What Is Asexuality?

Asexuality is a sexual orientation in which someone experiences little to no sexual attraction toward others. They might also have little to no desire to have sexual encounters, in general. That said, every asexual person is different in the way they approach sexual intimacy. Consider it more of a spectrum versus a concrete set of rules.

For example, some do experience romantic attraction but with no desire for sexual intimacy, and some may want to have sex or masturbate but still not be wholly attracted to others. Also, some might engage sexually with others or with themselves but may not feel pleasure when doing so. These are only a few examples.

Note that asexuality is not considered the same as abstaining from sex for religious or philosophical reasons. In such cases, sexual attraction might occur but it is simply not acted upon.

Is Asexuality Considered a Choice?

There are two primary philosophies in regard to asexuality. The first is that it is a sexual orientation in the same way heterosexuality and homosexuality are orientations. The LGBTQ+ community recognizes asexuality as its own orientation.

The second philosophy is that someone who identifies as asexual is experiencing a physiological abnormality, such as low libido levels or Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD).

Ultimately, there is much we don’t know about what causes someone to have an asexual orientation, and it is always best practice to respect anyone’s sexual identity.

How to Know If You’re Asexual

Sometimes a person’s asexuality isn’t immediately obvious to themselves. This is partially because it isn’t as widely discussed as heterosexuality or homosexuality, and so there is a lack of understanding around the topic. Some don’t even realize that asexuality exists as a sexual orientation.

Further, in the same way it might take someone time to recognize that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, a person may require careful introspection before recognizing their own asexuality.

To help you determine whether or not you might be asexual, consider whether you’ve experienced any of the following:

  • You can see that others are conventionally attractive, but you rarely (if ever) experience a sexual attraction toward them
  • You have little to no desire to engage in sexual encounters with others, including your romantic partner
  • You have little to no desire to masturbate
  • You engage in sexual intimacy, but you do not enjoy it
  • You engage in sexual intimacy, but you rarely initiate it
  • You rarely think about sex 
  • You do not find sexual intimacy — or even the thought of it — rewarding, exciting, interesting, or important
  • You have a difficult time identifying with other sexual orientations, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and pansexuality
  • You have little to no desire to even be involved in a romantic relationship
  • You’ve felt a combination of any of the above for an ongoing period of time, perhaps since adolescence

As mentioned above, every asexual person is different. It’s helpful to think of asexuality as a spectrum, and to consider whether you fall anywhere on that spectrum versus fitting into an exact definition.

Asexual, Demisexual, and Graysexual

The terms demisexual and asexual are often conflated. While tangentially related, the two orientations are actually very different from one another. Someone who is demisexual does experience sexual desire toward others and enjoy sexual intimacy, but only after a strong emotional bond has been established.

Demisexuality technically falls on the asexual spectrum, along with graysexuality which is characterized as someone who does experience sexual desire and attraction, but infrequently and/or with low intensity.

Asexuality Vs. Temporary Lack of Libido

One of the key differences between asexuality and a general lack of libido (also referred to as a low sex drive) is how long the feelings last with either. Many who identify as asexual have felt the way they do for a long period of time — sometimes as early as their adolescence.

A libido drop later in life is often not the same as being of asexual orientation. Common causes of low libido include mental health distress such as anxiety, stress, and depression, certain medications and supplements, underlying illness, steroid use, and hormonal changes and imbalances.

For example, women in menopause often notice a decrease in their sexual desire due to a strong hormonal shift. If you suspect any of the aforementioned might be causing a low sex drive, it’s best to consult a general or specialized medical doctor.

In some cases, a low sex drive might also be the result of trauma, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, rape, attempted rape, sex shaming, and other negative sexual experiences. This is something to speak about with a therapist or other mental health care professional, who can help you heal from past traumas.

How to Explain Your Asexuality

We want to be clear here: you do not owe an explanation of your sexual orientation to anyone. That said, there are times when you might feel compelled to talk to someone about your sexuality.

For example, you may feel you want to discuss your sexual orientation in a romantic partnership, with your closest friends, or to family members. If it’s your desire to explain your asexuality to someone, the best approach is forthright honesty, especially since many aren't very familiar with the term.

Explain exactly what you feel and don’t feel. If you’re speaking with a romantic partner, be clear about how this might impact your sexual relationship.

Resources for Understanding Asexuality

If you’d like to continue learning more about asexuality, we recommend checkout out the following books:

In addition, there are plenty of online resources available where asexual-identifying individuals can find others who may be having similar experiences. It is worth a Google search to find such organizations as well as searching for networks in your area that may be able to connect you with other asexual-identifying people.

Remember, you are not alone in your experiences and your feelings.

A Word From Verywell

Asexuality is a spectrum, and no two people on that spectrum are exactly the same in their sexual desire or attraction toward others or even with themselves. Having a better understanding your own sexual orientation, and even putting a soft label on it, can perhaps put you a path of better understanding yourself.

This might lead to increased self-esteem and generally more clarity in who you are and how you navigate life and relationships. In some cases, a lack of sexual desire is the result of low libido or past traumas, and it is worth exploring those paths if you think either might be affecting your sexual desire and attraction.

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