Sexual desires, feelings, and actions have defined labels in our society that is already grappling with gender fluidity and same-sex attraction. And, there is yet another group of people who are devoid of these attractions and temptations– the asexuals.
The LGBTQ community is garnering recognition in almost all the parts of the world– people with different sexual orientations are now being accepted. From pride parades to the legalization of same-sex marriages, this community has come a long way from being shunned to being celebrated, although there is still a long way to go.
Sex? No, thank you.
But, even after so much headway, there is a small group of people that the world still sees as an enigma. Roughly about 1% of the world population is asexual, which, may not seem like a large number, but it is of significant proportion on the planetary scale.
There are a lot of misconceptions amongst communities regarding aces, in fact, a majority of the population is not even aware of their existence. For people, it is hard to fathom that there could be a community of people out there for whom sex is not at all important, but they exist and they want to be heard and understood.
A lot of people confuse asexuality for celibacy or abstinence, even though there is a huge difference between them. Staying celibate or abstaining from sex is a choice that a person makes to not get married or abstain from sexual relations. Whereas, asexuality is a sexual orientation or lack thereof. They do not have control over the absence of sexual desire in them. In simple words, asexuality can be defined as a lack of sexual attraction or sexual desires towards any gender.
People often believe that aces feel the way they do because they haven’t met the right person yet, or they are just inexperienced, or they just might be gay. The simple truth is, they just have no sexual urge, that’s all, and it is as normal for them as having these urges are for others.
The wide spectrum of sexuality
Now a lack of sexual desire does not mean that aces cannot be in a romantic relationship, it’s another very common misconception that people have had regarding this group. Aces have varying levels of comfort with physical intimacy, where some do not like to be touched, others enjoy cuddling or kissing or other different forms of intimacy.
There are different spectrums of asexuality which generally fall under two orientations: sexual and romantic.
Aromantic: Some people may refer to themselves as ‘Aromantic’ which is a romantic orientation. They experience little to absolutely no romantic attraction towards any gender. Not all asexuals are aromantic, as some of them can get into a romantic relationship but not have any sexual attraction. Similarly, all aromantics do not lack sexual desire, they can have sex, they are just not able to bond.
Demisexual: It is a sexual orientation where a person can only experience sexual urge when they have established a deep and strong emotional bond with someone.
Graysexual/Grayroamntic – They fall somewhere in between asexuals and aromantics. For them, both these terms have a fluid definition and may mean different things to different people. Sometimes they may feel romantic attraction sometimes, not. Same with sexual desire, they may feel sexual attraction under certain circumstances, but have a very low sex drive.
How Netflix is spearheading representation for asexuals
For years asexuality has been hugely misunderstood and misconstrued amongst the masses, but media especially Netflix, is slowly changing that.
The coming out of Todd on Bojack Horseman
In the third season finale episode of the popular Netflix series Bojack Horseman, Todd Chavez has a deep brief but deep conversation with his girlfriend Emily. She asks him what his deal was and if he was gay or something to which Todd tells her that he is neither gay or straight, he believes he is nothing.
Now this conversation may seem ambiguous to some people, but Todd’s character represents the doubts and uncertainty that shrouds asexuality. Gradually he comes to terms who he really is and admits to his best friend Bojack that he is asexual. He later meets other people the same as him and gathers a deeper understanding of his orientation. The series also elaborates through one of Todd’s friends that being an ace does not mean that you cannot be in a relationship or get married, and they throw light upon the different spectrums of asexuality.
Todd’s coming out was a big deal for the asexual community, devoting multi-season arc for the character to discover his sexuality and coming to terms with it became a huge turning point in asexual representation.
The much-needed Sex Education
Another popular series that dealt with asexuality in a beautiful manner is Sex Education. When Florence, a teenage girl fails to relate with the horny teenagers around her, she seeks advice from Jean, their school’s unofficial SRE therapist. Their conversation touches on many important emotional aspects of asexuality in a very delicate and sensitive manner. When Florence reveals her doubts out loud to Jean and says, “I think I might be broken,” Jean’s reply wins hearts and praises all over. She tells Florence that sex does not make us whole, so how could she possibly be broken. She further explains that asexuality does not mean that she cannot be in a romantic relationship, again, touching upon its wide spectrum and acknowledging their validity.
There have been other prime shows that have hinted upon or shown asexual characters but not explicitly. For example, Sheldon Cooper from Big Band Theory, an iconic character who throughout the seasons shows absolutely no interest in sex. Though, in the end, when he does have it, it is more for Amy, his girlfriend’s benefit, than his.
When a vampire came out
Shadowhunters, another very popular show on Netflix based on Cassandra Claire’s Mortal Instruments novel series, also has a good representation of asexuality. Raphael Santiago, a vampire tells a Shadowhunter, Isabelle Lightwood that he has never been interested in having sex in a scene where he dodges her kiss to bite her wrist. Though they both find other ways to maintain their passionate relationship and meet each other’s physical needs.
Even comics have not been far from representation, take Archies for example. Jughead Jones, Archie’s best friend came out as an ace in the 2015 reboot of his solo series. Though in the series Riverdale, Jughead is not shown as asexual which has not gone down with the asexual community very well.
Acceptance is the key
Aces being represented on popular series and media is a huge win for the community. It is the first step towards recognizing that such people exist amongst us and accepting the fact that they are just as normal as any of us.
Florence in Sex Education gives an incredible metaphor for how ace feels within this world. When asked about how she feels when she thinks about having sex, she says that she does not feel anything, has no connection to it. She compares the experience with being surrounded by a huge feast with everything she can want to eat, but she is not hungry.
It is important that along the sex education curriculum covers asexuality as well as homosexuality. People should not feel discriminated for having different or no sexual desires.
Websites like https://www.asexuality.org/ support aces and offer information and resources in understanding it better.
There is no cause or reason behind being an asexual, you are who you are. We are all different and unique in some way or another, that’s what makes the world such an interesting place to live in.
All it really needs is just, acceptance.