Asexuality is a lack of sexual interest in other people or sexual attraction to others. Although asexuals are not interested in sex, some people who consider themselves to be asexuals do have romantic and sexual relationships. Asexuality is considered by many people to be a type of sexual orientation. Some people disagree with this, but others argue that although asexuals are not interested in sex, this still is a facet of sexuality, so it is valid to classify asexuality as a sexual orientation. Asexuality is not the same as abstinence or celibacy, which are when people choose to refrain from sexual activity even though they might have an interest in it or be sexually attracted to other people.
The concept of asexuality first began to be explored in the 1940s and was recognized in the 1970s. By the 1990s, an asexual community had arisen, creating a network that allowed asexuals to connect with each other. Studies have suggested that about 1 percent of all adults are asexual.
Asexuality doesn't preclude friendships, romance and deep relationships with other people. Although asexuals do not experience sexual attraction toward other people, they can have romantic attraction to others and can be interested interest in pursuing romantic relationships. Some asexuals might identify with another sexual orientation. For example, a woman who feels a romantic attraction toward other women but not sexual attraction might consider herself to be an asexual lesbian.
Not the Same as Celibacy
A lack of interest in sex should not be confused with celibacy or abstinence, which are when someone has decided to eschew sexuality for certain personal reasons. The term "celibacy" usually refers to refraining from sex and sometimes even all romantic relationships on a permanent basis, often for life. "Abstinence" typically refers to avoiding sex until a certain time or on a temporary basis, such as waiting until after one is married. Asexuality, however, refers to the person's natural inclination and feelings rather than the mere avoidance of sexual activities. It is possible for someone to engage in sexual activity without being sexually attracted to other people, and doing so would not preclude someone from being considered asexual.
Challenges Faced by Asexuals
Although many people have become more accepting of a variety of sexual orientations, the idea of being disinterested in sex is puzzling to some. Asexuals might find themselves in awkward discussions in which they are told that they will change their minds at some point or in which their lack of interest in sex is dismissed. It can also be difficult for an asexual person to pursue a romantic relationship with someone who is interested in sex. Many asexuals prefer to date other people who identify as asexuals because of the expectations that can arise in relationships with people who are not asexual.