Gus Edgar-Chan is amongst the 1.5 percent of respondents to Concrete’s Sex Survey who identify as asexual. While the term accounts for an estimated one percent of the population, and thousands of people in the UK, there is limited research available to those questioning their sexual orientation. A simple Google search will tell you the proportion of the UK population identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual; but you won’t find statistics on asexuality.
Gus began dating in his first year at UEA; ‘I went into a relationship thinking we’re going to have sex and that’s going to be great, because there’s that societal convention of – hey it’s normal to have sex at this age. Why aren’t you having sex at this age?’
‘When I got into that situation, I realised I didn’t want to at all.’
According to Concrete’s Sex Survey, 90 percent of UEA students are having sex, which places Gus in the minority. Despite this, he notes: ‘I don’t feel like I’m missing out.’
Though never experiencing sexual attraction, Gus is keen to address a primary misconception about the asexual community: that they don’t like sex. ‘Some asexual people do. They still have a libido but some are sex repulsed; asexuality is simply the lack of sexual attraction. For me, I think I’m sex repulsed. Cuddling and kissing is ok – it’s just the sex part I don’t fly with.’
His sexuality first became clear while watching The Handmaiden. ‘There was this incredibly pornographic lesbian sex scene, and I remember the only thing going through my mind was – ooh, this music sounds a bit like the music from the Thin Red Line.’
‘I came to the realisation – yeah I definitely am this and I need to understand what this is.’
This, meaning Gus’s asexuality, has been met with both congratulations, confusion and contempt. ‘But everyone loves sex?’ ‘You just can’t get any.’ Gus has also been asked if he should go to a doctor.
While some reactions are frustrating, Gus tries to empathise with them; ‘We’re living in such a sex-centric world, the notion that people who don’t like sex exist seems a bit alien or strange, I do understand.’
Though he adds: ‘I’ve never experienced sexual attraction. It’s completely alien to me.’
For those who identify as asexual, acceptance is fought for both outside and inside the LGBTQ+ community with a ‘a loud minority of LGBTQ+ people’ resisting the group’s inclusion on the grounds of ‘it’s not an orientation, it’s just not wanting to have sex.’ Gus has found most people accepting, however he admits this conflict is difficult.
While asexuality is a sexual orientation, Sexual Desire Disorders exist which warrant medical attention. As the two are often incorrectly conflated, Gus explains his situation. ‘I know it’s unhealthy to resent the way you are, but at the same time it would be much easier to date if I wasn’t asexual and there was something wrong with me. So I have been contemplating going to a doctor to find out, but it may just be part of my identity that I need to come to terms with.’
In adjusting to his asexuality, Gus found his dating pool significantly smaller. 73 percent of Concrete’s Sex Survey respondents use dating apps, with the majority downloading the likes of Tinder and Bumble to find romantic relationships. However, no responses listed asexual dating sites like Asexualitic, a platform Gus has had limited success with.
He is personally open to a level of compromise. ‘Part of being asexual is compromising if you’re in a relationship with somebody who is not asexual. I’d be fine with the person I’m dating being in an open relationship but also it’d be something I’d feel forced into if I wanted to continue the relationship.’
Simply finding other asexual people at UEA has proved difficult, and Gus explains he is yet to meet anyone else like him on campus. To improve the visibility of asexuality, Gus said ‘I would like to see it portrayed in film or media, first of all. I think there were some very unhealthy portrayals of asexual people in film last year. There was a film called On Chesil Beach that had Saoirse Ronan in it. It wasn’t explicit that she was asexual, but the whole plot centres around her not wanting to have sex on her wedding night. Then a later scene implies a childhood trauma involving her uncle or her dad. It exacerbated the myth that asexual people are asexual because they’ve had trauma in the past. Which may be the case for some asexual people but not for me – and not for most.’
‘Normalise it. That’s what I’d be up for seeing.’
Disclaimer: this is the opinion of one person and Concrete acknowledges this will not represent the views of an entire community. We invite anyone who holds a different opinion to the ones voiced in this article to pitch it to firstname.lastname@example.org.