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The concept of asexuality and how it works can be confusing for a lot of people, including those who are ace themselves. There’s not some neat little box you can set an ace person into and have that same box fit every other ace person. We’re not that tidy. Some of us also like sex, kink, and the consumption (or creation) of sexual media. Does that sentence make your brain go ??? a little bit? Don’t worry, I’m going to break it all down and lay it out so this is easy to understand.
Disclaimer: I am just a single ace person and I don’t speak for the entirety of the community. There is no one experience that applies to all ace people. Where possible I will elaborate and explain things with my own personal experience.
Important things you’ll learn more about:
Terms can be weird and confusing so I’m going to start there. People often use them interchangeably or don’t quite understand what they mean to begin with.
The ace spectrum has three main components and a bunch of micro-labels within it.
Asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction towards others.
Demisexuality is only experiencing sexual attraction towards a person once there’s a strong emotional bond (and even then there’s no guarantee it will develop).
Grey-asexuality (or greysexual) is infrequently experiencing sexual attraction towards others.
The most important micro-label for this post is aegosexual or autochorisexual. This is the one that confuses people the most and also trips up a lot of ace people from understanding that they ARE ace.
Aego/autochorisexual is when someone has a disconnect between themselves and the subject of arousal. They are likely to masturbate, consume sexual media, and have fantasies, but lack sexual attraction to actual real people. Their fantasies are more likely to contain desire for fictional or otherwise completely unattainable people/figures, generic imagined people, acts that only involve themselves, or where they are an observer rather than a participant.
This is the micro-label I use, and what you’re probably most likely to encounter in creative sexual communities.
Each ace person is going to have their own relationship with sex. These span negative, neutral, and positive relationships. Let me break them down a little more for you.
The negative relationships include sex-repulsed and sex-averse, which is what people assume defines asexuality. Sex-aversion more commonly applies to the entire concept of sex, whereas repulsion more commonly applies to the ace person being involved. People who are sex-averse or sex-repulsed may be outright disgusted with sex or various sex acts.
The neutral relationships include sex-indifferent and sex-ambivalent. Sex-indifferent people have no strong feelings about sex one way or the other. Sex-ambivalent people may have a fluctuating relationship with sex, and may be favorable to some concepts/acts and repulsed by others.
The positive relationship is referred to as sex-favorable. In many ways it has commonalities with sex-ambivalence. Sex-favorable ace people might be favorable towards specific concepts or acts or sex in general. They can still be repulsed or averse to other concepts and acts, but overall they have a more positive relationship with engaging in sex/sexual acts. This is where I fall. My sex-favorability is dependent on mood, circumstances, and arousal. My proverbial switch is a lot harder to flip than someone who is allosexual (not asexual).
Now, you might read all of that and be sitting there wondering how or why a person who is not experiencing sexual attraction would engage in sexual behavior.
The short answer? It feels good.
There’s also more reasons to engage in sexual behavior than your brain yelling at you to do it. Some ace people are simply curious and want to explore things. Some ace people want to have biological children and they don’t mind having sex for that to happen. Some people just enjoy the intimacy that a lot of sexual behavior brings, or they want to make their partner feel good.
I hate to be a cliche and use the cake concept, but I’m doing it anyway. You might not be ravenous, but if someone offers you a slice of cake (or other food you enjoy) you’re pretty likely to take a bite because you know you’re going to enjoy the experience even if you weren’t hungry to begin with.
In the same way, I might not be feeling sexual attraction to a partner, but I know that I’m going to be touched in ways that feel nice, that I’m going to experience intimacy, and that orgasms are fucking awesome.
Now that you’ve got some foundational knowledge let’s dig in a little deeper!
Arousal: a state of physiological and psychological excitation caused by sexual contact or other erotic stimulation (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/arousal)
Responsive arousal occurs by direct stimulation. The other type of arousal is spontaneous arousal which is what most allosexuals experience. If you’re experiencing both types of arousal during a sexual encounter it’s going to be different than if you’re only experiencing responsive arousal, BUT that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a good time. You’re getting responsively aroused because what’s happening feels good to you and/or is able to engage your mind.
