When Christine Preimesberger was asked to take photos of people she found attractive and then rate them, she realized she couldn’t.
“I was like, I don’t know how to do this. I don’t see anything at all. I just put them in some arbitrary order,” she said. “So that’s when I realized fully that how I think was different from everyone else.”
Exactly how different?Preimesberger identifies as asexual, meaning she doesn’t feel sexually attracted to people.
It was during that class assignment that Preimesberger, 19, realized how different she was from the other students.
Preimesberger struggles daily because her sexuality is so largely unheard of and under-represented in the LGBT community.
Did you know that though all asexuals are uninterested in having sex, most are capable of feeling romantically attracted to others? People who identify as asexual can be romantically attracted to a spectrum of people, just like sexual people.
They can be panromantic (attracted to all people), heteromantic (attracted to genders not their own), homoromantic (attracted to their same gender) and biromantic (attracted to their gender and other genders).
Morgann Ramirez, a 22-year-old University of Southern California student, realized her romantic attraction after she began identifying as asexual.
“I found out that I didn’t want to sleep with women, and I didn’t have to sleep with men, so I’m romantically attracted to all genders, and I only realized this after I realized what asexuality was,” Ramirez said.
And then there are demisexual people — meaning that sexual attraction only comes after they form a strong emotional connection with a person.
“I’d say most of my attraction is aesthetic,” said demisexual 21-year-old Brent Stanfield. “It’s a lot of appreciating how a person looks the same way you might think a piece of art looks. There’s also romantic attractions, looking at someone and being like I’d like to take them on a date and really like to get to know them better, but nothing sexual or physical.”
Asexual and demisexual people constantly face problems in a society that places so much emphasis on sexuality and sexual attraction. They combat stereotypes, assumptions and criticism.
“As a Latina, there’s a racial stereotype of being very sexual,” Ramirez said. “Because I’m not, I’ve gotten odd jokes and looks. Stereotypes don’t define people. I definitely identify as asexual, and I’m totally Latina.”
Preimesberger, who identifies as aromantic (meaning she does not feel romantically or sexually attracted to others), also has to deal with the preconceived cultural attitudes towards relationships.
“In pop culture, romantic relationships are the most important thing, or you should be in a relationship,” Preimesberger said. “It’s so prevalent, and it gets really annoying. I make friends pretty easily, and I’m very close with my friends and family. I get my attachments from that and feel like I don’t need any romantic relationships”
Romantic asexuals and demisexuals also face judgment because of the unconventional way they express themselves within relationships.
“I am open to open relationships because I know if I’m with a sexual person they might not be getting something from me that they need,” Ramirez said. “A polyamorous one for me would be nice. I would have two people to be comforted and loved from and they would be able to be sexual and happy by themselves.”
The most important problem demisexual and asexual people face, though, is that of others not believing them about their sexuality.
Preimesberger recalls a time when she came out to a friend about her asexuality, and he outright dismissed her.
“He said that wasn’t a thing,” Preimesberger said. “I was also kind of scared when I thought my mom didn’t believe me when I told her.”
Stanfield, as a demisexual, said others often dismiss their sexuality as well.
“It’s not really an identity that a lot of people think makes sense as its own identity,” Stanfield said. “A lot of people I know will say that’s just being regularly sexual. They don’t think it makes sense as an identity or sexual category, especially in religious communities. For me, it’s been very important because the narrative for demisexuality is very different from what society has told me that sexuality has to be like.”
Asexuality and demisexuality do exist though and deserve to be recognized.
“It’s important to realize it’s all on a spectrum,” Ramirez said. “A sexual person can be aromantic; an asexual person can be romantic. It’s a lot of gradients that people can choose from.”
But should the LGBT community include asexuals and demisexuals?
“I think I would really like to see more inclusion particularly because I think asexuality does have a very helpful framework and very helpful concepts around sexuality and attraction that would really help discussion within the LGBT community,” Stanfield said.
Asexuals and demisexuals also hope to be more recognized within society in general.
“I don’t want to have to worry about people telling me that’s not a thing,” Preimesberger said. “You can have comfortable relationships with people of different varieties.”
