This project is no longer live. It’s been left online for archival purposes.

If you’re interested in finding out more about asexuality research, these resources may be useful:

Interested in Asexuality Studies? Everything you need to get started contained within

This is the outline for the special theme issue of Psychology & Sexuality which I edited with Kristina Gupta and Todd Morrison. It was published in March 2013. The editorial and the ‘virtual discussion’ are open access (i.e. freely available without a university library subscription to the journal) until the end of May 2013.

The Editorial for the Theme Issue, including a review of existing literature on asexuality and an attempt to formulate a cohesive agenda for Asexuality Studies

Who reports absence of sexual attraction in Britain? Evidence from national probability surveys

There is little evidence about the prevalence of absence of sexual attraction, or the characteristics of people reporting this, often labelled asexuals. We examine this using data from two probability surveys of the British general population, conducted in 1990–1991 and 2000–2001. Interviewers administered face-to-face and self-completion questionnaires to people aged 16–44 years (N = 13,765 in 1990–1991; N = 12,110 in 2000–2001). The proportion that had never experienced sexual attraction was 0.4% (95% CI: 0.3–0.5%) in 2000–2001, with no significant variation by gender or age, versus 0.9% (95% CI: 0.7–1.1%) in 1990–1991; p < 0.0001. Among these 79 respondents in 2000–2001, 28 (40.3% men; 33.9% women) had had sex, 19 (33.5% men; 20.9% women) had child(ren), and 17 (30.1% men; 19.2% women) were married. Three-quarters of asexual men and two-thirds of asexual women considered their frequency of sex ‘about right’, while 24.7% and 19.4%, respectively, ‘always enjoyed having sex’. As well as providing evidence on the distribution of asexuality in Britain, our data suggest that it cannot be assumed that those reporting no sexual attraction are sexually inexperienced or without intimate relationships. We recognise the possibility of social desirability bias given our reliance on self-reported data, but suggest that its effect is not easily predicted regarding absence of sexual attraction.

Mental health and interpersonal functioning in self-identified asexual men and women

Human asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual attraction to anyone or anything, and preliminary evidence suggests that it may best be defined as a sexual orientation. As asexual individuals may face the same social stigma experienced by gay, lesbian and bisexual persons, it follows that asexual individuals may experience higher rates of psychiatric disturbance that have been observed among these non-heterosexual individuals. This study explored mental health correlates and interpersonal functioning and compared asexual, non-heterosexual and heterosexual individuals on these aspects of mental health. Analyses were limited to Caucasian participants only. There were significant differences among groups on several measures, including depression, anxiety, psychoticism, suicidality and interpersonal problems, and this study provided evidence that asexuality may be associated with higher prevalence of mental health and interpersonal problems. Clinical implications are indicated, in that asexual individuals should be adequately assessed for mental health difficulties and provided with appropriate interventions that are sensitive to their asexual identity.

HSDD and asexuality: a question of instruments

The relation between the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) Diagnostic and Statistical Manuals(DSMs) and asexuality is likely to constitute a prolific direction in research, especially because of the diagnostic category ‘hypoactive sexual desire disorder’ (HSDD). This article investigates the concept of sexual desire as outlined by psychiatry and explores the ways in which asexuality disrupts that knowledge. By extension, I consider the model of sexuality that the DSM vehiculates. The manuals themselves provide no measures, no scales, and no defined norms, yet, simultaneously, assume a normative sexuality against which all others can be measured and classified. This article discusses the conceptualisation of ‘sexual dysfunctions’ in the DSM, of which HSDD is a part, and questions how it operates in clinical research into asexuality. I also pay attention to the clause of ‘personal distress’ in HSDD, since it appears to be one of the main differences between HSDD and asexuality. HSDD, asexuality, and the role played by the DSM poses questions such as what discourses, forms of knowledge, and institutions, have shaped, silenced, and eventually erased, asexuality.

