This is possibly a bit of a contentious question, but I have been wondering for a long time whether describing asexuality as ‘a lack of sexual attraction’ is the most effective way of communicating what it’s all about – especially to the broader, non-asexual population.
I’m just testing the waters a bit here – I have been meaning to write a longer series on how we talk about sexual attraction in the ace community for a while now, but haven’t quite gotten to where I want to be with it yet. So these are just some thoughts that come to mind, rather than a definitive argument or anything like that. I’d be interested in hearing other people’s comments and thoughts in response.
The thing about ‘sexual attraction’ is that it’s a nebulous thing, that defies definition even for a lot of allosexual people (who you think would be experts on it, but who most of the time have just as little idea of what it actually entails as we do). I’ve often found that when I’m talking to a non-ace about asexuality, they will turn around and ask me what exactly I mean by ‘sexual attraction’ – and I don’t always have a good answer. For something that we talk about on a pretty constant basis, and sometimes define ourselves against, we don’t have a very good understanding of what attraction looks and feels like, or what separates it from other words and concepts about how we engage with other people – interest, connection, desire. Sometimes we fall back on (tired and as far as I can tell inaccurate) tropes of seeing a stranger on the street and feeling a desire to jump them then and there. The best explanation I’ve come across, and the one I usually use, is that it involves wanting to make sexuality part of the way you connect with someone – a desire to connect sexually to another person. But even that isn’t particularly easy to understand.
Attraction is difficult to understand as a concept – for aces and allosexual people alike. So it strikes me sometimes that the strict definition of asexuality as ‘not experiencing sexual attraction’ might not the best way of communicating what asexuality is to people who haven’t heard of it before. I’m not necessarily saying that we should change the definition of asexuality – but maybe we should think a bit more about different ways of actually explaining what asexuality is about to others.
The alternative I’ve been thinking about is sexual desire. I know that there have been conversations in the past about how desire does not equal attraction, and there may be people out there who do feel that sexual attraction and sexual desire are entirely separate concepts. (I’d like to hear your thoughts, if you do.) I know that from my own perspective, sexual desire and sexual attraction don’t feel very different at all – I tend to think of them as part of the same experience or conceptual entity that I don’t have or feel.
I think there are some real advantages in using ‘lack of sexual desire’ rather than ‘lack of sexual attraction’ to describe (but not necessarily define) asexuality to non-aces. The first is that I think allosexual people can relate to the idea of sexual desire – as a feeling and experience – much more than sexual attraction. Sexual attraction is hard – it’s not something a lot of people even consciously think about. But I feel like sexual desire is something people can identify, poinpoint more easily. It’s a more real feeling, where attraction can be more of a tendency or preference. It’s more physical than desire, but it also can’t just be boiled down to arousal, because (for me, at least), it really implies a target, a person that that desire is directed at. I think it also has stronger emotional and mental aspects, as well.
Another benefit is that sexual desire can be understood as contextual much more readily than attraction. Attraction sometimes feels very external, very instantaneous, spontaneous, something you either definitely feel or don’t feel after a short period of time with someone, or even no time at all. It has very strong connotations with finding someone hot or sexy or wanting to tear their clothes off on the spot – and I think that’s why a lot of the allosexual people I’ve talked to about sexual attraction have said ‘I don’t do that, but that doesn’t make me asexual.’ Desire, on the other hand, can be more contextual, responsive, targeted, but also internal – it seems to be more commonly understood as something that can develop slowly in a given situation as much as being there from the start. Emily Nagoski talks a lot about different ways of experiencing desire in her book Come As You Are, which I’ll get to talking about in more detail one day. But overall, it feels like sexual desire is more versatile, and can encompass more depth and breadth or feelings and experiences than attraction can.
