The asexual umbrella

2 minutes

Learning objectives

After completing this unit, you will be able to:

  • Define asexuality as a sexual orientation.
  • Identify three common identities under the ace umbrella.

What is asexuality?

Sexual attraction — an attraction to another person that involves a sexual interest towards them — is a typical part of many non-asexual people’s lives. For asexual people, this concept can be completely foreign. Asexuality is a sexual orientation where a person experiences little to no sexual attraction to anyone and/or does not experience desire for sexual contact.

Asexuality is not the same as abstinence because asexuality is a sexual orientation, while abstinence is the choice to not engage in sex. Sexual orientations describe the types of people someone is sexually attracted to, and they are not a choice. Because sexual attraction and sexual behavior are separate, asexual people can have sex despite not experiencing sexual attraction.

The asexual umbrella

There are some people who may not fit the strictest definition of the word asexual but feel their experience aligns more with asexuality than with other sexual orientations. Several identities have emerged to express this experience, including the following:

  • Gray-asexual (or graysexual): an orientation where a person experiences sexual attraction rarely, only under specific circumstances, or without any accompanying sex-drive. This can also describe someone who fluctuates between periods of experiencing sexual attraction and periods of not experiencing sexual attraction.
  • Demisexual: an orientation where a person can only experience sexual attraction if a strong emotional bond is present. Although this bond is required for attraction, it is not a guarantee that attraction will occur. Demisexuality is often considered a type of gray-asexuality.

The term asexual umbrella encompases all of the identities related to asexuality, including demisexuality and gray-asexuality. The word "ace" is a shorthand for the identities that fit within the asexual umbrella, and can also be used to refer to a person who identifies with the asexual umbrella. As an example, an ace person might identify as asexual, gray-asexual, or demisexual.

Further reading