Asexuality: A Mixed-Methods Approach
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Current definitions of asexuality focus on sexual attraction, sexual behavior, and lack of sexual orientation or sexual excitation; however, the extent to which these definitions are accepted by self-identified asexuals is unknown. The goal of Study 1 was to examine relationship characteristics, frequency of sexual behaviors, sexual difficulties and distress, psychopathology, interpersonal functioning, and alexithymia in 187 asexuals recruited from the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). Asexual men (n = 54) and women (n = 133) completed validated questionnaires online. Sexual response was lower than normative data and was not experienced as distressing, and masturbation frequency in males was similar to available data for sexual men. Social withdrawal was the most elevated personality subscale; however, interpersonal functioning was in the normal range. Alexithymia was elevated in 12%. Social desirability was also in the normal range. Study 2 was designed to expand upon these quantitative findings with 15 asexuals from Study 1 through in-depth telephone interviews. The findings suggest that asexuality is best conceptualized as a lack of sexual attraction; however, asexuals varied greatly in their experience of sexual response and behavior. Asexuals partnered with sexuals acknowledged having to “negotiate” sexual activity. There were not higher rates of psychopathology among asexuals; however, a subset might fit the criteria for Schizoid Personality Disorder. There was also strong opposition to viewing asexuality as an extreme case of sexual desire disorder. Finally, asexuals were very motivated to liaise with sex researchers to further the scientific study of asexuality.