At the institution currently known as Rhodes University, sex exists everywhere. It’s talked about like it’s the centre of every relationship, the climax of the “wild night out” story and, at times, it’s spoken about like any other activity, no more meaningful than the act of putting on your socks in the morning. I don’t get it. It’s just a topic I can’t relate to.
This is purely because I identify as asexual. This means I do not experience sexual attraction at all, to anyone of any gender. To be more specific, it is important to understand that I, along with many other asexuals, do still experience other kinds of attraction – romantic, sensual or aesthetic, for example. This means, it is possible for an asexual person to be in a healthy relationship which does not include sex. However, attitudes towards sex among asexuals vary. Some asexuals are sex positive, some are sex neutral and others are sex repulsed and experience an aversion to all sexual activity. Many asexuals even choose to have sex anyway, for many different reasons.
Asexuality is an identity that a lot of Rhodes students aren’t aware of. To many, it seems ludicrous to think that someone might be disinterested in sex, even repulsed by it. This applies more broadly outside the Rhodes community, as asexuality receives very little positive mainstream representation. The general message sent out by the media is that sex is something you need to actively seek out, that sex legitimises a relationship and that sex and intimacy are synonyms. What little representation the asexual community do get is usually riddled with misconceptions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve excitedly started reading a book or watching a show which includes an asexual , or “ace” character, only to have them presented as unfeeling, incapable of understanding human emotion, or exhibiting an aversion to romantic relationships as well. To the mainstream media, distinguishing between asexual and aromantic seems to be too much effort.
By far, the issue that weighs on me most heavily is finding a partner who will accept this about me. In a university and indeed, a society, in which so much emphasis is placed on sex, it is of genuine concern that I am, because of my very identity, unlovable as common societal misconceptions seem to imply. It is exhausting to have to state and explain my identity every time I express attraction to someone – see the phrases: “Are you sure you’re asexual?” and “You can’t be asexual if…”. In addition, knowing that I identify as asexual does not help to make the muddy waters of attraction any clearer. Personally, I find it very difficult to distinguish between different types of attraction – sensual, romantic, and aesthetic especially. Sexuality is very fluid and it is often confusing to make sense of what you are feeling towards different people.
To my fellow asexuals, stay strong. Ace-erasure is a real thing – there are many who don’t know or believe that we exist. It can be tough and confusing at times and people will try to “cure” you, question you and label you. However, should you choose to approach (or avoid) sex, know that there is nothing wrong with you. Know that you are valid.