Asexuality is one of the most viciously underrepresented sexual orientations. Many conflicting definitions of what constitutes asexuality are often informed by malignant stereotypes reducing asexual people to sexless robots.
I’ve had people ask me if I am repulsed by sex or get told that asexuality isn’t real. I’ve even had someone try to mansplain asexuality to me from the perspective of cellular reproduction. I had to cut this man off and ask him whether he thought I was an amoeba. He quickly pivoted to whining about how sensitive queer people are, which should give you a good measure of his character.
How We Understand (and Misunderstand) Asexuality
The simplest definition of asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to other people. However, so much nuance is lost in the naming of asexuality. The definition is incredibly limiting as it forces us to explain precisely what we ‘lack’ despite having never experienced it. The reality is that I still find people beautiful. I still have a libido. I still enjoy sex and engage in several forms of kink, and I still deeply desire romantic relationships.
Asexuality is frequently defined in binary terms and has a long history of being excluded from discussions about the queer community. Alfred Kinsey, who invented the Kinsey scale, noted asexual people in the 1940s. He described them as having ‘no socio-sexual contacts or reactions’. Despite this, he did not use this data to make his sliding scale of sexuality more multidimensional. He placed them in their separate category, group X, and proceeded with his work.
These days, asexuality is still shrouded in mystery. Especially in modern dating! Take dating apps, one of the most significant methods to meet new people nowadays. These are plagued with binary assumptions of someone’s dating preferences. For instance, Tinder forces you to choose whether you want to be shown to men, women, or everyone and whether you are interested in men, women, or everyone.
As a recently-transitioned transfeminine person during the pandemic, Tinder was the only place for me to meet potential romantic partners. This was nothing short of a nightmare. There is an unwritten social contract surrounding Tinder. The agreement dictates that parties signing up to Tinder are giving their tacit consent to the potentiality of sex. There’s no guarantee of sex, but Tinder’s unconscious social convention is that it is for getting laid.
It’s an environment where it’s difficult to communicate your preferred form of intimacy, mainly when that intimacy exists in sharp contrast to what most people desire. You can do your utmost best to disclose your asexuality in your bio or craft a bio that clarifies that you are not interested in sex. However, many people will breeze right past that and make errant assumptions about your intentions.
It’s an environment where it’s difficult to communicate your preferred form of intimacy, mainly when that intimacy exists in sharp contrast to what most people desire.
I vividly remember my first lesbian date as a recently-out transfeminine person. I was excited because I was not having much luck on Tinder. I largely attributed that to being a trans femme in the early stages of transitioning and that the local lesbian community was just transphobic. We had the classic stereotypical lesbian date: it went on for hours, and we spoke at length about our trauma and where we see ourselves in the future.
I thought the date went well. However, I returned home to a wall of text berating me for not accepting an invitation to come up to her apartment. I was selfish for not communicating that I didn’t want sex. I shouldn’t have gone on a date if I didn’t want sex. The entire interaction was bizarre, considering that my tinder bio communicated that I was asexual, and sex was never considered a possibility.
Sex is fundamentally coded into the social convention of dating. I like to describe this as a byproduct of compulsory heterosexuality – the theory that heterosexuality is forced onto people in a patriarchal and heteronormative society. Queer dating inherently disrupts the binary of compulsory heterosexuality but it often does it at the expense of retaining the sexuality component. Heterosexuality is no longer forced upon people, but the presumption of being sexually active is still thrust upon the queer community. We see this emerging often in conversations about the overt sexualization of queer people. However, this bleeds over into queer dating, ostracizing anyone whose identity is the antithesis to this social paradigm.
I am currently in an incredibly loving asexual relationship. My partner and I both exist on differing ends of the spectrum of asexuality (‘a-spec’). Our relationship fundamentally disrupts the expectations of what constitutes asexuality. We both don’t experience sexual attraction, but have different experiences of sexual desire. We have a running joke in our household that xe is always horny, whereas I exist in the constant state of dysphoria-induced sexual repulsion. Despite this, we do have sex on occasion – usually leaning heavily into kink-adjacent territories.
At the core of the relationship is a communication of our desires and what we want from one another. We agree that sex is great, but for the most part, we are content with cuddling and watching series together to express our love for one another. The reality is that love comes in different forms. We’re just constantly fed a narrative where loving relationships are presented as ones where couples are sexually active.