asexuality is being conceptualized. In addition to that different impacts of asexuality on relationships have also been identified by this paper. Furthermore, it also analyses various medical complications of asexuality.
The term asexuality was first used in scientific research in the year 1977 in the section of the book ‘asexual and autoerotic women: two invisible groups.’ The most common definition of asexuality is ‘absence of sexual attraction towards someone’. (Andersson, 2013)
However, Hinderliter also said that the above definition is not the ‘only way of defining Asexuality’ and explained that the definition can be broadened and narrowed as per the requirements. He said that ‘a need to broaden the definition seeks to include people who do not experience sexual attraction but do or feel things generally associated with sexuality. A drive to narrow the definition is used to sharply differentiate asexuality from celibacy — people who experience sexual attraction but do not have sex are celibate, not asexual.’ (Hinderliter, 2013)
The definition is expanded in order to include people who do not feel any sexual attraction but ‘feel/do other things generally associated with sexuality in conscious resistance to pressure to exclude these people from the category asexual.’ (Hinderliter, 2013)
The reason behind narrowing this definition is that, asexual people are capable of getting indulge in sexual activity (sexual intercourse) but they are not interested in it in psychologically. In addition to that, the asexual people do not masturbate. The scholars, therefore, have excluded the people who are incapable of getting indulged in sexual activity by narrowing the scope of this definition. (Hinderliter, 2013)
This definition of asexuality also includes the following facts;
A deficiency in experiencing sexual behavior. (Allison, 2013)
Improper or lacking levels of sexual orientation. (Allison, 2013)
Lower levels of experiencing sexual desire. (Allison, 2013)
According the first empirical study that was being conducted on asexuality, ‘approximately 1% of the population is thought to be asexual.’ (Allison, 2013) These findings were also supported by a reason study that was being conducted to identify the relationship between sexual attraction and mental health between a large number of students of high school. (Allison, 2013)
Conceptualization of Asexuality
There are two thoughts of school regarding the conceptualization of asexuality. Some people argue that asexuality shall be conceptualized as sexual orientation or sexual dysfunction. Both these dimensions are described in detail in the following section; (Allison, 2013)
According to certain people asexuality can be conceptualized as sexual dysfunction or the sexual aversion disorder. According to Bogaert, 2004, 2006, ‘asexual individuals, instead of targeting their sexual attraction towards another person, may in fact have a paraphilia, whose focus of attraction is non-human objects.’ (Allison, 2013)
Bogaert challenged this point-of-view as he indicated that, ‘asexuality should not only be measured in terms of lack of attraction towards people, but also as a lack of attraction towards objects.’ (Allison, 2013) Therefore, asexuality can be defined as a complete lack of sexual attraction. Asexual people do not feel any sexual attraction, neither towards people, nor towards object. He argued that these people are psychologically incapable of feeling such emotions and hence they only get indulge in such behaviors at a very young age and this indulgence is triggered by the curiosity that they have regarding this subject. (Allison, 2013)
According to these people the HSDD disorder is the closest to asexuality. The American Psychiatric Association indicates that the HSDD disorder ‘is characterized by a distressing lack or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity.’ (Allison, 2013) The conceptualization of asexuality depends on the manner in which the asexual individuals are treated by their health care providers. In HSDD people depict an emotion or feeling of distress over their lack of sexual desire but the asexual people do not feel distressed over their lacking sexual desire. (Allison, 2013)
Asexual people, nowadays, can be suggested to take a test of HSDD according to the current criteria of diagnosis. But there is a very low probability that asexual people would try to get their lack of sexual desire and partner dissatisfaction treated. However, according to Davies & Katz, 1999; Donnelly, 1993; Rust & Golombok, 1988, ‘partner dissatisfaction in the instance of an asexual-sexual pairing might result in the partner’s wish to pursue health professional attention. Discrepant levels of sexual desire can be problematic for couples.’ (Allison, 2013)
A growing body of scholars and literature now indicate that it is not appropriate to conceptualize asexuality as a sexual dysfunction. This is because the characteristics that the asexual people employ do not fit in the definition of any sexual dysfunction. People suffering from various sexual dysfunctions indicate a desire to get their problem treated and to lead a normal life. The asexual people, however, do not show any interest in getting their situation treated as they are complacent with their situation. The scholars, therefore, suggest that asexuality shall be conceptualized as a sexual orientation, like other sexual orientations of homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality. (Allison, 2013)
According to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), asexuality can be defined as, ‘asexuality as a sexual orientation or sexual identity, along with heterosexuality, bisexuality and homosexuality, rather than as a sexual dysfunction.’ (Allison, 2013)This point-of-view has been supported by the research of Brotto and his colleagues. In this research the individuals suffering from asexuality showed the point-of-view that asexuality can be best defined as a sexual orientation that is rooted in the individuals in a biological manner. They also stated the if people will start considering asexuality as sexual orientation then this will remove the shame and dishonor that surrounds asexuality. (Allison, 2013)
