Anthony F. Bogaert
Anthony Bogaert is an associate professor at Brock University who has published a book and a number of papers on asexuality. Given the low levels of current scientific attention to asexuality as a human orientation, Bogaert's work is some of the most well-known and widely quoted in the popular media. He has also appeared on the Montel Williams Show discussing asexuality. His other areas of study include pornography, high-risk sexual behaviour, sexual crimes, and the origins of sexual orientation.
(The United Kingdom: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. ISBN 9781442201019)
This monograph is one of the first books written on the topic for general readers, and the first to look at the historical, biological, and social aspects of asexuality. The book had already become known in non-English speaking countries before it was published in the UK.
Asexuality: prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample
Journal of Sex Research, August, 2004
In this paper, Bogaert analyzes a British probability sample in which 1.05% of respondents said that they had never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all. He correlates this response with other questions in the sample and makes the following conclusions:
- On average, asexuals had fewer sexual partners than sexual people, started having sex later (if at all), and were currently having less sex. They were less likely to currently be in a cohabiting or married relationship.
- On average, asexuals were older than sexuals. They were more likely to be female, poor, nonwhite, and/or poorly educated.
- Asexuals were more likely to have health problems, to have started menstruating later (if female), to be shorter, and to weigh less.
- Asexuals, on average, attended religious services more often than sexuals.
Bogaert then analyzes the data to see which of these factors are significant predictors of asexuality. For women, everything is significant except weight and health. For men, social class, education, and religiosity are significant. Height is also marginally significant. The lower health found in the article is probably a result of lower social class and education, and not directly related to asexuality.
The paper goes on to discuss why there has been little prior research into asexuality. Perhaps asexuals are invisible because they do not engage in overt sexual activities (other sexual minorities gain both positive and negative visibility through the unusual kinds of sex they have). Asexuality has also not been widely perceived as illegal or morally wrong (though asexuals may still face pressure to conform sexually in their private lives). Also, asexuality may have been invisible to sexologists because most studies of sexuality rely on volunteers. People who volunteer for such studies have been shown to be more sexual with greater numbers of partners, which results in bias towards themselves in the studies.
The fact that there are so many predictors of asexuality means that there is probably not a single identifiable cause of asexuality. Asexuality may sometimes be due to inadequate sexual conditioning in adolescence, overinternalization of gender roles in women, or genetic or prenatal conditions. Since asexuals were not shown to be younger on average than sexuals, it is probably not the case that they are "presexual" or late bloomers. Also, the concept of sexual attraction always being "towards" a particular person or group of people may be misleading: for example, it may not adequately address people who experience sexuality receptively rather than proceptively.
More research needs to be done before any of these results can be confirmed. This data is limited since it came from a probability sample used for general research into sexual behaviour and STDs; future research on asexuality would ideally include questions about masturbation, fantasy, and early sexual life. It would also address many different components of attraction and study affectional or romantic orientation as well as sexuality. Phallometry could be used to study asexual people's arousal patterns. Longitudinal research methods could help explain the correlation between asexuality and some factors, such as religiosity. The data involved concern Great Britain, and the experience of asexuality in other parts of the world could be different.
Toward a Conceptual Understanding of Asexuality
Review of General Psychology. 2006 Sep Vol 10(3) 241-250
This paper addresses the issues of defining and understanding asexuality. It defines asexuality as a lack of sexual attraction. Asexuals are not necessarily nonlibidoist, celibate, aromantic, or even people who voluntarily identify themselves as "asexual". Asexuals are also not the same as people with strange or unusual orientations such as pedophilia; they do not direct their sexual desire towards any person or object.
Some disorders, such as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), can sound similar to asexuality, but they are not the same thing. Many people with lifelong symptoms of HSDD may fit the definition of asexuality. However, some asexual people have sex drives and derive pleasure from them; they simply do not wish to include other people in their private biological activities. This does not fit the definition of HSDD. Most people with HSDD do not have it their entire lives, but develop it at some point after previously being sexual. Also, HSDD is a disorder, and as such it can only be diagnosed when it causes marked distress or interpersonal difficulty. Therefore, an asexual who is happy with their asexuality and gets along well with others does not have HSDD.
One reason that people might not see asexuality as a real orientation is because it involves the lack of desire. If an asexual person's sexual desire could be increased, they might turn out to have an underlying orientation of gay, straight, or bisexual. But some asexuals cannot increase their sexual desire through any known means. Others can increase their desire - or already possess desire - but do not direct it towards other people, preferring to satisfy themselves through masturbation. Also, even if an asexual could potentially have their desire increased and be made straight, gay, or bisexual, that doesn't mean that they already possess one of those orientations. Orientation should be defined in terms of attraction that actually exists, not attraction that might exist eventually with intervention.
Another reason to refer to asexuality as a real orientation is simply because of social trends. People at organizations like AVEN already refer to themselves as having a separate sexual orientation and identity. This kind of identification is an important kind of self-expression, and it's the policy of the American Psychological Association to use the terms for orientation that individuals prefer.
Is asexuality a disorder? There is no information right now on the mental health of asexual people, but other studies suggest that many people who don't have sex are quite happy. Even if asexual people had a higher rate than average of mental distress, this wouldn't make asexuality itself a disorder. It could be argued that sexual behaviour is an important social dimension and therefore asexuality causes "marked interpersonal difficulty", but this doesn't match normal diagnostic practices: sexual dysfunctions are only defined as problems when they have negative interpersonal effects beyond the realm of sex. For example, celibacy is not a disorder.
Asexuality could result from unusual prenatal events, but that doesn't make it a disorder: homosexuality has also been suspected to result from unusual prenatal events, and it's not a disorder. Also, until recently, the absence of sexuality wasn't viewed as a bad thing: instead, excessive or non-reproductive sexuality was condemned. Even today, some religions and cultures view the absence of sexuality as positive, so calling asexuality a disorder makes very little historical or cultural sense. Finally, labeling asexuality as a disorder may stigmatize asexual people and cause mental health issues for them.
- Асексуализм признают четвертой сексуальной ориентацией (Asexuality is considered the forth sexual orientation) // Gazeta.ua (a Ukrainian newspaper, in Russian). The news constitutes a Russian translation of the corresponding article in The Independent.