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Patterns of Asexuality in China: Sexual Activity, Sexual and Romantic Attraction, and Sexual Desire

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This study examined patterns of asexuality in Chinese asexual people in terms of sexual activities, sexual/romantic attraction, and sexual desire. The sample included 227 (64 men and 163 women) asexual participants and 57 (26 men and 31 women) uncertain asexual participants recruited from social networks for asexual people. The control group included 217 (115 men and 102 women) heterosexual participants recruited from general social networks. Participants scoring 40 or higher on the Asexuality Identification Scale were classified as asexual. Asexual participants reported having less frequent masturbation, sexual intercourse experience, and sexual and romantic attraction compared to heterosexual participants. Lower sexual attraction among asexuals indicated that “people who experience little or no sexual attraction” would be a more appropriate definition of asexuality. The pattern of uncertain asexual participants’ sexual/romantic attraction and sexual desire was intermediate between heterosexual and asexual participants. Asexual participants scored significantly lower on dyadic sexual desire and slightly lower on solitary sexual desire than heterosexual participants. There were significant differences in sexual activities and solitary sexual desire among romantic orientation categories. Homoromantic participants showed higher dyadic sexual desire and were more likely to engage in masturbation, indicating the heterogeneity among asexual people. The findings indicated that Chinese asexual people showed similar patterns of asexuality as in Western nations. Specifically, asexual people have little or no sexual attraction, non-partner-orientated sexual desire, and are heterogeneous in sexual activities and sexual desire. This implies similar mechanisms underlying the etiology of asexuality across cultures.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
Patterns of Asexuality in China: Sexual Activity, Sexual
and Romantic Attraction, and Sexual Desire
Lijun Zheng
1,2
Yanchen Su
1,2
Received: 17 January 2017 / Revised: 17 January 2018/ Accepted: 18 January 2018
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract This study examined patterns of asexuality in Chinese
asexual people in terms of sexual activities, sexual/romantic attr-
action, and sexual desire. The sample included 227 (64 men and
163 women) asexual participants and 57 (26 men and 31 women)
uncertain asexual participants recruited from social networks for
asexual people. The control group included 217 (115 men and 102
women) heterosexual participants recruited from general social
networks. Participants scoring 40 or higher on the Asexuality Iden-
tification Scale were classified as asexual. Asexual participants re-
ported having less frequent masturbation, sexual intercourse expe-
rience, and sexual and romantic attraction compared to hetero-
sexual participants. Lower sexual attraction among asexuals indi-
catedthat‘‘peoplewho experience littleornosexualattraction’
wouldbe a more appropriate definition of asexuality. The pattern of
uncertain asexual participants’ sexual/romantic attraction and sex-
ual desire was intermediate between heterosexual and asexual par-
ticipants.Asexual participants scored significantly loweron dyadic
sexual desire and slightly lower on solitary sexual desire than hete-
rosexual participants. There were significant differences in sexual
activities and solitary sexual desire among romantic orientation
categories. Homoromantic participants showed higher dyadic sex-
ual desire and were more likely to engage in masturbation, indi-
cating the heterogeneity among asexual people. The findings indi-
cated that Chinese asexual people showed similar patterns of asex-
uality as in Western nations. Specifically, asexual people have little
or no sexual attraction, non-partner-orientated sexual desire, and
areheterogeneousin sexual activities and sexual desire.This
implies similar mechanisms underlying the etiology of asexuality
across cultures.
Keywords Asexuality Sexual attraction
Romantic attraction Sexual desire
Asexuality Identification Scale Sexual orientation
Introduction
Overview of Asexuality
The Asexuality Visibilityand Education Network (AVEN) de-
fined an asexual person as one who ‘‘does not experience sexual
attraction.’ The prevalence of asexuality varies across samples
ranging from approximately 0.4 to 3.3% (Aicken, Mercer, & Cas-
sell, 2013; Bogaert, 2004,2013; Lucassen et al., 2011;Poston&
Baumle, 2010). Bogaert (2004) first reported an empirical inves-
tigation of asexuality in which the participants that selected the
option of‘having no sexual attraction to their partner’’were clas-
sified as asexual. Other studies of asexuality recruited participants
based on self-report measures,such as forced-choice questions
about sexual orientation (Brotto & Yule, 2011;MacNeela&
Murphy, 2015; Prause & Graham, 2007). Recently, a validated
measurement of asexuality named the Asexuality Identifica-
tion Scale (AIS) was published (Yule, Brotto, & Gorzalka, 2015).
This scale has 12 items, and participants scoring 40 or higher are
likelytoexperiencealackofsexual attraction. The cutoff score of
40/60 was found to identify 93% of self-identified asexual par-
ticipants (Yule et al., 2015). A recent empirical study showed that
this scale was effective in recognizing asexuality (Brotto, Yule, &
Gorzalka, 2015).
The absence of sexual attraction does not mean the absence of
sexual experience or sexual desire. Studies have shown that some
asexual people who do not experience sexual attraction engaged
&Lijun Zheng
lijuntrue@163.com
1
Key Laboratory of Cognition and Personality (Southwest
University), Ministry of Education, Chongqing, China
2
Faculty of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing
400715, China
123
Arch Sex Behav
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1158-y
in sexual activities and experienced sexual desire at lower
levels (Prause & Graham, 2007). Previous studies have indi-
cated that theabsence of sexual attraction correspondswith the
lack or loss of sexual desire toward others (i.e., dyadic sexual
desire), but not sexual desire toward oneself (i.e., solitary sexual
desire; Brotto & Yule, 2011; Prause and Graham, 2007). Investi-
gations revealed that a majority of asexual participants engaged
in masturbation and sexual fantasy (Bogaert, 2013; Brotto,
Knudson, Inskip, Rhodes, & Erskine, 2010; Poston & Baumle,
2010; Yule, Brotto, & Gorzalka, 2014a,2017). The sexual
activities amongasexual peoplemay indicatethat the patternof
sexual desire in asexual people may be non-partner-oriented
(Yule et al., 2017). Furthermore, Bogaert (2012a)proposedthe
concept of ‘autochorissexualism’’to facilitate an in-depth dis-
cussion about the sexual desire of asexual people. Specifically,
autochorissexualism is defined as an ‘‘identity-less sexuality,’
which means that some people’s sexuality is not directed toward
others in a traditional sense but toward themselves or neither
toward themselves nor others, that is, it is diffuse and non-part-
nered. Therefore, autochorissexualism may be another direction
of the typical target-oriented processes in human mating (Freund
&Blanchard,1993).
The relationship between asexuality and Hypoactive Sexual
Desire Disorder (HSDD) is complicated and disputable. Many
theoretical and empirical studies compare the differences betwee n
them to argue that asexuality is not a mental or physical disorder
(Bogaert, 2006,2015; Brotto & Yule, 2017;Brottoetal.,2015;
Chasin, 2017; Lund & Johnson, 2015; Parente & Albuquerque,
2016; Prause & Graham, 2007). A previous study indicated that
self-labeled asexual people were not significantly distressed be-
cause of the lack of sexual attraction (Brotto et al., 2010). The core
of the definition of HSDD is whether people endure serious dis-
tress and interpersonal problems caused by the absence of sexual
fantasies and desire (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Thus, this has become an index for manyresearchers todistinguish
between asexuality and HSDD. However, other researchers pos-
ited that there is overlapbetween asexuality and HSDD,especially
for Female Sexual Arousal/Interest Disorder (FSAID) (Chasin,
2017; Gupta, 2017). For example, a qualitative study revealed that
some asexual persons experience distress and seek treatment be-
fore coming to accept their asexuality and crossing the line be-
tween asexuality and HSDD (Gupta, 2017).
Bogaert (2013,2015) proposed that asexuality be considered a
unique sexual orientation based ont he notion that sexual attraction
is the psychological core of sexualorientation. Brottoand Yule
(2017) posited the same based on a literature review. They iden-
tified the following: First, the association between asexuality and
biomarkers (i.e., handedness and birth order, Yule, Brotto, & Gor-
zalka,2014b) provided indirect evidence for asexuality as a sexual
orientation. Second, they argued that asexual persons would meet
two of the three criteria of sexual orientation suggested by Seto
(2012), including age of onset, correlations with sexual and roman-
tic behavior, and stability over time.
Asexuality is the absence of sexual attraction, but notthe absence
of romantic attraction or affection (Bogaert, 2006,2015). In general,
sexualattraction refers to erotic and sensual allure, whileromantic
attraction is the feeling of infatuation or emotional attachment
(Bogaert, 2012b;Diamond,2003). It was believed that one form
ofattraction may reflect orimply another; however, evidence sug-
gests that romantic orientation is not always consistent with the
sexualorientation(Diamond,2003;Diamond & Fagundes, 2008).
Furthermore, Diamond has explored this distinction from the
viewpoint of developmental psychology and indicated that the
process of sexual attraction might correspond to a phylogeneti-
cally older system in the human brain, while the process of roman
tic attraction might relate to a newer system developed after social
contact with parents. Evidence from many empirical studies has
confirmed this. For example, Bogaert (2004) found that a signif-
icant percentage (33%) of asexual people reporting lack of sexual
attractionwere in long-term romantic relationships, which sup
ported his conclusion that asexuality was the lack of sexual attrac-
tion, but not necessarily a lack of rom antic desire or affection.
Another study reported that some asexual people (11%) seemingly
identified their sexual orientation as consistent with their romantic
attraction, and they reported their sexual orientations as heteroasex-
ual, biromantic asexual, or homoasexual (Brotto et al., 2010).
