The extant literature on asexuality is fairly scarce. For articles on asexuality, the abstract is provided if there is one and commentary is given. For other articles, the information most relevant to asexuality is summarized.
Articles on asexuality
- Johnson, M. T. (1977) “Asexual and Autoerotic Women: Two invisible groups.” in ed. Gorchros H.L. and Gochros J.S. The Sexually Oppressed. New York: Associated Press.
This is the first known publication on asexuality. Asexuality is defined a little differently than in modern usage. She distinguishes autoerotic women (women who masturbate but don’t desire sex) from asexual women (women with desire for neither.) In current usage, both of these groups are contained under the term asexual. Also, she defines asexuality in terms of sexual preference rather than sexual attraction or asexual self-identification. Her data come from letters to the editor in women’s magazines in the 1970’s. Even though this chapter is almost 30 years old, many of the points are quite similar to ones made by members of the asexual community several decades later. The book may be a little hard to get a hold of.
- Bogaert A.F. (2004) Asexuality: Its Prevalence and Associated Factors in a National Probability Sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 279-287
Abstract: I used data from a national probability sample (N = 18,000) of British residents to investigate asexuality, defined as having no sexual attraction to a partner of either sex. Approximately 1% (n = 195) of the sample indicated they were asexual. A number of factors were related to asexuality, including gender (i.e., more women than men), short stature, low education, low socioeconomic status, and poor health. Asexual women also had a later onset of menarche relative to sexual women. The results suggest that a number of pathways, both biological and psychosocial, contribute to the development of asexuality.
After the Johnson chapter, the next academic publication on asexuality did not appear for another quarter of a century. (Rather ironic if we consider the title of Johnson’s piece.) The data came from a 1994 probability sample done in the UK that gave several options for sexual orientation, including “I have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all.” This study does a series of regressions using the respondents who chose this answer. There are significant methodological shortcomings, but the author does a good job discussing them.
- Bogaert A. F. (2006). Toward a Conceptual Understanding of Asexuality. Review of General Psychology, 10, 241-250
Asexuality has been the subject of recent academic (A. F. Bogaert, 2004) and public (e.g., New Scientist; CNN) discourse. This has raised questions about the conceptualization and definition of asexuality. Here the author reviews some of these issues, discusses asexuality from a sexual orientation point of view (i.e., as a lack of sexual attraction), and reviews the similarities and differences between this definition and related phenomena (e.g., hypoactive sexual desire disorder). Finally, the author concludes that the term asexuality should not necessarily be used to describe a pathological or health-compromised state.
After publishing the above quantitative paper, Bogaert published another discussing how to conceptualize asexuality. My only real criticism of it is the section on defining asexuality—this section is primarily based on his own speculation of what he thinks asexuals would be like rather than actual knowledge of people who report not experiencing sexual attraction.
- Bogaert, A. F. (2008). Asexuality: Dysfunction or variation. in J. M Caroll & M. K. Alena (eds). Psychological Sexual Dysfunctions. New York: Nova Biomedical Books. pp. 9-13.
Bogaert (2006) discussed whether asexuality, defined as a lack of sexual attraction, should be viewed as a dysfunction. He concluded that asexuality should not necessarily be viewed as a dysfunction. Here I review and expand on these arguments, including on the possible overlap with existing sexual dysfunctions (e.g., Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.) I also review existing research that bears on this question. For example, recent research (Bogaert, 2004, 2007) has suggested that physical health problems are not likely to be elevated in asexual people. Finally, I discuss what it might mean to have no sexual attraction to others, and whether some people who lack sexual attraction (but who still have sexual desire, e.g., masturbate) may have a paraphilia.
- Prause, N & Graham, C. A. (2007) Asexuality: Classification and Clarification. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 341-35
The term “asexual” has been defined in many different ways and asexuality has received very little research attention. In a small qualitative study (N = 4), individuals who self-identified as asexual were interviewed to help formulate hypotheses for a larger study. The second larger study was an online survey drawn from a convenience sample designed to better characterize asexuality and to test predictors of asexual identity. A convenience sample of 1,146 individuals (N = 41 self-identified asexual) completed online questionnaires assessing sexual history, sexual inhibition and excitation, sexual desire, and an open-response questionnaire concerning asexual identity. Asexuals reported significantly less desire for sex with a partner, lower sexual arousability, and lower sexual excitation but did not differ consistently from non-asexuals in their sexual inhibition scores or their desire to masturbate. Content analyses supported the idea that low sexual desire is the primary feature predicting asexual identity.
