In the most succinct, accurate way possible, do we have some consensus as how to define asexuality? How do you define it? From what I’ve gathered, the online asexual community, primarily AVEN, considers it as the lack of sexual attraction, but not as the lack of sex drive or libido.
The first part of that conception is not so much of an issue for me. The second part, italicized, is. If we are true to the definition then libido is used in a psychoanalytic sense. That is a huge red flag as psychoanalysis is greatly contested among quite a few scholars and researchers. Despite the fact that I come from a humanities background, I’m actually pretty big on theoretical claims being backed up by empirical evidence. Even the term sex drive is problematic for me as I’m not sure even that has a clear conception based in physiological, biological, and/or neurological models. I understand that it is used as a way to explain why asexuals masturbate, but I would like the whole concept explored more empirically. As an asexual that does on occasion masturbate, I can appreciate the want for reconciling that act with my accepted identity; however, I feel these are the very sorts of sexuality related concepts/conventions that for so long have gone unquestioned and taken for granted that asexuality affords us the opportunity to clarify and substantiate. Basically, I’m asking for sex drive and libido to prove their existence outside of the psychoanalytic framework that gave rise to them. Just because it offers a quick means to explain why asexuals masturbate doesn’t mean it shouldn’t go unchallenged. For instance, do said asexuals fixate on another object/thought when masturbating? Pornography? A loved one? If it is a sexual act that often associates with some external thing, how exactly is that different from sexual attraction? I’m not so much implying it isn’t; rather, I think clarifying the distinction is fruitful and important.
I bring this up for two reasons. First, until these claims and theories are substantiated, I expect continued dissonance occurring between how one sexual identity considers sexual desire, drive, and attraction within its community to how another does. This is apparent by asexuals being polled for studies and being confused by questions regarding sexual desire, as Andrew pointed out in a recent open letter to researchers. My question is, how and why is the conception of sexual desire as understood by the asexual community more valid than the one put forth by the researchers themselves? (Note that Prause and Graham state, “low sexual desire is the primary feature predicting asexual identity” in “Asexuality: Classification and Categorization.” That has, until now, been my source for succinctly defining asexuality.) I have not been a part of such polls, though I am familiar with them, but to me sexual desire, as well as drive, as a whole is rather nebulous and incoherent—and thus especially susceptible to what Derrida calls freeplay—and so it’s not surprising that its conception via one sexual identity perspective is going to meet resistance by another. The one put forth by the researchers in question certainly isn’t nuanced and clear enough, but I feel the one via the asexual community is somewhat taken for granted as a coherent/tangible thing simply because helps to explain certain asexual behaviours.
Which brings me to my second reason for bringing the pursuit up: If sexual desire is the explanation for why some asexuals masturbate, then what do we make of those asexuals who do not? Do they not have sexual desire? Do we need to have them checked out and verify that their hormone levels are okay? If we do and they compare favorably to the group that masturbates, what is causing one to desire sexual release while the other not? That answer seems very important to me.