Asexuals and Pansexuals

We talk quite a lot about furries and sexual orientation here at [adjective][species]. We do so because furries are unusual. For example: we are spread out almost evenly across the full seven-point Kinsey Scale, from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 6 (exclusively homosexual).

Furry sexual preference on the Kinsey scale
Furry sexual preference on the Kinsey scale

We have looked at the tendency of furries to re-evaluate their sexual preference over time, how sexual orientation relates to species choice, how there is a lot of homosexuality but not a lot of homosexuals, and how all of this affects and informs furry culture.

We get all this data by asking about sexual orientation in the Furry Survey. However there are two responses that we collect but rarely mention: those who are asexual and those who are pansexual. Unfortunately, like many unusual sexual orientations and identities, these two groups are often overlooked or ignored inside and outside furry. Such behaviour contributes to a phenomenon known as erasure, which roughly describes how society acts as if entire groups of people don’t exist.

The [adjective][species] tendency to ignore these groups when reporting and analyzing Furry Survey data contributes to erasure of these identities within furry. This article will explain how and why we have treated our asexual and pansexual data, and hopefully help redress the balance.

Let’s look at the asexuals first.

There isn’t much research on asexuality, with the only significant source of data being a 2004 British survey that showed approximately 1% of the population reporting “no sexual attraction to a partner of either sex” (ref).

This conclusion has been subject to some criticism, based on the methodology and the 71.5% participation rate. There is evidence that people with unusual or stigmatic sexuality are more likely to refuse to respond (or respond honestly) to such surveys: homosexuality, for example, is often under-represented using such methodologies. Accordingly there is a good argument that asexuals are more prevalent in the 28.5% who did not participate, and therefore make up more than 1% in the general population. It is not clear what the real number might be.

In furry, we know the answer: around 5% of furries identify as asexual. This number does not vary with age or time in the fandom:

Asexuals are often invisible in conversations and analysis related to sexual identity because they are seen to be irrelevant to the topic at hand. This can cause them to be ignored altogether, which in turn can lead people to believe that they don’t exist.

But the challenge for asexuals isn’t just erasure. Arguably the larger problem is that asexuals can be treated with suspicion and disdain, because asexuality is often assumed to be a symptom of a problem.

For example, asexuality is sometimes assumed to be evidence that someone is unloveable or unattractive, that their professed lack of sexual drive is just a defensive strategy. The “asexuals are losers” trope is everywhere, such as in this example from Red Dwarf:

Source http://fuckyeahreddwarf-.tumblr.com/. This "joke" by the way, sets up Rimmer's confession that his only sexual experience was with a concussed women who kept calling him "Norman". Date rape: hilarious.
Source http://fuckyeahreddwarf-.tumblr.com/. This “joke” by the way, sets up Rimmer’s confession that his only sexual experience was with a concussed women who kept calling him “Norman”. Date rape: hilarious.

It is also common for asexuals to be assumed to be suffering some kind of mental or physical health issue. And while it is true that health issues can sometimes lead to a reduction in sex drive, it is unreasonable to assume that a low sex drive is due to a health issue. Asexuality isn’t a health problem.

Finally, asexuality is often thought to be something that people “grow out of”. While it is true that some asexuals will come to re-evaluate their sexuality and identify as something else, there is no evidence of movement away from asexuality over time.

In furry we can show that asexuality is not temporary, as is clear from the data I presented earlier. This is in contrast to data on furry heterosexuality:

89-hetero and homo

The static nature of the data regarding asexuals within furry is partly why we tend to overlook them here on [adjective][species]. It is difficult to provide interesting analysis on the lack of a trend. For example, when I wrote about how heterosexual furries tend to re-evaluate their sexual preference, I opted to remove the asexual data because it didn’t add to the discussion.

We come across the same issue when we talk about furry sexual behaviour. The asexuals are (usually) simply not relevant to the subject at hand. It’s also fair to say that, in general, people are more interested to read about sexual behaviour than the absence of sexual behaviour.

