With Valentine’s Day nearly here everything I see seems to be more sexualized. The commercials have started featuring half-dressed couples draped in bedsheets with thread counts higher than my SAT scores, and chocolate prices have gone up overnight. While I think it is common knowledge that this is merely a result of capitalism at work, what is more interesting to me is that we are bombarded with messages that say everyone is innately sexual.Whether it’s a jewelry store commercial or a Valentine’s Day special episode of your favorite sitcom, we are constantly told that sex is the pinnacle of relationships, that it is the end goal: every move you make (particularly in short term relationships) is leading to the eventual reward of a sexual encounter.
Even if some of us feel that we’d rather not see a sexy candy commercial every time we turn on the television, most people can understand sexual attraction. Those who don’t often identify as asexual. When you don’t experience sexual attraction, watching a scene of two lovers fall into a bed covered in chocolates really just makes you concerned about the inevitable chocolate stains.
Asexuality is easily the least represented sexuality in every medium of expression, and so a lot of people have no idea that it exists, let alone what it means, or what an asexual person wants from a relationship. So in honor of the upcoming holiday of love, we’re going to explore the theme park of sexual and romantic attraction, led by your friendly local asexual. Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle (and more importantly, to yourselves) at all times.
When people hear that an estimated one percent of the population is asexual (or ace), there are two common responses: talking about the asexual reproduction of that one plant they learned about in freshman biology and wondering how relationships work. How do you love someone if you’re not sexually attracted to them?
One of the most common misconceptions is that asexual people don’t have sex. Totally not true. Many asexual people have sex and enjoy it, it may just be that it’s hard for them to see their partner in a sexual light, and a lot of the time it’s just preferable to cuddle and watch TV (which is why we’re kind of confused about this whole “Netflix & Chill” situation.)
Something else most people don’t realize is that while the sexual attraction spectrums are what we commonly focus on, there’s a whole other way to ‘measure’ people’s attraction without involving sex at all: the romantic spectrum. Romantic attraction is an emotional response to a person resulting in a desire for a romantic (rather than physical) relationship. For those people who are convinced they can’t even handle one spectrum, let alone two, let’s make it clear how simple the romantic spectrum is.
For every sexuality, there is a corresponding identity on the romantic side. Just as heterosexuality is the sexual attraction to another gender, heteroromanticism is the romantic attraction to another gender. Homoromantics, biromantics, panromantics and aromantics all fall somewhere on this spectrum. So perhaps you are asexual and panromantic: this means that you may not be sexually attracted to any gender at all, you are romantically interested in a variety of genders.
While asexuality may seem like an overly specific little section of attraction, the term actually functions as an umbrella itself. Demisexual and grey-asexual are two terms that specify how certain people identify with their asexual identity.
Whatever romantic or sexual orientation you identify with, and whomsoever you choose to spend your Valentine’s Day with, just remember that while the world says that we are all sexual in some way, remember that your partner may not share the same level of sexuality as you. It never hurts to educate yourself. There’s always a chance you could learn something new about yourself or one of your loved ones.