By Bryn Fawn
Asexual Awareness week takes place this year from Oct. 23 to Oct. 29. Asexuality is defined as an individual who experiences no sexual attraction. They do not find any person, any body nor any characteristic sexually appealing. However, what many fail to realize is asexuality is in fact a spectrum, with many different sexualities underneath its umbrella. Some of these include: demisexual, greysexual, cupiosexual and lithosexual. Each of these labels have their own definitions and parameters.
Allosexuals, often shorted to “allo(s)” and are the counterpart to asexuals, often struggle to understand asexuality. Some describe asexuals, or “aces,” as loveless, cold-hearted or cruel. None of these are true. Aces can still love, even if it is not sexual. Not every ace refrains from sex, either. Some enjoy it, some are repulsed by it and some are indifferent. Enjoying sex and experiencing sexual attraction are two entirely different things.
Asexual Visibility and Education Network is a great resource for aces and allos.
AVEN’s website states: “[AVEN] was founded in 2001 with two distinct goals: creating public acceptance and discussion of asexuality and facilitating the growth of an asexual community. Since that time we have grown to host the world’s largest asexual community, serving as an informational resource for people who are asexual and questioning, their friends and families, academic researchers and the press.”
AVEN provides general information on asexuality, and also provides other sources to turn to. There are a lot of articles written by members of AVEN hosted on the website, many of which show the perspectives of an ace in society. AVEN is a great starting point for anyone curious about asexuality or if they have any questions regarding the orientation.
Another organization, while relatively recent compared to AVEN, is Ace Week. Ace Week, in 2019, reported that the state of Washington formally recognized Asexual Awareness Week. Since then, the states of Colorado, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Oregon have followed suit. Ace Week also provides ways for people to participate in the community, even if they are not asexual themselves. Some of these methods include: following ace creators, donating to asexual nonprofits, reading asexual literature and volunteering.
The largest obstacle for asexuals is recognition. Some within the LGBT community believe that asexuals do not belong. Their argument is that asexuals are not “oppressed enough” as other identities. They also argue that asexuality is much newer than other sexualities, which somehow makes it invalid. That is false. Karl-Maria Kertbeny, a Hungarian human rights activist, is accredited to coining the term “homosexual” and “heterosexual.” In 1869, Kertbeny also created the term “monosexual,” someone who does not partake in sexual activities and solely masturbates in Kertbeny’s definition. While this term is inaccurate for asexuality today, it is evidence that even then people of that time had an inkling that there was such a thing as asexuality.
Asexuality has been included in scientific papers, even. 1979 is the first documented event when asexuality was included in “The Sexually Oppressed” by Myra Jonson. Furthermore, asexuality and bisexuality have had a long intertwined history.
The scientific paper “‘I Didn’t Know Ace Was a Thing’: Bisexuality and Pansexuality as Identity Pathways in Asexual Identity Formation,” published Jan. 2022, states: “Non-academic asexual sources have noted a shared bi-ace history in which asexual individuals were included in the bisexual umbrella. As with asexuality, bisexuality has multiple definitions and manifestations. Generally, however, bisexuality is understood as an orientation defined by attraction to more than one gender, as opposed to monosexualities that are based on attraction to one gender.”
Asexuals do experience oppression too. “House,” a wildly popular medical drama television series, released an episode in 2012 where they “cure” a patient with asexuality. In the real-life medical field, asexuality is often still seen as a disease that needs to be cured. Excuses such as “you just have a low libido” are common occurrences. Outside the doctor’s office, friends and family can chime in with “you just haven’t met the right person” or “you’ve never had sex, are you sure you don’t like it?”
With non-queer individuals and queer individuals both squeezing asexuals out of their spaces, aces had to resort to make their own. They confide in each other, making jokes about loving cake, dragons and garlic bread. There is even a signal within the community: the ace ring. The ace ring can be as simple or as extravagant as the wearer wishes, there are only two conditions: it must be black and it must be worn on the wearer’s right middle finger.
Jacob Brant, who is in a relationship with a student on campus, identifies as an asexual and aromantic — an individual who does not experience romantic attraction. Brant does have a partner, despite being ace, and is happy in his relationship.
In regards to aphobia, bigotry targeted to asexual and aromantic individuals, Brant stated: “I’ve experienced a lot of it passively, but mostly my experience with aphobia has been on the internet. Some people say they feel sorry for me, but some people say that I’m lucky I don’t have to deal with anything like that. I don’t really care though, I have my friends and family, and everything else I could ever need.
Occasionally I’ll get weird questions about my private life. I do wish [allos] would know that asking me about my private life is just as weirdly personal as walking up to a stranger and asking them what things they do to spice up their sex life. That and just because I’m asexual and aromantic doesn’t mean I’m an unfeeling, robotic or distant person.”
Brant shared more about his life as an asexual, sharing that he’s happy with his friends and family even if he may not understand things like sexual and romantic attraction.
“I want allos to know that they don’t have to be in a relationship to find happiness or to not be lonely. You’re all complete people on your own, with or without a partner,” Brant said.
Since learning about the week, Brant shared his hopes for the future.
“I think it’s important to spread knowledge of different identities and communities, and to soften the barriers between them so that people questioning their identity can freely explore themselves and find other people that share similar experiences,” Brant stated. “I think it’s a good step to a greater understanding and acceptance of humanity as a whole.”