By Dr. Laura McGuire
Hey southern queers! I hope you’re all holding out after the recent storms. As long as you are safe and secure, storms can be a wonderful time to reconnect sexually with someone special or yourself. Few things make people get their groove on the way a power outage and candlelight can! There’s no shame—a hurricane sexcation can be fun, and it’s also one of the reasons that there are so many births nine months after a storm.
We love to talk about sex and sexuality as something everyone enjoys, but this isn’t completely true or inclusive. Many folks fall along the asexual spectrum, and for them, sex isn’t the main course in their life, but an occasional snack or, in some cases, is completely off the menu. An asexual person is generally defined as “someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” However, asexuality—just like any sexuality or gender identity—is a spectrum. Some asexual people masturbate but don’t have partnered sex. Others never masturbate nor have the desire for partnered sex, but may occasionally engage in sex to meet certain relationship roles or expectations. I recently received a question on this exact topic:
Recently I have been curious about the spectrum of asexuality. I am a female in my mid-20s and enjoy sex (and masturbation), but usually don’t experience the desire to have sex with a partner until after I have experienced an emotional connection with that person—physical attractiveness just doesn’t cut it. Between romantic partners, I can go long periods of time without sex with little to no issue/frustration. Does this imply I am—in some sense—asexual?
To understand if a person falls on the asexual spectrum, you first have to understand a few common misconceptions and identities that are similar, but different from asexuality. First, asexuality is not the same thing as being aromantic—someone who has no romantic desires. While some asexual people have no interest in sex or romance, many do desire a romantic connection and love, just without the physical aspects of sex. Asexuality is also not the same as celibacy, where a person experiences sexual desire but chooses—for a million different reasons—to refrain from sexual activity. Asexuality is also not a reaction to abuse. People who are survivors of different kinds of trauma may not want to—or choose not to—have sexual relationships because it brings up negative memories or feelings. Asexual people can, of course, be survivors as well, but their lack of interest in sexual relationships does not stem from these negative experiences.
The above question brings up a different facet of the sexual desire spectrum. The inquirer says that, while she does enjoy sex, she needs an emotional connection before getting her groove thing on with a partner. Based on research and my personal experience as a sexuality consultant, I would say that this is the most common of all sexual desire preferences. The vast majority of people—of all genders and orientations—need to care for and be loved by the someone they are getting naked with. This isn’t unusual—and neither is having a purely physical sexual desire preference.
The spectrum of sexual desire goes from asexual to hypersexual. Again, each person describes this spectrum differently, but the general idea is that asexuality implies the lack of all sexual desire, while hypersexuality suggests that sex is the main source of a person’s personal bliss and is a constant want/need. In the middle of those two extremes is demisexuality. Someone who identifies as demisexual can only entertain the thought of sex when they are already in love with a person. From asexual to demisexual to hypersexual, all of these expressions of sexuality are normal, healthy, and natural. How much we are motivated to partner up is also vast and varied. Not needing a relationship or consistent sexual contact doesn’t necessarily make you asexual—it simply means those things aren’t your top priorities, now or ever.
Identities are beautiful tools to help us explain (to both ourselves and the world around us) how we navigate this human experience. However, when we believe that everything we desire or like has to be labeled, it can cause more confusion and frustration. At the end of the day, we like what we like—how we like it and when we like it. Don’t ever feel like you have to put an exact name to that desire unless it helps you. Asexual, hypersexual, or anything in between—they’re all just parts of the rainbow of human sexual expression. Enjoy and embrace your unique colors.