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Rae tells me she’s an aromantic asexual, Sean identifies as a heteroromantic demisexual, and Genevieve sees herself as a panromantic gray-asexual. Gray-­asexuals (or gray-aces) roam the gray area between absolute asexuality and a more typical level of interest.Then there are the host of qualifiers that describe how much romantic attraction you might feel toward other people: Genevieve says she could theoretically develop a nonsexual crush on just about any type of person, so she is “panromantic”; Sean is drawn to women, so he calls himself “heteroromantic.”“WHEN MY HEART DECIDED HE WAS MY SOUL MATE, MY BODY DECIDED SO TOO."If the taxonomy seems loose and even confusing, it’s because the terms were created almost wholly online, arising on gaming-site forums and a nest of interrelated Tumblrs, blogs, and subreddits.

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A few months after that Friday at the outreach center, Genevieve realized she is more of an asexual than a gray-ace, and Sean now isn’t sure if he’s demi or ace.Rae, a tiny pixie of a sophomore wearing a newsboy cap, nuzzles up against Sean, a handsome freshman. They giggle and tease each other, and she sprawls into his lap.Their friend Genevieve, perched on the arm of the couch, smiles and rolls her eyes.It was coined by somebody who was trying to explain what it was like to be mostly, but not entirely, asexual.The term caught on only in the last few years, and now most people who are demisexual say their desire arises rarely and only from a deep emotional connection.One 2004 survey in the UK estimated that 1 percent of the population fell somewhere under the asexual umbrella; other estimates range from 0.6 to 5.5 percent.

But the few psychologists who have explored asexuality concur: People who don’t want to have sex aren’t necessarily suffering from a disorder.

It looks like a standard collegiate prelude to a one-night stand.

But there will be no kissing, no fondling, and definitely no Saturday morning walk of shame.

But the idea of freedom sexuality is still radical. Asexuality has slowly been coming out of the closet for more than a decade.

In 2001, a Wesleyan University student named David Jay created a website called the Asexual Visi­bility and Education Network.

It’s Friday afternoon during finals week, and two undergrads at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville are lounging together on a battered couch in the student center, watching cartoons.