There are so many different ways that we express our sexuality and gender identity. This includes the level of sexual attraction you might feel towards other people. Being asexual (or ace) means that you generally experience little or no sexual attraction to others. But as with all types of sexuality, things aren’t usually simple.
Here, we answer the biggest questions on how asexual people tend to experience attraction and relationships, how you might know whether you’re asexual and how to be an ally to asexual people.
The asexuality spectrum
Asexuality exists on a broad spectrum, so asexual people might experience other forms of attraction like romantic or emotional, and their attraction may be conditional on certain factors.
A grey-asexual (grey ace) person might experience sexual attraction very rarely or within specific circumstances.
Demisexual people tend to only experience sexual attraction after they’ve developed an emotional bond with someone.
What does sexual attraction mean?
Sexual attraction is when you find someone sexually desireable and want to have sex with them. But there are many other different types of attraction that you can feel alongside or disconnected from sexual attraction, including:
- Romantic attraction When you want romantic interactions with another person through expressing affection or holding hands. - Aesthetic attraction When you appreciate the appearance of another person or how they present themselves. - Sensual attraction When you have the desire to be tactile with someone in a non-sexual way, like through cuddling, caressing or kissing. - Emotional attraction When you’re attracted to someone’s personality and want to emotionally connect with them. - Intellectual attraction When you’re drawn to what or how a person thinks – or someone’s intellect. You’ll likely want to engage in conversation or share ideas.
How do I know if I’m asexual?
You may be asexual if you generally don’t feel a sexual attraction to others or want to act on sexual desires. However, our identities can exist beyond binary thinking – sexuality is a spectrum rather than a straight line.
You may be on the asexual spectrum but feel partial sexual attraction to some people in certain situations, or you might want to explore romantic relationships without sex. Your feelings might also change over time.
Being asexual isn’t the same as suddenly losing interest in sex or feeling a dip in your libido. Similarly, feeling anxiety around sex, having a fear of intimacy and sexual dysfunctions (like erectile problems) are different. If you feel that you need help or support in this area, you can always talk to a doctor or a therapist.
If you’re curious about your sexuality or want to learn more, read our LGBTIA+ glossary as a starting point.
Is asexuality the same as celibacy?
Asexuality isn’t the same as celibacy. If someone is celibate, this means they’ve made a conscious decision not to have sex of any kind, despite potentially feeling sexual attraction to people. Sometimes people do this for religious reasons.
How does asexuality and relationships work?
There’s a common misconception that asexual people don’t experience feelings of love or want romantic partners, but this isn’t always the case and being ace definitely doesn’t mean relationships are off the table.
Love can be experienced in many different ways by different people, and ace people might feel that love isn’t just sexual or romantic.
How can I be an ally to asexual people?
People’s lack of understanding and societal stigma can lead to a rejection or disbelief in asexuality. This means that aces may experience anxiety – especially around sex – as well as low mood, self-esteem and self-doubt. By being an ally to asexual people, you can help to make things easier for them.
If someone comes out to you as ace, listen to them without making assumptions. Showing that you believe them, accept their relationship choices and are there to support them can be hugely validating.
Try not to ask intrusive questions or make assumptions about someone’s sex life – as you would anyone else.
Call it out
Being a good ally to anyone who identifies in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum means calling out any kind of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia or in this case acephobia when you see it.
It’s important to remember that however you feel and whatever your sexuality, this is unique to you. There’s no right or wrong and there’s always support available if you’re struggling.