Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Asexuality: The Other Orientation

Once upon a time, sexual orientation was a pretty simple concept. You were either attracted to people of the opposite sex or people of the same sex. Then, it gradually became clear that some people are attracted to both sexes, though sometimes more strongly to one than the other and sometimes only in certain phases of life. In case you get cocky and think you have it all figured out, there are also men who used to be women, women who used to be men, and men and women who dress like women and men even though they don't want to be women or men.

It's no wonder that with this overwhelming array of choices, some people are opting out and saying, "To hell with sex. I think I'll pass."

That's right. There is now a fifth (sixth?) sexual orientation emerging, and it has nothing to do with sex. In fact, that's the point. It's asexual.

Asexuality is, perhaps, the most invisible orientation in our sex-drenched society. In an age in which representatives of every imaginable sexual preference have fought for and won recognition, it is still inconceivable to much of the population that there are people who don't like, want, or need sex. But there's a good chance that some of the singles you meet every day are among the approximately 3 million Americans who identify as asexual.

The definition of asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to either males or females. Asexuals may still experience and enjoy sexual arousal but not in response to other people, or they may have no interest in sexual activity whatsoever. Unlike people who have an aversion to sex due to a history of abuse or other trauma, asexuals simply don't have a desire for sex or view other people in a sexual light. Many can objectively label others as handsome or beautiful, as one would admire a painting or sculpture, but don't feel an accompanying attraction. They may wish to remain single, seek intimate relationships that don't include sex, or engage in intercourse solely to please a romantic partner.

No one knows how or why people don't develop a sexual interest in others, any more than they know how or why people become straight or gay. Many asexuals say that as far back as they can remember, they always felt uninterested in people as sexual beings, a sentiment that is echoed in the mainstream by those who relate growing up aware of their attraction to one sex or the other or both. It's possible that their genes code for lower hormonal levels or other anomalies that contribute to the absence of sexual desire, or they might have had deeply buried early childhood experiences that turned them off to sex. However, what's important is that they are the way they are, and in contrast to people who are disturbed by anxiety, repulsion, or indifference surrounding sex, asexuals are content with their lifestyles.

Asexuals come in all different physical packages, just like people of any other orientation; they have no identifying features. They are not, as one may be tempted to think, less physically attractive than others.

Millions of asexuals may feel alone or misunderstood in a world that idealizes sex as the highest form of fulfillment, essential to a happy, healthy life. But it really is only one piece of the happiness pie, and it's not in a flavor that everyone likes.

If you or someone you know is asexual, you may want to visit the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) to learn more and find support.

What do you think about asexuality and how our society relates to asexuals? If you or someone you know is asexual, can you share any stories about the experience of asexuals in a sexual world?

Other Sources
Sexless and Proud
Feature: Glad to Be Asexual
Asexuals Unite
Study: One in 100 Adults Asexual
Asexuality: Prevalence and Associated Factors in a National Probability Sample

Fun Link of the Day


Anonymous said...

Well Elsie, this is the first time I heard of Asexuality, but it is very interesting. As a very broad-minded individual I think this is fine, and in many ways could probably make for a safer, healthier and less complicated life in some ways. However it is good to hear that the asexual still crave companionship. For myself, I have to be powerfully attracted to a woman in order to consider her as a long term or permanent partner, and although much of that attraction is sexual, a fair part is personality, how interesting, quirky, stylish or individual a woman is too.

By that rationale, I can completely understand an asexual person needing all of the above bar sexual attraction. I think if a person did not need sex or love they probably have batteries and a positronic brain.

So, a toughie. I think asexual is cool, I have no problem with it, but I do in a way feel a little pity for a section of society who cannot know the raptures of sex.

Over to you, C xx

Anonymous said...

Why aren't you married yet?

Sorry Elsie, but I could not post a comment on the above topic due to no link being available to do so therefore I am posting one here.

