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Asexuality (also known as nonsexuality) in its broadest sense, describes lack of sexual attraction, or interest in or desire for sex. Sometimes, it is considered a lack of a sexual orientation. One commonly cited study placed the incidence rate of asexuality at 1%.

Asexuality is distinct from celibacy, which is the deliberate abstention from sexual activity. Some asexuals do have sex.

Prevalence

In the mid-twentieth century, Alfred Kinsey rated individuals from 0 to 6 according to their sexual orientation from heterosexual to homosexual. He also included a category he called "X" for individuals with "no socio-sexual contacts or reactions". He labeled 1.5% of the adult male population as X. In Kinsey's second book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, he reported this break down of individuals who are 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%.

Further empirical data about an asexual demographic appeared in 1994, when a research team in the United Kingdom carried out a comprehensive survey of 18,876 British residents, spurred by the need for sexual information in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. The survey included a question on sexual attraction, to which 1.05% of the respondents replied that they had "never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all." This phenomenon was seized upon by the Canadian sexuality researcher Dr. Anthony Bogaert in 2004, who explored the asexual demographic in a series of studies. However, he believed that the figure 1% is probably too low. Also, 30% of people contacted chose not to answer the survey. Since less sexually experienced people are more likely to refuse to participate in studies about sexuality, and asexuals tend to be less sexually experienced than non-asexuals, it is likely that asexuals were overrepresented in the 30% who did not participate. The same study found the number of homosexuals and bisexuals combined to be about 1.1% of the population, which is much smaller than other studies indicate.

Subcategories
Asexuals, while typically lacking in sexual desire for either sex, may engage in purely emotional romantic relationships; terms concerning this are:
  • aromantic: lack of romantic attraction towards anyone of either sex.
  • biromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of either sex.
  • heteroromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of the opposite sex.
  • homoromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of the same sex.
  • panromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of any gender or lack of gender.
  • transromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of variant or ambiguous gender.
  • polyromantic: romantic attraction towards person(s) of more than one gender or sex but do not wish to identify as bisexual because it implies that there are only two binary genders or sexes.


Research

The Kinsey Institute sponsored another small survey on the topic in 2007, which found that self-identified 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".

A 1977 paper entitled Asexual and Autoerotic Women: Two Invisible Groups, by Myra T. Johnson, may be the first paper explicitly devoted to asexuality in humans. Johnson defines asexuals as those men and women "who, regardless of physical or emotional condition, actual sexual history, and marital status or ideological orientation, seem to prefer not to engage in sexual activity." She contrasts autoerotic women with asexual women: "The asexual woman...has no sexual desires at all [but] the autoerotic woman...recognizes such desires but prefers to satisfy them alone." Johnson's evidence is mostly letters to the editor found in women's magazines written by asexual/autoerotic women. She portrays them as invisible, "oppressed by a consensus that they are nonexistent," and left behind by both the sexual revolution and feminist movement. Society either ignores or denies their existence, or insists they must be ascetic for religious reasons, neurotic, or asexual for political reasons.

In a study published in 1979 in Advances in the Study of Affect vol. 5 and in another article using the same data published in 1980 in the "Journal of Personality and Social Psychology," Michael D. Storms of the University of Kansas outlined his own reimagining of the Kinsey scale. Whereas Kinsey measured sexual orientation based on a combination of actual sexual behavior and fantasizing and eroticism, Storms only used fantasizing and eroticism. Storms, however, placed hetero-eroticism and homo-eroticism on separate axes rather than at two ends of a single scale; this allows for a distinction between bisexuality (exhibiting both hetero- and homo-eroticism in degrees comparable to hetero- or homosexuals, respectively) and asexuality (exhibiting a level of homo-eroticism comparable to a heterosexual, and a level of hetero-eroticism comparable to a homosexual: namely, little to none). Storms conjectured that many researchers following Kinsey's model could be mis-categorizing asexual subjects as bisexual, because both were simply defined by a lack of preference for gender in sexual partners.

The first study that gave empirical data about asexuals was published in 1983 by Paula Nurius, concerning the relationship between sexual orientation and mental health. Unlike previous studies on the subject, she used the above-mentioned two-dimensional model for sexual orientation. 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.

Another study with both quantitative and qualitative sections has been done recently, but the results have not yet been published, though some of the results can be found online.

Though comparisons with non-human sexuality are problematic, a series of studies done on ram mating preferences at the United States Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idahomarker, starting in 2001 found that about 2–3% of the animals being studied had no apparent interest in mating with either sex; the researchers classified these animals as asexual, but found them to be otherwise healthy with no recorded differences in hormone levels.

Community

A community of self-identified asexuals coalesced in the early 21st century, aided by the popularity of online communities.

Dr. Elizabeth Abbot, author of A History of Celibacy, acknowledges a difference between asexuality and celibacy and posits that there has always been an asexual element in the population but that asexual people kept a low profile. While failure to consummate marriage was seen as "an insult to the sacrament of marriage" in medieval Europe, asexuality, unlike homosexuality, has never been illegal, and asexual people have been able to "fly under the radar". However, in the 21st century the anonymity of online communication and general popularity of social networking online has facilitated the formation of a community built around a common asexual identity.

The Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) was founded in 2001 by David Jay with two primary goals: to create public acceptance and discussion of asexuality and to facilitate the growth of an asexual community. Since that time it has grown to host the world’s largest online asexual community, serving as an informational resource and meeting place for people who are asexual and questioning, their friends and families, academic researchers and the press. The network has additional satellite communities in ten languages. Members of AVEN have been involved in media coverage spanning television, print, and radio, and participate in lectures, conferences and Pride events around the world.

As an emerging identity with a broad definition, there is an enormous amount of variation among people who identify as asexual. Some asexuals may masturbate as a solitary form of release, while others do not feel a need to. The need or desire for masturbation is commonly referred to as a "sex drive" and is disassociated from sexual attraction; asexuals who masturbate generally consider it to be a normal product of the human body and not a sign of latent sexuality. Asexuals also differ in their feelings towards performing sex acts: some are indifferent and may even have sex for the benefit of a partner, while others are more strongly averse to the idea.

Notable asexuals

  • Edward Gorey, writer and illustrator. Gorey never married or had any known romantic relationships, and responded to an interviewer's questioning of his sexual orientation with, "I'm neither one thing nor the other particularly ... I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something." He agreed with the interviewer's suggestion that the "sexlessness" of his books was "a product of his asexuality".
  • Keri Hulme, author of The Bone People, winner of the 1985 Booker Prize, discussed asexuality and her involvement with AVEN in a 2007 interview.
  • Paul Erdos, according to "N is a Number" (1993)
  • David Jay, founder of AVEN, an asexual community.
  • Paula Poundstone, American comedian.
  • Bradford Cox, American musician, leader of the bands Deerhunter and Atlas Sound.


Fictional characters and persons




See also



References

External links




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