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Gender Identity

Asexual

Louise D.

The term "asexual" is probably one that you have heard before. Most of us have. However, most people only have a limited understanding of what it truly means. An oversimplified way of explaining it would be that asexual refers to someone who does not experience sexual attraction. But it is so much more than that.

And when we are talking about being asexual, we also need to talk about being aromantic. The two fall within the same kind of spectrum and the asexual community often share close ties with the aromantic community. So it naturally follows that in order to understand the one, we must understand the other.

First and foremost, "asexual" does not refer to gender identity. There is a difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. People who identify as asexual can also identify with a wide range of gender identities. Sexuality and gender are not interchangeable terms, and although the two concepts often work together with relative harmony, they should not be confused.

Attraction

Before we go any further, let's answer a quick question. Does asexuality refer to sexual orientation?

Yes, in fact, asexual is one of the more recognized sexual orientations along with the more prevalent bisexual or homosexual. Although most people are familiar with the word and might have a vague idea of what it means, it is unlikely that just anyone would truly understand the nuances associated with being asexual.

Split Attraction Model

Sexual orientation is part of a relatively broad category that has been broken up into two distinct subcategories by the asexual community, and this was done as an attempt to better articulate feelings of asexuality and aromanticism. We refer to this model as the Split Attraction Model because it essentially splits the idea of attraction down the middle.

These two categories are: sexual attraction (sexual orientation) and romantic attraction (romantic orientation). This model also helps us understand the asexual spectrum better.

Sexual Attraction (Sexual Orientation)

Sexual attraction in basic terms refers to the physical attraction of a sexual nature that one individual feels for another. If a person does not experience romantic attraction or little or no sexual desire to anyone, we can refer to them as asexual. Please remember that this does not mean that asexual people never engage in sexual activity or sexual contact. In fact, some asexual people can still enjoy sex. However, they simply do not feel sexual attraction to another person.

Romantic Attraction

Romantic attraction, in basic terms, refers to the romantic or emotional attraction, not of a sexual nature, that one individual feels for another. If a person does not feel romantic attraction to anyone, we can refer to them as aromantic.

Romantic and sexual attraction can absolutely work together for some individuals. A person can be both asexual and aromantic. However, this is not a requirement. A person can therefore also be only asexual and not aromantic, and the other way around.

Here are some examples.

  • A person who is sexually attracted to anyone (pansexual), can be aromantic, in that they are not romantically attracted to anyone at all.
  • Or a person who is romantically attracted to people of the same gender as them can experience no sexual attraction at all.

Within these extremes, there are also subcategories that we will explore in this article. These subcategories will shed some light on why the distinction between romantic attraction and sexual attraction is so important.

Asexuality Spectrum

As you might have already figured out, asexuality and aromanticism occur on a spectrum. Let's have a look at some flags to guide us through the journey of the asexuality spectrum.

This section will include brief descriptions of the flags and what the colors symbolize, but also what part the designation plays on the spectrum. More in-depth explanations of the different flags can also be found on this blog page, so feel free to take a look at some of our articles while you're here.

Asexual Flag

Asexual Flag
Asexual Flag
Colors:

In order of appearance we have:

  • Black – representing asexuality
  • Grey – representing grey- or demisexuality
  • White – representing partners and friends who do not fall on this spectrum
  • Purple – representing community

This is likely to be the one you hear the most about because many people who identify themselves somewhere on the spectrum will often just refer to themselves as asexual because it is easier to explain. Although we have learned that asexuality means that a person is not sexually attracted to anyone, this does not necessarily mean that they do not engage in sexual actions with another person.

It is possible for an asexual person to still have a sexual relationship with someone even though they do not experience sexual attraction. They might be romantically attracted to that person and have formed a romantic bond and because of this, they could feel comfortable engaging in sexual activity with that person.

Aromantic Flag

Aromantic Flag
Aromantic Flag
Colors:

In order of appearance we have:

  • Green – representing opposite of romance
  • Lime green- representing the spectrum
  • White – representing aesthetic attraction and platonic attraction
  • Grey – representing demi- or greyromantic people
  • Black – representing the broader sexuality spectrum

Aromanticism is the romantic equivalent to asexuality. Aromantic people do not feel romantically attracted to anyone, but can still experience sexual attraction. And in the same vein, as we discussed with asexual people above, an aromantic person could still enter into a romantic relationship with another person although they do not feel romantically attracted to anyone.

More often than not, an aromantic person would rather engage in platonic relationships or even platonic partnerships though.

Demisexual Flag

Demisexual Flag
Demisexual Flag
Colors:

In order of appearance we have:

  • Black – representing asexuality
  • Grey – representing demisexuality
  • White – representing sexuality as a whole
  • Purple – representing community

Demisexuality refers to a concept that has a lot to do with primary and secondary attraction. It places a lot of emphasis on secondary attraction. Demisexual people only experience sexual attraction after they have formed a strong emotional bond with someone.

