Understanding Asexuality with sex health expert Artika Singh

Sakshi Sharma
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Understanding Asexuality with Artika Singh

Understanding Asexuality with Artika Singh

Artika Singh is a menstrual and sexual health educator and public health anthropologist who has worked for over seven years, won many accolades, and founded the Taarini Foundation. Here's how she explains Asexuality to all of us! 

Asexuality is a sexual orientation and identity adequately represented by "A" in the LGBTQIA+ acronym but massively misunderstood and underrepresented in real-life experiences. Before I write more, I must mention that along with work from experts and educators like myself, it’s equally important to create spaces and platforms for people to share their lived experiences for us to understand the nuances of sex, sexuality, sexual orientations, and pleasure at large. 

Asexuality Doesn’t Need To Be “Fixed” 

Asexuality is a sexual orientation that refers to not experiencing sexual interest toward others; however, it’s not a tight box that one must fit in. Folks who identify as asexual, aka ace, may feel or not feel sexual interest at varying levels. Asexuality itself operates on a scale or spectrum and is not a “one-size-fits-all.” Some terms to explore in this context include greysexual and demisexual. Asexuality is not abstinence or celibacy- which are both voluntary choices to not engage in sex for different reasons, including cultural or religious reasons. It’s also not a “disorder” or “phase” and definitely does not require medical treatment; it is a sexual orientation much like bisexuality, pansexuality, and others. One can take as much time as feels right to them to explore their sexuality- which may also evolve from time to time as we grow and our understanding of self also remains dynamic. 

Sex, Love & Attraction Are NOT The Same 

Folks who identify as asexual may experience an attraction that can be aesthetic, romantic, or emotional and can have relationships based on the perceived attraction. Sex is not a prerequisite for a relationship; in fact, any relationship can include several aspects, including romantic attraction, emotional bonding, sex, and others; based on mutual agreement and needs, partners in a relationship may practice each aspect to a degree of their liking. Some folks use the “split attraction model” to explain this; the model states that a person’s sexual orientation and romantic orientation are two separate entities. While this had early acclaim and limited merit, it has also been criticized by folks from asexual communities as forcing them to fit into a singular definition of what it means to be asexual, which in itself isn’t correct. In India, unconsummated marriages continue to be grounds for divorce and are a legal tool that can erase and cause damage to people with sexual orientations like asexuality. In conclusion, asexual folks may form relationships to fulfill their emotional, romantic, and other needs. 

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Asexuality and Arousal 

Some asexual folks may experience arousal or a sex drive, which could show up as erections or lubrication, among other signs. This could be fuelled by physiological changes in the body, hormonal changes associated with functions like the menstrual cycle, or others. However, this arousal may not be met with a need for sexual activity or any desire for sex. Some folks may choose to engage in masturbation, and others may not. There are also some people who may not experience any arousal at all. In most cases, folks may find no need to seek a partner for sex. 

Please note that this is different from HSDD (Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder), which is recognized as a sexual dysfunction that refers to having low desire, which may in itself occur due to mental, emotional, or physiological reasons. People who experience HSDD may feel the need for sex that is unmet due to an existing medical reason. Asexuality, like other identities, is a cultural term one can use to define themselves based on their understanding of self and may even want to revise using the term as their understanding of self evolves. All folks who identify as asexual will have different experiences of identification, coping with, and expressing themselves. Your identity is valid irrespective of how similar or different your experiences are with other folks in the asexual community.

About Artika: 

Artika (she/her) is a 26-year-old comprehensive sexuality educator with 7+ years of experience. She's a public health anthropologist and the founder of Taarini Foundation, a non-profit working in rural and semi-rural SHRH Advocacy and Sexuality education. Her personal experiences of being misdiagnosed with PCOS, peers facing abuse of breach, and working in the space of menstrual hygiene while in college- fuelled her passion for working in healthcare & specifically sexual and reproductive health. In 2021, she received the Young Person of the Year award from SH:24- the sexual health wing of NHS, UK & was nominated at the 2023 Cosmopolitan Bloggers Awards in the Sexual Health Educator category. She has worked as an independent educator with CSOs and NGOs like World Menstrual Hygiene Day Org, NFSSMA, Rotary, AISEC, and UN Girl Up India, among others. Her key areas of expertise include consent education among adolescents and adults, queer-inclusive & pleasure-centric sexuality education, and contraception education. She has worked with 12,000+ women & children on the ground through her projects at the Taarini Foundation and with Delhi Government Schools. She also hosts an educational Instagram community of 20,000+ people. She currently also works on the Marketing, Brand, and community team at Allo Health, India's largest chain of sexual health clinics.

This article is part of our May-June 2023 magazine edition!

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