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How Asexuality Works

        Health | Sexuality

This Is What an Asexual Looks Like
Asexuals aren't necessarily loners; many still pursue romantic relationships.
Asexuals aren't necessarily loners; many still pursue romantic relationships.
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Although the definition of an asexual -- "a person who does not experience sexual attraction" -- sounds strict, the asexual experience isn't so narrow. Some asexuals are virgins; others aren't. Some masturbate; others don't. Some pursue non-sexual, romantic relationships; others avoid close emotional bonding. Nevertheless, surveys to date have highlighted some hallmarks of the asexual community at large.

Most notably, adult women far outnumber men in the self-identified asexual community. In the initial 1994 sexuality survey in Britain, women comprised 71 percent of those who acknowledged no sexual attractions [source: Bogaert]. More recent data also reflects a significant gender gap. In 2008, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network conducted an informal survey among its online community to gauge demographics and behaviors; again, 71 percent identified as female [source: AVEN]. Respondents to the 2011 Asexual Census were slightly more diverse. Sixty-four percent identified as female, 14.1 percent as male and the remaining 22 percent as gender-neutral or androgynous [source: Asexual Awareness Week].

The asexual community also acknowledges varying degrees of interpersonal desire. In fact, a majority of asexuals feel romantic attractions toward other people, and some even get married [source: Cox]. Closer to 17 or 18 percent are aromantic, or completely uninterested in fostering non-platonic relationships [source: Asexual Awareness Week]. Of course, it isn't guaranteed that asexual people will fall for other asexual people, which is why some are sexually active for the benefit of their partners. That said, a majority of self-identified asexuals remain virgins [source: Asexual Awareness Week].

No matter where asexuals fall in their comfort levels with sexual contact, most aren't opposed to others having sex, or the concept of sex; it simply provokes no desire on their part. To get that message across to the public, the asexual community has adopted a slice of cake as its unifying symbol. Allegedly, the confectionary mascot came from an asexual who explained his regard for sex thusly: "Between cake and sex, I'd choose cake" [source: Havlak].

But in some corners of the academic and clinical communities, asexuality is met with a measure of skepticism and concern.


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