Needless to say, throughout my life I have had a very unlucky time navigating the dating world. Whether it be a result of my asexuality, of my social awkwardness, or of my lack of experience nothing can prepare me for what may happen or what one may find around a new corner.


Photo courtesy of Time Out Abu Dhabi 

I recently travelled to the United Arab Emirates to visit a dear friend and spend Christmas. I was unwilling to spend another Christmas alone, so I ventured to a foreign desert land. While the trip was filled with going here and there, what struck me most was a complete turnaround in my dating life. I’ve been living in Sweden for 3 years and I’ve been on two dates, so as you can imagine that sounds pretty dismal and only one of them was a positive experience.

What might explain this is unknown to me, but I can do nothing else but surmise that what I offer here, is just not wanted. In three years I manage about twenty or so matches on Tinder, a few of which chat to me. I set foot in the UAE and for shits and giggles I load up Tinder. In the span of a few hours, I’m getting matches left right and centre. After two days of swiping, I garnered about 50 matches, most of which were actually talking to me.  I was confused, surprised, and speechless.

I decided to take it somewhere and meet up with a few people for dinner or to hang out at local spots. In 5 days I managed to fit in 6 dates in two cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I can say with positive reflection that while they were a bit nerve wracking to start for fear of police or similar traps, they were all positive experiences. How could this be? How could my luck change so dramatically and my match rate increase to 95 in the span of a few days?

I reflect on it, and possible explanations come to mind. Is it because I’m foreign? Is it because I’m white? Is it because I’m an amazing person? All are possibilities, but I’m lost as for how or why this can be. How can I have more success in dates in a country so repressed and restricted, while living in a free society of Sweden I am a complete lemon? Thinking about it confuses me and makes me very emotional because of the situational irony.

Here I can marry, have children, and live an authentic life and I can’t find a partner, barely even dates. I go to a place where I can’t get married, can’t have kids, and can’t live an authentic and open life and I get several people really interested in me, even for marriage. It just feels like a huge slap in the face, and leads me to question whether it’s something wrong with me, or something wrong with everybody else.

All I can say is I’m thankful, but now even more confused than before.

Delving deeper into the depths of our asexuality quest, the next stop is the aromantic orientation. Basically what this means is that a person does not experience or has little romantic attraction. This is not exclusive to the asexual community, because some people that are any other orientation (allosexual or asexual) might be included depending on their levels of attraction.

Many of these people end up spending their lives outside of relationships and surrounding themselves with friends with whom they can spend their time and have their emotional and social needs met.

When speaking about aros (aromantics) it’s important to recognize and consider the different varieties of relationships that might apply: platonic, acquaintance, collegial, familial or other. Each is a bit different in themselves, but also similar in some ways. As a basis this video is an aromantic explaining how she feels:

Whether it be an asexual or allosexual, romantic, or aromantic, it’s important to respect the needs of others as they might not be what assume, or want. People are, of course, individuals and need to be treated as such, with the same respect that we expect ot be bestowed upon ourselves. This is especially important for communities where the mosaic is being woven with more colours than ever before!

Today’s post bringing awareness to asexuality talks about the confusing part of the ace community: the spectrum. Much like an other spectrum, it’s a fluid scale ranging from one side to another based on a set of criteria. Inside the asexual community there are different ways to identify to help communicate feelings and what people want or don’t want in terms of relationships or emotional needs.

The Huffington Post did a wonderful infographic which is posted below, and I will try to explain a bit.

Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Courtesy of The Huffington Post

Romantic Attractions

Some asexuals have romantic attraction, “warm fuzzies,” or “squishes” that are purely based on personality and emotions. It’s essentially a desire to have a romantic connection to another individual, but absent of sexual desire. In the allosexual world, romantic attraction is usually something that goes along with sexual desire, unless it’s a hookup type situation. What’s easy about understanding romantic orientations is that they use prefixes that are already common in society today. This helps to describe what asexuals might want in terms of romantic connections.

heteromantic asexual is romantically attracted to people of the opposite sex or gender. This is the most common type of asexuality.

homoromantic asexual is romantically attracted to people of the same sex or gender. This is the least common type of asexuality (especially for men).

biromantic asexual is romantically attracted to people of both sexes or genders. This is less common than heteroromantics but more common than homoromantics.

panromantic asexual is romantically attracted to people regardless of sex or gender. This basically means that this type of person doesn’t regard sex or gender to be a defining part of their attraction. It’s similar to biromantic, but in itself different and one of the more complex and personal orientations.

An aromantic asexual does not have romantic attraction for any sex or gender. This is more common than one might think, and identifies people that don’t want romantic relationships and prefer friendship and other non-romantic relationships.


As if that’s not confusing enough, the idea of the spectrum and sexual orientation fluidity helps to describe and explain how people change over time. During periods of sexual transitions, allosexual people change from being homosexual to bisexual, or heterosexual to pansexual depending on their preference and desires at any given time.