Thereis evidence that self-identified asexual persons are ahete-
rogeneous group. Some previous studies revealed differences in
the subsets of asexual people. Asexual individuals who did and did
not engage in sexual fantasy or masturbation differed in terms of
AIS scores, suggesting that there may be different subtypes of
asexuality (Yule et al., 2017). In addition, a survey revealed the
diversity of different romantic orientation subtypes among asex-
ual participants (Ginoza, Miller, and AVEN Survey Team, 2014).
Examining the diversity of asexuality would contribute to fully
understanding asexuality. It is important to explore the extensive
diversity within the asexual population, including desire-related
variability (Chasin, 2011).
Asexuality in China
The current population of China over 20 years old is about 1.08
billion (China Statistical Yearbook, 2017), so there might be 10.8
million asexual people in China, given that 1% of the general pop-
ulation is thought to be asexual. However, there has been little
investigation about Chinese asexual people in the fields of sociol-
ogy, psychology, or medicine. We found only a few media reports
and articles when we searched the China Nati onal Knowledge
Infrastructure, the most important academic index in China using
thekeyword‘‘asexuality.’’Thisshowsthatthe study of asexuality in
China is radically deficient and needs to be explored.
However, there are many online communities with asexual
communitymembersonthe Chinese Internet. The two most active
asexual forums in China are the DoubanGroup of Asexuality
(https://www.douban.com/group/61607/) and the Baidu Post Bar
of Asexuality (https://tieba.baidu.com/f?kw=%CE%DE%D0%
Arch Sex Behav
123
D4%C1%B5&fr=ala0&tpl=5). The Douban asexuality forum is
in the format of AVEN’s Chinese friendship Web site and has
more than 8200 members. In addition, asexuality-focused QQ
groups (QQ is a popular instant messaging software in China) are
another form of asexuality community. Many subscribers of the
Sina Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter) declare that they are
asexual,and there are more than 2000followerson the topic‘‘Asex-
uality’’in Zhihu (a Chinese online Q&A community, like Quora).
Thus, it can be seen that the public is concerned about asexuality,
particularly after a report titled I am asexual: I eat cake more than I
have sex published in Netease News (a popular Chinese news site)
in 2014, after which many people came to the Baidu Post Bar to
discuss asexuality, and since then there are about 10,000 members
and more than 150,000 posts.
Additionally, within the two main asexual communities, the
Baidu Post Bar and Douban Group, there were many articles dis-
cussing the different romantic orientations of asexual people, and
these viewpoints, which classified asexuality into four su btypes
depending on whether someone had a romantic orientation and
what that romantic orientation was. However, there were also some
problemsin these communities; for example,manymembers still
lacked a scientific understanding of the definition of asexuality.
Therefore, much work is required to change the popular percep-
tion of asexuality.
The Current Study
In recent years, various studies examined the patterns and concepts
of asexuality; however, all the existing studies have been conducted
in the Western countries, such as the U.S. and Canada. It is unknown
whether the patterns of asexuality are consistent cross-culturally. To
address this gap in the literature, this study examined the patterns of
asexuality in the Chinese context to test whether the patterns
of asexuality are consistent across cultures. Specifically, the
following issues were examined:
First,basedonthegenerallyaccepteddefinitionof‘‘lackofsex-
ual attraction,’’we examined sexual attraction to test whether this
definition is valid in the Chinese population. Second, romantic
attraction was examined. Romantic attraction is not always con-
sistent with sexual attraction theoretically (Diamond, 2003), and
many asexual individuals reported romantic inclinations (Bo-
gaert,2006,2015; Brotto et al., 2010;Diamond,2003;Diamond &
Fagundes, 2008). However, there are few empirical studies on the
romantic attraction and orientation of asexual persons. Therefore,
weexaminedthe relationshipbetween sexual attraction and romantic
attraction among asexual persons. Third, we examined sexual activ-
ities (i.e., masturbation and sexual partner) and sexual desire to test
thenon-partner-orientated pattern of sexual desire in Chinese asexual
people. Finally, studies have proposed the heterogeneity of asexual-
ity among asexual communities (Chasin, 2011). Exploring the asex-
ualpopulation’s diversity would contributetothe formulation of con-
cepts and theories of asexuality. Since romantic orientation is an
important factor in the asexuality literature and subgroups are formed
based on it among Chinese asexual communities, we examined the
differences in sexual activity, sexual attraction, and sexual desire
among the existing romantic categories.
Method
Participants
This study was conducted online via a Chinese professional sur-
vey Web site named Wenjuanxing. The participants were recrui-
ted from Chinese Web sites for asexual individuals, such as asex-
ual forums (the Baidu Post Bar of Asexuality and the Douban
Group of Asexuality), QQ groups for asexual persons, Wei bo
(Weibo is a social network site in China, similar to Twitter), and
Zhihu. We selected potential participants via posts on social net-
working platforms for asexual individuals, such as Douban, Baidu
Post Bar, and Zhihu. For example, participants who responded to a
post titled ‘‘asexuals over 30 years old, are you married?’’ were
selected as the potential participants of this study. We sent potential
participants (registered members on asexual forums and those who
disclosed their asexual identity in Zhihu and Weib o) a private
message including a brief introduction of the study, which stated
that this was an anonymous survey specifically for asexuality and
any asexual individual interested can participate. We ensured that
only those aged 18 years or above could participate in this survey.
Further, we sent a link to our online questionnaires for interested
participants to complete.
Brotto et al. (2015) indicated that because of the known influ-
ence of age on sexual experiences and significant proportion of
young participants in the initial sample, which skewed the sample,
theyremoved participantsyoungerthan 23 yearsfor moreaccu-
rate results. We selected participants older than 18 years as our
final sample.
The final sample recruiting from asexual social networks
included 284 participants aged 18–53 years (M=22.9; SD =
4.37). The asexual group was identified based on the AIS
scores wherein participants who scored 40 or above were placed
in this group. Participants recruited from the asexual social net-
works who scored below 40 were classified ‘‘uncertain asexu-
ality’group, because some of them self-reported as asexuality.
Given that all the participants recruited from the general social
networks self-reported as heterosexual, they were classified as
the‘‘sexual’’group. There were 90 men (31.7%) and 194 women
(68.3%) and 227 asexual (79.9%) and 57 uncertain asexual per-
sons (20.1%) in the sample; they belonged to 34 provinces/re-
gions in China and abroad (n=17). The sexual sample included
217 self-reported heterosexual participants aged 18–45 year s
(M=27.3; SD =5.30).
Figure 1represents the distributionoftheAISscores:90%of
self-reported asexual participants scored 40 or above on the AIS
and 88% of AIS C40 participants self-reported as asexual. The
mean scores of AIS for heterosexual, uncertain asexual, and asex-
Arch Sex Behav
123
ual participants were 22.18 (SD =6.19), 30.35 (SD =7.65), and
50.89 (SD =5.52), respectively.
Measures
Participants completed questionnaires about demographic vari-
ables,includingsex, age, income, education level, relationship
status, occupation, ethnicity, and religion.The demographic
information is shown in Table 1. Then, they were asked to assess
their sexual/romantic orientation attraction and sexual activities
(sexual/romantic partners and masturbation). Finally, they com-
pleted the AIS and Sexual Desire Inventory (SDI).
Sex and Sexual and Romantic Orientation/Attraction
Participants were asked to select their sex from two options: men
and women. They were asked to select their sexual orientation from
fouroptions:heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, and asexual. Two
questions were asked to assess their sexual attraction: (1) ‘How
sexually attracted are you to men?’and (2)‘‘How sexually attracted
are you to women?’’These questions were answered using a 7-point
Likert scale that ranged from 1 (not at all) to 7 (very attracted).
The romantic orientation was answered based on four alterna-
tives: heteroromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, and aromantic.
Two questions were asked to assess romantic attraction: (1)‘‘How
romantically attracted are you to men?’’and (2)‘‘How romantically
attracted are you to women?’’ These questions were answered
using a 7-point Likert scale that ranged from 1 (not at all) to 7
(very attracted).
In consideration of the diversity of asexual people’s romantic
attraction, we analyzed the following four variables: sexual attrac-
tion to members of the same sex, sexual attraction to members of
the opposite sex, romantic attraction to members of the same sex,
and romantic attraction to members of the opposite sex.
Sexual Activities
We asked about the number of sexual and romantic partners and
the frequency of masturbation. The number of sexual partners was
identified using two questions: ‘‘Until now, the number of your
same sex sexual partners has been ___’’and‘Until now, the num-
ber of your opposite sex sexual partners has been ___.’’The num-
ber of romantic partners was identified using two questions:‘‘Until
now,thenumber of your same sex romantic partnershasbeen ___’
and‘‘Untilnow,the number of your oppositesexromantic partners
has been ___.’’ Participants chose from 21 options ranging from
‘0’’to‘‘20 or more,’’and the answers werecoded ranging from 0 to
20.
The frequency of masturbation was asked using the question:
‘Have you ever masturbated and how many times do you mastur-
bate on an average in a month?’ Participants selected from five
options:‘‘never’’to‘‘more than6 times.’’To analyze the frequency
of masturbation, these five options were coded as a continuous
variable ranging from 0 to 5.
Asexuality Identification Scale (AIS)
The AIS (Yule et al., 2015) is a brief, validated, and reliable self-
report scale to assess asexuality in research or clinical work, which
has been used in previous studies, and proved to be a useful tool to
distinguish asexuality from HSDD. The AIS is a 12-item ques-
tionnaire, and each item is rated on 5-point scales with responses
ranging from 1 to 5. The total AIS scores are the sum of scores on
the 12 items, and participants with scores C40 are likely to expe-
rience a lack of sexual attraction, that is to say, they are more likely
tobe self-identified asexual. Previous researchhas found this crite-
rion effective to identify asexu al persons.Therefore, in the present
study, the sample of asexual participants was selected based on the
AIS scores. In this study, the Cronbach’s alpha for the AIS was .95.
