Asexual and Non-Asexual Respondents from a U.S. Population-Based Study of Sexual Minorities

  • Esther D. RothblumEmail author
  • Evan A. Krueger
  • Krystal R. Kittle
  • Ilan H. Meyer
Original Paper


Using a U.S. population-based sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) and other sexual minority (e.g., queer-identified) people, we compared those who identified as asexual (n = 19; 1.66%) and those who were non-asexual (n = 1504; 98.34%). Compared to non-asexual respondents, asexual respondents were more likely to be women or gender non-binary and belong to a younger (ages 18–27) cohort. Asexual individuals were also less likely to have had sex in the past 5 years, compared to non-asexual men, women, and gender non-binary participants, and also reported lower levels of sexual attraction to cisgender men and women than non-asexual women and men, respectively. However, asexual participants did not differ from non-asexual participants in being in an intimate relationship. Asexual respondents felt more stigma than non-asexual men and women, and asexuals reported more everyday discrimination than did non-asexual men. Asexual and non-asexual respondents did not differ in their sense of connectedness to the LGB community. Asexual and non-asexual respondents were as likely to be out to all family, all friends, and all co-workers, but fewer asexual participants were out to all healthcare providers than non-asexual men. The two groups were similar in general well-being, life satisfaction, and social support. In conclusion, asexual identity is an infrequent but unique identity, and one that has the potential to expand the concept of queer identity as well as to destabilize the foregrounding of sexual behavior.


Asexual Non-asexual Gallup poll Sexual minorities Gender non-binary 



Research reported in this article is part of the Generations Study, supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health under Award No. R01HD078526. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. The Generations investigators are: Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D., (PI), David M. Frost, Ph.D., Phillip L. Hammack, Ph.D., Marguerita Lightfoot, Ph.D., Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., and Bianca D.M. Wilson, Ph.D. (Co-Investigators, listed alphabetically).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

