Objections to asexuality
Many people, when hearing about asexuality for the first time, claim that it can't exist, or that a particular person claiming to be asexual can't be. On this page, here are some of the more common objections, along with AVEN's answers.
- 1 Causes
- 1.1 Isn't a lack of sexual desire a symptom of some kind of medical disorder? Have you had your hormones checked?
- 1.2 You must have been traumatized as children.
- 1.3 Some of these people are teenagers! That's not an orientation. You're just late bloomers.
- 1.4 You must be repressed, maybe by religion or overly conservative parents. Why can't you see that sex is a normal and healthy activity?
- 1.5 You're just bitter because you can't get any – maybe you're too unattractive for people to want to have sex with you.
- 2 Behaviour
- 2.1 How can you be asexual if you're a virgin? Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.
- 2.2 How can you be asexual if you masturbate? Isn't that inherently sexual?
- 2.3 How can you be asexual if you go on dates or engage in romantic relationships? Isn't that inherently sexual?
- 2.4 How can you be asexual if you want children? Isn't that inherently sexual?
- 2.5 How can you be asexual if you have sex? Isn't that inherently sexual?
- 3 Science
- 4 Style
- 4.1 Why would you limit your future possibilities by deciding you were asexual?
- 4.2 But sex is just so great – how can anyone be happy or healthy living without it?
- 4.3 Why is there all this fuss and visibility work about not being into something? If it's so unimportant to you, why do you talk about it so much?
Isn't a lack of sexual desire a symptom of some kind of medical disorder? Have you had your hormones checked?
Yes and no. A sudden loss of sexual desire can be symptomatic of some disorders, such as depression and endocrine problems. However, many asexuals have undergone tests and have hormone levels within the normal range.
Some sources list the lack of sexual desire in and of itself as a mental disorder, but we here at AVEN are doubtful about that – the same was believed, once upon a time, of homosexuality. A disorder is only really a disorder if it detracts from one's quality of life. Most of the asexuals here can't change, and are happy enough in their lives that they wouldn't do so even if they could. How meaningful is it to refer to such a state of being as a disorder?
People who are interested in the connections between asexuality and health issues should check out our section on Asexual Health.
You must have been traumatized as children.
A small number of asexuals have experienced rape or sexual abuse at some point in their lives. These things are known to sometimes cause sexual aversion. However, most asexuals on AVEN have never experienced rape or abuse, and so asexuality cannot be explained solely in terms of trauma.
Even if a particular asexual individual has experienced trauma, it does not necessarially follow that the trauma “caused” the asexuality. The person may have already been asexual prior to any traumatic events. If a person has come to terms with their trauma and is happy with their asexuality, it may not really matter whether one caused the other or not. (Relevant thread)
Some of these people are teenagers! That's not an orientation. You're just late bloomers.
Many asexuals already feel different from their peers in high school. Many people at this age are talking about their sexual attraction to celebrities and classmates and experimenting sexually. Teenage asexuals may feel confused, different, or alone because they cannot relate to these things. A community such as AVEN may be very useful for these people.
Some people who identify as asexuals in their early teens may experience sexual feelings later on. However, bear in mind that there are also people on AVEN who are still asexual in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond. The “late bloomer” explanation doesn't work on them – and these people all had to have been asexual teenagers at one point in their lives. In general, since we don't know exactly what will happen in the future, it's best to give someone the benefit of the doubt about the validity of their own feelings.
You must be repressed, maybe by religion or overly conservative parents. Why can't you see that sex is a normal and healthy activity?
Some asexuals (and many sexuals) came from conservative or religious backgrounds where sexual activity was discouraged. Other asexuals didn't.
Similarly, some asexuals don't view our culture's attitude towards sex as normal and healthy, but plenty of them do. Asexuals run the full spectrum of beliefs about sex and sexual activity, from very conservative to moderate to very liberal. Many asexuals view sex as so normal and healthy that they have tried for years to learn to enjoy it before realizing they were asexual.
You're just bitter because you can't get any – maybe you're too unattractive for people to want to have sex with you.
Not so! Many asexuals fit the standard definition of attractiveness well enough to have been asked out, propositioned, used for sex, or even married by sexual people. And in our For Sexual Partners, Friends, and Allies forum, you'll find many posts by people who love and are attracted to their asexual partners, and are very confused as to why these people don't reciprocate their sexual desire. Being unattractive is not what's going on here.
How can you be asexual if you're a virgin? Don't knock it if you haven't tried it.
