The term 'allosexual'

The asexuality community, generally speaking, has settled on the term 'allosexual' (often shortened to 'allo') to refer to anyone who isn't asexual. There are have been a number of controversies surrounding the use of the term both within and outside of the community, with much of the discourse still ongoing today. This page covers the meaning of the term 'allo' and why some of the arguments against the use of the term do not hold up to scrutiny.

Meaning of the term

The word 'allosexual' comes from taking the sexual orientation suffix (-sexual) and adding a new prefix, allo-. 'Allo-' means 'other', and so the original intent of the term allosexual was "a person who experiences sexual attraction towards others". This is exactly analogous to terms like 'heterosexual', 'bisexual', and so on. The astute reader will notice that when phrased this way, the meaning isn't precisely the antithesis of asexuality, but rather of "someone who experiences sexual attraction towards themself". However, regardless of etymology or original intent, the word in its current usage is used almost exclusively to refer to people that are not asexual, including autosexuals.

Secondly, it is worth highlighting that in its modern conception, asexuality is seen – as indeed other sexualities are – as existing on a scale rather than in absolute terms. That is to say, plenty of people may identity as partially asexual and partially allosexual. Because of this, 'allosexual' ultimately doesn't refer to a person who isn’t asexual, but rather to a person that experiences sexual attraction to a sufficient degree to be considered 'normal' – or, more accurately, to a degree which is currently considered normative. Though this might seem to make the term ambiguous enough to render it useless, we can see its utility by the very fact that people use it in the first place.

Finally, it should be mentioned that the prefix allo- is now readily applied to other suffixes, notably alloromanticism and allonormativity, as well as to the other a-spectra. For orientation suffixes, the meaning refers people with the 'typical' frequency of whichever form of attraction those people on the a-spectrum lack.1


Alternative terms

It is relatively common for people both within and outside of the a-spectrum community to suggest alternative terms for allosexuality. However, most alternatives have issues in practice.

One of the most common suggestions is 'sexual' itself – the reasoning being that a-sexuality is a lack of sexuality and therefore the opposite of that is a presence of sexuality. However, this idea is very misleading because asexuality isn't in fact the absence of sexuality. Asexuals are still sexual in several important ways, including anatomy, ability to be aroused, and for grey-asexuals, even having sexual attraction. Asexuality is not a lack of sexuality just as it's not a lack of sexual orientation – it's the sexuality that says "not attracted to anyone".

A relatively popular alternative used inside the asexuality community is 'non-asexual'. While the term itself has the advantage of being very clear, it runs into a number of issues in practice. The first is that it cannot be generalised to other terms in the way allo- can – which makes it difficult to talk about concepts like allonormativity, and so on. The second is that it falls into the trap of implying that asexuality or not is a binary thing. It is clumsier and conceptually more difficult to talk about the asexual–non-asexual spectrum compared to saying asexual–allosexual spectrum. Thirdly, 'non-asexual' can imply that allosexuality is not something that requires a specific label (see the next section for a discussion on that).

A final notable alternative is 'zedsexual' (using Z as the opposite of A). This term doesn't have the same issues as 'sexual' or 'non-asexual', and in fact may have some advantages over 'allosexual' (for example, having a clearer origin). However, the term is not widely used and not many people even in the a-spectrum community know it, which unfortunately means it fails the main purpose of a word – to convey meaning.

'Normal' should be labelled

Another argument – which will be familiar to trans people regarding the word 'cis' – asserts that the term 'allo' is unnecessary, or that it is only used as a slur. This line of reasoning can only come from not spending a great deal of time with the actual communities that use these words in the first place.

Ultimately words exist so people can talk about the issues that matter to them, and there is no doubt that whether a person is asexual or not can have a significant impact on their life. There is similarly no doubt that the term 'allosexual' is a useful tool for those on the a-spectrum to understand themselves and others, and that can only be a good thing. The fact of the matter is that in actual usage, the term is very rarely if ever used in a derogatory way – and even if it were that would be an issue with the speaker, not the word itself.

There is also a deeper misunderstanding that underlies this way of thinking. It fails to appreciate that we live in a world that really does have an explicitly allosexual ideology – for example, we live in a world in which it's entirely normal for someone to say "sex is what makes us human", genuinely mean it, and not be challenged in any way. Being unnamed is one of the primary ways in which this ideology perpetuates itself, so by calling attention to allonormativity the term can be a vector for change that benefits everyone, asexual or otherwise.

The term is not LGBT-phobic

Sometimes people from within the LGBT community itself argue that the term is inappropriate. The most common one asserts that using the word inherently groups together homosexuals and bisexuals with their oppressors – meaning straight people – and that in so doing, those who use the term are implicitly drawing an equivalence (either in experience or attitude) that they should not. This argument is usually packaged along with other ace-exclusionary rhetoric.

The principle error in this argument is that it assumes that there is any implicit meaning inherent to the term in the first place. In reality, the only equivalence that the term draws is the fact that people can experience attraction while being straight and while not being straight – and that asexuals don’t. Actual usage of the term in the asexuality community is entirely consistent with the idea that there are no other connotations.

That being the case, it's sometimes suggested that it is the word itself that presents the issue, not the way in which it's used. That is, the term is problematic simply by the fact that it refers to members of both groups simultaneously. But taken to it's logical end-point this produces an absurdity – exactly the same thing can be said for words like 'human'.


  1. It should be noted that 'allonormativity' refers specifically to allosexuality-normativity, not the normativity of all non-a-spectrum orientations. The analogous concept for romanticism is called amatonomativity.