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AVENguy

Shifting Definition of Asexuality

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AVENguy   
AVENguy

So recently when doing visibility work I've found myself drifting away from the definition that's posted on AVEN. "does not experience sexual attraction." It's a little clinical, in that it gives a "cause" for asexuality rather than talking about what we actually feel. Most people aren't used to thinking about sexual attraction as an experience, so it takes them a second to process. It opens naturally leads into a discussion about the nature of sexuality and sexual attraction, which is equally abstract and which is often not useful. It also situates inexperience at the center of asexual identity, which makes us come across as innocent and/or "missing out."

Instead I've been using "An asexual person is someone who is not interested in sex." It's easier to process and also easier to refer back to. Disinterest, unlike inexperience, is something that people actively feel. It grounds asexual identity in an emotion rather than an abstract psychological property. That makes it easier for people to relate to, and it opens up a conversation about how it feels to be asexual rather than one about how we are psychosexually wired.

It also begs more interesting questions. If we are unable to experience something then we're broken. If someone asks us why we don't experience sexual attraction, all we can come back with is essentialism: "I was born that way." "It's just how I am." The conversation becomes about how we're built, which can quickly become invasive.

Ability is almost always better than inability, but interest is not necessarily better than disinterest. If someone asks us why we aren't interested in sex, we can put the question back on them. "Why should I be interested in sex?" "Why are you interested in sex?" It also allows us a better opening to talk about the things that we ARE interested in. "Why should I be fixated on sex when life has so much else to offer?"

Thoughts?

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Hexpiral   
Hexpiral

Not a bad idea at all. Sexual attraction is not only a hazy concept, but also one difficult to translate.

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Cerhiunnhn   
Cerhiunnhn

I've also been using "someone not interested in sex." It's a lot easier for sex-obsessed teenagers (the people I have to deal with every day) to comprehend, though I guess they don't understand as much as they just choose to accept it.

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Rabger   
Rabger

Hmm, actually, I'm not sure I like this new way of explaining. While it may be easier to understand, I don't think its 100% accurate. Overall, yes, but not completely. I remember going through the info page not too long ago for one of my discussions, and there is a part in there that talks about asexuals that may enjoy sex with a loving partner, whether its on a phsyical or emotional level. They may not be interested in sex in any other context, but within that particular context, they may be, at least to a point. Granted, I think this might be the minority within the asexual community, but it's still there.

I think saying "not interested in sex" can have the same issues as "not experiencing sexual attraction." You get a "why?" either way. And people will still think that you're broken either way.

The first part is my main issue with it though. That and the focus is sex, even if its technically a lack of focus. I dont think its a lack of interest in sex itself that makes me asexual. I feel that's more of a byproduct, and like I said above, isn't necessarily 100% true to start with.

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ColiNi   
ColiNi

The definition shifts some of the lines which people here use to delineate asexuality. For example, 'people not interested in sex' includes people who get strong feelings of sexual attraction due to things other than having sex (e.g. fetishists).

Does it include people with sexual drive but who choose to be celibate? From one point of view, they aren't interested in sex. From another point of view, they are interested in sex. From a third point of view, they have some parts of themselves that are interested in sex but have other parts which have an even stronger disinterest.

But is that any different from a person who is sexually repressed against his/her will due to traumatic events, and would rejoycefully dive into sexual acts if only that painful mental block could be removed? Does a person become briefly asexual when he/she loses interest in sex for a few minutes after a significant other makes a particularly rude belch?

If you want to rule those out, you could use a definition like: "Asexual: a person who has no (innate) drive to have sex with others." That would include currently-asexuals and borderline cases like balloon fetishists, but would exclude celibates and people who suppress their sex drive for some reason, e.g. if they intellectually don't want sex or if their sex drive is fixated on socially unacceptable things like rape fantasies.

Re: "not feel sexual attraction" vs "has no drive to have sex" vs "not interested in sex"

"not interested in sex" is probably the one that people can quickly grasp, but I don't think they all will grasp it in the same way. On the other hand, I think that "no innate drive to have sex".

However, that might not account for the people who, according to your old type system, have sexual drive but no sexual attraction.

Apparently definitions = perditions.