Asexuality: from pathology to identity and beyond

This article draws attention to the constitutive mechanisms of asexual identity. It identifies a shift in expert discourse: a move away from pathology towards recognition of asexual identity. While this discursive shift, propelled by recent research in psychology and sexology, could pave the way for the inclusion of asexuals in public culture, it also reaffirms dominant terms and formations pertaining to sexuality and intimacy. The article argues that the discursive formation of a new asexual identity takes place through a process of objectification and subjectification/subjection at the interface between expert disciplines and activism. The recognition of identity is constitutive of subjects that are particularly suitable for self-regulation within the parameters of (neo)liberal citizenship. Yet, at the same time, the discursive shift also makes room for critical intervention akin to queer critique of naturalised gender and sexuality norms. The recognition of asexual identity could serve to destabilise the sexual regime (of truth) that privileges sexual relationships against other affiliations and grants sexual-biological relationships a status as primary in the formation of family and kinship relations. The article concludes that asexual identity encourages us to imagine other pathways of affiliation and other concepts of personhood, beyond the tenets of liberal humanism – gesturing instead towards new configurations of the human and new meanings of sexual citizenship.

Afterword: some thoughts on asexuality as an interdisciplinary method

A mystery wrapped in an enigma – asexuality: a virtual discussion

Contributors to this thematic issue were requested to answer six questions related to asexuality as a phenomenon and also the research therein. All responses received were collated into a ‘virtual discussion’ with the hope of spawning new ideas and also identifying any gaps in the current research and general knowledge regarding asexuality.

Review of Sex, lies and pharmaceuticals: how drug companies plan to profit from Female Sexual Dysfunction 

Review of Understanding Asexuality

And here are some of my favourite papers that have been written elsewhere on asexuality:

Coming to an Asexual Identity: Negotiating Identity, Negotiating Desire

Sexuality is generally considered an important aspect of self-hood. Therefore, individuals who do not experience sexual attraction, and 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 paper 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.

What Asexuality Contributes to the Same-Sex Marriage Discussion

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 GLBTQ 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.

There’s more to life than sex? Difference and commonality within the asexual community

Asexuality is becoming ever more widely known and yet it has received relatively little attention from within sociology. Research in the area poses particular challenges because of the relatively recent emergence of the asexual community, as well as the expanding array of terms and concepts through which asexuals articulate their differences and affirm their commonalities. This article presents the initial findings of a mixed-methods research project, which involved semi-structured interviews, online questionnaires and a thematic analysis of online materials produced by members of the asexual community. The aim was to understand self-identified asexuals in their own terms so as to gain understanding of the lived experience of asexuals, as well as offering a subjectively adequate grounding for future research in the area.

Crisis and safety: The asexual in sexusociety

This article provides a discussion of the implications that asexuality, as an identity category emerging in the West, carries for sexuality. Asexuality provides an exciting forum for revisiting questions of sexual normativity and examining those sex acts which are cemented to appear ‘natural’ through repetition, in the discursive system of sexusociety. Drawing especially on feminist and postmodern theories, I situate asexuality as both a product of and reaction against our sexusocial, disoriented postmodern here and now. This article also addresses the question of whether or not, and on what terms, asexuality may be considered a resistance against sexusociety.

Asexuality in disability narratives

This essay explores normative regulations of disabled people’s sexuality and its relationship with asexuality through narratives of disabled individuals. While asexuality has been persistently criticized as a damaging myth imposed on disabled people, individuals with disabilities who do not identify as sexual highlight the inseparable intersection between normality and sexuality. Disabled and asexual identity and its narratives reveal that asexuality is an embodiment neither to be eliminated, nor to be cured, and is a way of living that may or may not change. Claims for the sexual rights of desexualized minority groups mistakenly target asexuality and endorse a universal and persistent presence of sexual desire. The structurally and socially enforced asexuality and desexualization are distinguished from an asexual embodiment and perspective disidentifying oneself from sexuality.

Call for papers: (Im)personal desires: pornography, sexuality and social networks of desire

In the last decade discourses such as celebrity culture, reality TV, social networking and transnational media have shifted the emphasis of online pornography away from a private and clandestine domain towards a self-authenticating and transformative embodiment of self-expression. This special edition of Networking Knowledge aims to address how and why the rhetoric’s and representations of these sexual identities online are now positioned as a central index and catalyst of both straight and gay desires.

