- Asexuality means not experiencing sexual attraction to other people.
- But asexuality is a spectrum, so some people might be repulsed by sex while others feel indifferent.
- Though many avoid sex, asexual people may still enjoy kissing, cuddling, and hand-holding.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Everybody is different when it comes to their desire for sex – some people might crave sex frequently, while others don’t care for it at all.
If you have little to no desire for sex or don’t experience sexual attraction, you might be asexual. Asexuality isn’t very common, accounting for an estimated 1.7% of non-heterosexual adults in the US. However, it’s still a valid sexuality that people experience.
What does asexuality mean?
“Asexuality does not mean celibacy or lacking libido. It simply means that a person doesn’t always – or ever – experience sexual attraction,” says Katherine Hertlein, PhD, sex therapist and expert advisor for the sex therapy app Blueheart.
This means that some asexual people might masturbate and experience sexual urges, but they typically don’t want to engage in sexual activity with another person.
A few signs of asexuality include:
- Not experiencing the desire to have sex with anyone
- Not being able to relate to others when they talk about sexual desire
- Not feeling mental or physical signs of arousal (such as vaginal lubrication or an erection)
- Having a partner but not feeling sexual attraction to them
In a relationship, some people who are asexual will not have sex at all with their partner, so their partner needs to rely on masturbation to have some of their needs met, says Hertlein.
Other times, asexual people might have sex in order to please their partner, if their partner is not asexual. In other cases, asexual individuals may choose to date other asexual individuals.
No sex doesn’t equate to no intimacy, though. Hertlein says asexual people can experience intimacy through:
- General touch
- Hand holding
- Caring for their partner
It’s also important to note that being asexual does not automatically make you aromantic. Asexuals can still fall in love or have a crush without the sexual aspect.
The asexual spectrum
Asexual people may fall anywhere on the asexual spectrum. Hertlein says the spectrum includes people who are:
- Sex-repulsed: When someone is repulsed by sexual behavior.
- Sex-averse: When someone is completely disinterested in sexual behavior.
- Sex-indifferent: When someone feels indifferent or neutral about sexual behavior.
- Sex-favorable: When someone feels positively about sex in certain situations.
You may also hear of some common asexual identities including:
- Graysexual: When someone experiences sexual attraction infrequently or not intensely.
- Cupiosexual: When someone doesn’t experience sexual attraction, but they still want to participate in sexual behaviors, such as if they want to experience an orgasm or to feel closer to a romantic partner.
- Demisexual: When someone only experiences sexual attraction after getting to know someone deeply emotionally.
There’s no specific age when most asexual people realize they’re asexual, but some may notice it when they hit puberty and their friends are experiencing sexual attaction and talking about it, but they can’t relate. Or, they may not realize they’re asexual until later in life. It depends on the individual and where they fall on the asexual spectrum, says Hertlein.
Myths about axesuality
Since asexuality is not typically understood by the masses, there are some myths surrounding it. Three common myths about asexuality are:
- Myth 1: Asexual people aren’t sex-positive. Being sex-positive refers to having an open and non-judgemental attitude towards sex. Even though asexual people don’t experience sexual attraction, they can still be sex-positive, says Hertlein.
- Myth 2: Asexual people have no sexuality. Although people may find it a bit confusing, asexuality is in fact a type of sexuality. “[Asexuality] describes someone who doesn’t experience sexual desire or sexual attraction, and that is a sexual preference within itself,” says Hertlein.
- Myth 3: Asexuality means sexual dysfunction. This is a myth that’s harmful to the asexual community, Hertlein says. Asexuality is a sexual preference, not a sexual dysfunction. “This can lead to misdiagnosis, unnecessary medications, and induce low-self esteem and confidence issues in asexual people,” says Hertlein.
- Myth 4: Asexuality is not the same as aromanticism: Unlike asexual people, aromatic people may crave sex. The difference is that aromatic people have no desire for a relationship. But sometimes the two can coexist: A 2020 study found that about 26% of asexual people are also aromantic.
Asexuality is a type of sexuality where a person doesn’t typically feel any sexual attraction to others.
However, asexuality does fall on a spectrum and people experience it to varying degrees.
Asexual people still may experience the desire to have romantic, healthy relationships.
If you’re struggling with your own sexuality, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental health professional who specializes in sexuality to talk it out in a safe space.