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AmoebicMe   
AmoebicMe

I agree with ColiNi, and like his/her definition better though a have a slight issue with the word "innate" as some people here used to have this "innate" desire, but no longer feel so. I just feel as if the word implies NEVER having any desire.

Also, I think that saying that asexuals aren't "interested" in sex implies that we are not attracted (sexually) to others, when that isn't always the case.

I think that a better way to word it would be that we have no desire to engage in sex. However, that kinda brings in the "oh, you must all be abused" argument. But I don't think that there's any way to get around people assuming that we're abuse victims, "broken," or any of the other terms that get associated with us.

Yes. My $.02 and whatnot.

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bard of aven   
bard of aven

Well, DJ, you're a postmodernist and I'm an Aristotelean, but we knew that. Changing a definition because it lets you control a discussion--bad idea from my perspective. And the new definition doesn't fit either of us. You and I are both extremely interested in sex, although in diffeent aspects of it and for different reasons.

boa

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Dargon   
Dargon

I too have some issues with the no interest in sex definition. When it comes to interest, while I have no interest in having it, I find sex, or moreso sexuality quite interesting. I like ColiNi's new definition better than the proposed new definition, but quite honestly, though sexual attraction may be hard to define, I like the current definition best.

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Nero laughed   
Nero laughed

Ok here's my 2cents. i Hope you dont mind the new guy jumping in here.

IMHO the new definition could be a better starting point as Avenguy has illustrated. It is definately more relateable for sexuall people and can be used as a doorway for any other personal twist that individuals might have in their experience.

Also BOA has a good point- maybe a slight tweak in semantics. A person who is not interested in sexuall activity. Or something along the lines that highlights that the lack of interest is in the actual act(s).

for your consideration.

nero

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ColiNi   
ColiNi
I agree with ColiNi, and like his/her definition better though a have a slight issue with the word "innate" as some people here used to have this "innate" desire, but no longer feel so. I just feel as if the word implies NEVER having any desire.

That is a good point. I was going to say "no internal drive to have sex", but some might think that includes people who want to have sex because of intellectual curiosity about what it would be like, or people who have internalized society's will, etc. So I said "innate", but "innate drive" does sound like "drive you were born with" or something...

Maybe "has no unconsciously-internally-generated drive to have sex" is more accurate, but that is hard to grasp already...and maybe that leaves out people who have drive to have sex but aren't attracted to anyone? "has no drive to have sex or doesn't feel sexual attraction", perhaps? Still kinda rough...

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Rabger   
Rabger

I tend to agree with anyone that likes the old def better. The main problem with that is that as far as I'm aware, we've never come up with a solid def for "sexual attraction." My ex and I came very close to finding a def that would satisfy both sexual and asexual, but since we are currently not speaking, we can't finish the convo at the moment.

I still have problems with most of the defs put forth due to the reason I had the first time. Saying something like "not interest in sex" or "no innate desire for sex" or "no drive for sex" or anything like that implies just that, no desire for sex in any situation. And I again point to the info section to argue against this:

I enjoy being sexual with my loving partner but I've never really felt driven to have sex with anyone else, could I be asexual?

Most asexual people are capable of having sex, as with masturbation some asexuals find the experience of sex pleasurable. If you use sex as an expression of romantic or emotional attraction (love) rather than because you are driven to do so by a sex drive, then that need not contradict an asexual identity.

If you never feel attraction to other people, if you're never 'horny' for sex, then you would fit the definition of asexuality. Just as sexual people can form asexual relationships, asexual people can participate in sexual relationships. If you're comfortable and happy with that then it's cause for celebration rather than a reason to doubt your 'asexual purity'.

There are other reasons why some asexuals choose to participate in sexual activity: The motivation might be curiosity or experimentation (a good proportion of asexuals have tried sex at some point in the past). Certain aspects of sex might be sensual and enjoyable enough to be motivation for some people even without sexual attraction or drive. In a loving relationship, some asexuals may enjoy giving sexual pleasure to their partner without the need for any sexual gratification in return.

Often the sexual relationships asexuals participate in seem far removed from what's considered 'normal'. It is not unusual for the asexual partner to be completely honest about their lack of sexual arrousal or pleasure. Sexual acts can seem completely one sided or sexual activity might rely strongly on sensuality with very little emphasis on genital sex. These relationships are often based on extreme honesty. It is unlikely that an asexual would be completely comfortable in a traditional sexual relationship with a partner unaware of their asexuality.

