FAQ for parents of asexuals
So what exactly is asexuality?
It's a lack of sexual attraction. Asexuals are generally very different from one another: some experience romantic attraction, some don't. Some experience arousal, some don't. Asexuality is not celibacy - celibacy is a choice to abstain from sexual intimacy while asexuality is an orientation which results in lack of sexual attraction.
Why did he/she have to tell me? I would have preferred not to know.
Your child is reaching out for your support. You are their caretaker. Since birth, you have been the one on whom they have depended on for security and reassurance. That they trust you with such personal knowledge of themselves shows that they believe you are capable of understanding and supporting them. Asexuals often contend with deep levels of soul-searching and confusion due to the public's lack of information about the orientation. At such times they may need the support of you, their parent, more than ever.
Is this just some rebellious phase? Won't they grow out of it? It seems too young an age to determine a topic such as this.
Asexuality is a topic that few have common knowledge of. It's doubtful your child would choose this to rebel with. Most people become aware of their own sexuality at a young age. Recall that you had fleeting crushes as you grew up and undoubtedly experienced sexual attraction by your teen years. Only your child will know for sure if they have ever 'grown out of it'. Sexuality is fluid and can change over time but these changes are uncontrollable. It's also highly unlikely your child's sexuality will change based solely upon 'the act of growing up'. Asexuality is an orientation, not a sign of immaturity.
Do you think it's caused by sexual abuse/repressed homosexuality/another psychological issue? Should I send them to a psychiatrist?
Try not to assume one of these had to happen. If your child hasn't shown mental instability in the past, don't convince yourself that they are hiding a trauma from you. Asexuality in itself has no cause. It is seen as just another orientation alongside homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality.
If your child's lack of sexual desire is in fact caused by an outside force then they will become aware of it at a later date if they aren't already. If an unfortunate occurrence like sexual abuse has happened in your child's past, it won't necessarily have 'made' them asexual.
If your child requires a therapist to help them come to terms with their asexuality, that's fine. Don't seek out a psychiatrist to 'cure' your child's asexuality against their will - this will be damaging to the relationship that you and your child share and potentially harmful to their self-esteem.
Did I do something wrong as a parent to cause this?
Absolutely not. An individual's sexuality (or lack thereof) is a very complex issue. It's highly unlikely that the way a person was raised or a single incident in their lives single-handedly caused them not to develop an interest in sex.
Does this mean they are incapable of love?
Hardly. Many asexuals experience romantic and affectionate feelings towards others. Just because your child may be uninterested in seeking out a sexual partner, doesn't make them uninterested in seeking out any form of relationship. They can be capable of forming very close bonds with friends, and may enter into a non-sexual relationship one day.
On the other hand, they could be completely uninterested in a romantic relationship and focus on platonic bonds. Do not pressure your child into 'finding the right person'. Although asexuals might go about looking for love a completely different way, they are usually capable of the same feelings of compassion and devotion as anyone else - just expressed in a different way.
I just want what's best for my child. What if they turn out unhappy? I don't want them to die alone.
Remember the old saying you may have told your children before: 'If everyone jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?' Just because your child is not living life the way others perceive is the way to achieve happiness, doesn't mean they are unhappy. Your child likely did a lot of soul-searching before discovering that they might be asexual. This might even be the first time they've felt secure in a while. If they seem happy, be thankful, and don't worry about social norms. A person with a good personality and strong friendships should never have to worry about dying alone.
Should we tell the family/neighbours/teachers/etc.? What will other people think?
It is advisable not to tell anyone without your child's permission. This would be the same if your child told you that they were gay. It is fairly unnecessary to tell non-family members and acquaintances and your child will choose which family members and friends they are comfortable with telling. Other people's views are irrelevant to how your child will live their life.
How can my child have an opinion on this if he/she has never tried it?
Asexuality is not a stance against sex. It is merely an opinion that states that a person does not desire sex and may not be compelled to try it. If your child is still a virgin, they may still want to call themselves asexual if they have no wish to change that.
Be aware that forcing someone to go against their nature simply to 'prove themselves' is very dangerous. If your child one day experiments with sexual relationships, it will be at their own leisure.
Does this mean my child will hate or look down upon people who have sex?
Elitism among asexuals is thankfully very rare. While your child may be confused or alienated by their peers' talk of sexual conquest, this is to be expected from someone experiencing non-sexuality. It is only another issue they may come to you for support with. It is doubtful they will grow to hate the people they considered friends beforehand.
Sex is a natural part of existence. What is my child ashamed or afraid of?
Nothing. Many asexuals are even quite liberal in their views towards sex. It is not that your child is afraid or ashamed of sexual intimacy; they simply have no desire for it. A person who has no interest in eating pasta, for example, is not afraid or ashamed of Italian cuisine - they are merely more compelled to let others eat it.
How can I help my child any further?
Be there for them. If they need to talk, lend an ear. Be supportive. Allow them to think it over on their own if they so desire. Above all, remember that sexuality is only one aspect of life. Your child is still the same person you always knew them to be.