Theoretical Issues in the Study of Asexuality
- 3.4k Downloads
Academic interest in asexual people is new and researchers are beginning to discuss how to proceed methodologically and conceptually with the study of asexuality. This article explores several of the theoretical issues related to the study of asexuality. Researchers have tended to treat asexuality either as a distinct sexual orientation or as a lack of sexual orientation. Difficulties arise when asexual participants are inconsistent in their self-identification as asexual. Distinguishing between sexual and romantic attraction resolves this confusion, while simultaneously calling into question conceptualizations of the asexual population as a single homogenous group. Arguments are considered in favor of exploring diversity within the asexual population, particularly with respect to gender and romantic orientation, proposing that the categorical constructs employed in (a)sexuality research be replaced with continuous ones. Furthermore, given the recently noted bias toward including only self-identified asexuals, as opposed to non-self-identified asexuals or “potential-asexuals,” in research about asexuality, the nature and meaning of asexual self-identification are discussed. Particular attention is paid to the theoretical importance of acknowledging asexual self-identification or lack thereof in future research into asexuality. This article discusses what these current theoretical issues mean for the study of asexuality and sexuality more generally, including a brief consideration of ethical implications for research with asexual participants. Finally, directions for future research are suggested.
KeywordsAsexuality Sexual orientation Sexual desire Romantic attraction Sexuality
I would like to thank my doctoral supervisor Charlene Senn for her guidance, particularly as I tried to nagivate safely through my first substantive encounter with the peer-review process.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text revision). Washington, DC: Author.Google Scholar
- Asexual Visibility and Education Network. (2008). About AVEN. Retrieved August 11, 2009, from AVEN: The Asexual Visibility and Education Network Web Site: http://www.asexuality.org/home/about.html
- Brotto, L. A., & Yule, M. A. (2010). Physiological and subjective sexual arousal in self-identified asexual women. Archives of Sexual Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10508-010-9671-7.
- Butler, J. (2004). Undoing gender. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Carrigan, M. (in press). There’s more to life than sex: Difference and commonality within the asexual community. Sexualities. Google Scholar
- Chivers, M. L., & Bailey, J. M. (2007). The sexual psychophysiology of sexual orientation. In E. Janssen (Ed.), The psychophysiology of sex (pp. 458–474). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
- Diamond, L. M. (2008). Sexual fluidity: Understanding women’s love and desire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Edley, N. (2001). Analysing masculinity: Interpretive repertoires, ideological dilemmas and subject positions. In M. Wetherell, S. Taylor, & S. J. Yates (Eds.), Discourse as data (pp. 189–228). Milton Keynes: Open University Press.Google Scholar
- Gazzola, S. B., & Morrison, M. A. (2011). Asexuality: An emergent sexual orientation. In T. G. Morrison, M. A. Morrison, M. Carrigan, & D. T. McDermott (Eds.), Sexual minority research in the new millennium. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science.Google Scholar
- Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
- Kitzinger, C. (1999). Lesbian and gay psychology: Is it critical? Annual Review of Critical Psychology, 1, 50–66.Google Scholar
- Labov, W. (1973). The boundaries of words and their meanings. In C. J. N. Bailey & R. W. Shuy (Eds.), New ways of analyzing variations in English (pp. 340–373). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
- Scherrer, K. S. (2010a). Asexual relationships: What does asexuality have to do with polyamory? In M. Barker & D. Langdridge (Eds.), Understanding non-monogamies (pp. 154–159). New York: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
- Snape, D., & Spencer, L. (2003). The foundations of qualitative research. In J. Ritchie & J. Lewis (Eds.), Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers (pp. 1–23). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
- Statistics Canada. (2004, June 15). Canadian community health survey. The Daily, Statistics Canada Catalogue no 82-221-XIE. Retrieved July 8, 2010 from Statistics Canada Web Site: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/040615/dq040615b-eng.htm