For some, sexual identity isn't about whom you find attractive, but whether you feel much attraction at all. In Wired, Kat McGowan suggests that our expanding understanding of sexuality may still have a long way to go. Asexual people are defined at the Asexual Visibility and Education Network as those "who do not experience sexual attraction." That support network, Wired reports, gave rise to the term "demisexual," which demisexuality.org defines as an "orientation in which someone feels sexual attraction only to people with whom they have an emotional bond." Then there are gray-asexuals, also known as "gray-aces," somewhere in between; their sexual desire level fluctuates, McGowan writes.
Among those McGowan interviews, there are also varying degrees of nonsexual romantic feeling. Some are panromantic, with the potential to develop such feelings for anyone; others call themselves heteroromantic or aromantic. Though the labels exist, there's no need to get caught up in them, say those who use them: "Every single asexual I’ve met embraces fluidity—I might be gray or asexual or demisexual," says a 24-year-old. "Us aces are like: whatevs." It's unclear how common the experience is, with surveys putting the figure between 0.6% and 5.5% of the population. Its rarity means grappling with others' assumptions: "People ask, ‘Who hurt you?’" a student tells the Pitt News. "No one hurt me—this is just who I am." (The Internet offers a refuge to those who define themselves as asexual.)