First things first, to paraphrase the works of scholar Robert L. Crooks, academician Karla Baur, Dr. Katherine M. Helm, and author Gary F Kelly, all of whom have been on the forefront of sexual research, asexuality is identified as a lack of sexual attraction in others and zero to little interest in indulging in sexual activity. While some wrongly believe it to be a lack of sexual identity, others argue that it is a sexual orientation in itself, which has birthed multiple asexual sub-identities.

“Can you imagine that? There are people out there who don’t feel like having sex,” a colleague tells me when I pitch asexuality as an article during an edit meeting. I don’t see what’s so surprising about it, considering there are people out there who still can’t believe that a man might want to fuck another man. Multiple people interviewed for this feature felt that this article was pointless because “we all have Google”, as one individual very succinctly put it. They unanimously agreed that the Internet has helped them become more comfortable with their sexual orientation simply because they were able to figure out that they weren’t alone in feeling this way. However, many also feel unseen.

“Asexuality doesn’t get the kind of coverage that other sexualities do. Maybe it’s because people don’t understand it yet. However, I can’t say that I’ve faced hate or trolling because of my sexuality, apart from being called a ‘frigid bitch’ now and then,” says Priyanka Chakraborty, an English major from Kolkata.

Akash Swaminathan from Bengaluru agrees. “We definitely don’t face issues like homosexuals do in terms of bullying. However, many a time, I’ve been unable to explain my sexuality to people because everyone just assumes that all people want to have sex. I genuinely have no interest in getting intimate with anyone but I get why people may find it odd,” he says.

It is the assumption that everybody must be interested in romance and sex that appears to irk many of the asexual folks who were approached for this feature. They claim to constantly be surrounded by people who can only talk about their latest crush and that’s alright — the issue is that people constantly believe that asexuality is some sort of a phase that will go away when the ‘right one’ comes along.

“It is also annoying to have to explain it to everyone I meet. Like, damn, why can’t people just Google it?” Swaminathan asks.

There are many who cannot fathom the idea that there are people who aren’t interested in sex. Many go as far as to proclaim “But you’re so beautiful!” as though asexuality and physical attractiveness cannot go hand in hand. Then there are those who add sexual innuendo in every conversation in a bid to appear edgy and cool — they’d probably never understand asexuality, but it has been around since the Tower of Babel.

In spite of that, it is only now that people across the globe are embracing it, thanks to better dispersion of information and the condensing of interactions via social media. Numerous reports state that more and more millennials are abstaining from sex but some believe that these reports are also proof that many are comfortable with their sexuality and do not feel the need to hide/give in to societal expectations.

A Twitter user who chooses to remain anonymous believes that asexuality is like existing in a PG-13 movie. “I’m like everyone else in every way, except for the sex part,” he says, adding: “I don’t talk to my parents about this and I sometimes wonder why they haven’t noticed yet that I don’t seem interested in dating or marriage. Perhaps they think I’m sanskari and I am waiting for my parents to arrange something for me when it’s time.” By the time he was 18 years old, he had heard about asexuality and read up a little on it. He went through his teenage years having zero sexual needs and didn’t realise that he was an exception — he assumed everyone was like him. “I have liked a couple of people in a romantic way over the years, I did feel for them and it was intense. But it was in my heart and I can’t expect someone I like to abstain from the sexual aspect of a relationship. I understand adults need a healthy sex life and I don’t think I can offer that. I also don’t like the idea of open relationships so that’s ruled out,” he says, when I ask him if he’s ever been in a relationship.

Another user, who goes by the handle @clawsername, identifies as asexual but specifies that he is in the spectrum between sex-neutral and sex-positive. Their preferred pronoun is they/them. They identify as aroflux because they feel that they fluctuate between being romantic and aromantic — something that is beyond their control. They also specifically mention that they do not find romance unattractive and think it’s beautiful. However, the fact that it is “obnoxiously everywhere” is something that bothers them. They believe that this “Amatonormativity” (a term coined by Elizabeth Brake, Arizona State University professor of philosophy, to describe societal assumptions about romance) is irksome.

Naturally, there are some who indulge in sexual activity to “try it out”, so to say, while others may choose to masturbate for their own release. Then, there are others who are sexually active but feel no romantic compulsions whatsoever. There are many who also identify as gray-A, which means that they oscillate between being aromantic and non-aromantic.

“It’s mildly satisfying. It allows me to be emotionally independent and it creates an internal dialogue,” 25-yearold Bandra resident Rishabh Kalra tells me via DM. Kalra is talking about being an aromantic person i.e., a person who may or may not be asexual but who definitely isn’t keen on the idea of romance.

“Aromanticism has been around as long as humans have been on this earth, but the term, and its existence as an identity and orientation, was only recognised recently,” Kelsey Lee, director of social media for The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) told HuffPost US last year. Since then, the concept of aromanticism and asexuality has steadily garnered attention and in some case, immense support.

“I’m asexual but not aromantic. I’ve never been sexually interested in people but chose to have sex because I felt that I must. I didn’t think that asexuality was a thing and because I did love my partner, I felt I should be sexually attracted to them as well,” says Seema Singh. Singh has been seeing a therapist for over a year now and has finally claimed her asexuality. However, this has caused her some grief, she says, as the person she was interested in didn’t understand the concept. Their relationship didn’t last.

I also spoke to a sex-repulsed asexual who is not open to indulging in sexual activity with anyone but is absolutely alright with the idea of sex and others indulging in it. This individual does not feel any romantic attractions and is not repulsed by the idea of romance in movies and such.

“I have never tried dating anyone and I don’t feel the need to date or be in a romantic relationship with anyone. I do experience aesthetic and platonic attraction but that has never translated into romantic attraction for anyone,” the person tells me.

There are also those who are biromantic, meaning that they are attracted romantically to men and women but have no desire to have sex with them.

According to The Trevor Project, Asexuals may experience arousal and orgasm and also choose to masturbate.

 They also state that asexuality is not: 

  • Abstinence because of a bad relationship 
  • Abstinence because of religious reasons 
  • Celibacy 
  • Sexual repression, aversion or dysfunction u Loss of libido due to age or circumstance 
  • Fear of intimacy 
  • Inability to find a partner

Examples in the media

In the media, many believe that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes with asexuality in mind. In the popular Archie comics, Jughead Jones is often considered to be an asexual and offsets Archie’s hyper-sexuality. However, the writers of the show Riverdale have chosen to make Jughead heterosexual. According to Vox, the makers of Game of Thrones confirmed that Lord Varys was asexual. In 2016, the Netflix show, BoJack Horseman, began exploring Todd Chavez’s asexual identity, reports CNN.

Asexual vs. Antisexual

Asexuality is also different from ‘antisexuality’. While most asexuals are disinterested in and indifferent to the idea of sex, antisexuals view the concept of sex with a certain amount of hostility. It is also not the same as sexual anorexia where there is a loss of appetite, so to say, when it comes to sexual and romantic interactions.