Jo and Tsvetina from the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service talk about Asexual Awareness Week: 23rd October – 29th October.
Asexual Awareness Week is an annual international campaign designed to raise awareness about and promote visibility of the asexual community.
Not everybody is interested in sex!
An asexual person (sometimes known as ‘ace’, for short) is someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
Sexuality is such an important aspect of our culture that people who don’t relate to the ’norm’ can frequently feel extremely isolated or inadequate. Asexuality is often stigmatised or over-looked as an identity, which can lead to people who are asexual feeling marginalized by both mainstream culture and the LGBT+ community.
Many people have never heard of asexuality, yet at least 1% of the population is believed to be asexual!
Myths versus Reality
- Asexuality is not the same as abstinence (although some asexual people choose to be abstinent)
- Asexuality is not the same as celibacy (there are celibate asexual people and promiscuous asexual people and asexual people everywhere in between)
- Asexuality is not a gender identity (although there may be trans, non-binary, or genderqueer asexual people)
- Asexuality is not a disorder (although there may be asexual people with physical or mental conditions)
- Asexuality is not a choice (although not every asexual person is ‘born that way’)
- Asexuality is not a hormone imbalance (although there may be asexual people with hormone issues)
- Asexuality is not a fear of sex or relationships (although there may be asexual people who are afraid of or otherwise dislike sex or relationships)
Attraction, Not Action
Asexuality is a sexual orientation, like homosexuality, heterosexuality or bisexuality, and like all other sexual orientations, it’s about what someone feels, not what someone does. Dating, having sex, masturbating, falling in love, getting married, or having children do not conflict with asexuality in any way. There are many reasons why an asexual person might do these things that do not require sexual attraction to be present.
The Gray Areas
Some people feel that they are ‘almost asexual’ or ‘asexual with an exception’. That is, they strongly identify with being asexual, except for a few limited or infrequent experiences of sexual attraction. Gray-asexual people fall in between asexuality and non-asexuality. In some cases, they experience sexual attraction but only very rarely. In others, they’re unsure if they’ve experienced it or don’t feel that they quite fit the definition of asexual in some way. Demisexual people are only able to feel sexual attraction after developing a strong emotional bond with someone.
What about romance?
It is not uncommon for asexual people to experience romantic attraction, which is different from (but often confused with!) sexual orientation.
Romantic attraction is an emotional response that most feel, which often results in them wanting a romantic relationship with the person that the attraction is felt towards. Many asexual people experience romantic attraction even though they do not feel sexual attraction. There are also aromantic asexual people, who are not romantically attracted to anyone.
Being asexual in a sexual world
Realising you don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone can be an incredibly difficult experience in a culture which emphasises sex constantly through communication, entertainment and art. We live in a society where sex is almost everywhere, and there is a ‘sexual imperative’: the assumption that everyone needs sex to be happy.
When someone discovers they’re in the 1% of the population that doesn’t experience sexual attraction, they must learn to navigate a world where sex is considered normal and even mandatory for a happy life.
It may be incredibly difficult for an asexual person to come out to friends and relatives because of these social pressures and it is common for a range of different emotions to be described when a person realises that they’re asexual.
Some people feel relieved or proud to find a word that describes their experience. Some may feel thankful to know there are other people like them. Some people describe feeling disappointed, as though they are lacking something vital. Others still may feel indifferent.
However, lacking sexual desires does not make a person somehow unable to bond with other people or stop them from being able to enjoy a healthy relationship with a partner. Asexual people are as capable of experiencing love as anyone else. For many asexual people, love happens in romantic partnerships which rely on powerful nonsexual ways to express intimacy. Many asexual people also engage in sexual activities for a variety of reasons, as described above. For other asexual people, love happens primarily in close friendships or in community ties.
Support for LGBT+ Students
Rainbow Bridge and the All Wales Hate Crime Project will be back this year at The Student Support centre (50 Park Place), offering information, support and advice to LGBT+ Cardiff University students on the last Tuesday of every month, 5.30pm-7.30pm, from Tuesday 25th October.
Rainbow Bridge can provide free and confidential support to victims of domestic abuse who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and/or Transgender. The team can offer emotional support, practical support, safety planning and much more.
If you would like to attend a session or simply find out more, please call 0300 3031 982 or email RainbowBridge@victimsupport.org.uk to book a slot today.
The All Wales Hate Crime Project was set up in 2014 to support and empower people to report hate crimes. If you have been a victim of hate crime then you can access this free service to gain support, or to report an incident.
Contact us in Counselling, Health and Wellbeing
If you are struggling to improve your wellbeing, please know Cardiff University Support Services are here for you – there is no problem too big or too small and we offer a wide range of flexible support options.
Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire. We also offer a Wellbeing Walk-In Daily Drop-In Service, Monday to Friday, 3pm to 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings, 9.30am to 10.15am, at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place. We also hold a Walk-In service at our Student Support Centre at Cardigan House on our Heath Park Campus, on Wednesday afternoons, 3pm to 3.45pm.
Watch our video to meet some of our friendly, approachable staff. All staff members will listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If talking to a member of staff is something you are not sure about, why not chat to one of our Student Wellbeing Champions. They are trained student volunteers who can signpost you to support, offer you a ‘Peer Ear’ and give you basic health and wellbeing advice. If you would like to see our Champions in action, please check out their video.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options. The University also has its own GP Practice – Park Place Surgery for those in their catchment area.
Your feedback and help please
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Jo, Student Counsellor & Tsvetina (Placement Student), Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team.
Your Student Life, Supported.
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For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.