Asexuals Push for Greater Recognition

By | January 17, 2009

asexuality Hints of the existence of asexuality have appeared in the scientific literature since the 1940s. But it was not until more than a half century later that Anthony Bogaert, professor and chair of the department of community health sciences at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, took a closer look at those who professed to have no sexual attraction whatsoever to either men or women. Asexuality Symbol.jpg

Bogaert’s 2004 study is viewed by some as the first solid toehold for asexuality in the spectrum of sexual orientation — a group which until recently had been comprised only of three categories: heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. In it, Bogaert looked at data from a survey of more than 18,000 British residents and examined their answers on a particular question on sexual attraction to others. While five of the possible answers to the question focused on varying levels of attraction to males or females, the sixth answer that respondents could choose read “I have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all.”

“About 1 percent of individuals reported having no sexual attraction to anyone at all,” he said. “This was the missing fourth category of sexual orientation.”

What followed this finding was much discussion over whether asexuality should be seen as a distinct sexual orientation or treated as a pathological condition — a debate that largely persists until today. Prior to this research, and even until today, asexual tendencies were generally assumed to be a sign of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) — in other words, a low sex drive. It is a distinction with which the psychological community still wrestles…. What is an asexual relationship like? Jay likened it to an intimate partnering of “very, very close best friends.” …

“The fear is that with a new definition, asexuality would somehow make its way into the DSM and be considered a psychological illness,” Brotto said. For something to be considered a psychological illness, Brotto said, “a person needs to be distressed or bothered by the condition. Asexual people are not. Their only distress is distress over the idea that they will not be accepted by society.”

“This is certainly not a sexual dysfunction, and it is certainly not a mental disorder.”

But not all psychologists agree. “Given that I believe our sexuality is a great emotional and physical asset, it is hard for me to think asexuality is appropriate to declassify,” Schwartz said. “On the other hand, we certainly do not want to oppress someone who is happily asexual and does not have a deprived partner.” Still, Jay said that he believes AVEM is making significant progress with those behind the DSM. And he said that he is hopeful that greater understanding among the public in general will follow. – abcnews

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