ACE: Asexual Identities and Resource Guide
by Isabel Williams, College of Charleston (with additions from Elizabeth Ponds, 2017 Summer Fellow)
The Asexual, or “Ace”, community may be statistically small but has a growing presence through online fellowship. In an effort to combat erasure and discrimination from without and within the LGBTQIA community, asexual people or “aces” have a rich culture of symbology and slang. While scholarship and scientific study on asexuality is very limited, bloggers and artists are increasingly creating a community of self-determination that does not see the need for others to explain their identities for them. The Asexual Visibility and Education Network AVEN was founded in 2001 and has provided greater awareness of the asexual community since its inception. In 2008, Acebook went live and began connecting the asexual community online. In 2011 the documentary film (A)sexual premiered, exposing more outside of the Ace community to the basics of what asexuality looks like for some people. In 2013 the Huffington Post ran a 6-article series on asexuality. The purpose of this page is to serve as a brief introduction to asexual identities and asexual culture and to list some resources (found at the bottom) they are developing on the scene.
An asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Most individuals find there are certain people they are not sexually attracted to. For asexual people, this includes everybody! Asexuality is not anti-sexuality. While it’s true that many asexual people never have sex, this is not the same thing as having a sex-negative attitude. Attitudes towards sex and its role in culture differ from person to person, just like they do outside the asexual community. Few asexual people express negative attitudes towards sex, but sex-negative attitudes are also present among non-asexual people. Most asexual people are open-minded in their attitudes toward sex regardless of their personal feelings towards it. Many asexual people consider themselves sex-positive.
According to the The Asexual Visibility and Education Network, AVEN: An asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people. There is considerable diversity among the asexual community; each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction, and arousal somewhat differently. This site also includes some introductory definitions:
Asexual Person: Someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
Demisexual Person: Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature.
Gray-asexual (Gray-a) or Gray-sexual Person: Someone who identifies with the area between asexuality and sexuality, for example because they experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or of an intensity so low that it’s ignorable.
Attraction: In this context, it refers to a mental or emotional force that draws people together. Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, but some feel other types of attraction.
Aesthetic attraction: Attraction to someones appearance, without it being romantic or sexual.
Romantic attraction: Desire to be romantically involved with another person.
Sensual attraction: Desire to have physical non-sexual contact with someone else, like cuddling or holding hands.
Sexual attraction: Desire to have sexual contact with someone else, to share our sexuality with them.
Asexual Awareness Week is always the last week in October.
“Ace”: a common slang term for asexual associated with the ace card symbol and the phonetic pronunciation of “asexual”
Flag: The Asexual Flag is purple white gray and black in ascending order: Black is Asexuality, Grey is Gray-asexuality and demisexuality, White is Sexuality, and Purple is Community
Ace of Hearts/Spades/Clubs/Diamonds: Asexuals use the Ace playing cards as symbols for their specific orientation because “Ace” is a phonetic shortening of “Asexual.” The Ace of spades is for Aromantic Asexuals, the Ace of hearts is for romantic Asexuals, the Ace of clubs is for gray-asexual and gray-aromantics, the Ace of diamonds is for demi-romantics and demisexuals.
Cake: A symbol associated with asexuality inside of the community. Thought to be linked to the old proverbial choice between cake and sex because asexual folks would probably choose cake.
Black Ring: Some in the asexual community wear black rings, usually on a middle finger and right hand to signify their identity.
Discussion – Common Misconceptions about Asexuality:
Tory Butler: “Some common misconceptions about asexuals are that there is something ‘wrong’ with them so they are not to be listened to. Many see asexuals as ‘special snowflakes,’ as naive or innocent (as depicted in limited media spaces), as ‘broken’, or as having mental disorders. Asexuals can enjoy sex, be indifferent towards it, or be entirely sex-repulsed and this depends on the individual at hand. Asexuals can masturbate, tell dirty jokes, be in romantic relationships, and still be asexual. Gray-asexual and demisexual identities can be understood as when an individual creates a strong emotional bond with someone they can feel sexual attraction for them, but not experience sexual attraction otherwise. An adult understanding of the sexual and nonsexual world and asexuality are not mutually exclusive. The idea that asexuals are immature or innocent and will ‘grow’ to ‘understand’ and be sexual is misguided.”
Nathan Kelly: “When some people hear that some asexuals aren’t interested in sex, it’s perceived as ‘not wanting sex with you’ instead of ‘not sexually attracted to you at all.’ In our society, especially for asexual women, this is seen as being ‘prudish’, because of that fundamental misunderstanding. Many aces are sex-positive in general, and some do have sex. Of course, there is also the usual response one gets when discussing queer sexualities; that asexual people “just haven’t found the right man/woman, yet.” This presumes that aces are waiting for someone to complete some ‘missing’ aspect of their lives.”
Kelly Hassan: “There is a misconception that all people who identify as asexual, or on the asexual spectrum, do so because they are victims of sexual violence. It is true that some may be survivors of sexual violence, but many sexual people may be as well. The important thing is to accept asexuality as an identity, just like any other, and to take the time to learn what it means to the individual. When you do that, you can begin to better understand and see the diversity within the asexual community.”
Elizabeth Ponds: “There is this prevalent idea that Asexual people are “not queer” enough to belong in the LGBTQ community, leading many asexuals to feel excluded and like they really don’t belong anywhere, because we often feel like we’re the queerest of them all, aliens who don’t fit in this zedsexual world. It’s imperative for the LGBTQ community to include asexual people and spread awareness of this invisible orientation to combat the isolation and erasure that the Asexual community faces every day.”
AVEN the Asexual Visibility and Education Network is the largest online organization and educator about Asexuality and also hosts chat and forum communities for members.
Asexuality Archive is an online information hub “a collection of all things Ace”.
Acebook Is an online community for people who identify as Asexual to find friends and relationships.
Asexual Awareness Week is an organization that hosts an annual week to promote awareness about the Asexual community in late October. See the site to participate and watch cute videos.
- What is Asexuality – A Community’s Coming of Age
- Asexual Disorder? The Search For Ace Identity Is Part Recognition, Part Redefinition
- Asexual Relationships, Masturbation And Romance In The Ace Community
- Battling Asexual Discrimination, Sexual Violence And ‘Corrective’ Rape
- LGBT, Asexual Communities Clash Over Ace Inclusion
- Asexual Community Leaders Look Toward The Future
The Invisible Orientation is an extensive guide to all things Asexual written by an Aromantic Asexual writer named Julia Sondra Decker (and it can be found used for around $8).
A Brief Introduction to Asexuality produced by the Asexuality Archive was published in 2012 (and is only $7).
Isabel Williams was a 2014 Summer Fellow at Campus Pride. She studied Political Science at the College of Charleston. Isabel was the Student Organizer for College of Charleston’s SafeZone program and the president of the Gay-Straight Alliance. Learn more about Isabel.