Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Did you know, there’s a group of people with real-life superpowers? Maybe you’ve seen one, maybe you’ve seen many, but just don’t know it. As far as we know, about 1% of the population is in this group. The exact number, however, is difficult to know because these people have the power of invisibility. Not intentionally, they just are rarely seen. These people… are called asexuals.
Last week marked Asexual Awareness Week, so let’s talk about them a bit. Asexuals, demisexuals, and grey-asexuals are all part of a spectrum within sexual orientation. Imagine a graph (don’t worry, I’m not asking you to do maths) with the x-axis going from straight to gay/lesbian and the y-axis detailing how much sexual attraction one feels (difficult to quantify but that doesn’t matter). In this case sexual attraction is, according to AVEN (the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network), “an emotional response sexual people feel where they find someone sexually appealing, and often results in a desire for sexual contact with the person.”
On this graph most of the population would fall closer to straight on the x-axis and probably about in the middle on the y-axis. Asexuals would occupy the bottom of the graph, and gray-asexuals and demisexuals a bit above that. Aces (a shortening of asexuals) experience no sexual attraction, gray-aces experience a very low amount and demisexuals only experience attraction to those that they have a deep personal connection with. There’s also romantic attraction, which is the desire one has to be in a relationship with someone – and as such one can be aromantic, gray-aromantic and demiromantic. Romantic attraction isn’t related to sexual attraction. You could only feel sexual attraction for the opposite gender but romantically would want to be in a relationship with anyone of any gender.
Why do I say that aces are invisible? Well, it’s not a good reason, that’s for sure. They’re often forgotten when people talk about LGBTQ+ issues, in popular culture they’re often demonized and erased, and pretty much all of society is allonormative (allosexual being the opposite of asexual). For example, people often say that the ‘A’ in LGBTQ+ stands for ‘Ally’, but that is slightly outdated – that referred to people who were in the closet but wanted to go to marches, back when being LGBTQ+ wasn’t really accepted. But now all this does is make aces feel a bit left out. In popular culture, especially romantic sitcoms and films, people not in relationships are depicted as weird and purely platonic relationships with the opposite gender is often seen as impossible. I don’t want to be some kind of gatekeeper of fun, but in my opinion these jokes are starting to get a bit stale.
Due to all of this erasure there is a lot of misinformation surrounding the ace-spec community. One is that they’re all sex-repulsed, sex negative or abstinent, and this is of course not true. Many are in relationships and have and enjoy sex, there’s just no attraction involved. This doesn’t mean there’s no arousal, that’s a different kind of response. There’s also some hostility from people who don’t think it exists or believe that it’s not part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum. All of this can make life difficult, meaning some stay in the closet and many may not know they are ace.
But there have been great things too! There is starting to be representation in media of it: in Game of Thrones there was an asexual character, and the Netflix animated series Bojack Horseman has an asexual main character who comes out and dates another ace character. It’s not perfect, but positive representation is definitely good.
The whole community is lovely and friendly, and on the AVEN website there are forums for those who are on the spectrum to chat about anything. The community as a whole adopted cake as a their symbol, which you’ll see a lot if you go on the forums – it comes from cake being better than sex to those in the community that are sex-repulsed.
By reading this article, you now know what asexuals are, and that combats the power of invisibility aces have – it’s a curse, not a blessing.