We asked 7 ace people what they wish allies knew about their identities – here’s what they told us.
“Broadly speaking, a demisexual person is someone who only feels sexual attraction to someone after they feel an emotional bond. Demisexuality fits in to the ace spectrum. I can feel romantic feelings towards someone without there having to be sexual feelings there.”
“A lot of grey aces describe feeling sexual attraction on occasion, having a very low sex drive but enjoying sex occasionally, or feeling completely ambivalent about sex. Despite having an incredibly strong emotional attraction to my partners, I began to realise over time that, while I craved physical intimacy, I didn’t crave sexual intimacy. If I found out today that I would never have sexual contact with another human being ever again, it would have exactly zero impact on my life.”
2. People on the ace spectrum don’t want your pity. Just because they may feel sexual attraction in different ways, doesn’t mean they don’t feel excitement!
“For me, the idea of locking lips with multiple fitties in just one night makes me feel intensely uncomfortable at most, or at the very least bored. There’s no excitement in it, whereas when I do sporadically feel attraction to someone, I feel it EVERYWHERE – like someone has attached a TENS machine to all my main nerves and just turned that dial up to 11. It’s great!”
3. People’s sexualities sitting within the ace spectrum doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with past sexual trauma – but, even if there are links, their identity is no less valid.
“I have experienced sexual trauma on more than one occasion, and I must admit that it has been really hard to unpick ‘organic’ elements of my sexuality from trauma responses. I think this was one of the biggest reasons that I invalidated myself regarding my ace spectrum identity for a long time.
I am not sure if I will ever be able to say that my experience of sex repulsion is entirely unrelated to my trauma, though I don’t consciously associate them anymore. But over time I’ve come to terms with the fact that, regardless of its origin, it has remained stable and is a key part of my sexual identity and my relationship with sexuality. I am entitled to own that and accept it as another piece of the puzzle that forms my grey asexuality.”
4. Some people on the ace spectrum do have a sex drive.
“I masturbate pretty regularly. But, as I was trying to explain to a friend recently, when I masturbate, I don’t really think about sex at all. It just feels good. Sort of like eating a massive bowl of hummus feels really good, or climbing into bed after a long hot shower, or binge watching all five series of Broad City in two days, you know? I enjoy masturbating, I just have no desire to have other people do it for me, or to touch other people that way.”
5. People can be both bisexual and demisexual. LGBTQIA+ people know themselves deeply. When you consistently come out to yourself and those around you, it’s hard NOT to know who you are.
“Just as straight people are not automatically attracted to people of a different gender to them, I don’t leave my commute overwhelmed by all the potential options I have. I can be in a room with the most beautiful person of any gender, and that won’t mean that I want to jump their bones. Knowing someone’s morals, what makes them tick, and their own experiences of moving through the world, is of far more interest to me.”
6. The hypersexualisation of Black people negatively impacts those who sit under the umbrella of the ace spectrum.
“As someone who moves through the world as a black person and is often perceived as a black woman before I have a chance to confirm or deny this, I have felt myself hypersexualised in a multitude of situations – by strangers, by medical professionals, by lovers, and would-be lovers. It’s a relentless torrent of assumptions on my body made by people who will likely never get close enough to it.
This hypersexualisation also actively causes harm, as it directly feeds into r*pe culture by framing black bodies as bodies that sex is done to or happens to, without a need for the enthusiastic consent that comes from getting with people who you’ve emotionally bonded with on a soul level.”
7. It’s OK to be confused about your identity – but, ultimately, knowing yourself is awesome!
“For a long time, I wondered what the heck was wrong with me, which I think is pretty common to the ace experience. But, after lots of wondering, thinking, reckoning, and self-searching, I’ve settled on grey ace. It actually sounds really cool, like a dark anti-hero, or a pub in a magical realism novel – The Grey Ace. So, I can roll with that.”