It's not all about sex…

MUHC psychiatrist says asexuals can and do find love

February is famous for Valentine’s Day, the worldwide celebration of romance, love and passion. While many couples use this day as an opportunity to express their sexual desires together – no matter where these desires may fall in the wide spectrum of human sexuality – there are individuals that feel excluded from the spectrum entirely. Those who do not experience sexual attraction of any kind are known as asexual.

 “The current scientific literature on asexuality is very young, and most of the information comes from people that self-identify as asexual,” says Dr. Richard Montoro, psychiatrist at the McGill University Sexual Identity Centre (MUSIC). “Asexuals make up a population that feel invisible in our society; many wonder if there is something wrong with them, or ask why they cannot seem to relate to discussions on sexual attraction that others share.”

Asexuality is prevalent in roughly one percent of the population, and it is room for debate as to whether it should be classified as a sexual orientation or as the lack of an orientation.  What is clear is that asexuals live experiences that are often ignored, misunderstood or ridiculed. The depiction of asexuals in media leaves much to be desired: characters with asexual behaviours often evoke ridicule or pity, and are portrayed as naïve or child-like, social weirdoes, or victims of abuse. The message is often reinforced that an asexual person is somehow sick or damaged.

“There are medical or social factors that can limit a person’s sexual desire,” explains Dr. Montoro. “Certain endocrine diseases or some traumatic life experiences might affect a person’s libido to a level they feel uncomfortable with. Nonetheless, it seems that for most, asexuality is innate and not the product of an outside event.”

But, there are always opportunities for asexuals to celebrate love: although they may not desire sexual intimacy, many asexuals strive for romantic relationships. “At MUSIC we have encountered cases where some asexuals identify as “homo” or “hetero-romantic” – meaning that they prefer to form intimate relationships with people of the same or opposite gender – but have no desire to engage in sexual intercourse,” says Dr. Montoro. “These relationships can be just as beautiful and fulfilling as those between persons with other sexual orientations.”