Ace of Hearts: Asexuality & Dating
Often referred to as the “invisible orientation”, asexuality is a sexuality often forgotten in discussions around sexual diversity. In this blog, we dispel some of the misconceptions around asexuality, especially as it relates to dating.
Introduction to Asexuality
Alfred Kinsey, a groundbreaking sex researcher, is widely known for creating The Kinsey Scale, which measures varying degrees of sexual attraction to different genders. Kinsey's research transformed the way we view sexuality by acknowledging a spectrum of attraction beyond solely heterosexual or homosexual, and recognizing the diverse ways people experience attraction.
The Kinsey Scale measures someone's sexual orientation on a spectrum between "0" (entirely heterosexual) and "6" (entirely homosexual), but many overlook the seventh option of "X" which describes "no sexual contacts or reactions."
Why would this seventh option get overlooked? Well, it could be related to a lot of the ways that we often overlook what has become known as the “Invisible Orientation”: asexuality (sometimes referred to as “ace”). For those who might not know, asexuality is defined as someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction or desire. While the presence of asexuality is more prominent in queer spaces recently, asexuality is often left out of conversations around sexual diversity, and when it's included it's often shrouded in misinformation. This is especially true of conversations around dating. In this post, we’ll dive into just what asexuality looks like in general and when it comes to dating.
First things first, a critical part of understanding asexuality lies in the fact that asexuality – like many identity labels in the queer community – is an umbrella term. Umbrella terms refer to an identity label that includes several identities within it. A great example of an umbrella term is the word queer – queer has come to be used as a word that describes all folks who identify as something other than cisgender or heterosexual. With asexuality, several terms can fall under the asexual umbrella. Common ones include:
- Demisexual: Experiencing sexual attraction towards someone only after forming a close relationship
- Gray-asexual/Gray-ace: Experiencing sexual attraction very rarely
It’s also important to note that in the asexual community, many people make distinctions between sexual attraction and romantic attraction. Most asexual folks do experience emotional or romantic attraction, and many choose to develop romantic relationships with others regardless of whether or not sex is a part of their relationship dynamic. An asexual person might use an additional identity label such as “homoromantic” or “panromantic” to describe the type of romantic attraction they experience. There are also aromantic people who do not experience romantic attraction at all (some aromantic people may identify even with sexualities other than asexual, too – oftentimes, it becomes more a game of mix-and-match than one might expect!). Here are some common identity labels around romantic attraction:
- Aromantic: Not experiencing romantic attraction
- Biromantic: Experiencing romantic attraction to people of two or more genders
- Demiromantic: Experiencing romantic attraction only after forming a close relationship with someone
- Heteroromantic: Experiencing romantic attraction only to people of a different gender
- Homoromantic: Experiencing romantic attraction only to people of your own gender
- Panromantic: Experiencing romantic attraction to people of all genders/regardless of gender
Looking at attraction from both a romantic and sexual viewpoint as separate factors is often referred to in the ace community as the Split Attraction Model. The Split Attraction Model can apply beyond the ace spectrum, though – in fact, it can be helpful for people questioning their sexual orientation to be able to break it down into forms of attraction beyond just sexual. Some folks even benefit from looking at attraction through other lenses still, such as recognizing lesser known forms of attraction including: aesthetic, intellectual, emotional, and physical.
Asexuality, Dating, and Sex
There’s a common misconception that people who are asexual don’t ever date – which, as we touched upon in the previous section, is not the case! Because ace folks can experience different types of attraction, it’s common for asexual people to form romantic relationships or sometimes even sexual relationships. Some ace people may even have relationships they refer to as queerplatonic – meaning, committed partnerships beyond friendship that might not be romantic in nature (i.e. think more life partners than spouses).
Asexual folks experience dating in a lot of the same ways as allosexual (someone who isn’t asexual) people. They might fall in love, might choose to get married, might choose to have children, and they might have sex. When it comes to the act of sex, asexual people can vary on their desire towards sex. It’s important to note that just because an asexual person might not experience sexual attraction does not mean they don’t experience pleasure from sex or masturbation – it’s normal for asexual folks to still engage in sexual behaviors or overall have an interest in sex. When it comes to sexual relationships, there are generally three different camps asexual people fall into:
- Sex Averse: Someone who has no interest in sex, sometimes even repulsed by sexual activity/the thought of having sex
- Sex Indifferent: Someone who has no direct desire or interest towards sex, but is not necessarily repulsed by it.
- Sex Favorable: Someone who is open to sexual behaviors or maybe even desires engaging in sexual behaviors
Just like people who aren’t asexual, there are a lot of reasons an asexual person might engage in sex. It might be more focused on feeling connected with a partner, it might be about exploring something they’re curious about, or it might just be about the physical sensations they receive during sex. That being said, understanding asexuality also means understanding that for many people, sex is not a requirement of a fulfilling and committed relationship. Many of our social scripts around dating feed us messages that sex is a critical component to a healthy relationship and that sex must happen with our partners. While asexual folks may choose to engage in sex, there is nothing inherently wrong or damaged about a person who is sex averse; it is not a sign of trauma or dysfunction.
Supporting asexuality, like supporting all forms of gender and sexual expression, comes first at challenging our own biases. The assumption that all people are built for exclusive romantic relationships is referred to as amatonormativity, and this assumption can be harmful and create a lot of stigma for a lot of folks under the asexual umbrella. Being able to see the world not through the literal romanticized lens that we are all supposed to find out “other half”, be monogamous with them, have sex with them, etc. helps us to create a world where asexuality can be recognized and celebrated along with other identities. To continue challenging your biases, I encourage you to continue learning about asexuality through some of the resources listed below.
Additional Readings & Resources
Asexuality: A Brief Introduction from Asexuality Archive
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