0
5
10
15
20
25
12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 30 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 58 60
Frequency
AIS
Uncertain asexuals
Heterosexuals
Asexuals
Fig. 1 Distribution of AIS score
among participants
Arch Sex Behav
123
Table 1 Demographic characteristics by group
Asexuals (AIS[40) Uncertain asexuals Heterosexuals
n=227 n=57 n=217
Age M (SD) (in years) 22.8 (4.1) 23.3 (5.3) 27.3 (5.3)
Sex N(%)
Male 64 (28.8) 26 (45.6) 115 (53.0)
Female 163 (71.8) 31 (54.4) 102 (47.0)
Self-reported sexual orientation N(%)
Heterosexual 9 (4.0) 14 (24.6) 217 (100)
Bisexual 14 (6.2) 8 (14.0) 0
Homosexual 5 (2.2) 14 (24.6) 0
Asexual 199 (87.7) 21 (36.8) 0
Self-reported romantic orientation N(%)
Homo- 32 (14.1) 16 (28.1) 2 (0.9)
Hetero- 72 (31.7) 25 (43.9) 208 (95.9)
Bi- 59 (26.0) 9 (15.8) 4 (1.8)
A- 64 (28.2) 7 (12.3) 3 (1.4)
Religion N(%)
Yes 39 (17.2) 13 (22.8) 33 (15.2)
No 188 (82.8) 44 (77.2) 184 (84.8)
Relationship status N(%)
Single 204 (89.9) 41 (71.9) 39 (18.0)
Dating with same sex 4 (1.8) 4 (7.0) 0
Dating with opposite sex 15 (6.6) 11 (19.3) 104 (47.9)
Married to opposite sex 4 (1.8) 1 (1.8) 74 (34.1)
Ethnicity N(%)
Han 208 (91.6) 53 (93.0) 208 (95.9)
Minorities 19 (8.4) 4 (7.0) 9 (4.1)
Education N(%)
Junior high school or lower 7 (3.0) 1 (1.8) 3 (1.4)
Senior high school 24 (10.6) 5 (8.8) 19 (8.8)
College 175 (77.1) 45 (78.9) 182 (83.9)
Postgraduate or higher 21 (9.2) 6 (10.6) 16 (7.4)
Income (monthly CHY) N(%)
No income 117 (51.5) 29 (50.9) 17 (7.8)
0–1000 7 (3.1) 3 (5.3) 9 (4.1)
1000–3000 33 (14.5) 7 (12.3) 22 (10.2)
3000–5000 38 (16.7) 5 (8.8) 55 (25.3)
5000–8000 17 (7.5) 6 (10.6) 71 (32.7)
8000–10,000 4 (1.8) 3 (5.3) 30 (13.8)
10,000 or more 11 (4.8) 4 (7.0) 13 (6.0)
Occupation N(%)
Student 120 (52.9) 28 (49.1) 28 (12.9)
Employed 98 (43.1) 26 (45.6) 183 (84.3)
Unemployed 9 (4.0) 3 (5.3) 6 (2.8)
Arch Sex Behav
123
Sexual Desire Inventory (SDI)
The SDI (Spector, Carey, & Steinberg, 1996) is a self-report scale
developed to assess sexual desire. Compared with previous mea-
sures of sexual desire that only ask participants to report their sex-
ual behavior or broadly rate their level of sexual desire, the SDI
uses 14 items to measure sexual desire by dividing it into two
aspects:Dyadic Sexual Desire (DSD) andSolitary Sexual Desire
(SSD). This makes the SDI more accurate in assessing anthropic
sexualdesire. Among the 14 items, Items1,2,10, and 14 are rated
on 8-point scales, with responses ranging from 0 (Not at all or
Always) to 7 (More than once a day or less than one day) and
Items 3–9, 11–13 are rated on 9-point scales, with responses
ranging from 0 (No desire, Not important at all, or Extremely low
desire) to 8 (Strong desire, Extremely important, or High desire).
The DSD and SSD scores are obtained by averaging Items 1–8
and Items 10–12, respectively (Items 9 and 13 did not assess the
level of sexual desire, but the perceived sexual desire compared
to peers, so they were eliminated in our calculation). Cronbach’s
alphas for DSD and SSD were .93 and .88, respectively.
The AIS and SDI were initially translated into Chinese by the
second author and were revised and checked by the first author.
The online questionnaire was presented in simplified Chinese.
Data Analysis
We compared the differences among the three groups in terms of
sexual activates, sexual and romantic attraction, sexual desire, and
AIS scores. Given that age was related to sexual experiences, age
was controlled for in the analyses of sexual experiences.
Since the asexual and uncertain asexual groups included all
homo-, hetero-, bi-, and asexual participants in terms of sexual and
romantic orientation and all the sexual group participants were
heterosexuals, it is meaningless to compare the group differences
in sexual/romantic partner and attraction separately for same sex
and opposite sex. Therefore, we combined the number of sexual
partners of the same and opposite sex as one variable called‘‘sexual
partner.’’Similarly, romantic partner,sexual attraction, and roman-
tic attraction were computed by combining the scores of the same
and opposite sex.
Results
Sexual/Romantic Experiences among Asexual
Participants
Among participants who volunteered as‘‘asexual,’’56% of uncer-
tain asexual participants, 20% of asexual participants, and 93% of
heterosexual participants reported having sexual experience (i.e.,
sexual partner[0),Kruskal–Wallis test v
2
(2) =234.96, p\.001;
and 67% of uncertain asexual participants, 41% of asexual par-
ticipants, and 95% of heterosexual participants reported having
romantic experience (i.e., romantic partner[0), Kruskal–Wallis
test v
2
(2) =149.42, p\.001. Among asexual participants, a
higher proportion of participants had romantic experience rather
thansexual experience (41% vs. 20.3%), McNemar’s testv
2
(1) =
28.21, p\.001.
We conducted a 2 (Sex) 93 (Group: Asexual, Uncertain asex-
ual, and Heterosexual) MANCOVA to assess the group differ-
ences in number of sexual and romantic partners controlling for
age. The MANCOVA yielded a significant main effect for group,
F(2, 494) =15.02, p\.001, partial g
2
=.057. There was also a
significant main effect for sex, F(1, 493) =3.91, p=.021, partial
g
2
=.016. Univariate tests were usedtoidentifythedifferences
among groups in sexual partners, F(2, 494) =11.07, p\.001, par-
tial g
2
=.043. Bonferroni post hoc analyses indicated that uncer-
tain asexual and heterosexual participants reported having more
sexual partners than asexual participants (d=0.55, p\.001;
d=0.58p=.002). Therewas no significantdifference in num-
ber of sexual partners between heterosexual and uncertain asex-
ual individuals. There were also significant differences in num-
ber of romantic partners among groups, F(2, 494) =12.56, p\.
001, partial g
2
=.048. Bonferroni post hoc analyses indicated
thatuncertain asexual and heterosexual participants reported hav-
ing more romantic partners than asexual participants did (d=
0.45, p=.002; d=0.55; p\.001). There was no significant dif-
ferencein number of sexual partnersbetween heterosexualand
uncertain asexual individuals. There was significantsex differ-
ence in number of sexual partners,F(1, 494) =7.84, p=.005, par-
tial g
2
=.016, with men having more sexual partners than women
(d=0.31). There was no significant sex difference in number
of romantic partners.
The distribution of masturbation experience by sexual identity
groups is shown in Fig. 2. In the current sample, 55.3% of asexual
participants, 80.7% uncertain asexual participants, and 72.7%
heterosexual participants had masturbated, Kruskal–Wallis test
v
2
(2) =20.37, p\.001. For the whole sample, 85.4% men and
52% women had masturbated, Mann–Whitney Utest v
2
(1) =
20,225,p\.001.We conducteda 2 (Sex) 93(Group) ANOVAto
assess the sexual identity differences in the frequency of mastur-
bation. The ANOVA yields a significant main effect for group,
F(2, 495) =10.14, p\.001, partial g
2
=.037. Bonferroni post hoc
analyses indicated that the frequency of masturbation among uncer-
tainasexual participants was significantly higher than among asex-
ual participants and heterosexual participants (M
uncertain asexual
=
2.93, SD =1.78; M
asexual
=1.59, SD =1.76; M
heterosexual
=1.95,
SD =1.66; d=0.76, 0.57, ps\.001). The frequency of mastur-
bation among heterosexual participants was significantly higher
than among asexual participants (d=0.21, p=.048). There was
also a significant main effect for sex, F(1, 495) =36.69, p\.001,
partial g
2
=.069. The frequency of masturbation among men was
signicantlyhigherthanamongwomen(M
men
=2.67, SD =1.69,
M
women
=1.36, SD =1.61, d=0.79).
Arch Sex Behav
123
Sexual Identity and Sexual/Romantic Attraction
Table 2shows the means and SDs of sexual and romantic attrac-
tion based on sexual identity and sex. We conducted a 2 (Sex) 93
(Group) MANOVA to assess the sexual identity differences in
sexual and romantic attraction. The MANOVA yielded a signif-
icant main effect for group, F(2, 495) =221.72, p\.001, partial
g
2
=.47. Univariate tests showed differences among groups in
romantic attraction, F(2, 495) =21.47, p\.001, partial g
2
=.08.
