Freedom, Invisibility, and Community: A Qualitative Study of Self-Identification with Asexuality
- 2.6k Downloads
A significant body of research is now emerging on the subjective meaning of asexuality. This study explored how self-identification as asexual is managed, both as a threat to the self-concept and a source of personal meaning. A total of 66 self-identified asexuals were recruited from an asexuality internet community and responded to open-ended questions on an online survey. Of these, 31 participants identified as female, 15 as male, 18 gave a different label such as genderqueer or androgynous, and two did not provide information on gender. A thematic analysis of the transcripts resulted in three themes. Socially, asexuality attracted denial and resistance due to incompatibility with heteronormative societal expectations. Despite the threat to self-integrity arising from asexuality being socially rejected, it was typically assimilated as a valued and meaningful orientation on an intra-personal level, aided by information and support from the online community. A second level of threat to self arose whereby other self-identifications, especially gender, had to be reconciled with a non-sexual persona. The accommodation made to other elements of the self was reflected in complex sub-identities. The findings were interpreted using identity process theory to understand how threats arising from self-identifying as asexual are managed. Although asexuality emerges as an orientation to sexuality that can be reconciled with the self, its invisibility or outright rejection in society constitute an on-going challenge.
KeywordsAsexuality Sexual identity Sexual orientation Internet communities Identity process theory
The authors wish to acknowledge the helpful suggestions and feedback received from the reviewers.
- Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). (2011). A history of asexuality. Retrieved August 17, 2011 from http://www.asexuality.org.
- Baumgardner, J. (2007). Look both ways: Bisexual politics. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
- Bogaert, A. F. (2012). Understanding asexuality. Plymouth, England: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
- Breakwell, G. M. (1986). Coping with threatened identities. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
- Breakwell, G. M. (1992). Processes of self-valuation: Efficacy and estrangement. In G. M. Breakwell (Ed.), Social psychology of identity and the self concept (pp. 35–55). London: Academic Press.Google Scholar
- Breakwell, G. M. (2001). Social representational constraints upon identity processes. In K. Deaux & G. Philogene (Eds.), Representations of the social: Bridging theoretical traditions (pp. 271–284). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Burleson, W. E. (2005). Bi America: Myths, truths and struggles of an invisible community. New York: Haworth Press.Google Scholar
- Delanty, G. (2003). Belonging as communication. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Smith, J. A., Flowers, P., & Larkin, M. (2009). Interpretative phenomenological analysis: Theory, method, research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
- Taulke-Johnson, R. (2008). Moving beyond homophobia, harassment and intolerance: Gay male university students’ alternative narratives. Discourse, 29, 121–133.Google Scholar