This paper was designed to be an exploratory study on people who identify as asexual. They did two studies—one was a qualitative study and the other was a quantitative one. The only thing that worries me is that some readers will use the qualitative study (n=4) to construct an image of “the asexual,” taking these four as prototypical of asexuals more generally, though this is clearly not the authors’ intention. As I understand, the data collection was done fairly early in the asexual community’s history. Also, the interviewees were found locally via flyers, and unlike qualitative studies with recruiting from AVEN, they do some display influence of online asexual discourse.
- Scherrer, K. (2008). Asexual Identity: Negotiating Identity, Negotiating Desire. Sexualities, 11, 621-641
Sexuality is generally considered an important aspect of selfhood. Therefore, individuals who do not experience sexual attraction, and who embrace an asexual identity, are in a unique position to inform the social construction of sexuality. This study explores the experiences of asexual individuals utilizing open ended internet survey data from 102 self-identified asexual people. In this article I describe several distinct aspects of asexual identities: the meanings of sexual, and therefore, asexual behaviors, essentialist characterizations of asexuality, and lastly, interest in romance as a distinct dimension of sexuality. These findings have implications not only for asexual identities, but also for the connections of asexuality with other marginalized sexualities.
Participants were recruited from AVEN and asked to fill out an open ended questionnaire. The focus is on asexual identity, and this qualitative study was based on a much larger sample size than the one used in Prause and Graham (2007). I felt that one weakness was that the author assumed that all people who identify as asexual regard themselves as not sexual. In my own experience, some asexuals feel that they are ‘not sexual’ but not all do. My impression is that this assumption may have been true in earlier parts of the asexual community’s history and is sometimes communicated in presentations of asexuality.
- Scherrer, K. (2010). Asexual Relationships: What does asexuality have to do with polyamory? in M. Barker and D. Langdridge (eds.) Understanding Non-Monogamies. Taylor & Francis. New York.
Data from the same study are used to explore the relationship between asexuality and polyamory.
- Scherrer, K. S. (2010). What Asexuality Contributes to the Same-Sex Marriage Discussion. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services,, 22, 56-73
Abstract: While same-sex marriage debates have captured public attention, it is but one component of a broader discussion regarding the role of marriage in a changing society. To inform this discussion, I draw on qualitative, Internet survey data from 102 self-identified asexual individuals. I find that asexual relationships are complicated and nuanced in ways that have implications for a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer (LGBTQ) political agenda, including same-sex marriage recognition. In addition, findings indicate that assumptions of sex and sexuality in relationships are problematic and that present language for describing relationships is limiting. Findings suggest a social justice agenda for marginalized sexualities should be broader in scope than same-sex marriage.
Using data from the same study as the above cited paper, the author discusses the question asked in the title.
- Brotto, L. A., Knudson, G., Inskip, J., Rhodes, K., & Erskine, Y. (2010). Asexuality: A mixed methods approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 599-618. Current definitions of asexuality focus on sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and lack of sexual orientation or sexual excitation; however, the extent to which these definitions are accepted by self-identified asexuals is unknown. The goal of Study 1 was to examine relationship characteristics, frequency of sexual behaviors, sexual difficulties and distress, psychopathology, interpersonal functioning, and alexithymia in 187 asexuals recruited from the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). Asexual men (n = 54) and women (n = 133) completed validated questionnaires online. Sexual response was lower than normative data and was not experienced as distressing, and masturbation frequency in males was similar to available data for sexual men. Social withdrawal was the most elevated personality subscale; however, interpersonal functioning was in the normal range. Alexithymia was elevated in 12%. Social desirability was also in the normal range. Study 2 was designed to expand upon these quantitative findings with 15 asexuals from Study 1 through in-depth telephone interviews. The findings suggest that asexuality is best conceptualized as a lack of sexual attraction; however, asexuals varied greatly in their experience of sexual response and behavior. Asexuals partnered with sexuals acknowledged having to “negotiate” sexual activity. There were not higher rates of psychopathology among asexuals; however, a subset might fit the criteria for Schizoid Personality Disorder. There was also strong opposition to viewing asexuality as an extreme case of sexual desire disorder. Finally, asexuals were very motivated to liaise with sex researchers to further the scientific study of asexuality.
