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Research exploring asexuality, or even taking asexuality into account, is a relatively recent development in the study of sex. Many of the larger studies in this area are only now being planned and carried out, so the body of work is growing at a rapid pace.

Alfred Kinsey, the father of sexology, was aware of an asexual element in the population but did little to investigate it. His Kinsey scale of sexual orientation consisted of a single axis lying between heterosexuality and homosexuality with bisexuality in between, and thus left no place for asexuality. In the Kinsey Reports of 1948 and 1953, subjects were scaled from "0" (completely heterosexual) to "6" (completely homosexual), but a separate category of "X" was created for those with "no socio-sexual contacts or reactions."[1][2]

The first explorations of asexuality were based on the presumed existence of an asexual demographic, inferred from a new understanding of human sexual variability brought by researchers such as Kinsey. A 1977 paper entitled Asexual and Autoerotic Women: Two Invisible Groups, by Myra T. Johnson, may provide the first such conjecture. Johnson defines asexuals as those men and women "who, regardless of physical or emotional condition, actual sexual history, and marital status or ideological orientation, seem to prefer not to engage in sexual activity." Johnson reveals no firsthand knowledge of or contact with asexual individuals, but portrays them as invisible, "oppressed by a consensus that they are nonexistent," and left behind by both the sexual revolution and feminist movement.[3]

In a 1980 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Michael D. Storms of the University of Kansas outlined his own reimagining of the Kinsey scale. Like Kinsey, Storms gauged orientation based on fantasizing and eroticism rather than actual sexual activity. Storms, however, placed the tendencies of hetero-eroticism and homo-eroticism on separate axes rather than at two ends of a single scale; this allows for a distinction between bisexuality (exhibiting both hetero- and homo-eroticism in degrees comparable to hetero- or homosexuals, respectively) and asexuality (exhibiting a level of homo-eroticism comparable to a heterosexual, and a level of hetero-eroticism comparable to a homosexual: namely, little to none). Storms conjectured that many researchers following Kinsey's model could be mis-categorizing asexual subjects as bisexual, because both were simply defined by a lack of preference for gender in sexual partners.[4]

The first empirical data about an asexual demographic appeared in 1994, when a research team in the United Kingdom carried out a comprehensive survey of 18,876 British residents, spurred by the need for sexual information in the wake of the AIDS epidemic. The survey included a question on sexual attraction, to which a significant 1% of respondents replied that they had "never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all."[5] This phenomenon was seized upon by the Canadian sexuality researcher Dr. Anthony Bogaert, who explored the asexual demographic in a series of studies.[6][7] The 1% statistic from the UK survey is the one most frequently quoted as the possible incidence of asexuality in the general population, though it should be considered very tentative. Assuming this statistic holds true, the world population of asexual people would stand at over 60 million.

The Kinsey Institute sponsored another small survey on the topic in 2007, which found that self-identified asexuals "reported significantly less desire for sex with a partner, lower sexual arousability, and lower sexual excitation but did not differ consistently from non-asexuals in their sexual inhibition scores or their desire to masturbate."[8]

Though comparisons with non-human sexuality are problematic, a series of studies done on ram mating preferences at the United States Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho starting in 2001 found that about 2% to 3% of the animals being studied had no apparent interest in mating with either sex; the researchers classified these animals as asexual, but found them to be otherwise healthy with no recorded differences in hormone levels.[9][10]


  1. Kinsey, Alfred C. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W.B. Saunders. ISBN 0-253-33412-8.
  2. Kinsey, Alfred C. (1948). Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. W.B. Saunders. ISBN 0-253-33412-8.
  3. Gochros, H.L.; J.S. Gochros (1977). The Sexually Oppressed. Associated Press. ISBN 9780809619153
  4. Storms, Michael D. (1980). "Theories of sexual orientation". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38: 783-792.
  5. Wellings, K. (1994). Sexual Behaviour in Britain: The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. Penguin Books.
  6. Bogaert, Anthony F. (2004). " Asexuality: prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample". Journal of Sex Research 41 (3): 281 Retrieved on 31 August, 2007.
  7. Bogaert, Anthony F. (2006). "Toward a conceptual understanding of asexuality". Review of General Psychology 10 (3): 241-250 Retrieved on 31 August, 2007.
  8. Prause, Nicole; Cynthia A. Graham (August 2004). "Asexuality: Classification and Characterization". Archives of Sexual Behavior 36: 341-356 Retrieved on 31 August, 2007.
  9. Roselli, Charles A. (2002). "Relationship of serum testosterone concentrations to mate preferences in rams". Biology of Reproduction 67: 263-268 Retrieved on 31 August, 2007.
  10. Stellflug, J.N. (2006)."Comparison of cortisol, luteinizing hormone, and testosterone responses to a defined stressor in sexually inactive rams and sexually active female-oriented and male-oriented rams" Journal of Animal Science 84: 1520-1525 Retrieved on 31 August, 2007.