By SOPHIE STONE.

Welcome back to my series of articles on what to do if a friend comes out as identifying with a particular sexuality or gender, such as bisexual or genderqueer. This time I will be covering that ‘ace’ (think lack of sexual attraction, less trump card) part of the rainbow: asexuality.

To explain asexuality, let’s start by covering the different types of attraction that are possible. A lot of people think romantic attraction is tied to sexual attraction, believing you can’t have one without the other, or that they’re practically the same thing. Nope! I’ll give you a quick rundown:

Romantic attraction – the “naww” part of liking someone. Feeling an attraction to them which goes beyond mere friendliness, and wanting to partake in romantic activities with them. Not the same as wanting to sleep with someone.

Physical attraction – finding someone physically appealing or attractive. Still may not be accompanied by sexual attraction, though these two do tend to stick together. An example of this would be a straight guy finding another guy attractive physically, but not wanting to partake in sexual activities with him.

Sexual attraction – wanting to have sex with someone. Once again, you do not need to be attracted to someone in any other way to be sexually attracted to that person, though some people find it impossible without having some level of different attraction.

Mental attraction – being attracted to someone on a mental level, in terms of personality and their mind. Generally, the more you can get along with someone, share similar interests, and find it easier to talk to that person, the more mentally attracted you are.

Emotional attraction – feeling a deep emotional connection to someone. You might have similar ways of feeling about things, being on the same level from an emotional viewpoint.

Spiritual attraction – not gonna lie, when I hear or read that phrase I tend to snicker and think of ghost sex. That’s, um… that’s not what it is. Spiritual attraction is based around beliefs; you might have a strong spiritual attraction to someone who shares the same beliefs or morals.

 

So what about asexuality?

Asexuals are capable of feeling all of these types of attraction, apart from sexual attraction. This means that while an asexual person can fall in love, have a relationship with and be deeply, emotionally, mentally and spiritually attracted to someone, they won’t have the desire or drive to have sex with that person.

What you have to understand, as the friend of an ace person, is that working out whether or not you are asexual can be a troubling time. As my friend Lindsay, who identifies as asexual, explained to me, trying to figuring out if you’re asexual is really confusing. Proving a lack of sexual attraction is very difficult if you don’t know what it feels like to be sexually attracted to someone in the first place.

Imagine not being able to taste food from a young age. Everyone around you is talking about how much they love chocolate and pizza. You’re unsure of whether the fact that it’s tasteless means you have no sense of taste, or that what you’re experiencing is taste, but those things just don’t taste particularly great or interesting to you.

This means that you need to be supportive of your friend, even if you don’t understand asexuality yourself.

Another reason you need to be supportive of your friend is because for people who identify as ace, the fear of being alone is real. Society is fixated on sex. Our biological nature dictates that generally we have the drive to reproduce, and especially with teenagers, sex is an oft talked about subject within our social groups. Being surrounded with these norms, and believing that the key to having a relationship with someone is wanting to have sex with them, makes many asexuals doubt their ability to find someone to be in a relationship with, leading to feelings of loneliness and self-doubt.

It’s important to let your friend know they aren’t alone, and to be conscious of their feelings when you talk about sex around them. Chances are, they might be apathetic or find the topic somewhat interesting or amusing, however talking about this could influence negative feelings too. The best way of finding out is to ask whether or not that sort of thing makes them uncomfortable or unhappy.

As always, here’s my “too long, didn’t read” summary of ‘Do’s and ‘Don’t’s:

 

Do:

  • Educate yourself on what asexuality means and how you can be supportive of your friend by using resources such as the internet or asking questions. Just be mindful that if these are personal questions, your friend might not want to answer them, and that’s OK.
  • Let your friend know that there is nothing wrong with them, and that you’ve got their back.
  • Consider attending Rainbow Youth (or a similar group) meetings with your friend for support.
  • Be conscious about the topics you talk about with your friend or with your friend group.

 

Don’t:

  • “Out” your friend to people if they’ve made it clear this is between you both. If you’re unsure who you can and can’t tell, always ask rather than assuming.
  • Tell your friend their identity is invalid or that they’ll “change their mind.” While it is possible to identify as ace and realise later you aren’t, it’s also a completely valid identity to have and it’s entirely possible your friend is asexual, so don’t doubt them.
  • Say or insinuate that something is wrong with them or that they’re “faulty.” Nobody, to an extent, wants to feel like an outsider, especially a teenager.

At the end of the day, you should always treat people how you’d want to be treated, and your friend is no exception. So give being supportive your best shot and remember that a friend who is ace… should never feel out of place. Naww.

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