Asexual (often shortened to ace) is a sexual orientation defined by a lack of sexual attraction. Asexual experiences may also include: not wanting to have sex, not being interested in sex, not experiencing a sex drive/libido, or being repulsed by sex. Sexual attraction is defined as the desire to have sex with, or otherwise perform sexual acts with, another specific person. For non-asexual people (allosexuals), sexual attraction is involuntary, and even occurs when someone doesn't know the other person (though one might not act on it). Asexual people do not have an innate desire to have sex with anyone. They might also feel disconnected from the idea of sex.
It is important to note the difference between asexuality and celibacy/abstinence. Those who are abstinent or celibate are not necessarily asexual; they may still experience sexual attraction but they choose not to act on it, typically for moral or religious reasons. Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, and they may or may not participate in sexual activities. Although some asexuals do not have sex, there are also many asexuals who do partake in sexual activities or are in sexual relationships. This could be for many reasons, such as their own pleasure, the pleasure of a partner, or to have children.
Being asexual does not mean that one is unable to experience romantic attraction. An asexual person can have any romantic orientation and some asexuals identify with a romantic orientation to specify who they're interested in romantically, if anyone. They often use prefixes like hetero-, homo-, bi-, pan-, etc. in front of the word romantic to describe who they experience romantic attraction to. For example, a person who is asexual heteroromantic is romantically attracted to people of a different gender, but is not sexually attracted to them. Some asexuals are also aromantic, meaning that they also do not feel romantic attraction. People who are both asexual and aromantic may identify as aroace.
Sexual dispositions among asexual people can vary. Some asexuals may still have a sex drive despite not feeling sexual attraction to anyone. They may still masturbate, watch porn, or participate in sexual activities. Other asexuals lack a sex drive, and some may be repulsed by the concept of sex.
The term "asexual" may also be used as an umbrella term, referring to anyone on the asexual spectrum.
Early uses of the term "asexual" for human sexuality predate the formation of the asexual community. One of the first (indirect) references to asexuality was in 1896 by physician, Magnus Hirschfeld, in his book "Sappho und Sokrates" where he says "There are individuals who are without any sexual desire ('Anästhesia sexualis')." In 1948 and 1953 Dr. Alfred Kinsey added a category "X" to the Kinsey scale, indicating those with "no socio-sexual contacts or reactions.” In a study published in 1983, Paula Nurius examined the relationship between mental health and sexual orientation. The study focused on heterosexuality and homosexuality but also had options for bisexual and asexual.
The contemporary asexual community originated once the internet enabled small, geographically-dispersed demographics to connect with each other. The earliest asexual proto-community formed in the comments of a 1997 article by Zoe O'Reilly and published by StarNet Dispatches, entitled "My Life as a Human Amoeba". On October 12, 2000 the Yahoo e-mail group "Haven for the Human Amoeba (HHA)" was founded. The following year, David Jay created the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). On LiveJournal, the Asexuality community was founded in 2002.
Over the years, asexuality has been defined in a variety of different ways by different people. One of the most popular definitions emphasizes attraction, but there have also been those that emphasize a lack of sex drive or desire.
Asexuality in the DSM
The DSM-5 and ICD-10 currently define low sexual desire as a disorder. The diagnosis has gone under several name changes, the current names being:
- DSM-5 — Female sexual interest/arousal disorder, Male hypoactive sexual desire disorder
- ICD-10 — Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)
In 2013, the DSM-5 was published. Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder and Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder remain listed as disorders, but their criteria exclude individuals who self-identify as asexual.
Flag and Symbols
In the summer of 2010 AVEN and several other asexual websites held a contest to design an asexual flag. The current asexual flag was designed by the AVEN user Standup and was uploaded on June 30th, 2010. The gradient of black, grey, and white was based on the AVEN triangle and symbolizes the concept of the asexual spectrum. the black is for asexuals, grey for greyasexuals, demisexuals, and other ace-spec people, and white represents allosexuals. Purple represents the community and was likely chosen because AVEN has a purple color scheme.
Another asexual flag was coined by Cryptocrew at Hayden000s request on January 16th of 2021 and was first published on a post one day later. The shades of grey represent disinterest or disconnect in sexual acts, the shades of purple represents lack of sexual attraction, the grey in the middle represents the greyasexual spectrum, white represents community and peace, the spade represents asexuals in general, while the pink plants growing around the spade represent growing love and acceptance for the community.
FANDOM user RemyWest123 created another alternate asexual flag on March 23, 2021. It's based off the original and the first alternate. The black circle represents not being sexually attracted to anyone, and so does the spade.
A alternative symbol for asexuality was created by Fanom user RavenFire803 on June 14, 2021. The design's colors were directly taken from the flag. The purple represents lack of sexual desire, the white represents purity and kindness, the gray represents the in-between area on the spectrum, and the varying shades of each color represents the wide variety of identities asexuality supports. The spade is for asexuality in general, and the plant designs represents the fact that asexuals are not "broken", but a natural and beautiful part of life.
Another common symbol is an ace playing card, due to the fact that asexual is often shortened to ace. Generally the ace of hearts is used to represent asexuals who feel romantic attraction. The ace of spades can be used to represent aromantic asexuals, or is sometimes used as an umbrella symbol for all asexuals and ace-spec people. The ace of diamonds and the ace of clubs are less commonly seen. The ace of diamonds is most commonly associated with demisexuals and sometimes greyasexuals as well. The ace of clubs is commonly associated with greyasexuals, but also sometimes is used for people who are questioning where they fall on the asexual spectrum.
Wearing black ring on the middle finger, typically of the right hand, known as an "ace ring" has become a way to subtly identify the wearer as being asexual. The origin of the black ring began in a thread from 2005. The material and exact design of the ring are not important as long as it is primarily black.
Cake has been an informal symbol of asexuality since 2004, originating from the AVEN forums cake emote and the joke that asexuals "prefer eating cake to having sex". Dragons have also been used to symbolise asexuality, stemming from a joke that "asexual people are way more interested in dragons than in sex." Asexuals are also associated with plants, since certain plants have the ability to reproduce asexually through mitosis.
An older asexual symbol is the AVEN triangle, which used a black-to-white gradient to represent the asexual spectrum, with white representing allosexuality and black representing asexuality. This gradient is what inspired the white, grey, and black stripes of the asexual flag.
The term "asexual" uses the Latin prefix "a-" which means "not" or "a lack of."
- Asexuality as a hard limit
- 20 narratives of aces who like sex
- AVEN thread: (indirect) mentions of asexuality in Magnus Hirschfeld's books
- Kinsey, Alfred C. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W.B. Saunders. ISBN 0-253-33412-8
- Kinsey, Alfred C. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. W. B. Saunders ISBN 025333411X
- Nurius, Paula. (1983). "Mental Health Implications of Sexual Orientation" The Journal of Sex Research 19 (2) pp.119-136.
- O'Reilly, Zoe. "My life as an amoeba"
- AVENwiki: Haven for the Human Amoeba
- AVENwiki: AVEN
- LJ Asexuality
- Hinderliter, Andrew C. "Asexuality: The History of a Definition"
- A Condensed History of Asexuals Arguing with Asexuals Over What Asexuality Is
- Asexuality in the DSM-5
- The Ace Flag: A History and Celebration
- AVENwiki: Black ring
- Black rings and other ways to show asexual pride
- AVENwiki: Cake
- AVENwiki: AVEN Triangle