It should be noted that most asexual people feel completely neutral about sex or perhaps tried it and found it very disappointing. Others find the idea of participating in sexual activity absolutely repulsive.

The common factor among asexuals is that they are not driven to have sex with other people, they don't get horny and other people don't 'turn them on'. This doesn't necessarily stop them from finding some pleasure from sex if they so choose.

I'm sure not all of that was needed but I don't feel like going through all of it. My point, however, is that the focus of "sex" in the def causes issues. You may not be interested in sex itself, having no real sexual attraction, but if you have that romantic attraction, it is still possible to be interested in certain ways. There is also the interest associated with curiousity.

I say we stick to "a lack of sexual attraction" and I'll hope my ex stops being a bitch long enough for us to get a good def for it :) Though, I due sort of agree that "a lack of" implies that one should be there to start with. But you could also have a lack of interest in sex. Or a lack of interest in reading.

Am I babbling or is anyone actually catching my point?

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Lors   
Lors

I agree that it would simplify the problem of explaining. But only because it simplifies the definition.

I still think "does not experience sexual attraction" is the best, even if no of us can define sexual attraction. It's the ambiguty in that, which makes the asexual definition so broad.

I think most of us don't need to know what it is, we just know it's not there. In the same way sexuals don't because it is there.

If someone asks you why, you can still throw the question back at them. Don't try and explain something you cannot. They're the expect on it, let them tell you about it, and you add your comments.

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Live R Perfect   
Live R Perfect

It does seem a little ludicrous that the very term 'sexual attraction' that we have long defined ourselves by (negatively speaking) is something that we cannot even define.

Sceptic: So, you say you don't experience sexual attraction? What exactly do you mean by that?

Asexual: Umm...

I Like ColiNi's suggestion personally.

I've been using the 'not interested in having sex' definition for myself for a while now - it just makes a lot more sense to me. But I think we all have our own definitions. Whether we decide to change the official AVEN definition or not, though, I will still consider myself asexual and stick to the definition that makes most sense to me.

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Cate Perfect   
Cate Perfect

I've been using the 'I'm not interested in having sex with anyone' definition for some time. I have to agree with boa, though, I am interested in sex--like why people do it and all that--but not interested in partaking in it with another person.

Cate

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Kez   
Kez

When I explain what asexuality means, I go "I dont like like males or females. Or sheep, couches, cows, ducks. Or anything. "

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LC   
LC

I'm also inclined to prefer the old definition. As far as "not interested in sex" goes -- what exactly does "not interested" mean? Someone who is indisputably "sexual" might well be "not interested in sex" for a period of say weeks or months, just because there are no potential sex partners around and/or all their time and energy is focused elsewhere (school, career, etc.) That doesn't mean they've become temporarily asexual, it just means sex isn't a part of their life at that moment.

And to turn it around, look how many AVEN threads discuss sex! You could say that in some sense we appear to be "interested" in sex, or we wouldn't bother talking about it. (Maybe saying "not interested in HAVING sex" would clarify that point).

Anyway, "Does not experience sexual attraction" may not be perfect, and I agree it can be hard to define exactly what constitutes "sexual attraction", but I think it seems to come closest to how most of us understand "asexual".

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KAGU143   
KAGU143

I usually say something along the lines of: "On those rare occasions when I find myself drawn to another person, the attraction is never of a physical nature and never becomes that way." (Yes, I really do talk this way ... sorry!) If they persist, I will explain that I don't find anybody to be sexually attractive, that I've tried sex just to see what all the fuss was about, and that I have no desire to repeat the experience. Including my experiments with LSD in the same sentence usually stops all further questioning ... even if the strange looks continue.

As far as a definition for asexuality goes, I sometimes substitute the term physical attraction for sexual attraction, but otherwise I have been keeping pretty close to what the FAQs say.

I think it would be false to say that I have no interest in sex when the truth is quite the opposite. It fascinates me precisely because it is so foreign to me, and yet of such critical importance to almost everybody I know. I am even more intrigued by the concept of sexual attraction. I don't understand it at all and probably never will, but I still feel like I'm missing out on some profound human experience.

