How Not to Do 101 on Asexuality, Sex Repulsion, and Sexual Activity

Are you an ace activist, educator, or content-creator?  Are you in the process of making (or have you already made) asexuality visibility and education materials?  If so, you’re this post’s target audience.  Keep reading for a brief overview of common mistakes to avoid in ace vis/ed with regard to the topics of sex and sex-repulsion, with explanations and links to further information on what to keep in mind as you create or edit your project.

[Note: if you’re arriving at this post soon after this post is published, or at any point really, your input and constructive criticism is welcome; I’ll make edits as needed.  And if you’re arriving at this post much later, be aware of the timestamp and take everything here with a grain of salt — different issues and mistakes may be more pertinent to your time.]

Quick links to specific sections: sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces / sex-indifferent aces / non-repulsed, non-indifferent aces / sexually-active aces / sex-repulsed, sex-averse, and sex-indifferent non-aces

sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces
  • If you take the time to clarify that asexuality is not the same thing as hating sex, you should also take the time to clarify that lots of aces do dislike sex as well.
    • While it’s appropriate to recognize that sex aversion or a disinterest in sex isn’t a requirement for being ace, for some aces it is their reason for personally identifying as ace.  “A lack of sexual attraction” isn’t the only way to come to an asexual identity.  Further reading here.
  • Survey data suggests sex-averse and repulsed aces are far from a minority in the community. (see here, here, and here)
    • It’s important to use language that does not diminish this fact or make their numbers sound insignificant (“some,” “a few,” etc.), as this kind of dismissive minimization can be alienating.
    • It’s important to make space for sex-repulsed experiences under the umbrella of asexual experiences, as discussed by beranyth here.
  • You should affirm that there is nothing wrong with hating sex just as strongly as you affirm that there is nothing wrong with asexuality.  There’s a serious community problem to be corrected in this area, as discussed by queenieofaces here.
  • Repulsion isn’t all-or-nothing.  Some sex-repulsed folks are only grossed out by the thought of sex involving themselves, some are grossed out by anything sexual, some are fine with reading about sex but are disturbed by visuals, and so on.  There are infinite variations, and it varies by the individual.
sex-indifferent aces
  • Not all asexual people have strong feelings one way or the other about sex.  Avoid a love/hate binary in the way you talk about how aces feel about sex.
  • Just because an ace isn’t sex-repulsed doesn’t mean they’re sexually active or that they’d consent to sex if asked.
  • Don’t make the mistake of assuming that sex-indifferent aces are necessarily open to sex, as discussed by Sara here.
non-repulsed, non-indifferent aces
  • There are some aces who like sex or have enjoyed it in the past, so don’t describe aces in a way that rules out this possibility altogether.
  • As of right now, there isn’t a widely-accepted term for aces who are neither repulsed nor indifferent and who do like sex in some situations.
  • Although most of the asexual community doesn’t care for sex, it’s important not to define all asexual experiences as mutually inclusive with sex-averse experiences, as discussed by Danny here.
  • Just because an ace isn’t repulsed or indifferent to sex doesn’t mean they’re sexually active or that they’d consent to sex if asked, so be careful not to lump these aces in with categories that don’t necessarily include them all.
  • There are plenty of aces whose personal regard of sex defies any tidy categorization, so don’t assume that all aces can be sorted (or that you can make a list that covers all the possibilities).  There are some pieces written by such aces in this linkspam.
sexually-active aces
  • In order to cover the fact that these aces exist, do not use the phrase “aces can have sex” or “most aces are okay with sex” or similar wording.
    • Saying that having sex doesn’t disqualify someone from being asexual is not the same thing as saying that “aces can have sex,” as discussed by bessibel here.
    • Phrases like “aces can have sex” have become part of a wider pattern of pressuring aces to have sex because they “can.”
  • This demographic category is not the same thing as demis and gray-as.  There are demisexuals who are sex-repulsed even when attracted, there are gray-asexuals who are virgins, etc.
  • This demographic category is not mutually exclusive with aces who dislike or don’t care for sex, so be careful not to generalize otherwise.
  • In any discussion of the conditions under which aces might have sex, “compromise” has become a loaded word.
    • If you write a list of reasons an asexual person might have sex, do not include “to please their partner” or “because they love their partner” outside the context of a discussion of rape culture and compulsory sexuality.
    • The problems with the latter are discussed by Jordan here and also by me here.
    • An alternative way to think about the former is discussed by Siggy here.
sex-repulsed, sex-averse, and sex-indifference non-aces
  • Not everyone who’s repulsed, averse, or indifferent is on the asexual spectrum.  Disliking or being apathetic about sex are traits that overlap with asexuality, not ones that only exist within asexuality.
  • If you address the traits of sex aversion and indifference, make it clear to your audience that a non-ace identity doesn’t make anyone’s aversion or indifference less legitimate and that you don’t have to be ace to identify with these terms.
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