Asexual history

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Early research relating to asexuality

For a more detailed history of asexuality in research see research relating to asexuality.

In 1896, Magnus Hirschfeld wrote a pamphlet on sexuality, which mentions concepts akin to asexuality.[1]

In the 1948 and 1953 Kinsey Reports, written by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, a category "X" was added to the Kinsey scale, indicating those with "no socio-sexual contacts or reactions.” [2][3][4] The two-dimensional model of erotic orientation, proposed by Michael Storms in 1979, included asexuality, this time as the low end of the two separate axes of hetero- and homo-eroticism. [5] [6]

In a study published in 1983, Paula Nurius examined the relationship between mental health and sexual orientation by surveying a non-random sample of 689 people, primarily college students.[7] The study focused on heterosexuality and homosexuality, but also included bisexuality and asexuality as sexual orientations. The results of the questionaires showed that the asexuals surveyed had a comparatively lower actual frequency and desired frequency of sexual activity. Nurius also found that, within this sample, asexuals were slightly more prone to have problems with depression, low self-esteem, and sexual discord.

Emergence of asexual communities

Until the development of the internet, asexuals seldom had ways to connect with each other and share their experiences. In the early and mid 90s, people would occasionally post on sexuality-related newsgroups expressing their identification with asexuality or their lack of sexual attraction, but search functions were not effective enough, making it difficult to locate people with similar experiences.[8][9][10] Additionally, common vocabulary and definitions for discussing asexuality had not yet developed, so a variety of words, including antisexuality, asexuality, celibacy, and nonsexuality, were being used to describe the asexual identity. [11]

The first online asexual community may be the comments section of an article titled “My life as an amoeba” by Zoe O'Reilly published by StarNet Dispatches on May 30, 1997.[12][13]

On October 12, 2000, a Yahoo group for asexuals, Haven for the Human Amoeba (HHA), was founded. The group was structured as an email list and in August of 2001, there were enough regular members that activity increased to several messages everyday. It was at this time that a member of the group, in hopes of starting an asexual web-ring, contacted David Jay, who had by this time created the main page for AVEN, and he joined the discussion on Haven for the Human Amoeba. Various members created their own websites as part of the web-ring.[14]

David Jay had created a page on his university webspace in March 2001. It was initially to be called the Human Asexual Visibility and Education Network (HAVEN), but this was later shortened to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). At this time, it was a page giving a definition of asexuality and asking for email from those who identified with the definition.[15]

As membership and activity in the Haven for the Human Amoeba increased, the email-based structure of Haven for the Human Amoeba became cumbersome. Every comment made was emailed to the whole group, with no possible way of forming separate threads. There was demand for a website on asexuality with a better community structure, and several websites emerged with differing ideologies and definitions of asexuality.

Some communities formed at that time held that the only real definition of asexuality was nonlibidoism, maintaining that an asexual could not have a sex drive. This included the now inactive “Official Asexual Society”. This website was founded by Geraldin Levi Joosten-van Vilsteren, another member of Haven for the Human Amoeba, and to participate there was a test administered by the site-founder. It was renamed ‘the Official Nonlibidoist Society’ by the end of December 2004, due to the increasing popularity of an alternate, broader definition of asexuality.[16]

Other online communities catered to antisexual views. This included a LiveJournal community using the term 'asexual', the Asexuals Community, which was founded in July 2001 and was targeted at sexual people who were celibate by choice or who thought “sex is terribly overrated and pointless unless of course it has meaning.”[17]

Another Livejournal group, the LiveJournal Asexuality Community, was created on the 28th of April 2002 by 36|Nat aka AVEN member Paranoid Gynandroid in response to sex-negative posts on the Livejournal Asexuals Community. Nat had become involved in discussions of asexuality as an orientation through the early genderqueer/third gender community, in particular a mailing list called Sphere, and had founded the LiveJournal Asexuality Community independently of Haven for the Human Amoeba and AVEN. Pre-dating the creation of the AVEN forum by a month, this was the first explicitly sex-positive asexual discussion community. Designed to be inclusive, descriptions such as 'little or no sex drive' and 'living without sexuality' were used on this group, and Nat defined asexuality in terms of sexual orientation.[18]

