While presenting sexuality education training, these questions often surface when discussing sexual orientation. Many ask, “Is asexuality really a thing?” “Isn’t it more a symptom of a larger problem?” ”
To answer the first question, Is asexuality really a thing? I turned to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) website. The website states, “An asexual person does not experience sexual attraction – they are not drawn to people sexually and do not desire to act upon attraction to others in a sexual way. Unlike celibacy, which is a choice to abstain from sexual activity, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are, just like other sexual orientations. Asexual people have the same emotional needs as everybody else and are just as capable of forming intimate relationships. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community in the needs and experiences often associated with sexuality including relationships, attraction, and arousal.” (AVEN, 2020).
So, yes, Asexuality is real and is a sexual orientation.
To answer the second question: Isn’t Asexuality a symptom of a disorder?
I went to Psychology Today and found a useful article, Asexuality is a Sexual Orientation, Not a Sexual Dysfunction by Bella DePaulo, Ph.D. There are two disorders that can lead to a lack of interest in sex, Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder and Female Sexual Interest Arousal Disorder, but they are very different than being asexual.
In the article, the criteria used to assess whether the person is asexual versus having a sexual dysfunction is listed. To name a few, when asked about their lack of sexual attraction, asexuals report that they always felt that way. These lifelong feelings suggest an innate disposition. They seem to engage in less sexual activities which matches a lack of desire. They don’t match the criteria used to diagnose a disorder such as disgust and aversion to viewing pictures of genitals. And, lastly, they don’t experience distress or feel the need to seek treatment that those with disorders feel and often seek treatment for. Asexuals distress is related to discrimination they face and the lack of visibility of their legitimate sexual orientation, not being asexual.
Many people separate the types of attraction in one’s sexual orientation to erotic and romantic attractions. Therefore, someone may be erotically asexual, but romantically hetero, home, bi, or pansexual. Being asexual doesn’t mean you don’t want relationships and many asexuals are in relationships. Some may have sex for their partners and enjoy it, but just don’t have the desire and motivation that others have.
Applying the learning.
One of the goals I have for teaching is that everyone can be who they are and feel recognized and affirmed. Many participants in my trainings who are gay or lesbian say while attending sexuality education classes in high school they felt invisible. Everything they heard came from a heterosexual perspective. Hopefully, since we have listened to this voice we are including this population in our teaching and not assuming everyone is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or has the desire to be sexual with another person. Be sure to include language that helps them feel visible, seen and heard.