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Old 02-19-2015, 06:41 PM   #1
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Default Asexual, Demisexual, other valid identities...

Young, Attractive, and Totally Not Into Having Sex

BY KAT MCGOWAN 02.18.15 | 8:00 PM |


It’s Friday afternoon during finals week, and two undergrads at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville are lounging together on a battered couch in the student center, watching cartoons. They’ve only met twice before, but they’re all over each other. Rae, a tiny pixie of a sophomore wearing a newsboy cap, nuzzles up against Sean, a handsome freshman. He’s got his arm draped across her. They giggle and tease each other, and she sprawls into his lap. Their friend Genevieve, perched on the arm of the couch, smiles and rolls her eyes.

It looks like a standard collegiate prelude to a one-night stand. But there will be no kissing, no fondling, and definitely no Saturday morning walk of shame. Sean and Rae do not have the hots for each other—or anyone else, for that matter. In fact, they’re here hanging out at the campus outreach center, a haven for all who question their sexuality and gender identity, because they’re exploring an unconventional idea: life without sex. Or mostly without sex. They’re pioneers of an emerging sexual identity, one with its own nomenclature and subcategories of romance and desire, all revolving around the novel concept that having little to no interest in sex is itself a valid sexual orientation. Rae tells me she’s an aromantic asexual, Sean identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual, and Genevieve sees herself as a panromantic gray-asexual.

Not sure what these terms mean? You’re not alone. The definitions are still in flux, but most people who describe themselves as demisexual say they only rarely feel desire, and only in the context of a close relationship. Gray-­asexuals (or gray-aces) roam the gray area between absolute asexuality and a more typical level of interest. Then there are the host of qualifiers that describe how much romantic attraction you might feel toward other people: Genevieve says she could theoretically develop a nonsexual crush on just about any type of person, so she is “panromantic”; Sean is drawn to women, so he calls himself “heteroromantic.”

“WHEN MY HEART DECIDED HE WAS MY SOUL MATE, MY BODY DECIDED SO TOO.”

So although labels are a big part of it, demisexuals and gray-aces don’t get too caught up in the lingo. They tend to be pretty comfortable with the idea they might change. A few months after that Friday at the outreach center, Genevieve realized she is more of an asexual than a gray-ace, and Sean now isn’t sure if he’s demi or ace. “Every single asexual I’ve met embraces fluidity—I might be gray or asexual or demisexual,” says Claudia, a 24-year-old student from Las Vegas. “Us aces are like: whatevs.”

Friends and family often find such identities flat-out strange and assume that it’s all some kind of postadolescent phase or that something is seriously wrong. They might wonder if it’s really just a stop on the way to homosexuality or maybe the result of trauma or a hormone imbalance. But to those who embrace this approach to sex, it’s just how they are. Sex is “fascinating from a clinical point of view, but personally? No,” Rae says. “I have better things to do with my time.”

The conventional wisdom today is that lust and gratification are natural and healthy, a nonnegotiable aspect of being human. We presume that freedom of sexuality is a fundamental human right. But the idea of freedom from sexuality is still radical. It is an all-new front of the sexual revolution.

Asexuality has slowly been coming out of the closet for more than a decade. In 2001, a Wesleyan University student named David Jay created a website called the Asexual Visi­bility and Education Network. It started as a repository of information about all things asexual. When forums were added a year later, members started trickling in. By 2004 there were a thousand. Today there are some 80,000 registered users.

But for some people, the idea of being completely and entirely asexual still didn’t quite fit. The word demisexual seems to have come into being on an AVEN forum on February 8, 2006. It was coined by somebody who was trying to explain what it was like to be mostly, but not entirely, asexual. The term caught on only in the last few years, and now most people who are demisexual say their desire arises rarely and only from a deep emotional connection. For a demisexual, there is no moment of glimpsing a stranger across the room and being hit with a wave of lust. “I’ve only ever been sexually attracted to three people in my whole life,” wrote one self-­described demisexual, Olivia, a few years ago. “My partner is sexually attracted to that many people during particularly sexy bus rides.”

Beyond that, there’s a lot of variability. Some demis and gray-aces have occasional flare-ups of desire, some say they’re indifferent to sex, and others find the thought of it repellent. Some masturbate. Others, like Claudia, even write erotica. “It has no relationship to your actual desire to have sex with someone in real life,” she says.

Some demisexuals say they have strong sexual urges that just don’t connect to anyone in particular. “I want to have lots of crazy, kinky sex, just not with anyone,” says Mike, a 27-year-old Canadian who works in a factory. “If someone tried to initiate something, I’d throw my hands in the air and run out of the room screaming.”

There is little research on asexuality or its variations, so there’s not much in the way of reliable data—on how many people consider themselves asexual or who they are. One 2004 survey in the UK estimated that 1 percent of the population fell somewhere under the asexual umbrella; other estimates range from 0.6 to 5.5 percent. But the few psychologists who have explored asexuality concur: People who don’t want to have sex aren’t necessarily suffering from a disorder. “It’s a concept that is so foreign to most people that they believe there must be some pathological explanation,” says Lori Brotto, a psychologist and associate professor of gynecology at the University of British Columbia. Although there’s no definitive proof that hormones have nothing to do with it, most asexuals go through puberty normally and don’t seem to have hormonal or physiological problems. In one of Brotto’s studies, asexual women’s physical arousal responses were no different from other women’s.

For people suffering from hypoactive sexual desire disorder—loss of libido—the condition is disturbing because they remember and keenly miss that feeling, says Brotto, who contributed to the criteria for female sexual arousal disorder. By contrast, most asexuals never felt strong sexual desire to begin with, so they’re fine with it.

Friends and family, not so much. Brotto’s study of 806 men and women, published in 2013 in the journal Psychology & Sexuality, found mental health issues were more common among asexuals—perhaps as a result of stigma and isolation. “Everyone is pressuring you: ‘Why aren’t you dating? You need to get laid. Why aren’t you paying attention to these women?’” Mike says. In general, asexuals aren’t persecuted so much as shunned and mocked. “We’re not demonized—we’re laughed at,” Genevieve says. In one recent small survey conducted by two psychologists at Canada’s Brock University, asexuals were rated negatively. Asexuals just seem less than human, people said.

Article continued on Wired:

http://www.wired.com/2015/02/demisexuality/
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Old 02-19-2015, 08:43 PM   #2
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The article's interesting, but the comments section is fucking sad. Seriously, is it just me or has the Internet been looking like some sick game show to find the next Elliot Rodgers for the past half a year or so now?
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Old 04-16-2018, 10:30 AM   #3
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I am most definitely NOT asexual, but my sex drive has changed dramatically since an year and a half ago. Changes in my physical health have affected my libido (sex drive), but it hasn't disappeared either.

Years ago, I happened to know a few people who identified as asexual (clients in my former career of hairdressing), who definitely had the sweetest disposition and personality. They just weren't interested in the sexual component of romantic relationship and would sometimes bring up the piece about how frustrating it was for them to date, when dating can mean an plethora of other things that they never found interesting.

So in some small way now, I now better understand their frustration as people who identify as asexual.

Although I'm not asexual by any means, I know that changes in my physical health has impacted my sex drive. Sex can be enjoyable, but it's not something that drives my universe anymore.
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Old 04-26-2018, 05:26 PM   #4
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I definitely would consider myself demi or grey ace, which makes dating a nightmare so I just... don’t. Eventually somebody will come along, but until then I’m pretty content alone. A good friend from grad school is ace and another friend is as well and I actually learned a lot about sexual fluidity and love from them.
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