It seems like every time you hear the sexual-orientation acronym, it has more letters and is in a different order.
It seems like every time you hear the sexual-orientation acronym, it has more letters and is in a different order. Many of the newest iterations often also contain an “I” for intersex individuals and the arrangement of the letters appears to be a toss-up.
The one in the title isn’t official or anything, so no angry e-mails, please. The point is there are quite a few emerging sexual orientations, everyone wants to be recognized, and no one seems to be entirely sure how to define themselves one way or another. In this very sexually charged conversation, it is easy to see how something decidedly un-sexy could just get entirely left out. That something is asexuality.
Asexuality is generally defined as lack of sexual desire or attraction. According to asexuality.org, “An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who we are. Asexuality does not make our lives any worse or any better, we just face a different set of challenges than most sexual people… Asexuality is just beginning to be the subject of scientific research.” This makes asexuality starkly different from celibacy, which is a behavioral choice. Asexuals consider it to be as much an orientation as homosexuality, and this is where the controversy starts.
Since asexuality is, by definition, a non-sexual orientation, asexuals are having trouble being recognized as a sexual orientation by pretty much everyone. People who identify with alternative sexualities most often equate asexuality with celibacy, a choice, and deny that it should be recognized as an orientation.
It is also difficult for asexuals to be accepted as mentally healthy by the psychological community since lack of sexual desire is often a side effect of trauma or heavy medication. The DSM-IV equates asexuality with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), a sexual dysfunction listed under Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders. HSDD is characterized as a lack or absence of sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity. However, for this to be regarded as a disorder, it must cause “marked distress or interpersonal difficulties.” Asexuals deny this and report that they are happy with their orientation.
It certainly doesn’t help that the only really definitive study on asexuality was done in England in the ‘70’s and actually did a lot to perpetuate negative stereotypes and further stigmatize asexual individuals. The study described asexual people as usually being poor, heavyset women in their 50s who were extremely religious. It seems they were confusing celibacy or menopause with asexuality just as much as everyone else. Fortunately for young, healthy asexual people everywhere, David Jay just wasn’t buying it.
David Jay is an asexual activist and the most outspoken and notable proponent of asexual acceptance. The thing that usually gets people’s attention is that he is a young, healthy, rather good-looking man.
This obviously flies in the face of the age-old stereotypes of the impotent old man or frigid spinster, and that’s just the way he likes it. “There is a really strong pre-existing social image that asexuality is disempowering. But I’ve found that people respond to masculinity, that it makes asexuality more interesting to them because it’s harder for them to dismiss.”
While he was a student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Jay “came out” as asexual. He launched the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) and created its website. “This has always been about giving people who aren’t interested in sex the tools to start talking about it, and now it’s happening on an unprecedented scale,” Jay said. “The goal is to be accepted as a sexual minority in the same way as homosexuals. This is why the asexuals take part in pride parades.”
Jay also had some inspiring words for those who find themselves in the most marginalized sexual orientation: “In a world that places a high premium on sexuality it’s easy to feel like you need sex to be happy. You don’t. Asexuality is not a dysfunction, and there is no need to find a ‘cause’ or a ‘cure.'” ?