Bonferroniposthocanalyses indicated that heterosexual and
uncertain asexual participants scored higher on romantic attrac-
tion than asexual participants (d=0.66, p\.001; d=0.42, p=
.003). There was no significant difference in romantic attraction
between heterosexual and uncertain asexual participants. There
were also significant differences in sexual attraction amonggroups,
F(2, 495) =221.0, p\.001, partial g
2
=.47. Bonferroni post hoc
analyses indicated that heterosexual participants scored higher on
sexual attraction than uncertain asexual and asexual participants
did (d=0.40, p=.008; d=2.20, p\.001), and uncertain asexual
participants scored higher on sexual attraction than asexual par-
ticipants did (d=1.39, p\.001).
Table 3shows the correlations between sexual attraction and
romantic attraction. For all sexual identity groups, sexual attraction
was positively correlated with romantic attraction toward mem-
bers of the same sex and opposite sex. For heterosexual and uncer-
tain asexual participants, attraction toward members of the same
sex was negatively correlated with attraction to the opposite sex in
terms of both sexual and romantic attraction. For asexual partic-
ipants,attractionto same sex was positively correlated withattrac-
tion to opposite sex in terms of sexual, but not romantic attraction.
Sexual Desire
Table 2also shows the means and SDs of sexual desire based on
sexual identity and sex. We conducted a 2 (Sex) 93(Group)
MANOVA to assess the sexual identity differences in sexual
desire. The MANOVA yields a significant main effect for group,
F(2, 495) =710.04,p\.001, partialg
2
=.74.Univariate tests
identifieddifferencesamongthesexualidentitygroupsinDSD,
F(2, 495) =691.44, p\.001, partial g
2
=.74. Bonferroni post
hoc analyses indicated that heterosexual participants scored
higher on DSDthan uncertain asexualand asexual participants
(d=1.04, p\.001; d=4.11, p\.001) and uncertain asexual
participants scored higher on DSD than asexual participants
(d=1.92, p\.001). There was also significant differences in
SSD among groups, F(2, 495) =15.56, p\.001,partial g
2
=.06.
Bonferroniposthoc analyses indicated that heterosexual and
uncertain asexual participants scored higher on SSD than asexual
participants (d=0.56, p\.001; d=0.89, p\.001), but there
was no significant difference in SSD between heterosexual and
uncertain asexual participants. There was a significant main effect
for sex, F(1, 494) =10.83, p\.001, partial g
2
=.042. Men scored
significantly higher on both DSD and SSD than women (d=0.68,
0.62, ps\.001).
Categories of Romantic Attraction among Asexual
Participants
Among the 227 asexual participants, 14.1% (n=32) identified as
homoromantic, 31.7% (n=72) identified as heteroromantic,
26.0% (n=59) identified as biromantic, and 28.2% (n=64) iden-
tified as aromantic, one-sample chi-square test v
2
(3) =15.91, p=
.001. Table 4shows the means and SDs of sexual/romantic attrac-
tion, the AIS score, and sexual desire based on romantic orienta-
tionamong asexualparticipants.Weconducteda MANOVAto
examinethedifferences of romantic category in sexual attraction,
romantic attraction, AIS score, and sexual desire for asexual
participants.TheMANOVAyieldeda main effect forromantic
category,F(7, 219)=48.42, p\.001,partialg
2
=.61.Univari-
ate testsidentified differences among the romantic categoriesin
44.5
14.5
6.2
15.9
10.6
8.4
19.3
7
1.8
26.3 24.6
21.1
27.3
19.4
11.1
22.7
10.6 8.8
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
Never Less than 1
me
1 me 2-3 mes 4-6 mes more than 6
mes
% of masturbaon monthly
Frequency of masturbaon monthly
Asexual parcipants
Uncertain asexual parcipants
Heterosexual parcipants
Fig. 2 Distribution of
masturbation experience by
sexual identity groups
Arch Sex Behav
123
Table 3 Correlations among variables (r)
123456
1. AIS 1.00
2. Dyadic sexual desire -0.37*** (-.57***) -.61*** 1.00
3. Solitary sexual desire -0.24*** (.05) -.30*** 0.31*** (.20) .40*** 1.00
4. Sexual attraction to same sex -0.13 (.06) .15*** 0.17
**
(.27
*
)-.14
*
0.08 (.06) .06 1.00
5. Romantic attraction to same sex -0.09 (.06) .22*** 0.20
**
(.27
*
)-.20
**
0.19
**
(.20) .01 0.45*** (.64***) .67*** 1.00
6. Sexual attraction to opposite sex -0.30*** (-.47***) -.44*** 0.30*** (.27
*
).52*** -0.02 (-.11) .21
**
0.31*** (-.25
*
)-.30*** -0.03 (-.24) -.34*** 1.00
7. Romantic attraction to opposite sex -0.06 (-.33
*
)-.28*** 0.07 (-.03) .34*** 0.10 (-.14) .12 -0.07 (-.45***) -.12 0.06 (-.26
*
)-.25*** 0.32***(.58***)
.66***
Correlation coefficients of asexual participants are shown out of parentheses, and coefficients of uncertain asexual participants are shown in parentheses. Coefficients of heterosexual participants are
shown in bold. *p\.05, **p\.01, ***p\.001
Table 2 Means and SDs of dependent variables by sexual identity and sex
Asexual individuals Uncertain asexual individuals Heterosexual individuals Sexual identity Sex
Men Women Men Women Men Women Asexuals Uncertain asexuals Heterosexuals Men Women
n=64 n=163 n=26 n=31 n=115 n=102 n=227 n=57 n=217 n=205 n=296
M SD M SD M SD M SD M SD M SD M SD M SD M SD M SD M SD
Dyadic sexual desire
a
0.81 0.97 0.37 0.54 3.52 2.32 3.17 1.62 5.48 1.25 4.70 1.49 0.50 0.71 3.33 1.96 5.11 1.42 3.77 2.49 2.16 2.30
Solitary sexual desire
b
2.67 2.24 1.40 1.87 3.46 1.96 3.53 1.82 3.41 1.85 2.31 2.00 1.76 2.05 3.50 1.87 2.89 2.00 3.19 2.01 1.94 2.02
Sexual partners
c
0.72 2.71 0.42 1.22 3.35 6.34 1.58 1.98 2.40 4.47 1.72 1.34 0.50 1.77 2.39 4.57 2.08 3.39 2.00 4.38 0.99 1.49
Romantic partners
c
0.84 1.48 1.18 2.13 3.04 4.36 1.81 2.52 2.66 3.61 2.24 1.95 1.08 1.97 2.37 3.5 2.46 2.95 2.14 3.33 1.61 2.16
Sexual attraction
d
2.05 1.08 1.93 1.07 3.50 1.12 3.50 1.24 3.93 0.62 3.90 0.68 1.96 1.07 3.50 1.18 3.91 0.65 3.29 1.20 2.77 1.35
Romantic attraction
d
3.09 1.27 3.16 1.39 3.62 1.32 3.74 1.26 3.77 0.75 3.92 0.65 3.14 1.35 3.68 1.28 3.84 0.71 3.53 1.06 3.48 1.22
a
Absolute range, 0–7.75
b
Absolute range, 0–7.67
c
Absolute range, 0–40
d
Absolute range, 1–7
Arch Sex Behav
123
romantic attraction to the opposite sex, F(3, 223) =39.63, p\
.001, partial g
2
=.348. Bonferroni post hoc analyses revealed that
heteroromantic and biromantic participants scored higher on
romantic attraction to the opposite sex than homoromantic and
aromantic participants did (ps\.001).
There was a significant difference in sexual attraction to the
opposite sex, F(3, 223) =7.17, p\.001, partial g
2
=.088. Bon-
ferroni post hoc analyses revealed that heteroromantic partici-
pants scored higher on sexual attraction measure to the opposite
sex than the other three groups did (ps\.05). There was a signi-
ficant difference in romantic attraction to the same sex, F(3,
223) =56.91, p\.001, partial g
2
=.43. Bonferroni post hoc anal-
yses revealed that homoromantic participants scored higher on
romantic attraction measure to the same sex than the other three
groups did (ps\.001), and biromantic participants scored higher
on romantic attraction measure to the same sex than heteroroman-
tic and aromantic groups did (ps\.001). There was a significant
difference in sexual attraction to the same sex, F(3, 223) =8.96,
p\.001, partial g
2
=.11. Bonferroni post hoc analyses revealed
that homoromantic participants scored higher on sexual attraction
measure to the same sex than heteroromantic and aromantic groups
(ps\.01), and biromantic participants scored higher on sexual
attraction measure to the same sex than the heteroromantic and aro-
mantic groups (p\.05). There was a significant difference in DSD
among the romantic categories, F(3, 223) =3.41, p=.018, partial
g
2
=.044. Bonferroni post hoc analyses revealed that homoro-
mantic participants scored higher on DSD than the other three
groups did (ps\.05). There were no significant differences in
the AIS score and SSD among the romantic categories.
