It looks like a standard collegiate prelude to a one-night stand. But there will be no kissing, no fondling, and definitely no Saturday morning walk of shame. Sean and Rae do not have the hots for each other—or anyone else, for that matter. In fact, they’re here hanging out at the campus outreach center, a haven for all who question their sexuality and gender identity, because they’re exploring an unconventional idea: life without sex. Or mostly without sex. They’re pioneers of an emerging sexual identity, one with its own nomenclature and subcategories of romance and desire, all revolving around the novel concept that having little to no interest in sex is itself a valid sexual orientation. Rae tells me she’s an aromantic asexual, Sean identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual, and Genevieve sees herself as a panromantic gray-asexual.
Not sure what these terms mean? You’re not alone. The definitions are still in flux, but most people who describe themselves as demisexual say they only rarely feel desire, and only in the context of a close relationship. Gray-asexuals (or gray-aces) roam the gray area between absolute asexuality and a more typical level of interest. Then there are the host of qualifiers that describe how much romantic attraction you might feel toward other people: Genevieve says she could theoretically develop a nonsexual crush on just about any type of person, so she is “panromantic”; Sean is drawn to women, so he calls himself “heteroromantic.”
“WHEN MY HEART DECIDED HE WAS MY SOUL MATE, MY BODY DECIDED SO TOO.”
If the taxonomy seems loose and even confusing, it’s because the terms were created almost wholly online, arising on gaming-site forums and a nest of interrelated Tumblrs, blogs, and subreddits. They don’t necessarily describe fixed identities but serve more as beacons for people to locate each other online. While the rest of the world was using the web to invent and gratify new pervy thrills, these people used it as a wormhole out of a relentlessly sexual culture. It might be the only corner of the Internet that is not laced with porn.
So although labels are a big part of it, demisexuals and gray-aces don’t get too caught up in the lingo. They tend to be pretty comfortable with the idea they might change. A few months after that Friday at the outreach center, Genevieve realized she is more of an asexual than a gray-ace, and Sean now isn’t sure if he’s demi or ace. “Every single asexual I’ve met embraces fluidity—I might be gray or asexual or demisexual,” says Claudia, a 24-year-old student from Las Vegas. “Us aces are like: whatevs.”
Friends and family often find such identities flat-out strange and assume that it’s all some kind of postadolescent phase or that something is seriously wrong. They might wonder if it’s really just a stop on the way to homosexuality or maybe the result of trauma or a hormone imbalance. But to those who embrace this approach to sex, it’s just how they are. Sex is “fascinating from a clinical point of view, but personally? No,” Rae says. “I have better things to do with my time.”
The conventional wisdom today is that lust and gratification are natural and healthy, a nonnegotiable aspect of being human. We presume that freedom of sexuality is a fundamental human right. But the idea of freedom from sexuality is still radical. It is an all-new front of the sexual revolution.
Asexuality has slowly been coming out of the closet for more than a decade. In 2001, a Wesleyan University student named David Jay created a website called the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. It started as a repository of information about all things asexual. When forums were added a year later, members started trickling in. By 2004 there were a thousand. Today there are some 80,000 registered users.
But for some people, the idea of being completely and entirely asexual still didn’t quite fit. The word demisexual seems to have come into being on an AVEN forum on February 8, 2006. It was coined by somebody who was trying to explain what it was like to be mostly, but not entirely, asexual. The term caught on only in the last few years, and now most people who are demisexual say their desire arises rarely and only from a deep emotional connection. For a demisexual, there is no moment of glimpsing a stranger across the room and being hit with a wave of lust. “I’ve only ever been sexually attracted to three people in my whole life,” wrote one self-described demisexual, Olivia, a few years ago. “My partner is sexually attracted to that many people during particularly sexy bus rides.”
Beyond that, there’s a lot of variability. Some demis and gray-aces have occasional flare-ups of desire, some say they’re indifferent to sex, and others find the thought of it repellent. Some masturbate. Others, like Claudia, even write erotica. “It has no relationship to your actual desire to have sex with someone in real life,” she says.
source: wired.com BY KAT MCGOWAN