Demiromantic Flag
Colors:

In order of appearance we have:

  • Black – representing the broader sexual spectrum
  • Grey – representing aromantic people or demiromantic people
  • White – representing aesthetic and platonic relationships
  • Green – representing the aromantic spectrum

This is much the same as demisexuality but on the romantic side.

Grey Asexual Flag

Grey Asexual Flag
Grey Asexual Flag

Colors:
  • The cascade of colors from dark to white and then back indicates the various positions of the asexual spectrum.

This category along with its romantic counterpart has the greatest degree of variation. It basically refers to someone who finds themselves anywhere between asexual and sexual.

Greyromantic Flag

Greyromantic Flag
Colors:
  • The cascade of colors from dark to white and then back indicates the various positions of the aromantic spectrum.

Likewise, this category can refer to someone who finds themselves anywhere between romantic and aromantic.

Lithsexual/Akoisexual and Lithromantic/Akoiromantic

Lithromantic/Akoiromantic
Colors:

In order of appearance we have:

  • Red – represents community
  • Orange – represents akoi-ness
  • Yellow – represents varied relationships
  • White – represent sexuality and romanticism
  • Black – represents asexuality and aromanticism

This category has had to endure several name changes, so be prepared to see a number of variations on the naming convention for this category.

It refers to people who are initially attracted to someone, but once the attraction is reciprocated by the other person their attraction will fade.

Reciprosexual Flag

Asexual
Colors:
  • At this point, not much is known about the color representation on this flag.

Contrary to the above-mentioned category is reciprosexal, which means that sexual attraction is not felt until the attraction is reciprocated.

Recipromantic Flag

Recipromantic Flag
Recipromantic Flag

Colors:

At this point, not much is known about the color representation on this flag.

  • The romantic equivalent of reciprosexual.

Aceflux Flag

Aceflux Flag
Aceflux Flag
Colors:
  • The colors on this flag appear on a gradient which represents how individuals move between points on the spectrum.

Aroflux is the romantic equivalent of Aceflux.

At a Glance

Once we have looked through the flags and all their corresponding positions on the spectrum it becomes clear that there is a lot about sexual orientation that many of us do not know and do not yet understand. We often think of sexual orientation on its own and that it refers to sexual behaviors and sexual preferences insolation. Many of us do not consider romantic attraction.

It helps to understand the need for better awareness of the asexual spectrum and also the difference between sexual orientation and romantic attraction.

We need to encourage more exploration and better efforts at understanding asexuality and people who identify on the spectrum. We need to investigate more peer-reviewed studies on attraction and the impact that attraction has on sexual activity and sexual relationships.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Do asexual people still engage in sexual activity?

Some do, others do not. It depends on the individual. What it does mean is that they do not experience attraction in a sexual way.

Do asexual people experience arousal?

Some do, it depends on whether they have a libido, which is largely reliant on biology more than anything else.

What do asexual people do if they are aroused?

This depends on the individual. If they are in romantic relationships they can engage in sexual activity with their partner.

Even if they are not in romantic relationships, they might still masturbate. Some people who identify as asexual are only opposed to sexual activity with another person, but they do still have sexual desires and enjoy masturbation.

Do aromantic people ever enter into romantic relationships?

Some do, it depends on the individual. They still have feelings and can develop a strong emotional connection with people, so it follows that sometimes that can translate to romantic relationships.

Can a transgender person be asexual or aromantic?

Yes, asexual people and aromantic people can, and often do, including transgender people. Remember that aromanticism is a romantic orientation, where asexuality is a sexual attraction, not gender identity, so the two can coincide within the life of the same person.

Is an asexual person mentally ill?

No! Sexual or romantic attraction is not related to mental illness. Sexual or romantic attraction is really just about the type of people we are physically and emotionally attracted to.

Are Queer Platonic Partnerships the same as a romantic relationship?

No. Queer platonic partnerships are not the same as a romantic relationship. A QPP involves two people devoting their lives to each other and forming a strong emotional connection without engaging in sexual activity. They often have no sexual interest in one another and mostly do not even have a romantic desire for one another. They are just two people who made a serious commitment to live their lives together.

Many will get married and have children together without really forming part of a romantic or sexual relationship. This is common when there is no sexual attraction or when people do not share the same romantic orientation.

Is it possible to have a normal romantic relationship with someone if I am an asexual person?

It really depends on your definition of normal and how sex positive you are. There is no rule that says a romantic relationship must involve sexual attraction. Even so, asexual persons who is quite sex positive and not averted to the idea of sex with someone else can have a relatively normal sex life.

What is important to note here is that it might not be ideal to think of anything in terms of 'normal' or 'abnormal'. We live in an extremely diverse world and we cannot define sexual matters in such narrow terms.

There is an ideal match for any 'quirk' you have that you might think is abnormal. Whether you are an asexual person or not.

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