When thinking about romantic orientations it’s also a curious way to describe certain people that seek out romantic relationships with people outside of their sexual desires. For example, a heterosexual man (would have sexual desires for women) but might be homoromantic because he has romantic attraction towards men but aren’t sexually attracted to them. It might seem a bit strange, but any combination works.

The VlogBrothers on YouTube did an excellent explanation of sexual and romantic orientations, and even gender in their video “Human Sexuality is Complicated.” And for a cisgendered heterosexual man, I’m pretty impressed about how much he knows about the subject and shows the differences of social norms, romantic, sexual, gender, and sex differences and similarities. Have a look at his video for a bit more information:


Now that you understand the basic idea of romantic attraction we delve into the difficult to explain world of grey and demisexuals. Often the source of much debate within the asexual community, and clinging onto the idea that sexuality and orientation are spectrums, the idea that grey-asexuals could possible exist, and do.

Demisexuals identify as people who do not normally have sexual attraction, but do when they form a strong emotional bond (possibly even romantic) with another person. The easiest example that I can provide is two people getting to know each other, one person is not necessarily sexually attracted to the other, but perhaps when they develop a strong emotional bond, sexual attraction can (not always) emerge.

There is an interesting article posted by Marie Claire entitled “The Demisexuals: ‘It Takes Me Months To Feel Sexually Attracted To Anyone’ that is worth a read if you’re interested in more information. It is written from a female perspective, but if you keep gender out of the picture (because males can be demisexual too) it holds true.

Grey-Asexuals identify as people between asexual and sexual, possibly meaning that they experience sexual attraction sometimes or during specific but not prolonged periods of life. It’s kind of a “catch-all” orientation for anything in between and is often a confusing and difficult to communicate or understand orientation.


And so many this has taught you a little bit about other people, or hopefully even for yourself because it’s possible that you could be a cisgendered heteroromantic heterosexual male or even a transgendered biromantic heterosexual female. While it’s not necessary to identify as any of these long-named orientations, once you have the toolkit of understanding them you can unlock a huge array of different types of relationships and people that you didn’t understand and now can connect to in platonic, romantic, or even sexual ways.

Media

Heterosexuality has been the focus of media for the entire history of media. Up until recently, one could hardly ever notice any other sexual orientation, and if it was present then it was being used a joke in some way or another to parody reality or to exaggerate stereotypes. The movement started in the 70s with punk-rockers, and continued with candid representations of lesbians and vague references or jokes about homosexual males. Never was an asexual represented.

To recap, asexuality is not:

  1. Celibacy
  2. Androgyny
  3. Sexual repression or aversion
  4. Sexual dysfunction
  5. Loss of libido due to circumstance or age
  6. Fear of intimacy
  7. The inability to find a partner

It’s not far-fetched to believe that, because until the more recent 2010’s even homosexuality wasn’t becoming something in mainstream media. Even in 2017 actors and actresses in the spotlight fear coming out due to pressures and fear of rejection by their community, loss of employment, or being “pigeonholed” into roles.

Sheldon Cooper - Big Bang Theory

While there were vague references to ace characters in media, it wasn’t until The Big Bang Theory that aces were really represented, albeit in a confusing and conflicting way. The character Sheldon Cooper was rumoured to be asexual and in a relationship with his longtime girlfriend.

It wasn’t until the writers spun that and had them consummate their relationship, which confused things. For those who watched the show, did you notice a change in the relationship? In his actions? In what he thought of his own sexuality? It’s important too to remember that asexuality is a spectrum, just like any other type of sexuality, so it’s no wonder that there might be experimentation or learning about oneself through experience. The point is, he still didn’t exhibit or feel any sexual attraction, despite engaging in sex.

Media Misconceptions about Asexuality

  1. Asexuality is a temporary condition only experienced by attractive, cisgenedered, caucasian women
  2. The women (in particular) are lying and/or somehow confused about their feelings and desires.
  3. Asexuality is a problem because it creates a barrier to allosexual people who want to engage in sexual relationships

 

House - Asexual Doubt

In the TV series House, this idea is perpetuated, as an asexual couple comes to the hospital and there is a lot of curiousity about their orientations; mostly doubt and dismissal. As it turns out, the husband has a tumor that was inhibiting his sexual drive and the wife was faking it for the greater good. Disappointing as it is, this representation again throws a wrench into the thinking that asexuality is normal; it outwardly states that society doesn’t accept it as real, and in the end they were just broken or faking.

It’s an interesting situation because asexuals often feel broken anyways because they are not like the rest and are left feeling like they can’t give people what the want, and might even do emotional damage to themselves by trying. That’s not a positive message, and it’s even more negative to perpetuate that kind of image in the media. The fact of the matter is that asexuals can and do engage in healthy relationships (some celibate, some not) and they are completely valid in their feelings, their needs in relationships, and in their social needs. Sometimes it’s just not as easy to find.