I wonder what it would look like if we started talking about asexuality more as lack of sexual desire than lack of sexual attraction – just as a way of communicating what exactly it is that we mean by ‘asexual.’ I’ve talked to a lot of non-ace people who don’t really know what to do with ‘sexual attraction’ as a concept, but who have very real associations with ‘sexual desire.’ Perhaps shifting the focus a little might make our ‘message’ clearer, easier for other people to connect to and understand. At the same time, I’m not sure if there are aces who would feel alienated by such a shift. I’m not advocating for one over the other at the moment – but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts, so please do have a think and weigh in.
40 thoughts on “Is ‘lack of sexual attraction’ the best way of describing asexuality?”
I think there is definitely something important to be said about making more room in the definition for asexual people whose identity is based on a lack of desire, regardless of attraction (whatever that is and whatever it might mean in a desire – free context), but I also think that for other asexual people, their identity does hinge primarily on the attraction factor, so it is tough.
You’re definitely right, though, that it is way easier to get someone to understand a definition based on desire than attraction.
My main feeling at the moment is that the desire/attraction difference is really hard to actually articulate – especially when you look at desire as desire towards people. Or maybe that’s literally what attraction is. Maybe it’s because I’ve never actually *felt* it, but attraction has always seemed more preference/predeliction to me?
For me, the big glaring problem with “lack of sexual desire” is that I think a lot of aces do feel sexual desire – just maybe not towards specific people (esp. the significant portion of the ace communities that has a sex drive/likes orgasms/likes masturbation/etc.). While “sexual attractions” is almost exclusively a term I used heard to refer to interest in specific *people*, “sexual desires” is often one I hear used to describe interest in specific acts or sensations, often including unpartnered ones like masturbation.
Like, in my experience as an ace person, I definitely lack sexual attraction, but I wouldn’t say I lack sexual desire – my sexual desires just don’t include other people.
Hmm, yes, and that is the thing I’ve been thinking about reading these comments – the non-directed desire aspect. I’ve been thinking about sexual desire more specifically as towards people, directed externally, etc, rather than personal, unpartnered desires. I think my experience is basically the same as yours, but I guess I think less about masturbation etc as driven by sexual desire (or any real desire). So maybe it’s just about the way sexual desire is framed as well, and whether you group it more with attraction, or more with arousal/sex drive/libido. (Or maybe those groupings are just as artificial as anything else.)
I actually think it’s more of a third separate thing? Like there’s sexual attraction (which would be sexual interest in a certain person), arousal (which may also be separate because it’s the physical effects) /sex drive/libido (the level of interest in sex), and sexual desire (the actual interest in sex, where “sex” depends on a personal definition of what constitutes sex). So these can all happen separately or they can happen together sometimes or or some happen together and some don’t or they all happen together all the time for different people so it’s difficult to really break things apart. For me, it can all happen independently, I’m never sexually attracted to anyone, but sometimes I desire sexual activity, which is sometimes due to my high sex drive but is also sometimes due to me being bored or wanting affection and sex is a way to get that, and sometimes I’m aroused for no reason and sometimes I have to work for it… on the other hand I’ve met people where it’s all completely tied together and who never get aroused and can not go through with having sex/have no interest in having sex unless it’s the right time with the right person that they have feelings for, nothing works independently there.
And since people don’t really think about this stuff (esp if they’re not really missing any part or if it all works together) then it all might be grouped under “sexual attraction” or “sexual desire” or even just “orientation”. The trouble I run into the most is with people who experience multiple things together, they’re the ones that question definitions and cant understand what I mean when I say that it’s possible to have sex without sexual attraction, because they absolutely can not do that. Whereas people who experience at least a few things separately are a lot more lenient.
I feel like I’ve seen a fair number of people talking about identifying as asexual because of a lack of sexual desire (cf. http://queenieofaces.tumblr.com/post/93515690848/i-was-just-wondering-what-the-actual-definition-of). I think I’m more in favor of having multiple possible definitions/accepting that people come to asexual identity in different ways rather than attempting to switch from one definition to another.
