Some would argue that in today’s hypersexual world, the idea that someone would legitimately have minimal or no interest in sex at all is more than a little suspicious. While activists have fought for respect and recognition for people all along the gender and sexuality spectrum, even the most liberal among us may feel that there’s something just not right about asexuality.

Those who identify with the label passionately claim that asexuality is not a disease or a form of denial, and that it deserves recognition just the same as every other sexual orientation. Some research puts the prevalence at around 1%. People disagree on what asexuality is exactly, and even those who identify as asexuals will have differing lifestyles and beliefs about what sex does and does not mean to them.

What Asexuality Isn’t

Nevertheless, asexuality is viewed as something entirely different from abstinence and celibacy, where the denial of sex stems from religious or cultural reasons, or is involuntary. Asexuality is also not the same thing as losing sexual desire as a side effect of medication or a medical illness.

Many have also tried to suggest that asexuality is actually Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder, which the psychiatric community views as a psychological disorder. On this last point, the definition of asexuality can get tricky – those with Hypoactive Sexual Desire are necessarily upset by their symptoms, although asexuals claim not to be.

What Asexuality Is

Every asexual is likely to have a different answer. Some claim a strong desire for romantic relationships, for either or both genders, just no desire for sex. Some enjoy cuddling and non-sexual contact and others avoid it.

Some are “autoerotic” and see their sex drive as something merely biological – they may masturbate to relieve tension but not get any pleasure from doing so. Other asexuals will end up having sex anyway for the benefit of their partners or because they want children. As you can see, it gets a little complicated.

The Controversy Around Asexuality

While there are support networks and advocacy groups campaigning for asexuality, you’ll also find many mental health professionals being a little dubious about their claims. Sexuality is complex and multilayered, and shame around our bodies and desires, a history of abuse or psychological issues surrounding sex can all make sexual relations with another person feel conflicted.

If you are wondering whether you are asexual, it may benefit to use the term only as a tool, or something to help you figure out the details of how and why you function as you do. Asexuality can be a temporary orientation. Ultimately, there is a way for everyone to have a healthy and accepting attitude to sex and what they need to be happy, in relationships or otherwise. Increased awareness of the fact that people may not always crave sexual contact is a good thing – the course of each person’s sexual life is likely to be varied.

A sudden loss of libido should be checked out by a physician to rule out a physical cause. Otherwise, a counselor or mental health professional can help you get a deeper understanding of your own desires, needs and limits, so that you have the best chance of having the kind of human connections that will nurture and satisfy you.

If you or someone you know wants to know more or speak with a counsellor regarding your sexuality, Australia Counselling can help you. Click here to look for counsellors and therapists that you can discuss the matter with.