Approximately 70 million people worldwide class themselves as asexual, according to a recent study.
“I GREW up in the 60s and 70s. It was ‘sex all around’ and not easy. I wanted to be part of the scene, but didn’t know why I wasn’t.”
Colin Nelson, 55, is a celibate and an asexual. A recent article in the Daily Mail bore the headline: ‘The fourth sexual orientation: one per cent of the population now considers themselves asexual.’ One per cent – that’s 70 million people worldwide – and some researchers believe it could be even higher as the stigma attached to asexuality may mean people do not always declare it.
“When girls liked me I didn’t respond,” says Colin, “I felt that something was wrong with me. I had a fiancée but she ended our relationship because of my lack of passion. I slowly came to realise that I had no sex drive.”
The advent of the Internet and social media have seen the rise of the asexual community, evidenced by various websites dedicated to ‘A-pride’ such as AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) which has 1,200 members worldwide.
Colin is very open about his asexuality: “I recognise it as an amazing blessing from God. I’ve not got sex drives and the frustration associated with it. Think of the time and money, struggles and emotion people tie up in relationships. As an asexual, I’m free from all that. People feel comfortable with me.”
I embrace the person God has made me... I look at and take hold of the opportunities God has given me
“I just wish I had realised what it was much earlier in life and found support for it,” he adds, “It would have saved me a lot of grief trying to pursue a ‘normal’ life.”
Some commentators anticipate that the next decade will see the asexual community become as prominent in society as the gay community.
“Some asexuals have been ostracised by the church at large,” says Colin, “I am blessed to be part of a church that accepts the whole spectrum of humanity.”
“I found the discovery of my asexuality liberating. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus says, “Some are eunuchs because they were born that way” (Matthew 19:12) and as such are one of the categories of people able to receive the gift of celibacy. These are asexuals.”
“I’m totally fulfilled emotionally as a Christian,” he says, “I get a lot out of friendships. I share a house with three guys and you could say that I feel I care for the guys, almost like a big brother or a parent does. Seeing people change and grow is so rewarding. I can’t actually change them but I can help open their eyes. I love seeing people grow; I see potential in people and help them go for it.”
There is a place for each one of us which embraces every aspect of who we are
It is only recently that asexuality has begun to be accepted as a specific sexual orientation. There is no doubt that asexual have always existed but the liberalisation of our society has led to a greater openness in talking about it.
Like other sexual orientations, asexuality has a very broad spectrum. According to the magazine New Scientist, some asexuals want to form close relationships with other people and may want to have children by using IVF and so avoid sex. These are sometimes termed romantic asexual, as opposed to aromantic asexual, who do not have desires for any kind of intimacy. Romantic asexuals can have crushes and fall in love but there is no desire to express this in a sexual manner; they can be attracted to the opposite sex, their own sex or both.
“The downside of asexuality may mean no partner or families,” says Colin, “Yet we can have a large circle of friends and freedom to enjoy that circle.”
“I believe the key is this: each one of us was designed by God and called into His kingdom to fulfil His purpose. Irrespective of everything else, we must find our place. There is a place for each one of us which embraces every aspect of who we are: we must find encouragement and support to find that place, and then everything else will work.”
Some guess that the constant exposure to sexual imagery and language in the media may actually have created a reaction in some people against participating in sexual activity.
Phillip Hodson, a Fellow of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, said: “There are many people who find the portrayal of sex in the media is not the way of life for them, so they may become angry and upset and withdraw from the mating game.”
Professor Anthony Bogaert, Associate Professor at Brock University in Canada, has recently written a book called ‘Understanding Asexuality’. He points out that asexuals can feel excluded from our “very sexualised culture” and society can place wrongful expectations on them.
Colin made a commitment to Christian celibacy six years ago. He commented: “My identity is not based on orientation but on faith. When I was young I was isolated and friendless. It has taken a long time to grow out of this and find healing. Now, I embrace the person God has made me. I don’t weigh myself against other people. I look at and take hold of the opportunities God has given me.”
What is sexuality?
When we talk about someone’s sexuality, it usually refers to the way they are sexually attracted to another person and this is determined by their sexual orientation.
Sexual orientations: what are they?
Sexual orientations include (there are others): an attraction to:
• the opposite sex (heterosexuality);
• the same sex (homosexuality);
• to both sexes (bisexuality);
• neither sex in a sexual manner (asexuality)
What is the difference between sex and gender?
When we refer to someone’s ‘sex’ it means either male or female. This is not to be confused with the word gender – this refers to our identity which could be the opposite of our sex (transgender), a combination of the two (pan-gender) – or neither, perhaps when our sex is not easily determined by physical features (intersex).