So while we have the data on asexuals, we are yet to discover anything especially surprising or novel.

More pertinently when it comes to data analysis, asexuality is a bit of an apple among the oranges. It is included as an option to a question about sexual orientation, but asexuality is not a sexual orientation (although some people dispute this).

Asexuality, like a lot of labels around sexuality, is a slippery concept, and so people don’t always agree on what it means. It is usually defined as someone with low sexual attraction*, or no feelings of sexual attraction at all. Asexuals may or may not masturbate, they may or may not have sex, they may or may not be inclined towards a relationship.

Asexuals often experience some romantic inclination, although this may be lower, along with their sexual attraction. Accordingly asexuals are usually thought, in addition to being asexual, to be somewhere between the extremes of exclusive homo- and heterosexuality along with everyone else. They simply experience less sexual interest, tending towards zero, something which inspired the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) symbol:

89-asexualtriangle
The AVEN asexuality symbol. The top of the triangle represents the spectrum from heterosexuality to homosexuality, the lower portion shows sexual orientation tending towards zero.

Of course, it’s difficult to place yourself on the Kinsey Scale if you don’t experience any meaningful sexual or romantic drive.

Asexuality is probably better thought of as an identity rather than a sexual orientation. But that doesn’t make it any less important or real.

Recently, here on [adjective][species], we published a visualization that showed how species choice varies with sex, gender, and sexual orientation. Due to an early design decision, we didn’t show our data on asexuals. That was a mistake.

Our failure to present species data for asexuals is an example of erasure. Please accept my apology—the fault belongs to me, JM.

I have one extra request for the asexuals: do you think we should continue to provide “asexual” as a sexual preference option in the Furry Survey? The alternative would be a separate yes/no question, which might allow a more nuanced response for someone who considers themselves, say, both asexual and heterosexual.


And this brings us to the pansexuals. Like asexuals, pansexuals are rarely mentioned here on [adjective][species].

A pansexual is someone who experiences sexual and romantic attraction where gender is irrelevant. It is similar to bisexuality, but different in that “bisexual” may imply that gender is relevant, and broader in that “bisexual” may imply a lack of interest in people who are genderqueer.

The difference between the two is subtle. I strongly suspect that many, if not most, bisexuals would be happy enough to be labelled pansexual. If anything, pansexual is a better term because of its implied inclusion of people who don’t fit on the gender binary.

Here at [a][s], we usually lump pansexuals in with bisexuals and report them together, usually simply as “bisexuals”. It’s a simplification, one of the many simplifications we make to help us present data in a clear format. In this case, it’s clearer to reduce the number of categories, and we think it’s okay to do so given that the differences between bisexuality and pansexuality are marginal.

We do this with our Kinsey data as well. If you respond to the Furry Survey as either “completely heterosexual” or “mostly heterosexual” (Kinsey Scale 0 and 1 respectively), we lump you into a general “heterosexual” category. Similarly, our homosexual category is a combination of Kinsey 5 and 6, and our bisexuals are Kinsey 2, 3 & 4 (plus pansexuals).

When we do this, we are compromising accuracy for simplicity. It’s a trade-off and we hope we’re striking the right balance. Without such compromises, things can get complicated: even the Kinsey Scale and labels like pansexual and asexual are inherently limiting, because it’s unreasonable to expect something as complex as sexual orientation to be completely explained with one word or a number on a scale. Unfortunately it’s necessary for analysis.

As it turns out, bisexuals and pansexuals within furry tend to exhibit similar patterns in the data:

89-bi-pan

I hope that’s okay, pansexuals. We at [adjective][species] love you all, truly. And we know that you (might) love each and every one of us back.

 

* Edit 1 October 2014: the original version of this article stated that asexuality is usually defined as someone with a low sex drive. This is incorrect: asexuality is someone who experiences little or no sexual attraction.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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24 thoughts on “Asexuals and Pansexuals

  1. Yay! My personal experience is relevant!

    First off, you got a few things wrong about asexuality.

