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Asexuality in a World of Sex

89717db02f914bb81b8a90b7f2d16733?s=47 Melissa Avery-Weir
October 16, 2015

Asexuality in a World of Sex

Asexuals, wherever they stand under the "ace" umbrella, can feel very silenced in a world full of a sex and sexual attraction. As people with an interest in healthy relationships and sexuality, it's important for all of us to understand the fundamentals of what it means to be asexual, gray-asexual, or demisexual. Participants will become familiar with definitions of the orientation(s), learn some of the common experiences of asexuals, and leave with some pointers and resources on how to talk about and interact with asexuality in a compassionate, accepting way.

Given at Sex Down South 2015.


Melissa Avery-Weir

October 16, 2015


  1. Asexuality in a World of Sex Melissa Avery-Weir @averymd http://irrs.in/SDSAce

  2. Asexuality…  Is real  Isn’t a dysfunction or hormonal

    imbalance  Isn’t celibacy  Isn’t a lack of sexuality  Isn’t aromanticism  Isn’t sad or pitiable
  3. We’ll Cover  Definitions: Umbrellas and Spectrums  The Ace

    Experience  Communication Pitfalls  Resources  Questions and Discussion
  4. Definitions: Umbrellas and Spectrums It’s raining labels!

  5. The Asexuality (Ace) Umbrella  Asexuality (ace): a lack of

    sexual attraction  Gray-asexuality (gray-ace): very rarely experience sexual attraction  Demisexuality: sexual attraction only after forming a strong emotional connection
  6. Spectrums  Sexual orientation:  Asexuality  Heterosexuality  Pansexuality/Bisexuality

     Homosexuality  Romantic orientation:  Aromantic  Heteroromantic  Panromantic/Bi-romantic  Homoromantic
  7. The Ace Experience So… what’s that like?

  8. “ ” She stops and looks me over. She focuses

    on the area that was just uncovered. There’s a look in her eyes. Hunger, maybe? She wants it. I look her over. It feels like an in-person anatomy lesson. All the parts I’ve heard about are there, and I run over them in my mind. Her breasts, her legs, her pubic hair, the little hint of labia… But the most fascinating thing is that look in her eyes. What is that look? What is she feeling? “Asexual Intercourse”, AsexualityArchive: http://www.asexualityarchive.com/asexual-intercourse/
  9. Sex and Libido  Attraction isn’t the same as sexual

    behavior  Some asexuals have sex  Some asexuals masturbate  Some asexuals have libidos  That said, ace folks often write about sex being:  Awkward or “mechanical”  Something they do (consensually) for closeness with partner or at partner’s request  “Meh” or underwhelming  Gross  Some consider their libidos inconvenient or annoying
  10. Romance and Dating  Treat romantic orientation as separate from

    sexual orientation  Asexual romantic relationships can be traditional, or not  Mixed relationships (sexual + asexual) can be difficult!  It’s a good practice for aces to come out relatively early in new relationships  Setting boundaries can be scary and/or unsafe:  If the ace has an aversion to conflict  If the ace feels guilty about not being sexually attracted to someone  If the other person doesn’t believe in asexuality  If the other person thinks the ace is playing hard to get or can be convinced
  11. Coming Out  There can be lots of strong feelings:

    guilt, shame, fear, freedom, joy, relief  Often a lengthy process:  There are few role models or popular examples  A path of trial and error (“not straight… not bi… not lesbian…”)  Responses to coming out can be:  Quite positive  Disappointment  Denial or skepticism  Jokes  Anti-climactic
  12. LGBT(A) Community  GLAAD (now) uses “A” for Asexual, Agender,

    and Aromantic people  Are asexual people “queer”? (Yes)  Easy to feel like a silent (and silenced) minority among LGBT  Some find their romantic orientation lets them fit in more easily  “What do you have to fight for?” Safety, acceptance, and diversity
  13. A World of Sex  We are surrounded in sex

    and sexuality, and expectations around those  It can feel like a constant barrage:  Friends who brag or joke about sex and “conquests”  Scenes and themes in movies and TV  Expectations that come with relationship labels  Gender expectations  Virginity as a bad thing or an overvalued thing  Invasive questions  Constantly coming out/explaining to new partners  Some asexuals will set boundaries with friends and family
  14. Communication Pitfalls Let’s talk… and listen

  15. Example Invalidations:  “The definition of asexuality is actually…” 

    “If you have sex, how can you be asexual?”  “Humans are too complex to be asexual. Just look at biology.”  “Arousal is the same as attraction.”  “It’s really just a coping mechanism for frigidity/impotence.” Ways to Reframe  Do you agree that people can self-identify in ways that might have non- textbooks definitions?  Do you agree that other people know their own experiences better than you do?  Do you agree that identities can be shifting or difficult to define in words? “Actually…” (Invalidations)
  16. Non-ace to Ace  “Look at their body! How can

    you not want to [verb of choice] that?”  “Sex is absolutely necessary for me to be healthy. I know how I get without it, and can’t imagine being any other way.”  “But they are so many pretty people in the world! I can’t fathom not wanting to reach out and touch them.” Ways to Reframe  Aesthetic beauty and sexual attraction aren’t the same.  Attraction isn’t the same as sexual behavior.  Consider that an ace might not be able to conceive of any attraction beyond what’s in media.  Non-ace experiences around sex and health are valid. So are ace experiences “I just can’t conceive of that.”
  17. Non-ace to Ace  “LGBT activism can’t just keep letting

    everybody in – it’s losing its focus!”  “Not all abnormal sexualities fit under LGBT.”  “Sex and relationships are important in polyamory.” Ways to Reframe  Remember that asexuals are scattered across the romantic spectrum.  GLAAD and other major LGBT organizations already embrace aces.  Remember that poly families come in all shapes and sizes and that “ethical non-manogamy” is the name of the game. “You don’t belong with [some group].”
  18. Questions? Discussion? Sharing is Caring

  19. Resources  This Presentation: http://irrs.in/SDSAce  The Asexuality Visibility &

    Education Network (AVEN): http://www.asexuality.org/  AsexualityArchive: http://www.asexualityarchive.com/  Asexualitic, an ace dating site: http://www.asexualitic.com/ (warning: only gender and romantic binary options)  Asexuality: A Brief Introduction by Asexuality Archive  Asexuality Awareness Week: October 19-25, 2015