Nobody can deny that the world around us is pretty sexy. It’s how advertising agencies sell products to us, it’s how we like our music videos and soap operas, it’s how we like our agony aunt columns, it’s just how we like things, ok? But imagine there were people in the world who had no interest in sex whatsoever, that would be weird, right? Well, not really: a rather large proportion of society maintain they have no sexual desire whatsoever, and what’s more are completely happy with their situation.
The definition of an asexual is ‘a person who does not experience sexual attraction’ – not to be confused with celibacy, asexuality is not a lifestyle choice but an orientation itself.
A study conducted in Britain in 1994, in the fallout of the AIDS epidemic, asked participants for information regarding their sexual orientation: 1.05% of those asked answered that they had ‘never experienced any form of sexual attraction’ while 30% of those surveyed declined to answer this section of the questionnaire.
If we consider the original statistic of 1.05% of the population claiming that they feel no sexual desire, this percentage still represents 60 million people worldwide. Dr. Anthony Bogaert, a Canadian professor of sexuality, has also highlighted that this figure may not be telling the whole story.
He argues that statistics representing the number of homosexual and bisexual people frequently fail to accurately calculate the actual number of people on the ground. Thus when calculating the number of asexuals throughout the world the figure we currently have will no doubt prove to be much higher.
As with any growing community in the world there comes an online presence. Aven, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, is the biggest asexual online community connecting those wishing to discuss asexual matters. The interesting thing about AVEN is that it doesn’t just attract one type of person but acts as an information and support point for friends or partners of asexuals and is a haven for those who just don’t fit into traditional stereotypes. It’s an attractive place for those experiencing ‘unique’ sexual orientation due to the many subcategories of asexuality: the term asexual isn’t quite as simple as it might first seem. Under the asexual umbrella there are different types of ‘a’s; those who seek romantic relationships (‘ro’s), those who lack a romantic drive (‘aromantics’), those who maintain romantic attraction to others (-hetero, -homo, -bi) and even those who are sexually active within their own relationships but lack sexual attraction. With this in mind, you can label an asexual with romantic inclinations to both men and women as an ‘a-bi-ro’, an asexual-bisexual-romantic: how’s that for precision?
Angela, a 25 year old asexual, offers her insight into the network: “When I found AVEN it suddenly all made sense: It was helpful just to know there was a word to describe me and I was not the only one.” Angela had realised the differences between herself and her peers in her early teens: “I could not understand why they would refer to a boy as ‘hot’. I could recognize what others found attractive, it just didn’t do anything for me. I always assumed I would meet someone and have sex to have children, the idea of sex for pleasure didn’t really enter into it.” Now Angela has found her own identity within the asexual label, she finds the sexual presence in the world a lot more bearable: “I have to say I am rather indifferent – it just doesn’t interest me so I ignore it, although I know some asexuals can find it alienating.”
She remains positive that attention around asexuality can only be a good thing: “I would like to think that it will mean the word gets out, that the asexuals are there, they just aren’t saying it. At least if the word is out there they have a word to describe themselves and they would know they are not broken. The only thing is the implications of ‘coming out’ are not as clear: to come out as gay you might know what the implications might be in terms of your job, religion and family, whereas with asexuals it is not that clear. Until we get those answers – who knows? A few more coming out wouldn’t hurt though…”