How Asexuals Live
People who have asexual umbrella identities have a variety of attitudes towards sexual behavior. Many aces choose not to have sex, but some asexuals do, whether out of their own sexual desire or for some other reason. In the same vein, some asexuals masturbate, and some don’t. Some watch porn, and some don’t. Some are also interested in BDSM or have other kinks and fetishes.
According to the 2014 AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) Community Census, most asexual spectrum people are sex repulsed, meaning they have some degree of disgust towards sex or references to sex, or sex indifference, meaning they are indifferent towards sex. Some asexual spectrum people, including gray asexuals and demisexual, are favorable towards sex. Of course, an individual ace can have a variety of these feelings as well.
Asexuals in Society
Many asexuals feel isolated from a society that places a high value on sex. Meera, 15, said “my mental health is sometimes awful due to me being sex repulsed and constantly being bombarded with it.” Because most asexual spectrum people are repulsed by or indifferent to sex, they can feel alienated by TV, movies, music, advertising, and other media that emphasizes sex.
Asexual identities are also rarely represented in the media, or when they are, they are presented in an invalidating manner. For example, an episode of House, MD, showed asexuals as people who actually have an underlying medical condition, thus invalidating asexuality as a real sexual orientation. The lack of strong, well-rounded, accurately portrayed asexual characters can make aces feel more alienated.
The normative lifestyle encouraged by society—including an individual’s family and friends—also suggests that there’s something wrong if someone doesn’t want sex. Shanthi says that “adjusting to the idea that my orientation and what I might want out of a relationship is completely different than what I was exposed to and what I feel is expected of me is difficult.” Asexual spectrum people may feel pressured to behave a certain way just to fit in.
Asexual identities can intersect with an individual’s other identities, like gender, race, religion, disability, and more. For many desi aces, religion is one of the most prominent intersections. Saroj 19, says that “I’m quite comfortable being a practicing Hindu and also being ace as I believe Hinduism in its truest sense accepts everyone as they are.”
However, other aces have a different experience with their religion. Sapna, 23, feels that her identity as a brown, Muslim woman, who has an anxiety disorder influences her in ways that expect her to be both hyper sexualized and desexualized. “I feel robbed of any sexual agency—that as a desi woman, white people don’t think I can express sexual desire or think I’m exotic,” she says, adding that “my parents act as if the mark of a desi woman is abstinence or innocence. People think that Muslim women are sexually repressed.” For aces like Sapna, adopting an asexual spectrum identity can be complicated by these intersections.