- Brotto, L. A., & Yule, M. A. (in press). Physiological and Subjective Sexual Arousal in Self-Identified Asexual Women, Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI: 10.1007/s10508-010-9671-7.
Asexuality can be defined as a lifelong lack of sexual attraction. Empirical research on asexuality reveals significantly lower self-reported sexual desire and arousal and lower rates of sexual activity; however, the speculation that there may also be an impaired psychophysiological sexual arousal response has never been tested. The aim of this study was to compare genital (vaginal pulse amplitude; VPA) and subjective sexual arousal in asexual and non-asexual women. Thirty-eight women between the ages of 19 and 55 years (10 heterosexual, 10 bisexual, 11 homosexual, and 7 asexual) viewed neutral and erotic audiovisual stimuli while VPA and self-reported sexual arousal and affect were measured. There were no significant group differences in the increased VPA and self-reported sexual arousal response to the erotic film between the groups. Asexuals showed significantly less positive affect, sensuality-sexual attraction, and self-reported autonomic arousal to the erotic film compared to the other groups; however, there were no group differences in negative affect or anxiety. Genital-subjective sexual arousal concordance was significantly positive for the asexual women and non-significant for the other three groups, suggesting higher levels of interoceptive awareness among asexuals. Taken together, the findings suggest normal subjective and physiological sexual arousal capacity in asexual women and challenge the view that asexuality should be characterized as a sexual dysfunction.
- Hinderliter, A.C. (2009) Methodological Issues for Studying Asexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 38. 619-621
This is a letter to the editor by a member of the asexual community who has taken a particular interest in the academic study of asexuality.
- Brotto, L. A., Yule, M. A. (2009) Reply to Hinderliter. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 38. 622-623
A response to Hinderliter’s “Methodological Issues for Studying Asexuality.”
- Poston, D. L., & Baumle, A. K. (2010). Patterns of Asexuality in the United States. Demographic Research, 23, 509-530.
In this paper we use data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) to ascertain and analyze patterns of asexuality in the United States. We endeavor to extend the earlier work of Bogaert (2004) on this topic, which focused on patterns of asexuality in Great Britain. Using a social constructionist perspective to study asexuality, we conceptualize and measure the phenomenon in several ways, according to behavior, desire, and self-identification. We use the NSFG respondent sampling weights to produce several sets of unbiased estimates of the percentages of persons in the U.S. population, aged 15-44, who are asexual; each set is based on one or more of the various definitions of asexuality. Finally, we describe some of the characteristics of the asexual population using logistic regression.
I have not found anyone in the asexual communities who likes this paper. Their way of defining asexuality is generally at odds with how it is used in the asexual community, and the quantitative section is basically worthless with respect to asexuality. They used the “other” answer to a sexual attraction question as their operationalization. There is little reason to assume that this is a good measure of asexuality, and since the publication of the paper, results from the 2006-2008 NSFG have been published. They had a much lower rate of “something else” this time. At first, because of the higher than expected number of responses, an open answer option was given, but they later discontinued this because of the cost of coding and because it was felt that many “other” answers could be back-coded into one of the hetero/homo/bisexual categories.
- Kim, EJ. (2010). How much sex is healthy? The pleasures of asexuality. in J. M. Metzl and A. Kirkland (eds). Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality. New York: New York University Press. pp. 157-169
- Cerankowski K.J., Milks M. (2010) New Orientations: Asexuality and Its Implications for Theory and Practice. Feminist Studies, 36, 650-664.
- Chasin, CJ. D. (in press). Theoretical issues in the study of asexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI 10.1007/s10508-011-9757-x.
Academic interest in asexual people is new and researchers are beginning to discuss how to proceed methodologically and conceptually with the study of asexuality. This article explores several of the theoretical issues related to the study of asexuality. Researchers have tended to treat asexuality either as a distinct sexual orientation or as a lack of sexual orientation. Difficulties arise when asexual participants are inconsistent in their self-identification as asexual. Distinguishing between sexual and romantic attraction resolves this confusion, while simultaneously calling into question conceptualizations of the asexual population as a single homogenous group. Arguments are considered in favor of exploring diversity within the asexual population, particularly with respect to gender and romantic orientation, proposing that the categorical constructs employed in (a)sexuality research be replaced with continuous ones. Furthermore, given the recently noted bias toward including only self-identified asexuals, as opposed to non-self-identified asexuals or “potential-asexuals,” in research about asexuality, the nature and meaning of asexual self-identification are discussed. Particular attention is paid to the theoretical importance of acknowledging asexual self-identification or lack thereof in future research into asexuality. This article discusses what these current theoretical issues mean for the study of asexuality and sexuality more generally, including a brief consideration of ethical implications for research with asexual participants. Finally, directions for future research are suggested.
