Pretty much everyone knows when Valentine’s Day is – February 14th – and that day is not short of loved-up couples having dinner together and eating as much chocolate as they can, if everyone’s stomachs can cope after Christmas.
As asexuals are given barely any, or stereotypical, coverage in the national press and popular culture, many misconceptions about asexuality, relationships and love have circulated the web.
“Asexuals have no empathy”, “asexuals are incapable of loving and being loved” and “asexuals are attention seekers” are just some of the myths that asexuals have to deal with on a daily basis.
But love is very much in the air for those on the asexuality spectrum – and not just on 14 February.
What is asexuality?
According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), asexual individuals do not experience sexual attraction. However, they can still experience romantic, aesthetic or sensual attraction.
The romantic orientations include terms such as aromantic – experiencing little to no romantic attraction – and homoromantic – being romantically attracted to members of the same sex.
The sexual orientations include asexuality as well as demisexuality – experiencing sexual attraction to someone once a strong emotional connection is formed. Demisexuality is also considered to be part of the asexuality spectrum.
‘Valentine’s Day means as much to me as National Cheese Day for vegans’
David, a 35-year-old facilities administrator, identifies as being asexual and aromantic, meaning he does not have any desire to date.
His very humorous quote emphasises that he treats the day like any other. “I don’t go out of my way to avoid it, I’m not offended by the thought of it, and all the best to anyone who marks the day.”
He is happy being single because he does not have a desire to be in a relationship. He is fulfilled by the love that he has in other forms – familial, platonic and self-love.
He is aware that people will genuinely not understand asexuality as it is a feeling they will never encounter. In simple terms, he explains that it is “not an inability to have, or a dislike for sex… it’s like being in a restaurant after you’ve already eaten.
“You are not hungry. You could have food if you wanted it, but you look at the menu and you just don’t need to order.”
Dating as an asexual
Being asexual and dating can be a challenge. You have to be vulnerable with others and this can be hard for asexuals who cannot control the reaction potential partners have to this news.
Philip, a 23-year-old student and hospitality worker, said: “The first time I ever told someone I was interested in pursuing romantically about my asexuality, they said some pretty hurtful things to me and I refused to talk to anyone about being asexual for years.”
Philip, who uses dating apps semi-regularly, does not include asexuality on his profile. However, he is open to changing this in the future if it will attract fellow asexuals or those who “understand the nuances of sexual and romantic attraction/orientation”.
However, it is apparent that more needs to be done to “change public perception” on this topic in order to educate people on the role that language plays when looking at identities under the LGBT+ umbrella.
Many are aware of homophobic slurs, but less know that referring to asexuals as “virgins” can be equally offensive.
Although finding love as an asexual is arguably more challenging than for others, it is not impossible.
‘Asexuals can still have deep romantic relationships’
14 February 2021 is a special day for Liam, a 23-year-old freelance reporter, as it is his first Valentine’s Day in a relationship.
He began dating his partner in October 2020, but has yet to see them in person. Romantic strolls and live theatre experiences have been replaced by streaming and game nights playing Among Us.
The talk about being asexual was easy, with Liam’s partner also being asexual. Despite this, Liam wants those reading this to take away some pointers about the topic.
The misconceptions about asexual people – that they are “frigid, celibate or just need to find the right person to experience sexual attraction” can cause more harm than good.
“Having sex is valid, but so is not having sex and experiencing the latter option should not make someone less deserving of love.”
Alex, 28, identifies as demisexual – experiencing little sexual attraction once an emotional connection is – while his girlfriend is not asexual.
However, this has not been an issue in their relationship. Alex has had sexual relationships in the past and is not against sex, but does not want to have it all the time.
Alex, 28, said: “With [my partner and I both] being neurodivergent, we have really prioritised clear communication on the important things, so we’ve been able to discuss how our relationship can grow and succeed without a concern of something bubbling up later.”
To add in another food analogy about sex, “It’s like eating steak – I enjoy it, I will make/order it on occasion but if someone came up to me and said I could never have it again I wouldn’t be too bothered about it.”
His Valentine’s Day this year will consist of him playing in a livestream of a Valentine’s-themed roleplaying game for charity with some friends. The link between Valentine’s Day and friends was introduced to Alex by his friend, who happened to have the surname Valentine and be single around that time.
This joke “quickly turned into a sort-of event where people who were single on Valentine’s Day could meet up, have fun, and avoid the loneliness that can happen on that time of year if you are single”.
‘Coming from a homophobic Christian upbringing, it was validating to go out on Valentine’s Day’
“Coming from a homophobic Christian upbringing [and being homoromantic] it was really validating to go out on Valentine’s Day as a same-sex couple and wordlessly declare: ‘This is my person and I love him.'”
Simon, a 28-year-old English graduate student, did not expect to say these words in his early 20s.
He once had an anti-Valentine’s Day party with his cousin, where they burned paper hearts and watched apocalyptic movies because he did not have much luck finding a partner.
Despite not being able to uphold the tradition of eating at a pizzeria with his boyfriend this Valentine’s, the couple’s relationship continues to go from strength-to-strength.
It is led by open communication so that both parties’ sexual and emotional needs are met.
If an allosexual (non-asexual) person wants to know more about asexuality, they just need to “ask”, but be respectful about what you ask. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what asexuality is at first.
“For most people, all of these attractions – [intellectual, romantic and aesthetic] – jumble together into one big, messy emotional experience, and they don’t think much about it.
“Asexuals have to think about it because we’re missing an aspect of attraction that many people find essential.”
The people featured in this article all have different feelings towards Valentine’s Day and experience different forms of attraction, but the one thing that unifies them all is that their feelings are all valid.
And they hopefully show that asexuality is real; far more real than the splattering of asexual characters that fall victim to the cold and villainous stereotypes in shows.
Asexual people can in fact love and be loved and those featured in this article are a testament to that.