    “It is usually defined as someone with a low sex drive, or no sex drive at all.”

    Actually it’s defined as having no sexual attraction, not no sex drive. Sexual attraction and sex drive are two very different things, and are actually separate from each other. Sexuals don’t often realize this because their orientation guides their sex drive, so for them it’s one in the same. A good metaphor is for sexuals, they are hungry (sex drive) and want to specifically eat pudding (sexual attraction), where as asexuals are hungry, but nothing in the frig appeals to them. Low sex drive is common in asexuality, but many asexuals have regular sex drives. It’s not a defining trait.

    Another thing is asexuality is kind of like a hadron collider; by taking out sexual attraction, you find there are many types of attractions: the most common one talked about is romantic attraction, meaning you prefer to be romantically involved with a certain gender, or genders. Like there could be an asexual who has a romantic attraction only to the same sex, so they’d be called a homoromantic asexual. There’s also emotional attraction and physical attraction (not sexual).

    Then there’s grey-A’s and demisexuals. Grey-A’s are people who feel sexual attraction very infrequently. They’re like a very dark grey instead of a pure black. Demisexuals are people who feel sexual attraction only after they make a certain emotional connection to someone. They are asexual until they find this person.

    “Asexuals are often invisible in conversations and analysis related to sexual identity because they are seen to be irrelevant to the topic at hand.”

    I always find that kind of ironic because on the AVEN asexual boards, we talk about nothing but sex. Or, more accurately, how we interact in a sexual world. Not having something that is so valued and fundamental in our society yields interesting results. Take a poke around AVEN and see the stories they tell. I’d love to see a piece on how asexuals interact with the fandom (the really socially deep ones, I just kind of hang around the fringes). Maybe a separate survey for asexuality and pansexuality, to see how they interact differently from the other orientations.

    1. Scape, you made the exact points I was going to about attraction and sex drive. One can be asexual and have a high sex drive.

      I am demisexual myself, and as an aside, one of the things that annoys me is when someone says that is admirable. They seem to think demisexuality means avoiding sex until one has an emotional connection; this implies that it is a choice. It is not a choice to whom we are attracted or not attracted.

    2. In the past I have suggested a separate y axis for the Kinsey scale dealing with sexual drive.

      Someone who is self rates as a 1 on Kinsey scale (predominately heterosexual) but has a high sex drive may have had more sexual relationships with someone of the same sex than someone who self rates as a 6 (purely homosexual) but with low sex drive.

      1. Hi Keito, thanks for commenting and thanks for being kind with my error. I agree that a y-axis for the Kinsey scale makes sense, although I can see a couple of problems with such a question.

        The first is that sex drive is subjective. We know, for example, that people underrate their own sex drive when asked to evaluate it, and conversely overrate other people’s sex drive. So it may lead to misleading results – the hetero/homosexuality spectrum is more definitive (although hardly perfect).

        The second issue is one of complexity. The more subtle our question, the less striking the result. It’s always a balance when collecting and reporting statistics. We at [a][s] try to keep it pretty lay, which sees us receive reasonable criticism for being over-simplistic from time to time. However I think that’s preferable to being impenetrable.

    3. Scape, thanks for the comment and thanks for the correction. I always do a lot of reading when I’m researching a new topic, and I always take notes to make sure I get my language right. Unfortunately here I got the simplest and most important thing wrong: the definition!

      My apologies… I have been thinking about whether to edit the article—which I will often do to fix an outright error—and make a note at the bottom noting what has been revised. In this case, I’m not sure it’s an outright falsehood – certainly AVEN seems to use “drive” and “attraction” interchangeably at times. (Although I do see the important different between to two: attraction makes it clear that it is energy focussed upon other people, not necessarily purely internal.) What do you think – change or leave?

      And I have indeed read around AVEN including the stories. It’s a terrific resource.

      1. Scape basically made my points. In the future, perhaps there could be two variables used: first, relative intensity of sexual attraction (sexuality/asexuality), and second, object of (not necessarily sexual) attraction. This two-variable method would acknowledge the presence of asexuals who might still be able to plot their attraction on the Kinsey scale. There could simply be another option in the second variable to indicate aromanticism.