Posters about asexuality
- Chasin C. J. (2008, June). A discursive look at the friend/partner distinction: Implications for asexual people.. Poster session presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Psychological Society, Montreal, Quebec.
Modeling sexual orientation to include asexuality
Kinsey et al. proposed a model for sexual orientation functioning as a continuum from completely heterosexual (0) to completely homosexual (6), with various degrees of bisexuality in the middle. This leaves no room for asexuality. However, asexuals did appear in his data, so a category ‘X’ was added to account for these. Another model that has been proposed treats heterosexual and homosexual orthogonal vectors, differentiating between high on both (bisexual) and low on both (asexual.) A longer discussion is found on a blog post called A different model of sexual orientation on Apositive.
- Kinsey, A. C, Pomeroy, W. B., and Martin, C. B. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,
W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA.
- Kinsey, A. C, Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., and Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual Behavior
in the Human Female, W. B. Saunders, Philadelphia, PA.
In his book on males, Kinsey, in addition to the better known 0-6 parts of his scale, employed a separate category of X for those with “no socio-sexual contacts or reactions.”; In several footnotes he said that he would explain what the X meant in the main text, but he never did. The only explanation are the above quoted five words, which were found in one of his charts. He labeled 1.5% of the adult male population as “X.”
In Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, he further explained the category as people who “do not respond erotically to either heterosexual or homosexual stimuli, and do not have overt physical encounter with individuals of either sex in which there is evidence of any response.” The following percentages of the population assigned “X:” Unmarried females=14-19%. Married females= 1-3%. Previously married females=5-8%. Unmarried males=3-4%. Married males=0%. Previously married males=1-2%.
What his operations definition(s) were does not seem clear.
- Shively, M. G. and De Cecco, J. P. (1977). Components of Sexual Identity. Journal of Homosexuality, 3, 41-48
Something like a 2-Dimensional model was proposed in 1977 on analogy to similar work defining masculinity and femininity. They viewed sexual orientation as having two aspects: physical preference and affectional preference. The, for each of these, instead of using a bipolar model, they had two separate continua ranging from 1 (not at all hetero/homosexual) to 5 (very hetero/homosexual.) The motivation for using two continua (each) was that in a bipolar modal, increased heterosexuality exists only at the expense of homosexuality and vice versa. They were either uninterested in or unaware that their model allowed for the existence of asexuals.
- Storms, M. D. (1978) “Sexual Orientation and Self-Perception” in P. Pliner K. R. Blankenstein and I.M. Spigel (Eds), Advances in the Study of Communication and Affect vol. 5 Perception of Emotion in Self and Others. New York. Plenum
Also on the basis of analogy to work done of masculinity and femininity, Storms treated homoeroticism and heteroeroticism as independent variables. Storms did not seem to be aware of the similar proposal made by Shively and DeCecco (above) in 1977. Like them, he was motivated by the beleif that increased heterosexual attraction did not necessarily mean decreased homosexual desire. However, he also argued for this model on the basis that it would distinguish between bisexuality and asexuality. (He used the words ‘asexual’ and ‘anerotic.’) Also, rather that simply putting these on separate continua next to each other, he placed them on separate axes of a graph. Furthermore, he did an experiment to test his predictions of whether bisexuals experience as much same-sex attraction as homosexuals and as much other-sex attraction as heteorsexuals (as his model predicts), or if they experienced about half as much as either (as Kinsey’s model predicts.) He found that the data supported his model.
- Storms M. D. (1980). Theories of sexual orientation. Journal or Personality and Social Psychology. 1980, 38, 783-792
This paper is similar to the 1978 paper and is based on the same experiment. The 1980 paper is easier to get a copy of and is cited much more often than the 1978 paper.
- Stein, E. The Mismeasure of desire: the Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation. Oxford University Press. 1999
Chapter 2 contains what is probably the most extensive analysis to date of Storms’ model vs. Kinsey’s to date. He also discusses the matter briefly later with respect to Bem’s “Exotic becomes erotic” theory.
A 2-dimensional model like this has only been used to study sexual orientation a few times in the decades since Storms proposed it. (Shively and DeCecco are rarely cited in this regard.)
