I am an asexual who experiences attraction to men. It’s likely some combination of sensual and aesthetic attraction, but I possess no desire to have sex with men (or anyone for that matter). To keep it simple, and in order to avoid sifting through all of the intricate nuances of my identity (sorry, it’s complicated), I am a “gay asexual.” I am attracted to men, I’m somewhat male-identified, and I don’t want to have sex. I don’t want to have sex because I am also sex-repulsed, and really always have been.
Being sex-repulsed for most of my life has meant, simply, that I have always been turned off by sex. I have never been interested in sex, nor desired sex, and have never, and will probably never, engage in sex or sexual acts in the foreseeable future because of my repulsion. For me, I remain a sex-repulsed asexual in the personal sense, meaning that I have no desire to have sex at all in any situation. However, I am also sex-positive in the non-personal or general sense, meaning that I support anyone who desires to have safe consensual sex and enjoy themselves. That’s just not for me.
However, not all ace people are sex-repulsed. If someone is asexual that doesn’t necessarily mean they “don’t want to have sex” like myself. This is a common misconception that harms and erases ace people who are sex-positive, who have sexual desire, and who want to engage in sex, as well as ace people who experience minimal or selective sexual attraction. Ace people who desire sex have to navigate identities in conflict, because being sexual is still societally understood as the opposite of being asexual.
For society, if someone reveals they are asexual, then they must also be a “virgin,” have no interest in sex, and/or possess no desire to have sex. Asexual people are frequently perceived as “loners” who are not attracted to anyone and don’t want to be with anyone as a result. This is because, to be attracted to someone is predominately only understood of as a purely or, at least, partially, sexual behavior. In the general public mindset, attraction can only be sexual.
I run into these dilemmas frequently when trying to explain my own attraction to men as an asexual person, especially as someone who is also read as a man. When I say that I am attracted to men, this automatically means that I must want to have sex with men. The connection is instantaneous. Of course, as I stated earlier, this isn’t the case. However, untangling this relationship is difficult. When I try to explain how my attraction to men is not sexual, I’m perceived as a liar, “in the closet,” denying my gayness, or being a “respectable queer.”
This is why being an ace person who is also sex-positive and/or engages in sex and/or experiences minimal or selective levels of sexual attraction, is difficult to navigate. There is a strong sexual/asexual binary that dictates how asexual people have to navigate and manage their identity. Within this binary, you’re either asexual, meaning you don’t engage in sex and don’t experience attraction (generally) at all, or you’re sexual, meaning that you engage in sex, experience attraction, and are societally “normal.”
In reality, of course, asexuality is only the lack of sexual attraction. Ace people can still be sexual and possess sexual desire, while still experiencing limited, selective, or nonexistent levels of sexual attraction. Ace people can still be attracted to others, while also still experiencing limited, selective, or nonexistent levels of sexual attraction. Some ace people may find a pleasure in sex, others may be repulsed by sex, others may not care at all. The ace community is diverse and expansive. And being sexual is certainly not the antithesis of being asexual.
(Article cross-posted on Medium)
Michael Paramo is an asexual Latinx demiguy located in southern California. They are currently a graduate student who has been selected to present their research at national conferences, such as by the International Association for the Study of Popular Music's U.S. branch, the Popular Culture Association, as well as the National Women's Studies Association. They are the founder of The Asexual and the Editor-in-Chief of The Asexual journal. Twitter: @Michael_Paramo