ChapterPDF Available

Asexuality: An emergent sexual orientation


Abstract and Figures

In the past decade, asexuality has emerged as an empirically documented sexual orientation. The present chapter reviews the available literature on asexuality as it pertains to self-identified asexual individuals. Missing from the published literature is an examination of asexual individuals' experiences with discrimination; thus, data on discrimination experiences among a sample of asexuals (N = 39) recruited from an online community were measured, along with the degree to which participants had disclosed their sexual orientation to others of varying interpersonal closeness. Results indicate that several types of discrimination (e.g., verbal harassment and negative remarks from family members) were frequently encountered, and participants were most inclined to have disclosed their sexual identities to those closest to them (e.g., family and friends). The results are interpreted in the context of previous research on asexuality and recommendations for future research are provided.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Asexuality 1
Asexuality: An Emergent Sexual Orientation
Stephanie B. Gazzola – MA (Candidate)
Melanie A. Morrison – PhD
University of Saskatchewan
Asexuality 2
In the past decade, asexuality has emerged as an empirically documented sexual orientation. The
present chapter reviews the available literature on asexuality as it pertains to self-identified
asexual individuals. Missing from the published literature is an examination of asexual
individuals’ experiences with discrimination; thus, data on discrimination experiences among a
sample of asexuals (N = 39) recruited from an on-line community were obtained. The types and
severity of discriminatory events they had experienced were measured, along with the degree to
which participants had disclosed their sexual orientation to others of varying interpersonal
closeness. Results indicate that several types of discrimination (e.g., verbal harassment and
negative remarks from family members) were frequently encountered, and participants were
most inclined to have disclosed their asexual identities to those closest to them (e.g., family and
friends). The results are interpreted in the context of previous research on asexuality and
recommendations for future research are provided.
Keywords: Asexuality, sexual orientation, discrimination, human sexuality.
Asexuality 3
Human sexuality has long been a subject of study in the social sciences (e.g., Freud,
1922/1959; Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953).
Implicit in most of these studies is the assumption that healthy individuals possess the capacity to
be sexually attracted to another person. In the past decade, however, asexual individuals have
challenged this assumption. Although the definition of what it means to be “asexual” is
frequently contested, an asexual individual is often defined as someone who does not experience
sexual attraction (Bogaert, 2004).
One of the first references to the term asexuality, as it pertains to humans, can be found in
Storms’ (1980) research on the nature of human sexuality. Here, a two-dimensional model of
human sexuality in which homo-eroticism is on one dimension and hetero-eroticism is on the
other is described (Storms, 1980). Individuals can vary along both dimensions, with the erotic
direction dictated by the types of erotic fantasies experienced by individuals; for instance, a
person whose erotic fantasies are most often about the opposite sex would be considered high on
hetero-eroticism and low on homo-eroticism. According to this model, asexual individuals would
have few, if any, erotic fantasies and would, thus, be low on both homo- and hetero-eroticism.
Results from a study of 185 university students from the mid-western United States did not
provide support for the two-dimensional model as it was intended to pertain to asexual persons
(i.e., participants did not report both low homo- and hetero-eroticism); therefore, the existence of
asexual individuals remained theoretical at this time.
Since Storms’ (1980) study, the volume of research on asexuality has grown steadily and,
to date, researchers have concentrated on defining asexuality (Bogaert, 2004; Scherrer, 2008);
classifying asexuality as a sexual orientation or an illness (Bogaert, 2006; Brotto, Knudson,
Inskip, Rhodes, & Erskine, 2010); delineating the personality, psychological, and health
Asexuality 4
correlates of asexuality (Bogaert, 2004; Brotto et al., 2010; Prause & Graham, 2007); and, to a
lesser degree, the social treatment of asexual individuals who have disclosed this aspect of their
identity to other people (Scherrer, 2008, 2010). The purposes of the present chapter are to
provide a brief critical review of the published asexuality literature and complement the corpus
of research on asexuality by investigating self-identified asexual individuals’ experiences with
As a means of obtaining all of the published literature on asexuality, the following
databases were examined: Science Citation Index (1899 to May 2010), Arts and Humanities
Citation Index (1975 to May 2010), the Social Sciences Citation Index (1970 to May 2010), and
PsycInfo (1806 to May 2010). Using the terms “asexual and human,” “asexuality and human,”
and “asexual and relationship,” the search produced 593 published papers, 1 book, and 2 book
chapters. Following this, the reference lists were examined. If a source appeared pertinent, the
reference was obtained, and the reference lists of the newly obtained sources also were inspected.
Studies (N = 17) that utilized qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methodologies with a
human sample were deemed eligible for inclusion. From the 17 publications, 8 were eliminated
for not addressing asexuality as a sexual orientation (i.e., articles were not included if they used
the term “asexual” to refer to a sexless relationship between sexual people or reflected
stereotypes of some groups of people [e.g., elderly and physically handicapped individuals] as
non-sexual beings), and 2 were eliminated for not providing qualitative or quantitative data. The
elimination criteria left 7 articles for review (see Appendix A for studies included and Appendix
B for studies excluded).
Asexuality Defined
Before discussing the content of the material obtained, the definitions of asexuality
Asexuality 5
employed by previous researchers will be reviewed. Bogaert (2004) defined asexuality as an
absence of sexual attraction to people of either gender. This definition was derived from
population survey data of British participants who were asked to indicate whether they were
sexually attracted to men, women, both genders, or neither gender (for the original study see
Johnson, Wadsworth, Wellings, & Field, 1994). The definition of asexuality as a “lack of sexual
attraction” (Brotto et al., 2010, p. 609) has since been corroborated by an interview study with
self-identified asexual persons (N = 15) recruited from the Asexuality Visibility and Education
Network (AVEN) website (, the world’s largest on-line community of self-
identified asexual individuals. In contrast, asexuality has been defined as the lack of desire to
engage in sexual activities (Prause & Graham, 2007). This definition was substantiated in an
interview study with self-identified asexual persons recruited from the mid-western United States
(N = 4; Prause & Graham, 2007). The discrepancies in the definitions verified by self-identified
asexual individuals may be explained by differences between the communities from which
participants were recruited. For instance, the AVEN website prominently displays the definition
of asexuality as an absence of sexual attraction on its homepage. Thus, Brotto et al.’s (2010)
participants would be exposed to this definition, while Prause and Graham’s (2007) participants
may not have been.
The promotion of different definitions also may be explained by heterogeneity within the
asexual community. Scherrer (2008) conducted an on-line survey of self-identified asexual
individuals (N = 102) who were asked to describe how they defined asexuality. The author found
that some participants defined asexuality as a lack of sexual attraction while others defined it as a
lack of desire to engage in sexual activities, despite the fact that they were all recruited through
the AVEN website. Scherrer’s (2008) study also suggests that sexual attraction and desire are
Asexuality 6
distinguishable in lay discourse; some participants explained that they feel sexual attraction but
have no desire to engage in sexual activities. For some, at least, it seems that sexual desire does
not necessarily follow from sexual attraction. Therefore, a general definition of asexuality
remains elusive, possibly because multiple personal definitions co-exist among asexual persons.
Asexuality as a Sexual Orientation
Asexuality has been operationalized as the absence of sexual attraction and/or desire.
This feature distinguishes asexuality from traditional conceptualizations of sexual orientation
(defined typically on the basis of the targets of one’s sexual attractions or behaviours; see Sell,
1997 for a review). Consequently, researchers have felt it necessary to investigate whether
asexuality is, indeed, a sexual orientation in its own right. For the purposes of the present
chapter, we propose a definition of sexual orientation that applies to asexuality: the aspect of
one’s personal and social identity that indicates the presence or absence of targets of one’s sexual
attractions or behaviours. In keeping with the proposed definition, empirical support for
asexuality as a sexual orientation (i.e., as a meaningful aspect of asexual individuals’ personal
identities) has been reported. Brotto et. al. (2010) compared asexual individuals’ self-perceptions
of their asexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation with self-perceptions of those diagnosed
with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of
Mental Disorders defines HSDD as “persistently or recurrently deficient (or absent) sexual
fantasies and desire for sexual activity” which “causes marked distress or interpersonal
difficulty” (American Psychiatric Association, 2000, p. 539). Results distinguished female
asexual participants from those diagnosed with HSDD on the basis of their scores on the Female
Sexual Function Index (Rosen et al., 2000). Specifically, those with HSDD scored higher than
asexual individuals on the Index which signified that asexual participants do not seem to be as
Asexuality 7
distressed about their low levels of desire for sexual activity as do those with HSDD (Brotto et
al., 2010; Prause & Graham, 2007). It should be mentioned, however, that this study was
conducted with participants recruited from on-line asexual communities wherein members likely
obtain support for their asexual identities. This support may serve to minimize the distress they
might experience in the absence of belonging to such communities. Brotto et al. (2010) provide
another point of difference between asexuality and HSDD. In their interviews with self-identified
asexual men and women, participants viewed their asexuality as a lack of sexual attraction rather
than desire and, thus, their experience was incompatible with those diagnosed with HSDD. It is
apparent from this finding that the degree to which HSDD and asexuality can be expected to
overlap will depend on which definition of asexuality is used. Additionally, the use of feelings of
distress and interpersonal difficulties to distinguish between a sexual orientation and an illness is
problematic. People with other sexual orientations have been known to experience distress (i.e.,
internalized homophobia; Igartua, Gill, & Montoro, 2003) and interpersonal difficulties (i.e.,
prejudice and discrimination; Herek, 2009; Jewell, McCutcheon, Harriman, & Morrison, in
press) in relation to their sexual orientations without being diagnosed with an illness.
To further support asexuality as a sexual orientation, some researchers and members of
the asexual community have adopted a biologically essentialist position which assumes that
some individuals are biologically predisposed to asexuality from birth (Bogaert, 2006). For
instance, using a probability sample, Bogaert (2004) found that, compared to non-asexual
individuals, asexual men and women tended to be older, shorter, non-white, more religious, of
lower social class, less formerly educated, and, for women, to have experienced a later
menarche. Bogaert (2004) maintains that asexuality is strongly related to factors (e.g., low SES)
that may affect physical development prenatally or in early childhood. To date, Bogaert’s (2004)
Asexuality 8
study constitutes the only probability sample of asexual individuals from a general population;
thus, it is unclear whether these demographic characteristics describe the majority of asexual
persons. In addition, Bogaert’s (2004) sample may not be representative of asexual persons due
to flaws in his operational definition of asexuality. Specifically, the author defines asexual
individuals as men and women who have “never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all”
(Bogaert, 2004, p. 281). The definition is problematic because, among Prause and Graham’s
(2007) sample of self-identified asexual persons (N = 41), only 42% indicated that they had
never experienced sexual attraction to either men or women. Thus, further investigation is
required to corroborate Bogaert’s (2004) conclusions.
