Asexuality is a part of the asexual spectrum, and is 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. Asexuality is not to be confused with the terms aromantic or agender, although there are asexual people who also identify as these.
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).
Being asexual does not mean that one is unable to experience romantic attraction. Some asexual people also identify with a romantic orientation to specify who they're interested in romantically, if anyone. They often use the prefixes like hetero-, homo-, bi-, and pan- 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 another 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 asexual lack a sex drive, and some may be repulsed by the concept of sex. Terms like sex-repulsed, sex-indifferent, sex-favorable, or sex-ambivalent are commonly used to describe these feelings.
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 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 take part in sexual activities, 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.
The term "asexual" can also be used as an umbrella term to describe someone on the asexual spectrum.
The romantic counterpart is known as aromantic.
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 grey-asexuals, demisexuals, and other ace-spec people, white for allosexuals. Purple represents the community and was likely chosen because AVEN has a purple color scheme.
Another common symbol is a spade, particularly the ace of spades, due to the fact that asexual is often shortened to ace.
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".
An older asexual symbol is the AVEN triangle, which represents the asexual spectrum with a black-to-white gradient.
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
- Ace is an umbrella term
- AVENwiki: Black ring
- Black rings and other ways to show asexual pride
- AVENwiki: Cake
- AVENwiki: AVEN Triangle