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Demystifying Asexuality

89717db02f914bb81b8a90b7f2d16733?s=47 Melissa Avery-Weir
June 04, 2016

Demystifying Asexuality

Asexuality -- and how it fits into a poly lifestyle -- is a mystery to a lot of people. As poly-interested people, we can all benefit from a better understanding of the varieties of asexuality, some examples of what ace relationships and families can look like, and some pointers and resources on how to talk about and interact with asexuality in a compassionate, accepting way.

Given at Atlanta Poly Weekend 2016.


Melissa Avery-Weir

June 04, 2016



  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 • Ace Families • Communication Pitfalls • Resources • Questions and Discussion

  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

  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 (ace + non-ace) can be difficult! • There’s less of a cultural template for ace 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. “ENTHUSIASTIC” CONSENT • Movement towards requiring clear consent is dearly

    needed in our society • Freedom to (re)negotiate consent is crucial • But demanding enthusiastic consent is problematic: it requires eagerness • The term “affirmative consent” respects different motivations
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. 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 aces will set boundaries with friends and family

  16. MY FAMILY, YOUR FAMILY • Ace folks: • Can and

    might marry • Can and might have children • Can and might be (serial) monogamists • Can and might be poly • Can and might stay single/solo
  17. POLY AS A “SOLUTION” • A very tempting solution to

    ace + non-ace tension • Is poly a lifestyle, or an orientation? • Can lead to a dangerous “jigsaw puzzle” approach to polyamory • Not a solution if either or both is monogamous • Doesn’t resolve the tension of non-ace attraction to a specific person

  19. “ACTUALLY…” (INVALIDATIONS) 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?
  20. “I JUST CAN’T CONCEIVE OF THAT.” 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
  21. “YOU DON’T BELONG WITH [SOME GROUP].” Non-ace to Ace •

    “LGBT and Poly 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- monogamy” is the name of the game.

  23. RESOURCES • This Presentation: http://irrs.in/APW2016Ace • 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: paid and only gender and romantic binary options) • Acebook: http://ace-book.net • Asexuality: A Brief Introduction by Asexuality Archive • Asexuality Awareness Week: October 2016