The recent study also supported the view that asexuality shall be identified as sexual orientation. This research suggested that, ‘no differences in physiological sexual arousal between asexual, heterosexual, lesbian, or bisexual women in response to viewing erotic films.’ (Allison, 2013) This research was in consistency with a previous research that stated that, ‘previous research on female sexual orientation where lesbian and heterosexual women showed the same degree of increase in physiological sexual arousal, regardless of their sexual orientation and regardless of whether the sexual stimuli employed were heterosexual, homosexual, or non-human primate.’ (Allison, 2013)
Sexual orientation is generally defined in terms of sexual attraction rather than sexual behavior. And a growing body of literature and evidence suggest that human biological characteristics play an important role in the development of sexual orientation in any individual. Therefore, the body of literature, scholars and people who suggest that asexuality shall be defined as a sexual orientation rather than a sexual dysfunction also believe that asexuality is biologically rooted in the system of the human beings and therefore it shall not be looked upon at with disgrace and dishonor. (Allison, 2013)
Biological Markers of Asexuality
Three major biological markers have been identified by the scholars that might have an influential impact on human sexual orientation. These three biological markers include; handedness, older siblings and Finger length ratios (2D:4D). All three of these markers are described in detail in the following section; (Allison, 2013)
According to Blanchard 2008, ‘Handedness is a biological measure that reflects prenatal influences, and may differentiate sexual orientation groups. Aspects of cerebral lateralization, externally manifested as handedness, may be etiological factors accounting for homosexuality.’ (Allison, 2013). It has been suggested by a number of studies that handedness has an influential impact on the levels of prenatal testosterone and in the development of sexual orientation. A study also reported that a greater ration of men is non-right handed when compared to the ratio of women who are not right handed. The same study also indicated that non-right handedness lead towards higher levels of prenatal testosterone. (Allison, 2013)
The number of old siblings belonging to a particular sexual orientation can lead towards the development of the similar sexual orientation in an individual as well. According to a study conducted by Blanchard, Cantor, Bogaert, Breedlove, & Ellis, 2006 in relation to homosexuality, ‘there was an interaction between handedness and number of older brothers in predicting homosexuality in men. Specifically, they found that the number of older brothers increased the probability of homosexuality only in men who reported being right-handed (not non-right handed).’ (Allison, 2013)
The above mentioned findings regarding sexual orientation and impact of older siblings on its development were also supported by various studies that were being conducted by Bogaert, Blanchard and Crosthwait (2007) and Blanchard and Lippa (2007). (Allison, 2013)
Finger length ratios (2D:4D)
According to Williams et al., ‘The ratio of the length of the index finger (2D) compared to the fourth finger (4D) is known as the 2D:4D ratio, and sex differences on this measure are thought to reflect a prenatal influence of androgens’ (Allison, 2013). It has been observed by a number of studies that in women the 2D ration is generally shorter than the 4D ratio, whereas, in men both these ratios are similar in men. It is, however, observed that the 2D to 4D ration of lesbian women is similar to that of heterosexual men. (Allison, 2013)
The body of literature that exists in relation to Finger length ratios (2D:4D) are somewhat contradictory and the scholars and concerned officials have agreed on the point that the Finger length ratios (2D:4D) have an impact on the development of sexual orientation in men only and no such evidence is found in women. (Allison, 2013)
Relationships, Sexual Behavior and Attitudes toward Asexuality
According to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), asexual people can have sexual desires and get indulge in sexual activities. It has been observed that some of the asexual people think of themselves as romantic and this indicates that these people have a desire to get indulge in romantic relations. Asexual people also get indulged in sexual behavior and activity but their indulgence is not triggered by sexual desire, instead it is triggered by other reasons, such as curiosity, desire to please their partners or an attempt to avoid conflicts in their relationships. (The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, 2012)
According to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), the asexual people can also get indulged in masturbation. This view was further supported by a study which was being conducted by Brotto and his colleagues in the year 2010. This study suggested that, ‘the frequency of masturbation among asexual people was similar to that of the broader population. Masturbation was described by some asexual people as meeting a purely physical need, and was not associated with sexual fantasies or related to emotional or relational needs.’ (The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, 2012)
The interviews conducted from asexual people indicated that these people can indulge in sexual activities only in a physical manner. These people stated that they cannot make any emotional connection with the activity. According to an interviewee, ‘i am simply uninterested in having sex, not repulsed, and if my partner insisted on having sex I would oblige willingly. It is just not the emotional connection for me that it seems to be for most other people.’ (The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, 2012)
