Mapping out the sexual spectrum

Asexuality is a spectrum. From people who have never felt sexual attraction to those who just aren’t sure how they feel, the asexual spectrum encompasses a wide range of experiences.

An asexual person is someone who lacks sexual attraction.

Asexuality is a spectrum.

People with ‘normal’ sex drives (often referred to in the asexual community as allosexual) can have widely varying sex drives. Some people feel that they have an ‘average’ or ‘low’ sex drive, while others claim to have a ‘high’ sex drive. Some people with exceptionally high sex drives may identify as (or be called) hypersexual.

Thanks to the natural range in human sex drives, no one seems to be able to agree exactly on what a ‘normal’ sex drive is. Despite this, people who never experience sexual attraction, or those who only feel it only very rarely are often left feeling ‘different’ or ‘unusual’ at best, and that there is something wrong with them at worst. These people may choose to identify as asexual. The word asexual is also often used as an general term for all those who fall under the ‘asexual umbrella’.

Do your feelings about your sex drive cause you distress? Have you experienced anxiety or just felt less than 100% happy about how you feel others would react to your feelings about sex? Click here for a list of organisations who might be able to help.

Some people only experience sexual attraction very rarely and these people can identify as gray asexuals (gray ace or grace for short). There is nothing black and white about human sexuality! For example, some grey asexuals only feel sexual attraction a few times a year, while others only feel sexual attraction once every few years. Other people have felt sexual attraction for only a short period once or a few times in their lives. What unites people who choose to use this term is a feeling that their sex drive falls out of the so called “normal” range of human sexuality. As a result, these individuals have many experiences in common with asexual people.

Some people are not sure if they experience sexual attraction or not, and may also identity as a gray asexual. Trying to understand what sexual attraction is can be difficult for asexual people. How do you know what something is if you have never experienced it? Trying to identify the absence of something can be tricky, and some people just aren’t sure if what they feel is sexual attraction, or something else. Other people aren’t too bothered about selecting a more specific label, and would rather just identify as being somewhere in the ‘grey area’.

Some people only experience sexual attraction after a strong emotional bond has been formed with someone over a period of time. This is called demisexuality (and falls under the gray asexual or asexual umbrella). This is not the same thing as having to ‘like’ someone before wanting to sleep with them, nor is it ‘waiting’ due to fear or a sense of moral obligation. Demisexual people simply don’t feel sexual attraction to people until they have a strong emotional bond with them. The lack of sexual attraction that these people feel outside the context of strong emotional bonds has a lot in common with asexuality.

Keen to learn more about asexuality? Read on to learn about sexual attraction and sexual arousal.

Read more about the sexual spectrum elsewhere.

  • The Asexual Visibility & Education Network is the world’s oldest and most visible asexuality education website. Its overview page contains a useful overview of asexuality, with a particular focus on the experiences and identities of individuals on the asexual spectrum .
  • Wikipedia’s entry on asexuality combines a brief description of asexuality and behaviour and experiences associated with asexuality (exploring many of the same concepts discussed above) with summaries of research about the prevalence and causes of asexuality. 

The Asexuality New Zealand Trust has no control over, accepts no responsibility for, and does not necessarily endorse the content of external websites.

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