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

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.

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Notes

  1. AVEN defines Gray A as the community of individuals who fall somewhere in the spectrum between asexual and sexual. Some, within AVEN, also refer to this as the “Ace umbrella.”

  2. As the reviewer pointed out, it is noteworthy that the drive to seek out others with a similar disinterest in sex is so strong, and this highlights the centrality of sexuality in human experience. It may also be that such a strong sense of community helps to challenge perceived stigma against asexuality.

  3. The authors thank Dr. Paul Vasey for suggesting this dimension of orientation.

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Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank Tony Bogaert for providing helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. We also wish to thank Paul Vasey and an anonymous reviewer for very valuable comments that have led to a strengthened paper.

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Correspondence to Lori A. Brotto.

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Brotto, L.A., Yule, M. Asexuality: Sexual Orientation, Paraphilia, Sexual Dysfunction, or None of the Above?. Arch Sex Behav 46, 619–627 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0802-7

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Keywords

  • Asexuality
  • Sexual orientation
  • Paraphilia
  • Sexual dysfunction