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What is asexuality? Everything you need to know

Like homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality, asexuality is another sexual orientation, although one still extremely wrongly interpreted. Speaking openly about sexual intimacy and romantic relationships has become so common in our society that it led to a misunderstanding of asexuality. That’s why we are here to speak about asexuality, discuss what it is and, most importantly, what it is not.

What is asexuality?

Asexuality is a sexual orientation, just like homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality. In the initialism LGBTQIAP+, the A stands for ‘asexual spectrum’ or ‘a-spec’. Broadly defined as “the quality or characteristic of having no sexual feelings or desires,” asexuality is constituted of complex categories and orientations that can be placed on the asexual spectrum.

This means that many asexuals identify with two orientations; a romantic and a sexual one. According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), an asexual’s romantic orientation determines “which gender(s), if any, they are inclined to form romantic relationships with.” There are also individuals in the asexual community who identify in the ‘grey area’ between asexuality and sexuality.

What is asexuality? Everything you need to know

Important things to know about asexuality

Asexual people, sometimes known as ace or aces for short, have the same emotional needs as everyone else. This means that most asexuals will desire and form emotionally intimate relationships with other people, while some may not. They may be attracted to the same sex or other sexes, which means they can be as fluid as anyone else. Of course, because everyone is different, how individuals fulfil those needs may vary.

Asexuality exists on a spectrum that includes people’s desire for relationships, attraction, and arousal. Many asexuals want and are in relationships, with not only other asexuals but sexual people as well. Some asexual people may identify as ‘demisexual’ and ‘aromantic’, or another combination of the two sides of the spectrum.

While most asexual people have little interest in having sex, they may experience romantic attraction—others may not. There are asexuals who masturbate and enjoy sexual intimacy with others, while not being sexually attracted to anyone.

Often, some people misinterpret romantic attraction or sexual arousal as being a sexual attraction, only to realise later that they are asexual.

What are the 3 main categories in asexuality?

To simplify the asexual spectrum, here are three broad ‘categories’ in asexuality.

First, some asexuals may want romantic relationships. They can feel romantically attracted to other people, which may include the same sex or other sexes.

Secondly, other asexuals prefer close friendships to intimate relationships. Some will experience arousal, and some will masturbate while having no interest in having sex with another person.

Thirdly, some asexual people do not want to have sexual contact, while others may feel ‘sex-neutral’. Other asexual people will engage in sexual contact in order to gain an emotional connection.

Asexual people don’t want your pity, they need your understanding

What asexuality is not

Asexuality is not a mental disorder such as SAD (sexual aversion disorder) or HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder). An asexual person may feel anxious due to societal pressures and reactions, but not due to the idea of sexual contact itself. Furthermore, asexuality is not caused by chemical or hormonal imbalance.

Asexuality is not celibacy. Celibacy is the decision to refrain from sexual contact, whereas asexuality is an orientation and, as stated previously, there are asexuals who engage in a range of sexual contact with themselves and others.

Some of you might still feel confused about asexuality, and it is okay to be so. But getting a good understanding of the asexual spectrum is a necessary step towards appreciating the many variations it represents. Understanding is the key to acceptance.

Finally, a gender-neutral sex toy that does the job

This month sees the launch of Enby, a new, gender-neutral sex toy. Wild Flower, an independent sex shop based in Brooklyn, has designed the toy in-house. Founded by Amy and Nick Boyajian, both of whom identify as non-binary, Enby is their first own-brand toy, named after the common shorthand for non-binary people, NB, pronounced ‘enby’.

As a retailer, Wild Flower is committed to inclusive and sensitive attitudes toward sex. The shop’s website has a blog with sections dedicated to “mindfulness & sex” and “non-monogamous relationships”, for example. On its Instagram, it features a gorgeous range of individuals—people of all ages, genders and sizes—as well as some hilarious memes. Wild Flower’s merchandise reads: “Trust Yourself, Feel Yourself, Touch Yourself, Please Yourself, Hear Yourself, Know Yourself, Fuck Yourself, Love Yourself”.

Much of the sex industry is still surprisingly gendered, often unnecessarily. Identical toys might be packaged and marketed entirely differently in order to appeal to women and men. Online, toys are generally categorised into ‘for him’ and ‘for her’, even though, to be blunt, a dildo is a dildo, regardless of the user’s gender.

Slowly but surely, however, more options are becoming available for trans and non-binary people, designed with diverse bodies and queer pleasure in mind. Amy and Nick consulted various members of the LGBTQ community while developing their toy. One trans friend of theirs complained about how she had thrown away all of her sex toys after her surgery, because they were no longer compatible with her body. Other trans people have explained how they often resort to toys not marketed at their gender identity, which can worsen existing gender dysphoria.

Enby looks somewhat unusual, unlike any other toy on the market, but this just demonstrates its innovation. It is something different and new. It’s available in black and deep purple, colours chosen for being gender-neutral, especially compared to the pinks and reds that dominate the market. The Enby can be humped, used to masturbate, tucked into a harness. “Hump it, stroke it, tuck it, share it”, reads the product page—it’s like a dirty Bop It.

Enby might not be the first toy to claim the title of being gender-neutral. PicoBong launched the Transformer in 2014, offering “millions of sex toys in one” with its product description listing the sex toy’s possibilities, “It’s a rabbit vibe, a clitoral massager, a cock-ring, a G-spot stimulator, a prostate massager, a double-ended vibe, and much more”. However, its success was debatable. One review summarised, “In trying to create a sex toy that can be used by everyone, PicoBong made a sex toy that is useful to no one”.

The Enby, meanwhile, has received stellar reviews so far, with an average of 4.89 stars out of 5 and comments such as “A game changer” and “Super validating”. Enby is available to pre-order and ships from the U.S. at the end of July. I discovered it myself last month at a community market in Manhattan. I now regret not investigating further at the time.

An online review at Allure recommended the Enby to a transgender man, concluding with: “Overall, I’d recommend Enby for anyone, regardless of gender or genitalia. As with any other sex toy, you’ll have to play around with it to determine how it best works for your body, but it’s absolutely worth it once you find that sweet spot”.

Enby represents a new direction for the sex toy industry, one that is more open, diverse and inclusive. Just like in the porn industry, small, independent brands are inevitably leading the way, but with such positive results, hopefully bigger brands will follow suit. After all, everybody—and every body—deserves pleasure.