Papers of between 6,000 and 8,000 words are invited from postgraduate students and early career researchers across the humanities and social sciences on identity, sexuality and transgression in gay / straight pornography and sexually explicit representations via online networks of communication. The special issue seeks articles from postgraduate students and early career researchers which critically address how and why bodies, desires and identities online subvert, transgress and de-personalise other forms of sexual representation, and perhaps more pertinently self-representation through processes of assimilation, subversion and self-reflexivity. Possible topics might include, but are not limited to:

•       The politics of sexually explicit representations online
•       Rhetorical and/or discursive associated with sexual meanings and practices online
•       The ‘inter-textual’ nature of social and sexual networks and their relationship to other forms of media representation
•       The social and/or sexual use of networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Grindr, gaydar, gaydargirls etc.
•       Sexual identities as either marginalised and/or commodified online
•       The relationship between production-based and amateur pornography online
•       Sexual identities and identity construction online / through social and sexual networks of communication
•       Online sexual desire and its representation through post-modern, post-queer and/or post-capitalist frameworks of meaning.
•       ‘Personal’ and ‘Impersonal’ modes of communication such as homepages, profiles, blogs, live-cams and/or any other media and their relationship to sexual identity and desire
•       Performativity, Embodiment and ‘Othering’ in online social and sexual spaces and networks
•       Subjugation and Subversion in online sexual representation
•       The relationship between celebrity, reality and sexuality online

Please send proposals of approximately 250 words and a short biography to G.Longstaff@newcastle.ac.uk by October 19st 2012.

SOLIDARITY BUT NOT SIMILARITY? LGBT COMMUNITIES IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

SOLIDARITY BUT NOT SIMILARITY?

LGBT COMMUNITIES IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Free one day conference, 9th November 2012, Sheffield

This conference will disseminate findings from the recent UK Arts and Humanities Research Council project on understandings and experiences of ‘LGBT communities’, and their implications for ‘wellbeing’. It will also feature additional contributions from experts in the field (see below).

The event is aimed at a wide variety of people, including academics, policymakers and service commissioners, practitioners and service providers, project participants, postgraduate researchers/students, and anyone else who’s interested!

Confirmed contributions so far include:

  • Professor Catherine Donovan, University of Sunderland
  • Eleanor Formby, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Lee Gale, TransBareAll
  • Steve Slack, Centre for HIV and Sexual Health
  • Youth group drama performance, Sheena Amos Youth Trust

To register for a place please complete the booking form and return to: e.formby@shu.ac.uk.

There are a very small number of travel bursaries available for those on a low income. If you would like to apply for this please provide details on the booking form.

www.lgbtcommunityresearch.co.uk

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equalities: Surviving Austerity – Free workshop

2.00-5.00 pm, 6 November 2012, NCVO conference suite, Camden, London

This workshop will provide a forum for stakeholders, community activists, and service users to discuss current developments in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equalities field. It will include presentations by key community organisations and it will introduce the recently published book Sexuality, Equality and Diversity(Diane Richardson and Surya Monro, Palgrave MacMillan 2012). The workshop is free to attend and is funded by the ESRC as part of the Festival of Social Sciences.

Confirmed Speakers:

  • Alice Ashworth (Stonewall)
  • Petra Davis (Bi.UK)
  • Louis Bailey (Transgender Resource and Empowerment Centre – TREC)
  • Professor Diane Richardson
  • Dr Surya Monro

For more details and to register please go to http://research.ncl.ac.uk/selg/. Registration will be on a first come first served basis.

For enquiries please email lgbt@hud.ac.uk

The Sexual Assumption In Action

The sexual assumption is the usually unexamined presupposition that sexual attraction is both universal (everyone ‘has it’) and uniform (it’s fundamentally the same thing in all instances) such that its absence must be explicable in terms of a distinguishable pathology.