*wondering when the mother ship will return to take me home*

-Greybird

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Hexpiral   
Hexpiral
When I explain what asexuality means, I go "I dont like like males or females. Or sheep, couches, cows, ducks. Or anything. "

Nice one there! I'll probably use something like it.

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cijay   
cijay

I'll stay with the "does not experience sexual attraction" club. I'm not even interested in it either but I'll stay with what I've been saying all along. If I just say that I'm not interested in sex, that WILL give people the opportunity to do the old "you haven't been with me before." If I say I have no sexual attraction, it's quite funny to see them suddenly realise there is one person on the earth who doesn't find them sexually attractive.

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slatterly   
slatterly
Sceptic: So, you say you don't experience sexual attraction? What exactly do you mean by that?

Asexual: Umm...

Well, basically that you're not interested in sex. :D

I occasionally use "sexual relationships", but it's the same general idea. It does seem a little less scientific and something people can understand (if not necessarily accept, but that's a different battle).

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Schala Zeal   
Schala Zeal
I think it would be false to say that I have no interest in sex when the truth is quite the opposite. It fascinates me precisely because it is so foreign to me, and yet of such critical importance to almost everybody I know. I am even more intrigued by the concept of sexual attraction. I don't understand it at all and probably never will, but I still feel like I'm missing out on some profound human experience.

*wondering when the mother ship will return to take me home*

-Greybird

As for my part, it doesn''t particularly fascinate me. Sex sure doesn't, because I'm done trying to define what my view on it is and thus I need not return on it really. As for romantic and physical attraction that aren't totally related to sex (it constitues human-relation matters), I may have more interest in it, as far as understanding it.

In reality, I define myself as a loner, who would only be open on having friendship and only deep ones. The acquaintances I may consider, but not trust like I would a friend, and I don't expect a high trust in return either (from acquaintance). I have virtually no desire to have sex, as far as romantic partners I've basically given up on it and wondering on it's very nature, thus my interest in it. Friendship I can understand and define and have no problem with it.

I've defined another thing that goes by the name dependance, as compared to attachment. I'm trying to find out wether it's possible to not feel dependant on anyone and yet be able to attach (free attachment?). Well I'm derivating from the main topic, I'll just stop here.

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Eta Carinae   
Eta Carinae
Well, DJ, you're a postmodernist and I'm an Aristotelean, but we knew that. Changing a definition because it lets you control a discussion--bad idea from my perspective.

For once, I agree with Bard. (Although "bad idea" is putting it mildly, as far as my opinions go.)

I don't have a problem with the current definition. It keeps asexuality as an orientation, which is needed and logical. Those sexually attracted to the same sex have a word for their orientation, those sexually attracted to the opposite sex have a name for their orientation, those sexually attracted to both have a name for their orientation, those sexually attracted to any sex have a name (albeit not a widely known one) for their orientation, so why shouldn't those sexually attracted to no one have a name? Why shouldn't there be a label for that, instead of a broad category that really doesn't have much to do with orientation?

And yes, sexual attraction is hard to define, but nearly everything is hard to define. Furthermore, I don't see any reason to single asexuality out as the label that suffers most when sexual attraction isn't defined -- why does not having a definition make asexuality an illegitimate label, but not something like bisexuality? (Those of you who think they're both illegitimate labels are free to ignore that question, of course.) On top of that, it's not like "no innate drive to have sex with another person" is really going to be any easier to define, once you get down to it. (I suspect one of the reasons why people are having such a hard time defining "sexual attraction" is that they've put so much thought into it; put the same amount of thought into "innate drive to have sex with other people" and you'd probably get the same amount of linguistic uncertainty.)

Some people have brought up the idea that we shouldn't define ourselves by a negative. My opinion is that heterosexuality and homosexuality (and bisexuality, if you're counting pansexuality as a separate orientation) are also defined by negatives. Heterosexuality is sexual attraction to the opposite sex and not to the same sex; homosexuality is sexual attraction to the same sex and not to the opposite; bisexuality, when contrasted with pansexuality, is sexual attraction to the same and opposite sex and not to anything in between. The definitions do not work without those negatives.