- Nurius, P. S. “Mental Health Implications of Sexual Orientation.” The Journal of Sex Research” Vol. 19, NO 2 pp. 119-136.
This is one of the few attempts to use a 2-dimensional model for sexual orientation like the one that Storms proposed. Asexuality is defined in terms of sexual preference (at the time of taking the survey.); 689 subjects–most of whom were students at various universities in the United States taking psychology or sociology classes–were given several surveys, including four clinical well-being scales and a survey asking how frequently they engaged in various sexual activities and how often they would like to engage in those activities. Based on the results, respondents were given a score ranging from 0-100 for hetero-eroticism and from 0-100 for homo-eroticism. Respondents who
scored lower than 10 on both were labeled “asexual.” This consisted of 5% of the males and 10% of the females. Results showed that asexuals were more likely to have low self-esteem and more likely to be depressed than members of other sexual orientations. 25.88% of heterosexuals, 26.54% bisexuals (called “ambisexuals”), 29.88% of homosexuals, and 33.57% of asexuals were reported to have problems with self-esteem. A similar trend existed for depression. Nurius did not believe that firm conclusions can be drawn from this for a variety of reasons. Asexuals also reported much lower frequency and desired frequency of a variety of sexual activities including having multiple partners, anal sexual activities, having sexual encounters in a variety of locations, and autoerotic activities.
- Berkey, B. R., Perelman-Hall, T.; Kurdek, L. A. (1990). The multidimensional scale of sexuality. Journal of Homosexuality, 19, 67-87.
They include asexuality in their list of orientations, but define it as not experiencing sexual attraction to males or females, not falling in love with males or females, and not having sex with males or females. No one in their study qualified as asexual, which they, bizarrely, attributed to asexuality being “rare” rather than the fact that they recruited people for their study based on their sexual orientations. (To back up their claim that asexuality is rare, they cite a human sexuality textbook by Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny, though I wasn’t able to find in that book what they were referring to because they did not give a page number.) The reason for including asexuality seems to be that 2-Dimensional models (or several of them) seem more appropriate for studying bisexuality than bipolar scales. Also, you can take the multidimensional scale of sexuality as an online test, which seems to use the same questions (and hence, it is possible to see how they define asexuality.
- Conner, K. L. (1996). Covariation of sexual orientation and sexual desire. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Florida, United States — Florida. Retrieved April 11, 2009, from Dissertations & Theses: Full Text database. (Publication No. AAT 9709222).
Scholarship on the conceptualization of sexual orientation has been largely theoretical in nature, with a paucity of empirical investigations. In addition, research has typically employed a unidimensional scale (heterosexual-homosexual) when investigating sexual orientation. Recent theory has suggested that scales measuring the degree of opposite-sex attraction and same-sex attraction separately may be better for conceptualizing and categorizing sexual orientation.
The present study investigated sexual orientation using this model of two, separate, bipolar scales, resulting in four sexual orientations: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual. This study particularly investigated the asexual orientation and possible associated psychological symptoms. Specifically, it was hypothesized that participants in the low heterosexual attraction-low homosexual attraction grouping could be further subdivided into two groups, labeled “sexually aversed” and “sexually unmotivated”. They were predicted to differ significantly from each other with regard to number of clinical symptoms endorsed. A total of 269 undergraduate college students rated their sexual orientation using the two bipolar scales, the frequency of their homoerotic dreams and fantasies, any symptoms of psychological disorder they had recently experienced, and the sexual attractiveness of persons in slide photographs.
Statistical analyses of the results generally failed to support the hypotheses. However, some hypotheses received partial support. Specifically, Hypothesis 1 was partially supported in that high heterosexual attraction-low homosexual attraction participants were differentiated from other participants. Hypothesis 2 was supported in that the low heterosexual attraction-low homosexual attraction cell could be further divided on the basis of scores on a measure of sexual desire into a relatively symptom-free, sexually-unmotivated subgroup and a somewhat more symptom-laden, sexually-aversed subgroup. Hypothesis 3, regarding the relative absence of a simple lack of sexual interest within the sexually-aversed subgroup compared to the sexually-unmotivated subgroup, was not supported. These results differ somewhat from results obtained in previous research. Possible reasons for these different findings, directions for future research, and implications for counseling are discussed.
