A year ago, I came out as asexual to a loved one privately and then publicly nine months later in an article I wrote for The Tempest. Like most ace people at first, I frequently felt a disconnection from the truth of my sexuality—partly because of the immediate gaslighting asexual people often experience after coming out. My story is no exception.
When I initially came out to my family, I was chastised, patronized, and made to feel embarrassed for thinking I could be asexual. Afterward, I was promptly told I didn’t know what I wanted sexually or romantically, as I’d never been in a proper relationship. The accusation that I wasn’t mature enough, at 22 years old, to be fully aware of my sexual orientation stung.
I believed for a while that maybe I was hiding behind a veil of asexuality; maybe I just wasn’t brave enough to be sexually vulnerable with others. After all, women are expected to be shy when we engage in sex. This all complicated my understanding of asexuality and sex positivity.
So I continued to question my asexuality, as being sex-positive seemed to contradict being asexual. I thought asexual people had an aversion to anything related to sex, and I thought sex-positive people were all hypersexual. But as I’d soon find out, being asexual and sex positive can coexist; they aren’t mutually exclusive.
I’ve gotten to learn more about what the spectrum of asexuality looks like through writing about my community, reading articles written by other ace people, and talking through any confusion I felt with people I could trust. I was eventually able to understand my sexuality and explore sex positivity. It meant letting go of the many preconceived ideas I had about being ace and sex positive and the way the two can coexist.
Accordingly, I now consider myself sex positive with a desire to learn even more. Luckily, Dr. Nazanin Moali, a California-based sex therapist and the creator of the Sexology podcast, helped further educate me on the sex positivity movement. She explained that the sex positivity movement “advocates for normalizing sex as part of the human experience. It’s about cultivating a positive lens toward any given individual’s relationship with their own sexuality. This approach encourages people to acknowledge and celebrate [the] diversity of sexual expressions with consideration for [an] individual’s sexual identity, orientation, and behavior.”
Unfortunately, though, the collective view of sex positivity and sexual liberation is limited. Common misconceptions surrounding asexuality are that ace people are repressed, inexperienced, or ignorant to the inherently empowering nature of having sex.
Because of this, many asexuals can feel sexually broken. On the other hand, there’s the risk of “people [assuming] that asexual individuals have problems experiencing sexual desires and that this problem needs to be fixed,” Dr. Moali says. It can all cause harm to ace individuals, especially before they understand their identity is valid and comes in an infinite spectrum of possibilities.
Because ace individuals hardly see ourselves accurately represented in the media, pro-sex movements, or the queer community, we often internalize the manipulation we endure from others and believe we’re either nonexistent or a homogenous group that can’t be sex-positive.
But the idea that asexual people have zero interest in sex or sex-related activities such as watching porn, masturbating, or enjoying the feeling of being sexy is a myth. We just aren’t a monolithic group. Even being sex-positive and asexual looks different for every ace person who seeks to identify as both.
For me, being sex-positive and ace means recognizing the importance of sex for others even if I lack a desire to have it with other people myself. Still, I am interested in exploring what my sexual desires are, who I’m sexually attracted to, and self-pleasure. A lack of sexual activity is in itself sex-positive if and when it’s by one’s own choosing.
Overall, proper representation is needed when fighting for justice, visibility, and space for underrepresented communities like mine. Movements as impactful as sex positivity shouldn’t neglect asexual people who are looking to explore what it can mean for them. Really, the exclusion of ace people contradicts a movement that seeks to validate the entire range of human sexuality, desire, and experience.
Fortunately, I found a space amongst people who may not understand all of the ins and outs of asexuality, but support my journey nonetheless. It’s helped me discover facets of myself I didn’t understand and piece together a whole that finally makes sense.
I’m hopeful that going forward, asexual people can feel comfortable exploring the many parts of their identity without harmful judgment or exclusionary misconceptions from others. It’ll help us feel confident, advocating for progress alongside others who need the support too.