Navigating sex in an allosexual world
Until I got to university, I had no idea that when you called someone “hot”, it meant that you found that person sexually attractive. I always assumed “hot” was synonymous with “good looking” or “aesthetically pleasing,” and had nothing to do with your downstairs. It was genuinely brain chemistry altering realising that people could just experience sexual attraction purely based on a stranger’s presence. What happened to hello, how are you, my name is?
Call me naive, but it wasn’t until I was introduced to the casual sex culture of university and young adulthood that I realised it wasn’t the norm to only experience sexual attraction after you’ve gotten to know a person, or formed some kind of emotional connection. Discovering the asexual spectrum, or in my case demisexuality, was a lightbulb moment that explained my disinterest in hook-ups, despite being sex positive.
The Asexuality Spectrum
Ranging broadly from asexuality, greysexuality, to demisexuality, being on the asexual spectrum is wildly different for individuals. Like other sexual orientations, we’re not a monolith and as Luka put it, “no two people will have the same thoughts about asexuality and sex.”
Charlie, who identifies as non-binary and demisexual, said that they feel like they still have plenty to learn about their sexual orientation.
“I’m only sexually attracted to people I feel very close to, or people who are not in my vicinity, like celebrity crushes or fictional characters. I don’t feel sexually attracted to someone unless we’ve been at least good friends for a while. The idea of having sex with a stranger or someone I’d just met, or even some of my closest friends makes me quite uncomfortable. And the idea of people seeing me as a sexual being or object first, and a person second, makes me incredibly uncomfortable.”
Charlie also feels that although they consider themselves a sexual person, they maintain specific boundaries with what they’re comfortable with.
“People are incredibly attractive! However, unless I’ve gotten to know those people and feelings start to arise, I wouldn’t even dream of seeing them in a sexual light. I’ve been with my partner for almost three years now and they’re the only person I like to see me in a sexual manner because we’ve put the time, work, and effort into our relationship and trust each other completely. I can’t imagine doing all that work with strangers on a regular basis, that’d be exhausting.”
While Charlie still views sex as a fun activity, their close friends still view sex differently—as an activity that can be shared between anyone regardless of how well they know each other.
“I respect their fun, but I just can’t see it the same way.”
Will, who identifies as greysexual, said that despite the misconceptions surrounding asexuality, they still enjoy sex.
“Some asexual people like sex, like me! My sexuality just means that I don’t feel sexual attraction for people, and instead I feel emotional, romantic, or aesthetic attraction.”
Similarly, Phillipa felt that a huge myth about asexual individuals is that they never experience any sexual feelings or desire.
“For some of us, it’s rare for random people, but we’re capable of experiencing it with our partners, usually in the form of responsive desire. Essentially, it’s not something we think about unless there’s a physical stimulus of some sort first.”
Hana added that another misconception about asexual individuals is that they are incapable of love and affection.
“There are so many different ways to express that you love someone and so many ways of interpreting love, sex is just one way of showing that.”
Media Representations of Asexuality and Sex
Although the discussion and representation of queer identities have increased in presence and diversity over time, asexuality remains largely overlooked and severely underrepresented. As a result, many individuals on the asexual spectrum feel misunderstood and unvalidated both among allosexual people and the queer community.
Van, who identifies as asexual and demisexual, said that they’ve been told they were “frigid and cold” by a male friend, “too young” to determine their sexuality because that they just haven’t met the “right” person.
Riley commented that they felt that within the rainbow community, many people still think that asexuality “isn’t really a thing.”
“I’ve always been a bit sceptical about coming out about my identity. When you think of being queer, asexuality isn’t the first thing that usually comes to your mind. Everyone just assumes you’re allosexual, and anything other than that is ‘weird’. There’s always a fear of judgement, especially since this part of the queer community is not talked about as much.”
“When you try to become a part of the rainbow community, you hope to be supported for being different, but that’s not been the case for me.”
For Jack, not only is the lack of asexuality representation in media problematic in allowing them to control how they are perceived, but the saturation of sex-heavy media causes discomfort.
“Shows like Euphoria and others that glorify as sex, or depict sex as a social currency, makes me feel deeply uncomfortable in the way they represent sex. Sex, which can be so connecting, empowering, life-changing and potentially traumatising, is portrayed as something so casual. There is so much more to life than sex.”
Riley feels conflicted about the portrayal of sex and sexuality in media.
“Mainstream media treats sex as the end all, as if people get into relationships only because of sex and nothing else.”
They feel hopeful that representations of sexuality will become more diverse and inclusive in the future.
“I’m glad to see things changing. Like Todd in Bojack Horseman, or Isaac in the Heartstopper series, having dedicated stories showcasing aro-ace experiences has been very nice. Seeing and hearing these stories makes you feel less alone and provides a sense of community. “
“It’s also nice to see more media platforms providing opportunities to talk about asexuality, like Craccum and the New York Post.”
Likewise, Spencer said that seeing asexual characters and experiences in the media has helped them to feel validated in their sexuality.
“Florence from Sex Education made me feel more seen.”
Charlie commented that although they feel there is often pressure and importance placed on sex, such as when they were in first year halls, it’s paramount to stay true to yourself and your boundaries.
“If you’re asexual and don’t want to have sex, say no! Go with what feels right for you, you don’t have to sacrifice your sexuality for the sake of anyone else.”
Since we live in an allosexual world, where experiencing sexual attraction regularly is still seen as the “norm”, it can be challenging for anyone on the asexual spectrum to not just figure out sex and relationships, but also combat feelings of alienation.
Even though the way I experience sexual attraction has always felt “normal” to me, it’s been fascinating seeing the variety of reactions of other allosexual individuals (people who regularly experience sexual attraction). From being personally called “wholesome”, to “stuck up”, “fussy”, or just a good old “prude”, it’s disheartening to see that people still assign value judgements to what people choose to do, or not do, with their bodies. Let’s just collectively agree to validate all sexualities and let everyone live their best lives according to their definition.