How do I Know I’m Really Ace (or Aro)?

I recently saw a question in an ace group I’m part of, which gets asked kind of frequently: how old do you have to be before you can definitely be sure you’re ace?  What if you just don’t know what you want yet because you’re too young to try much legally?  It’s quite common for people to suspect they’re ace but be afraid to claim the identity for themselves, either because they feel they’re too young to know yet, or because they do things that are stereotypically seen as evidence for sexual interest (e.g. watch porn), or the like.  A lot of aspecs feel a need to “prove” that they are aspec and are allowed to be in the group.  I have multiple thoughts on this.  The discussion this is based on was in the context of asexuality, but the same general points apply to identifying as aromantic as well.

Thought #1: We’re all starting from the wrong baseline.  A lot of people approach it with the view that allosexuality (not being ace) is the default, and they need justification to say otherwise.  The problem here is that allosexuality isn’t the default in the way society says it is – we shouldn’t be starting with the question “am I different,” but rather, “what am I?”  If saying you’re ace seems like a better fit than saying you’re allo, then that’s good enough – all you need is a simple majority, not an unanimous vote.

Thought #2: “Are you sure you’re allo?  What if you won’t know if you like sex until you try it?”  I write this jokingly, but the serious point in that is, our biases suddenly become a lot more obvious when we flip the tables.  Returning to the age question, if you’re too young to know you’re ace, then aren’t you also probably too young to say you’re allo?  If we can assume that someone is allo at, say, age 10, then what reason or right do we have to question it if another 10 year old thinks they’re ace-spec?  It’s the allonormative version of saying a little kid can’t know they’re gay while simultaneously accepting that your 6-year-old has a (hereto) crush on a classmate. We shouldn’t be wildly changing the goalposts for how old is old enough depending on which specific orientation we’re talking about.

Thought #3: Labels are tools, not lifelong moral commitments.  You don’t have to use the same ones your whole life.  So you might think you’re ace now but realize or decide you’re not a few years down the road – so what?  Are we all supposed to wait until we’re moving to retirement homes before claiming labels?  Learning more about ourselves is a fundamental aspect of living life. And, some people actively change over their life, for example those who become ace due to trauma (caedsexual, if you’re curious). Labels are just useful tools that you can pick up and put down as needed, not boxes that you’re committing to stay in for the rest of your life. If you want to identify as ace now, go for it and don’t worry about whether you’ll feel the same in 5 years.

Thought #4: Watch out for stereotyped assumptions, too.  So far I’ve been focusing on people who know their experiences and may just be afraid of claiming a label for fear of being wrong or offending the community, but it’s also the case that many people simply don’t realize how much variety falls under the ace umbrella.  For example, don’t usually experience attraction but do on rare occasions?  That’s called greysexuality, which is on the ace spectrum.  Feel horny sometimes?  You can be ace and horny, since asexuality is about attraction to others rather than your interest in sex itself.  Like watching porn and fantasizing about sex even though you have no interest in doing it yourself?  Guess what, aegosexuality is part of the ace spectrum too!  Literally all being ace-spec means is that you don’t, or rarely, experience attraction to others.  Nothing in the definition says you can’t be ace if you enjoy sex for its own sake or as an act of emotional intimacy, or enjoy a good R-rated joke, or whatever.  

I have no inspiration when it comes to writing a conclusion today, so I’ll just end with the usual: if you have any thoughts, feel free to drop a comment!

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