Asking for a Friend is a weekly Sex and Relationships column hosted by Arts and Culture writer Dana Sparks and fueled by your curiosities. Click here to anonymously submit questions regarding sex, relationships and sex education.
Question: “How can I be more confident in understanding what my sexuality is — whether it be asexual, straight, bi, gay or anything else? I feel like calling myself ‘asexual’ might be insulting to those who are, since I am not 100% certain.
As a male, I don't seem to find myself attracted to others as much as those around me. I don't seem to have a sex drive, nor do I crave intimacy. I've been struggling with the idea of asexuality for some time. My lack of a sex drive is nothing medical, but I don't feel ‘right’ in many social settings. Not necessarily uncomfortable, or even out of place, but I can tell I don’t view other people as others do.” — A-Certain
I think your question squishes two important aspects together: confidence and personal understanding of sexual identity. Let’s take it from there.
The concept of “sexuality” was created in the Victorian-era — a time not that long ago in the grand scheme of things, but still vastly different. It was largely used then to police people’s sexual behaviors — usually men’s. (If that’s something that interests you, you might want to check out Queering the Color Line by Siobhan B. Somerville or consider taking Introduction to Queer Studies.)
However, with time, the dark origin of labeling sexuality has given way to an opportunity for language to explain our sexual identities. We now have terms like “asexual” and “queer” that help us to communicate our feelings and preferences toward others.
Because you specifically brought up asexuality, I’m going to define it for those who don’t really know what it is. Asexuality, or ace, mainly describes not experiencing any (or experiencing very low) sexual attraction. This does not mean that an asexual person doesn’t want a romantic relationship or love — or even that they won’t have sex or masturbate in their lifetime — it just means that they’re just not usually interested in pursuing or engaging sexual feelings or desire, according to The Asexual Visibility and Education Network.
Do you feel like that definition explains what you feel? Whether you want to label yourself or not, it is important to figure out what sexuality terms mean. Being able to explain what you do or don’t like might help with being more confident.
Sexuality — much like gender — is a spectrum. Don’t worry about being certain or being “asexual enough.” Luckily for you, me and so many others, there is no standard way to be assexual or non-heterosexual.
For example, you might find that you are asexual, but not aromantic — a word that might help you express that you still develop feelings of love for people.
Or, you might identify with asexuality, but maybe you meet someone that you feel comfortable engaging in sex with. That doesn’t change your being asexual — just like a bisexual woman dating a man doesn’t make her suddenly straight. Even if someone who identifies as straight were to have a sexual experience with someone of the same gender, it doesn’t make them gay, lesbian or less straight.
Just as you should understand that sexuality is often fluid and imperfect, you should understand that your confidence might be too. Understand that people aren’t always going to understand.
I feel like a lot of people don’t care about taking time to understand the sexuality spectrum outside of the most common identities — gay, lesbian and bisexual. Most don’t understand what ace is, but those who do get that being 100 percent certain of personal sexual identity isn’t really practical. How are you supposed to say with 100 percent certainty that you don’t and won’t feel sexual attraction throughout your whole lifetime? You can’t, but you can predict how you generally feel toward others, and you can understand what you’re comfortable with. Period. That’s absolutely enough.
Surround yourself with people who will take the time to understand what you explain to them and who won’t judge you if you aren’t the perfect asexual person.
If you’re interested, you can try finding other asexual people to date or even just be friends with. I found this really neat dating app called Feeld — it has options for people who are ace, gray-A (between asexual and sexual), bi-curious and a whole list of other identities that even I had to Google.
Give yourself opportunities to just feel normal about it. The LGBTQIA3 Center in the Erb Memorial Union hosts activities all the time where you can go and talk — or not talk — about it. You might just find that people there understand the feelings, questions and experiences you have.
Your stability and confidence regarding your sexual identity might be just as tricky as self-esteem regarding physical appearance or intelligence throughout your life.
In other words, you can be an ace man now because you say you are. Your identity is valid. If you find something that fits you better in the future, it’s okay to adjust your language to fit what you’ve learned about yourself.