Asexuality and the Aro- and Ace-spectrum

Vanessa writes about a topic which definitely should get more attention when talking about Sex(ualities).

 

Asexuality and Aromanticism are something people usually don’t like to talk about a lot.

Sometimes, when one finally gathers the courage and comes out, reactions can include suggestions that the implied asexuality is only a temporary phase, a normal condition everyone once in a while experiences or the statement that one is too young to already identify with a certain sexual identity. Nice. That’s exactly what one wants to hear after coming out. Those are just a few examples. And this does not mean, by all means, that coming out is a bad thing because people will react negatively. Quite the contrary.

Coming out is often a relief for oneself and it is important to be able to learn to accept one’s own identity. And not everyone reacts negatively. Especially nowadays, society is more open towards different sexual and gender identities than it has probably ever been before. Pride, Christopher Street Day and the LGBTQ+ movement are good examples for how engrained and accepted this variety of being able to express one’s identity has already become. Of course, there are still people who generally don’t condone of anything that isn’t cisgender or cissexual, and homophobia is still a major issue. But overall acceptance has increased.

What now is asexuality? The Asexual Visibility & Education Network defines an asexual person as “someone who does not experience sexual attraction or an intrinsic desire to have sexual relationships”. However, it always depends on the individual if they want to define as asexual or not. There are also other sexualities in the ace spectrum, including greysexuality and demisexuality.

Generally, someone who is asexul might experience some form of attraction towards another person in the form of finding someone beautiful or physically attractive, however it usually isn’t a sexual attraction. Asexuality does not mean that someone is not interested in a romantic relationship. Someone can be asexual and be in a happy romantic relationship. However, the interest to have sex is usually not given.

If the desire to be involved in a romantic relationship is barely or not at all present, this is defined as aromantic. Some people are both, aromantic and asexual, some people are only asexual and not aromantic or vice versa. This differs from person to person because sexual and romantic orientation are two very different things.

In the beginning, this might be incredibly confusing and overwhelming, especially if one is new to all of this. Yes, sometimes the media covers different gender identities, but it might be difficult to really find a category for oneself.

Furthermore, gender, sexual and romantic identities are not necessarily fixed categories; they can change or develop throughout an individual’s life. They do not have to change, but it is entirely possible that they do. Only to list an example: I started questioning my sexual identity very early in my life, I just couldn’t put my finger on what I wanted to identify as. When I was around 16 years old I assumed that I was bisexual because I found men and women equally attractive. However, I have never experienced explicit sexual attraction towards anyone. This was very confusing in the beginning, because I thought asexuality means that one does not experience any sort of sexual feeling (including arousal, finding someone beautiful etc.), which is not true.

As I’ve learned after trying to find information on the internet, an asexual person might experience arousal or “get turned on” but it usually does not involve the wish to have sex with another person. When I found out about that I was still hesitant to identify as asexual, and to be honest I still don’t know if I’m asexual and aromantic or aromantic and demisexual. I am pretty sure that I am aromantic, as I have no desire to be in a relationship – I would even go as far as saying that I can’t even imagine being in a romantic relationship with someone.

What I want to say, though, is that it can be difficult to find the right category or identity for oneself, but that it is completely normal and okay to be searching, adapting, changing and developing one’s identity. One shouldn’t have to justify oneself for one’s choice of sexual, gender or romantic identity only because other people might think it is weird or that it is “completely normal and doesn’t need an own category”. It sometimes, for oneself, is simply easier to know the term that describes one’s feelings, especially because it allows to connect to other like-minded people.

The internet is a good first point of contact when one is entirely new to the topic. Social media offer a great way to connect with people who identify in the same way and thus face the same struggles in everyday life.

The Asexual Visibility & Education Network has an official website but can also be found as AVEN on twitter. They are a good first point of contact due to their well structured website and the forum for interaction they offer. Their website also includes a range of explanations and answers to different questions and goes in depth about the ace spectrum and its different sexual identities. On their twitter they share news about asexuality and aromanticism and publications and projects of, by, and for asexual and aromantic people.

Which I personally found very interesting and only discovered thanks to my research for this article, is the ACE week (also known as the Asexual Awareness Week) which will be celebrated this year from October 25 to October 31. ACE Week also does have a twitter account and an official website, so it might be interesting to follow their activities or even get engaged in some voluntary activities.

 

By Vanessa Pohl

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