The following is taken from an interview with an Arkansas college student, who — after a series of frustrating relationships — began to identify as asexual in his early 20s. Asexuality, or "ace," as some involved call themselves, is an increasingly accepted sexual orientation, especially among the millennial generation. Now in his mid-20s and soon to graduate, the young man we spoke to has been in a committed relationship with a non-asexual woman for the past two years. Surprisingly, he said he has sex on occasion and enjoys the closeness of it, but has never known what it is like to have a sexual attraction to another person, or even a libido in the accepted sense of the word.
I feel like I've always kind of been this way, but it was something that didn't make sense until it did make sense. I don't use this terminology anymore, but at the time, I could never figure out what was wrong with me. I can find people attractive, in the sense that I find them pretty. I like the way they look. But I never really have the compulsion to have sex with someone. I'm assuming you're heterosexual? The same way you can look at a guy and think: "That's a good-looking guy!" That's how I am for everyone.
I just kind of felt like I was broken. First and foremost, I was afraid that no one would want to be with someone like me. The teen years aren't that fun to begin with, so it was troubling for a while. I had trouble doing sexual activities with my partners, and it put significant strain on my relationships. It's easy for the woman to interpret that as not finding her attractive. But once I had a name to put to it and understood what was happening, it became more of a relief.
Like a lot of people, I didn't actually know asexuality existed; that this was actually a thing you could be. But eventually, it all just kind of clicked into place and it was like, oh, that makes sense. I found out about asexuality because I was explaining all this to a close friend, and they were like: "That sounds like you're asexual. I don't want to force a label on you, but it really sounds like you're ace."
I guess the kind of upside to being an asexual is that nobody really notices. My most recent relationship has been two years now. For all the world, I look like I'm straight, but I just don't want sex.
Asexual people do have sex sometimes. The way I explain that to people is, even if you never felt hungry, you'd sometimes eat food. Food tastes good. I can absolutely feel love. I'm a hopeless romantic! It's not any different from falling in love when you're gay or straight or what have you. It's not even minus the physical element. I still love to be touched. But there's no impulse to actually have sex. This varies across a wide array of asexuality. After I kind of figured out what was going on, I found ways to fulfill my partner's needs. It's not something I particularly enjoy. It's more like a chore. I know asexuals who are actually repulsed by the physical; repulsed by sex. And I know asexuals who have multiple partners. Just because you don't feel a need for something doesn't mean you can't enjoy it. I'm not some Catholic monk sitting in a monastery. In my case, it's not even something I'm particularly opposed to doing. It's not something I hate doing, it's just something I don't particularly want to do. My girlfriend asking if I want to have sex is like someone asking if I want to play video games. It's a potentially fun thing to do. I don't feel the satisfaction of it. I still have dopamine. I still have serotonin. Those still get released into my brain. I'm still a human being. But to me, the main appeal is the closeness.
I really hate the argument that asexual people "just haven't met the right person." It's kind of like when someone says they're bisexual, and someone says, "Oh, you just haven't met the right person!" My partner isn't asexual. She's actually bisexual. I broached [my asexuality] early on in the relationship, that there would be nights that she might want to do something, and it wasn't going to happen. I would just say no. It kind of leads to a kind of cliche role reversal: "Not tonight, honey," that kind of thing. I told her about two or three weeks after it became clear that it was going to be a serious relationship, instead of just a fling. My partner has a somewhat strained relationship with sex to begin with. She's had abusive partners. So to her, it was kind of a plus to have a partner who she never has to worry about forcing themselves on her. She was understanding, and yeah, there's some nights she goes to bed frustrated, but she loves me. Love is more important than sex.
Something a lot of the asexual community is trying to get out to people: You're not broken. You don't need to be fixed. You don't need to be diagnosed. It's just who you are, and it's OK. If I had to give advice to a person who believes they might be asexual, I'd tell them not to worry about it. It's OK. People will still want to be with you. People will still love you for the person that you are. Sex is not as important as society wants us to think it is.
The size of the community is hard to estimate, because asexuals can seamlessly appear heteronormative. But most of the polls I've seen say that asexuality is about 3 to 6 percent of the population. I personally know about 12 to 16 people who are asexual or demisexual. Asexuality is kind of a catchall for varying degrees of asexuality. But the best way I can explain varying demisexuality is that it functions the same way as asexuality up until the point a really strong emotional connection is made with someone. And then that person will begin to be sexually attractive to you. I personally am a little bit foggy on what it is as well, but that's how I had it explained to me.
I can't see this changing about me. If you'll forgive me the quote: Through God, all things are possible. But I don't see it changing. I find the idea of wanting to have sex — that need to have sex — to be absolutely ... I can't imagine what that feels like. It's one of those things that's normal from your side of the fence, but from my side of the fence, it's sounds weird. I've had it described to me as a hunger. Like needing to eat? I'm sitting here watching television, watching "Game of Thrones." It gets to a sex scene and I'm sitting there, tapping my foot.
Also, I'd like to note that I hate the stupid plant joke. There's a joke that you hear every time you tell someone you're asexual, "Oh, does that mean you reproduce by budding?" It's funny the first two or three times, but after 20 or 30 times, it starts getting really annoying. It's always phrased the exact same way, like they're reading it out of handbook. Personally, I intend to adopt, for moral reasons. I don't want to create children if there are children that need homes.