Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 619–627 | Cite as

Asexuality: Sexual Orientation, Paraphilia, Sexual Dysfunction, or None of the Above?

Target Article

Abstract

Although lack of sexual attraction was first quantified by Kinsey, large-scale and systematic research on the prevalence and correlates of asexuality has only emerged over the past decade. Several theories have been posited to account for the nature of asexuality. The goal of this review was to consider the evidence for whether asexuality is best classified as a psychiatric syndrome (or a symptom of one), a sexual dysfunction, or a paraphilia. Based on the available science, we believe there is not sufficient evidence to support the categorization of asexuality as a psychiatric condition (or symptom of one) or as a disorder of sexual desire. There is some evidence that a subset of self-identified asexuals have a paraphilia. We also considered evidence supporting the classification of asexuality as a unique sexual orientation. We conclude that asexuality is a heterogeneous entity that likely meets conditions for a sexual orientation, and that researchers should further explore evidence for such a categorization.

Keywords

Asexuality Sexual orientation Paraphilia Sexual dysfunction 

References

  1. Ahlers, C. J., Schaefer, G. A., Mundt, I. A., Roll, S., Englert, H., Willich, S. N., & Beier, K. M. (2011). How unusual are the content of paraphilias? Paraphilia-associated sexual arousal patterns in a community-based sample of men. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8, 1362–1370.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Aicken, C. R. H., Mercer, C. H., & Cassell, J. A. (2013). Who reports absence of sexual attraction in Britain? Evidence from national probability surveys. Psychology & Sexuality, 4, 121–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: Author.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Asexuality on 20/20. (2006). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeKGOMUVU7g.
  5. Blanchard, R. (1991). Clinical observations and systematic studies of autogynephilia. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 17, 235–251.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanchard, R. (2008). Review and theory of handedness, birth order, and homosexuality in men. Laterality, 13, 51–70.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Blanchard, R., & Bogaert, A. F. (1996). Homosexuality in men and number of older brothers. American Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 27–31.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bogaert, A. F. (2003). Number of older brothers and sexual orientation: New tests and attraction/behavior distinction in two national probability samples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 644–652.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Bogaert, A. F. (2004). Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 279.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Bogaert, A. F. (2006). Toward a conceptual understanding of asexuality. Review of General Psychology, 10, 241–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bogaert, A. F. (2012a). Understanding asexuality. Plymouth, UK: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  12. Bogaert, A. F. (2012b). Asexuality and autochorissexualism (identity-less sexuality). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1513–1514.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Bogaert, A. F. (2013). Demography of asexuality. In A. K. Baumle (Ed.), International handbook on the demography of sexuality, international handbooks of population (Vol. 5, pp. 275–288). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  14. Bogaert, A. F. (2015). Asexuality: What it is and why it matters. Journal of Sex Research, 52, 362–379.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Both, S., Everaerd, W., & Laan, E. (2007). Desire emerges from excitement: A psychophysiological perspective on sexual motivation. In E. Janssen (Ed.), The psychophysiology of sex (pp. 327–339). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Brotto, L. A., Knudson, G., Inskip, J., Rhodes, K., & Erskine, Y. (2010). Asexuality: A mixed-methods approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 599–618.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Brotto, L. A., & Yule, M. A. (2011). Physiological and subjective sexual arousal in self-identified asexual women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 699–712.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Brotto, L. A., Yule, M. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2015). Asexuality: An extreme variant of sexual desire disorder? Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12, 646–660.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Carlson, T. (2006, March, 27). Asexuality on Tucker Carlson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwxo6t7XBYs.
  20. Carrigan, M. (2011). There’s more to life than sex? Difference and commonality within the asexual community. Sexualities, 14, 462–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Childs, D. (2009, January, 16). Asexuals push for greater recognition. ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/MindMoodNews/asexuals-push-greater-recognition/story?id=6656358.
  22. Cranney, S. (2016). The temporal stability of lack of sexual attraction across young adulthood. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45, 743–749. doi:10.1007/s10508-015-0583-4.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. D’Augelli, A. R., & Hershberger, S. L. (1993). Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in community settings: Personal challenges and mental health problems. American Journal of Community Psychology, 21, 421–448.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network Surveillance Year 2010 Principal Investigators. (2014). Prevalence of autism spectrum disorder among children aged 8 years-autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 11 sites, United States, 2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 63(2), 1.Google Scholar