The biologically essentialist position on asexuality has been supported by some in the
asexual community, apparently in an effort to reduce the stigma against asexual individuals
(Brotto et al., 2010; Scherrer, 2008). By adopting a biologically essentialist position, the asexual
community may legitimize their claims to acceptance and civil rights, due to a prevalent
assumption in contemporary Western society that an orientation to which one is biologically
predisposed is immutable and thus should be accepted (see Scherrer, 2008 for a more in-depth
discussion). Participants in qualitative studies have indicated that their asexuality started at a
very young age, possibly before the onset of puberty (Brotto et al., 2010; Scherrer, 2008), and
that they had always felt different from their sexual friends (Brotto et al., 2010). This experience
is reminiscent of the developmental narratives often provided by gay men, lesbian women, and
transgender individuals (e.g., Rubin, 2003; though less often by lesbian women, e.g., Diamond,
2005; Garnets & Peplau, 2001). As a corollary to the self-reported lifelong absence of sexual
attraction, many of these participants discussed their bodies and sexuality with technical,
emotionless language. For example, when asked to describe their genitals, some participants
Asexuality 9
stated that “they are just there” (Brotto et al., 2010, p. 612). This language is believed to suggest
a disinterest in (but not necessarily negative affect towards) sexual behaviours (Brotto et al.,
2010). The essentialist discourse, however, may be unique to asexual participants recruited from
AVEN (Brotto et al., 2010; Prause & Graham, 2007, Study 2; Scherrer, 2008, 2010). That is,
according to Brotto and Yule (2009) and Scherrer (2008, 2010), much of their conceptualization
of asexuality has been found to directly mirror the discussions and information posted on that
website. It is not the intention of this discussion to imply that many in the asexual community
have falsely adopted an essentialist position, or that the evidence provided by asexual individuals
for this position is illegitimate; but to show that the biologically essentialist position has been
accepted by many community members and researchers.
Finally, Bogaert (2006) contends that the existence of a growing asexual movement
provides additional evidence that asexuality should be regarded as a sexual orientation. The
argument is that, because people are organizing around asexuality to support each other and
increase awareness about their orientation (e.g., through groups like AVEN), it is impractical to
argue that asexuality is not a sexual orientation. Therefore, asexuality has been defined as a
sexual orientation based on the biological characteristics and life-long course associated with it;
and the impracticality of not accepting an orientation around which a community is already
developing. Furthermore, there is evidence that, while some asexual individuals may meet much
of the criteria for an HSDD diagnosis, a direct association between HSDD and asexuality is
problematic (Bogaert, 2006).
Common Characteristics of Asexuals
Complementing Bogaert’s (2004) investigation of the physiological traits of asexual
participants, several researchers have described the sexual behaviour and psychological state of
Asexuality 10
asexual individuals along the following dimensions: masturbatory habits, romantic relationships,
and psychological characteristics. Asexual individuals’ masturbatory habits were examined in
most of the studies reviewed. Qualitative (Brotto et al., 2010, Study 2; Prause & Graham, 2007,
Study 1; Scherrer, 2008) and quantitative (Brotto et al., 2010; Prause & Graham, 2007, Study 2)
research has found that some asexual individuals masturbate. Results indicate that the frequency
of asexual individuals’ masturbation is not significantly different from that of non-asexual
individuals (Prause & Graham, 2007); and asexual men seem to masturbate more frequently than
do asexual women; 49% of men and 7% of women masturbate 2-7 times per week (Brotto et al.,
2010). Further, a consistent finding across the qualitative studies is that asexual men and women,
in general, do not conceptualize masturbation as a sexual activity (Brotto et al., 2010; Prause &
Graham, 2007; Scherrer, 2008). For example, most of Brotto et al.’s (2010) participants
described their masturbatory habits as being motivated by a physiological need, rather than
sexual desire or attraction. Although it may be difficult to understand how masturbation may be
separated from sexual feelings, evidence from a community sample (Prause & Graham, 2007)
and two Internet samples (Brotto et al., 2010; Scherrer, 2008) indicates that it can be and, thus,
the contention that this is not an artifact of a particular sample is strengthened. These findings,
however, cannot be generalized to all asexual individuals because the studies that addressed
masturbation employed convenience sampling.
It is difficult to draw conclusions as to the nature of intimate relationships among asexual
individuals given the variety of operational definitions of what constitutes an intimate
relationship and the heterogeneity of the asexual community. For instance, 44% of Bogaert’s
(2004) sample reported being in at least one cohabiting or marriage relationship, and 70% of
Brotto et al.’s (2010) sample reported being in at least one sexual or romantic relationship. It is
Asexuality 11
unclear whether most of these relationships were sexual or not; however, 56% of the men and
23% of the women who were currently in relationships in Brotto et al.’s (2010) study labeled
their relationships as primarily romantic rather than sexual. Interpreting these findings is further
complicated by the fact that, according to Scherrer (2008), many asexual individuals categorize
themselves as aromantic (i.e., those who do not experience romantic attraction or who do not
desire romantic relationships; AVEN, 2009a) or romantic (i.e., those who do experience
romantic attraction). Aromantic individuals tended to describe their ideal relationships as close
friendships whereas romantic individuals tended to characterize them as physically intimate and
monogamous (Scherrer, 2008). Among romantic asexual individuals, a variety of relationship
(including polyamorous and monogamous relationships; Scherrer, 2008) and partner orientations
(including lesbian, gay, and bi-romantic; Brotto et al., 2010; Prause & Graham, 2007; Scherrer,
2008) are apparent. Indeed, in response to an open-ended question which asked participants to
describe their sexuality, Scherrer (2008) found her participants were more likely to identify as
lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer (in addition to asexual; 25%) than the general population
(approximately 4%; Julien & Chartrand, 2005). Understanding how relationships are
conceptualized among asexual individuals clearly has implications for researchers, as the content
of many standard demographic items (such as those addressing sexual orientation and
relationship status) may be inappropriate for this population.
Finally, Brotto et al. (2010) investigated the psychological characteristics of a sample of
asexual participants drawn from the AVEN website. In this sample, 57% were in the clinical
range on the Personality Assessment Screener (Morey, 1991), suggesting potential
psychopathology, and 80% of these participants scored highly on the Social Withdrawal
subscale. In addition, the average score on the Social Inhibition subscale of the Inventory of
Asexuality 12
Personal Problems (Horowitz, Rosenburg, Baer, Ureno, & Villasenor, 1988) was in the clinical
range for men and women. Based on these findings and on the relative scarcity of intimate
relationships among their participants, Brotto et al. (2010) concluded that Schizoid Personality
Disorder (which is characterized by the incapacity to form close relationships) may be common
among asexual individuals. This conclusion, however, is limited because samples composed of
participants recruited from the Internet may differ substantially on indices of interpersonal
functioning in comparison to a general asexual population (Couper, 2000). Furthermore, it is not
directly apparent that typical social functioning or the ability to form close relationships, and the
ability to experience sexual desire or attraction are mutually dependent.
Asexual Individuals in Society
In addition to investigating asexual individuals’ intimate relationships and psychological
characteristics, researchers have broadened the scope of their inquiry to examine how asexual
persons are treated in contemporary society. The current literature suggests that the experiences
of asexual individuals are excluded from contemporary Western society’s understanding of
sexuality and intimate relationships in many ways. This is particularly apparent in asexual
individuals’ discussions of their romantic and platonic relationships. Many of Scherrer’s (2010)
participants, for instance, found it difficult to define their relationships using the words available
in the English lexicon due to the “conflation of sex and intimacy” (p. 65). The lack of
appropriate language reflects the perceptions of many asexual men and women that their
relationships are unrecognizable to many individuals and not considered valid by society
(Scherrer, 2008, 2010). Indeed, a preliminary discourse analysis has suggested that romantic
relationships are distinguished from, and valued above, friendships based on their (assumed)
inclusion of sexual intimacy (Chasin, 2009). Thus, the lack of sexual intimacy in some asexual
Asexuality 13
persons’ romantic relationships renders them similar to friendships in contemporary discourse
and thus valued less than sexual relationships by society. Asexual persons also may be excluded
from their friendship circles due to a discomfort with, or lack of interest in, sex. Brotto et al.’s
(2010) participants described difficulties relating to their sexual peers. For example, one woman
recounted avoiding parties in her youth because she was uncomfortable in a highly sexualized
environment (Brotto et al., 2010). The exclusion of asexuality from contemporary society also
presents methodological limitations for social scientists examining issues pertinent to asexual
individuals; many psychometric scales are inappropriate for use with an asexual sample because
they assume that all respondents are, or want to be, sexual (Brotto & Yule, 2009; Hinderliter,
2009). For example, 9 of the 21 items on the Sexual Excitation Scale for men (used by Prause &
Graham, 2007) ask participants to respond to a situation in which they find someone sexually
attractive (e.g., “When a sexually attractive stranger accidentally touches me, I easily become
aroused.”; Janssen, Vorst, Finn, & Bancroft, 2002). Responding to these items would be
understandably difficult for someone who has never experienced sexual attraction, and this issue
has not gone unnoticed by asexual research participants. Brotto et al. (2010) cite discussions on
the AVEN website about the inappropriateness of several of the questionnaires used in their
study. Many asexual individuals believe that their exclusion is due to a lack of understanding and
awareness about asexuality in general society (Brotto et al., 2010). In various qualitative studies
(Brotto et al., 2010; Scherrer, 2008), participants have been noted to consistently support
research that promotes awareness about asexuality. In sum, evidence that asexual persons are
largely excluded from contemporary Western society’s discourse on sexuality and intimate
relationships can be found in the absence of an English vocabulary to describe their
relationships, asexual individuals’ exclusion from peer groups, and the assumptions underlying
Asexuality 14
the development and use of many social scientific scales.
