Addressing asexuality through awareness

For The News-Letter

The Office of LGBTQ Life hosted an event about the asexuality spectrum at the Mattin Center on Thursday. The event was part of an LGBTQ+ sexuality education series during Sexuality Awareness Week Oct. 18-24.

Sophomore Nevena Marinkovic, a student intern at the Office of LGBTQ Life, organized the event and spoke about asexuality and the distinction between sexual attraction and romantic attraction.

“The most common definition [of asexuality] that you’ll hear is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction,” Marinkovic said. “Your sexual attraction and your romantic attraction are two different orientations. Your sexual orientation is what you’ll usually hear as asexual, bisexual, straight, gay and romantic orientations are homoromantic, heteroromantic and even aromantic for people who don’t feel romantic attraction. The idea behind this is that everyone has a romantic and sexual orientation and that for most people they line up. But for a lot of people who are asexual, they don’t. You don’t feel a physical attraction but you’ll feel a romantic attraction — like a desire to be intimate with someone.”

Marinkovic went further to describe how asexuality is also on a spectrum, in which people can feel anything in between sexual attraction to no sexual attraction at all.

“We like to define asexuality as a spectrum, so one side is asexual — not feeling any sort of physical attraction whatsoever. On the other side is allosexual, which comprises all the other categories of what you’d describe as heterosexual, gay, bisexual, pansexual,” Marinkovic said. “Graysexual pretty much defines anyone who falls in between, who has enough experiences in common with the asexual community to identify with them, but doesn’t really consider themselves completely asexual.”

Marinkovic also spoke about her own personal experience in coming to terms with her sexuality and the struggles of the asexual community to thrive in a culture where there is not much visibility for those with diverse sexual orientations.

“For me personally, being graysexual — somewhere between asexual and allosexual — my experience with it has been not feeling physical attraction very often, and when I do feel it, it’s really easy to ignore. It’s something that’s not a huge part of my life,” Marinkovic said. “But a lot of people never actually find the words to describe what they’re feeling and people can struggle for a really long time and not understand why their experiences are different than those of their peers.”

A Hopkins student who is both asexual and aromantic, who wished to remain anonymous, also spoke on the personal and emotional inner conflicts she faced when coming to terms with her asexuality.

“I was going through a phase where I was kind of like, ‘so what am I?’ I don’t feel straight because I have zero interest in guys,” she said. “But then I was like, ‘do I like girls?’ I have a lot of close friendships with girls, but have I ever felt like I wanted to have sex with them? And I was like ‘no.’ The whole thought of [having sex], I’m personally repulsed.”

She said that the Internet helped her find the words to describe herself and to find similarity with others.

“When you’re in my situation, for a long time you feel different or strange or broken, and then you discover this term. I found it on the Internet, that’s where most people find it because there’s not a lot of broad mainstream coverage of it at all. And through discovering this online community, you get to know people that are actively talking about these things. I’ve always been this way, and it was a relief to know that there are people out there like that and that there’s not anything physically wrong with me because of it.”

The LGBTQ community includes asexual people. (The initialism is often amended to LGBTQIA to represent intersex and asexual people.) However, the anonymous Hopkins student explained the estrangement she felt even as a part the LGBTQ community, and how coming out as asexual is not as easy as it seems because it departs from the traditional views of society.

“It’s definitely hard in the sense that I relate to the LGBTQ community a lot, but I also feel almost excluded from it in a way,” she said. “It’s just that there are a lot of horror stories about people who will just kind of say that [asexuality] is not a real thing, or you don’t really deserve to be here because you don’t go through the struggles that we do. There’s also the issue that since they’re still interested in sex, it comes up a lot, and if you’re just not into that, it’s kind of hard to relate.”

The student also spoke about the difficulty of talk about her asexuality with her family.

“One of the things I do struggle with is trying to ease my parents into it. I haven’t come out to them, but I remember that once I just told my mom that I don’t want to get married and she was just kind of taken aback. And this was just about marriage, so I don’t even know how she would react if I told her I was asexual,” she said. “If I were to get married, it would be under very specific circumstances where there would be no sex and probably wouldn’t be very romantic, it would be more like a companionship and we would just be happy. It’s complicated because I want to have kids one day, but I don’t want to be a single parent either.”

Marinkovic said she organized the event because she believes in emphasizing alternative cultural narratives to increase awareness of the asexuality spectrum.

“When you think of a Disney story, every single movie story is you fall in love, there’s that physical intimacy, and that’s it. Visibility is a big problem where we should be having more stories in the media and on TV, and public figures who come out and say, ‘I’m asexual, this is what this is,’” Marinkovic said.

“I think no matter your gender identity, even if you’re straight and cisgender and you’ve never questioned those things, the concepts are really important to think about because a lot of that cultural narrative around traditional romance and things like that can be really damaging.”

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