Table 4also shows the masturbation, sexual, and romantic expe-
riences based on the romantic categories. A higher proportion of
homoromantic participants reported having masturbation experi-
ence than the other groups, Kruskal–Wallis test v
2
(3) =8.82, p=
.032. There was no significant difference in sexual experience
among the romantic categories, Kruskal–Wallis test v
2
(3) =3.54,
p=.32. There was a significant difference in romantic experience
among romantic categories, Kruskal–Wallis test v
2
(3) =32.00, p\
.001. A majority of biromantic participants (64.4%) and a small
Table 4 Distributions of sexual activities and means and SDs of AIS, sexual desire, and sexual/romantic attraction by romantic categories among
asexual participants
Heteroromantic Biromantic Homoromantic Aromantic
n=72 n=59 n=32 n=64
M SD M SD M SD M SD
AIS
a
45.49 11.43 47.85 9.26 44.58 10.20 48.94 8.80
Dyadic sexual desire
b
9.19 12.99 6.79 11.66 14.60 15.82 5.15 8.18
Solitary sexual desire
c
5.51 6.64 7.04 6.57 8.46 6.05 5.34 5.80
Sexual attraction to same sex
d
1.43 0.87 2.10 1.41 2.78 1.75 1.91 1.20
Romantic attraction to same sex
d
1.82 1.21 3.80 1.71 5.22 1.39 2.13 1.34
Sexual attraction to opposite sex
d
2.51 1.62 1.75 0.96 1.41 0.80 1.92 1.25
Romantic attraction to opposite sex
d
4.56 1.65 3.97 1.68 1.94 1.22 2.23 1.28
Masturbation (monthly) N%N%N%N%
Never 40 55.6 24 40.7 8 25.0 29 45.3
Less than 1 time 10 13.9 8 13.6 6 18.8 9 14.1
1 time 2 2.8 8 13.6 2 6.3 2 3.1
2–3 times 9 12.5 10 16.9 5 15.6 12 18.8
4–6 times 5 6.9 6 10.2 6 18.8 7 10.9
More than 6 times 6 8.3 3 5.1 5 15.6 5 7.8
Sexual experience N%N%N%N%
Yes 18 25.0 13 22.0 7 21.9 8 22.5
No 54 75.0 46 78.0 25 78.1 56 87.5
Romantic experience N%N%N%N%
Yes 34 47.2 38 64.4 11 34.4 10 15.6
No 38 52.8 21 35.6 21 65.6 54 84.4
a
Absolute range, 12–60
b
Absolute range, 0–7.75
c
Absolute range, 0–7.67
d
Absolute range, 1–7
Arch Sex Behav
123
number of aromantic participants (15.6%) reported having roman-
tic experience.
Discussion
This study examined patterns of asexuality in China in terms of sex-
ual activity, asexual/romantic attraction, and sexual desire. The re-
sults indicated that asexual participants scored lower on sexual
attraction and DSD than heterosexual participants. However,
asexualparticipantsreported havinghigherromanticattraction
compared to sexual attraction. Meanwhile, more than half of
the asexual participants reported engaging in masturbation at
least monthly. Taken together, the pattern of results indicates that
asexual participants generally have little or lack sexual attraction,
butnot romantic attraction. The results are consistent with previous
findings based on Western samples (Aicken et al., 2013; Bogaert,
2004; Brotto et al., 2010,2015; Brotto & Yule, 2011), which
implied that asexuality refers to the lack of sexual attraction.
In Bogaert’s (2004) initial empirical report of asexuality, asex-
ualindividuals selected‘‘I have never felt sexually attracted to any-
one at all’’on a forced-choice question. Now,‘‘lack of sexual
attraction’’isthegenerallyaccepteddefinition (AVEN). However,
when asexuality was defined by self-identification, only 17 (41.5%)
of 41 asexual participants indicated that they had exper ienced
noattractionto men or women(Prause& Graham, 2007).How-
ever, no studies have directly assessed sexual attraction of
asexual individuals. This is the firststudy that assessed sexual
attractionof asexualparticipants and found lower mean scores
ofsexualattraction(M=1.96,SD =1.07) amongasexualindi-
viduals with AIS C40, which was suggested as the asexual
identification cutoff (Yule et al., 2015). It indicated that not all
self-identified or AIS C40 asexual participants experience no
sexual attraction. Therefore, an alternative definition of asex-
uality includes‘people who experience little or no sexual attrac-
tion’’ (Hinderliter, 2009). This alternative definition should be
explored in the future with more empirical evidence.
Although asexual people were documented as having little or
lacking sexual attraction, a majority of them reported having mas-
turbation and sexual fantasy experiences (Bogaert, 2013;Brotto
et al., 2010; Poston & Baumle, 2010;Yuleetal.,2014a,2017). In
the current asexual sample, more than half of the asexual partici-
pants had masturbation experience. It indicates that asexual peo-
ple engaged in masturbation in both Western and Chinese con-
texts, although the proportion of asexual people engaging in mas-
turbation was lower than in the Western samples (Brotto et al.,
2010). Compared to heterosexual people, the proportion of asex-
ual participant’s masturbated at rates less than heterosexual par-
ticipants, which is consistent with the findings of previous studies
(Bogaert, 2012b,2013;Yuleetal.,2014a). Other studies found
that asexual women and men masturbate at frequencies similar to
sexual women and men (Brotto et al., 2010; Poston & Baumle,
2010).Therefore, the inconsistency may be related to thedifference
in the samples. Nevertheless, it indicated that masturbation is
common among asexual people in various cultures.
In this study, asexual participants reported having significantly
lower DSD than heterosexual participants did, which is consistent
with previous findings (Brotto & Yule, 2011;Prause&Graham,
2007). However, in previous studies, asexualparticipantsreported
havinga similar level of SSDto sexual participants (Brotto &
Yule, 2011); asexual participants reported a slightly lower SSD
than sexual participants. Taken together, asexual individuals lack
DSD, but not SSD. There may be diffuse feelings of lust, with no
particular direction or connection to others (Bogaert, 2012b,2015;
Brotto & Yule, 2017). These findings suggest that asexual individ-
uals possess a non-partner-oriented sexual desire.
InDSM-5, paraphilic interest is defined as‘‘anyintenseandper-
sistent sexual interest other than sexual interest in genital stimula-
tion or preparatory fondling with phenotypically normal, physi-
ologically mature, consenting human partners.’’Previous studies
indicated that there may be some overlap between asexuality and
certain types of paraphilic interest, such as target-aroused or self-
aroused (Bogaert, 2012a). Specifically, Bogaert defined som e
forms of asexuality as an‘‘identity-less sexuality,’’such that, while
there is usually a sense of self within one’s sexual fantasies, an
‘identity-less’individual may lack a sense of identity as the
protagonist within a sexual fantasy. Some asexual individu-
als’ sexual desire may not be aroused by sexual stimulus with a
partner due to the lack of DSD. That is, some asexual indi-
viduals may also be less likely to be aroused by sexual
activities with a partner. Meanwhile, they may be aroused by
themselves or other targets. Some evidence shows that asex-
ual participants were significantly more likely to fantasize
about scenes that did not involve themselves or any human
person compared to sexual participants (Ginoza et al., 2014;
Yule et al., 2014a). Therefore, the absence of DSD indirectly
supports the ‘‘identity-less’’ theory. Further studies should
explore the pattern of sexual fantasy in Chinese asexual
people to test whether it is consistent with the hypothesis of the
‘identity-less’theory.
Previous studies indicated that sexual attraction and romantic
attraction are functionally independent (e.g., Diamond, 2003).
Although asexual people have a lack of or less sexual attraction,
many asexual people evince romantic attraction (Bogaert, 2004,
2012a,b,2015). Inthe current sample, 72% of asexual participants
reported having a romantic inclination to men, women, or both.
This is consistent with previous findings that the absence of sexual
attraction does not imply the absence of romantic attraction. How-
ever, the patterns of sexual and romantic attraction exhibited a dif-
ferentand complicated profile. Romantic attraction was positively
correlated with sexual attraction for members of the same and
opposite sex; heterosexual participants reported a similar pattern.
Furthermore, individuals romantically attracted to men, women,
orboth also scored higher on sexual attractiontothe corresponding
sex. These findings imply that some asexual people may tend to
categorize their romantic orientation following their stronger sex-
Arch Sex Behav
123
ual attraction to men, women, or both. However, the differences in
sexual attraction among asexual people did not conflict with the
definition of asexuality; it reflects a little sexual attraction among
some asexual people.
In addition, sexual and romantic attraction toward the same and
opposite sex exhibited different patterns among sexual and asex-
ual people. In heterosexual and uncertain asexual individuals, sex-
ual attraction to the same sex was negatively correlated with that to
the opposite sex, which suggests that those groups primarily show
heterosexual patterns of sexual attractions but not bisexual pat-
terns. In asexual individuals, sexual attraction to the same sex was
positively correlated with that to the opposite sex, which suggests
that a large proportion of asexual people show either a bisexual
pattern or no attraction to anyone, indicating that a certain factors
might be related to the covariance. There was no significant cor-
relation between romantic attraction to the same sex and opposite
sex,whichsuggests a diverse spread of romantic orientations, indi-
cating dependent romantic attraction to the same and opposite
sexes among asexual people.
Considering heterogeneity in terms of self-identification with
asexuality, romantic orientation, and gender, Chasin (2011) argued
that the asexual community was apparently heterogeneous and that
subcategories (e.g., straight asexual person and gay/lesbian asexual
person) should not be described by the same set of characteristics or
theories. We also found group differences in sexual activities
and DSD among romantic categories; homoromantic partici-
pants showed higher DSD and were likely to masturbate. This
indicated the heterogeneity in sexual experiences and DSD
among romantic categories. Further research should focus on
the heterogeneity of romantic categories because it would con-
tribute to understanding of asexuality.
The AIS is a validated measurement of asexuality in the Chi-
nese culture. In this study, we used the AIS C40 cutoff as the cri-
terion of asexuality. The cutoff score was found to identify 90% of
self-identified asexual participants, which was similar to the iden-
tification power in the original sample (93%, Yule et al., 2015).
These findings suggest that the AIS is a useful tool for identifying
asexuality in various cultures.
In the current study, among the 284 participants recruited from
asexual social networks, 57 (20.1%) were classified as uncertain
asexual. The pattern of uncertain asexual individuals was inter-
mediate between asexual and heterosexual individuals in terms of
sexual/romantic attraction and sexual desire. This pattern is con-
sistent with that of gray-asexuality, which refers to‘‘someone who
identifies with the area between asexuality and sexuality’’(AVEN).
