Sexuality permeates today’s culture in magazines, television shows and beyond. The presumption is everyone will eventually pursue a sexual relationship at some point in life, as the urge to be intimate simply “must” be present. Asexual people do not experience sexual attraction toward others, according to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). Asexuality also differs from celibacy, a conscious choice to abstain from sexual activity. Despite mounting evidence of asexuality’s scientific and anecdotal visibility, the group experiences distressing abuse and misunderstandings from certain others.
Cara C. MacInnis and Gordon Hodson, both from Brock University in Canada, conducted a study finding asexual people often viewed as “less human and less valued as contact partners” compared to other sexual minorities.
“This confirms that sexual desire is considered a key component of human nature and those lacking it are viewed as relatively deficient, less human and disliked,” MacInnis and Hodson wrote.
David Jay, founder of AVEN, is taken aback by these kinds of studies. “We have disturbing evidence that indicates that there may be widespread discrimination as more asexuals come out and the ace community gets more of a voice,” Jay claims. “Ace” is the nickname some asexuals use for themselves and others in their demographic.
Activist Julie Decker is painfully aware of this hostility, as she was sexually assaulted at the age of 19 years old by a male attempting to “fix” her asexuality. She has gone on to believe those committing sex crimes against her peers do so out of a belief they are “helping” the victim “wake up” their supposed deeply buried sexual urges.
Dr. Lori Brotto from the University of British Columbia believes asexuality is real and not the same as a low sex drive. Her 2014 study looked for biological markers of asexuality by surveying men and women of different sexual orientations for different attributes, such as birth order and hand preference. Sexual arousal of asexual and non-asexual women was also measured. Dr. Brotto found both groups experiencing physical reactions to erotic materials, therefore concluding asexuality is not a sexual dysfunction.
Dr. Brotto emphasizes the lack of distress asexual people feel toward their lack of urges. Rather, any distress is likely due to discrimination from peers and possibly disenfranchisement in mainstream society. Dallas Bryson, a self-described asexual studying at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, says her sex drive is actually quite high but she has never felt the need to act on it with a partner.
Dr. Nicole Prause, an investigator at the Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, hopes research like Dr. Brotto’s continues, as this kind of investigation is ultimately about gaining understanding and compassion.
Written by Nicholas Ruiz, Sovereign Health Group writer