        Regarding the definition, I would edit the article to finesse it by including both drive and attraction as possible factors in asexuality.

  2. Regarding the survey question on asexuality, I think a multiple choice answer giving degrees of sexual attraction to others would give better data than a simple yes/no choice.

    Regarding the graphics that show sexual orientation vs. years in the fandom, some may look at the data and jump to the conclusion that time in the fandom causes one’s sexual orientation to change, but there’s a different explanation that seems far more likely (though I haven’t researched it) and that is that people of some orientations are more likely to stay in the fandom longer (or be active enough to learn about and respond to surveys about their interest in the fandom) than others.

    1. Mwalimu, thanks for the comment and thanks for making an interesting point. I do think that furry helps people re-evaluate their sexual orientation, and that many closeted gay people learn about their sexuality after some exposure to furry, however the data doesn’t prove that. Your explanation is also quite possible, and perhaps there is some combination of the two.

      The IARP are running a longitudinal study which doesn’t show any tendency for sexual orientation to change with time within furry. However those are very early results, and do not discriminate for only furries who have very recently found the community, which is where we see the trend.

      Personally I am convinced that the trend is a real one. The best piece of converging evidence I have is that it was one of the questions in the old Usenet alt.lifestyle.furry survey. Back then, it was widespread enough for people to suspect it was common – I believe that the Furry Survey simply confirms that it is true.

  3. Thanks for taking steps to address the “erasure” of asexuals and pansexuals in the fandom, JM. I think it’s rather easy to forget those of a non-standard sexuality, and while there are great strides being taken in de-stigmatizing and discussing gender-queer and non-binary orientations, those folks who have “opted out” of sexuality altogether still have a long way to go before they’re visible and understood.

    Asexuality fascinates me, though it’s admittedly something I don’t know a great deal about. I have an asexual friend, though we regrettably didn’t talk much about it; I always assumed that frank sexual discussion would be uncomfortable for him, though judging from the comments above that might not be the case. I just know how frustrating it can be to hold beliefs or preferences that are difficult for some to grasp, and I don’t want to be the source of frustration for someone else, no matter how well-meaning my ignorance.

    Regarding counting asexuals in the future, maybe there could be an “opt-in” question before the Kinsey scale section of the furry survey? Just ask “Do you consider yourself asexual?”, then ask “On a scale of one to six, please indicate your sexual and/or romantic attraction to members of the same or opposite sex?”. The last question is probably giving you fits, so apologies for that. ;)

    I’d really like to hear from asexuals in the fandom about what their experiences are like. Are there furry asexual groups out there? Do they think furries are more or less obsessed with sex than the mainstream? Is there a higher prevalence of spiritual, aesthetic or emotional appreciation among the asexual population? Things like that.

    The idea of “pansexuals” merely being the stretching of “bisexuality” beyond the binary gender limitations is an interesting one to me, and helps me understand it a lot more. It makes me wonder if “bisexual” will come to be something of an outdated term, as our understanding of the gender spectrum broadens and shifts away from binary thinking. Is there a way to actually gauge whether the difference between the terms actually means something to those who self-identify as either/both? Would it make sense to label bisexuals as pansexuals instead?

    1. Hi Jakebe, thanks for the comment and I found myself nodding vigorously in agreement with all of your thoughts.

      About asexuals, you said “Do they think furries are more or less obsessed with sex than the mainstream?” I think you’ve hit on something that makes self-identification as an asexual a bit problematic. It’s because everyone – sexual or asexual – has a tendency to over-estimate how important sex is to other people. So when an asexual says “sex is less important to me”, that feels like a mixture of truth, and a normal but false internally-focussed perception.