Yes, very wry and witty, you sound like you have much more involvement with your family and a greater number of acquaintances than I do. I avoid any family outside my immediate folks (whom I only see because I have to) like the plague. I have nothing in common with any of them and their lifestyles, families and mewling sprogs so depress me that I cannot bear to be near them. My male relatives are swollen slugs of men, and have wide eyed, feral looking wives desperate for escape from slug man and their gameboy playing larvae. (A little cynical? possibly)

Anyhow, I may very well adopt your tight-lipped response when asked about my love-life. From my mother I get a litany of how bad my choices were and why can't I find someone normal. From my father I get: "flaming hell son, when I were your age I had 2 or 3 on the go!" I honestly believe I was adopted. From my brother I get a rolling of the eyes and questions like "Is she normal?"

To have to attend the social occasions you do would fill me with abject horror. I am not an antiscoial guy, I am just very particular about the company I keep, my friends confide in me and I in them.

On a more personal note, seeing as it sounds like we both have choppy romantic seas, I think everyone should go after what they want and deserve in a partner or lover, or rather if one finds the filling (soul) of a person is not as tasty as the outer shell (body and presentation) then one should more quickly elect not to consume the whole confection. (In other words, it was great but we are spiritually incompatible)

Anyhow, just my tuppence worth!

C xx

Clever Elsie said...

I do in a way feel a little pity for a section of society who cannot know the raptures of sex.

I think it's natural for those who enjoy sex to be mystified by asexuals, but my understanding is that they're mystified by the rest of the world! It just goes to show that one man's cup of tea is another man's trash. Or something. I'm mixing metaphors. :)

Thanks for alerting me to the accidentally blocked comments on the last post! I went back and changed the settings.

My male relatives are swollen slugs of men, and have wide eyed, feral looking wives desperate for escape from slug man and their gameboy playing larvae.

You need to write that down and publish it somewhere.

Sheesh! Sounds like your relatives are repeat offenders when it comes to drilling you on your love life. I do think the non-response is an acceptable one. I liked Bobbyboy's answer when interrogated about when he would find someone: "When I'm ready."

Thanks for your tuppence. I can always bank on a good, meaty reply from you. :)

The Impossible K said...

I think it's natural for those who enjoy sex to be mystified by asexuals, but my understanding is that they're mystified by the rest of the world!

Well said, Elsie! I really appreciate your open discussion about this. I consider myself asexual, and I definitely agree. I'm intellectually intrigued by the subject- mostly, it's a fun challenge to try and figure out why sex means so much to so many... but it's purely academic. I don't fit any symptoms of disorder- psychologically or physically- and I'd say I'm well adjusted. (Of course, I could be biased). But the concept of sexual intimacy- specifically genital contact- absolutely bewilders me. I identified as "oblivious" long before I learned about asexuality. I was never motivated to pursue any sort of physical relationship- even when I was emotionally head-over-heels for someone. That contrast clued me in.
Thanks for writing this insightful post! :)

Clever Elsie said...

Impossible K: Welcome! I'm so glad that you voiced your thoughts on this post! I was really hoping I might get some feedback from someone who could relate to it firsthand. :)

Your experience seems to be very much in line with what I've read about and heard from others. I thought it would be great to draw some attention to asexuality both to increase awareness among sexuals as well as to get the word out for people who, like you, didn't know there were others who also felt "oblivious."

While I wouldn't say I'm asexual, if there is a continuum of human sexuality (and I think that there is), I'm far closer to the asexual side than the sexual side due to the very narrow parameters within which I experience sexual attraction. More importantly, I have difficulty understanding the centrality of sex in our culture. For such a small facet of life, we devote immeasurable time to legislating, moralizing, portraying, symbolizing, idealizing, and discussing it. When you strip down the stigmatization of singles to its bare bones, you realize that what differentiates a "couple" from another pair of devoted adults is the world's presumption of a sexual relationship. How ludicrous to think that privileges like social security benefits and health insurance should hinge on sex! And if this prejudice envelops singles in general, how much more must it target asexual singles!

In any case, thanks so much for sharing your background and opinions, and I hope you'll come back again! It's wonderful to hear a different perspective! :)