To sexual health professionals
Thank you for visiting this website. We would like you to understand what it means to be asexual and to appreciate why greater recognition of asexuality is important. In this letter we are presenting an asexual perspective but we also want to hear what you have learned about sexuality through your professional experience. Any contributions you would like to make to the Wiki and the AVEN discussion forums will be very welcome.
The word asexual has been used, and continues to be used, in many different ways. Over the last few years it has been adopted by people who do not experience sexual attraction. They describe themselves as ‘asexuals’ and ‘asexuality’ is their sexual orientation. While some people may resist the application of labels to individuals, it is essential to have the words to discuss the phenomenon of people who do not experience sexual attraction in a non-pathological context.
The sexual orientations widely recognised by society today are hetero-, homo- and bisexuality. These identify people by the gender of person they are sexually attracted to and thus implicitly exclude people who don’t experience sexual attraction at all. For people who cannot attribute their lack of desire to a plausible cause such as a medical condition or abuse, this may lead to profound feelings of alienation. They may suffer from isolation in a society where they are surrounded by expressions of sexuality to which they do not relate. They may feel inadequate as they try to engage in relationships and find they cannot reciprocate the feelings of their partner.
We believe recognition of asexuality as a minority orientation will help people who don’t experience sexual attraction achieve "physical, psychological and socio-cultural well-being [in relation to their] sexuality". This is sexual health as called for in the PAHO/WHO report Promotion of Sexual Health: Recommendations for Action, 2000.
To this end, we believe:
- Sexual health professionals should have a mindset which does not pathologise asexuality. Just as it is important to treat people who suffer from a sexual disorder, so it is important not contribute to the stigmatisation of asexuals by presuming a their lack of sexual attraction has pathological basis. In order to provide appropriate treatment it is essential to distinguish distress caused by an inability to fulfil an intrinsic desire and distress caused by alienation and wanting to conform to societal norms. It is also important to identify the cause-effect relationships with problems such as depression and social anxiety.
- Sexual health professionals can make a valuable contribution to raising awareness of asexuality. By recognising asexuality as an orientation both in their professional work and when communicating with wider society, professionals can help raise awareness and understanding of people who don’t experience sexual attraction. This will help overcome societal perceptions that asexuals have a disorder or make a choice to be asexual, and help individuals who don’t experience sexual attraction come to understand their own identity.
- Sexual health professionals can contribute to understanding of sexuality by studying asexuality. Very few researchers have studied asexuality and only a handful of peer-reviewed papers have been published. However, these studies have all been conducted in the last few years so we hope this is the emergence of a new subject of interest. Further research will not only improve knowledge of asexuality, but could provide valuable insight to the nature of sexuality in general.
A great diversity of people identify as asexuals. Some feel romantic attraction while others do not. Some experience and enjoy autogenous sexual arousal while others do not. Some regularly engage in sexual activity for the pleasure of their partners while others have never done so. The community includes people from all parts of the sex and gender spectra. These people are united by a desire to be understood and accepted as they are.
Society’s views of sexuality have changed radically through history and differ widely across cultures. At this moment in time in the Western culture, the lives of people who do not experience sexual attraction can compromised by the attitudes of society. We hope you can help change this and appreciate you taking the time to listen.