Authored by Summer Valentine, MS, LPC, a member of the IntraSpectrum Counseling clinical team.
(Content Warning: acephobia, discussions around sex)
Asexuality. It’s an expansive term that describes a unique identity of individuals who never, rarely, or occasionally experience sexual attraction towards others. As an individual and a therapist, I see asexuality as a beautiful galaxy, filled with fantastically diverse people and their experiences. But for some reason, society can have prejudicial attitudes and issues with our experiences, and often attempts to erase us. We hear rhetoric that can make us feel inhuman for our experiences, with some people calling us “robots”. Or we’re invalidated because “we haven’t found the right person” or because “everyone experiences sexual attraction”. Acephobia (prejudicial attitudes toward asexual and aromantic people based on negative stereotypes) is hurtful and hateful, and often a result of ignorance. And it is grossly false, because your experience and who you are is so human and so valid!
Asexuality is experienced in a variety of ways. However, when talking about ace identities, we tend to hear the narrative that if you’re ace, you experience zero sexual attraction, never had any sexual experiences, and/or have no sex drive/libido. But this isn’t the whole narrative! In this post, I’ll go over a few myths about asexual folx and discuss why they aren’t true. While this post will not go into detail of definitions relating to asexuality, you can click here for a great resource to understand some terms and identities generally used when talking about asexuality.
Myth #1: You can’t really be asexual if you are comfortable talking about sex, you’re supposed to be repulsed! This was one I got a lot as I first navigated my asexual identity. While I was in my undergraduate program, I had a job as a peer health educator and what did I primarily talk about? Sex. Lots of it. And I felt it was important to normalize having conversations around it to make it a less scary topic because despite our society being so sex obsessed, there is also heavy messaging around not talking about it. And at this time, I was openly out as asexual. This confused a lot of people because of this idea that since I am ace, I wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about sex or even shouldn’t be talking about sex. I won’t lie, I did question my ace identity at times, but ultimately I knew what my experiences were and how I have always felt. Because the important part is your experiences with attraction, not your experiences with your actions.
It was important to me to be having open and honest conversations about these activities that people engage in and your true feelings around it, because people wouldn’t know that there are different ways to feel good (both sexually and not). Without this, I wouldn’t have come to the conclusion that I am ace, or even that there are different ways to experience different attractions or relationships. I continue to bring this into my work as a therapist, for ace and allo folx alike, because whether we engage in these activities or not, unfortunately sex still impacts our lives. So let’s talk about it!
Myth #2: Since you’ve experienced sexual attraction / had a sexual interaction one time, that means you’re not asexual. This is a myth I have come across many times with other ace folx. This, unfortunately, is also a tool for some massive gatekeeping within the ace community as well. Which is really gross considering it’s also dismissing identities such as demisexuality, graysexuality, and fraysexuality, to name some. I think this myth is a great example of how black-and-white people’s thoughts are around sex, how they fail to see that there are and can be gray areas of sexuality and participating in sexual activities. Just because you identify in one way does not mean you absolutely cannot engage in different activities with other people that fall outside of the types of people you are attracted to.
Here’s a type of example: You’re a person that likes hot drinks, like coffee or tea, and everyone knows that you are a fan of hot drinks. One day, you decide you want an iced drink instead, for whatever reason (a new flavor that sounded interesting, it was a hot day, etc.). Turns out you really enjoyed the iced drink, but you still consider yourself a person that likes hot drinks. People aren’t going to tell you that since you liked the iced drink or since you tried it once that you can no longer call yourself a fan of hot drinks! So why should this be any different to sexual attraction/sexual activities? This is why asexuality is a spectrum, because there is consideration for people who have, and do, experience sexual attraction rarely or occasionally. And also, nothing about sex is included in this definition! So go ahead and drink iced drinks when you want, or don’t want, whatever feels best for you.
Myth #3: You can’t have a libido / sex drive because you’re not attracted to anyone / interested in sex. Oh boy howdy this is one that is a huge myth. So, this one has more of a biological reasoning for why it’s not true than many people understand. When we’re talking about libido or one’s sex drive, this is a reaction that the body experiences and is separate from someone being attracted to another person. If someone has a sex drive, that means that that is their desire to engage in sexual acts (either solo or with others) and this can be high, not present, or somewhere in between. We commonly hear rhetoric around ace folx who don’t have a sex drive or aren’t interested in engaging in sexual activities, so it can be difficult for ace folx who do have a sex drive to feel like they belong to the community. Libido does not equal sexual attraction. Regardless of your sex drive, you are still ace.
Myth #4: Because you don’t have sex / don’t have sexual interests in others, you are not lovable. Completely and utterly false. Truly, this myth makes me probably the angriest of them all. Who is to say who is and isn’t loveable or deserving of love? Sex is not the ultimate show of love and intimacy. It’s simply an activity that you can partake in with others, and like with many other activities, you can express and receive love and emotional connections with others. From my own personal experience and from other ace folx I have talked with, this concept that sex is the way to show you love someone and be emotionally connected with shows just how closed-minded people can be about what love can and does actually look like. Love and closeness to others should promote feelings of being understood, safe, to be your authentic self without fear of judgment, and above all happy. Because of our sex-obsessed society, many people unfortunately do not understand this or allow themself to experience this type of love and connectedness with another person. And sometimes, when given the opportunity to experience this, they can understand why it may not be important for some of us to engage in these activities. Society likes to think that its norms means a happy life, but really what a happy life looks like to you is your norm, and that is okay. You are still a person, and you are still worthy and deserving of all the love and connection you want in your life.
There are a lot more myths that I did not go over in this blog, and recognize this was centered around ace folx and not ace/aro folx (because this would turn more into an essay than a blog post). But I hope that through this reading, for those of you who are ace-identified or even those that care about someone who is ace-identified, you know that being ace, in whatever way that looks to you, is valid. By sharing our stories and experiences, we can find people who can accept us for who we are, and continue to expand this beautiful galaxy of ours.
If any additional resources of support are wanted or needed, I would highly recommend “Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex”, by Angela Chen, a book that includes a variety of ace narratives and also provides even more resources that people can access. As for some social media platforms that could provide validation for ace identities, there’s these instagram accounts:
Are you or someone you know ace-identified? Celebrate International Asexuality Day on April 6th, 2023! Click here to learn more and stay updated on events.
This blog is authored by Summer Valentine, MS, LPC, a member of the IntraSpectrum Counseling clinical team. IntraSpectrum Counseling is Chicago’s leading psychotherapy practice dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, and we strive to provide the highest quality mental health care for multicultural, kink, polyamorous, and intersectional issues. For anyone needing affirming and validating support, please click here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.