Simone’s story, I went back into our archives to see how recently Laurie and/or I had written about asexuality, and I’m horrified to discover that we’ve never done more than mention the phenomenon. It’s time to fix that.

“Someone who is asexual doesn’t experience sexual attraction,” [Simone] explains. “In terms of sex drive, it varies from person to person, so a lot of asexuals say they don’t have any kind of drive, whereas others say they have, but it’s like being hungry yet not wanting to eat any particular food.” Simone has never had sex but has been in relationships. “I have had brief relationships in the past but I felt like it wasn’t really for me. I would say, however, that I’m a minority amongst asexuals — most of my asexual friends are in relationships.” So, how does that work? “We tend to say in the asexual community people have romantic orientations despite not having a sexual one. People talk about being hetero-romantic, bi-romantic, homo-romantic etc. Others call themselves aromantic, meaning they’re not romantically attracted to anyone. I would put myself in the last category.

Asexuality has gotten more traction and more awareness, at least in the circles I travel in, over the last few years. Aside from being an important identity and marginalization issue, I’ve always thought of it as a body image issue because, well, sexual desire is at least in part an experience of the body–and an experience that the world expects everyone to have in one form or another. So it’s often difficult for asexual people to come to terms with their own preferences and (non)reactions: like every other kind of difference, this one can easily raise questions of “Am I okay? Is something wrong with me?”

Being asexual is completely normal, and not especially rare. A reasonable estimate seems to be that about 1% of the population is asexual. So if you have been on a crowded commuter train platform, you’ve likely shared that space with more than one asexual person, and if you’ve been to a major sports event or a rock concert, statistically there were a few hundred asexual people in the audience.

Let’s get back to Simone’s story, as told to Charlotte Dingle of Cosmopolitan UK:

“I wouldn’t say being asexual has been a barrier, as I’m quite happy being single,” she continues. “I would consider being in another relationship in the future, but whether or not that would look like a stereotypical relationship to other people I’m not sure, because I’m really not a physical person at all. This isn’t common to all asexuals. A lot like kissing and cuddling and other romantic affectionate physical gestures.”

So, what would a relationship look like to her? “If I was in a relationship, it would be more about security and practicality!” she explains. “And it would have to be with someone who was on the same page. I wouldn’t want to be depriving anyone of what they considered a full relationship, so I’m aware that my dating pool is small.”

Simone refers readers to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN), which does a lot of good work normalizing asexuality and advising asexual people and their friends and family. AVEN does not seem to use the term “ace” for asexuals, but Simone does, and many others do as well. AVEN does a great job of describing the wide variety of asexual identities, choices, reactions, and expectations, and of responding to people’s inevitable fears and worries.

Simone stands out as someone who has really thought her own personal issues and choices through, and sounds very happy with where she’s wound up:

“You never hear straight people being asked if they might change their minds,” Simone concludes. “It’s only the rest of us (asexual, LGBTQ+, etc) who get asked. I don’t have a crystal ball. Things may well change for me in the future, but I think it would be really great if people could accept that this thing exists.” Simone is keen to stress that, although it is now being talked about more, asexuality isn’t a youth “fad.” “We’re not all young people who’ve read this on the internet and attached ourselves to it. There are older people who’ve gone through their lives wondering what’s wrong with them and then found our community and suddenly it makes sense.”

Sexuality is such an enormous component of our culture, our public lives, and our private lives that (as a sexual person) I find it easy to imagine the relief of just being in a space where no one cares about sexuality. If you’re a person who just would never care about sexuality unless it was shoved in your face, the relief of finding a community where you can get away from it must be a thousand times more intense.


3 thoughts on “Ace Is Some People’s Place

  1. I am shocked at all the allegations coming out. That said as a young man I too was guilty of behavior I am not proud of. I am happy to say not like our idiot President or Senator Franken, but with raging hormones I have behaved in ways I am not proud of. The media almost encourages this, and perhaps this explains why people like me in my youth did not know better. .

    I was watching GiGi last night. Great music but think about what it is about. They are training a 16 year old girl to become a kept women, or basically selling her youth and virtue for money. They made a whole dam musical about it and celebrate it . The opening song, song by (sorry, have to say this, a French collaborationist, who worked with the Nazis) Maurice Chevalier is “Thank Heaven For Little Girls”. Think about that, an old man singing about a group of young girls playing, and waiting for the day they grow up to be sex objects, not real fulfilled young women,…. and this was one of the most popular musicals ever made! We have a long way to go I afraid.

    1. I think most men (and many women) are re-evaluating where they (we) have been and what they (we) have done to fight and/or to be part of the sexual abuse/sexual harassment culture. You’re in a big and important club.

      As for Gigi, I loved it as a child but have disliked it for a very long time (except for the song about the older couple remembering their relationship.

      Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. As an ace person (and yes, I do use that term), I disagreed with the very first sentence that defined asexuality in this blog article: “Someone who is asexual doesn’t experience sexual attraction.” As is mentioned elsewhere in the article, everything varies from one person to another, and some ace people do experience sexual attraction, but just have no interest in doing anything about it, or experience it to only a very slight degree, etc.

    In general, though, I agreed with most things written here. I would love to see the societal pressures explored more, including the pressure (both internal and external) to “change our minds” as well as the personal questioning of whether it means something is “wrong with us.”

    I spent decades certain that something was wrong with me, discussing it with my doctors (both medical and psychiatric) to try to find some way to “fix” the “problem.” When I learned about asexuality (I must admit this was from younger people on the Internet), I dismissed it at first as a fictional fad youngsters were using to describe characters like Sherlock Holmes to explain the character’s lack of relationships. But as time went by (and I had more therapy), I realized that I had only ever had sex because I felt my partners (and society) expected it. It was “proof” that I was okay, I was normal, my relationship was healthy. But I’d never had sex because I actually *wanted* to independently, and in fact would much prefer to never do it again if I was honest with myself.

    So I googled “asexuality” and visited the AVEN website (which I, too, recommend) and discovered that there were lots of other people out there who felt the same way I do, and it was a revelation. Among the people on their forums, there was nothing wrong with me. I didn’t need to be fixed. And I cried, because I realized that I’d been criticizing myself for my entire adult life for something that wasn’t my fault and wasn’t actually wrong. It just *was*. It was just a fact.

    Since then, I’ve made friends online with a few other people, but I’m very selective about who I tell “irl.” When I “come out” to people in my life offline, I feel like I’m outing my husband, as well, because I’m saying something about our relationship and not just about myself.

    Yes, I’m married, and to someone who isn’t ace. I often feel that I’m depriving him of an important part of what he wants out of a relationship—and that I pulled a “bait and switch” on him since I didn’t understand that I was ace when we got together—but he insists that his love for me is far more important than any desire for sex. We’ve agreed that if he ever does meet someone else with whom he’s interested in a sexual relationship, we’ll discuss polyamorous solutions, but he currently feels no need or desire for that.

    I guess the primary thing I want to stress is that all asexual people are different. There is no one kind of ace. We each feel a different level of comfort with sex. Some aces masturbate, for example, but just have no interest in sex with another person, while others experience no sex drive at all. There’s also the concept of “gray ace,” referring to people who fall somewhere on the spectrum of “no interest in sex whatsoever” (which seems to be where Simone places herself) and “more typical sexual interest.” The ace spectrum is in this way similar to how someone who is bisexual might find themselves along a spectrum between being more interested in women or more interested in men, except it’s a spectrum between being interested in sex and being completely uninterested in sex.

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