Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 799–812 | Cite as

Freedom, Invisibility, and Community: A Qualitative Study of Self-Identification with Asexuality

  • Pádraig MacNeelaEmail author
  • Aisling Murphy
Original Paper


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.


Asexuality Sexual identity Sexual orientation Internet communities Identity process theory 



The authors wish to acknowledge the helpful suggestions and feedback received from the reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland

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