  25. Diamond, L. M. (2003). What does sexual orientation orient? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire. Psychological Review, 110, 173–192.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Diamond, L. M. (2012). The desire disorder in research on sexual orientation in women: Contributions of dynamical systems theory. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 73–83.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Gilmour, L., Schalomon, P. M., & Smith, V. (2012). Sexuality in a community based sample of adults with autism spectrum disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 6, 313–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ginoza, M. K., Miller, T., & Members of the AVEN Survey Team. (2014). The 2014 AVEN Community Census: Preliminary findings. Retrieved January 5, 2016, from http://www.asexualcensus.wordpress.com.
  29. Gressgärd, R. (2013). Asexuality: From pathology to identity and beyond. Psychology and Sexuality, 4, 179–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hinderliter, A. (2013). How is asexuality different from hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Psychology & Sexuality, 4, 167–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Hirschfeld, M. (1914). Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.Google Scholar
  32. Höglund, J., Jern, P., Sandnabba, N. K., & Santtila, P. (2014). Finnish women and men who self-report no sexual attraction in the past 12 months: Prevalence, relationship status, and sexual behavior history. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 879–889.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Ingudomnukul, E., Baron-Cohen, S., Wheelwright, S., & Knickmeyer, R. (2007). Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 597–604.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Jay, D. (2008). Asexuality visibility and education network. Retrieved March 1, 2011, from http://www.asexuality.org/home/overview.html.
  35. Johnson, M. T. (1977). Asexual and autoerotic women: Two invisible groups. In H. L. Gochros & J. S. Gochros (Eds.), The sexually oppressed (pp. 96–109). New York: Association Press.Google Scholar
  36. Joyal, C. C., Cossette, A., & Lapierre, V. (2015). What exactly is an unusual sexual fantasy? Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12, 328–340.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Kinsey, A. C., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.Google Scholar
  38. Lalumière, M. L., Blanchard, R., & Zucker, K. J. (2000). Sexual orientation and handedness in men and women: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 575–592.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Lawrence, A. A. (2009). Erotic target location errors: An underappreciated paraphilic dimension. Journal of Sex Research, 46, 194–215.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. LeVay, S., & Baldwin, J. (2012). Human sexuality (4th ed.). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer.Google Scholar
  41. Lucassen, M. F. G., Merry, S. N., Robinson, E. M., Denny, S., Clark, T., Ameratunga, S., … Rosen, F. V. (2011). Sexual attraction, depression, self-harm, suicidality and help-seeking behaviour in New Zealand secondary school students. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45, 376–383.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. MacInnis, C. C., & Hodson, G. (2012). Intergroup bias toward “Group X”: Evidence of prejudice, dehumanization, avoidance, and discrimination against asexuals. Group Process & Intergroup Relations, 15, 725–743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nurius, P. S. (1983). Mental health implications of sexual orientation. Journal of Sex Research, 19, 119–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ogas, O., & Gaddam, S. (2011). A billion wicked thoughts. What the Internet tells us about sexual relationships. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  45. Poston, D. L, Jr., & Baumle, A. K. (2010). Patterns of asexuality in the United States. Demographic Research, 23, 509–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Prause, N., & Graham, C. A. (2007). Asexuality: Classification and characterization. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 341–356.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Scherrer, K. S. (2008). Coming to an asexual identity: Negotiating identity, negotiating desire. Sexualities, 11, 621–641.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  48. Seto, M. C. (2012). Is pedophilia a sexual orientation? Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 231–236.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  49. Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R. M., Card, N. A., & Russell, S. T. (2010). Gender-nonconforming lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth: School victimization and young adult psychosocial adjustment. Developmental Psychology, 46, 1580–1589.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Van Houdenhove, E., Gijs, L., T’Sjoen, G., & Enzlin, P. (2015a). Stories about asexuality: A qualitative study on asexual women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 41, 262–281.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Van Houdenhove, E., Gijs, L., T’Sjoen, G., & Enzlin, P. (2015b). Asexuality: A multidimensional approach. Journal of Sex Research, 52, 669–678.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Westfall, S. P. (2004, October, 16). Glad to be A. New Scientist, 184, 40–43.Google Scholar
  53. Williams, M. (2007, January, 4). The Montel Williams show discusses asexuality. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErDfQMKnwSE.
  54. Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2013). Mental health and interpersonal functioning among asexual individuals. Psychology & Sexuality, 4, 136–151. doi:10.1080/19419899.2013.774162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2014a). Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 23, 89–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2014b). Biological markers of asexuality: Handedness, birth order, and finger length ratios in self-identified asexual men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43, 299–310.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (in press). Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals: An in-depth exploration. Archives of Sexual Behavior.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations