An area of concern for the asexual community is health and well-being. While it might be simple to think, “oh yes, they have fewer needs, so how can they be at a disadvantage?” the disadvantages are actually two-fold and much more negative than one might expect. In particular in the areas of: physical health, emotional health, mental/intellectual health, social health, environmental health, and spiritual health.

Mr. Worry

Emotional Health

For asexuals, I think the most difficult thing to think about is the emotional health of a person. Due to the socially-imposed feelings of feeling broken, and very similar to the risks of being part of the LGBT community, asexuals are often at higher risks of depression. This mostly comes from the feelings of shortcomings and not being able to meet the needs of people, or even meet their own emotional needs. This can cause ramifications in other areas of life such as work, relationships, and negatively influence the people around them.

Trauma experiences due to past relationships, or even none at all, might result in the lack of willingness to try to take part in dating, or developing friendships or making meaningful connections with other individuals. It’s important to recognize that support in this area is imperative, as even many medical professional still don’t know much about asexuals, and psychiatrically trained practitioners might not be able to assist with asexual issues because of lack of perspective, empathy, or understanding of the needs or workings of asexual individuals.

One positive thing, I think, is that asexuals utilise their communities quite extensively to help to navigate their emotional needs and boundaries. They learn more quickly about what their needs are, and are more open to emotional exploration because it’s the main facet of their expression. This makes them more articulate when speaking about their feelings, their needs, and why they think they feel that way and how it might be managed.

Physical Health

One of the main topics of concerns for asexuals is physical abuse, which normally comes in the form of sexual assault, or sexual pressures associated with interacting with allosexual people. If an asexual is sex-adverse then the pressures of them dating an allosexual are compounded because 1) the needs of the allosexual are not being meet, and 2) the social pressures that come with evolution of relationships. As a result, many ace people are pressured into sexual encounters with partners, or experiencing a lack of empathy and understanding for their needs or their wishes, resulting in possible sexual assault.

This is especially true for teenagers that are ace and are discovering their needs and dealing with puberty and the sexual urges of their peers. They might be pressured into doing something that they feel they can’t say no to; or even in the adult communities the same pressure for fear of rejection.

There is a wide-spanned debate about how asexuals and hormone levels are either part of the “norm” or if they are “anomalies.” Personally, I believe that unless science says otherwise, ace individuals don’t have anything physiologically wrong with them, and therefore hormone supplements or specialised medication are not necessary.

Some aces report that their doctors put them on medication regimes to try to “fix” their asexuality, and I think such an act stems from lack of proper education or even basic research about asexual communities from medical professionals. A particularly good resource for medical professionals can be found courtesy of the Resource for Ace Survivors. Educate yourself, people…

Mental/Intellectual Health

This type of health mainly focuses on the person’s ability to recognise reality and cope with life. For asexuals, reality will look a little more one way than another, and that’s natural considering that we all have different perspectives of reality. To asexuals, for example, is more sexual than one would expect. How they cope with that, is yet to be fully understood or managed but at least identifying it is a start.

Looking at their own situations in terms of their own self-actualisation and self-understanding might be more heightened while at the same time more self-critical due to the feelings of not belonging or not being good enough for this or that. The differences between allosexual and asexual people are vast, and therefore they are less likely to be able to engage intellectually or mentally with people, due to lack of common ground, understanding, or empathy. This has obvious ramifications on social well-being and connections between individuals across sexual orientation lines.

Social Health

Social Health

To put it simply, social well-being of asexuals should be a major concern for health-care professionals. The feelings of not belonging or not finding their places in the world are heightened because they are navigating a world that is basically foreign to their views. People lose friends because of being asexual. People don’t consider dating asexuals due to ignorance. People treat asexuals with indecency and lack of respect due to lack of understanding. They just don’t feel like they fit in, and as a result social interactions are strained or limited.

I read once a thread on AVEN regarding how many people thought they would die alone due to their asexuality and how that might compare with allosexuals asking the same connection. The results were really depressing, and if you look at it from a logical point of view, or even at the statistical numbers, it’s pretty depressing and bleak. Why else do you think aces would seek comfort and try to “compromise” with allosexuals in order to be at the table for dating or relationships. The thought of sticking to the ace community in itself, and dealing with geographical limitations due to low-percentages of the community, is enough to send someone into instant depression and feelings of helplessness.

Just like there is stigma for other sexual orientations, asexuals suffer from the same results of coming out as LGBT individuals. Though, when you think about it, in theory there should be less hate coming from religious beliefs, but since it’s a fairly new concept most classical religions wouldn’t have any thoughts or perspective on it and it would depending on spiritual leaders to set by example.

Environmental Health

While this might not be a major concern of the ace community, it’s pretty well-connected with social and mental health. While ace people are at risk of mental illnesses, they tend to be able to exist in harmony with societies, mostly because they aren’t rubbing against the core values of them. Unless there is financial circumstances, asexuals would normally have access to shelter, food, and most normal amenities.

Moral and Ethics - The Simpsons

Spiritual Health

This one is a bit difficult for me to navigate because I’m agnostic in terms of religion, but I guess that in terms of other types of spiritual beliefs such as ethics and morals, those tie in with physical and emotional needs. Asexuals might have strong morals and ethics, or loose ones depending on the individual, but my feeling is that they might need to be a bit more flexible with them when navigating dating or relationships.

Asexuals beliefs about their own asexuality are as strong convictions of those of religious individuals, mostly because they are more deeply personal and are related to facts of what they are, versus abstract ideas of what they believe in. Religion is a choice, where being asexual isn’t, so it’s tough to argue against someone who self-identifies about someone, when really nobody has a better understanding of other people, unless you’re psychic or clairvoyant or something.


For further research, the website Asexual Explorations keeps a detailed bibliography of academic asexual research that is worth investigating if you’re interested.

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.