Our sexual health correspondent Laura Larkin interviews an asexual to find out about the orientation of about 1% of the population

They are not Christian fundamentalists, they are not merely celibate, they are not all virgins and they cannot be cured with a wild night in bed. Asexuality is a sexual orientation. One that most people know very little about.

Asexuality is typically defined as a someone who does not experience sexual attraction but Oscar, who identifies as a grey-asexual, says that that is just the beginning and talking about asexuality will lead you down “a rabbit hole that will blow your mind.”

Most people are sexual and presume that everyone else is. Considering that some people do not experience sexual attraction and may navigate relationships in a wholly different way to what is considered the “norm” leads to questions about asexuality and a-romanticism.

Asexuality is a largely unexplored area of human sexuality in Ireland. Oscar says that when he first began to question his orientation he took to the internet and found AVEN. The Asexuality Visibility Education Network is mecca for people who want more information about the asexuality spectrum. There are numerous threads that deal with many aspects of asexuality and aromaticism, dealing with everything from meet-ups to the definition of a ‘squish’ - the aromantic equivalent of a crush.

When Oscar joined AVEN Irish presence on the site was sparse and he decided to be the change he wanted to see and started Irish threads and began organising meet-ups for ace (asexual) people in Dublin.

He explained the asexuality scale using a wooden coffee stirrer. Asexual people generally experience no sexual attraction. Grey-A’s however may experience sexual attraction under some circumstances that are specific to them. Demi-sexuals on the other hand experience sexual attraction only after a deep bond has been forged with someone. In this way they move toward the sexual end of the scale as romantic attraction is gained.

Meandering further down the warren brings you to A-romantics. A-romantics are people who do not experience romantic attraction to others. Though it has a scale of its own most a-romantics have no desire to maintain a romantic relationship with others.

The lines between what distinguishes a romantic and a platonic relationship are incredibly diverse and it can often come down to simple personal preference.

Sexuality is fluid and finding yourself at one point of the scale does not mean that you will always stay there. Oscar bemoans the tendency for people to assume that in terms of your sexuality “your colours are nailed to the mast and that any deviation is demonised.”

There is an inordinate amount of value placed on sex in society. It is seen as the ultimate expression of intimacy but Oscar says this devalues the various other types of intimacy and vulnerability that people use as bonding tools and as a means of forging connections with others.

He says, “society as a whole sends a lot of negative messages that say if you don’t want X you won’t be loved or if you don’t do Y nobody will care for you.”

Talking about asexuality and the various other points on the scale opens up a lot of discussion around how we view sexuality in general and how we expect people to relate to each other.

“At what point does cuddling become sexual? Or nudity?”, asks Oscar, “and who gets to decide?”

People whose sexual orientation falls somewhere along the asexuality scale are also not as constrained by traditional relationship models because there is no template says Oscar. There is far more room for experimentation and exploration to find what fits.

Confusion abounds around asexuality. It is often confused with celibacy or a type of religious fundamentalism which is not the case. Celibacy is a choice that one makes while asexuality is a sexual orientation.

Oscar says that it is often presumed that women are more likely to be asexual and this proves problematic.

Also people often wrongly assume that all asexuals have no libido. In reality many do but it is not connected to anything or anyone. It is merely another bodily feeling.

Another popular myth is that asexuals are all virgins, asexuals in fact may have sex for a host of reasons including because their partner wants to or because its a fun thing to do. The difference, according to Oscar, is that sex is not something inherently built into their persona.

A marginally more offensive misconception is that asexuals are damaged good that can only be remedied be with a “good f*ck”, this type of ignorance can escalate as far as rape threats says Oscar.

There are a multitude of ways that people who identify along the asexuality scale experience intimacy and one way it can be achieved for some people is through BDSM practises.

Asexuals may use BDSM as a means of expressing intimacy. When you remove the presumption that BDSM is a purely erotic endeavour it becomes easier to see how it can be used as a means of furthering an intimate relationship. It comes down to a question of trust.

Oscar believes that playing around with power within a tightly controlled consent model is as valid an expression of vulnerability as trusting someone with your innermost secrets or, indeed, having sex with someone.

It is sometimes sexual and sometimes not. It’s ultimately about trust and playing around with power for a bit. It’s massively reliant on consent. Trust is the very bottom line in BDSM.

Oscar continues to organise meet-ups for people who identify as asexual. He also runs a facebook group called Asexuality in Ireland. AVEN is a welcoming resource for ace people, friends, significant others, family and allies who wish to learn more. Asexuality in Ireland now has its own section in Dublin’s annual pride festival.

Find out more on: http://www.asexuality.org/home