All from this Guardian article about asexuality earlier in the week:

  • What, not even a bit of mild masturbation?
  • The only person I have seen in real life who was asexual was affected pretty severely with his autism so I don’t know if someone who has never felt attracted to another person is suffering from some kind of disorder.
  • Nature invented sex for reproduction. Being asexual is like being born without an arm. It’s not normal, but no one should get all excited about it.
  • So you can literally lie there and flick the bean without thinking about anything? I don’t believe you. Call me cynical, but I’m not even sure there is such a thing as asexuality. If you have a sex drive, even if it isn’t “directed at anyone or anything”, surely that makes you a sexual being of some sort?
  • In some ways, it’d be great to be asexual. There are so many other things to do, books to read (or write), mountains to climb, symphonies to compose, TV show box sets to watch, countries to travel to, languages to learn, video games to master, diseases to discover cures for, internet forums to engage in endless hair-splitting debates on, &c. Think of how much one would get done if one didn’t have to share one’s nervous system with the ancient machinery one’s genes built for passing themselves on.
  • I find it hard to believe that the hormone levels of asexual people who do not have anysexual desire would have hormone levels comparable to sexual people.
  • Maybe it’s just people who can’t find the opposite sex they think they deserve.
  • As you may I’m really struggling with this asexual stuff, I fail to see how “romantic attraction” can not involve some sort of physical trait in the person you’re attracted, even if it’s just “pleasing to the eye”.
  • Can I ask if this is post menopause? It’s one of those well known but hush hush “facts” in my extended family that the women (from my mothers side at least) lost pretty much all desire for sex once menopause is done. And most of their close female friends feel the same way. It’s just that talking about it openly is not done.
  • Because without sex, we don’t exist. We’re genetically predisposed to have a pronounced relationship with it.

And then I got bored. There were a lot of comments. But it’s helped developed my idea about something to add into my postdoc plan: the comments and responses to asexual articles online constitute a great resource and, rather than abstract theoretical speculation, I want to collate and systematically analyse responses to asexuality by non-asexuals. More specifically I want to analyse attempts to explain away asexuality: what do they have in common on a conceptual level? I’m offering the sexual assumption as an empirical hypothesis based on (a) what I found in my research about experiences of sexual responses to asexuality (b) my own experience in the last few years of doing media work, talking to lots of people about my research and generally seeing a lot of different people react to asexuality.

Shit People Say to Asexuals

I instantly thought of this video after spending way too much time arguing on this Guardian thread earlier today.

CfP – Global Crisis: local identities and sexuality

CFP for the 6th Annual BSSN Conference: Global Crisis: local identities and sexuality

The theme for the 6th annual BSSN conference is ‘Global Crisis: local identities and sexuality’. This one-day conference will take place on 13 September 2012 at theUniversity of Sussex. We invite abstracts for papers, panels, workshops, posters, exhibits, performances and other possible formats. Please submit a 300-word abstract together with your contact details and affiliation by 25 May 2012 to; bssn@brighton.ac.uk

The conference will encourage an exploration of the role that local identities and sexualities have played and continue to play in the global economic crisis. In what ways can they be seen to challenge, resist, critique or creatively engage with this? What role have sexualities and identities had in resistance to and reflections on the global crisis? What impact has the message of global capitalism in crisis had on the expression of sexual dissidence and social dissent?

We invite submissions including – but not limited to – the following topics: ·        Activism·        Arts·        Austerity and anti-austerity·        Digital networks and social media·        DIY cultures·        Global queer cinema·        Health·        Literature and other creative interventions (e.g slash fiction/fan fiction)·        Popular culture·        Protest·         Queer diaspora·         Race and ethnicity ·        Spaces·        Sport and sexuality Please send abstracts to bssn@brighton.ac.ukClose of submissions: 25 May 2012Conference Date: 13th of September 2012, University of Sussex

A BSSN event co-sponsored by the Centre for Sexual Dissidence and Cultural ChangeFor more information visit BSSN at: http://www.cmis.brighton.ac.uk/bssn/

#Asexuality at the Gay Film Fest Fringe!

Fringe! Gay Film Fest is proud to announce the UK Premiere of Angela Tucker’s documentary (A)sexual on Saturday 14th April at Rio Cinema, London. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Michael J Dore and members of AVENUK (Asexuality Visibility and Education Network). For more information on Fringe! visit their website at www.fringefilmfest.com or follow them on Twitter andFacebook.