Although asexuality is a new area of research, several conclusions can be drawn based on
consistent findings within the published research. First, asexuality can be defined as a lack of
sexual attraction (Bogaert, 2004; Brotto et al., 2010; Scherrer, 2008) or sexual desire (Prause &
Graham, 2007; Scherrer, 2008). To some extent, how asexuality is operationalized will depend
on the research sample in question (Scherrer, 2008). Second, asexuality is a sexual orientation
and distinct from HSDD (Bogaert, 2006; Brotto et al., 2010; Prause & Graham, 2007). Further
research is needed to support the contention that there is a biological predisposition towards
asexuality (Bogaert, 2004; Scherrer, 2008). Third, many asexual individuals engage in
masturbation and form romantic relationships (Bogaert, 2004; Brotto et al., 2010; Prause &
Graham, 2007; Scherrer 2008, 2010) though understanding the nature and frequency of these
behaviors requires further investigation. Fourth, asexuality is largely excluded from the social
discourse on interpersonal relationships (Brotto et al., 2010; Chasin, 2009; Hinderlinter, 2009;
Scherrer, 2010) and future research should continue to investigate contemporary Western
conceptualizations of sexuality and relations and how this affects asexual persons.
The exclusion of asexuality from the social discourse and the finding that an essentialist
position is promoted in an effort to reduce the stigma against asexuality (Brotto et al., 2010;
Scherrer, 2008), suggests that asexual individuals are likely to experience discrimination (as are
other sexual orientation minorities; e.g., Friedman & Leaper, 2010; Herek, 2009; Morrison &
Morrison, 2002; Morrison & Morrison, in press). However, at present, asexual individuals’
experiences with discriminatory behaviours have not been formally investigated. To address this
gap in the research, the following study was conducted to investigate the types and sources of
Asexuality 15
discrimination experienced by asexual persons. All participants were recruited through the
AVEN website ( Although there are limits to the extent that results obtained from
an Internet-based sample can be generalized to all asexual individuals, this method was chosen
because access to those individuals who self-identify as asexual is possible to a greater extent
with a large Internet-based group such as AVEN. At the moment, there are few, if any, public
gathering spaces (such as bars, coffee houses, or community centres) for asexual persons, and
many participants in previous studies have suggested that they were unaware of asexuality until
they discovered the AVEN website (Scherrer, 2008).
Thirty-nine individuals (26 women; 6 men; 4 two-spirit; 3 other) participated in the on-
line survey. Their ages ranged from 16 to 49 (M = 25.26; SD = 7.17). Thirty-seven participants
identified as asexual. Twelve of these participants also identified with other sexual orientations1
including straight, lesbian, queer, gay, panromantic, and questioning. Both of the two remaining
participants, chose the option “other”: One participant indicated that they were questioning but
“pretty sure” about their asexual orientation, the other identified as “Grey-A/demisexual,”
indicating that they identified with the “gray area” of asexuality and, thus, may experience some
sexual attraction2. The sample was primarily Caucasian (n = 32), with one individual identifying
as Asian/Pacific Islander, and two as “other”. The sample resided primarily in the United States
of America (n = 17); however, many additional countries of residence were identified, including
Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Finland, Norway, Germany, Austria, and the
Philippines. As a basic measure of Internet use, participants were asked how many hours they
spend on the Internet per day. Responses ranged widely from 1 hour/day to 20 hours/day (M =
Asexuality 16
5.76 hours/day; SD = 4.16).
Heterosexist Harassment, Discrimination, and Rejection Scale (HHDRS; Szymanski,
2006). The HHDRS was designed to measure the source and frequency of discrimination
experienced by lesbian women. The original version consists of 14 items represented by three
subscales. For the purposes of the present study, the HHDRS was modified to pertain to an
asexual sample rather than lesbians (e.g., “How many times have you been verbally insulted
because you are a lesbian?” became “How many times have you been verbally insulted because
you are asexual?”). Some items were added to increase the specificity of various extant items
(e.g., “How many times have you been rejected by friends because you are a lesbian?” became
“How many times have you been rejected by female friends because you are asexual?” and
“How many times have you been rejected by male friends because you are asexual?”). Others
were added to address sources of discrimination that may be more applicable to asexual
individuals (e.g., discrimination from romantic partners: “How many times have you been
rejected by a romantic partner because you are asexual?”). Therefore, 24 items in total were
administered and each used a seven-point response format (0 = Not Applicable, 1 = Never, 2 = 1-
2 times, 3 = 3-4 times, 4 = 5-7 times, 5 = 8-10 times, and 6 = More than 10 times)3. Scores can
range from 0 to 120, with higher scores indicating more discriminatory experiences. In addition,
after each of these 24 items, a scale measured how stressful the event(s) were, if experienced.
Responses were based on a continuous 11-point scale (with anchors: 0 = Extremely non-stressful
and 10 = Extremely stressful). The alpha coefficient for the 24 item modified version of the
HHDRS was .84 (95% CI = .75-.91).
Asexuality 17
Outness Inventory (OI; Mohr & Fassinger, 2000). The OI is designed to measure the
degree to which gay men and lesbian women have disclosed their sexual orientation to people in
their lives. It assesses both who is aware of an individual’s sexual orientation and how openly it
is discussed with them using three subscales. The World subscale has five items which address
disclosure to friends, romantic partners, strangers, and people at work. The Family subscale has
four items which address disclosure to family members. The Religious Community subscale has
two items which address disclosure to members of one’s religious community. Responses are
based on a seven-point rating scale (1 = Person definitely does not know about your sexual
orientation status; 2 = Person might know, but it is never talked about; 3 = Person probably
knows, but it is never talked about; 4 = Person probably knows, but it is rarely talked about; 5 =
Person definitely knows, but it is rarely talked about; 6 = Person definitely knows, and it is
sometimes talked about; and 7 = Person definitely knows, and it is openly talked about)4. Further,
additional items were added to make the scale more specific (e.g., rather than the “siblings” item,
the items “brother(s)” and “sister(s)” were added) and applicable to asexual individuals (e.g., the
item “romantic partner(s)” was added). Thus, the final version has 19 items and scores can range
from 0 to 114, with higher scores indicating greater disclosure. For the 19 item modified OI, the
alpha coefficient for the World subscale was .73 (95% CI = .58-.84), .71 (95% CI = .53-.83) for
the Family subscale, and r=.63, p<.001 for the Religious Community subscale.
Participants were asked if they had disclosed their asexual identity to anyone in their lives
with the question: “In your opinion, have you ‘come out’ to anyone?” and the response options:
“Yes,” “No, but I plan to in the future,” “No, and I do not plan to in the future,” and not
applicable. Finally, participants were asked to respond to various questions such as their age,
country of residence, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and hours spent on the
Asexuality 18
Internet each day. Age, country of residence, and time spent on the Internet were in free-response
format; all other items had forced-choice response options.
Permission to post the survey on the AVEN website was obtained from the website
administrator. Participants could access the survey used in the present study via a link posted to
the Announcements forum. It was described as a study about asexual individuals’ positive and
negative experiences, including experiences of discrimination. After the informed consent
statement, participants who followed the link were presented with a screening question which
asked them if they identified as asexual. If they did not identify as asexual they were
immediately presented with the final page of the survey which thanked them for participating
and gave them the principal investigator’s contact information. The results are based only on
those participants who identified as asexual. The scales that followed were presented on separate
pages which participants could access by clicking a “Previous” or “Next” button at the bottom of
each page. The demographics questionnaire was the last questionnaire presented. Participants
were able to skip any item except for the screening question. The time required to complete the
discrimination experiences, disclosure, and demographics portions of the survey was estimated at
approximately 20 minutes.
In response to the HHDRS items, participants reported experiencing a variety of
discriminatory behaviours, and hearing verbal insults on account of one’s asexual identity (15%),
derogatory names being used to describe asexuals (13%), and anti-asexual remarks from family
members (10%) emerged as the most frequently occurring events (see Table 1). These
experiences, along with being treated unfairly by parents due to one’s asexual identity were
Asexuality 19
pereceived as being stressful to varying degrees by 33%, 21%, 21%, and 23% of the sample,
respectively. When examining the mean stress levels and ranges of stress evaluations for each
experienced discriminatory episode (see Table 1), it is apparent that participants did not perceive
the events to be overly stressful (possible range for these evaluations was 1-10, and the highest
mean evaluation for any event obtained was 1.79, which participants perceived when verbally
insulted due to their asexual identity). Moreover, participants’ total mean scale score (M = 23.14,
SD = 9.90) on the HHDRS fell well below the scale midpoint of 84 and, thus, the sample
experienced the types of discriminatory events included in the HHDRS relatively rarely.
Of interest, too, in the present study was obtaining an indication of the extent to which
participants had disclosed their asexual identities to individuals of varying interpersonal
closeness, as outlined on the OI. Percentages of participants who had disclosed their asexual
orientation to each person/group of people were calculated, excluding those who responded with
“not applicable” to any given item. Results indicate that most participants (85%) had disclosed
their asexual orientation to at least one person, and a further 10% reported that they intend to
disclose their asexual orientation in future. Participants’ responses were then divided into those
who had disclosed their asexual identities and their identities were “definitely known” (i.e.,
responses on the OI of 5, 6, or 7 were given indicating that there was no uncertainty about
participants’ disclosure) versus those who perceived to have disclosed their identity but the
recipient of the information “probably knows” (i.e., responses on the OI of 1, 2, 3, or 4 were
given indicating that a lack of certainty exists about the extent to which the person/group of
people knows about a person’s identity). As seen in Table 2, of those participants who were
certain that the individual/group in question definitely knows of their asexual identity, each had
disclosed to his/her romantic partner, and over half of the applicable sample had disclosed to
Asexuality 20
their mental health care providers, old heterosexual, old non-heterosexual, and new non-
heterosexual friends. Less than half of the applicable sample, however, had disclosed their
identities to the remaining contacts listed on the OI.
Finally, the correlations between the HHDRS and the total OI, and the HHDRS and the
OI subscales were calculated to determine the degree of association between the two measures.
Scores on the HHDRS were significantly correlated with total OI scores, r(34) = .42, p = .01,
scores on the religion subscale, r(35) = -.44, p = .01, and scores on the world subscale, r(34) =
.50, p = .001. Scores on the HHDRS and the family OI subscale did not correlate significantly,
r(35) = .30, p = .08. Overall, scores on the HHDRS and OI appear to be moderately associated.