AVEN was reconstructed in the hopes of becoming a more inclusive option, based in sex-neutrality and the belief that anyone who identifies as asexual is validly asexual, regardless of sex drive or other factors. On May 29, 2002, the AVEN forum was started and a day later AVEN was moved to a new domain name, Jay contacted Nat in May 2002, and soon the LiveJournal Asexuality Community linked to AVEN on its profile. In July and August, working with Jay, Nat wrote the original AVEN FAQ to be an inclusive and sex-positive outline of asexuality and was involved in the formation of the early AVEN forum community. This FAQ is still the basis for the General FAQ today.

Recent research on asexuality

For a more detailed history of asexuality in research see research relating to asexuality. For a bibliography of papers relating to asexuality, see Asexual Explorations.

In 1994, a survey of 18,876 British residents found that 1% of the respondents “never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all”.[19] Based on the data collected in this survey, Dr. Anthony Bogaert investigated the asexual demographic and went on to write several papers starting in 2004.[20][21][22] Since Bogaert’s 2004 paper there has been an increase in research, such as the work of Dr. Lori Brotto,[23][24] but discussion of asexuality remains relatively rare in literature.

Development of AVEN

Moderator Elections

See also: Former moderators

The second AVEN forum administrator was instated in July 2002 because Jay was travelling to Ghana in the fall. The forum at this point had about 100 members. The first team of moderators were appointed in December 2003[25]. In December 2004, the first elections were held to select moderators for the site, and this practice continues to the present.[26]

Visibility products

Jay first organized the production and distribution of t-shirts to promote asexual awareness in February 2003.[27] On Mar 21, 2004 the first AVEN store on CafePress was opened to supply visibility materials such as t-shirts. This store was not intended to make a profit, and is still maintained today.[28]

AVEN Project Team

See also: Former AVEN Project Team members

The AVEN Project Team was proposed by AVENguy on June 6, 2006 to aid in the organization of visibility projects, and in expanding and improving AVEN. [29]


The first issue of the AVENues newsletter was published on September 27, 2006 and continued to be produced until mid 2009. When Hallucigenia, the original editor of the newsletter, did not run for re-election for the AVEN Project Team in September 2009, AVENues went on hiatus as the new Project Team did not get enough submissions to continue publishing. After the next Project Team elections in 2010, Arielle successfully re-launched AVENues in a magazine-style format in starting that October. AVENues experienced another hiatus after May 2011, in which the next two issues were each released a year apart, with the last issue being released in August 2013. AVENues' second relaunch was announced in September 2015 for January 2016 with a bimonthly update schedule. [30]


The current wiki is the third iteration of AVENwiki, as the first version, started in September 2005,[31] was abandoned in favour of the second later that year, and the second version, experienced technical problems.[32]. On September 3, 2006, this wiki was created.[33][34]

AVEN TOSed by Bluehost

At the end of October 2006, AVEN's hosting provider, Bluehost, changed its terms of service to prohibit discussion of “anything related to human sexuality” and suspended service to AVEN with no warning on November 4th.[35] A temporary board, AVENites Unite!, was established by AVEN moderators, and members of the community notified others of this board through various methods, including instant messages and an announcement on Wikipedia.[36] The administrators created a temporary main page on which contained static content and directed users to the AVENites Unite! forum. AVEN was then transferred to a dedicated server with a different host,, and the forums were restored as of November 11th.[37][38][39]

Language expansion on AVEN

Main article: Internationality

As discussion of asexuality has become more widespread, many forums for the discussion of asexuality in other languages have been created.

The German AVEN website and subforum, AVENde, was formed on January 18, 2005 and has since grown to include more extensive static content, over 7000 users, as well as a German language wiki, Asex-Wiki. In May 2005 AVENfr, the French AVEN subforum, was created, and this site later grew to include static content as well. The French forum now has over 2700 members. AVENit, the Italian AVEN subforum was also linked from AVEN in May 2005 and now has over 1300 members. October 2005 saw the creation of the Aseksueel Voorlichtings- en Educatie Netwerk, the Dutch AVEN and the Spanish subforum, AVENes, was created in mid July 2006. AVENes was expanded at the end of 2010 to include static content on a home page and presently has over 1600 members registered. A Swedish asexual forum was created in April 2009 and linked from AVEN’s alternate language subforum in June 2010. Other alternate language forums created include Czech, Finnish, Hebrew, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Russian, and Slovenian.

