Asexual (often shortened to ace) is a sexuality defined by a lack of sexual attraction. Sexual attraction is defined as the desire to have sex with/preform sexual acts with another person. While a heterosexual person is sexually attracted to people of another gender, but not to people of the same gender, and a bisexual person is sexually attracted to people of the same and other genders, an asexual person is sexually attracted to no genders. For non-asexual people (allosexuals) sexual attraction is involuntary and even occurs when someone doesn't know the other person.
Being asexual does not mean that one is unable to experience romantic attraction. Asexuals can have any romantic orientation. Asexuals often use the prefixes like hetero-, homo-, bi-, and pan- in front of the word romantic to describe who they experience romantic attraction to. For example, a person who is asexual heteroromantic is romantically attracted to people of another gender, but is not sexually attracted to them. Some asexuals are also aromantic, meaning they do not feel romantic attraction; they may identify as aroace.
It is important to note the difference between asexuality and celibacy/abstinence. Those who are abstinent or celibate are not necessarily sexual; they may still experience sexual attraction but they choose not to act on it for moral or religious reasons. Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction but they may or may not participate in sexual activities. Although some asexuals do not take part in sexual activities there are also many asexuals who do partake in sexual activities or are in sexual relationships. This could be for many reasons, such as, their own pleasure, the pleasure of a partner, or to have children. Some asexuals masturbate as well, as they still have a sex drive despite not feeling sexual attraction to anyone.
Asexual can also be used as an umbrella term to describe someone on the asexual spectrum.
One of the first (indirect) references to asexuality was in 1896 by physician, Magnus Hirschfeld, in his book "Sappho und Sokrates" where he says "...There are individuals who are without any sexual desire (“Anästhesia sexualis”)..."
In a study published in 1983 Paula Nurius examined the relationship between mental health and sexual orientation. The study focused on heterosexuality and homosexuality but had options for bisexual and asexual.
One of the first instances of an asexual community on the internet was the comment of a 1997 article by Zoe O'Reilly and published by StarNet Dispatches, entitled "My Life as a Human Amoeba". On October 12, 2000 the Yahoo e-mail group "Haven for the Human Amoeba (HHA)" was founded.
The founder of the group, David Jay, later made a page on his university webspace in March 2001. It was originally going to be called the Human Asexual Visibility and Education Network (HAVEN), but was shortened to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). However, at the time it's purpose was mostly to define asexuality and to collect the e-mail address of those who wished to join the e-mail group. As the membership of the Haven for the Human Amoeba increased there was an increased demand for a website on asexuality with a better structure. Several websites popped up, each with different views of asexuality. AVEN was restructured, hoping to be a more inclusive option for all asexuals. On May 29, 2002, the AVEN forum was started. One day later AVEN changed its domain name to asexuality.org. It soon became the most popular website for asexuals.
Asexuality in the DSM
The DSM-5 and ICD-10 currently define asexuality as a disorder. The diagnosis has gone under several name changes, the current names being
- DSM-5 — Female sexual interest/arousal disorder, Male hypoactive sexual desire disorder
- ICD-10 — Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)
In 2013, the DSM-5 was published. Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder and Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder remain listed as disorders, but their criteria exclude individuals who self-identify as asexual.
Flag and Symbols
In the summer of 2010 AVEN and several other asexual websites held a contest to design an asexual flag. The current asexual flag was designed by the AVEN user Standup and was uploaded on June 30th, 2010. Stripes represent the following: black for asexuals, grey for greyasexauls and demisexuals, white for allosexuals, and purple for community.
The asexual community has many other symbols that represent asexuality. Purple was associated with asexuality long before the flag, because that is the color of the AVEN website. Another common symbol is a spade, particularly the ace of spades, due to the fact that asexual is often shortened to ace, and because a spade is seen as the opposite of a heart in a deck of cards. Another symbol is a black ring worn on the middle finger of the right hand, used to subtly identify oneself as asexual is public. Cake is an informal symbol of asexuality, originating from a joke that asexuals would rather eat cake than have sex. An older asexual symbol is the AVEN triangle which was most commonly used before the asexual flag was made.
The term asexual uses the Latin prefix a- which means 'a lack of'. Sexual refers to sexual attraction.
Asexual is also a biology term, used to describe plants and some animals that can reproduce without a partner, by creating a genetic copy of themselves.
- Kinsey, Alfred C. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W.B. Saunders. ISBN 0-253-33412-8
- Kinsey, Alfred C. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. W. B. Saunders ISBN 025333411X
- Nurius, Paula. (1983). "Mental Health Implications of Sexual Orientation" The Journal of Sex Research 19 (2) pp.119-136.