- Hietpas-Wilson, T. (2007) “Sexual Minority Adolescents’ Sexual Identity: Prevalence, Disclosure, Self-lableing, Fluidity, and Psychological Well-Being.”; (PhD Dissertation, University of Missouri-Kansas City)
Data were taken from a longitudinal study of youth, grades 7-12 in the first interview. Participants were (if possible) then interviewed twice more at two year intervals. To measure sexual orientation, two questions were asked. In the first interview, “Have you ever had a romantic attraction to a male?” “Have you ever had a romantic attraction to a female?” At subsequent interviews, participants were asked, “Since (date of last interview) have you had an attraction to a male?” “Since (date of last interview) have you had an attraction to a female?” Because questions were asked separately, rather than “male, female or both,” it created the possibility of “neither.” The relationship to asexuality is unclear because in the first interview it is a question about romantic attraction (which many asexuals experience) rather than sexual attraction. Setting aside this issue, “asexuals” were defined as people who answered “no” to both questions, and this is how I will use the term in describing the study. By using a longitudinal study, it was possible to study how stable attractions were over time. Of note, however, is that “not sexually attracted to males or females” was the option recorded as “asexual” on the sexual identity question.
Because of these issues, it is unclear what conclusions can be drawn about asexuality from this study, but it raises some very interesting questions. Regarding asexuality, the author writes, “When analyses were originally planned, asexual orientations (no attractions) were not considered because I assumed that not many individuals would have this orientation and asexuality was absent from the literature. This sample, however, included a substantial portion of asexual individuals” (p. 53). In the first wave, 13.2% of males and 10.8% of females were asexual. This dropped of significantly, and at the third interview 0.6% of males and 0.5% of females were asexual. (It is unclear how much of this is from change in individuals and how much is from self-selection in who participated in subsequent interviews.)
Of note, of those who were asexual in at least one wave, 46% were asexual in the first one, and nearly 41% were asexual in the second and heterosexual in the first and third. Also of interest in that by including the possibility of fluidity and the possibility of asexuality (or being at least temporarily aromantic) on 61% of those participating in all three waves were consistently heterosexual. The author informs be that with respect to asexuality, age was not found to be a significant variable. (Personal correspondence.)
Data came from a longitudinal study of middle and highschool aged youth (as of the first study.) Two subsequent interviews were done at two year intervals. They asked whether the youth had ever had a romantic attraction to a male and whether they had ever had a romantic attraction to a female. Because they were separate questions, this created the possibility of four combinations, and a negative answer to both was classified as asexual. At the first interview, approximately 10% of respondents were classified as asexual. Because asexuality is virtually nonexistent in the literature, the author had not expected this to be an important part of the data. Confronted with it, however, asexuality had to be considered more seriously. Subsequent interviews were done with a small minority of those who participated in the first interview, and there the questions about romantic attraction were about the time since the previous interview, allowing for the possibility of fluidity over time. One limitation was the operational definition of asexuality—it was defined in terms of romantic attraction rather than sexual attraction.
- Poston, D. L. and Baumle, A. K. , 2006-08-11 “Patterns of Asexuality in the
United States” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal Convention Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Online
- Hamilton, M. A. and Strizhakova, Y. (2004) Homosexuality and Homophobia: Toward a Causal Model of Asexuality. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, New Orleans Sheraton, New Orleans, LA Online
This paper is included because they use the word “asexuality” in the title. However, they seemed to assume that asexuals do not actually exist, and assumed that identifying as asexual was likely the result of unwillingness to acknowledge one’s homosexuality. They had no data to support this. The possibility that some people might actually be asexual does not seem to be considered. “Asexual” was not even given as a possible identifier on the self-report question about sexual orientation. They claim to find things that “predict asexuality” but it is not entirely clear what their operational definition of “asexuality” is.
- Bedley, C. , 2009-08-08. (A)Sexuality: Challenging What it Means to be Sexual. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Hilton San Francisco, San Francisco, CA Online
Very little scholarly attention has been directed towards the study of asexuality, and what attention has
been given has conceptualized asexuality in direct opposition to sexuality. I argue that rather than
conceiving of asexuality as outside the realm of sexuality, scholars interested in asexuality should instead
reframe explorations of asexuality within the realm of sexuality. By doing so, it becomes imperative to take
into consideration the complex ways in which the dimensions of intimacy, romance and emotional
connectedness shape and are shaped by the desires, behaviors and identities of (a)sexual beings. Relying
primarily on discursive analysis of an online asexual community, this is a first attempt at showing how self-
identified asexual persons construct asexual identities with an emphasis on the intimacy, romance and
emotional connection asexual partners share.