The people that were being interviewed in the Brotto and his colleagues stated that asexuality shall be considered as biological makeup and not a disorder. These people were completely satisfied with their situation and suggested that other people shall also take it in a light manner as it is asexuality and not medical disorder that requires proper treatment. An interviewee suggested that, ‘Everyone in the asexual community wants to spread the message that it’s [asexuality] not a disorder and it’s not something that’s a problem and needs to be fixedâ€¦’ (The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, 2012)
Distress, Interpersonal Difficulty, and Asexuality
No evident studies and research has been conducted in relation to the mental health of the asexual people. A recent study, however, stated that forty percent of the asexual people who did not get indulged in a sexual activity reported that they considered themselves happy and contended. Literature suggests that it cannot be regarded as an established fact that lack of sexuality or sexual desire cannot act as a reliable predictor of happiness and satisfaction. According to a recent study, ‘even if asexual people do have, on average, elevated rates of distress or other mental health issues, there may be a significant number, perhaps a majority, of these individuals who do not.’ (Bogaert, 2006)
With respect to interpersonal relationships it has been reported by a number of studies that the asexual people do not experience an important and social dimension of health because they refuse to or do not want to indulge in a sexual behavior with other people. According to Anthony Bogaert, ‘Some of the asexual people may have, of course, a broad impairment, but even if a substantial number of asexual people do have interpersonal difficulties, this should not be used to pathologize all asexual people or asexuality generally.’ (Bogaert, 2006)
Apart from the above mentioned facts some other considerations are also associated with asexuality. Firstly, the asexual people are reported to confront a number of issues in relation to their physical health. In addition to that, these people are also characterized by instability. This means that these people have an inclination to get attracted towards the same gender. Although, it is not necessary that homosexuality and asexuality interact with each other but it is possible that the people who belong to the asexual orientation may become diverted towards the homosexual orientation. (Bogaert, 2006)
Identities with which asexuality intersects
The asexual identity interacts with a number of other identities, for example two male citizens living together will be regarded as gay. The people will give them this identity irrespective of the fact that whether they have a sexual relationship. The asexual people, therefore, opt for any of the following identity and keep one of the identities as their primary identity and other as political identity. (Barakata Organization, 2012)
Bisexual Asexual People: These can be defined as people with, ‘a ‘romance drive’ often find they have romantic attractions to specific types of people, for some these attractions are to both males and females and so these asexuals would be bi if not bisexual.’ (Barakata Organization, 2012)
Bisensual: These are the asexual people who are not sexually attracted to anyone but they can develop intimate and sensual people with others. (Barakata Organization, 2012)
Polyamory: These are the asexuals that develop non-sexual relations with polyamorous sexual people. They also have the ability to develop prompt emotional relations. In addition to that, these people are also observed to develop long lasting group relations with a number of people. (Barakata Organization, 2012)
Queer: According to the Barakata organization, ‘Queer is an identity which celebrates the difference and diversity of relationships under which those who are different unite’. (Barakata Organization, 2012) It has been reported by a number of studies that people who are perceived as bisexuals but originally queer are found in abundance. (Barakata Organization, 2012)
Asexuality can be defined as a lack of sexual desires and it can be conceptualized as a sexual orientation. The people who are asexual feel satisfied with their condition and believe that others shall also not look at asexuality with disgrace and dishonor. Asexuality is considered as a biologically rooted sexual orientation and it can have varying impacts on the relations, self identification and health of the asexual people. It is observed that the asexual people face elevated rates of heath risks and they are also subjected to instability, that is they might become interested in the people belong to same gender. (Deluzio Chasin, 2011)
Allison, M. (2013). Furthering Our Understanding of Asexuality: An Investigation into Biological Markers of Asexuality, And the Development of the Asexuality Identification Scale. Vancouver: The University of British Columbia. pp. 1-42. https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/id/131897/ubc_2011_fall_yule_morag.pdf.
Andersson, K. (2013). Discovering and explaining asexuality. Lund: Lund University. pp. 5-8. https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A3=ind1108&L=ASEXUALITYSTUDIES&E=bas.
Bogaert, A. (2006). Toward a conceptual understanding of asexuality. Cambridge: ProQuest. pp. 11-13.
Deluzio Chasin, C. (2011). Theoretical Issues in the Study of Asexuality. Windsor: University of Windsor. pp. 5-10. http://cj.chasin.ca/Chasin_2011_theoretical_issues_asexality_unproofed_manuscript.pdf.
Hinderliter, A. (2013). Reflections on defining asexuality. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.asexualexplorations.net/home/documents/Reflections_on_defining_asexuality.pdf [Accessed: 28 Jul 2013].
Unknown. (2012). Understanding asexUality. Toronto: The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. pp. 1-3. http://sexualityandu.ca/uploads/files/CTRasexualityFeb2012En.pdf.
Unknown. (2012). Asexuality. Birmingham: Barakata Organization. pp. 1-2. http://www.barakta.org.uk/ciz/asexuality.pdf.
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