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Sexy Time: Asexuality is an emerging identification

Asexuals , or people who don’t experience sexual attraction, have gotten a bad rep. Asexuality as a form of identity is quite new. Many researchers disagree on whether or not a lack of sex drive can be considered a sexual orientation.
For members of the non-science community, however, coming out as asexual generally isn’t accepted — or rather — it is questioned. Some people have no clue what asexuality is, while other people believe asexuals are simply afraid of sex due to past experiences of abuse or religious shame around sexuality.
When my friend and I were in Catholic school, I would always make lewd comments about getting down on our knees. Over the summer she told me she would not be doing any of that, or any of the other fun activities that would lead up to it. I had a lot of questions, but mostly I couldn’t help but wonder if asexuality actually exists?
Although asexuality is generally fresh to the public, studies involving asexuals have existed for years; there just was never a label for it. In his study about bisexuality in the 1960s, Dr. Alfred Kinsey had individuals rate their sexual orientation from 0, predominantly heterosexual, to 6 completely homosexual. Kinsey also included an X group for people who did not have any sexual contact or reactions.
Asexuality is different from abstinence as asexuals don’t refrain from sex for religious beliefs or any other social based reason. They just don’t want it.
Other studies have found people who have felt no need to engage in sex with a partner, or felt sexually attracted to anyone at all. Due to the fact that asexuals are less likely to participate in research on sexuality, it is likely that asexuals are underrepresented in studies. In 1979, psychologist Michael Storms continued Kinsey’s study on sexuality, introducing eroticism and fantasy. Storms concluded that asexuals could be misinterpreted as bisexual simply because their results were interpreted according to their sex partner’s gender preference.
Interestingly enough, in 2007, The Kinsey Institute did a survey on asexuality and found that asexuals had less desire for sex with a partner, lower sexual arousability and lower sexual excitation but did not differ consistently from nonasexuals in their sexual inhibition scores or their desire to masturbate. This study put me on the fence regarding asexuality as an identity.
After all, masturbation is a way of expressing desire and sexual attraction. In 1977, Myra T. Johnson classified women who experience low sex drive into two groups: Asexual and autoerotic. Johnson believed that the asexual woman felt absolutely no desires and couldn’t masturbate while the autoerotic woman had desires but preferred to fulfill them alone. When you think about it, masturbation isn’t something you light candles and scatter rose petals on the bed for. It’s a release you’d prefer people not to know you do, like latch hooking or playing Ms. Pacman. On the other hand, some asexuals experience romantic feelings, and may engage in emotionally romantic relationships.
They may identify as pansromantic, having romantic feelings for people of all genders, or hetero- or homo- romantic. Asexuality can be described as another form of hypoactive sexual desire disorder, as both imply lack of arousal. However, asexuality cannot be described as a disorder because asexuality doesn’t define someone as having medical or psychological problems relating to someone. It is simply a choice regarding sexual behavior.
Like all forms of sexual identity, asexuality is just a label to help figure ourselves out in our relationships with other people and with ourselves. We label ourselves with what “makes sense to us,” and provides us with clarity. Personally, I feel that labels are like pants and fit everyone differently. One day you might find your pants no longer fit. Time forms a clear path, but most importantly, it’s realizing that our identities are more than who we have sex with.

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    David McgrathFeb 1, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Your pants analogy is very helpful in thinking about identity. I have had that one day when my pants didn’t fit anymore on multiple occasions throughout life. What I find interesting is that I would sometimes try to wear them anyway despite the discomfort.