Editorial: Remembering both ends of the libido spectrum

This week’s issue is mostly about sex. How awesome sex is. How much many of us want to be having it. How hard or how easy it can be to get it.

If you’re an undergrad, you’ve likely been inundated since orientation day with the need to bone perpetually. “Bang all the students!” (or some variation on that refrain) is often the sentiment coursing ’round campus. And you can. Or you can try. But you don’t have to. Maybe you don’t want to. You don’t have to beat yourself up for making sex an occasion.

Though this is a sex-positive issue, it is not one that advocates loads of sex for everyone. Many people derive pleasure from sex, either as an aspect of an intimate relationship or for its own merits. It makes many people happy. But what if sex doesn’t make you happy? What if you can’t make a connection between sex and happiness, but you can feel happy singing along to One Direction or solving crimes or whatever? Then do those things instead.

Let’s not forget that libido exists on a spectrum — no desire to have sex on one side, the lust of our long-gone campus bunnies on the other and various levels of sex drive in between. It’s okay to practice sexual frugality. It’s okay to have sex daily. And it’s okay if you don’t want to have sex at all.

According to a 2004 paper by Canadian researcher Anthony Bogaert, at least one per cent of the population is asexual, meaning they don’t feel sexual attraction. This differs from celibacy, because celibacy indicates a choice not to have sex. Asexuality is rather part of a sexual identity. While people who are asexual don’t desire sex, some can still feel romantic attraction to another person of either gender, or both. In that sense, they can still be straight, bisexual, gay, lesbian or any other variation when it comes to romance. Confused yet? It gets more complicated.

Not all asexual people abstain from sexual activity. According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), some do it as a compromise with partners who are sexual, and some do it purely for the physiological response — meaning they can still feel arousal and pleasure (for example, through masturbation), without it being directed at any person. In an article published by The Telegraph, an organizer of a London asexual conference agreed that it’s like someone who doesn’t have an appetite but can still enjoy the taste of food.

Asexual people still experience love and emotional intimacy with others, but there is no goal to have sex. Many asexual individuals and couples have appeared in the media to share their experience, including AVEN founder David Jay, who is in a romantic relationship with an asexual woman and has plans to adopt a child with her.

Scientific research on asexuality is only just gaining traction in the public sphere, but perhaps the lesson here is that sexuality is fluid and different for each individual, and to assume every person is craving sex all the time might be presumptuous.

 

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