Also, I think some of the negative response with regards to using sexual desire is because A. it might be easier to confuse with libido than sexual attraction and B. what about aces who masturbate and/or aces who have sex? Also, in terms of parallel construction with other sexual orientation definitions (which are…a lot less standardized than people in ace communities tend to think they are), sexual attraction probably makes a better parallel.
Linguistically, I think that the way “lack of attraction” parallels and evokes other LGBT identity definitions is actually one of it’s big advantages; for me, “lack of sexual desire” evokes the phrasing of things like sexual desire disorders and HSDD and other things that have less positive connotations.
I’m thinking of Siggy’s post on this topic, though, where he points out that “gay” is actually not necessarily as clearly defined as aces think it is: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/ambiguity-is-ordinary/
What would you think about either “doesn’t experience sexual desire [at all] OR doesn’t experience sexual desire in a very typical manner” as an inclusive type of definition for asexuality that defines it in terms of desire instead of attraction? An ace who experiences attraction very differently (for instance – they’re demisexual) or doesn’t experience sexual attraction at all but still desires sex can count under it, and also aces like me and Jo who just basically have no desire and that makes it the simplest reason we identify strongly with asexuality? I don’t know, just a thought.
I definitely think the lack of sexual attraction definition isn’t actually as useful as the ace community often makes it out to be. It’s confusing for everyone, non-asexual spectrum people and aces alike. What sexual attraction is remains unclear.
Separating out sex drive/libido/wanting orgasm & release & experiencing arousal from sexual “Desire” makes sense in my head anyway, but… I certainly have a limited perspective: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/non-libidoism-asexuality-aka-i-have-never-had-a-sex-drive-so-does-that-explain-why-im-asexual-2/
Yeah, you’re right in that attraction probably makes a better parallel for other orientations, and at the same time avoiding the whole parallel with HSDD/pathology/etc. I’m in favour of having broader definitions as well, I’m not really trying to advocate for a switch in definitions as such. (More a broadening of the options we have at our disposal for communicating, really, rather than strict defining.)
The best discussion of this I’ve seen is The Ace Theist’s Differentiating Sexual Attraction and Sexual Desire. Sexual desire is probably a harder thing to define than sexual attraction. For your average monosexual, the latter may be explained through an argument like: “Who do you find more attractive – men or women? Why?” Desire is tricky because it can have so many sources, but to differentiate it from attraction you could say, for example, “I really want sex… but I’ve never met anyone I’ve particularly wanted to have it with.”
I need to go back and read that post, actually. The thing that’s really struck me is that when I’ve asked non-aces why they are attracted to people or a gender they don’t usually know what to say in response. I’ve had more luck explaining in terms of ‘wanting to make sexual activity part of how you connect with someone,’ but whether that then boils down to desire or attraction… no idea.
It’s funny – I see bisexuals complain about monosexuals as if they are choosing to be attracted only to specific combinations of body parts. There is no choice, and there is no way to answer ‘why’. If there were, it would be a choice…
To elaborate – in my experience, “sexual desire” as a term seems to be used to describe some kind of vague mish-mash of what I might refer to as sexual attraction (who you want want), sex drive (how much you want), and other sexual preferences/kinks (what you want). It’s seems like kind of a vague term that can mean different things depending on the source – in some cases it means the sum of all of the above; in some cases a person might mean just one specific component.
That ambiguity makes it a problem for definitions, I think, because while you might read “I have no sexual desire” as “I have no desire to connect with other people sexually”, I’m might see that read/used to mean “I have no sex drive or desire for any kind of sexual gratification”, which – especially in the cases of libidinous aces like me – are two very different things.
