1. Because they challenge the assumption that sex is a biological necessity, asexuals frequently encounter people who try to persuade them that they just haven’t met the right person, or are secretly gay, or that they would like sex if they just tried it.
2. But people who are asexual don’t want to have sex. With anyone. Or anything. That’s the whole point. They are simply not attracted to either gender.
3. Asexuality only really came to the fore in 2004. Research by Anthony Bogaert at Brock University identified that in a national sample of 18,000 UK residents, 1% of participants had chosen to answer a question asking whether they were sexually attracted to ‘men’, ‘women’, or ‘both’, by clicking on an alternative option, which indicated that they had ‘never felt sexual attraction to anyone at all’.
4. In late 2004, the US news network CNN conducted an Internet poll asking people to self-identify their sexual orientation. They had 110,000 respondents and 6% reported that they identified as asexual. This is probably not a true reflection of the proportion of asexuals in society, but it shows that a sizable minority of men and women chose to identify with a term that is not part of the traditional academic and clinical discourse on sexuality and sexual identity.
5. All sexuality falls along a spectrum and asexuals are no exception. In it’s most rigid interpretation asexuality is ‘nonlibidoist’, which means that the person never experiences sexual urges or desires, and in particular, does not masturbate. However some asexuals do have sex drives, and they do masturbate. They just don’t feel sexually attracted to other people.
6. Despite this lack of sexual attraction, some asexuals get married and have children. In Bogaerts study, for example, 33% of asexuals were in a long-term relationship and another 11% had had at least one long-term relationship in the past. Other asexual people can have a romantic or affectional attraction to others and form non-sexual relationships based on that bond.
7. A second important finding in Bogaerts research was that asexual people in relationships reported a low level of sexual activity with their partner (e.g., 0.2/week vs. 1.2/week for sexual people). Having sex 0.2 times a week equates to an average frequency of just over ten times a year, which is the borderline figure for what constitutes a sexless relationship. For a sexual person, this may not be enough, so asexuals have to be very clear about their sexual boundaries from the get-go .
8. Asexuality is often confused with the dysfunction Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). In both cases the person has no interest in having sex, but people who have HSDD have not been that way all their lives and many experience extreme personal and interpersonal distress as a result of their condition. The definition of asexuality does not necessarily assume that the individual is distressed or does not function adequately interpersonally.
9. Also, people who have hypoactive sexual desire disorder have an underlying sexual orientation, so treatment with, for example, high doses of testosterone can reveal that orientation. Asexuals don’t have an underlying orientation and that’s why they want their status to be recognized as a sexual orientation in itself.
10. Until people discover that they are asexual, they often think that there is just something horribly wrong. Finding out that they are not alone and other people share their experiences is a huge relief. If this rings a bell with you, have a look at The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). They offer support, advice and resources for all asexuals.