June 6, 2016

1% of British Society is Asexual

For 25-year-old Josh Coty, being part of the one percent is not all it’s cracked up to be. At least, when it comes to being part of that one percent… You know, the percentage of the population that identifies as asexual, or “someone who does not experience sexual attraction,” as defined by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. {queerty}

 Though you refer to yourself as celibate, celibacy is a behavior a person chooses – a decision to fight off the urges most people have to hop on another person and do the humpus-rumpus. What you have is a feeling – a longing for sex on a par with the enthusiasm of a guest at a trendy cocktail party being offered a slightly squirming sushi appetizer: “Uh, thanks, but don’t mind if I don’t.”
Assuming you’ve been checked out by a doctor for any possible medical issues, chances are you’re “ace” – as people who are asexual like to call themselves. Asexuality is a sexual orientation -- that of a person who, as social psychologist Anthony Bogaert puts it, has “a lack of sexual attraction or desire for others.”
Asexuality is pretty uncommon. According to a survey that Bogaert did in the U.K., maybe 1 percent of the population has an asexual orientation. (This estimate may be on the low side, as it was done in 2004, long before the varieties of sexuality and gender began rivaling the choices in the salad bar at Souplantation.)
Asexuality plays out in varied ways. Some asexuals lack any interest in sex, finding it about as appealing as having another person stick a finger up their nose repeatedly (while panting, moaning, and shrieking in ecstasy). Others sometimes have urges for sexual release; they just have no desire to expand their dating pool beyond their hand. So while sexual attraction involves noticing another person and wanting to do all sorts of sex things with them, asexuals might find a person aesthetically pleasing but are generally as sexually interested in them as most of us would be in an adding machine or a potato.
There are those who contend that asexuality is a physical or psychological disorder. And sure, some people probably use asexuality as a cover for unresolved issues or for shock value – like my (decidedly straight) sister did in coming home from college freshman year and announcing to my conservative Republican mother, “I think I’m a lesbian.” My mother handled this perfectly: “That’s nice; please put out the plates for dinner.”
Clinical psychologist Lori Brotto explains that asexuality doesn’t meet the psychiatric bible’s criteria for an arousal disorder – physiological impairment or distress at the lack of attraction to others. Research by Brotto and others also finds that asexuals, in general, don’t seem any crazier than the rest of us and have normal hormone levels and normal arousability, reflected in erectile function and vaginal lubrication. As one asexual put it: “I did, you know, test the equipment … and everything works fine, pleasurable and all; it’s just not actually attracted to anything.’’
Some asexuals get into relationships with other people because they want a partner and/or a family. (They’re asexual, not aloving.) The problem comes if they don’t disclose that their sexual orientation is “Do you mind if I read while you do that?”
As for your situation, if you don’t feel there’s anything missing from your life, well, yay for you. But consider the “self-expansion” model for romantic relationships, by psychologist Arthur Aron and his colleagues. It confirms what many of us intuitively understand: In addition to the ways a relationship challenges people emotionally, it expands who they are as individuals through exposure to their partner’s ideas, identity, possessions, and social circle.
You might be able to have that sort of partnership – with a girlfriend who likes the same hot stuff you probably do in bed (microwaved Chinese food). You can connect with like-minded individuals on the big forum for asexuals – AVEN, the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (Asexuality.org). You might make some friends, and who knows … you might even meet the woman of your dreams – one who can’t wait to go home with you for a long night of meaningless Scrabble.
Amy Alkon

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