In an online survey of asexuality, among 362 participants (45.6%
were from Taiwan, 46.1% were from Mainland China, and others
from other countries and regions), 26.5% self-identified with gray-
asexuality (China Asexuality Social Network, 2015), which is sim-
ilar to the proportion of uncertain asexual persons in our study.
Therefore, it is possible that some of the uncertain asexual partici-
pantsin our study may identifywith gray-asexuality. Unfortunately,
we did not assess gray-asexuality, and this should be considered in
further studies. In addition, in the China Asexuality Social Network
survey (2015), 12.2% participants self-identified as demisexual,
which refers to‘‘someone who can only experience sexual attraction
after an emotional bond has been formed’’(AVEN). Demisexuality
should also be considered in further studies to understand asex-
uality.
More women than men reported being asexual.Among the 227
asexualparticipantsin this study, 163 (71.8%) ofthemwerewomen,
which is consistent with the proportion of women in other surveys
based on Western samples (e.g., Bogaert, 2004;Brottoetal.,2010;
Yule et al., 2015,2017). Bogaert (2004,2012b,2013,2015)has
proposed several possibilities for this gender difference in asexu-
ality. First, higher frequency of masturbation in menmay serve as an
incentive for the development of sexual attraction to others via
sexual fantasies and pornography. Second, the flexibility of
women’s sexuality might increase the likelihood of asexuality
if life circumstances are atypicalor not conducive to traditional
sexualization. Third, traditional, target-oriented questions of sex-
ual orientation do not address some women’s subjective expe-
rience of sexuality. In addition, sex differences in sexual expe-
riences andsexual desire amongasexual participantsexhibited
a similar pattern in heterosexual participants, with men reporting
more sexual experiences and higher sexual desire than women
did.
In sum, our findings indicated that asexual people had fewer sex-
ual experiences, lower sexual and romantic attraction, and lower
DSDcomparedtosexualpeople,whichisconsistentwithfindingin
Western samples (Bogaert, 2013;Brottoetal.,2010;Brotto&
Yule, 2011;Poston & Baumle, 2010;Prause & Graham, 2007).
This implies that similar mechanisms underlie the etiology of
asexuality across cultures. Lower sexual attraction among asex-
ual participants indicated that‘‘people who experience little or no
sexual attraction’’would be a more appropriate definition of asex-
uality. It would be helpful to understand this issue to examine the
consistency of biological markers of asexuality across cultures in
further studies.
There were several limitations in this study. First, the hetero-
sexual participants did not match with the asexual participants in
some demographic characteristics. For example, the heterosexual
participants were older than the asexual participants, and most of
them were married. Second, all participants in the control group
were heterosexual individuals; it would be appropriate to compare
asexuals with homosexual or bisexual individuals in future stud-
ies. Third, we did not examine sexual fantasy in the study; further
studies should examine sexual fantasy in non-Western samples to
test the‘identity-less’theory of asexuality.
Conclusion
This study examined the patterns of asexuality in Chinese people
in terms of sexual activities, sexual and romantic attraction, and
sexual desire. We found that asexual participants reported mas-
turbating less, had fewer sexual experiences, and lower levels of
Arch Sex Behav
123
sexual and romantic attraction compared to heterosexual partici-
pants, indicating that the current definition of asexuality as having
little or lacking sexual attraction applies to the Chinese asexual
population. Further, asexual participants reported having signifi-
cantly lower DSDand slightly lower SSD compared to hetero-
sexual participants, indicating a non-partner-orientated sexual
desire.The differences inthe sexual activitiesand sexual desire
among romantic categories suggest heterogeneity among the
asexual population. The findings implied the potential sim ilar
mechanisms underlietheetiologyof asexualityacross cultures.
Acknowledgements This research is supported by the Fundamental Re-
search Funds for the Central Universities (SWU1709244).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest The authors d eclare that they have no conflict of inter-
est.
Ethical approval All procedures performed in studies involving human
participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional
and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration
and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent Informed consen t was obtained from all individual par-
ticipants included in the study.
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... Asexuality is broadly defined as a quality whereby people experience little or no sexual attraction (Bogaert, 2004(Bogaert, , 2006Brotto et al., 2015;Hinderliter, 2009). An empirical study revealed that asexual people reported significantly lower sexual attraction than heterosexual people (d = 2.2, Zheng & Su, 2018). Similarly, asexual individuals have reported fewer sexual partners and less frequent sexual activity than heterosexual individuals (Bogaert, 2004;Zheng & Su, 2018). ...
... An empirical study revealed that asexual people reported significantly lower sexual attraction than heterosexual people (d = 2.2, Zheng & Su, 2018). Similarly, asexual individuals have reported fewer sexual partners and less frequent sexual activity than heterosexual individuals (Bogaert, 2004;Zheng & Su, 2018). However, the majority of asexual individuals also experience romantic attraction or affection (Antonsen et al., 2020;Bogaert, 2006Bogaert, , 2015Zheng & Su, 2018). ...
... Similarly, asexual individuals have reported fewer sexual partners and less frequent sexual activity than heterosexual individuals (Bogaert, 2004;Zheng & Su, 2018). However, the majority of asexual individuals also experience romantic attraction or affection (Antonsen et al., 2020;Bogaert, 2006Bogaert, , 2015Zheng & Su, 2018). There are four main categories of romantic orientations: heteroromantic, homoromantic, aromantic, and biromantic (Brotto et al., 2010). ...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined the stability and change in asexuality in terms of sexual orientation identity, sexual/romantic attraction, and sexual desire. Data were collected in three waves at 12-month intervals (n = 168). In each wave, the participants completed measures of sexual/romantic orientation identity, sexual/romantic attraction, the Sexual Desire Inventory, and the Asexuality Identification Scale (AIS). Approximately 83% of asexual and gray-asexual individuals maintain their sexual orientation identity between two adjacent waves. The latent growth models indicated an increased tendency for sexual/romantic attraction and solitary sexual desire, while a decreased tendency for AIS over time was established. Only the sexual attraction slope significantly predicted asexual identity, indicating a longitudinal effect of sexual attraction on asexual identification. Initial levels of sexual attraction, and scores on the AIS and dyadic sexual desire (DSD) were associated with stability and changes in asexual identity. Asexual individuals who reported low sexual attraction, low DSD, and high AIS maintained their asexual identity, whereas those who reported high sexual attraction, high DSD, and low AIS were more likely to change their sexual orientation. The current findings indicate the relative stability of asexuality, which supports the notion that asexuality could be deemed a fourth sexual orientation.
... Between two-thirds and three-quarters of asexuals report experiences of romantic attraction and wish to be in a romantic relationship, perceiving that there are non-sexual benefits of partnership for themselves. The other one-quarter to onethird identify as "aromantic" and are not interested in being in a romantic relationship (Ginoza et al., 2014;Zheng & Su, 2018). Furthermore, 27% have had sexual intercourse with at least one partner, despite a lack of attraction (Brotto et al., 2010). ...
... Expressions of romantic attraction varied in our sample, which is not surprising given research showing a wide range of romantic orientations among asexually identified persons, from fully romantic identified to completely aromantic (i.e., not desiring or wanting a romantic, non-sexual relationship) (Ginoza et al., 2014;Strunz et al., 2017;Zheng & Su, 2018). For example, one recent large study of romanticism among asexuals found that 74% of participants who identified as asexual also reported a romantic attraction and, among them, their romantic attractions were expressed in diverse ways (Antonsen et al., 2020). ...
... One participant reported endorsing the asexual label only because of her lack of romantic attraction or interest; others included lack of romantic attraction in addition to providing other reasons for their adopting an asexual identity; and still others did not refer to romantic attraction at all. The proportion of asexuals in the general population who identify as aromantic ranges between one quarter and one-third (Antonsen et al., 2020;Ginoza et al., 2014;Zheng & Su, 2018). In our sample, just under one-third (29.4%) of those who identified as asexual also identified as lacking romantic attraction, compared to less than 1% of the HF-ASD sample who identified as sexual. ...
Article
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Researchers have suggested that asexuality, which has been conceptualized traditionally as a persistent lack of sexual attraction to others, may be more common among individuals with autism spectrum disorder than in the neurotypical population. However, no studies to date have considered how these individuals understand and conceptualize their sexual identity. The aim of this study was to provide a more nuanced understanding of asexuality among individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HF-ASD) than has been done in the past. Individuals with ASD, 21–72 years old (M = 34.04 years, SD = 10.53), were recruited from online communities that serve adults with ASD and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to complete an online survey of sexual and gender identity. Overall, 17 (5.1%) participants who met study criteria (N = 332) self-identified as asexual. However, 9 of the 17 people identifying as asexual expressed at least some sexual attraction to others. In addition, based on open-ended responses, some participants linked their asexual identity more with a lack of desire or perceived skill to engage in interpersonal relations than a lack of sexual attraction. Results suggest that researchers should be cautious in attributing higher rates of asexuality among individuals with ASD than in the general population to a narrow explanation and that both researchers and professionals working with individuals with ASD should consider multiple questions or approaches to accurately assess sexual identity.