To the authors’ knowledge, the present study is the first empirical investigation into
asexual individuals’ experiences of discrimination. In addition to measuring the types and
sources of discrimination, a basic measure of the stress engendered by each experience from the
participants’ perspectives was included. Further, the degree to which participants had disclosed
their asexual orientation to various others also was investigated.
Responses to the OI indicate that a large majority of the sample had disclosed their
asexual orientation to at least one person, and that almost the entire remainder of the sample was
planning to do so in the future. This finding suggests that participants do not feel it necessary to
completely hide their identity as asexual; however, the persons to whom they elect to disclose
their identity was revealing. Specifically, only romantic partners, friends, and mental health care
providers were those individuals to which over half of the sample had disclosed their identity as
asexuals. Thus, although many participants had disclosed their asexual identity to at least one
person, this aspect of their identity remains hidden from most of their proximal (e.g., family
Asexuality 21
members) and distal (e.g., work peers and extended family) contacts. It is important to point out
that the OI does not capture whether the disclosure of a participants’ asexual identity is deemed
acceptable by others of varying interpersonal closeness. For example, although the OI measures
whether one’s asexual orientation is openly discussed with one’s family members (e.g.,
brother/sisters), it does not measure whether the discourse is positive or negative in tone.
Previous research has suggested that this discourse may, indeed, be highly negative and
dismissive of asexuality and asexual relationships (Chasin, 2009; Scherrer, 2008, 2010). The
inclusion of questions addressing the nature of the interactions with proximal and distal others
would be useful.
With respect to the discrimination experienced by our sample, episodes of verbal
harassment seem to be the most commonly cited. Specifically, insults, derogatory names, and
anti-asexual remarks from family members due to one’s asexual identity were among the most
frequent and stressful types of discrimination experienced. Based on these results, it seems that
most participants had not experienced the types of blatant discrimination included in the HHDRS
(e.g., physical violence or economic sanctions); however, the experiences reported suggest many
perceive themselves to be living in environments in which their sexual identities are not
accepted. The lack of perceived acceptance may fall under the rubric of subtle discriminatory
behaviour (i.e., discrimination which is typified by acts that are derogative and hurtful, yet may
or may not be ambiguous as to their prejudiced roots and intention to harm; Jewell, McCutcheon,
Harriman, & Morrison, in press). For example, subtle discrimination may manifest itself in the
form of gossip, use of anti-target language, and social distancing. Because the nature of subtle
discrimination is not as well understood as its blatant counterpart (Jewell & Morrison, in press;
Jewell et al., in press), the HHDRS is likely not as sensitive to the potential spectrum of subtle
Asexuality 22
discriminatory behaviour experienced by asexual individuals. Some of the most frequently
experienced events on the HHDRS, however, suggest that subtle discrimination may be an issue
for the asexual community. For example, hearing anti-asexual remarks and being called
derogatory names may be classified as subtle discrimination if the intent of the perpetrator was
not to harm or ambiguous.
The family of origin seems to be a particular source of discrimination for asexual
persons. Family members were conspicuously absent from the list of people to whom over half
of the sample had disclosed their asexual identities. Indeed, participants reported disclosing their
asexual identity less frequently to extended family members than to strangers. Again, the results
of the OI do not indicate whether family members are accepting of participants’ asexual
identities or not. However, the finding that family members were involved in two of the most
frequent and stressful events on the HHDRS (i.e., unfair treatment by parents and anti-asexual
remarks from family members) suggests that the familial environment can be negative for many
asexual individuals.
The positive correlations between the HHDRS and the OI subscales suggest that
participants who had disclosed their asexual orientation to others were also more likely to report
experiencing the type of discrimination measured by the HHDRS. This result was anticipated
because most of the HHDRS items refer specifically to discriminatory events that are
precipitated by one’s asexual orientation. For example, to be rejected by a friend due to one’s
asexual orientation, that friend would have to be aware that one is, in fact, asexual. One caveat to
this conclusion was the negative correlation between the religion subscale and the HHDRS.
Thus, participants who had disclosed their asexual orientation to members of their religious
community reported fewer incidents of discrimination on the HHDRS. It may be that asexual
Asexuality 23
individuals who are part of a religious community are more likely to be accepted by their
acquaintances, or it may be that participants were more likely to disclose their asexual
orientation to their religious community when they believed that it would accept their
orientation. The present data, however, do not provide definitive conclusions regarding this
relationship; thus, additional research designed to illuminate the nature of this association should
be conducted.
Limitations and Future Research
The objective of the present research was to measure the discrimination experienced by
asexual individuals using quantitative scales in a web-based survey. There are several limitations
to this approach. First, the sample was not representative of asexual individuals because it was
largely composed of Caucasians (82%) and it was limited to those with Internet access;
therefore, the results are not widely generalizable. This limitation is compounded by the fact that
59% of the people who accessed the survey did not complete it in its entirety. Although the
reasons for the modest response rate are not conclusively known, it is possible that participants
may have been dissuaded to participate or continue with the survey to completion after
examining the item content of the measures used. For instance, it is possible that the survey items
did not reflect the types of discrimination perceived or experienced by asexual women and men.
However, given that this study was conducted as an exploration of a topic which had not yet
been investigated (namely discrimination against asexual individuals), this limitation is not
inimical to the conclusions presented. Research in this direction can proceed with representative
samples when, and if, researchers are in a position to draw such samples from the asexual
community. Second, the high proportion of “Not Applicable” responses to each item on the
HHDRS presents a challenge for interpretation of the results. On this scale, a “Not Applicable”
Asexuality 24
response could indicate that the participant does not have contact with the individual(s) in
question (e.g., teachers) or that they believe the item is not applicable to their asexual identity in
general. Third, the results presented are descriptive and based on scales that were originally
designed to measure the experiences of lesbian women and gay men, not of asexual individuals.
Thus, their validity in this population is unknown (Hinderliter, 2009; Springer, Abell, & Hudson,
2002). For example, the OI may be based on a conceptualization of identity disclosure that does
not directly apply to asexual individuals. They may be more likely to disclose their identities to
relieve themselves of some social pressure; to date or have children, for example. In addition,
asexual individuals may be likely to experience discrimination based on a disbelief in their
identity once disclosed, and such experiences were not included in the HHDRS. The discrepancy
between the items on the HHDRS and the actual experiences of asexuals is further exemplified
by the high proportion of “Not Applicable” responses to each item. Future research should be
directed at constructing and validating a measure of experienced discrimination for an asexual
population, preferably with input from asexual persons themselves and members of the academic
community who are deemed experts in the field. The construction of a scale which measures the
discrimination that asexual individuals face is of paramount importance if the nature and degree
of discrimination against asexual individuals is ever to be fully appreciated. Moreover, the
inclusion of asexual individuals in scale development is important to give voice to their
experiences and construct a scale which is not only accurate, but which affirms the value of their
perspectives. The results of the present study are thus by no means a definitive statement on the
discrimination experienced by asexuals, but a platform from which to begin such research.
As such, future directions for research on the experiences of asexual persons are
suggested by the present results. Although the mean levels of the type of discrimination
Asexuality 25
measured by the HHDRS were fairly low, the areas of frequent discrimination and the general
reluctance to disclose an asexual identity to anyone outside of a friendship circle (except for
mental health professionals) suggest directions for future inquiry. Specifically, the results
indicated that asexual individuals perceive themselves to be living in relatively hostile
environments. Environments of this nature have been linked to negative health consequences for
sexual minorities and women, including impaired cognitive processing and increased
susceptibility to illness (Estrada & Berggren, 2009; Oswald & Harvey, 2000; Waldo, 1998). The
characteristics of environments hostile to asexual individuals and the negative physical and
psychological health symptoms associated with being situated in these environments deserve
further investigation in order to, potentially, mitigate such symptoms. In particular, the present
study suggested that the family may be a potent source of hostility. Further investigation into
how discriminatory harassment manifests in asexual individuals’ familial, platonic, and romantic
relationships is desirable at this point to determine the factors associated with discrimination
against asexual persons. Non-asexual family members, friends, and romantic partners of asexual
individuals have not yet been included in research samples and may be a valuable source of
information regarding perceptions and treatment of asexual individuals by non-asexual
Asexual persons’ experiences with subtle discrimination may prove to be an important
direction for future research. It is an area rife with research possibilities because asexual
individuals may be at an elevated risk of experiencing this form of discrimination. Asexual
individuals are at risk because, at the moment, asexuality has not entered public awareness to
such an extent that there is widely recognized inoffensive language and behaviour norms have
yet to be established. Thus, non-asexual individuals may inadvertently offend asexual
Asexuality 26
individuals. Additionally, given that many asexual individuals do not date and may be
uncomfortable in sexual situations (Brotto et al., 2010), they are at risk for experiencing social
distancing from their peers, especially while asexuality remains relatively unknown. Finally, the
type of blatant discrimination that is addressed in most available scales (e.g., physical violence,
refusal of employment), may be very rarely directed at asexual individuals because this type of
discrimination is often based on some moral objection to a sexual orientation (Herek, 1984).
Asexuality, however, may be morally justifiable given that a lack of sexual attraction/desires has
been considered a desirable state by many religious institutions for hundreds of years (Bogaert,
2006). Research into asexual persons’ experiences of subtle discrimination may be extremely
valuable, particularly because it is suspected of being at least as harmful as blatant discrimination
(Jewell et al., in press). It also may provide valuable information as to changes in
conceptualizations of the morality of sexuality.
The exclusion of asexuality from the contemporary Western cultural discourse on
sexuality and relationships also is deserving of scholarly attention. Many of the challenges facing
the asexual community, including the lack of language to describe their identity and relationships
(Scherrer, 2008, 2010) and the difficulty engaging in many social situations and intimate
relationships (Brotto et al., 2010; Prause & Graham, 2007), seem to stem from an assumption in
contemporary Western society that healthy people are, or should be, sexual. This assumption
bears a striking resemblance to heteronormativity (i.e., the assumption that all people are, or
should be, heterosexual; Röndahl, Innala, & Carlsson, 2006). Heteronormativity has been linked
to negative experiences in many areas of lesbian women and gay men’s lives (e.g.,
Hequembourg & Brallier, 2009; Jewell et al., in press; Röndahl, Innala, & Carlsson, 2006).
Further investigation is required to establish whether the assumption that healthy people are or
Asexuality 27
should be sexual is wide-spread and the presence (e.g., with respect to physical health, mental
health, and self-esteem) it may have in asexual individuals’ lives. Additionally, research could
examine whether asexual individuals are victims of heteronormativity, due to their variation
from the heterosexual norm.
The demographic statistics obtained in this and other (e.g., Bogaert, 2004; Brotto et al.,
2010; Prause & Graham, 2007; Scherrer, 2008) studies suggests that some asexual individuals
also identify with an ethnic identity, romantic orientation, and/or gender which may put them at
risk for discrimination (e.g., a lesbian, Asian, asexual woman could face homophobia, racism,
and sexism in addition to prejudice against asexual people). Therefore, some asexual individuals
may experience intersecting minority identities. Sanchez-Hucles and Davis (2010) recently
reviewed the evidence that the intersection of marginalized identities can negatively impact
women of colour in leadership positions. Thus, future research could benefit from an
examination of how multiple identities impact the discrimination experienced by asexual
Finally, one limitation pervades research on asexaulity and should be addressed by
forthcoming research. Aside from some exceptions (Bogaert, 2004, 2006; Prause & Graham,
2007, Study 1), findings, including those of the present chapter, are based on participants
recruited from websites. This form of recruitment precludes probability-based sampling which
limits the representativeness of the sample. According to Couper (2000), people who volunteer
for web-based studies may be systematically different from those who do not. This limitation is
complicated by the fact that asexuality is emerging within an Internet-based culture. Many of the
people recruited from AVEN reported that they were unaware or unsure of their identity before
Asexuality 28
finding the AVEN website (Brotto & Yule, 2009; Scherrer, 2008, 2010). Therefore, at present
the asexual community is largely located on the Internet.
One method of expanding research on asexuality beyond Internet-based samples was
suggested by Brotto and Yule (2009). They suggested advertising studies as being about people
who “experience a lack of sexual attraction” or “find it hard to relate to others who talk about
sexual attraction” (p. 623). The advantage to this method is that it may reach people who would
identify as asexual, if they were aware of this orientation, in addition to those who currently
identify as asexual. Whether this recruitment method is effective has not yet been tested.
However, as asexuality becomes more widely acknowledged, the number of people who identify
as such without being an active member of an on-line asexual community may increase, and
sampling asexual individuals outside of Internet communities will be a more efficient endeavor.
To conclude, the chapter provides a review of the state of asexuality research, and the
first preliminary glimpse into the extent to which asexual individuals have disclosed their sexual
identities to others and the discrimination they have experienced once their identities are known.
At present, this area of research will benefit from the development of measures designed
specifically for asexual individuals (rather than other social groups such as lesbian women) and,
once achieved, the unique experiences of asexual individuals, discriminatory or otherwise, can
be documented. By highlighting avenues for future investigation, it is our intention that
researchers will be encouraged to conduct ongoing examinations of the experiences of those who
identify as asexual.
Asexuality 29
1. Although the item specifically inquired about sexual orientation(s), some participants
may have indicated romantic orientation(s).
2. The term demisexual is often used by people who fall between asexuality and sexuality;
they may experience sexual attraction to only one partner, romantic attraction, and/or a
low level of sexual desire or attraction (AVEN, 2009b).
3. Not Applicable” responses were recoded as system missing data, and scores were
linearly transformed by subtracting 1 from all responses.
4. In its original form, this scale was deemed problematic because it did not include a “Not
Applicable” option for those participants who do not have some of the listed contacts.
Therefore, a 0 = Not Applicable response option was added in the present study. The
“Not Applicable” responses were later recoded as system-missing data.
Asexuality 30
American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders
(4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: Author.
AVEN. (2009a). AVENwiki: Aromantic. Retrieved June 18, 2010, from
AVEN. (2009b). AVENwiki: Gray-A/grey-A. Retrieved July 26, 2010, from
Bogaert, A. F. (2004). Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability
sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 279-287.
Bogaert, A. F. (2006). Toward a conceptual understanding of asexuality. Review of General
Psychology, 10, 241-250.
Brotto, L. A., Knudson, G., Inskip, J., Rhodes, K., & Erskine, Y. (2010). Asexuality: A mixed-
methods approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 599-618.
Brotto, L. A. & Yule, M. A. (2009). Reply to Hinderliter (2009) [Letter to the editor]. Archives if
Sexual Behavior, 38, 622-623.
Chance, R. S. (2002). To love and be loved: Sexuality and people with physical disabilities.
Journal of Psychology and Theology, 30, 195-208.
Chasin, C. J. (2009, June). A discursive look at the friend/partner distinction: Implications for
asexual people. Poster session presented at the annual national conference of the
Canadian Psychological Association, Montreal, QC.
Couper, M. P. (2000). Web surveys: A review of issues and approaches. Public Opinion
Quarterly, 64, 464-494.
Asexuality 31
Diamond, L. M. (2005). A new view of lesbian subtypes: Stable versus fluid identity trajectories
over an 8-year period. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 119-128.
Estrada, A. X. & Berggren, A. W. (2009). Sexual harassment and its impact for women officers
and cadets in the Swedish armed forces. Military Psychology, 21, 162-185.
Freud, S. (1959). Group psychology and the analysis of the ego. (J. Strachey, Ed. and trans.).
London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1922).
Friedman, C. & Leaper, C. (2010). Sexual-minority college women’s experiences with
discrimination: Relations with identity and collective action. Psychology of Women
Quarterly, 34, 152-164.
Fullmer, E. M., Shenk, D., & Eastland, L. J. (1999). Negating identity: A feminist analysis of the
social invisibility of older lesbians. Journal of Women & Aging, 11, 131-148.
Garnets, L. D. & Peplau, L. A. (2001). A new paradigm for women's sexual orientation:
Implications for therapy. Women & Therapy, 24, 111-121.
Gilbert, E., Ussher, J. M., & Hawkins, Y. (2009). Accounts of disruptions to sexuality following
cancer: The perspective of informal carers who are partners of a person with cancer.
Health, 13, 523-541.
Gott, M. & Hinchliff, S. (2003). How important is sex in later life? The views of older people.
Social Science & Medicine, 56, 1617-1628.
Herek, G. M. (1984). Attitudes toward lesbians and gay men: A factor-analytic study. Journal of
Homosexuality, 10 (1-2), 39-51.
Herek, G. M. (2009). Hate crimes and stigma-related experiences among sexual minority adults
in the United States prevalence estimates from a national probability sample. Journal of
Interpersonal Violence, 24, 54-74.
Asexuality 32
Hequembourg, A. L., & Brallier, S. A. (2009). An exploration of sexual minority stress across
the lines of gender and sexual identity. Journal of Homosexuality, 56, 273-298.
Hinderliter, A. C. (2009). Methodological issues for studying asexuality [Letter to the editor].
Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 619-621.
Horowitz, L. M., Rosenburg, S. E., Baer, B. A., Ureno, G., & Villasenor, V. S. (1988). Inventory
of interpersonal problems: Psychometric properties and clinical implications. Journal of
Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 56, 885-892.
Igartua, K. J., Gill, K., & Montoro, R. (2003). Internalized homophobia: A factor in depression,
anxiety, and suicide in the gay and lesbian population. Canadian Journal of Community
Mental Health, 22, 15-30.
Janssen, E., Vorst, H., Finn, P., & Bancroft, J. (2002). The Sexual Inhibition (SIS) and Sexual
Excitation (SES) Scales: I. Measuring sexual inhibition and excitation proneness in men.
Journal of Sex Research, 39, 114-126.
Jewell, L. M., McCutcheon, J. M., Harriman, R. L., & Morrison, M. A. (in press). “It’s like a
bunch of mosquitoes coming at you...”: Exploring the ubiquitous nature of subtle
discrimination and its implications for the everyday experience of LGB individuals. In T.
G. Morrison, M. A. Morrison, D. T. McDermott, & M. A. Carrigan (Eds.), Sexual
minority research in the new millennium. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
Jewell, L. M., & Morrison, M. A. (2010). “But there’s a million jokes about everybody…”:
Prevalence of, and reasons for directing, negative behaviors toward gay men on a
Canadian university campus. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 25, 2094-2112.
Johnson, A., Wadsworth, J., Wellings, K., & Field, J. (1994). Sexual attitudes and lifestyles.
Oxford, England: Blackwell.
Asexuality 33
Julien, D. & Chartrand, É. (2005). Review of the studies using a probability example on health of
the gay people, lesbians and bisexuals. Canadian Psychology, 46, 235-250.
Jutel, A. (2010). Framing disease: The example of female hypoactive sexual desire disorder.
Social Science & Medicine, 70, 1084-1090.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male.
Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders.
Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., Martin, C. E., & Gebhard, P. H. (1953). Sexual behavior in the
human female. Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders.
Minichiello, V., Plummer, D., & Seal, A. (1996). The ‘asexual’ older person? Australian
evidence. Venereology - The Interdisciplinary International Journal of Sexual Health, 9,
Mohr, J., & Fassinger, R. (2000). Measuring dimensions of lesbian and gay male experience.
Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 33, 66-90.
Morey, L. C. (1991). The Personality Assessment Screener: Professional manual. Odessa, FL:
Psychological Assessment Resources.
Morrison, M. A., & Morrison, T. G. (2002). Development and validation of a scale measuring
modern prejudice toward gay men and lesbian women. Journal of Homosexuality, 43, 15-
Morrison, M. A., & Morrison, T. G. (in press). Sexual orientation bias toward gay men and
lesbian women: Modern homonegative attitudes and their associations with
discriminatory behavioural intentions. Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
Oswald, D. L. & Harvey, R. D. (2000). Hostile environments, stereotype threat, and math
performance among undergraduate women. Current Psychology, 19, 338-356.
Asexuality 34
Prause, N., & Graham, C. A. (2007). Asexuality: Classification and characterization. Archives of
Sexual Behavior, 36, 341-356.
Röndahl, G., Innala, S., & Carlsson, M. (2006). Heterosexual assumptions in verbal and non-
verbal communication in nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 56, 373-381.
Rosen, R., Brown, C., Heiman, J., Leiblum, S., Meston, C., Shabsigh, R. et al. (2000). The
Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI): A multidimensional self-report instrument for the
assessment of sexual function. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 26, 191-208.
Rothblum, E. D. & Brehony, K. A. (1991). The Boston marriage today: Romantic but asexual
relationships among lesbians. In C. Silverstein (Ed.), Gays, lesbians, and their therapists:
Studies in psychotherapy (pp. 210-226). New York, NY: W W Norton & Co.
Rubin, H. (2003). Self-made men: Identity and embodiment among transsexual men. Nashville,
TN: Vanderbilt University Press.
Sanchez-Hucles, J. V. & Davis, D. D. (2010). Women and women of color in leadership:
Complexity, identity, and intersectionality. American Psychologist, 65, 171-181.
Scherrer, K. S. (2008). Coming to an asexual identity: Negotiating identity, negotiating desire.
Sexualities, 11, 621-641.
Scherrer, K. S. (2010). What asexuality contributes to the same-sex marriage discussion. Journal
of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 22, 56-73.
Sell, R. L. (1997). Defining and measuring sexual orientation: A review. Archives of Sexual
Behaviour, 26, 643-658.
Springer, D. W., Abell, N., & Hudson, W. W. (2002). Creating and validating rapid assessment
instruments for practice and research: Part 2. Research on Social Work Practice, 12,
Asexuality 35
Storms, M. D. (1980). Theories of sexual orientation. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 38, 783-792.
Szymanski, D. M. (2006). Does internalized heterosexism moderate the link between
heterosexist events and lesbians’ psychological distress? Sex Roles, 54, 227-234.
Waldo, C. R. (1998). Out on campus: Sexual orientation and academic climate in a university
context. American Journal of Community Psychology, 26, 745-774.
Asexuality 36
Table 1.
Participants’ Endorsement of Discrimination Items and Evaluation of the Stress Associated with
each Discrimination Experience on the HHDRS
than 10
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
sample size)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
1 (2.6)
1 (2.6)
3 (7.7)
7 (17.9)
26 (66.7)
0-10 (15)
Called an
name that
referred to
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
1 (2.6)
1 (2.6)
2 (5.1)
7 (17.9)
27 (69.2)
0-7 (8)
Heard anti-
remarks from
0 (0.0)
2 (5.1)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
1 (2.6)
5 (12.8)
30 (76.9)
0-8 (11)
unfairly by
0 (0.0)
3 (7.7)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
8 (20.5)
28 (71.8)
0-10 (13)
unfairly by
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
1 (2.6)
5 (12.8)
31 (79.5)
0-10 (11)
unfairly by
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
2 (5.1)
2 (5.1)
34 (87.2)
0-9 (9)
Asexuality 37
Table 1 (continued).
than 10
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
sample size)
M (SD)
unfairly by
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
2 (5.1)
4 (10.3)
32 (82.1)
0-7 (8)
Rejected by
female friends
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
1 (2.6)
4 (10.3)
33 (84.6)
0-10 (11)
unfairly by a
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
5 (12.8)
32 (82.1)
0-10 (8)
Rejected by a
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
7 (17.9)
31 (79.5)
0-10 (7)
unfairly by
people in a
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
3 (7.9)
34 (89.5)
0-6 (14)
Rejected by
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
3 (7.9)
35 (89.7)
0-8 (8)
unfairly by
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
2 (5.3)
35 (92.1)
0-6 (7)
Rejected by
male friends
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
2 (5.1)
36 (92.3)
0-8 (7)
Asexuality 38
Table 1 (continued).
than 10
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
M (SD)
Rejected by
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
38 (97.4)
0-3 (5)
unfairly by
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
37 (94.9)
0-7 (5)
unfairly by
people in
service jobs
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
38 (97.4)
0-2 (4)
unfairly by
teachers or
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
38 (97.4)
something at
work not
above that you
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
1 (2.6)
38 (97.4)
unfairly by
employers or
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
39 (100.0)
Denied a raise
that you
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
39 (100.0)
Asexuality 39
Table 1 (continued).
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
n (%)
sample size)
M (SD)
Denied a
that you
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
39 (100.0)
Denied a job
that you
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
39 (100.0)
Rejected by
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
0 (0.0)
38 (100.0)
Asexuality 40
Table 2.
Percentage of Participants who Disclosed their Asexual Identity to Specified Individuals/Groups
% (n)
Applicable Sample Size
Romantic partner(s)
100.0 (9)
Old heterosexual friends
60.0 (21)
Old non-heterosexual friends
58.3 (14)
Mental health care providers
58.3 (7)
New non-heterosexual friends
53.9 (14)
37.5 (9)
33.3 (12)
New heterosexual friends
30.3 (10)
Member of religious
30.0 (3)
Leader of religious community
30.0 (3)
25.0 (5)
Physical health care provider(s)
22.2 (6)
14.3 (5)
Work peers
13.6 (3)
9.1 (2)
8.0 (2)
6.5 (2)
Extended family
2.8 (1)
Asexuality 41
Summary of Reviewed Articles
Definition of
Asexuality Used
Characteristics of
Sexual Orientation
Place in Social
Bogaert (2004).
N = 18,876
(asexuals n = 195).
Probability sample of
British adults (aged
Operationally defined
as respondents who
indicated they had
“never felt sexually
attracted to anyone at
all” (p. 281).
Compared to non-
asexuals, asexual
respondents had:
- Fewer sexual
- Later onset of sexual
- Less frequent sexual
- Lower
- Lower education
- Poorer health
- Lower weight
- Shorter height
- Later menarche
Other characteristics:
- More women were
asexuals than men
- 44% had been in
cohabiting or marital
- Less likely to be
Caucasian than non-
- Attended more
religious services
than non-asexuals
- Biological
predisposition to
asexuality suggested
based on physical
- Environment of
rearing may also
impact development
of asexuality.
Author assumes
asexuals receive
neither positive nor
negative attention
from society, as
asexuality is neither
immoral nor illegal.
Asexuality 42
Definition of
Asexuality Used
Characteristics of
Sexual Orientation
Place in Social
Bogaert (2006).
Review and
elaboration on
findings of Bogaert
“Lack of sexual
attraction to either
sex” (p. 241).
Not discussed.
Asexuality differs
from HSDD:
- HSDD is rarely life-
long while
asexuality is.
- Asexuals may
experience sexual
desire and/or
arousal, but these
feelings are not
directed at anyone.
- Asexuals are not
distressed by their
asexuality; people
with HSDD are
distressed by their
lack of desire.
Additional arguments:
- Potential biological
predisposition to
- A community of
asexuals already
exists, thus it is
practical to treat
asexuality as an
- Labeling asexuality
as HSDD (or similar
pathologizes it and
may lead to
stigmatization of
Asexuality 43
Definition of
Asexuality Used
Characteristics of
Sexual Orientation
Place in Social
Brotto, Knudson,
Inskip, Rhodes, &
Erksine (2010).
Study 1: N = 187,
recruited on-line, age
M = 30.1 men and
28.2 women.
Study 2: N = 15,
recruited from Study 1
sample, aged 20-57.
“Lack of sexual
attraction” (p. 609).
- Participants self-
identified as asexual.
- Definition of
asexuality provided
by Study 2
Study 1:
- 70% had been in
- 73% had never
experienced sexual
- 80% (men) and 77%
(women) engage in
- 63% (men) and 37%
(women) have sexual
- No evidence of
pervasive depressive
symptoms or
- 56% reported
clinically significant
symptoms of
disorders, most often
(80%) Social
Study 2:
- Connection between
asexuality and
Schizoid Personality
Disorder accepted by
some participants.
- Some desired
relationships, others
did not.
- Masturbation not
interpreted as sexual
Study 1:
- Participants were not
distressed by their
sexual orientation.
- Women reported
lower desire and
arousal than women
with HSDD.
- Men reported similar
erectile function to
men without erectile
Study 2:
- If experienced,
sexual desire/arousal
are not directed at
other people.
- No interest in, nor
negative affect
towards, sexual
- Feel different from
others (often for
most of lives).
- Asexuality proposed
to differ from HSDD
due to assertion that
asexuals do not
attraction; people
with HSDD do.
- Bodies, sexual
intercourse, and
discussed using
Study 2:
- Participants
encouraged research
on asexuality to
increase awareness
and decrease stigma.
Asexuality 44
Definition of
Asexuality Used
Characteristics of
Sexual Orientation
Place in Social
Prause & Graham
Study 1: N = 4, age
range 31-42 years,
Mid-western United
States community
Study 2: N = 1,146,
age range 18-59,
university students
and recruited on-line.
Study 1:
“Lack of sexual
interest or desire” (p.
- Definition provided
by self-identified
asexual participants.
Study 1:
- Masturbation is not
interpreted as a
sexual behaviour.
Study 2:
- 41% of asexuals
reported lack of
sexual attraction.
- Asexuals had less
sexual desire and
arousability, and
greater sexual
inhibition than non-
Study 2:
- Only 54% of
participants who
identified as asexual
in a multiple choice
identified as asexual
in an open-ended
- Not distressed about
level of sexual
Study 1:
- Engaged in sexual
activity if desired by
- Worry about others’
perceptions of
Scherrer (2008).
N = 102. Ages ranged
Multinational sample
recruited on-line.
Defined as a lack of
sexual attraction by
some, and lack of
sexual desire by
- Physical intimacy
desired by some.
- Romantic
relationships desired
by some.
- Masturbation was
reported but not
interpreted as a
sexual behaviour.
- 23 participants
identified as queer in
addition to asexual.
- Essentialist
conception of
asexuality reported.
- Described feeling
asexual for entire
- Many participants
added “romantic” or
descriptors to their
asexual identity.
- Essentialist
ideologies used
defensively by some
participants (i.e., to
communicate the
naturalness of
Scherrer (2010).
Elaboration on
findings of Scherrer
“Lack of sexual
attraction or desire”
(p. 60)
- 78 were single.
- 17 were in a
- 7 described
relationship status as
hard to define.
- All participants in
described them as
dyadic and
- Single participants
and those in difficult
to define
described ideal
relationships as
Not discussed.
- Little language
available to describe
non-sexual intimate
- Many reported that
their non-sexual
relationships were
not recognized by
Asexuality 45
Definition of
Asexuality Used
Characteristics of
Sexual Orientation
Place in Social
Storms (1980).
N = 185.
students from Mid-
western United States
university. Recruited
from psychology
class, gay student
organizations, and
friendship networks.
No asexuals identified
in this sample.
- Low homo-eroticism
and hetero-eroticism.
