Sexual activity and consent

3 minutes

Learning objectives

After completing this unit, you will be able to:

  • Describe the relationship between identifying as ace and engaging in sexual activity.
  • Define consent.
  • Explain how the relationship between asexuality and consent can be complex.

Do ace people have sex?

Asexuality is typically based on a lack of sexual attraction rather than a lack of sexual activity, and while some ace people do have sex for various reasons, most ace people do not have sex and do not wish to have sex. The 2016 Ace Community Census found that 74% of respondents have never had consensual sex, 15% have, and 10% were unsure. For those who did have sex, the most common reasons were:

  • Pleasing a partner
  • Feeling romantic attraction
  • Showing affection
  • Feeling curious
  • Building intimacy
  • Experiencing pleasure

Ace attitudes towards sex

Different ace people have different feelings about themselves personally engaging in sex, and the following terms are often used to describe these feelings:

  • Sex-repulsed describes a person who is disgusted by the idea of themselves having sex or by being exposed to sexual content or situations.
  • Sex-averse describes someone who would prefer not to have sex.
  • Sex-indifferent describes someone who is not averse to having sex, but doesn’t find it to be personally beneficial or gratifying.
  • Sex-favorable describes someone who enjoys having sex in certain situations.

Typically, the attitude an ace person has about themselves participating in sexual activity does not extend to everyone else’s sexuality in general. Sex-positive refers to the belief that everyone should be able to engage in as much or as little consensual sex as they want. Many ace people share this belief, even if they themselves do not want to participate in sex.

What is consent?

For all people, including ace and aro people, consent is a mutual agreement to participate in a sexual activity and must be:

  • Freely given: a person cannot give consent if they are being coerced, if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if they are unconscious, or if they are underage.
  • Ongoing: consent must be given for each activity, and a person can revoke previously given consent at any time.
  • Informed: all people involved in the activity fully understand what they are agreeing to.
  • Affirmative: those participating must actively agree to what they are engaging in. Consent is not given by staying silent or by not resisting.

When most people talk about consent, they are referring to an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. However, consent does not only apply to sexual acts. Consent should be expressed for all forms of intimacy, such as non-sexual touching or kissing. This can be especially important for those ace people who may be uncomfortable with non-sexual touch.

Consent and asexuality

The relationship between consent and asexuality can be very complex. An ace person may agree to sex because they feel it is expected in a relationship even though they do not actually wish to engage in it. Some ace people may consent to sex before realizing they are asexual or before they realize that sex is not a requirement in romantic relationships. Ongoing consent, including repeatedly asking for consent, is important to help prevent cases where people feel pressured into sex.

Further reading