Glossary of Asexual Terms
Terms from Anagnori, at anagnori.tumblr.com
List compiled by Nicole Wiesenthal
- Ace- short for asexual
- Ace of Hearts- a symbol or nickname for asexuals who experience romantic attraction
- Ace of Spades- a symbol or nickname for asexuals who are aromantic
- Acephobia- prejudice or discrimination against asexual-spectrum people
- Allosexual- a person who experiences sexual attraction to other people; a non-asexual person
- Amatonormativity- the social force that treats romantic relationships as intrinsically superior, more valuable, or more necessary than friendships and non=romantic relationships. A problem for everyone, but especially aromantic people.
- Anthony Bogaert- Currently the most prominent researcher of asexuality. Author of Understanding Asexuality.
- Antisexual- ideologically opposed to sex, or having negative views of other people’s sexual lifestyles.
- Aromantic- a person who does not experience romantic attraction
- Asexual Flag- a flag of four horizontal stripes: black, gray, white and purple
- Asexual Triangle- a downward-pointing triangle that is mostly white, but shades into gray and then black at the bottom tip. Represents the asexual spectrum. Originated as an expansion of the Kinsey Scale.
- AVEN- Asexual Visibility and Education Network, asexuality.org. The most prominent website and forum dedicated to asexuality.
- Biromantic- Potential to feel romantic attraction to two or more genders.
- Compulsory Sexuality- The cultural force that expects all people to be either sexually available or in a sexual relationship, and which expects sex to be an important value or goal for people. Heterosexuality is especially valued. A major problem for asexual people.
- Demiromantic- a person who can only feel romantic attraction to someone they have established a close emotional connection with.
- Demisexual- a person who can only feel sexual attraction to someone they have established a close emotional connection with
- Gray-asexual- a person who is somewhere between 100% asexual and allosexual; they might only experience sexual attraction on very rare occasions, or feel sexual attraction but not desire sexual relationships, or experience a feeling somewhere in between platonic and sexual. Gray romantic is the same, but with regards to romantic attraction.
- Heteroromantic- romantically attracted to people of a different gender than one’s own
- Heteronormativity- the cultural force that expects all people to be cisgender, heteroromantic and heterosexual. Major problem that affects all queer identities, including asexuals. Closely linked to homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and acephobia.
- Homoromantic- romantically attracted to people of the same gender as oneself
- Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD)- controversial medical disorder; used as evidence that asexuality is pathologized by the medical community
- Kinsey Scale- a model that categorized human sexuality as a spectrum between heterosexual and homosexual, with bisexuals in the middle. Asexual people were classified as “Group X” and not included on the scale.
- Libido- sex drive, which may or may not be targeted at a person. Asexual people may have libidos despite not feeling sexual attraction.
- Lithromantic- a person who feels romantic attraction but does not need their feelings to be reciprocated, or who does not like receiving romantic gestures.
- Lithsexual- a person who feels sexual attraction but does not need their feelings to be reciprocated, or who does not like receiving sexual intimacy.
- Nonamory- a lifestyle choice or relationship style that does not include intimate, long-term partnerships, whether romantic or platonic
- Nonlibidoist- an asexual person who does not feel any desire to masturbate, or who has no sex drive
- Panromantic- the potential to experience romantic attraction to someone of any gender
- Pansexual- the potential to experience sexual attraction to someone of any gender. Opposite of asexuality, but some asexual people go through a period of wondering if they are pansexual.
- Polyamory- intimate relationships that are not exclusive. Non-exclusivity may be romantic, sexual, neither, or both. May be a lifestyle choice or an intrinsic part of someone’s sexuality, depending on the person.
- Pomosexual- 1) a person decision not to identify with conventional orientation labels, or the belief that such labels do not apply; and 2) the belief or philosophy that conventional orientation labels are not useful for people in general, and can, or should be, disregarded
- Romantic Orientation- the group of people or genders to which a person can become romantically attracted, if at all. This concept does not work for all asexual people
- Sensual Attraction- attraction that involves a desire to touch or be physically close to someone, but not necessarily in a sexual way
- Sexual Attraction- a feeling of attraction to someone’s physical appearance with a sexual component, or desire to touch someone sexually. Difficult for some asexual people to define and recognize.