This book and stumbling upon it has kinda changed my life. Well…it’s given me a much better understanding of myself than I previously had before. See, I’m a freelance writer. I was commissioned to write a short story for an online YA magazine about a young adult in the glbtqiia spectrum. I chose “a” for asexual, because it was something I didn’t know much about but had an…affinity for. See, I’ve always felt I had a different sexual appetite than most people I knew. I didn’t necessarily qualify as asexual because I was interested in and had sex, but it was…very selective. Like up until a few years ago, I really only felt sexual attraction towards my-exhusband and ex-wife. So I thought, let’s delve into this and see if I can write something about it. My editor was thrilled to see more “ace” fiction out there, so all systems were a-go!
I figured I’d better do some research, because while I felt kinda akin to asexuality, I would never have considered myself asexual, and therefore needed some edumacation. I found some websites for asexuality and then this free ebook download about it.
It’s fascinating, funny, and incredibly informative. It’s told in mostly a Q&A format, with a few summary/personal stories pages at the end. Subject matter ranges from standard definition of asexuality, common questions, possible signs, debunking myths, things that are not asexuality, symbols of the movement (cake!), attraction, the “ace umbrella” (see below), asexual feelings towards sex and masturbation, followed by the personal perspectives and a helpful glossary.
Some things I learned:
1. “Asexuality describes an orientation, not behavior.”
I don’t think I fully grokked this until . I thought asexuality meant No Sex. Turns out, that’s not the case. It’s more about the way people experience (or don’t experience) sexual attraction. Abstinence and celibacy are actually very different from asexuality. They can be concurrent, but they’re not synonyms.
2. The words “demisexual”, “gray-asexual”, the “ace umbrella”.
There’s a gray area between asexuality and non-asexuality. Some people say that they occasionally experience sexual attraction, yet still relate to asexuality. The ace umbrella encompasses asexuals, as well as people in this gray area.
Some people, known as “gray-asexuals”, experience sexual attraction infrequently or not very strongly or possibly aren’t quite sure whether or not what they experience is sexual attraction. One subtype of gray-asexuals, known as “demisexuals”, can experience sexual attraction only after developing a close emotional bond with someone.
3. How sexual attraction is really different from romantic attraction. I’d never given that enough due. I mean, I knew sex and romance were two separate things that could happen together, but didn’t necessarily have to. But I don’t think I ever gave much thought to the terminology, though, or the fact that you can be romantically attracted to someone but not sexually attracted to them. Or, to take it a step further, not be sexually attracted to most people, but feel romantic feelings fairly easily. So bisexual just describes being sexually attracted to men and women, while biromantic covers being romantically attracted to men and women. And since language is awesome, you can sub the suffice “bi-” for others like “hetero-“, “homo-“, and “pan-“.
4. The differentiation between sexual attraction and aesthetic attraction.
I do experience aesthetic attraction. There are certain people or types of people that I do enjoy looking at. Those people will stand out and I will notice them. But all I want to do is look. It’s like I’m looking at a cute puppy or beautiful picture.
I’ve long since known that love and sex are two different things and don’t have to go hand in hand, but this book opened up a whole realm of sexuality (or lack thereof) that I didn’t fully understand, and some types I didn’t even know existed. It’s helped me understand myself better, and write a (hopefully) good short story about an asexual teenager that will (again, hopefully) be published next month.