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At a typical college party, the music is thumping, the bodies are grinding and Molly Enright is uncomfortable.
It’s obvious what the objective is. The room is full with the inevitability that lot of people here will be going home with someone.
Sex isn’t on everyone’s mind, though. It isn’t on Molly’s.
Molly identifies as asexual, meaning she doesn’t experience sexual attraction.
“In middle school, I had something like a crush,” she said. “But it was more of a friendship crush. In high school, people would be dating, and I thought it was stupid. I thought, what’s wrong with me? I’m not like other people.”
When she came across the term and definition of asexuality on the Internet, it clicked. Now a 22-year-old senior film studies major at CU, Molly is one of the founding members of Ahooray! (Aromantic/Asexual Student Society), a student group within the university’s GLBTQ Resource Center.
For the group’s other leader, 21-year-old senior psychology major Zach Powell, embracing his identity began with finding a pin. It belonged to his friend and was emblazoned with the asexual pride flag — four horizontal lines, black, gray, white and purple. It made a lasting impression.
Watching the documentary “(A)sexual” in February was his final confirmation. “It started to sound like how I was feeling,” he said.
For Zach, sex is “like washing the dishes.”
“It’s a whole lot of work for nothing,” he said. “Hugging, cuddling, kissing — that’s what feels good and genuine.”
College life is sex-saturated, but Molly and Zach don’t relate. That’s not the type of connection they’re looking for, they say.
Being asexual is an orientation, another spot on the vast spectrum of human sexuality. Some asexuals are romantically attracted to other people and others, aromantics, are not. Some identify as queer, some bi, some straight. Some avoid labels altogether.
“There is considerable diversity among the asexual community. Each asexual person experiences things like relationships, attraction and arousal somewhat differently,” the website for the international Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) says.
Molly and Zach represent some of that diversity. Both have had relationships and neither is celibate. Molly has only dated men but is hesitant to identify as straight, and Zach identifies as queer.
The study of asexuality and resource centers, websites and the asexual pride movement are all relatively young. Zach considers it a “fringe” identity. AVEN, a powerhouse within the community, is only 12 years old, and most of the scientific research conducted to define and understand asexuality is post-millennial.
While other sexual orientations are backed by countless organizations with goals of social progress, asexuals find themselves lacking in support by comparison. As a result, neither Molly nor Zach are out to their parents, and only a handful of their friends know. They haven’t even come out to past partners.
“I mean, sex is the most normal part of humanity, right?” Molly said. “But it’s not enjoyable to us. We’re outliers.”
A 2006 study on asexuality by the Kinsey Institute acknowledges that sexual attraction and experience is considered standard behavior, noting “an assumption that some level of sexual desire is normative.”
College is often considered to offer the ideal environment and age range for sexual exploration. Approximately 60 percent of the national college student population engages in sexual activity at least once a week, according to a 2013 study by the University of Portland.
It seems as though what Zach and Molly want in a partner — friendship and emotional connection — doesn’t come as easily as plain old sex. Both admit that their lack of libido makes it harder to date.
“You still always hope that you’ll meet someone at a party, but it’s just difficult because most people are looking for sex,” Zach said. “There really are a lot of people who just want to have sex and then go about their daily life.”
“Sex doesn’t always mean love, obviously,” Molly said. “But people think love means sex.”
As alienated as they sometimes feel amongst the majority of their peers, they don’t feel like they’re missing anything by not having casual sex.
“The hookup culture just seems so dramatic,” Molly said.
“It doesn’t seem like people have very positive experiences,” Zach said.
Their goal with Ahooray! is to offer students on campus a safe space to discuss sexuality and past experiences. There are five members, including Molly and Zach.
“I’ve had insecurities about [being asexual], but I’m staying positive. I don’t think I’m doomed,” Zach said. “It’s just another part of establishing boundaries and expectations. It’s compromise. There’s give and take in every relationship.”
Contact CU Independent Managing Editor Annie Melton at Anne.firstname.lastname@example.org.