Personally, if I were going to use the term “sexual desire”, I would see it as sort of the holistic sum of numerous variables – like, what you want to do + who you want to do it with + how often you want to do it, etc. It’s sort of like how “sexuality” is sometimes used as a sort of umbrella term for both a persons sexual orientation, kink preference, (non)monogamy preferences, etc. So it’s not that sexual desire are sexual attraction are mutually exclusive; it’s more like sexual desire is a higher level category that includes sexual attraction but also allows for other considerations as well.
When using that definition, though, “sexual desire” stops being as useful for discriminating categories of people sometimes – there are too many variables involved. Instead, I think it makes more sense to pick out one variable. For example, you might want to focus in on what kinds of people you usually experience sexual desires towards….or as I would call it, sexual attraction. (Or, for other purposes, you may want to focus on other variables – for example, when discussing things in bdsm communities, sometimes the specific acts/roles that a person desires might be more relevant than the type of person they want to do them with)
Mmm, this is a really good analysis – thinking about what people have said here, sexual desire as a sort of meta-category does make a lot of sense, like you say, a bit like ‘sexuality.’ I’ve always thought of sexual desire as more of a basic preference or drive to want to connect to other people sexually, but I guess a lot more comes into that than I’ve experienced myself.
“For example, you might want to focus in on what kinds of people you usually experience sexual desires towards….or as I would call it, sexual attraction.”
Um, wouldn’t that be ‘sexual orientation’ or simply ‘type’? I’m confused by this description of sexual attraction as a preference as opposed to a feeling. Sexual attraction can definitely inform (and be informed by) a preference, but I don’t think that it *is* a preference.
Or maybe it’s a semantic difference, because I don’t have any experience of what might be called ‘specific (i.e. towards a specific person) sexual desire’. I have general libido (into which category most references to ‘sexual desire’ in this conversation are being sorted) and I have specific attraction, whereas other people seem to have more or different categories.
And for the tl;dr: in response to ” I’m not sure if there are aces who would feel alienated by such a shift”, I would say yes; specifically aces who have a sex drive/libido or enjoy masturbation or kinks or other “sexual” activities – because of the ways that the phrase “sexual desire” is often used, stating that asexual people don’t experience sexual desire tends to erase those experiences.
I don’t like “sexual desire”, because I initially thought it unambiguously meant “wanting sex”, because “desire” literally means to want. Then I talked to other people, finding that some of thought it referred to sex drive, or something else. I do not know how to get from here to there.
Ever since then, I’m suspicious of claims that “sexual desire” has a single unambiguous definition. I’d like to ask a bunch of people what it means to them.
I feel like “sexual desire” kinda has the same issues “sexual attraction” does in that way, in that it’s rarely actually broken down or defined, so you get a bunch of people saying “well, sexual desire is…you know…sexual desire?” and assuming they are all thinking the same thing even when they might be thinking of wildly different things.Considering that most people don’t spend much time thinking or talking about the nitty gritty of how their sexuality works, though, I’m not sure there’s quick and easy solution for that.
Yeah, so much of this in my experience – thing seeming so obvious to non-ace people that they’ve never really had to think about terminology and what things might mean and that other people might not experience the package the same way as they do. (Which I’m pretty sure most non-ace people do as well, maybe without realising it – have different experiences, I mean.)
This post started out intriguing, but I’m afraid you lost me right around the time you brought up sexual desire. I’m not technically asexual, (I’m demi-bi-sexual) but for me, sexual desire and attraction are *very* different things. If we agree to define “sexual attraction” as “a desire to connect sexually to another person”, which I think is quite a workable working definition, and, since I don’t believe you defined the concept yourself, define “sexual desire” as “desire to engage in sexual activity and/or to reach orgasm” (i.e. libido), then I’m afraid that I cannot agree to your ‘outreach definition’ (my term) at all. (If, instead, you meant “sexual desire” as “the desire to have sex with another specific person”, then it actually would be essentially another facet of this meta-sexual-experience-thing, but I think that this alternate definition is so similar to that of attraction as to be worthless and so I will continue to use my own.)