Alternatively, if the ace person in question is aego/autochorisexual then they can use media to get aroused. That arousal can just be for their personal enjoyment, or it can transfer over to masturbation or sexual engagement. If you’re the partner of an ace person like this then you know the benefits of them watching or reading something smutty.
Semi-personal storytime! I have a lot going on that has (in the past) interfered with my enjoyment of partnered sexual encounters. Some of it I’ll probably go over in future posts, but for now here’s the most relevant one to the discussion. Part of my neurodivergence means that I struggle to perceive the passage of time. As a result, I could go for a long ass time without even thinking about sex, which meant I just never thought to initiate it.
My sex life before and after I started writing erotica is VERY different. The creation and consumption of sexual media is not only a personal reminder that it exists, but it also helps to regularly get myself into a mindset where I’m happy to engage. Not that I was unhappy to before, but it was a lot more work to flip that switch.
Part of why I struggled to figure out that I was ace (I initially identified as demisexual) was because I had no idea that there were different types of arousal and that arousal =/= attraction, so I had been working under the assumption that if I was capable of being aroused then I couldn’t be ace. Turns out that was wrong lol
Okay, story time over. Back to business!
You already know now that there are different types of arousal and that attraction doesn’t have to be linked to behavior, now let’s talk about libido. Libido is sexual desire (not sexual attraction, so you know where I’m going with this). Someone can have a high sex drive AND be asexual because you don’t have to be attracted to someone specific to want to have sex in general or to experience sexual satisfaction.
A high libido in an ace person can look a lot of different ways, just like it can with an allo person. It might manifest through masturbation or engaging in sexual acts or a person might just do their best to ignore it. Some ace people have a high libido and hate it. Sometimes your body and brain don’t agree on things and that can be really unpleasant for someone who is sex-repulsed or sex-averse. Some ace people are hypersexual and some are hyposexual, because, say it with me friends: arousal =/= attraction =/= behavior.
Is it possible to engage non-sexually with kink? You bet! A lot of kink is about the exchange of power and people who engage in kink will be able to tell you that there are plenty of aspects that are non-sexual. Ace people who don’t want to sexually engage can still enjoy the power dynamics of kink and the physical experiences of things like restraints.
For ace people who aren’t repulsed or averse, this opens up a lot of room to play. Engaging in kink can affect your body and mind and can be an enjoyable experience whether or not you’re sexually attracted to the person you’re engaging with. Things like pet play, sensory deprivation, rope play, or age regression offer the same stress reducing benefits whether you’re ace or allo.
For those who do want to sexually engage and are ace, well, ace people can be aroused by concepts, and kinks are concepts, so it stands to reason that ace people can be into kinks.
Additionally, as you’ve probably gleaned from this post, there’s a difference between being aroused by something and actually wanting to do it. Everyone who has fantasies is likely keenly aware that you don’t necessarily want to act out every fantasy that floats through your brain. Sometimes it’s just there for your enjoyment or for play in a safe environment. I’m not even going to get into the idea of wanting to do something but being physically incapable of doing so, because this post is long enough, but look forward to that in the future.
Kink is emotional and it engages your brain. It involves fantasy, connection, and trust, all things that a lot of ace people are into. As a kinky ace person, there’s plenty of kinks as concepts that are going to flip my switch, but only a few that I want to (or can) engage with physically. Engaging with kink has improved my mental well-being and my physical relationship with my partner, and given me a better understanding of myself.
People are complex and I think part of why asexuality is SO confusing for a lot of people is because they want there to be one clearcut version. A lot of folks they only understand ace as no sexual attraction, which in their mind translates to someone who is sex-repulsed or averse and avoids all sexual things. They forget that we contain multitudes and there are so many facets to consider. There ARE people who fall under that exact set of identities and behaviors and there are people who fall under part, and people seem like a complete contradiction.
I hope this post has helped expand your understanding of asexuality and even if you still don’t understand it’s important to be respectful. Humanity is complex and complicated, and we’re always going to be better off learning more about the many, many facets that make up our world.
Leave your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer the respectful ones.
Thanks for reading!