(A)SEXUAL

Rio Cinema, 103-107 Kingsland Road, London E8 2PB

Sat 14th April, 2pm, £8

Tickets: http://bit.ly/Ag6yw7

Dir. Angela Tucker, USA, 2011, 75 mins

(A)sexual follows the growth of a community that experiences no sexual attraction.

Studies show that 1% of the population is asexual. But in a society obsessed with sex, how do you deal with life as an outsider?

In 2000, David Jay came out to his parents. He was asexual and was fine with it. And he was not alone.  Combining intimate interviews, verite footage, and animation with fearless humour and pop culture imagery, David and our four other characters grapple with this universal question and the outcomes might surprise you.

http://www.artsengine.net/asexual

Research Profiles: Karin Andersson

Working with my local student organisation ‘Project sex’ on a new PR-campaign, I realised that we never get hold of these persons that are not interested in sex. This was the start for my interest in asexuality. I figured that a lack of sexual lust and/or the lack of desire for having sex with others does not mean not having a sexuality. This is an entire group that we just do not reach in our organisation, and I think this is a pity since our aim is to be open about different types of human sexuality. Therefore I set out to learn more about asexuality, by writing my bachelor thesis in sociology about this topic.

The purpose of this qualitative study was to investigate three aspects of asexuality. I used the following definition of being asexual as a point of departure: “A person who does not experience sexual attraction towards other persons”

However, my interest lies within investigating what asexuality means to my interviewees who are SIA´s (self-identified asexuals).

The research questions were 1) When and how did the participants in this study realise that they were asexual? 2) How do the asexual persons in this study explain the reasons for their asexuality? 3) What does it mean for the participants in this study to be asexual?

Qualitative method was used in order to explore how SIA´s view their asexuality. The main focus was on semi-structured interviews. Those were complemented with a small content analysis of how a lack of sexual lust is talked about on the internet, and a participatory observation at a meeting for asexuals.

The SIA´s in this study are well aware of that they do not conform to the common sexual norms, namely: the desire to have sex often and, to have an experimental and ‘self-fulfilling’ sexlife. The idea of not conforming to the norms would explain both the reasons for, and, the importance of, internet communities and meetings for asexuals. This search for an identity starts when the persons realise that they are not conforming to those sexual norms. My interviewees expressed feeling left out, confused and as though they had missed something. Finding the label asexual helped to create an own identity, outside the common heterosexual norms, within the asexual community. The function of the meetings for asexuals seem to be the sharing of thoughts, experiences and questions. Further, it serves a function positioning themselves in relation to others with similar sexualities. It is worth to pay attention to that all of my six interviewees had tried to be sexual

Most of them have had sex, even though they did not want to. The idea that sex should be a (important) part of their lives seemed thoroughly rooted. If the desire for sex is not there, this means there is a problem, a problem that should be taken care of by all means. The content analysis of how a lack of sexual lust is talked about on the internet confirms this.

To self-identify as an asexual has lead to relief for the persons in this study. Finding the label asexual means that they are not alone concerning how they feel. It also gives them an option to choose a life without sex, rather than continuing trying to conform to heterosexual norms. To conclude the answers for the research questions, the participants in the study have always, or for a long time, known that they were different from others regarding sexual lust and interest in sex. They use different variants of medical and psychological reasons to explain their asexuality, for examples aspbergers, a problematic childhood with weak or poor relations to the parents, not feeling at home in the own body or the own sex. The use of medical and psychological explanations are most likely due to that the interviewees live in a discourse were medical and psychological explanations are favoured. The answer to the third question is that being asexual is about not feeling interested in sex, not having the desire to have sex and not feeling sexually attracted to anything or anyone.

Having the opportunity to interview these SIA´s was a great experience for me, and it gave me a better perspective on how different human sexuality can be. It becomes extra interesting in a time were sex have become commercialised, and I hope that more research will be made about asexuality. I believe this is important in order to give us more knowledge about this orientation, and to help asexual persons get accepted, with or without sexual lust.

Karin Andersson

Read the thesis itself online here