There are a few other papers that mention asexuality, either because they included asexuality in their list of sexual orientations or (I think) because a large number chose it as a write-in response.
- Lever, J. et. al “Behavior Patterns and Sexual Identity in Bisexual Males” Journal of Sex Research Vol 29. #2 May 1992 p.141-167
In the Feb 1982 issue of Playboy, there was a survey concerning sexual behavior. 65471 males and 14963 women responded (via mail), making it the largest survey to date of people’s sexual behavior. Given an estimated distribution of 5,000,000 copies per month at that point in time, this is only about 2% of the readership, so the percentages may not be the most reliable. One of the questions asked people’s sexual orientation and gave them the choices “heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual.” However, 1493 males didn’t report sexual identity, and 1123 reported their sexual orientation as “asexual.”; As far as I can tell, this was a write in answer.; The authors decided to throw out these data claiming “virtually all the men whose sexual identification was ‘asexual’ or missing would be classified as heterosexual based on their responses to items about their sexual behavior, but a comparison of conditional means for 40 key behavioral and demographic items showed them to be too atypical to include with other heterosexuals.” (footnote on p. 147.)
- Andres-Hyman, Raquel, et al. “Ethnicity and Sexual Orientation as PTSD Mitigators in Child Sexual Abuse Survivors” Journal of Family Violence, vol 19, no. 5 October 2004
They gave 5 options for sexual orientation. “Heterosexual, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, uncertain.” About 3.9% self-identified as asexual. Interestingly, on some measures, the asexual participants experiences less distress on account of their experience of sexual abuse than other non-asexuals. The authors speculate that this may be because asexuals have fewer sexual experiences that might trigger PTDS symptoms.
Another possible explanation may be that some of the problems caused by sexual abuse are problems asexuals might simply not have to deal with. I’m far from an expert of sexual abuse and it’s effects, but from what I understand, sometimes it causes people to act out sexually, becoming more sexually active, but with less satisfying experiences. Alternatively, some people withdraw from sex, avoiding it. These individuals, as I understand it, are not asexual; they do experience sexual attraction, and they do experience sexual desire, but, as an effect of the abuse, they also really don’t want to have sex, creating an internal conflict between wanting to have sex and really not wanting to have sex. Perhaps asexuals had lower intrusion scores than sexuals because they don’t experience sexual desires, and thus there is no internal conflict been wanting and not wanting sex. (c.f. some of posts on this thread on Apositive.)
- Ingudomnukul, E., Simon Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, Knickmeyer, R., Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions. Hormones and Behavior. Vol 5. Issue 51 May 2007. pp.597-604.
Part of this study involved sexual orientation of women with autism spectrum conditions and asexual was an option. A rather large portion of the women chose “asexual” though how this should be interpreted is unclear.
- Yoshino, K. (2000). The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure. Stanford Law Review, 52, 353-461
The article is about bisexual erasure, but the author is very much aware of the related issue of asexual erasure and has a lengthy (and very interesting) note about it (note 8).
At present, there are no books, academic or otherwise, about asexuality. (Unless you count a couple by the founder of the now-defunct Nonlibidoist Society.) However, there are a few books that are worth noting.
- Rothblum, E. D., Brehony, K. A. (eds) (1993). Boston marriages: romantic but asexual relationships among contemporary lesbians. University of Massachusetts Press.
This book has been known about (and read) in the asexual community since very early in its history.
- Abbott, E. (2001). A history of celibacy. Da Capo Press
While about celibacy rather than asexuality, this book has also been of significant interest to the asexual community. In response to this book, a number of asexuals contacted the author, sharing their stories, and the author has been quoted in the media regarding asexuality.
- Diamond, L. M. (2008). Sexual fluidity: understanding women’s love and desire. Harvard University Press.
Although this book never mentions asexuality, I found it profoundly relevant to studying asexuality. Many of the issues of importance to her and to the women she interviewed are issues of great important to many asexuals: lack of clarity over defining “sexual attraction”, distinguishing between sexual/phsyical attraction and romantic/affectional attraction, difficulty in defining relationship that aren’t “lovers” but are more than “just friends”. Also, one of the women describes her experience as something that sounds a lot what in asexual discourse is sometimes called demisexuality and has no word to describe this experience.