      If you assume that’s true – and I have no evidence outside of the logic I’ve presented in this comment – then it opens up a whole bunch of difficult questions about the “realness” of asexuality. I initially intended on following this train of thought in my article but decided against it because it could easily be read as denying the existence of asexuality, which would be completely contrary to the main point I intended to make. In general, while asexuals certainly exist I have reservations about it as an identity, as I guess I have reservations about pretty much all potentially self-limiting labels.

      It may be worth exploring at some point, but only after I have spoken with a lot more asexuals on the topic. I try hard, as I know you do, to present information from an informed perspective, but it’s still easy to get this sort of thing wrong. I have certainly got things wrong in the past, and I’m sure I will in the future. (By the way, your proposed question is a good idea in principle – if not execution – and quite similar to our question on ‘how important is sex to you, personally’… so maybe we already have some usable data.)

      On whether bisexuals might be better to be called pansexuals, I don’t know. I strongly suspect so. It doesn’t make sense to me that bisexuals, on the whole, would not be interested in people outside of the gender binary.

      But then, and again to flirt with denial of sexual orientation, it is certainly true that many gay people identify as bisexual as a stepping-stone in the coming-out process. And in furry we have a lot of people who go through that process (like me), and so perhaps a significant portion of our nominal bisexuals are fundamentally homosexual, and so less inclined towards people who aren’t either the gender they are attracted to, or the gender they grew up thinking they “should be” attracted to.

      Again, this is all contrary to the point I was making in my article! And we have great evidence showing that furries, on the whole, are well-represented as asexuals, bisexuals & pansexuals, and stay well-represented as they age. There is no evidence that bisexuality is fleeting, or that asexuality is over-represented.

      1. Pretty sure there’s going to be a generation gap on the “bi” thing. Pan or omni probably is a more accurate description of how my own brain-junk connection works, but when those terms both appeared at once with people squabbling over minutiae, it was easy to fall back on the ‘conservative’ position. After all, in simpler times the most visible “bi” celebrities skewed decidedly genderqueer and the label was as likely to imply that as not – then it became pleasantly(?) neutral around the same time the mainstream figured out what homosexuality was and wasn’t.

        There’s also that thing where real people fought and struggled to have “bisexuality” recognized in the bad old days before we could discuss things on the Internet,* and it feels weird, wrong and disrespectful to retroactively paint them as transphobic. Heck, no more than ten years ago (crap, it’s been almost ten years?) a certain queer advice columnist was still telling bi folk to ‘pick sides’, though confessedly from his own preferences re: convenience and semantics.

        I’ve just noticed there’s a poetic [re]interpretation of the term here: http://bifurious.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/the-two-in-bisexual/ … which might cease to apply if the next decade is reserving the term to people with strict binary preferences because there are new ones for those feeling more fluid.

        (Also, as a result of being on the sidelines of the ‘pan vs. omni’ disputes, I can further show my age by preferring the [post-?]ironic “meta” if I need a more inclusive term.)

        The evolution of this stuff is clearly paralleling what’s happened with preferred terms in certain other civil rights movements, so I’ll accept the fact that I’m somewhat ‘stuck in the past’ and just be glad no one’s getting hit with batons over this stuff in 2014 [I hope].

        *Footnote: Anyone notice we’ve just reached the second-order effect of the first universally connected generations having time to reconsider their positions? To put it ineloquently, a significant chunk of those ‘in it for the lulz’ a decade earlier seem to be using the familiarity gained (“Hey, look, different kinds of people exist! We can make fun of them!”) to recognize that different kinds of people exist and deserve respect in real civil society outside the microcosm of Internet trolling.

        1. Hi Fossa, thanks for the interesting response and I think you’re spot on for the most part. Language is important, but it’s important to acknowledge that it is changing very rapidly at the moment around LGBT issues at the moment. Or is that LGBTQ… or QUILTBAG… or perhaps we are soon to be post-acronym because categories for gender and sexual identity are reductive.

