Fact: Some people experience little to no sexual attraction to another human being. This is the basic definition of asexuality.
Asexuality, like every other sexual orientation and gender identity, is a complex label given to a group of people who simply do not look at another person and have a desire to sleep with them.
Does this mean all asexual people are gay? No.
Does this mean all asexual people are virgins? No.
Does this mean all asexual people have a chemical imbalance? NO!
Asexual individuals, who also use the term “ace” to describe themselves, come in all genders and orientations, and have all types of sexual histories. Being asexual does not mean that you “just don’t work down there” or that “you just haven’t found the right person to have sex with.” These are common misconceptions that the Ace community hear all too often.
Just to be clear, asexual reproduction which is found in certain types of animals, plants, bacteria and other non-human organisms, may be something you’re familiar with from high school biology but that is very different than human asexuality. Don’t confuse the two. People cannot reproduce on their own (at least not yet).
It is possible that many of you might never have heard of asexuality before and that is not entirely surprising. The primary reason is likely because mainstream media lacks positive representation of this particular orientation. Commonly claimed “asexual” characters have often been non-human entities, like aliens, robots and cyborgs. This is in large part to the long held belief that being human means being sexually attracted to another human (whether heterosexually or homosexually). Unfortunately, this belief is also what leads the roughly 76 million people estimated to be asexual (roughly 1% of the world’s population), to feeling like they are simply broken.
There is a small handful of asexual characters that have emerged on TV in the last few years, most notably Raphael Santiago (David Castro) from Shadowhunters. And yeah, he is technically a vampire, so he’s not actually human… but he was at one point, right? And considering vampire folklore almost always uses the vampire’s sexuality as a way to lure victims, having an ace vamp is a pretty big deal. Some commonly assumed ace characters have been that of Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) from Big Bang Theory and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) from BBC’s Sherlock. And though neither character have been confirmed asexual in their shows, the creator of Sherlock, Steven Moffat, has both confirmed and then denied Holmes’ ace orientation. This confusion certainly does not help the millions of asexual people in need of representation in mainstream media.
We chatted with a popular asexual YouTuber, Damian Parker, about what it means to be a part of the ace community, what it was like not having representation he could turn to growing up, and the difficulties in figuring out who he was. Parker, also known as Damo by his 58k subscribers, is an Australian actor and dancer, who uses his platform to talk about an array of topics, like mental health. When Parker came out as asexual nearly three years ago, he gained popularity amongst the ace community and began making many videos on the topics of sexuality.
Check out our Q & A(ce) with Parker below, and make sure you watch the attached videos where he explains what exactly asexuality is.
QQ: First of all, how do you identify and what was the process like coming to embrace the label(s) you’ve given yourself?
DP: I personally identify as a homoromantic asexual, but if you wanna get specific…
Which normally takes too long. I’m homoromantic demisexual, as I tend to find more of a physical attraction only after forming a strong emotional connection with another male.
QQ: How did you come to be a YouTuber? How has it affected your identity (positively or negatively)?
DP: I’ve been a YouTuber for yeeeaaaarrrrrrs! I started purely because I was bored and had a camera, but I never imagined years later I would be using it as a platform to help people understand and connect with one another.
Being a YouTuber has definitely put a spotlight on parts of my life that I usually wouldn’t think about as interesting or important topics. Like “wow I don’t really enjoy sex, that’s fun I guess…” but [I do] because people apparently find it interesting and asked me to talk about it. It means I’ve put a lot more thought into these things than I normally would and it’s actually helped me to better understand myself.
QQ: As an asexual person, what has been the biggest challenge in your personal life and life as a YouTuber?
DP: As an asexual, the biggest challenge was actually just figuring that out.
Because we are a very small percentage of the population and have very small representation, it wasn’t something I’d ever really considered much and when I did, I dismissed it because I didn’t want to seem like a “special snowflake.” So self understanding and acceptance has probably been the biggest challenge in my personal life.
And as far as YouTube, I would say not caring about unwanted opinions on my sexuality. Because even though it makes no sense for people to give their opinion on what they think YOUR sexuality is, they will… A lot.
QQ: YouTube has been a great source of queer entertainment for the LGBTQIA community. Many young queer folk find shows with characters that look like, think like or feel like them. Have there been any asexual characters in shows or movies that you identified with when discovering your asexuality?
DP: Nope, while figuring out my sexuality I don’t think I’d seen any asexual characters or representation. Although AFTER I discovered I was asexual it was nice to see Todd from Bojack Horseman realising that he was asexual throughout the show.
There actually seems to be a lot more awareness and representation of Asexuality just in the past few years, which has been amazing to see!
“When you’ve never seen what you’re feeling represented anywhere, it’s very hard to put all the pieces together, as you usually feel like you’re “wrong” or “broken” in some way.”
QQ: Asexual characters are often found in mainstream media in the form of cyborgs, robots or aliens. Do you believe the lack of human asexual representation in the media has led to the stigmas that ace people face? (Such as the trope of “you just haven’t found the right person yet,” etc.)
DP: That’s entirely possible, I mean one comment I get a lot is “plants are asexual, are you a plant?”
I think at the end of the day people are uncomfortable around things they don’t understand, and to someone who derives joy and pleasure from sexual activities regularly, or someone who feels way more sexual impulses, an asexual person is just completely foreign to them. So rather than accepting that, they deny it and change it to something they can accept.
QQ: How do you think the lack of asexual characters has affected the mental health of the ace community?
DP: It’s mostly just made it harder for ace people to discover themselves. Seeing someone on TV expressing the way you feel or putting your confusion into words can help immensely while trying to figure out where you sit on the sexual spectrum, because you’ve found something to identify with and you know you’re not the only one who feels that way.
When you’ve never seen what you’re feeling represented anywhere, it’s very hard to put all the pieces together, as you usually feel like you’re “wrong” or “broken” in some way. I know this because when I made my coming out video I received thousands of comments and messages of people saying “I thought I was the only one!”
QQ: What can creators and writers of TV shows, web series, and movies do to better acknowledge the ace community?
DP: Just a few extra ace characters here and there wouldn’t go astray, we don’t need a lot, just to see how we’re feeling represented and have a name put to it. That would help A LOT of unknown aces begin to figure themselves out.
QQ: Anything else you want your fans and our readers to know?
DP: As much as your sexuality is important and is a big part of you, it’s not ALL of you. You are a lot more than the sum of who you do or don’t want to touch. So definitely explore, research and represent, but don’t get too obsessed.
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network is a fantastic website with a large community willing to help answer questions about asexuality.
Asexual people can have completely healthy relationships, with or without physical intimacy and sex. And they do, every single day.
It is important to note that asexuality is not synonymous with being aromantic (the lack of romantic feelings for another person). Asexual and aromantic people are often lumped together, but both ace individuals can experience romantic attraction, just as aromantic individuals can experience sexual attraction to another person.
The distinction between the two is just as important as not lumping an individual’s sexual orientation and their gender together. They are completely different and should be respected as such.
If you want to follow along with Damian Parker as he continues to vlog about life, mental health and asexuality, be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel.