Grey-asexuality is a term referring to any sexuality that occupies the "grey area" between strictly asexual and strictly allosexual. The precise nature of grey-asexuality is intentionally left vague so that it can function as a broad umbrella term. Umbrella terms like this allow people to know they aren't the only one not to fit into a neat box.
Grey-asexualities generally fall into two groups: those where sexual attraction is rare (or weak) but not non-existent, and those where attraction is based on specific conditions. In both cases, the effect is that grey-asexuals experience sexual attraction less than the general population, sometimes significantly so. Because of this many grey-asexuals identify more with (strict) asexuality than (strict) allosexuality, but due to it's nature as a broad spectrum, there are also grey-asexuals that feel the opposite way. The term grey-sexuality, which is synonymous with grey-asexuality, is sometimes used to indicate that someone is closer to the allo end of the scale.
Most if not all of the concepts surrounding grey-asexuality can be used when discussing other spectra as well, such as the romantic spectrum.
This form of greyasexuality doesn't have any specialised terminology beyond the term grey, and it covers everyone from those that have experienced sexual attraction only once in their lives to those that experience it only slightly less than might be considered 'normal'.
A common criticism of this kind of grey asexuality is the impression that everyone is like that – the implication being that grey-asexuals (and usually by extension asexuals) view everyone else as sex-crazed people who think about sex all the time. However, this misses the point. There are indeed grey-asexuals that view their experience as not materially different from allosexuals, but there are also those that experience sexual attraction extremely rarely – in some cases even once in their entire lifetime. Grey-asexuals can recognise that allosexuals don't think about sex all the time while also recognising that they do so even less.
It is also said that grey-asexuals are creating a divide by introducing a term where there didn't need to be one, and separating themselves into a different camp as allosexuals. But in fact precisely the opposite is true. Grey-asexuality bridges the gap between asexuals and allosexuals and helps us recognise what we all share: that we all have a unique experience. Far from contributing to a divide, the term is an asset for challenging the idea that we all fit into a neat box.
Grey-romanticism refers to the same concept as grey-asexuality, but applied to romantic attraction rather than sexual attraction. That is to say, a grey-romantic is a person that experiences romantic attraction significantly less frequently than is usual, but does experience it occasionally. Likewise, there are analogous terms for other forms of attraction, including grey-aesthetic, grey-sensual, grey-platonic, and so on.
A demisexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone. In general, demisexuals are not sexually attracted to anyone of any gender; however, when a demisexual is emotionally connected to someone else (whether the feelings are romantic love or deep friendship), they may experience sexual attraction and desire, but only towards the specific partner or partners.
Asexuals and demisexuals are alike in that, the vast majority of the time, neither experiences sexual attraction to other people. The two orientations have a lot of experiences and issues in common, to the point that it's not unusual for someone to initially identify as one and later realise they're the other. When it comes to people that we don't know well, demisexual and asexual people act and feel pretty much the same way – no sexual attraction is present at all.
Again, as with other grey-asexualities, it's common to hear that demisexuality is just normal: it's not as if everyone would just sleep around given the chance. However, this misunderstands the fact that orientation is about an internal feeling, and not about behaviour. Demisexuals do not ever think that a stranger is 'sexy' or 'hot', which is significantly different to the experience of most people.
Similarly, demi-romanticism refers to people that do not experience a desire for romance unless they already have a strong bond with the other person. Regardless of whether such a thing is common or not, it cannot be harmful to have the language to talk about it in a specific way.
A relatively common form of asexuality is called aegosexuality (or alternatively autochorissexuality1). Aegosexuality is when a person doesn't feel sexual attraction, but they can be aroused by things that are sufficiently removed from themselves.2 That is to say, they may experience arousal in response to erotica/pornography/etc., but with no desire to be a participant in the sexual activities therein. Typically, an aegosexual is less able to be aroused the closer the situation is to themselves or the more 'real' the scenario is – for example, perhaps they are turned off by sexual content that includes people with their own genitals.
Aegosexuality is a distinct concept to libido because it involves an external trigger, or more accurately, a target of arousal (which is disconnected from a desire for sex). Libido on the other hand refers to sex-drive itself, regardless of the cause.
Aegosexuals may (or may not) do any of the following.
- Get aroused by sexual content but not actually want to engage in any sexual activities.
- Masturbate, but are neutral or repulsed by the idea of having sex with another person.
- Fantasise about sex, but envision people other than themselves, and/or view it in third person – as though they're watching it on TV, rather than imagining it in first person, through their own eyes.
- Fantasise about sex, but envision only themselves, and not other people.
- Predominantly or entirely fantasise about fictional characters, celebrities, or people with their faces blurred out, rather than people in real life they know.
- Fantasise about sexual situations, but be turned off by depictions or descriptions that are too explicit (e.g. of genitals), or by the prospect of actually having sex. (This situation is sometimes described as "sex is such a turn-off".)
- Identify as asexual and feel no sexual attraction to people, but enjoy masturbating, be aroused by sexually explicit content, and/or have sexual fantasies.
Strictly speaking aegosexuality is not a in-and-of-itself a kind of grey-asexuality, because the term describes a pattern of arousal and not a pattern of sexual attraction. While aegosexuals are most typically asexual, aegosexuality can coexist with many different orientations on the a-spectrum.
Aegoromanticism may involve fantasising about relationships with fictional characters or people you don't know personally, but without any desire to follow through on it – or with no ability to be romantically interested in people you know personally. Again, this is distinct from the concept of 'romantic libido', because the latter refers to romantic feelings with no reference to their cause or target.
One study suggests that as many as 50% of asexuals may be aegosexual .
There are a lot of orientation terms that can be considered to be forms of grey-asexuality. You can find a list of some of the more common ones in this section.
Some these terms aren't actually defined in terms of sexual attraction, or it is unclear if they are or not. Though this could be seen to stem from outdated conceptions of what asexuality is, they do reflect the nature of the a-spectrum community as a diverse, welcoming place for anyone that doesn't fit into the traditional ways of viewing sexuality.
With all of the terms below, -sexuality can be substituted for other orientation suffixes such as -romanticism, -aestheticism, and so on.
- Cupiosexuality – refers to a person who is asexual but also desires a sexual relationship.
- Fraysexuality – a sexual orientation where a person feels sexual attraction only to people that they don't have an emotional bond with. (Essentially the opposite of demisexuality.)
- Lithsexuality – a feature of a person's sexuality where sexual attraction is directed at real people, but lacking a desire for reciprocation (or with reciprocation being a turn-off). 'Reciprocation' in this context may mean physical reciprocation or it may refer to reciprocated feelings of attraction itself. Lithsexuality may be considered a form of grey-asexuality when reciprocation causes a loss of attraction rather than just not being the preferred form of sex.
- Reciprosexual – refers to a person who feels sexual attraction only after someone feels attraction towards them.
- Autochorissexuality is sometimes avoided as a term because of its historical connotations, having originally been described as a paraphilia. Aegosexuality was coined partly in response to this issue, and partly because it's easier to pronounce and spell. Anegosexuality is a less common alternative to aegosexuality that intends to make the etymology clearer: from an-ego, meaning 'without the self'.
- This is a slightly broader definition of aegosexuality than is typically used. In the original meaning, aegosexuality describes specifically a disconnect between a person's self and the target of their arousal. That is, viewing or imagining themselves as being separate from the sexual acts they fantasise about or are aroused by.
-  : Yule, Morag A.; Brotto, Lori A.; Gorzalka, Boris B. (23 November 2016). Sexual Fantasy and Masturbation Among Asexual Individuals: An In-Depth Exploration. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 46 (1): 311–328. doi:10.1007/s10508-016-0870-8.