A few years ago, I wanted to write a manuscript where one of the most important characters was asexual.
At the time, I was curious. Drawn to the idea. So I entered the swirling vortex of internet rabbit holes and started reading about people’s experiences. Digging into micro-labels. Following ace folks on TikTok. And eventually realizing that the way asexuality had been presented in popular culture was significantly flattened from the real experience.
A real experience that I realized, with surprise and then a breathtaking relief, reflected my own.
You see, much like with OCD and other things I’ve come to understand in myself later in life, I was so drenched in common misconceptions about aceness that I’d never seen myself reflected in it. I thought it meant people didn’t have sex (it doesn’t always). I thought it meant being repulsed by sex (again: not necessarily). And the only time I’d seen ace representation in media or anywhere, really, was typically in awkward men who were the butt of the joke (see: Sheldon from Big Bang Theory).
So, while I had all these questions about how strangely everyone else seemed to behave around sex, I never realized I might be ace.
So, when I discovered that asexuality is about sexual attraction, not necessarily sex, that it’s being never or rarely sexually attracted to people, that discovery felt revolutionary to me.
Because within that spectrum, there is a lot of diversity. There are aces who don’t have sex and aces that do. Aces who are repulsed by sex and aces who read erotic fiction with fascination. There are gray aces who go through substantial periods without experiencing sexual attraction and then periods where they do experience it. And there are demisexuals (who are also under the ace umbrella) who only experience sexual attraction once they have an emotional connection to a person.
Now, before you look at that definition of demi and tell me that’s “just how women are” (believe me, I’ve heard that one often), please allow me to tell you: No. My whole life, I’ve been in women’s spaces. Surrounded myself with women. Had close female friendships where we shared intimate details of our lives. And it was from women that I learned to be baffled by sexuality.
Because women were the ones telling me that Cate Blanchett could step on them and they’d ask for more. They were the ones fanning themselves over Brad Pitt or Antonio Banderas. They were the ones telling me they found someone sexy across the room, that they’d love to see that stranger without a shirt on.
And I…didn’t really know what they meant.
Until I did.
Because hello, hi, nice to meet you, I am the “rarely” in rarely or never. I am the demi. I am the gray.
It wasn’t until college that I had my first (of only a few) experience of being sexually attracted to a celebrity—a person I did not know and had no emotional or intellectual connection to. My first experience of wanting someone who hadn’t put in any emotional work with me.
Sometimes people tell me demi is just how women are. Or they ask me how I know I’m ace. And when they do, that experience is the one that looms large in my mind. The one time I felt what so many of my peers must feel all the time. And I understood, for a fleeting moment, the frenzied behavior that had simply seemed mystifying. The way people got together with total asshats because they were “sexy.” The obsession with certain celebrities. The curiosity about other people’s bodies. The sexualized way people talked about strangers.
I’ve had people ask why we need a label. If you’re happy without one, I suppose, more power to you! But personally I love labels. Not because they define me and not because I’ve found myself fitting perfectly within their boundaries. But because they give me context to explore myself. To explore where I fit and where I bleed past their edges. To explore why I’ve had certain feelings or discomforts for years and how it might not be something weird about me but rather something fine and lovely and part of the vast spectrum of human experience. To find myself in a spectrum instead of feeling like I’m looking in on a binary from the outside.
In other words, I love the asexual label because it makes me feel seen. It makes me feel confident. It makes me feel like it’s ok to have boundaries that are very different from other people’s. To have an understanding of my sexuality that is deeply layered and explored. Not default. But something other. Something me.
I’ve been talking about asexuality for years now, but I’ve never written about it quite so frankly. So I suppose you could consider this a coming out moment for me.
It’s something I love about myself.
And if it is something you are curious about, I recommend:
:: Visibly Ace