Everyone has different experiences of asexuality. No two people discover they’re asexual in exactly the same way. However, many asexual people have had some of these experiences.
You may be asexual if…
You don’t experience sexual attraction to other people.
This one can be tricky for some asexual people to figure out, especially because many asexual people have never experienced sexual attraction. It can be difficult to decide what something is if you have never felt it. Some romantic asexual people may confuse romantic and sexual attraction for a while. The fact that the concept confuses some people may be a good indication that they are on the asexual spectrum. Most people who do feel sexual attraction ‘just know’ that they feel it, and usually don’t spend much time wondering about it.
You don’t understand why sex is such a big deal.
This is particularly common for asexual people. Many asexual people are curious about sex at some point in their lives, and may find it interesting to hear other peoples’ stories about it. However, most asexual people struggle to understand why sex is such a big deal to many people, and may initially believe that sex is something that other people over-dramatise on purpose to appear ‘normal’ or to gain attention.
You have trouble understanding why sex is so important to other people and to our culture.
This falls in with the previous point. Our culture often seems ‘sex obsessed’ to many asexual people (and to many non-asexual people). There are many advertisements which feature scantily clad women advertising something that has nothing to do with sex. The casual hook-up and Tinder culture in many western societies also seems to occupy an awful lot of many peoples’ time and energy. Celebrities’ and politicians’ sexual scandals feature as major sources of news and are played up on just about every media outlet. This can all be a bit alienating to those who are asexual, as many asexual people just don’t get why their culture (or western culture) seems to care so much.
You find labels like “hot” and “sexy” confusing.
Given that these labels are often used to express one’s feelings of sexual attraction to someone, some asexual people struggle to know what to do with these terms. Some asexual people use terms such as attractive or beautiful to describe other people, but don’t really understand or use terms like ‘sexy’. Other asexual people may use these terms to fit in and seem normal, but feel confused about what they actually mean.
You feel like your sexuality is “different” but don’t understand why.
While this is a common experience for people whose sexuality (and sometimes gender identity) falls anywhere outside the heteronormative ideal, it is an experience most asexual people have while trying to understand their sexuality. Before the term ‘asexuality’ was popularised by David Jay in the 2000’s, many people went a long time without realising that other people like them existed. Some older asexual people report that they spent most of their lives feeling that their sexuality was ‘different’ or ‘unusual’ but did not discover why, or have a term for it, until recently. Many people also worry that they are ‘broken’ or that there is something wrong with them when they discover that their sexuality doesn’t seem to match anyone else’s.
You can still be asexual if…
You desire to have relationships.
Many asexual people experience romantic attraction and have a desire to be in relationships. These relationships may or may not involve sex depending on many factors, such as whether the other person is asexual, whether the asexual person in the relationship is sex repulsed etc. Romantic relationships with no sexual component are a valid type of relationship, and many asexual couples are very happy with their sexless relationships.
You identify as “straight”, “gay” or anything else.
Many asexual people have a romantic orientation, and there are many other spectrums people can fall on which do not exclude asexuality (i.e. gender identity, the aromantic spectrum etc.). A person who identifies as homoromantic may also identify as gay, while a person who is biromantic may also call themselves bisexual.
You have had sex.
Asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual attraction, not a lack of sexual behaviour. Just as a gay person is probably physically capable of having sex with someone of the opposite gender (and may have done, before realising that they were gay), many asexual people have had sexual experiences before realising that they were asexual. Some asexual people also have sex after realising that they are asexual. For example, some try sex out of curiosity, or to make a romantic partner happy, or to conceive a child etc. There are lots of reasons why someone might behave the way they do. Asexuality is about how a person feels and whether they lack sexual attraction, not how they behave.
Asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual attraction, not a lack of a sex drive/libido. Some asexual people do masturbate, but have no desire for partnered sex. See our page on sexual attraction vs sexual arousal.
You do experience sexual attraction, but only rarely or in very particular conditions.
You may fall on the grey asexual or demisexual part of the spectrum. People who very rarely feel sexual attraction have many of the same experiences as people who never feel sexual attraction, and thus are included under the asexual umbrella.
See our page on mapping out the asexual spectrum to learn more.
Now you’ve seen some things that asexuality can be, learn about some things asexuality is not.
Read more about asexuals’ experiences 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 identity 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.