Ac(e)ing Their Individuality  
Comfortable In Their Asexuality

An asexual activist and co-founder of a community for Indian aces opens up about his experience of coming out

A few months ago, Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani-starrer Satyaprem Ki Katha – a romantic drama – surprised cinegoers with its brush with asexuality. In a society that glorifies hypersexuality, it is nothing short of a win for a mainstream Bollywood film to address the proverbial elephant in the room, albeit briefly.   


In the film, Sattu (Aaryan), a 30-plus unemployed virgin falls head over heels in love with Katha (Advani). But after their wedding, Katha refuses to sleep with him on the pretext of his loud snoring, only to claim later that she is ‘asexual’.  


While the film doesn’t deep dive into the myriad layers of asexuality, it makes a bold attempt to introduce a concept like this to the masses, something which has never been witnessed in Hindi cinema. Most asexuals​ are misunderstood and​ find themselves at the centre of several myths and misconceptions. And such individuals are​ often​ branded as ‘attention-seeking’ or prudish.  


Breaking down asexuality  


According to a 2022 report by Stonewall, barely 2 per cent of the population identifies as asexual. For the unversed, asexuality is a sexual orientation. It is neither a disorder nor a choice. Instead, individuals who identify as asexual have low or no sexual desire. However, this doesn’t mean that asexuals do not have romantic feelings for anyone.  


“We enjoy being in healthy, loving relationships but sexual attraction is almost always absent. Asexuals can identify as gay, lesbian, and bisexual or straight depending on who they feel romantically attracted to,” says Raj Saxena, asexual activist, founder of Indian Asexuals, a self-funded online collective for asexuals in India, and co-founder of ACEapp, a dating app for the asexual community. 


It was 2012 and Saxena was 18 when he first identified as an asexual. It was early on that he realised his romantic inclination towards the same sex but there were no feelings of sexual desire. In the absence of adequate awareness, he labelled himself as ‘gay’, a common term used for same-sex attraction. “With time, I knew I only wanted a romantic association with the same sex. It was then that I identified myself as a homoromantic asexual,” he adds.  


Over time, awareness around​ this sexual orientation​ has increased. The activism around asexuality led by Yasmin Bentoit, a British model and award-winning writer and researcher, has also contributed to the growing discourse on the subject. Her campaign #ThisIsWhatAsexualLooksLike has helped dispel myths around asexuality. Moreover, she has also been instrumental in co-founding International Asexuality Day that is celebrated on April 6 every year. 


Trials and tribulations  


Saxena, too, is a loud and proud homoromantic asexual today. However, his journey hasn’t been easy.  


“When I was ‘figuring’ my sexual orientation as a teenager, I consulted a queer-friendly counsellor who dismissed my      stance as unwarranted. I still recall the words that she uttered – “everyone feels this way until they indulge in sex. Try it out and you will love it,” he shudders. 


Most individuals are aghast at an asexual’s lack of interest in sex; others conveniently equate it with celibacy. Ironically, it isn’t uncommon to face discrimination within the LGBTQIA+ community, who consider asexuality as an ‘invisible orientation’, mentions Saxena. 


“I’ve often been asked why asexuals want to claim their space in the community if we don’t want sex. Most LGBTQIA+ members conveniently forget it is a space for every non-heterosexual individual,” shares Saxena. 


Dating has been a hard space to navigate for Saxena, who confesses it hasn’t ever worked out with non-asexual men for they never understood his sexual boundaries. No matter how much Saxena vocalised his preferences, they always believed he’d end up having sex at a later stage. 


An inclusive future? 


While there’s a long way to go before asexuality is accepted, it’s heartening to witness more conversations in the public forum. In 2021, when TV actress ​​Sriti Jha re​cited​ a poem on asexuality titled Confessions of a Romantic Asexual at Mumbai’s The Spoken Festival, it went viral. The line:  ‘You can feel all the butterflies and your heart skip a beat for someone and yet not want to do it’ was     cheered with full gusto at the gathering. 


That’s not all – the HBO hit series, Game of Thrones, confirmed its character Lord Varys as asexual. Hollywood actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of London-based detective Sherlock Holmes also sparked conversations of the character being ‘gay’. In an interview, the actor called Holmes ‘asexual’ as a consquence of his disinterest in sex.  


Saxena believes increasing discussions around asexuality will create more visibility, which is much-needed. In a patriarchal society, there’s relentless pressure to get married, have children or form a family based on heteronormative settings. “When someone denies conforming to societal standards, they face aphobia (discrimination of aromantic and asexual individuals). Most of the time homo asexuals do not gain acceptance,” he reiterates.  


Since asexuals desire companionship as much as others, Saxena advises such individuals to ideally find a partner of the same sexual orientation. “If a partner is not asexual, it becomes difficult to navigate the space of dating and relationships. Allosexuals or those who experience sexual attraction have to accommodate and make certain compromises, which most may not be willing to. I personally don’t see myself in a relationship with a non-asexual individual,” he concludes. 


A few terms to know:  


Asexuality: A sexual orientation in which an individual experiences little to no sexual attraction  
Demisexual: An individual who experiences sexual attraction with someone, only after forming an emotional bond 
Graysexual: Someone who experiences infrequent sexual attraction or with certain people  
Allosexual: Individuals who experience sexual attraction to others 

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