- Few sexual fantasies.
Not discussed.
- Two-dimensional
model supported
over one-
dimensional model.
- Dimensions are
homo-erotic and
- Gender of targets of
erotic fantasies
predict sexual
Not discussed.
Asexuality 46
Table A2.
Studies Excluded From Analysis
Justification for Exclusion
Brotto & Yule (2009)
Commentary, neither quantitative nor qualitative data specifically
Chance (2002)
Asexuality is discussed as a component of a stereotype of physically
disabled individuals rather than as a sexual identity.
Fullmer, Shenk, & Eastland (1999)
Asexuality is discussed as a component of a stereotype of older individuals
rather than as a sexual identity.
Gilbert, Ussher, & Hawkins (2009)
Discussed low sexual desire as a result of medical treatment rather than as a
component of an identity.
Gott & Hinchliff (2003)
Asexuality is discussed as a component of a stereotype of older individuals
rather than as a sexual identity.
Hinderliter (2009)
Commentary, neither quantitative nor qualitative data specifically
Jutel (2010)
Discussed the socio-cultural implications of Female Hypoactive Sexual
Desire Disorder as an emergent diagnostic label, not the asexual identity per
Minichiello, Plummer, & Seal (1996)
Asexuality is discussed as a component of a stereotype of older individuals
rather than as a sexual identity.
Rothblum & Brehony (1991)
The term “asexual” is used to describe a sex-less relationship rather than a
sexual identity.
Asexuality 47
Correspondence pertaining to this chapter should be addressed to: Melanie A. Morrison,
Department of Psychology, University of Saskatchewan, 9 Campus Drive, Arts Building,
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, S7N 5A5, email:
... It is important to note that for Brotto et al.'s (2010) study, participants were recruited from an internet community designed for asexual people. Such communities may offer support and guidance to members regarding their sexual identification, allowing a reduction in distress (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). Asexuals who do not belong to communities like this may not have access to the same resources for managing their distress, and thus Brotto et al.'s findings could underestimate how much distress asexual individuals experience (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). ...
... Such communities may offer support and guidance to members regarding their sexual identification, allowing a reduction in distress (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). Asexuals who do not belong to communities like this may not have access to the same resources for managing their distress, and thus Brotto et al.'s findings could underestimate how much distress asexual individuals experience (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). ...
Full-text available
In this concluding chapter we discuss some of the insights gained from juxtaposing three eclectic fields of knowledge: queer studies, transgender theory, and psychological research. Because the queer and transgender projects are political projects, in this conclusion we focus on understanding the processes that may lead to fragmentation within the queer and transgender movement as well as processes that are associated with continued solidarity activism among an increasing number of queer and transgender identities. To examine processes of intragroup conflict and solidarity activism we juxtapose research in social psychology, Black psychology, and contributions by queer thinkers in promoting community norms that support activism, dialogue, and solidarity.
... It is important to note that for Brotto et al.'s (2010) study, participants were recruited from an internet community designed for asexual people. Such communities may offer support and guidance to members regarding their sexual identification, allowing a reduction in distress (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). Asexuals who do not belong to communities like this may not have access to the same resources for managing their distress, and thus Brotto et al.'s findings could underestimate how much distress asexual individuals experience (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). ...
... Such communities may offer support and guidance to members regarding their sexual identification, allowing a reduction in distress (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). Asexuals who do not belong to communities like this may not have access to the same resources for managing their distress, and thus Brotto et al.'s findings could underestimate how much distress asexual individuals experience (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). ...
Full-text available
In this chapter on sexuality, we examine three foundational postulations from queer theory. The first postulation is that the historical construction of sexuality, and same-sex desire in particular, tends to be based on binary thinking that positions same-sex desire as either universal (a “universalizing” view of same-sex sexuality) or as a disposition common to a minority of the population (a “minoritizing” view of same-sex sexuality). In contrast, queer theory moves away from a binary view of sexuality to conceptualize it as fluid. The second postulation is that people’s sexuality is shaped by interlocking forms of oppression such as colonialism, racism, sexism, and class oppression. The intersections of interlocking forms of oppression configure sexual identities and desires in unique ways. The third postulation is the rejection of a hierarchy of sexual practices and a focus on the proliferation of sexual categories to disrupt that hierarchy. We juxtapose these three key ideas with a review of critical psychology research, showing how psychological studies moved from a universalizing to a minoritizing view of same-sex desire, with a recent turn back towards the universalizing approach. We describe psychological contributions on the manner in which LGBTQ identities are different among people of color compared to white people as well as research that examines the influence of neoliberal ideology on sexual agency. We explore recent psychological studies related to BDSM and kink, polyamory, and asexuality. Assessing the convergence and divergence between psychology and queer thought leads us to critique the notion that a proliferation of sexual identities is necessarily libratory; instead, we argue for a more intersectional approach to sexual identities.
... It is important to note that for Brotto et al.'s (2010) study, participants were recruited from an internet community designed for asexual people. Such communities may offer support and guidance to members regarding their sexual identification, allowing a reduction in distress (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). Asexuals who do not belong to communities like this may not have access to the same resources for managing their distress, and thus Brotto et al.'s findings could underestimate how much distress asexual individuals experience (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). ...
... Such communities may offer support and guidance to members regarding their sexual identification, allowing a reduction in distress (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). Asexuals who do not belong to communities like this may not have access to the same resources for managing their distress, and thus Brotto et al.'s findings could underestimate how much distress asexual individuals experience (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). ...
Full-text available
American Psychological Association Division 44 Distinguished Book Award Winner 2023 This timely volume examines the ways in which queer and trans theory are supported by recent findings from psychological science. In it, Ella Ben Hagai and Eileen Zurbriggen explore foundational ideas from queer thought and transgender theory including the instability of gender, variation in sexualities, intersectional theory, and trans writers’ rejection of the “born in the wrong body” narrative. These key ideas are juxtaposed with innovative empirical psychological research on the fluidity of gender, the proliferation of sexual identities, and transgender affirming medical and psychological care. This book explains the history and politics of key ideas shaping the study of the psychology of gender and sexuality today. It also describes the ways that the queer and trans revolutions have changed how psychologists understand gender, sexuality, and transgender identities. It will be especially helpful for readers interested in interdisciplinary scholarship.
... It is important to note that for Brotto et al.'s (2010) study, participants were recruited from an internet community designed for asexual people. Such communities may offer support and guidance to members regarding their sexual identification, allowing a reduction in distress (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). Asexuals who do not belong to communities like this may not have access to the same resources for managing their distress, and thus Brotto et al.'s findings could underestimate how much distress asexual individuals experience (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). ...
... Such communities may offer support and guidance to members regarding their sexual identification, allowing a reduction in distress (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). Asexuals who do not belong to communities like this may not have access to the same resources for managing their distress, and thus Brotto et al.'s findings could underestimate how much distress asexual individuals experience (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). ...
Full-text available
In this chapter, we delineate some of the key themes in foundational transgender studies texts including: the rejection of the traditional male/female binary as prescribed by the medical model of transgender identity, the endorsement of a self-deterministic approach to gender identity, and the emphasis on the polyvocality of the transgender experience. Juxtaposing these themes with psychological research we describe the shift from a medical model of transgender identity to an affirmative paradigm in transgender care. We describe emerging research that documents the polyvocality of the transgender experience. Juxtaposing transgender studies with psychological research on transgender identity suggests interesting psychological differences between different identities under a transgender umbrella as well the importance of sustaining an understanding of transgender identity that is not constricted but that frame trans as a broad and inclusive space.
... In this paper, we focus on the practical-behavioral and cultural-identity dimensions, since asexuality has never been explicitly illegal (though aces do experience several types of discrimination) (Emens, 2014;Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). We conceptualize sexual citizenship as the development and ongoing production of sexual identities that are accepted by one's self, validated by others, included in the broader community of diverse sexualities, and enacted through engagement and advocacy. ...
Full-text available
Compulsory sexuality refers to the ways that social institutions both assume and privilege sexualities while marginalizing asexuality—the relative lack of sexual attraction. However, experiences of compulsory sexuality are not uniform. This paper documents how the institutions of compulsory sexuality can variously impede or facilitate the development of asexual citizenship, sometimes simultaneously. Data come from exploratory, semi-structured interviews with young adults who identify as asexual in the central U.S. Informants talk about their experiences with intimate relationships, religion, media, and LGBTQIA + groups in contradictory ways: each institution figures into discourses of both citizenship and alienation. We argue that there are multiple pathways to sexual citizenship for aces, which depend not only on how compulsory sexuality intersects with other structures, like race and gender, but also according to one’s experiences with the institutions of compulsory sexuality.
... It is now recognized that other sexual minorities also experience resilience as a protective framework that may result in better selfreported mental health (Meyer, 2003;Meyer, 2015). While the concept of resilience has not been researched explicitly in the asexual community, prior research has confirmed that various forms of anti-asexual discrimination can increase stress in asexual individuals (Gazzola & Morrison, 2012). If asexual individuals experience minority stress, resilience factors may help buffer stress. ...
Full-text available
The presence of minority stress has been well documented among members of the transgender and gender non-conforming community, as has the effect of resilience on buffering the impact of minority stress on their psychological distress. Little attention has been given to transgender and gender non-conforming people who identify as asexual. This study examined the relationships among minority stressors, resilience, and psychological distress among individuals holding the intersecting identities of transgender and gender non-conforming and asexual. Data were collected from 300 adults using various listservs and social media platforms. Significant differences in harassment & discrimination χ2(2) = 7.27, p = .026 were reported by individuals holding an intersecting asexual and transgender and gender non-conforming identity. Post hoc analysis using Kruskal-Wallis tests did not reveal any significant differences. Therefore, while there may be a significant difference in harassment & discrimination, it is unclear where that difference lies. Multiple regression results revealed that vigilance and gender expression minority stress were significant positive predictors of psychological distress, F(11, 258) = 10.21, p < .001, f2 = .43; the overall model accounted for approximately 30% (R2 = .30) of the total variance in psychological distress. Resilience was a significant negative predictor of psychological distress but did not moderate the relationship between minority stress, gender identity, and psychological distress. Implications for practice and research are discussed.
... Trans and non-binary genders have been observed to be more prevalent in asexual people, with up to 24.6% of asexual individuals reporting a gender other than what they were assigned at birth Gazzola & Morrison, 2012;Ginoza et al., 2014). The self-reported and genital arousal responses among transgender asexual individuals may be different from cisgender individuals. ...
