People tend to lump asexuality into one group of individuals, even though that isn’t the case at all. Asexual is an umbrella term for different groups of people that fall under that category.
Some lesser-known subcategories of asexuality are demisexual, gray ace and aromantics. These identities have special characteristics; demisexuals are only sexually attracted to people they have a strong emotional connection to and gray aces rarely have sexual attraction but can still feel that way towards another person. Aromantics tend to stay away from the romantic side of relationships.
Misconceptions about asexuality are everywhere, from the terms used to relationship statuses. Nick Niemerg, a co-chair for Safe Zone along with Rex Jackson and Jennifer Hernandez, said people tend to focus on the term’s basic meaning and not the fact it’s an umbrella term.
“I think there definitely are some misconceptions, if you will,” Niemerg said. “I think people tend to just go by what the basic definition of asexual is, but not knowing that asexuality is really just an umbrella term for a few different groups of people who fall under that umbrella.”
Another misconception is that asexual people do not want to be in a relationship. Joshua Foster, a junior mechanical engineering student from Columbia, Illinois and an individual who identifies as asexual, said he wants to someday be in a relationship but to leave out the sexual part of it.
“There is another word for it, it’s called [aromanticism] or being an aromantic, but personally I do want to eventually have a relationship, like an intimate relationship with another person,” Foster said.
Jackson said people who identify with this label normally don’t consider having sex as the most important part of a relationship.
“I think more and more people are saying asexuality is kind of an umbrella term … it’s [asexuality] for individuals who … sexual intimacy, or even the act of sex, is not necessarily a core component that they seek to form, whether it’s friendship or close romantic intimate deep emotional relationships,” Jackson said.
Jackson said due to societal demands, sex is a big part of a relationship. It can be viewed as different if it’s not necessary in a relationship due to what society has said. This can make it hard for people to understand what it means to be asexual.
“It’s a hard thing for people to understand … sex is a big part of how society talks about relationships,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he thinks everyone deserves respect and privacy, no matter how they identify.
“Regardless of what identity we are talking about, approach people with respect and recognize that there are some things about a person that you don’t need to know,” Jackson said.
Niemerg said people who don’t identify with the label of asexuality shouldn’t rely on asexual people to give them all the information they need. According to Niemerg, it is up to them to find it, unless they’re close with the asexual person and they are willing to talk about it.
“As a nonasexual person, if I don’t know what that means, it’s on me to do the research,” Niemerg said. “It’s not on me to expect someone else who does identify as that particular category to explain their experiences to me and explain what it is.”
Foster said he wants those who think they might be asexual to know even as asexual, you can still have an intimate relationship. As people grow into their identities as asexuals he also wants them to know they are still valid.
“To someone who thinks that they might be asexual, I definitly have to say remember to love yourself and remember that you’re still valid, and that you can still have an intimate relationship if you don’t want to have any kind of sexual activity,” Foster said.