We live in a culture obsessed with sex. In our society, sex is the ultimate goal: we have billion-dollar industries dedicated to selling sex, to making sure we can still have sex even in the face of biological adversity, to safer sex and better sex and weirder sex. We are surrounded by sex at all times, in our media and in our social interactions. Like it or not, sex is a major part of our lives, omnipresent and pressing.

Yet there are people who experience no sexual attraction to anyone at all. Close to one percent of the population is asexual; with a world population of 7 billion, that makes 700 million people who are asexual or fall somewhere on the asexual spectrum. The prefix a- literally means “not.” Therefore, asexual people are simply “not sexual.”

There is tremendous diversity among people along the asexual spectrum. There are asexual people who have never experienced sexual attraction and never will. There are demisexual people (“demi-“ meaning “half”) who experience sexual attraction only once they are very emotionally close to someone. There are gray-asexual people, for whom sexual attraction is a gray area, in which they experience some sexual attraction in some contexts for some people, but more often than not they don’t.

There are asexual people who are repulsed by the thought of sex and asexual people who don’t mind the thought of sex and asexual people who have sex even in absence of sexual attraction. Asexual people can still fall in love, and many do (though not all).

There are asexual people of all races and genders. And no, asexual people don’t reproduce by budding, as common as the misconception is and as tempting as the joke is to make.

It’s also worth noting that asexuality is not the same as celibacy. Celibacy is a choice made to resist desire despite its presence; asexuality is a lack of desire that needs to be resisted in the first place. In short, the state of being asexual is just as complex as anything else in human nature, and is something to be understood and accepted.

In the face of the constant onslaught of sex in our culture, asexual people often come to believe they are unnatural. It is implied that because they have no desire for sex, they are somehow damaged goods, or dysfunctional, or wrong. I have heard countless coming out stories from asexual people that include the phrase “I thought I was broken.” And make no mistake, people do have to come out as asexual. In a world that tells them they are wrong and unnatural, coming out is just as necessary for them as it is for LGBT people.

There’s nothing wrong with asexual people, though. They just simply don’t feel a desire for sex. We need to try harder, as a culture, to understand and accept asexual people, so that we don’t have 700 million people living their lives and thinking they are broken, dysfunctional, incorrect human beings, because that’s a needlessly harsh way for so many people to have to live.

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