Human asexuality has been defined as a lack of sexual attraction to others, although its nature is not well understood. Asexual men's genital and subjective sexual arousal patterns were compared to sexual men's to better understand asexual men's sexual response patterns. Using a penile plethysmograph to measure genital arousal, 20 asexual, 27 heterosexual, and 22 gay cisgender men (M age = 28.28, SD = 9.41) viewed erotic films depicting sexual activity or masturbation, and a subsample engaged in sexual fantasy of their choosing. Questionnaires assessing sexual function and behavior were also completed. Asexual men scored lower on sexual desire and orgasmic function, higher on sexual aversion, and did not differ on overall sexual satisfaction. Compared with gay and heterosexual men, asexual men demonstrated lower genital and subjective sexual arousal to the erotic films but displayed similar sexual arousal when engaging in sexual fantasy. Asexual men's lower levels of sexual excitation rather than their higher levels of sexual inhibition were associated with lower responses to the erotic films. These findings suggest asexual men have preferred sexual stimuli that differ from sexual men and have a similar capacity for sexual arousal as sexual men. Collectively these findings add to a growing literature aiming to understand the nature of asexuality.
Definicje seksualności, a także domyślne założenia o tym, że każdy odczuwa pociąg seksualny i pożądanie, sprawiły, że doświadczenia i prawa osób aseksualnych nadal nie są w pełni respektowane. W konsekwencji doprowadziło to do narastania szeregu mitów wokół aseksualności i ujmowania jej jako zaburzenia. Wśród badaczy wciąż również nie ma zgody co do tego, czy aseksualność należy uznać za orientację seksualną, czy też za jej brak, co może mieć wpływ na niewidoczność, wyobcowanie i dyskryminację tej grupy nawet w środowiskach LGBTQIAP+. Celem tego artykułu jest zdecydowana depatologizacja medyczna i obyczajowa aseksualności, wyraźne odróżnienie jej od abstynencji seksualnej czy zaburzeń pożądania w odniesieniu do dotychczasowych badań i świadectw osób aseksualnych. Przede wszystkim jednak autorka próbuje odpowiedzieć na pytanie, w jaki sposób doświadczenie aseksualności poszerza myślenie o seksualności człowieka w ogóle. Rozpoznając aseksualność jako brak pociągu seksualnego do innych osób – bez względu na płeć, zamierza jednocześnie ukazać różnorodność biografii romantycznych i seksualnych. Osobiste historie zaczerpnęła z polskiego forum Sieci Edukacji Aseksualnej.
In the past decade, human asexuality has garnered much attention and emerged as an empirically documented sexual orientation. Asexuality is generally defined as an absence of sexual attraction and approximately 1% of the general population report not feeling sexually attracted anyone. In this chapter, we examine the evolving definition of asexuality and diversification of individuals who identify as asexual. We provide an overview of gender differences and review the extant literature on human asexuality, which has mainly focused on exploring how to best conceptualize asexuality. Various theories have been proposed to classify asexuality as a mental disorder, a sexual dysfunction, or a paraphilia. However, we challenge these speculations and pose that asexuality may best be thought of as a sexual orientation as it is likely a normal variation in the experience of human sexuality. We discuss factors that make the study of asexuality challenging and propose possible solutions for researchers to consider. Future research into asexuality is necessary and might inform our understanding of sexuality in general. Researchers need to examine and understand the biological correlates of asexuality and directly test asexuality as a sexual orientation.KeywordsAsexualitySexual attractionSexual desireSexual orientationRomantic attraction
Full-text available
The definitions of sexuality, as well as the implicit assumptions that everyone experiences sexual attraction and desire, have left asexuals’ experiences and rights still not fully respected. Therefore, it has led to the growing number of myths around asexuality and seeing it as a disorder. There is still no consensus among researchers as to whether asexuality should be considered a sexual orientation or its lack, which may have an impact on the invisibility and alienation of this group even in LGBTQIAP+ communities. The aim of this article is to decisively depathologize asexuality and morally, to clearly distinguish it from sexual abstinence or disorders of desire based on the research and testimonies of asexual people to date. Above all, however, the author tries to answer the question of how the experience of asexuality broadens thinking about human sexuality in general. Recognizing asexuality as a lack of sexual attraction to other people – regardless of gender, I would also like to show the diversity of romantic and sexual biographies. The stories were taken from the Polish forum of The Asexual Network Education.
Full-text available
Two studies examined modern homonegative attitudes among nonstudents. In Study 1, participants completed the Modern Homonegativity Scale (MHS; Morrison & Morrison, 2002) and other measures. Results indicated that MHS scores correlated positively with neoracism, neosexism, and the Protestant work ethic, and negatively with humanitarianism–egalitarianism. Gender differences were found and, irrespective of participant sex, greater modern homonegativity was directed toward gay, rather than lesbian targets. Study 2 extended research in the realm of modern homonegativity by investigating the linkage between modern homonegative attitudes and behavioral intentions in a sample of 196 community participants. As expected, modern homonegativity predicted discriminatory behavioral intentions toward a gay, but not a straight mayoralty candidate. Applications of these findings and future research directions are discussed.
Full-text available
This study, the first of its kind in Australia, examines the sexual activity and interest of older people. The sample consists of 844 older people (mean age = 73.1) who were randomly selected and returned a self-completion questionnaire as part of the Health Status of Older People Project. The results confirm that sexual interest and sexual activity is of concern and of importance to older Australians. The data also challenge the view that older people are unwilling or unable to report on their sexuality, with an item response rate of between 77% and 90% on the questions on sexuality. Gender was significantly associated with number of sexual partners, perceived importance of sex, changes in sexual activity and interest and currently in a sexual relationship. Age and the marital status of respondents were also associated with a number of these dependent variables. However, spiritual belief was only significantly associated with number of sexual partners, and self-reported health and ethnicity were not associated with any of these variables. The paper highlights the importance of challenging some prevalent stereotypes surrounding the 'asexual' older person and raises the importance of sensitising society to the needs of older people.
Full-text available
Emerging evidence suggests that, in addition to experiencing blatant forms of discrimination, sexual minority individuals are subjected to subtle homonegative behaviours. However, understanding the nature of subtle discriminatory behaviours, including the context in which they arise and their effects on lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals, is limited. In the current study, 19 Canadian LGB persons (11 men; 8 women) recruited from the community (i.e., non-students) participated in face-to-face interviews about their experiences of subtle discrimination. Results indicated that participants most commonly encountered subtle homonegative behaviours in their workplaces, health care settings, and family relationships. In addition, participants perceived that homonegativity was pervasive across all domains of life. Implications of the subtle discrimination experienced by the participants included: experiencing feelings of isolation and invisibility, hypervigilance, fragmentation of self, and a desire to conceal one's sexual orientation. The limitations associated with the study along with directions for future research on subtle forms of LGB discrimination are outlined.
People with physical disabilities are stereotyped as asexual, as lacking the same sexual and relationship needs and desires as nondisabled people. Yet people with disabilities are human beings, created in the image of God, and thus are sexual beings with the same capacity to love and be loved as any other human. In this article, the author discusses the sexuality and heterosexual experiences of adults with various physical disabilities. She explores possible effects of disabilities on sexual self-concept, romantic relationships, and sexual activities as well as describes some practical steps that can be taken to remedy specific difficulties. The author also briefly relates some personal experiences as a woman with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia who is married to a man with cerebral palsy. Implications for clinical practice are discussed. The author encourages psychotherapists to prepare themselves to respond intelligently and comfortably to the sexual questions and issues raised by their physically disabled clients, regardless of the presenting problem.
In Self-Made Men, Henry Rubin explores the production of male identities in the lives of twenty-two FTM transsexuals-people who have changed their sex from female to male. The author relates the compelling personal narratives of his subjects to the historical emergence of FTM as an identity category. In the interviews that form the heart of the book, the FTMs speak about their struggles to define themselves and their diverse experiences, from the pressures of gender conformity in adolescence to being mistaken for "butch lesbians," from hormone treatments and surgeries to relationships with families, partners, and acquaintances. Their stories of feeling betrayed by their bodies and of undergoing a "second puberty" are vivid and thought-provoking. Throughout the interviews, the subjects' claims to having "core male identities" are remarkably consistent and thus challenge anti-essentialist assumptions in current theories of gender, embodiment, and identity. Rubin uses two key methods to analyze and interpret his findings. Adapting Foucault's notions of genealogy, he highlights the social construction of gender categories and identities. His account of the history of endocrinology and medical technologies for transforming bodies demonstrates that the "family resemblance" between transsexuals and intersexuals was a necessary postulate for medical intervention into the lives of the emerging FTMs. The book also explores the historical emergence of the category of FTM transsexual as distinguished from the category of lesbian woman and the resultant "border disputes" over identity between the two groups. Rubin complements this approach with phenomenological concepts that stress the importance of lived experience and the individual's capacity for knowledge and action. An important contribution to several fields, including sociology of the body, gender and masculinity, human development, and the history of science, Self-Made Men will be of interest to anyone who has seriously pondered what it means to be a man and how men become men.
This study examined the impact of hostile environments and stereotype threat on women's math performance. A hostile environment was created with a derogatory cartoon related to women's math ability. Stereotype threat was removed by informing women participants that "men and women perform equally" on the math test. Results showed that hostile environments and stereotype threat significantly interacted leading to differential math performance for number of math problems attempted and answered correctly. Additionally, women in hostile and stereotype threat conditions experienced differential emotional reactions during the math test. Results are discussed in terms of theoretical and practical importance.
In this age of accountability, social work practitioners face greater demands to demonstrate the effectiveness of their interventions. A practical way to accomplish this is to use rapid assessment instruments (RAIs) to measure a client’s level of functioning so that any subsequent change in functioning can be accurately detected over time. Although great strides have been made during the past three decades in the development of RAIs, there remains a paucity of reliable and valid scales when compared to the increasingly complex range of problems that practitioners confront in their day-to-day work with clients. This article, the first in a two-part series, outlines how to conceptualize and create a scale and how to plan and subsequently implement a design testing the newly created scale’s reliability and validity. The second article in this series provides illustrations of these steps from the authors’ own works, detailing decision making and strategies for analyzing psychometric data.