The Sexual Orientation You Know Nothing About

Most people are familiar with the battles the LGBT community has faced because, thanks to the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states, it’s easy to stay up-to-date on issues affecting gay and lesbian couples. And due to mass media coverage of celebrated Olympic-gold-medalist-turned-reality-show-star Caitlyn Jenner, much awareness has been raised for the transgender community. But not every group of people has been so lucky to have had their cause in the spotlight. And the asexual community is one of those groups. It’s about time their voices were heard, so we’re taking a closer look.

What asexuality is, and is not

man with pride flag

Man waving gay pride flag | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Many people choose to abstain from certain vices, such as alcohol, or even sex, for personal reasons. An asexual person, though, doesn’t even find it tempting to get busy with someone else. And unlike celibacy, asexuality is not a choice, it’s a sexual orientation. Those who identify as asexual simply aren’t drawn to another person’s physical anatomy.

Additionally, asexuality is not a disorder (even though the medical and scientific communities considered lumped it in in with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) for decades). In 2004, Anthony Bogaert, sexologist, professor, and father of asexuality research, sparked a heated debate with his paper on asexuality. Two years later, he published a follow-up paper, discussing asexuality from a sexual orientation point of view, rather than as HSDD. Thanks to the current criteria in the DSM-5, distinctions have been made between the two, such as a general, lifelong lack of sexual desire, as opposed to one that occurs within a certain time period or has specific restrictions.

Asexual people can still enjoy romance and physical pleasure

two gay men holding hearts

Asexual people can still have romantic relationships |

Though it may seem a person who identifies as asexual would steer clear of any sort of intimacy, there’s an important distinction between being sexually attracted to another person, and having a relationship. Asexual people still want, and need, personal relationships. Although they are not driven by physical desires, some relationships within the asexual community do have a romantic element. 

Being asexual also doesn’t rule out physical pleasure. Lori Brotto, director of the University of British Columbia’s Sexual Health Laboratory, told The Huffington Post that masturbation doesn’t make you sexual. “When you talk about masturbation, you may think of it as a sexual activity, but actually masturbation is not inherently sexual,” Brotto said. “[Asexuals cite] boredom, stress reduction, helping them to get to sleep, etc., as reasons behind masturbation.”

Why you may know nothing about it

laverne cox

Laverne Cox at Pride Parade | Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Perhaps people don’t know much about asexuality because it’s often left out of otherwise well-known terms. The Fund for Global Human Rights, for instance, uses LGBTI, which includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (a person born with a reproductive anatomy that doesn’t fit the typical definition of male or female) people. Even the Human Rights Campaign uses LGBTQ (the Q stands for queer or questioning). Although most organizations dedicated to ending discrimination do mention they’re working to protect the rights and freedom of all people, an all-inclusive term has yet to be seen.