Welcome back to the third episode of ‘Sex + Whiskey: An Educational Series,’ our new podcast special! Our hosts Nikki and RJ will sip on a dram of the good stuff, while discussing the more exciting stuff. They will take you on a journey, exploring whiskeys from around the world, while also educating you on the birds and the bees, especially correcting what school or your parents missed on. Their goal is to promote a safe and fun environment, that will leave you empowered and educated on your next bedroom adventure.
This week, our host Nikki will take over this space to discuss their own journey involving Asexuality and Aromanticism:
This is a deeply personal topic, as I exist in both spaces, and timely with current discourse related to diverse portrayals of the LGBTQIA+ community across various mediums.
Some people may not consider asexuality or aromanticism as orientations to be included in Pride. The term “sexual orientation” projects an idea that attraction is based solely on sexual acts, but it is about multiple types of attraction – including romantic, emotional, and sexual attraction – to others. Therefore, sexual orientation includes asexuality as well as aromanticism and it is crucial to embrace this truth if we want to live in a sex-positive culture.
A sex-positive culture:
- embraces comprehensive sex-education, including explaining how issues of intersectionality impacts our sexual experiences
- does not exclude orientation and gender from sex-education
- creates safe spaces for people to explore and embrace their sexual orientation
- ensures the rights of trans people to exist without fear and provides access to gender affirming healthcare
- protects reproductive and sexual health equity and justice
- supports, destigmatizes, and protects sex work and workers
- demands consensual sexual practices and teaches enthusiastic consent
- does not kink shame or label sexual practices between consenting adults as “bad” or “good”
- embraces the notion that different types and styles of relationship structure exist while accepting people’s choices to choose which is appropriate for them
Sex-positivity adopts the stance that sex is a natural, healthy part of human existence which should not be shamed, punished, or ridiculed. Human sexuality is complex, does not exist in a binary, and our experiences, relationship styles, identities, feelings, attitudes, and orientations are part of the human experience. A sex-positive culture embraces the many ways people organize their relationships and relate to each other, and doesn’t gatekeep any aspect of human sexuality that is consensual for everyone involved
Regardless of somebody’s cultural attitude towards sex – whether they are are positive, neutral, or negative – it is impossible to escape how our society frames media, life milestones, and even the legality of relationships, from the lens of long-term, monogamous, heteronormative relationships.
Asexual people have always existed, but only recently are efforts being made to explore asexuality without judgment. Academia and online culture both seek to understand what it means to feel no or little sexual attraction.
People may believe the unwillingness to have sex is a medical condition. Doctors historically (and still do) blame low libido and seek to treat this as something wrong. In other cases, medical professionals may attempt to diagnose hyposexual desire disorder, which includes distress over having low levels of desire. Perhaps they assume a history of sexual trauma as the cause of the aversion. Sometimes people who have not learned about asexuality end up in couples counseling and are told to schedule sex.
Sometimes these suggestions are completely appropriate for the situation.
In other cases, there is a lack of understanding surrounding attraction and valid orientations.
If there is no sexual desire for others, and it is not causing the person who does not feel desire any distress, then why is it a disease or libido problem that needs to be fixed? There are plenty of asexual people who have high libidos – yes, asexual people experience horniness. The assumptions that something is wrong because of a lack of sexual desire have created a stigma, which is one of the reasons clarifying asexuality as an orientation, not a medical condition or personal choice, is important.
Personal attitudes towards having sex – their willingness to engage in a behavior – vary from person-to-person. (This is different than having a sex-positive cultural attitude.) It is possible to experience no sexual attraction, but still be willing to have sex and even enjoy sex. Other times they might be completely sex averse. Reasons for engaging in sex are distinct from whether they feel sexual attraction, as choosing to engage in a behavior is not the same as orientation.
Asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction, very little sexual attraction, or experiencing some sexual attraction and desire no sexual contact. This is opposed to allosexuals, who do experience sexual attraction.
Demisexuality is only experiencing sexual attraction after a deep emotional connection is formed. Demisexuality can be conflated with making a choice to abstain from sexual activity until a social contract is met, like marriage, but demisexuality is how an individual experiences attraction rather than the actions they take, particularly as a result of larger societal attitudes. The way people experience attraction is an inherent part of our identity, not a choice. The sexual attraction will not be there unless the emotional connection component is met, and that level of connectedness is unique to the individual.
Graysexuality is a term people may choose to describe themselves with and can mean that person is somewhere on an asexual spectrum – meaning they might occasionally feel sexual attraction. The sexual attraction felt is not the same as demisexuality, where the emotional connection needs to be there. Attraction can happen for any reason. Some people may describe themselves as graysexual because of how their personal attitudes around having sex changes. Others might use it because they identify with asexuality, but do not quite feel like asexuality is the appropriate label.
The asexual spectrum, or acespec, is the spectrum between asexuality and allosexuality (somebody who experiences sexual attraction) and people might use as acespec as their chosen label, or simply say they are asexual or ace.
Graysexuality and acespec might sound identical, but people may find that one label or definition resonates more than another.
Aromanticism is not feeling, or feeling very little, romantic attraction. Much like asexuality, the use of “arospec,” “demi” and “gray” are often used. A demiromantic person might develop a desire for a romantic relationship after something else is established – like a deep emotional connection, for example. .
Aromanticism is a valid orientation even if it is not about sex. There is nothing wrong with people who experience no romance and have no desire to pursue a romantic relationship. There are multiple types of attraction and lasting, romance-free partnerships based on other types of attraction are possible if that person desires that type of relationship.
Queerplatonic relationship is a term used to describe a partnership with deep, emotional bonds that are not based on romantic and/or sexual attraction. The definition and what that relationship entails – the behaviors and manifestation of different types of attraction – are unique to the partners. Not everybody chooses to put a label on their relationship, but some may wish to define theirs as outside of the typical, romantic heteronormative relationship and expectations. An excellent explanation on queerplatonic relationships can be found here.
Asexuality and aromanticism are framed similarly in the language used, but are ultimately describing different dimensions of attraction in relationships. People can be asexual demiromantics or graysexual aromantics, allosexual aromantics, or any combination.
The language surrounding sexuality is constantly evolving. The exact labels and definitions used by the ace and aro communities do not exist in a monolith, and will continue to evolve as language changes to better capture how we interpret and interact with the world.
If somebody chooses a label to make sense of their own experiences, respect the label and recognize that definitions may shift as communities continue to grow. If you are in a place where anything in this article resonates, be gentle with yourself as you learn more. I encourage you to research and explore with an open mind.