Having done that much, I would like to point out the existence of “libidoist aces”, as the AVEN parlance is, to demonstrate to you why your new outreach definition proposal is unworkable.
If you’d like a more specific/personal counterpoint, my libido/degree of sexual desire fluctuates independently of whether or not I am currently attracted to anybody. It’s been nearly nonexistent at times when I was very attracted to people and very annoying existent at times when I was not. It may be the case that the attraction doesn’t matter all that much when there’s no desire, but the fact that it exists is more significant.
Basically, I would describe attraction (functionally) as focusing (existent, nonspecific) desire on a specific person.
For the record, I find that it’s much easier to sidestep the entire issue by simply not using academic language at all. “Being asexual means not finding people hot/sexy.”. The term “sexual attraction” is, as you pointed out, the confusing bit. Grey-asexuality and demisexuality are much more awkward to explain in informal language, but as far as my own experience, it is something like “I’m not attracted to bodies, I’m attracted to people based on my relationship with them.” or “I don’t find people ‘sexy’, but there are people I would like to have sex with.”.
Don’t be afraid to simplify, because either you don’t have the time/energy/desire to do a full Asexuality 101 presentation with a slideshow and everything, or you do, and starting somewhere they’ll understand is still helpful. Your very first sentence doesn’t need to be The Authentic and Inarguable Truth™, it just needs to be helpful. It’s called a “hook”, I believe.
1. Based on your phrasing in a single sentence, that didn’t seem significant enough for specific address in the main argument, you seem to believe that the sentiment expressed by the terms “hot” and “sexy” is not, in general (allosexual) use, physical sexual attraction? I’ll accept that an argument can be made there, but I happen to find one side much more convincing than the other.
Thanks for your perspective! I haven’t really spent much time in the libidoist aces area of AVEN or the community, so I’m not super up to speed there.
You’re right, I didn’t really define what I meant by sexual desire in the post, which I think is where a lot of the discussion has come from. In my mind, when I use sexual desire I think of it much more in terms of directed at other people than as associated with libido or sex drive or desire to reach orgasm (whatever way that is) – so much less physical, and more connection-based. Apparently those things have much stronger associations with sexual desire for other people though. So I personally feel like sexual desire is a lot closer to attraction than libido – but you’re right, maybe then it does become very close to meaning the same thing as attraction, in terms of wanting to connect with people in a way that includes sexuality.
On the hot/sexy note though – I do have very strong feelings about this and its inadequacy for defining sexual attraction, I really do. The main reason is that it’s one very specific, narrow way of describing attraction that (from almost every single conversation I’ve had with non-ace people) does not ring true with their own experience either. I’ve had so many people say to me ‘I don’t find people instantly hot or sexy in general, but I’m still an allosexual person.’ I think for a lot of people, sexual attraction is still very strongly entwined with emotional intimacy, connection, romantic feelings, etc (as much as we aces like to point out that all those things don’t have to happen as part of the same parcel) that when we define sexual attraction as just finding people hot or sexy it doesn’t have any meaning to them whatsoever. And I think that actually harms the ace community, because they then say ‘you’re just like everyone else in that you don’t find yourself instantly attracted to randoms on the street, you’re not some special ace thing.’ So I am usually very careful to avoid using phrases like that.
Honestly, I haven’t been on AVEN in a couple years. I just know that a good portion of people who identify as asexual would probably say that they *do* experience sexual desire, at least in some contexts. (Of course, many (including yourself, clearly) aces do not. Both groups are clearly large, so it’s not very relevant to try to determine which is larger.)
Well, perhaps it’s because I don’t do ace 101 in public fora, because in such cases, any tiny failing will be used against you. But, with people like family members, or semi-close friends, I’ve found it useful. In real-time conversations, you can continually rephrase if something’s not working out, so that’s why I’m willing to simplify more than is accurate.
