20-26th October is Asexuality Awareness week, an LGBTQ+ community event which was founded in 2010.
People identifying as asexual make up approximately 1% of the British population, or 650,000, according to a 2004 study by Anthony Bogaert.
Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to others. However, sexual and romantic attraction are two different concepts, and asexuals can have perfectly normal happy romantic relationships. Asexuality, like many other orientations, is a spectrum, so one person’s attitude towards sex does not reflect the community as a whole. For example, demisexuals only experience a sexual attraction to someone after they have known someone for a time and have developed a close bond.
Many asexuals will use the official flag to identify themselves as well as using the rainbow flag. Other ways in which the community represent themselves is with the wearing of a black ring upon their right hand’s middle finger, or the use of ace playing cards – the ace of spades most common and representing a-romantic asexuality.
The asexuality flag comprises of four horizontal stripes: black, grey, white, and purple from top to bottom, each representing a segment of the community. The black stripe represents asexuality, the grey represents grey-aces and demisexuals, the white strip represents allies, and the purple stripe represents community.
My Personal Experience
I have identified as Asexual since I was fourteen, and when I first came out to my friends then (I came out to my parents roughly three years later), none of them really knew what it was. And how could I describe it to a group of people in relationships and seemed more “normal” than me? I hadn’t met another asexual person, and had barely spoken to one online; the information about it felt far more difficult to discover that than about other orientations.
It wouldn’t be until I started university in 2018 that I would meet other asexuals.
There was little to no asexual representation in media (and there still continues to not be), so I couldn’t call upon my vast nerdy knowledge to help me. The only way in which I could quickly describe what they didn’t really understand, was to use a comparison to the Hunters of Artemis from Greek Mythology.
The lack of asexual characters has led to some of the community to place “headcanons” onto characters they could perceive as asexual.
Nowadays, characters in Archer and Bojack Horseman have been revealed and displayed as asexual, which is a great step forward for representation. The way in which Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes could today be interpreted as Asexual. But there are also shows which display this in a more … negative and slightly disrespectful manner. The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper was theorised to be asexual in the early seasons of the show due to his lack of interest in sexual relationships with women. And rather frequently, the show used this element of the character as a joke and something to make fun of for a gag.
And this lack of representation continues into 2019. Most application forms will not have an option labelled asexual; the majority of the time I have to choose the “other” option – when it’s available. And while there is more and more respect towards LGBTQ individuals in recent years, Acephobia is still a real problem. While I am proud of my orientation and willing to teach others about it, I have still received death and rape threats online, been called “broken” and that I “need” to be fixed. One of the first studies about asexuality in the 1980s noted that asexuals are more likely to be depressed or suffer from low self-esteem that other orientations.
Asexuality was still considered a mental disorder until almost the turn of the century, and 43% of asexuals in one study reported that they had experienced sexual violence. In some LGBT events, asexuals have likewise found themselves excluded and ridiculed by other members of the community. Jut because the orientation is one of those less well known, doesn’t mean that they aren’t suffering from prejudice.
The asexual flag hangs proudly in my room, and has done since 2012, and while being Asexual means I don’t participate in sexual actions like allosexuals do, it doesn’t affect anything else about my life. I still have interests and favourite video games and favourite dessert. I am a whole person, and not broken as acephobes would say.
And for those wondering how they can be better allies to Asexuals I have thought of a couple of dos and don’ts for you to follow – of course it’s not an extensive list, but it’s a start!
- Be compassionate and respectful of their orientation.
- Ask questions! Most asexuals are willing to talk about and inform others about their orientation!
- Call out people for being acephobic in the same way you would call then out for being homophobic or transphobic etc.
- Compare us to plants. We don’t reproduce asexually. I’ve heard it far too many times
- Treat someone differently just because they have no interest in relationships or sex.
- Don’t define someone else’s experience based on your own opinion.
- don’t say the A in the LGBTQA acronym stands for Ally; it’s aromantic and/or asexual and sometimes agender.