if you’re unfamiliar with ace terminology in Japanese, it may come as some surprise to you to know that Aセクシャル / アセクシャル, the Japanese word that is phonetically equivalent to and derived from the English word “asexual”, does not mean what “asexual” means in English.
while it is used at times as an umbrella term to refer to all aces, it’s often used both by aces and non-aces alike to refer specifically to what English speakers now commonly refer to as “aromantic asexuals”– or rather, people who experience neither sexual nor romantic attraction. Japanese speakers use a different word entirely to refer to people who do not experience sexual attraction but who do experience romantic attraction: ノンセクシャル, a word that is phonetically equivalent to and derived from the English word “nonsexual”… despite the fact that word means something entirely different in English.
as this linguistic and cultural discrepancy is something that affects me personally not only as a native English-speaking ace living in Japan, but also as an ace who struggled with and subsequently rejects romance-based categorization for themself personally, i have vented off and on about this discrepancy for years. i’m also someone who has, at one point of another (or several), questioned being / identified as demisexual and bisexual / pansexual, so when a friend responded to one of my tweets questioning aloud things pertaining to both of these things that i’ve been musing about for years, i had (and still have) a lot to say despite exhaustion, anxiety and a 140 character limit.
how did “asexual” (Aセクシャル) come to mean “aro ace” and “nonsexual (ノンセクシャル) “(allo)ro ace” in Japanese?
why do people sometimes use demisexuality to mean attraction irregardless of gender?
the following is a transcript & translation of my opinion as expressed on Twitter.
please note: i am no historian, be it in regards to asexuality in the Anglosphere or in Japan and make no claim as to the accuracy of what i’ve said. everything i’ve said is just my personal experience, opinion and speculation.
@ stella_yuu (Yuu) come to think of it, i’ve been wondering why ace and aro have come to be uniquely distinguished between as “asexual” and “nonsexual” in Japan. i mean, theoretically speaking aromantic sexual [people] could exist too, right… i also wonder why demisexual keeps getting used to mean “[attraction] regardless of gender” more often than “[attraction based on] an emotional bond.”
@ nighstar (Vesper) sorry to keep you waiting for a response! first i’d like to say one more time that everything i’m about to say is nothing more than my own personal opinion. furthermore, as a foreigner, my opinion is nothing more than the view point of an outsider. :/ my response has ⑩ parts and i apologize for the absurd length. ?①
why has aro ace become “asexual” and non-aro aces “nonsexual” in Japan? i’m guessing that it’s due to infuence from how the word “asexual” was used in the Anglosphere in the early ‘00s. i’m not very familiar with the history of asexuality in Japan, but you might be interested in this http://www.asexual.jp/history… ②
when i first tried searching for the word “asexual” in 2002(?) romantic and sexual love wasn’t clearly distinguished between in the Anglosphere. “asexual”, as it was used at that time, was similar to how it’s used in Japan today. while it wasn’t long after that the Anglosphere began to distinguish between romantic and sexual orientations, “asexual” started being used in Japan before that happened.③ from there, the meaning of “asexual” steadily changed in the Anglosphere, but “asexual” in Japan didn’t undergo the same change, instead it went down a seperate path from that of “asexual” in the Anglosphere. meanwhile, awareness began to grow in the Anglosphere about the distinction between romantic and sexual orientations and that distinction made its way to Japan.④ in the Anglosphere, “asexual” came to refer only to sexual orientation with a seperate word being used to refer to romantic orientation, but in Japan, rather than distinguishing between romantic and sexual orientations, a distinction was made between aces who don’t experience romantic attraction and those who do. why “nonsexual”? it was probably adopted based on a misunderstanding of what the word means in English.⑤
[edit: see this post for an amendment to the above re: “nonsexual”]
people who are aro but not ace don’t just theoretically exist, their existence is a fact. this is well known within the Anglosphere ace community, but people are bad at remembering it. such forgetfullness has been an ongoing problem that continues even today… :/⑥ on the other hand, even among aces awareness of the existence of people who do not experience romantic attraction but who do experience sexual attraction seems to be almost non-existent. that said, given the very words “asexual” and “nonsexual”, that very way of dividing people and that way of thinking, such lack of awareness is understandable.⑦
about demisexuality, that’s happened even in the Anglosphere… or rather, that shouldn’t be in the past tense. i’m sure that it’s still a thing even today, but with increasing awareness of pansexuality, i think people using demisexuality to mean “[attraction] regardless of gender” has been decreasing.⑧
interestingly, it seems like there are a lot of asexuals (in the English sense of the word) as well as demisexuals who question whether they’re bisexual or pansexual before discovering asexuality.⑨ you may think that odd, but the line between “[attraction] to anyone regardless of gender” and “[attraction] to no one regardless of gender” is really fuzzy, don’t you think? especially for aces for whom romantic and sexual orientation itself is fuzzy. that’s not true for everyone, but that’s been my experience at least… and that’s all i have to say. sorry for the length! ?⑩
@ stella_yuu (ゆう) そういえば、どうして日本ではaceとaroがアセクシャルとノンセクシュアルという異なった分け方になったのか気になってるのです。aromantic sexualも理論上はありえますよねぇ・・。あとデミセクシャルがしばしば親密さよりも「性別に関わらない」という意図で使われてるのも。
@ nighstar (Vesper) 返事、お待たせ！まずはもう一度言いたいんけど、これから全部は自分の個人的な意見に過ぎないです。しかも、外国人だから、外様の立場からの意見にすぎないです。（汗） 返事は⑩の分があるので、無茶苦茶に長くてごめんなさい。①
面白いことにデミセクシャルの人だけではなくAセクシャル(英語の意味でね）の人でもAセクシャリティーを知る前に自分はバイセクシャルかパンセクシャルかをクエスチョニングすることが多いらしい。⑨ おかしいだと思うかも知らないが、「性別に関わらず誰もが好き」と「性別に関わらず誰も好きじゃない」という境界線は本当にあいまいじゃない？特に恋愛・性的指向そのものがあいまいのAセクの人にとってね。皆はそうじゃないけど、せめて自分はそうに感じてる… 返事は以上です。長くてごめん！?⑩