18 November 2021

Asexuality - explaining and destigmatizing

Christo Van Meer

“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes” – an old saying goes. Entirely true! But not always possible when it comes to someone whose experience and outlook we don’t understand. What do you do in this case? Well, you ask questions: who are you? What are you feeling? Christo Van Meer - psychiatrist and therapist - tells us everything we wanted to know about asexuality and asexual-identifying individuals. And from us: anyone is free to identify as what feels right and comfortable for them. No exceptions.

According to Wikipedia, asexuality stands for the lack of sexual attraction to others, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity. That’s not entirely correct, as the latest research discovered that asexuality, just like most things regarding sexuality and gender, is a spectrum. In English literature, asexuality is used as an umbrella term that has multiple variations: demisexuals – people that only experience sexual attraction after a strong emotional bond has been established, gray asexuals – people, whose sexual attraction is dictated by specific feelings, environment, and personality traits; as well as queerplatonic-identifying people – those engaging in relationships with no sexual or romantic activity involved.

Plenty of stereotypes in regard to asexuality exist and flourish in our society, unfortunately. Most of them are based on the idea that asexuality is either a choice, a conscious decision, or a consequence of past sexual trauma. None of these are correct.         

Asexuality is neither a choice, a deviation from the norm, nor a trauma response. 

Multiple studies have confirmed that asexual-identifying individuals are in no way different from heterosexual and gay people in terms of their mental and physical health - no hormonal imbalances, psychological trauma, or any other divergence have been observed. 

Thanks to the uprise of profound research work and ongoing conversations, many asexuals who used to feel "broken" and "different from the rest" have started to receive more objective scientific information about their sexuality, which led to destigmatization and a better understanding of themselves. By the way: according to various estimates, the number of asexuals in the human population reaches 1%.

Even though asexuality remains far less researched in comparison with other sexualities, partly because asexuals don’t always feel the necessity to state it publicly or come out, asexuals still experience discrimination and a lack of acceptance.

Some of the most common phrases an asexual will be met with upon coming out are “Asexuality isn’t real”, “You just haven’t found someone you like yet” and “How can a relationship exist without sex?” as well as “This too shall pass” - and variations of those statements. A little bit of empathy and thoughtfulness goes a long way – but those who consider intimacy an important part of their life simply may not realize that some people don’t want or need it. So, this lack of understanding makes them seek out any kind of rational explanation for this occurrence. It should be noted that these “rational” explanations do more harm than good to asexual-identifying individuals.

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It should also be stated that asexuality does not equal celibacy. Celibacy is a conscious choice to abstain from intimacy for one’s personal reasons. Asexuality describes a lack of desire to engage in sexual relations. By the way, one of the most common asexuality myths is that asexuals do not experience any kind of desire - in fact, they can sometimes have sexual relations and enjoy them, but it happens under different circumstances than for most people.

Asexuals, too, can enter into romantic relationships and friendships, fall in love, have a desire to engage in self-pleasure, experience arousal, and climax - as most people do.

Relationships with asexuals, on the one hand, can be difficult for those who prioritize sex. On the other hand, though, these relationships can be very deep because they’re formed on a connection beyond getting physical. As in any relationship, communication is key: that is, a constant discussion and taking into account the needs and desires of each other.

With all the peculiarities of sexuality, what we all have in common is the desire to love and be loved, to make friends, to be understood and accepted, to form deep and meaningful relationships - all the essential things that make us feel good and secure in life. So, love and be loved!

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