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Beyond (a)sexuality, the grey area

Freedom Requires Wings | by on 0 comments

Being somewhere in between two communities.
Earlier on this blog there was a post by Gabrielle that introduced asexuality, as well as romantic orientation, sex and gender.

Asexuality has been recorded in studies since Kinsey's reports in both 1948 and 1953, and measured using the Kinsey Scale. This scale was intended to measure human sexuality ranging from 0 (purely heterosexual) to 6 (purely homosexual), but some people reported low interest in both male and female partners and an extra category, X, was added. 

So while a lack of interest in sex has been recorded over 60 years ago, it was a case of asexual or sexual. Other more recent studies have been done, but the focus was very much on asexuality. Much like the spectrum from heterosexual to homosexual, asexuality has shown itself to be a spectrum, from absolutely no interest in sex to the very strong interest in sex. In the middle between asexuals and sexuals (straight, gay and bi), there are grey-asexuals, people who feel some interest in sex but don't label themselves asexual or sexual.

Unlike other sexual identities, this isn't a case of being defined by attraction to neither, one or both genders. Rather, grey-asexuality is an umbrella term that covers all those who don't feel asexual but still don't feel sexual enough to be called straight/gay/bi. There are many reasons or ways to fit the grey-asexual description. As listed on the asexuality.org's wiki, grey-asexuals are people who :

do not normally experience sexual attraction, but do experience it sometimes.
experience sexual attraction, but a low sex drive.
experience sexual attraction and drive, but not strongly enough to want to act on them.
can enjoy and desire sex, but only under very limited and specific circumstances.

One issue that sometimes comes up with regards to grey-asexuality is where to draw the line, and in this case, two lines. The first is the line between asexual and grey-asexual. This usually isn't a problem as it is a case of personal feelings and others can't tell if someone is wrong to identify the way they do, but a lot of people who are new to the concept of asexuality have a hard time deciding where they fall. The second is the line between grey-asexual and sexual, and it is a more personal challenge as opinion aren't as helpful. Asexuality-based communities are largely populated by asexuals, so the line between grey-asexuals and sexuals isn't one they have much experience with. Most people have never heard of asexuality unless it relates to them, so sexuals tend to have little advice to offer to a questioning grey-asexual.

I talk a fair amount about grey-asexuals and finding the right place along the spectrum as I am a grey-asexual myself (demisexual to be precise, I'll explain that term further down) and it is a constant challenge to how I think about myself. At first it may sound like I'm making a big deal out of nothing, surely finding your way to grey-asexual from the default heterosexual identity is less than the journey to asexual? The fact is, at least for me, it wasn't. When I first came across asexuality in 2005, it was a tiny movement and all the focus was on asexuality. I didn't hear anything relating to anything in between asexual and sexual until years later. Finding asexuality still had that eureka feel to it, but I still had doubts about being asexual. After examining heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual identities and not feeling any belonging there, there was something about asexuality that just clicked. Then, the realisation that that didn't fit all that well and I had to detach myself from that identity as well and find something else. That was the challenge, but I did say constant challenge. My experiences have been very polarising, I'm sure it's been that way for others. In discussions relating to asexuality, I feel way more sexual than most people there. Whereas around my sexual friends, I feel oddly asexual compared to them. It's hard to feel comfortable midway between two groups who sometimes feel so alien. Another issue relates to sexual fluidity and if any change I go through will push me over that line. When we cling to label so loosely defined, how long can we hold on to it without re-evaluting ourselves?

One last thing I'd like to bring up is demisexuality, which, as I mentioned, I identify with. As the name implies, demisexual (halfway between asexual and sexual) falls under the grey-asexual label. Demisexuality refers to a very specific experience of sexual attraction and is broadly defined as only happening once a strong emotional connection has been formed. This is a very clinical definition and may not much sense to most people. The way I explain it is that I don't find random people "hot" but it can gradually develop with people I know well and am close to. That's all I will say on it now, as I have a lot to say about it and intend to keep that for a future post.
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