As our society becomes more open to understanding different ways of living and experiencing sexuality, there is one lifestyle that many have yet to believe is a sort of orientation: Asexuality.
According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, an asexual is “someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” Now, this is does not mean that they cannot be in relationships or have sex. More than a concrete state, it’s a spectrum. People who identify as asexual can choose to be with sexual people, alone, or with other asexual. Some can experience arousal, but even then won’t feel a need to engage in sexual activity with another person.
“I feel sex is a waste of time, but if people enjoy it, they should do whatever.” Yuzhi, 25
“Personally I don’t feel anything; it’s not disgusting or disturbing. It’s like playing a game of cards or taking a walk to the centre.” Alex, 24
This is isn’t something recent. Several people who have spoken out about being asexual have said they’ve felt like that their whole lives. Likely this is a way of experiencing sexuality that has existed since the beginning of humanity, but people probably felt they could not talk about it. Or given that marriage and relationships used to not be based on sexual attraction but social contracts, there was no need to mention it.
“I thought at 40 maybe I was frigid. But frigid women don’t exist. These women are asexual.” Lydia, 82
Barcelona-based photographer Laia Abril was intrigued by this community and wanted to understand it more. She began the Asexuals Project where she interviewed and photographed several out-asexuals. Slowly the project aimed to give a voice to this greatly misunderstood community.
“It’s just been recently that the Mental Health Community stopped calling it a disorder.” Antonia, 44
There are different kinds of asexuality. They can be sex-positive, where any sexual situation is accepted as long as it’s consensual. Even someone who feels no pull to have sex can adhere to this. The opposite is to be antisexual, where any situation of a sexual nature is seen as repulsive.
There are also A-romantic people, which is actually quite common even outside the asexual spectrum. It refers to someone who does not wish to be in a romantic relationship, but prefers friendship or platonic situations without any physical or emotional connection.
Asexual people can also identify as heteromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, or panromantic. Just because they innately don’t feel sexual attraction or interest in sex, it does not mean they have a particular orientation. Romantic asexuals do search for partners to be in relationships with. However, this can prove a difficult stance since the other person might not understand why their loved one does not want to have sex.
There is still plenty we don’t know or understand about human sexuality. But the easiest way is to ask the person we’re with or who we love what they feel. Instead of making assumptions about who they are or why they do what they do, a conversation can bring people together and even strengthen the bond between them.
To read and watch more of Laia Abril's documentary you can check out the project's website.
If you're interested in learning more about asexuality, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network is full of information and studies that'll help you understand more.