In my experience, ‘most’ people will relate to the idea of finding people ‘hot’ (often based (mostly) on appearance, but no (good) definition of asexuality specifically mentions sexual attraction ‘at first sight’ so that’s more of a demisexual-definition issue) so *I* have not had issues with the words ‘hot ‘ and ‘sexy’.
YMMV, of course.
The thing I’m honestly most confused about in this entire conversation is the idea that ‘sexual desire’ is easier for the average person to understand than sexual attraction. In my case, ‘sexual attraction’ isn’t entirely clear, but at least I know what it is, but with ‘sexual desire’, I have to make a wild guess. In fact, I reread Coyote’s post (linked above) and I still have no idea what it’s supposed to actually be, if neither attraction nor libido/sex drive.
(assuming that the mobile interface replies the comment) Also, because I realized I didn’t make it very clear, I specifically didn’t make any reference to time in my informal definitions. You’re entirely correct that people don’t need to experience sexual attraction in the “Look at that random on the other side of the street! They’re so hot!” to be allosexual, but, I think that in general the concept covered by the intersection of the words ‘hot’ and ‘sexy’ (since either word on its own has other overlapping meanings) is essentially exactly the same concept as ‘(physical) sexual attraction’, and attempting any perfect definition is difficult to the point of possibly being misguided. Of course, there are nonphysical sorts of sexual attraction that it definitely does not cover, but really I think that ‘sexual attraction’ is the best word in general (even informally) and, once again, attempting a perfect definition is difficult to the point of possibly being misguided, especially if it’s an informal one.
Perhaps the issue is that ‘sexual attraction’ is a functional role. Am infinitude of feelings (‘qualia’, to use a word that I don’t actually like because it’s ugly and in my opinion unnecessary but which has unique relevance to this topic) can fulfill the role of ‘sexual attraction’, and, furthermore, even two people with very similar feelings might use different functional frameworks (and, hence, terms) to describe them.
[…replies to the correct comment…]*
Unfortunately I can’t edit the original comment.
I’ve found that saying “I don’t understand/see hotness” is a good way to both explain asexuality (at least my version of it) and to explain my experiences without having to really come out. I can tell you (rather academically) what society deems hot, but I don’t have this… sense of it the way allo people seem to.
hi! I’ve actually been thinking about this on a personal level since I reject the split-attraction model as not helpful for me, so I just have this category of ‘attraction.’ I know not everyone feels this way, so this idea may not help everyone, but I typically explain my asexuality as “being able to be attracted* to people but in a way that I would desire sexual things with them.”
I guess that brings us back to desire, but potentially avoids some of the issues by not implying anything about libido, just stating that the desire is not directed toward others.
*I intentionally mean this is the broadest sense possible
I… left out a very important NOT in my definition.
being able to be attracted* to people but NOT in a way that I would desire sexual things with them.
That’s a pretty useful way of phrasing things, really – I can see why it works for you. Even if you replace ‘attracted to’ with ‘interested in.’ Will think about that one!
Wow, lots of comments have come in overnight and today – just a quick note to say that I will get to replying to comments properly tomorrow morning – big day at work, so haven’t had time to do so yet. Thanks all!
More than just parsing out sexual attraction vs. sexual desire, your post focuses on defining asexuality for non-asexual folks, which sort of reinforces something I’ve been feeling/thinking about lately: maybe our discussions on sexuality and sexual orientations need to center less on specific labels and more on the common terms we use in those labels. Like, maybe if we get more and more folks of different sexualities and orientations to describe and discuss, say, ‘sexual attraction’, we’d get a bigger, better, more nuanced look at how sexual attraction functions/manifests – and then from there we could circle back and more accurately define the specific identity labels. Hmmm. Anyway, thanks for bringing this up!!
Yes, yes yes to all of that! Those are definitely the thoughts I’ve been having a lot of over the past years, that if we start interrogating sexuality more broadly, we can only end up in a better place overall. So much of what we think about sexual attraction is really just based in narrow, media-normalised-and-portrayed ways that don’t ring true for a lot of real-life people!
