What does it mean to be asexual — 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 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 the growing asexual community. 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 someone who identifies as asexual doesn’t differ from heterosexual and gay people in terms of their mental and physical health – no traumas or any other deviations have been found.
Thanks to the uprise of 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.
How many asexuals are there in the world? 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. 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 that. It should be noted that these “rational” explanations do more harm than good to asexual-identifying people.
It should also be stated that asexuality is different from celibacy. Celibacy is a choice, whilst asexuality isn’t. Asexuality is a sexual orientation and it 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 have romantic relationships and friendships, fall in love, explore 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, these relationships can be very deep because they’re formed on an emotional connection. As in any relationship, communication is key: that is, a constant discussion and taking into account the needs and desires of each other.
No matter how we identify ourselves, we all have in common 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!