Males and Asexuality

What makes it even more confusing or difficult, is that when it comes to ace characters in media, male characters are even less represented than their female counterparts. In addition to the above, the thought of a male being asexual completely blows the concept of masculinity and what it means to be man out of the water for mainstream populations. The idea that a “real man” is virile, attractive, sexually ready, and a-type just simply doesn’t fit with the idea of absence of sexual desire. So what does that make ace males think? Even more like they are broken and don’t fit into any of the currently viable moulds of society.

Admittedly in visual media this is the case, but writers find a bit more “safety” being able to write about their feelings and articulate it with words, instead of with images or acting. If you’ve ever noticed asexual characters (few as they are), they always are portrayed as being social awkward and introverted.

For any males reading this, can you think of a time when you joked with your mates about sex or pursuing some woman, or man? Chances are you have, and as a result you’ve been apart of perpetuating that stereotype that if you don’t do that, then you aren’t part of the group.

Aces Defining Themselves

As visibility increases and the discussion broadens in regards to asexuals and where they fit, an interesting video was published by the Portraits Collaboration, headed by Amy Liang showing asexuals and what they are like; every other humans.

The only thing missing from this video is more representations of males in the ace community. Sadly, when you look up statistics that are compiled by AVEN, males are hugely underrepresented and can be found between 1-9% of the asexual community. Of those, the last time I checked the majority were aromantic asexuals, and statistics about homoromantic asexuals was even less than 1%.

The Future Conversation

Where does all this leave us? Obviously asexuality is making a bit of a breakthrough in media, but it’s still under-represented. It’s better than before and at least at a minimum there is a conversation about it. For most, asexuals are now being invited to the table of discussion instead of being swept under the rug or being ignored. Thankfully, brave writers, such as those at Huffington Post, become trailblazers for the cause and setting the scene for further discussion and acceptance.

The future is with you and your ability to discuss and spread positive messages about asexuals and what they are about. This means talking to kids about different (and all) orientations, promoting awareness and participating in the conversation. Avoid joking about them being broken or not being right. Don’t spread hate and fear and make them feel ostracized. Don’t reject someone simply because they are different. Give people a chance and discover the different colours (most specifically purple, grey, and white) of humanity and what make us a diverse and fascinating mosaic.

aceweek2016

It would seem that no other minority is more underrepresented or misunderstood as the asexual community. This week, beginning October 23 through to October 29 marks an educational and awareness movement called Asexual Awareness Week, or #AceWeek that aims to help build awareness about asexuality and its community members and to help educate the allosexuals of the world.

To get started, here is a bit of basic information that you may or may not be aware of about asexuality. Asexuals represent approximately 1% of the human population and represent an sexual orientation for people that do not experience sexual attraction. While this is very difficult to understand, asexual people explain romantic and sexual attraction as separate entities, because well they are. For most people the two are synonymous or connected, but sometimes they are not. Allosexuals can be sexually attracted to someone and not be romantically attracted to them, right? Cue hookup culture.

Some key vocabulary:
And a TLDR summary

Asexual: someone who does not experience sexual attraction
Aromantic: someone who does not experience romantic attraction
Demisexual: someone who experiences sexual attraction only after experiencing romantic attraction
Gray-asexual: someone who is in-between asexual and sexual on the spectrum
Ace: a common term for the asexual umbrella of identifications; plurally, a group of aces
Allosexual: someone who experiences sexual attraction and does not identify with the asexual community

Now that you know a bit about the terms, we can move on do the topic of today’s day: Coming Out. Normally associated with the LGBTQ+ community and publicly announcing ones orientation as being non-assumed as heterosexual, coming out can apply to anyone when it comes to disclosing something about oneself that is otherwise assumed due to statistics or commonality. Asexuals can come out, and often do it, leaving people on the receiving end of a confusing confession about their feelings. A popular YouTube celebrity, Ricky Dillon, who was assumed to be heterosexual or homosexual for awhile, came out on his channel in 2016, which can be seen below:

Ricky describes his experience in relationships and not having sexual attraction and feeling like he was pressured into a mould or form due to society and social pressures. While he doesn’t articulate asexuality in the best way, he shifts from sounding aromantic to heteroromantic and back again likely because he’s still discovering himself. What’s important is that he was brave enough to talk about his feelings in a public way, fearing possible social backlash and negative attention. Hopefully he hasn’t experienced that, but like most ace people, probably are on the receiving end of confusion, misinformation, ignorance, or sometime even hostility.

A community resource named the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) is celebrating its 15 years of operation and focus of bring visibility and helping people understand themselves and find others with similar feelings, experiences, or orientations. It’s a wonderful place with many members, old and new, that share their experiences, thoughts, and try to navigate the difficult and confusing hypersexualized world in which we live.

So in the spirit of “Coming Out,” if someone comes out to you in person, on social media, or in mainstream media, start a conversation to educate yourself; don’t probe, but ask questions to learn more and erase ignorance and open a dialogue with your fellow human. We all come in different shapes and sizes, and the aces celebrate with purple, grey, white, and with a lot of cake (it’s an ace thing…). Promote tolerance, acceptance, and open-mindedness in all corners of the world to make it a better place.