I’m new to the whole community, having only discovered the term asexuality a few months ago, and I just came out to my husband on Monday [it went much better than anticipated (yay!)]. I personally found “lack of sexual desire” to be the phrase that worked best for me to differentiate from lack of love or affection, and I guess that’s how I’ve interpreted “lack of sexual attraction.” That seems to be how I relate to asexuality at least. I dunno, I think it’s tricky to define something like this in a way that is all things to all people. Maybe lack of attraction/desire are better as guidelines for expression of asexuality, rather than a hard and fast rule.
I’m all for general guidelines and inclusive explanations/definitions. One of the reasons why I’m bringing this up, not to replace our definitions, but to broaden the ways we talk about it, and the ways for people to identify with the ace spectrum. (And welcome, by the way!)
I definitely think we need a broader definition of asexuality, but I’m not an enthusiast of the “lack of sexual desire” concept. Maybe first what I dislike about the dominant definition: it’s sometimes used in a very rigid way. Some people who insist that “lack of sexual attraction” only can be used to define asexuality are often trying to present an assimilationist image of “the perfect ace”, along the lines of “we are just like you, minus the sexual attraction”. Such an environment is often hostile to non-sex-positive aces as well…
Because of this I believe the definition does need an update – but the option I personally prefer is the idea of an asexual spectrum. Concepts are just concepts – to be honest, with all my fascination with the infinity of possible experiences I often wonder how can psychology “work” since everyone is different… Any asexual person also experiences hir asexuality in a more or less different way. Different things may be the defining aspect for different people. For example many aces feel that their lack of interest for “all this sex thing” is what sets them apart. This is, of course, quite far from the assimilationist approach because it also close to saying openly that asexuality is contrary to trends and opinions quite aggressively “pushed” in modern culture… As I said, different people may have different experiences of their asexualities. Lack of attraction, lack of desire for anyone, lack of desire for sex as such, sexual aversion… I also remember too well what some unfriendly people say about asexuality: that only people indifferent to sex are “real asexuals” and those who feel some kind of active dislike “have a PROBLEM” instead… This too shows me that we need more inclusive definitions.
Absolutely, you’re totally right – being able to put all those things under one umbrella of asexuality or the ace spectrum is so much more helpful than any one, single definition. (One of the reasons I posted this was because I was thinking about writing my own Ace-101 page for the blog – so this whole discussion has been really helpful in figuring out what I want to put there. I think I’m going to go down the really broad, and not even super specific route now.)
One thing I’ve noticed is some ace people I’ve met might sort of feel some level of attraction, maybe it’s sexual, maybe it’s more of something else that is perhaps hard to parce – romantic, aesthetic, etc, but they still are ace because they relate fundamentally to the many aces not wanting sex, not feeling connected to others when they tried sex, etc. Essentially lacking some form of desire but not necessarily lacking attraction. Especially if this is lifelong, this feels like they belong on the spectrum,even if it’s the opposite of the traditional ace 101 “no attraction but maybe yes still desire for sex” way, which is also super valid and relatively common in the ace community. So somehow getting a definition that is broad enough to include both types of aces but still defines asexuality in some way proves trickier than one would think!!
Okay, so since I do a lot of IRL talking for an organization … We’ve decided on a short explanation (we purposefully do not use “definition” anymore), which is “no sexual attraction”, and the longer one, which is, going with Sennkestra actually, “no sexual attraction and/or no desire for sexual interaction”. There’s always people who find one or the other to make immediate sense to them, and some who need even more words.
Sexual desire towards specific other people?
Because I absolutely associate sexual desire with, like, the desire to masturbate. And it doesn’t make me not asexual.
I have actually defined sexual attraction for myself as a sexual desire that’s directed at / involves other people, and it hasn’t conceptually failed me yet.