In a Marriage-Obsessed Country, Meet India’s Asexual Community
An ace woman based in New Delhi, India. (Photo: The Quint)
An ace woman based in New Delhi, India. (Photo: The Quint)

In a Marriage-Obsessed Country, Meet India’s Asexual Community

Far removed from the narrative of India’s young who are apparently having lots of sex (a claim typified in those yearly India Today sex surveys), there’s a community that doesn’t like sex at all. Detests it even. Welcome to the world of India’s asexuals.

(To keep their identities concealed, we asked these people to use Snapchat, and record their answers in a filter of their choice. Silhouettes don’t do justice to people’s stories, we believe)

Different Shades of Gray

Sex repels me. I think I know for a fact that it does. 
Ace Boy, 29

Asexuals are people who don’t feel sexual attraction towards others, and have little interest in sex. However, just like all heterosexuals aren’t the same, asexuals aren’t homogenous. For instance, there are hetero-romantic aces, who may not like sex, but like the idea of romance with the opposite sex.

Ace Girl is one such.

I do get aroused. Imagination arouses me. For a very short time, though. But I can never imagine having intercourse with anyone.

Ace Girl would love to be married. A marriage sans sex, though. Her past two affairs with ace (asexual) boys didn’t last: Why you ask her? She says

Well, different mindsets. They were gray aces. They were sexually aroused for a short time, from time to time. But I couldn’t reciprocate. 
Ace girl 

Did the fact that she didn’t feel arousal anger her partners sometimes? Yes.

Searching for an Ace Identity

In 2010, the community felt the need for a flag, and so, like other gender and sexual minority groups, they designed a flag in four colours: black, representing asexuality, grey and white representing different allies, and purple for the whole community.

The ace flag. (Photo Courtesy: Asexuality India)
The ace flag. (Photo Courtesy: Asexuality India)

There are about 300-odd members in the ‘Indian Aces’ Facebook group. Grace Ace, who runs the community group, says the demographic is largely upper-middle class urban individuals, although there are some from smaller towns who use fake profiles to on the group. What Grace reveals is disappointing: Even though the community is part of the rainbow spectrum, it doesn’t receive much recognition in the LGBTQA community.

A Complicated Relationship with Sex

My parents think I should see a psychiatrist. My friends do not accept my orientation. They think it is hypocritical that I can love somebody and not have sexual feelings, although I do enjoy watching porn. 
Ace girl

Another ace girl, now 22, says that although she enjoys masturbating and is aroused by titillating scenes on screen, the physical act of sex does not excite her. Masturbation to her is a physical function, a body process like eating.

Is it a complicated term for celibacy? No. Celibacy is abstaining from the act of sex even though sexual desire exists. Asexuality, however, is the absence/lack of interest to act on an impulse that may or may not exist.

Sociologist Deepak Mehta, Professor and Head at Shiv Nadar University, says that perhaps some of these orientations stem from the Hindu indoctrination that the kanya, the pure Hindu virgin girl, remains the most divine and pure form of being. He adds that maybe a few of these women want to remain kanya forever, although ace women do not agree that this has anything to do with religion.

Mehta says it is possible that especially in the Indian context, asexuality is not authored individually but bears a strong semblance to the culture the person is born in.

One thing that amuses the asexual community in India is that even though India hates celebrating sex and turns up its nose at sexuality as a topic, it is equally un-accepting of the lack of a sexual impulse. After all, isn’t contained sexuality, the kind that is activated after marriage and for the sole purpose of child-bearing, preferred here?

Ironically, in a society that refuses to embrace its sexually licentious past, asexuals are still finding it difficult to gain acceptance.

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