... Due to different biases and cultural influences, a not entirely accurate concept of sexuality in older people has been promoted (Bauer et al., 2013;Bender et al., 2020;Fileborn et al., 2017;Freak-Poli et al., 2017;Schensul et al., 2018;Villar et al., 2014) that may have led to some false beliefs and stereotypes (Table 2). They do not have the physiological capacity to engage in affective expression and sexual behaviour They do not have sexual interests Those who are interested in sexuality are either perverse, immature or ill Procreation is the only purpose of sexual life and therefore it makes no sense at this age Sexual activity is bad for older adults' health Pathological sexual manifestations and deviations are more frequent at this age Older men can have sexual interests but older women cannot Alterations in the body lead to a lack of attraction, interest and desire It is indecent and in bad taste for older people to express sexual interests They are not desirable, have no sexual desire and are not sexually capable Sexual desires should not be expressed, it is a sign of a psychic pathology or a lack of ethics All older people are impotent, have low desire and anorgasmia One of the most common misconceptions is that they are considered uninterested in sexuality (Fileborn et al., 2017;Freak-Poli et al., 2017;Roney and Kazer, 2015), with a lack of sexual activity or behaviours, in conjunction with low sexual arousal and low interest in the sexual domain (Yule et al., 2015;Zheng and Su, 2018). This perception is widespread across different age groups, including older people (Hinchliff et al., 2021;Roney and Kazer, 2015;Taylor and Gosney, 2011). ...
... This belief may be related to the increased presence of sexual dysfunction at this age (Yule et al., 2015;Lochlainn and Kenny, 2013;Roney and Kazer, 2015;Taylor and Gosney, 2011), however, it cannot be concluded that at this stage all people have a lack of sex drive or sexual attraction to other people (Yule et al., 2015;Zheng and Su, 2018). ...
... Further, 22% identified as heteroromantic, 32.2% as biromantic or panromantic, 5.1% as homoromantic, and 21.7% as other. Zheng and Su (2018) found discordant orientations in the majority of their asexual participants (n = 227), with 31.7% identifying as heteroromantic, 14.1% homoromantic, and 26.0% biromantic. ...
... As predicted, asexual people in our sample reported more discordant orientations; thus, supporting previous research that discordant orientations are more common among asexual people (e.g., Antonsen et al., 2020;Brotto et al., 2010;Ginoza et al., 2014;Scherrer, 2008;Zheng & Su, 2018). That is, asexual people may identify with discordant orientations in an effort to understand their attractions based on the romantic feelings they do have instead of the sexual feelings they lack. ...
Article
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Sexual and romantic orientations are often considered one and the same, and attitudes about engaging in sexual behavior are assumed to be predominantly positive. The current study explored the concordance between sexual and romantic orientations among allosexual and asexual adults as well as the frequency with which they identify as having a sex-positive, sex-neutral, or sex-averse attitude. As expected, allosexual adults were largely sex-positive (82%) and almost all (89%) had a romantic orientation that matched their sexual orientation. In contrast, we found that only 37% of asexual adults had concordant sexual and romantic orientations and that most asexual adults self-identify as either sex-neutral (41%) or sex-averse (54%). Further, we used a semantic differential task to assess sexual intimacy attitudes and how they varied for adults based on sexual attitude. Asexual adults, regardless of sexual attitude, had less positive attitudes overall than allosexual adults. Interestingly, aromantic asexual adults did not have more negative attitudes about sexual intimacy than romantic asexual participants. Although asexual adults held less positive attitudes about sex than allosexual adults, there was considerable heterogeneity within our asexual sample. The current study provides further insight into the concordance between romantic and sexual orientation, and the associations among sexual and intimacy attitudes for both allosexual and asexual adults. These findings will have implications for future research on how asexual adults navigate romantic relationships.
... For example, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) was originally created in 2001 and has since then worked to increase awareness and acceptance of asexual individuals. Likewise, asexuality has gained interest from academics and professionals (e.g., Carvalho & Rodrigues, 2021;Flanagan & Peters, 2020, Antonsen et al., 2020Rothblum et al., 2020;Zheng & Su, 2018;Greaves et al., 2021). And yet, asexuality remains one of the least studied and least understood sexual identities (for a discussion, see Van Houdenhove et al., 2014;Cranney, 2016). ...
... Indeed, researchers often use sexual desire, sexual functioning, or sex disgust premises to approach the asexuality construct and illustrate the experiences of individuals in the ace community (e.g., Bogaert, 2004Bogaert, , 2015Brotto et al., 2010;Brotto & Yule, 2011Yule et al., 2015;Zheng & Su, 2018). This approach assumes that the asexual community is a homogenous group (MacNeela & Murphy, 2015), when in fact individuals within the community have started to use the broader term "ace" to be inclusive of their experiences (Chasin, 2013). ...
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Asexuality is typically defined as a lack of sexual attraction, not representing the multitude of experiences in the ace community. To understand the complex ace identity, we explored the correlates cognitions, feelings, and desires of ace individuals. Results of a cross-sectional study (N = 447, 61.8% women; Mage = 24.62, SD = 6.98) showed that endorsing asexuality as a lack of sexual desire was associated with less experience with romantic partners, more experience with intimate affective relationships, more sex averse attitudes, and avoidant attachment. Sexual attraction was associated with more experience with romantic partners, less experience with intimate romantic and affective relationships, and more sex favorable attitudes. Romantic attraction was associated with more experience with romantic partners, less experience with intimate romantic relationships, and anxious attachment. Desire to establish intimate romantic relationships was associated with more experience with romantic partners, more sex favorable attitudes, and anxious attachment. Lastly, desire to establish intimate affective relationships was associated with more experience with affective relationships and anxious attachment. This study highlights the need to acknowledge diversity within the ace community by showing the importance of past experiences and individual differences in shaping the way ace individuals construe their identity and their relationships.
... Asexuality may be generally understood as the absence of sexual attraction 31,32 . In our study, 1.1% of participants reported not having felt sexual attraction before, whereas 4.5% do not feel sexual attraction, but have felt before. ...
Article
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Asexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (ALGBT) individuals face worse life conditions and violence rates than their heterosexual cisgender counterparts. Brazil is often highlighted for having one of the highest rates of hate-related homicides against ALGBTs in the world. However, to date, Brazil’s ALGBT population has not been investigated with a representative sample, and basic information such as population size or sociodemographic characteristics are mostly based in non-systematic data. We aimed to assess the proportion of asexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and non-binary adults in Brazil, their sociodemographic characteristics, and self-reported violence rates. In 2018, a sample (n = 6000) of the Brazilian adult population answered a face-to-face survey assessing sociodemographic characteristics, gender identity, sexual orientation, and self-reported psychological, physical, verbal, and sexual violence. Among Brazilian adults, 12.04% are ALGBT: 5.76% asexual, 0.93% lesbian, 1.37% gay, 2.12% bisexual, 0.68 trans, and 1.18% non-binary. Compared to heterosexual cisgender men, most ALGBT individuals have worse socioeconomic indicators and higher rates of self-reported psychological and verbal violence. All ALGBT groups and heterosexual cisgender women reported sexual violence more often than heterosexual cisgender men. It was reported between 4 up to 25 times more often by heterosexual cisgender women and trans individuals, respectively. The rates of the other ALGBT groups sit among the two. Our findings provide evidence of the important size of the ALGBT Brazilian population, as well as their socioeconomic vulnerability, and concerning violence levels experienced by the group. Policy makers may refer to the present article in order to mitigate this population’s vulnerability and to better understand its sociodemographic characteristics.
... Aligned with this reasoning, research showed that romantic (vs. aromantic) asexual individuals have greater sexual attraction for others (Zheng & Su, 2018), are more likely to be in a relationship, had more romantic and sexual partners in the past, have more dyadic sexual desire, and kiss their partners more often (Antonsen et al., 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
Asexuality is a complex construct with a considerable lack of research until recently. Building upon available findings, we examined the extent to which romantic orientation shapes individual and relationship experiences, and expectations of asexual individuals. Specifically, our research focused on the distinction between romantic asexual individuals, who experience romantic attraction, and aromantic asexual individuals, who do not experience romantic attraction. A cross-sectional study with members of different asexual online communities (N = 447, 55.02% women; Mage = 24.77 years, SD = 7.21) aimed at examining how both groups differ in their identification with the asexuality construct as measured by the Asexuality Identification Scale (Yule et al., 2017), individual perspectives on sexuality, sexual behavior and relationships, concerns about commitment and sexual performance in a relationship, and attachment style. Results showed that aromantic asexual individuals identified more with asexuality, reported a more avoidant attachment style, and were more concerned with relationship commitment. In contrast, romantic asexual individuals reported less sex aversion, more sexual experiences (both past and current), and more sexual partners in the past. These individuals also engaged in romantic relationships more frequently in the past, had a stronger desire to engage in a romantic relationship in future (either with or without sexual intimacy), and were more concerned with sexual performance. Overall, our findings contribute to the literature by highlighting the need to consider romantic orientation when examining asexuality and its interpersonal outcomes.
... Participants answered several questions from the Asexuality Identification Scale (AIS; Yule, Brotto & Gorzalka, 2015), which has shown good reliability in follow-up research (Zheng & Su, 2018). The AIS asks questions such as "I lack interest in sexual activity" and, "The thought of sexual activity repulses me", on a scale from 1 (Strongly Agree) to 7 (Strongly Disagree). ...
Thesis
Engineers have begun creating robots that look and act human, with the aim of maximizing the likability of real-life robot partners for friendship and sex. In science fiction, robots often look and act human, and these robot characters usually develop interpersonal relationships with human characters. Researchers have begun creating robots like those depicted in science fiction, gauging the beliefs of participants to maximize the likability of robot partners in real life. This thesis explored how today’s Canadian undergraduates view robots, and if they would want to have a robot as a friend, or to have sex with a robot. I measured participant Robosexuality, or participant interest in having sex with a robot, and Robofriendship, or participant interest in having a robot friend. I also measured how sociosexual orientation, social dominance orientation, hostile sexism, and gender relate to Robosexuality and Robofriendship, including a mediation that examined if men are more sexist than women, and if this sexism explain men’s higher Robosexuality. Participants varied widely in their expressed interest in close relationships with robots, with almost flat distributions across both scales. Sociosexual orientation, social dominance orientation, gender, and hostile sexism all predicted Robosexuality, but only hostile sexism predicted Robofriendship. Results from the mediation showed that hostile sexism partially explained the relation between gender and Robosexuality. I conclude by discussing the limitations and future directions for this research.
