Sexual orientation underlines whom we are attracted to physically, emotionally and sexually. As much as we want it to be, life is never completely one thing, or another. This holds true for sexual orientations too. This philosophy is embodied by conceptualizing sexual orientation as a spectrum. Furthermore, sexual orientations are a part of us, we are born with it. But, they can change and evolve over time as well. It is entirely dependent on an individual and how they choose to perceive and experience their sexuality. Within this wide gamut of sexual orientations is asexuality.
Asexuality is where one does not feel sexual attraction or the need to have a sexual component in their relationships. Put another way, their sexual needs are non-existent. Within this, there are several sub-identities. Gray asexuality or graysexuality is one such sexual orientation. Graysexuality is a fluid and dynamic sexual orientation which may change from people to people and over a period of time within the same individual. Where asexual individuals don’t experience sexual feelings and needs, graysexuals might even seek sexual pleasure out! They may have sex even in the absence of any sexual attraction – like brushing your teeth because it is good for dental health as opposed to brushing because it makes you happy. Their need for sex differs however and usually remains toward the lower end. It is different from celibacy. Celibates still feel the need for sex and sensual pleasures and abstain. Graysexuals often don’t feel the need for sex and sexual activities itself. These needs are infrequent and situation specific. They may even get turned on, and when they do they can engage in sexual activities too. Celibacy is a choice, graysexuality is who you are.
The essence of this sexual orientation is a rejection of strict labels and boxes. There is no one prototypical graysexual individual! It allows the individual the freedom to be themselves without the burden of strict categories and prerequisites that need to be fulfilled to “qualify” as a graysexual. Graysexuality does not mean that they don’t like to be part of intimate relationships or make long term commitments. They may get married to their partners and might participate in sexual activities for their partner’s sake. Graysexuality doesn’t necessarily equate with aromanticism. They may be deeply romantic people or not, it is entirely based on their personal preferences. Within graysexuality there are certain broad labels. It is important to remember however that these are not strict boxes, merely general guidelines for identification. They are as follows-
Sex-repulsed/averse: Someone who is repulsed by or absolutely disinterested in the idea of sex. They dislike sex and are turned off by the mere notion of sex.
Sex-indifferent: Someone who is not repulsed by sex, but doesn’t actively seek it out either. They may still have and enjoy sex to please their partner.
Sex-favourable: Someone who does not feel sexual attraction for others but still has sex for the pleasures it bestows. Graysexuals may also feel sexually attracted towards an individual and then want to become intimate with them. This is also a spectrum.
Demisexuality: Not experiencing primary sexual attraction (i.e attraction to physical characteristics like scent, voice etc,) but experiencing it only after a strong emotional bond is formed. Sexual attraction comes with the development of emotional intimacy for demisexuals.
It is important to note that these labels are fluid and an individual may relate with one or the other, or stick to one, or choose none of the above. It is up to the person to decide their label. The function of a label is to help us identify people, not box them into predefined roles. Labels give us an evolutionary edge and help us survive. They help us identify danger and store our experiences for future use. The labels can be helpful. And historically speaking it is these unquestioning labels that come in handy in times of crises. These labels however become counterintuitive if applied equally in all capacities at all times. Sexual orientation, sexual identity and gender orientation is one such sphere where this concept breaks down and becomes unhelpful. Overcoming our natural inclination for labels, societal conditioning and dogmatic norms is difficult. But, it is always worth it to take that extra effort to be kind. Because that’s what it is, showing someone basic respect and accepting their self-definitions at face value instead of forcing people into presumptuous boxes. Love makes the world go round, it always has and it always will.