Participation in Pride Parades

In 2009, AVEN members participated in the first asexual entry into an American pride parade when they walked in the San Francisco Pride Parade.[40] They also entered the 2010 parade, and marched in San Francisco Pride in 2011. The UK contingent of AVEN has also been involved in various Pride parades for several years starting in 2009 [41] and they have been marching in Pride parades since 2010.

Legal protections

New York

The New York State Division of Human Rights updated its discrimination complaint form to include asexuals in the protected sexual orientation category on June 17, 2010.[42] Asexuals are included under the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA).[43]


Asexuals were included in the list of sexual orientations categorized as a protected category in Vermont as of 2010.[44]

Media interest in asexuality

For a more comprehensive list of media, see: Asexuality in the media

Bogaert’s 2004 study and the increasing popularity of AVEN led to a rising media interest in discussing asexuality in the mid-2000s. In particular, the New Scientist published an asexuality feature, “Glad to be asexual”, on October 14, 2004, after which numerous newspaper and magazine articles, and later television programs would follow.

Television programs

Starting in 2006, there were a number of television broadcasts featuring asexuals from AVEN, including ABC's The View (15 January 2006), ABC's 20/20 (21 March 2006), MSNBC's The Situation with Tucker Carlson (27 March 2006), Fox News Dayside (3 April 2006), CNN Showbiz Tonight (5 April 2006), Montel Williams Show (04 January 07), and MTV News “Young And Asexual” (5 April 2007).

Later broadcasts include shows on Natalie Cassidy's Real Britain part 1, part 2, and part 3 (19 March 2009) and France24 (10 September 2010).

Asexuals in fiction

See also: Asexuality in fiction

Though fans have speculated on the possible asexuality of many characters, such as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who, it is rare to encounter explicitly asexual characters in fiction.[45] Shortland Street, the New Zealand soap opera, featured a story arc in July 2008 about Gerald Tippett, a character who had come to the realization that he was asexual.[46] In "Guardian of the Dead", a 2010 novel by Karen Healey, one of the characters, Kevin, comes out as asexual to the main character. Some other canon asexuals in fiction include Sandreline fa Toren in Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, Emras from Sherwood Smith's Banner of the Damned, and Clariel in Clariel by Garth NIx.

Development of asexual symbols

One of the longest standing symbols associated with asexuality is the AVEN triangle, a simplified model of sexual orientation representing the Kinsey scale along its top edge as a line from homosexual to bisexual to heterosexual, with asexuality at the lower point of the triangle. It was also intended as a reference to the pink triangle used as a pride symbol in the queer community.[47] The AVEN triangle was included in a description of the definition of asexuality on AVEN in 2001.[48] It was originally developed by David Jay, and did not include a gradient; instead, the lower portion of the triangle was black (the double-triangle AVEN symbol). By 2002, Jay was considering abandoning the triangle, as it was based on a binary model of gender and did not take romantic orientation into account, but the triangle was retained as a symbol of AVEN rather than a complete model of orientation.[49] In May 2005, AVEN underwent a major site redesign, and the triangle was modified to include a gradient to represent the grey area between asexuality and sexuality.[50]

The AVEN forum has a long tradition of welcoming new members with cake. The cake emoticon was first suggested on June 23rd, 2004, and drawn on the same day by Live R Perfect.[51] The tradition and popularity of cake on AVEN had been around for some time before then. Cake is also given for congratulations, comfort, or when a poster does something particularly asexy. This has lead to cake being an unofficial asexual symbol, which is often explained to newcomers on AVEN by the notion that many asexuals would prefer cake to sex. The ace of spades and the ace of hearts also have a history of being used as asexual symbols, as ‘ace’ has developed into an informal word for an asexual within the community.