Furthermore, to address DJ specifically, I think your argument fails even by its own standards. If someone asks us why we don't experience attraction, it's just as easy to ask they why they do. Furthermore, "it's just how I am" is what most gays and bisexuals use, and aside from the people insisting that those orientations are sinful choices, it doesn't make people think that homosexuality and bisexuality somehow aren't real or legitimate. Additionally, it's not an empowering definition, which is presumably what you're after: "I'm not interested in sex" can lead people to think that all we need is a pill or a patch, and we'll be better. It makes asexuality into something that is, like disorders, fixable. With asexuality as a sexual orientation, however, that doesn't crop up, as -- "reparative therapy" aside -- there's no treatment to change orientation. Sexual orientation, too, is looked on as something that is not in need of changing, unlike a low sex drive.

Lastly, in case anyone thinks that "lack of sexual attraction" is a bad definition because it's too foreign for sexuals, I'll note that they, too, experience a lack of sexual attraction. Even the horniest pansexual isn't attracted to every single person they encounter.

I'm sure I've got other arguments, but I can't think of them at the moment, so there you go.

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Shivers   
Shivers

I say leave it.

If it ain't broke...

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honeyandthemoon   
honeyandthemoon
heterosexual: sexually attracted to the opposite sex

homosexual: feeling or involving sexual attraction to people of one’s own sex

bisexual: sexually attracted to both men and women

Considering that the Compact Oxford English Dictionary is okay defining an orientation with the use of the term "sexual attraction", I don't see why it should be a problem here. I'm sure I haven't spent as much time as some people trying to define sexual attraction, but to me, being sexually attracted to someone means being attracted to them in a way that makes me want to have sex with them. Can an asexual look at someone and think, "Wow, I would like to have sex with that person" and still be classified as asexual? I'm still new here, so I don't know. But the current definition seems okay to me.

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cait   
cait

I like the disinterest thing, or any other variation that has come up more than I like the one about not experiencing attraction.

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meep   
meep

:( I've disliked this "new definintion" since the first time I saw it. Somehow, it doesn't completely describe what asexuality is to me. Too much effect in it and not enough cause. I won't bother to get into all of its technical problems since others have done a pretty good job at that already

I think it'd be fun to take this to the polls *skips off*

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(SP)   
(SP)

What about asexuals who are interested in sex?-whether it's that they're interested in the topic intellectually, or interested in the act....

Perhaps a scenario where an asexual has a partner and agrees to sex for intimacy or the sake of pleasing them and then become interested in it because it's still a time for closeness with their partner, etc...?

Despite a lack of sexual attraction or any innate compulsion to engage in it they still will and might even become 'interested' in a way.

That scenario certainly doesn't describe anything I've ever been close to being in and its probably a rare one but it could still happen within the confines of asexuality.

The flip side of that is:What about sexuals who describe a 'meh' feeling towards sex and still feel sexual attraction but have it low on their priority list?

A person recently posted at AVEN:

http://www.asexuality.org/discussion/viewtopic.php?t=8391

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AVENguy   
AVENguy

Wow...

You all raise alot of very good points that I hadn't thought of. If I can re-weigh in, I would say keep "no sexual attraction" as a core definition, but slip into "not interested in sex" or "not interested in sexual relationships" at different points in the discussion. That is, even if it's not in the core definition disinterest in sex is still useful to talk about. (Including talking about that ways/reasons that asexual people ARE interested in sex. IE intellectually and in certain romantic contexts.)

I'm hesitant to rely too much on the word "innate," even though I use it alot when doing visibility stuff. I'm comfortable saying "most asexual people feel that they are born that way, that their asexuality is somehow innate," but I'm not comfortable making "innateness" a criteria for being asexual. That is, if someone is questioning they should be free to try on the word "asexual" for a while and see how it fits, they need not come to a decision/realization about their innate self.

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Shockwave   
Shockwave

This is the kind of situation where a nifty little "and/or" comes in handy.

*always keeps one handy*

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Amcan   
Amcan

Coming into this late....

I like the current definition and I feel very happy it applies to me.

I don't think any definition can ever be 100% accurate

I agree with Cate the 'I'm not interested in having sex with anyone' stateemnt is one I'd use.

Just my opinion.

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