What Is Asexual?

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on July 07, 2023
3 min read

Asexual is the lack of sexual attraction to others, or a low interest in sexual activity. Some people consider asexuality to be their sexual orientation, and others describe it as an absence of sexual orientation.

Asexual can also be an umbrella term that includes a wide spectrum of asexual sub-identities, such as demisexual, grey-A, queerplatonic, and many others. Asexual people may identify as cisgender, non-binary, transgender, or any other gender.  

It is common for asexual people to have romantic (but not sexual) attractions to others. They may identify as hetero-, homo-, bi-, or pan-romantic. Others are aromantic — that is, they feel no romantic attraction to other people. 

Some asexual people prefer the term “ace.” 

Asexuality does not mean celibacy. People who practice celibacy abstain from sex, but not necessarily because they are not sexually attracted to others. Some choose to remain celibate for religious or personal beliefs. Asexuality, on the other hand, is an orientation and is not a choice.

Some asexual people actually do have sex. There are many reasons why they might decide to, but two common ones are to please their romantic partner or to have children.

Many asexual people have romantic feelings for other people, go on dates, and have long and short-term romantic relationships. They don’t generally have an aversion to sex or depictions of sex — they simply don’t feel sexual attraction. 

A person does not become asexual because they have been rejected sexually. This is a harmful, persistent myth. Some people realize they are asexual after one or more sexual experiences. Others know it from an early age. 

Asexuality is not a mental disorder, and people don’t become asexual because they have been sexually abused. Like anyone else, an asexual orientation is not exclusively determined by a person’s history. Although these factors can shape part of a person’s identity, sexuality is not a choice.

Asexual people can have romantic relationships with others. A person’s asexuality may affect the relationship, or it may not be a factor at all. 

It’s important for people to discuss their boundaries when it comes to asexuality. If you’re in a relationship with an asexual person, respect their preferences around sex. Some asexual people may be comfortable with some amount of physical or even sexual contact, while others are not. Communication is key.

While you don’t have to come out to your loved ones (or anyone else) as asexual, some asexual people find it to be helpful or cathartic. 

You can explain your asexuality in a detailed way that describes your unique orientation or stick to the general idea of non-sexual attraction. 

It’s always up to you to decide who to come out to, but it’s never ok to out someone else, including a romantic partner. If your partner prefers to keep this part of their life private, honor their decision. 

In many cases, asexuality is unlikely to come up in conversation, but it might be helpful to decide how you would respond if a loved one asked you about your orientation.