On June 17, 2005, Shockwave suggested a black ring in an AVEN thread about showing asexual pride. Wearing a black ring on the middle finger of the right hand has since been adopted by many individuals as an unofficial symbol of their asexuality.[52]

In July 2010, several AVENites took the initiative to push for serious discussion of the development of a flag to represent asexuality as a sexual orientation and for use as a visibility tool. This lead to outreach to asexual communities beyond AVEN for input on the flag design, and in August a flag with four horizontal stripes of equal size was voted in on a surveying site.[53] The black stripe represents asexuality, the grey stripe grey-asexuality and demisexuality, the white stripe sexuality, and the purple stripe community.

Asexuality and HSDD in the DSM

For a more extensive history of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM) there is a post on Asexual Explorations.

The DSM-5 and ICD-10 currently define various types of asexuality as a disorder, [54] even though homosexuality was removed from the DSM in 1973 [55], and in DSM-5 transgenderism was renamed to no longer classify it as a "disorder".

The diagnoses have gone under different names over time:

  • DSM-III — Inhibited sexual desire (ISD)
  • DSM-III-R — Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)
  • DSM-IV-TR — HSDD added a new criteria, "marked distress or interpersonal difficulties". Before this, HSDD was diagnosed simply for having decreased desire.
  • DSM-5 — Female sexual interest/arousal disorder, Male hypoactive sexual desire disorder
  • ICD-10 — Hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)

Proposed changes to DSM-5: In June 2008, Jay met with Mara Keisling, the Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who suggested that the asexual community consider contacting the committee discussing changes in the sexual disorders section of the DSM-V.[56] Jay recruited Mandrewliter, and later a small group of other AVENites to help promote dialogue with the DSM sexual dysfunction workgroup in hopes of amending the definition of Hyposexual Desire Disorder to be more accommodating of asexuality as an orientation.[57]

In 2013, the DSM-5 was published. Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder and Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder remain listed as sexual disorders, but their criteria exclude individuals who self-identify as asexual.[58]

Asexual communities beyond AVEN

See also: Asexual Sites

New forums

In late 2006, the Official Nonlibidoist Society website closed and the AVEN forums experienced an influx of antisexual and elitist viewpoints in 2007. Karl (aka Live R Perfect on AVEN) started Apositive in early January 2008 as a community for sex-positive discourse with a very low tolerance for antisexual comments. Originally, Apositive included a forum as well as a knowledge base of studies related to asexuality, and it focused on discussing asexuality as part of a sexual society. As of October 2009, Karl transferred ownership of Apositive to Nancy and Keith (KAGU143 and KAW143). The knowledge base is no longer active, but the forum is still maintained and differs from the AVEN forum because it includes a subforum for the discussion of sexuality, in addition to the asexuality subforum.

The A-sylum was started in early 2007 by Derp, another member of AVEN, as a place for more “off-the-wall” asexual discussion. Late 2010 saw a proliferation of asexuality-related forums, including The Asexy Place, Cakegasm, Knights of the Shaded Triangle, Aromantic Asexuals, and the TransYada forum. The Asexy Place and Cakegasm have since closed down.

Asexual blogs

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of asexual blogs, vlogs, and podcasts. The blog carnival, A Carnival of Aces, was started in May 2011 to promote discussion of various perspectives on asexuality. Hot Pieces of Ace, which focuses on helping the asexual community, was the first of several asexual YouTube collaboration channels created in 2010 and 2011. Others include Deck of Aces and the Dapper Ace. There is also a large asexual community presence on tumblr.