Most people know, at some point in their lives, that there are people they would like to have sex with, even if they haven't done so yet. Asexuals generally don't feel this way. The very concept, to them, is boring, uncomfortable, or ridiculous. Many asexuals have tried having sex, because of curiosity or social pressure, and found that it wasn't to their liking. Others have tried other forms of physical affection and found that their comfort zones end long before sex begins. Still others know themselves well enough to stay away from the whole thing in the first place. After all, you don't need to try stuffing dirty socks in your mouth (for example) to know that it isn't your cup of tea.
How can you be asexual if you masturbate? Isn't that inherently sexual?
Some people masturbate, some people don't. For those who do, masturbation is linked to sex drive, not sexual attraction. Instead, it is seen as a biological necessity, like scratching an itch or using the bathroom. Asexual people have no desire to involve other people in their private biological activities.
How can you be asexual if you go on dates or engage in romantic relationships? Isn't that inherently sexual?
Some asexuals don't feel a need for romantic connections with other people, but some do. For these people, romantic attraction is best expressed through avenues other than sex, such as hugging, cuddling, and having deep conversations. Many romantic asexuals are very confused by other people's insistence that, to be in love, you must perform an act that they may find disgusting, uncomfortable, or just plain boring (depending on the asexual in question). For them, love and sex have little, if anything, to do with each other.
How can you be asexual if you want children? Isn't that inherently sexual?
Many asexuals don't want children, but some do. There are ways, such as artificial insemination and adoption, for asexuals to have children without having sex.
How can you be asexual if you have sex? Isn't that inherently sexual?
It depends. Many asexuals have never had sex and do not plan to. Some asexuals have had sex in the past because they thought that it was impossible to be asexual, and it was what everyone else was doing. Some asexuals have had sex in order to figure out whether they enjoy it, and found out that they didn't. Some, despite their asexuality, are willing to have sex in order to please someone that they love. Remember, orientation is about innate feelings, not behaviour.
People can't be asexual. Asexuality means that you reproduce by mitosis, like amoebas.
Yes, that's the scientific, biological meaning of asexuality. However, asexuality is a term that can have more than one meaning in different contexts. The term “bisexuality”, for example, is used in biology to indicate that a plant has both pollen-producing and seed-producing parts, and also used to indicate that an animal species comes in two sexes. However, bisexuality is often also used as a term to indicate that some humans experience attraction to other humans of both sexes. Similarly, we can describe ourselves as asexual – meaning that we don't experience sexual attraction – without contradicting the biological definition. English is a wonderful thing.
Asexuality can't be natural, because animals aren't asexual.
Actually, there have been studies on rams and rats indicating that some of them did not experience sexual attraction. (Relevant thread)
Also, keep in mind that some animals, like ants and naked mole rats, live in a complex social structure that restricts the duties of sex and reproduction to a few individuals. Similarly, wolves and dholes live in packs that require only the alpha pair to mate.
Why would you limit your future possibilities by deciding you were asexual?
Asexuality is just like any other label – it should be used as a description, not a set of instructions. We don't think that identifying as asexual necessarially limits someone any more than identifying as, say, heterosexual or homosexual does. In either case, it's just a description of who you're attracted to.
A small number of people may identify as asexual at one point in their lives and then begin to identify as sexual at another point in their lives. This doesn't invalidate asexuality in general – it just stopped being the right label for those particular people. Most of us, including members who are middle-aged or older and have never felt sexual attraction, feel that our asexuality can't be changed, and just plain aren't interested in any of the sexual “possibilities” that are available to non-asexuals.
But sex is just so great – how can anyone be happy or healthy living without it?
Perhaps there are things that sexuals feel and asexuals don't, but it wasn't our choice not to feel them. Even when asexuals do have sex, they don't feel the same things that sexuals do when they have sex. Besides, there are plenty of other things that asexuals can do with their time – reading, learning, socializing, exploring nature, creating art, or playing games, just to name a few. You pursue your interests, and we'll pursue ours.
Why is there all this fuss and visibility work about not being into something? If it's so unimportant to you, why do you talk about it so much?
Not all asexuals feel the need to promote asexual visibility or to hang out in places like AVEN. That is okay. For those who do, here are some good reasons for places like AVEN to exist:
- Some asexuals feel like there must be something terribly wrong with them because they are not into sex. The presence of a community filled with other asexuals can come as a huge relief. Asexuals need to know that they're not alone.
- Some sexuals put pressure on asexuals to have sex and act sexual, or ostracize them, because of a belief that everybody normal and healthy is sexual. By breaking down this belief, spreading asexual visibility will improve life for asexuals.
- Some asexuals desire information about asexuality and related issues. In the current lack of consistent medical knowledge of asexuality, what better place to find such information than a web site full of asexuals?
- Some asexuals feel uncomfortable spending all of their time in a culture and with people who put a lot of emphasis on sex. It can be nice to spend time in places like the AVEN forums (or other asexual communities) with people who know about asexuality and are more likely to be accepting.