Sex positivity is a powerful movement dedicated to removing stigma from sexual expression. It's as much about affirming your right to have whatever kind of consensual sex you desire as it is about affirming your right to not have any sex at all. Unfortunately, asexuality (the "A" in the LGBTQIA acronym) is too often left out of the sex-positive conversation, and misconceptions abound. Like any sexual orientation outside the straight and narrow, words can't fully do justice to lived experience. The term "asexual" is an umbrella term, and can mean many things.
There are asexual folks who have sex drives, and those who don't. There are asexual folks who date and experience romantic attraction, and those who don't. The Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) defines asexual as "a person who does not experience sexual attraction," but that doesn't mean that a person who has experienced sexual attraction cannot identify as asexual or that an asexual person will never experience sexual attraction in their lifetime.
Thanks to asexual advocates, however — like those featured in this Buzzfeed video — asexuality is getting more visibility than ever. And as asexuality stigma is addressed more openly, studies on asexual folks are getting more write ups in the media to counter popular misconceptions.
Here are three study-based facts about the orientation:
1. Asexual People Can Have Sexual Fantasies
In a recent study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers at the University of British Columbia looked into asexual desire. According to New York Magazine, of the 351 self-defined asexual people in the study, almost half of asexual women and three quarters of asexual men reported masturbating and entertaining sexual fantasies. Many of these fantasies did not involve them personally, but they were sexual nonetheless. In contrast, 20 percent of women and 35 percent of men had never had a sexual fantasy, which speaks to the broad range of preferences that asexual folks can have.
2. Asexual People Respond Physically To Sexual Stimuli Like People Of Other Orientations
Although some may be tempted to believe asexuality is a product of physical dysfunction, research shows that's not the case. One 2010 study compared the physiological responses of heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual and asexual women to both neutral and erotic movies based upon vaginal pulse amplitude. In Medical Daily, researcher Lori Brotto concluded that the results proved “normal subjective and physiological sexual arousal capacity in asexual women.”
3. Asexual People Are Into BDSM, Too
A 2015 analysis in the journal Sexualities analyzed asexual people who are part of BDSM relationships. After speaking in depth with 15 subjects, study author Lorca Jolene Sloan concluded that "BDSM helps these practitioners form non-sexual relationships by providing tools for navigating sexual expectations and redefining their behaviors as indicative of affections that do not stem from sexual desire." As BDSM isn't only about sex and welcomes all iterations of sensation and intimate interaction, it is an ideal space for those with a variety of sexual identities to flourish.
In short, it's complicated but it helps to know the facts.
Images: Unsplash; Giphy (3)