External links


  1. (indirect) mentions of asexuality in Magnus Hirschfeld's books - on AVEN Forums
  2. Kinsey, Alfred C. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W.B. Saunders. ISBN 0-253-33412-8
  3. Kinsey, Alfred C. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W.B. Saunders. ISBN 0-253-33412-8
  4. Kinsey, Alfred C. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. W. B. Saunders ISBN 025333411X
  5. Storms, Michael D. (1979). "Sexual Orientation and Self-Perception." ed. Pliner, Patricia et al. Advances in the Study of Communication and Affect. Volume 5: Perception of Emotion is Self and Others Plenum Press.
  6. Storms, Michael D. (1980). "Theories of Sexual Orientation". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38: 783-792.
  7. Nurius, Paula. (1983). "Mental Health Implications of Sexual Orientation" The Journal of Sex Research 19 (2) pp.119-136.
  9. Takahiro. I plan to die a virgin (11/5/96)
  11. Jay, David. (2003). The Computer in the Closet – Online Collective Identity Formation
  12. O'Reilly, Zoe. (199)7. My life as an amoeba. StarNet Dispatches.
  14. Haven for the Human Amoeba.
  15. Early AVEN Internet Archive Capture, March 2002
  16. Official Nonlibidoism Society. Internet Archive Capture, January 2005.
  17. Asexuals LiveJournal Community.
  18. Apositive discussion. (2010). History: nonlibidoism society
  19. Wellings, K. (1994). Sexual Behaviour in Britain: The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Penguin Books.
  20. Bogaert A.F. (2004) Asexuality: Its Prevalence and Associated Factors in a National Probability Sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41, 279-287.
  21. Bogaert A. F. (2006). Toward a Conceptual Understanding of Asexuality. Review of General Psychology, 10, 241-250.
  22. Bogaert, A. F. (2008). Asexuality: Dysfunction or variation. in J. M Caroll & M. K. Alena (eds). Psychological Sexual Dysfunctions. New York: Nova Biomedical Books. pp. 9-13.
  23. Brotto, L. A., Knudson, G., Inskip, J., Rhodes, K., & Erskine, Y. (2010). Asexuality: A mixed methods approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 599-618.
  24. Brotto, L. A., & Yule, M. A. (2010). Physiological and Subjective Sexual Arousal in Self-Identified Asexual Women, Archives of Sexual Behavior, DOI: 10.1007/s10508-010-9671-7.
  25. AVEN discussion. (2003). Moderators Part II:
  26. AVEN discussion. (2004). The AVENElection: Now accepting nominations:
  27. AVEN discussion. (2003). Buy T-shirts!!
  28. AVEN discussion. (2004). AVEN online store open for business
  29. AVEN discussion. (June 2006).Proposal for General Review: AVEN Project Team
  30. AVEN discussion. (September 2015). Volunteer Call for AVENues: An Old Favourite Coming Back!
  35. Heaton, M. (October 25, 2006). Adult hosting… Bluehost Blog.
  36. Asexuality article on Wikipedia. (November 5, 2006).
  37. AVENues. (November, 2006). News from November. Issue 3.
  38. Lecorchick, A. (November, 2006). That which does not kill us. AVENues, Issue 3.
  39. Various AVENites Unite! discussions. (November, 2006).
  40. Rufus, A. (June 22, 2009). Asexuals at the Pride Parade. Psychology Today: Stuck.
  41. AVEN discussion. (2009). LONDON PRIDE PARADE.
  42. New York State Division of Human Rights. (2010). New York State Division of Human Rights Complaint Form.
  43. New York State Civil Rights Bureau. SONDA brochure.
  44. Vermont Human Rights Commission. (2010). Gender, Sex, Sexual orientation definitions.
  45. Asexuality on TV
  46. Clips of Shortland Street, Asexuality Arc.
  47. Jay, D. (2001). Re: Asexual Symbol, Chat Reminder
  48. Early AVEN Internet Archive Capture, June 2002
  49. AVEN discussion. (2002). Ranges of asexuality.
  50. AVEN discussion. (2005). The symbol
  51. AVEN discussion. (2004). What AVEN needs most
  52. AVEN discussion. (2005). show your pride
  53. AVEN discussion. (2010). Asexual Flag: And the winner is.....
  54. The creation and evolution of ISD/HSDD in the DSM
  55. APA LGBT Policy Statements
  56. Jay, D. (June 06, 2008). At the table. Love from the Asexual Underground.
  57. AVEN discussion. (2008). DSM Fireside Chat: Video update of the DSM Taskforce
  58. Asexuality Archive. (2015). Asexuality in the DSM-5:
Sexual orientation
Asexual · Bisexual · Demisexual · Grey-A · Heterosexual · Homosexual · Pansexual
Kinsey scale · Storms' model · Asexual studies · Asexual behavior in non-human animals