... Aligned with this reasoning, research showed that romantic (vs. aromantic) asexual individuals indicated greater sexual attraction for others (Zheng & Su, 2018), were more likely to be in a relationship, had more romantic and sexual partners in the past, had more dyadic sexual desire, and kissed their partners more often (Antonsen et al., 2020). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Asexuality is a complex construct with a considerable lack of research until recently. Building upon available findings, we examined the extent to which romantic orientation shapes individual and relationship experiences and expectations of asexual individuals. Specifically, our research focused on the distinction between romantic asexual individuals, who experience romantic attraction, and aromantic asexual individuals, who do not experience romantic attraction. A cross-sectional study with members of different asexual online communities (N = 447, 55.02% women; Mage = 24.77, SD = 7.21) aimed at examining how both groups differ in their identification with the asexuality construct as measured by the Asexuality Identification Scale (Yule et al., 2015), individual perspectives on sexuality, sexual behavior and relationships, concerns about commitment and sexual performance in a relationship, and attachment style. Results showed that aromantic asexual individuals identified more with asexuality, reported a more avoidant attachment style, and were more concerned with relationship commitment. In contrast, romantic asexual individuals reported less sex aversion, more sexual experiences (both past and current), and more sexual partners in the past. These individuals also indicated to have engaged in romantic relationships more frequently, desire to engage in romantic relationship in the future (either with or without sexual intimacy), and were more concerned with sexual performance. Overall, our findings contribute to the literature by highlighting the need to consider romantic orientation when examining asexuality and its interpersonal outcomes.
Article
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Research on asexuality as a part of the experience of human sexuality has increased over the last two decades. However, there has not yet been a systematic review of the extant literature on asexuality. This paper aims to provide a systematic scoping review of literature on asexuality with articles published in 2004 through August 2021. After a systematic search procedure, 48 studies were included. A codebook was developed to extract broad information about the literature on asexuality, including sampling techniques, research participant sociodemographics, and conceptualization of asexuality. Results of the review indicate that the research is currently split between qualitative and quantitative methods. The literature primarily relied on convenience sampling within asexual online communities. The primary online community was Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), which may have contributed to the majority of participants being White, presumptively cisgender, women between the ages of 20–30. Analysis of the overall literature scope demonstrates no support for asexuality as a medical condition (i.e., a disorder requiring treatment) and instead supports the need to recognize asexuality as a complex identity and sexual orientation. Implications for research are discussed, such as the need for additional research on the topic of human sexuality that includes asexuality as a sexual orientation as well as the need for more intersectional research within the literature.
Article
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Human asexuality is generally defined as a lack of sexual attraction. We used online questionnaires to investigate reasons for masturbation, and explored and compared the contents of sexual fantasies of asexual individuals (identified using the Asexual Identification Scale) with those of sexual individuals. A total of 351 asexual participants (292 women, 59 men) and 388 sexual participants (221 women, 167 men) participated. Asexual women were significantly less likely to masturbate than sexual women, sexual men, and asexual men. Asexual women were less likely to report masturbating for sexual pleasure or fun than their sexual counterparts, and asexual men were less likely to report masturbating for sexual pleasure than sexual men. Both asexual women and men were significantly more likely than sexual women and men to report that they had never had a sexual fantasy. Of those who have had a sexual fantasy, asexual women and men were significantly more likely to endorse the response “my fantasies do not involve other people” compared to sexual participants, and consistently scored each sexual fantasy on a questionnaire as being less sexually exciting than did sexual participants. When using an open-ended format, asexual participants were more likely to report having fantasies about sexual activities that did not involve themselves, and were less likely to fantasize about topics such as group sex, public sex, and having an affair. Interestingly, there was a large amount of overlap between sexual fantasies of asexual and sexual participants. Notably, both asexual and sexual participants (both men and women) were equally likely to fantasize about topics such as fetishes and BDSM.
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The objective was to perform a brief reflection on asexuality and its relationship with medical (pathologizing) and social (sexual diversity) practices. Asexuality is still considered a sexual dysfunction capable of medicalization in medical practice, although currently, with the visibility of sexual diversity, asexual identity has been breaking the paradigm of medicalization of sexuality. Although it is not completely defined as a sexual orientation, given the existence of theoretical conflicts, asexuality maintains its identity by strengthening asexual communities that aim to bring visibility to this group, strengthening the fight against medicalization of their condition and reducing prejudice and social discrimination.
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Although lack of sexual attraction was first quantified by Kinsey, large-scale and systematic research on the prevalence and correlates of asexuality has only emerged over the past decade. Several theories have been posited to account for the nature of asexuality. The goal of this review was to consider the evidence for whether asexuality is best classified as a psychiatric syndrome (or a symptom of one), a sexual dysfunction, or a paraphilia. Based on the available science, we believe there is not sufficient evidence to support the categorization of asexuality as a psychiatric condition (or symptom of one) or as a disorder of sexual desire. There is some evidence that a subset of self-identified asexuals have a paraphilia. We also considered evidence supporting the classification of asexuality as a unique sexual orientation. We conclude that asexuality is a heterogeneous entity that likely meets conditions for a sexual orientation, and that researchers should further explore evidence for such a categorization.
Chapter
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Asexuality has begun to receive both academic (e.g., Bogaert 2004, 2006a, 2008; Prause and Graham 2007; Brotto et al. 2010; Poston and Baumle 2010) and public (e.g., New Scientist; Pagán Westfall 2004) attention. Why does the study of asexuality matter, aside from the scientific and public curiosity about a sexual minority that has been overlooked until recently? A person’s sexuality, particularly as basic as whether he or she is asexual or not, may play a profound role in their social circumstances and life choices, including whether they marry or not, whether they have children or not, and their mental and physical health (e.g., atypical hormonal profile; lower STI risk, etc.). Thus, the study of asexuality is relevant to a number of demographic issues such as health, marriage, and fertility.
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Human asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual attraction, and research suggests that it may be best conceptualized as a sexual orientation. Sexual fantasies are thought to be universally experienced and are often understood to represent true sexual desire more accurately than sexual behaviour. We investigated the relationship between asexuality, masturbation and sexual fantasy as part of a larger online study. Self-identified asexual individuals were compared to sexual individuals with and without low sexual desire. A total of 924 individuals (153 men, 533 women, and 238 individuals who did not respond to the query about sex) completed online questions asking about masturbation and sexual fantasy. Five hundred thirty four were classified in the asexual group, 87 met diagnostic criteria for hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), 78 met criteria for subthreshold HSDD without distress, and 187 were a sexual comparison group (i.e., identified as sexual, and had no reported difficulties in sexual desire or distress). Asexual individuals were significantly less likely to have masturbated in the past month and significantly more likely to report never having had a sexual fantasy. Specifically, 40% of asexual participants reported never having had a sexual fantasy compared to between 1% and 8% of participants in the sexual groups. Eleven percent of asexual individuals reported that their sexual fantasies did not involve other people, compared to 1.5% of all sexual individuals. Taken together, these findings suggest that there are notable differences in patterns of sexual fantasy between asexual individuals and sexual individuals with and without low sexual desire.
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In this review article, human asexuality, a relatively understudied phenomenon, is discussed. Specifically, definitions and conceptualizations of asexuality (e.g., is it a unique category of sexual orientation?), biological and historical contexts, identity issues, discrimination against asexual people relative to other minorities, origins, and variations, including gender differences, are reviewed. Whether asexuality should be construed as a disorder is also discussed. The study of asexuality allows for a better understanding of an underrecognized sexual minority but also affords a unique opportunity to examine and better understand human sexuality.
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Although it is typically presumed that heterosexual individuals only fall in love with other-gender partners and gay-lesbian individuals only fall in love with same-gender partners, this is not always so. The author develops a biobehavioral model of love and desire to explain why. The model specifies that (a) the evolved processes underlying sexual desire and affectional bonding are functionally independent; (b) the processes underlying affectional bonding are not intrinsically oriented toward other-gender or same-gender partners; (c) the biobehavioral links between love and desire are bidirectional, particularly among women. These claims are supported by social-psychological, historical, and cross-cultural research on human love and sexuality as well as by evidence regarding the evolved biobehavioral mechanisms underlying mammalian mating and social bonding.
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This article draws on qualitative in-depth interviews with thirty asexually-identified individuals living in the United States in order to contribute to our understanding of when low sexual desire should be treated as a medical or mental health issue and when it should be treated as a benign sexual variation. The article discusses five findings of relevance to health professionals: first, the line between a desire disorder and asexuality is not clear cut; second, asexually-identified individuals may experience distress, so distress alone does not separate a desire disorder from asexuality; third, asexually-identified individuals may face sexual pressure from a partner or may have difficulty negotiating sexual activity with a partner; fourth, asexuality does not need to be distressing, rather it can be experienced as a fulfilling form of sexuality; and, fifth, many asexually-identified individuals believe in the usefulness of low sexual desire as a diagnostic category and support medical and mental health professionals in their efforts to develop treatments for sexual desire disorders. Based on these five findings, this article offers four concrete suggestions for health professionals working with clients with low sexual desire, whether or not those clients identify as asexual.