The allosexual flag by FlagsforCisHets.

Another allosexual flag.

Allosexual, also known as zedsexual, refers to people who are not on the asexual spectrum. In other words, it describes someone who regularly experiences sexual attraction for others, but it does not necessarily refer to a sexual identity by itself. It was created by the a-spec community as a way to describe those who are not asexual, in the same way transgender individuals use the term cisgender to refer to someone who is not transgender.

History[edit | edit source]

Before allosexual came into use, the term sexual was used as the opposite of asexual. While there did not seem to be any coherent definition of what was meant by sexual, when it first emerged between 2002 and 2005, there was a wide-spread understanding that sexual referred to anyone who was not on the asexual spectrum. Around 2011 there was a campaign against the usage of the term sexuals, as the term implied that all people who are not asexual enjoy and have a positive relationship to sex, as well as the implied "slut-shaming" of non-asexuals. These claims were often made by non-asexual people and were frequently rooted in a misunderstanding of whom asexual people were referring to by the term "sexuals". The conversation continued within and outside the asexual community. Asexuals also brought up other problems with using the term "sexuals", such as a history of people being sexualized, or desexualized, or both, based on the color of their skin. In a similar vein, survivors of abuse mentioned that some people may have a complicated relationship with their own sexuality and may not be comfortable being referred to as "sexuals".

Several proposals for such a term existed. For the most part, they tended to follow the pattern "-sexual" already established with other orientations. This was, in most cases, a deliberate choice, in order to match asexual. Some of the proposed prefixes to use included:

  • Prefixes meaning "true" or "pure" such as "clari-", "veri-", "albo-", or "eu-".
  • Prefixes meaning "with" such as "co-" or "con-".
  • Prefixes meaning "other" such as "allo-" or "ali-".
  • Prefixes meaning "(a)cross" such as "seka-" or "poikki-".
  • Prefixes meaning "toward" such as "ad-" or "ob-".

However, many of these terms were rejected as they either sounded too similar to existing terms, or because they had "unfavorable connotations" for non-asexuals. Allosexual eventually rose to the top. Proponents of the term liked it because the prefix "allo-", meaning "other", did not implicitly create a divide between asexuals who engage in sexual behavior and asexuals who do not, which other terms did not accomplish. Of course, many people chose to adopt allosexual not because it was their favorite term, but simply because it was the one with the fewest objections.

However, still, many non-asexuals disliked the use of the term. Allosexual is also used as a sexological term, and non-asexuals raised objections that the term was too clinical or that asexuals were medicalizing people who are not asexual. There is also objection because allosexuel is a term for non-heterosexuals in Canadian French (cf. allosexual on Wiktionary).

"Zsexual" was proposed as an alternative, as a play on the letter a in asexual. While some use the term, it did not gain significant traction because ze is a non-binary pronoun, and it could be misinterpreted as attraction to non-binary people. Further difficulty arises from the fact that there is no standard pronunciation of the letter "Z" both in non-English speaking countries and English speaking countries. No consensus as to how the word would be pronounced was ever reached, and there are now several ways to spell the term. Both "zesexual" and "zedsexual" are used.[1]

The difficulty in finding a term for non-asexuals is exacerbated by the fact that some non-asexuals, especially exclusionists, may "derail" conversations about such terminology by destructively criticizing any word used. Exclusionists also sometimes claim that allosexuality does not need a label, and that coming up with a term has created a false dichotomy between people that are asexual and people that are not, as well as "grouping LGBT+ non-ace people with their oppressors". More complaints include the idea that the term is racist or sexualizes people without consent. Some even go as far as to claim that allosexual is slur used by asexuals to "oppress non-asexual LGBT people". Many of these complaints are made by people with the intention of de-legitimizing the terms used by asexual people. Despite these complains, allosexual is still the most commonly used term today.

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