This study had IRB approval, and informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Aicken, C. R., Mercer, C. H., & Cassell, J. A. (2013). Who reports absence of sexual attraction in Britain? Evidence from national probability surveys. Psychology and Sexuality, 4, 121–135. Scholar
  2. Bogaert, A. F. (2004). Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 279–287. Scholar
  3. Bogaert, A. F. (2006). Toward a conceptual understanding of asexuality. Review of General Psychology, 10, 241–250. Scholar
  4. Bogaert, A. F. (2012). Understanding asexuality. Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  5. Brotto, L. A., Knudson, G., Inskip, J., Rhodes, K., & Erskine, Y. (2010). Asexuality: A mixed-methods approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 599–618. Scholar
  6. Brotto, L. A., & Yule, M. (2017). Asexuality: Sexual orientation, paraphilia, sexual dysfunction, or none of the above? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 619–627. Scholar
  7. Carrigan, M. (2011). There’s more to life than sex? Difference and commonality within the asexual community. Sexualities, 14, 462–478. Scholar
  8. Cerankowski, K. J., & Milks, M. (2010). New orientations: Asexuality and its implications for theory and practice. Feminist Studies36, 650–664.
  9. Chasin, C. D. (2011). Theoretical issues in the study of asexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 713–723. Scholar
  10. Dawson, M., Scott, S., & McDonnell, L. (2018). “‘Asexual’ isn’t who I am”: The politics of asexuality. Sociological Research Online, 23, 374–391. Scholar
  11. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75. Scholar
  12. Frost, D. M., & Meyer, I. H. (2011). Measuring community connectedness among diverse sexual minority populations. Journal of Sex Research, 49, 36–49. Scholar
  13. Geary, R. S., Tanton, C., Erens, B., Clifton, S., Prah, P., Wellings, K., et al. (2018). Sexual identity, attraction and behaviour in Britain: The implications of using different dimensions of sexual orientation to estimate the size of sexual minority populations and inform public health interventions. PLoS ONE, 13(1), e0189607. Scholar
  14. Ginoza, M. K., Miller, T., & AVEN Survey Team. (2014). The 2014 AVEN Community Census: Preliminary findings. Accessed October 12, 2018.
  15. Greaves, L. M., Barlow, F. K., Huang, Y., Stronge, S., Fraser, G., & Sibley, C. G. (2017). Asexual identity in a New Zealand national sample: Demographics, well-being, and health. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 2417–2427. Scholar
  16. Gressgård, R. (2013). Asexuality: From pathology to identity and beyond. Psychology and Sexuality, 4, 179–192. Scholar
  17. Gupta, K. (2017). “And now I’m just different, but there’s nothing actually wrong with me”: Asexual marginalization and resistance. Journal of Homosexuality, 64, 991–1013. Scholar
  18. Herdt, G., & McClintock, M. (2000). The magical age of 10. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29(6), 587–606. Scholar
  19. Herek, G. M. (2008). Hate crimes and stigma-related experiences among sexual minority adults in the United States. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24, 54–74. Scholar
  20. Keyes, C. L. M. (1998). Social well-being. Social Psychology Quarterly, 61, 121–140. Scholar
  21. Krueger, E. A., Lin, A., Kittle, K. R., & Meyer, I. H. (2015). Generations: Methodology and Technical Notes, Gallup Quantitative Survey (Version 15). Retrieved from
  22. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. MacInnis, C. C., & Hodson, G. (2012). Intergroup bias toward “Group X”: Evidence of prejudice, dehumanization, avoidance, and discrimination against asexuals. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 15, 725–743. Scholar
  24. MacNeela, P., & Murphy, A. (2015). Freedom, invisibility, and community: A qualitative study of self-identification with asexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 799–812. Scholar
  25. McDonnell, L., Scott, S., & Dawson, M. (2017). A multidimensional view? Evaluating the different and combined contributions of diaries and interviews in an exploration of asexual identities and intimacies. Qualitative Research, 17, 520–536. Scholar
  26. Meyer, I. H., Marken, S., Auter, Z., Wilson, B. D. M., & Conron, K. (2019). Asking about sexual orientation in a national general population survey: Do expanded response options improve survey performance with sexual minority respondents? Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Association of Public Opinion Research, Toronto, ON, Canada.Google Scholar
  27. Meyer, I. H., Rossano, L., Ellis, J. M., & Bradford, J. (2002). A brief telephone interview to identify lesbian and bisexual women in random digit dialing sampling. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 139–144. Scholar
  28. Mitchell, H., & Hunnicutt, G. (2018). Challenging accepted scripts of sexual “normality”: Asexual narratives of non-normative identity and experience. Sexuality and Culture, 23, 507–524. Scholar
  29. Morris, J. F., & Rothblum, E. D. (1999). Who fills out a “lesbian” questionnaire? The interrelationship of sexual orientation, years out, disclosure of sexual orientation, sexual experience with women, and participation in the lesbian community. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 33, 537–557. Scholar
  30. Pacho, A. (2013). Establishing asexual identity: The essential, the imaginary, and the collective. Graduate Journal of Social Science10(1), 13–35.
  31. Poston, D. L., & Baumle, A. K. (2010). Patterns of asexuality in the United States. Demographic Research, 23, 509–530. Scholar
  32. Prause, N., & Graham, C. A. (2007). Asexuality: Classification and characterization. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 341–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Przybylo, E. (2011). Crisis and safety: The asexual in sexusociety. Sexualities, 14, 444–461. Scholar
  34. Przybylo, E. (2013). Producing facts: Empirical asexuality and the scientific study of sex. Feminism and Psychology, 23, 224–242. Scholar
  35. Richters, J., Altman, D., Badcock, P. B., Smith, A. M., de Visser, R. O., Grulich, A. E., et al. (2014). Sexual identity, sexual attraction and sexual experience: The Second Australian Study of Health and Relationships. Sexual Health, 11, 451–460. Scholar
  36. Robbins, N. K., Low, K. G., & Query, A. N. (2016). A qualitative exploration of the “coming out” process for asexual individuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 751–760. Scholar
  37. Scherrer, K. S. (2008). Coming to an asexual identity: Negotiating identity, negotiating desire. Sexualities, 11, 621–641. Scholar
  38. Scott, S., McDonnell, L., & Dawson, M. (2016). Stories of non-becoming: Non-issues, non-events and non-identities in asexual lives. Symbolic Interaction, 39, 268–286. Scholar
  39. Van Houdenhove, E., Gijs, L., T’Sjoen, G., & Enzlin, P. (2015). Stories about asexuality: A qualitative study on asexual women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 41, 262–281. Scholar
  40. Williams, D. R., Yu, Y., Jackson, J. S., & Anderson, N. B. (1997). Racial differences in physical and mental health: Socioeconomic status, stress, and discrimination. Journal of Health Psychology, 2, 335–351. Scholar
  41. Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2015). A validated measure of no sexual attraction: The Asexuality Identification Scale. Psychological Assessment, 27, 148–160. Scholar
  42. Zimet, G. D., Dahlem, N. W., Zimet, S. G., & Farley, G. K. (1988). The Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52, 30–41. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Women’s Studies DepartmentSan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.The Williams Institute, School of LawUniversity of California Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations