50 Shades of Ace: The Spectrum of Asexuality
Language regarding sexuality and asexuality, in particular, is more nuanced than you may have thought.
Asexuality is commonly misunderstood, with many making assumptions that there's only one way to be ace (asexual). In actuality, the word "asexual" often acts as more of an umbrella term describing an entire spectrum of sexual and romantic identities, much like queerness does. Whether the concept of asexuality is totally foreign to you or you're searching for words that align with your identity, our glossary of asexual terms is here to help.
Sexual Attraction vs Sexual Orientation
Sexual attraction and sexual orientation are not one and the same. Sexual attraction describes to what degree, if any, individuals experience the desire to partake in sexual activity. Sexual orientation refers to the gender(s) someone experiences sexual attraction towards, assuming they experience sexual attraction at all.
Sexualities on the Ace Spectrum
Yes, there's more than one!
Asexual (also 'Ace')
In its simplest and most straightforward form, asexuality describes individuals who do not experience sexual attraction and have no appetite for partaking in sexual activity. However, the word "asexual" is sometimes also used as a catch-all label for all types of people on the asexuality spectrum.
Aegosexual (formerly 'Autochorisexual')
An individual that may experience sexual attraction and fantasize about sexual scenarios or get aroused by sexual material, perhaps sometimes masturbating to them, who still doesn't wish to participate in sexual activity.
An asexual person who doesn't experience sexual attraction but still wants to engage in sexual relationships.
Persons who only experience sexual attraction if there is a preexisting strong emotional bond.
Grey-sexual (also 'Grey-asexual,' 'Grey-A,' and 'Grace')
Someone whose sexuality falls somewhere between asexuality and allosexuality (people who do experience sexual attraction). Gray-sexuals may experience sexual attraction very rarely or find that their desire is more fluid, depending on circumstances.
An asexual-identifying person who experiences arousal and satiates those desires through masturbation.
Just like allosexuals, people on the asexual spectrum can be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, pansexual, or choose not to define their sexuality in any gendered terms.
Sexual attraction and romantic attraction are not inherently linked together. Many asexuals (but not all!) have the desire for romantic relationships and act on those desires. Romantic relationships involving one or more individuals on the asexuality spectrum may or may not include sexual activity – it all depends on the people in said relationships and what they're comfortable with.
Romantic Orientations on the Ace Spectrum
Romantic orientations define what gender identities, if any, an individual experiences romantic desire towards. Romantic orientation may also describe to what degree someone does or doesn't experience romantic desire and what circumstances determine those desires.
A person who regularly has a romantic attraction toward others. Alloromantics may be asexual or allosexual, as romantic desire and the desire to engage in sexual activity do not always go hand in hand.
Aromantic (also 'Aro' and 'Aroace')
The complete lack of romantic desire.
Romantic attraction to more than one gender.
When someone only experiences romantic attraction if there is a preexisting strong emotional bond.
When an individual experiences romantic attraction very infrequently or mildly.
Romantic attraction towards the opposite gender.
Romantic attraction towards the same gender.
Lithromantic (also 'Akoiromantic' and 'Apromantic')
A person who experiences romantic attraction but doesn't desire the object of their attraction to return those feelings.
Romantic attraction to all genders and gender identities.
More Terminology Related to Asexuality
The more definitions and lingo you know, the better you can discuss and understand asexuality as a whole.
The choice to abstain from sexual activity. Again, it should be noted that not all asexuals are abstinent.
Slang for "asexual spectrum."
An individual who desires sexual activity and experiences sexual attraction toward others. Allosexuality is essentially the opposite of asexuality.
Slang for either "allosexual" or "alloromantic".
An individual with a libido.
An individual without a libido.
An aversion to or disinterest in sexual activity.
Someone with a proclivity toward sexual activity or a fondness for the idea of it.
A disgust towards all sexual activity and the idea of it.