          I think you’re right that there is a bit of a generation gap between “bi-” and pan-“, if not a meaningful difference between the intent of the terms. As part of this article I looked at a bunch of ways that bisexuals and pansexuals respond to different questions, and while they were interesting I ultimately decided they weren’t interesting /enough/. (We have been, and will continue to, share snapshots on the @adjspecies twitter from time to time. Most curious finding: pansexuals are geekier than bisexuals.)

  4. I really ought to actually subscribe to this site, or at least check it more often than once every few months. Thank you for writing this article and addressing the concerns I raised in the previous one about sexuality on the furry survey! It’s also interesting to see the long-term trends.

    I wonder if the trending downwards on heterosexuality and upwards on homosexuality is due to straight folks deciding not to continue with the fandom, as opposed to any underlying change in individual desires. Or maybe allosexual people just end up turning bi after a while in the fandom. :)

  5. The results of surveys like this are always surprisingly interesting. I cant await the furry Survey 2014 :3 …Does anybody now how long we have to wait until it starts?

    1. Mike – we’re working on it! There is lot of back-end work to get it into better shape for analysis, and we are all of course busy with other things that crop up (much as we would like to dedicate more time to furry and [a][s]). Without wanting to name a date – it’s coming soon. Look for updates here, the @adjspecies Twitter, and an ad campaign on FA.

  6. Hi JM, I intended to comment on this post a while ago (but forgot, and then there was the downtime issue for a while) but will finally take the opportunity to do so now. First of all, thanks for raising the issue. I personally identify as an asexual… and while for various reasons I don’t broadcast that everywhere, I do find the near-universal assumption that everybody wants to be sexually or romantically involved with others (with the associated implication that if you *aren’t* involved or looking to be involved, then there must be something wrong with you) to be grating and sometimes offensive. And it would be nice if were more evident that not having a parter does not not automatically imply that one is “available”. So, thanks for raising the subject here.

    I did still want to emphasize (since you seemed to be wavering a bit in your last comment) that there is really no question about the “realness” of asexuality. While (along with everything else) there is a spectrum with individuals at different points, at one end of it there is most definitely a class of people (including me) who have zero interest in ever having sex, never think about sex, have never found anyone sexually attractive… et cetera et cetera. And even for people who are not necessarily at this extreme, I don’t think there is any issue about the “relative to other people” issue you describe. One could think of many tests to draw a line at some fully objective threshold if necessary – for example, I think a pretty classical asexual question of this type is that if asked to choose whether they would prefer sex or cake, an asexual would always choose cake. Whether it is an orientation/preference or not seems to me to be mostly a question of semantics. Certainly, being completely uninvolved in sex and attraction entirely seems very much to be something that one can “prefer”, whereas an “orientation” calls to mind a compass pointing in a particular direction so perhaps it is only an orientation insomuch as atheism is a religion. As for an “identity”, I’m not even really sure what that means or if it even means anything (other than what you personally label yourself). Again, mostly semantics.

    Since I can probably take some part of the credit for the asexuality option appearing on the survey in the first place (after a mildly-irate conversation with Klisoura many years ago, following being completely flummoxed by what to put in the original survey on the 1-7 Kinsey scale) I am happy to provide recommendations for this time. :) While the survey as-is is unambiguous for me personally, indeed, it probably makes some sense to permit people to respond as asexual while also giving some information about their preferences in the event that they experience weak or purely-romantic attraction. Probably the easiest thing to do would be to add a few checkboxes in addition to the Kinsey rating, such as: “Demisexual or grey-asexual”, “Asexual; the rating above describes my romantic preference”, and “Asexual and aromantic” where someone in the last category would presumably leave the 1-7 rating unanswered. This would, I guess, leave no room for people who are sexual and romantic but also have different gender preferences for the two but I *think* that is a very small category and people who feel strongly in this regard could provide a write-in response.

    1. My point about “realness” is not about whether asexuals exist – they certainly do, and our data shows that’s it not temporary – more about asexuality as an identity. I feel for some people it could be a counter-productive label, where it is used as a shorthand justification for loneliness, and a reason to withdraw from society.

      Of course you say that it’s mostly semantics and I completely agree. Although I happen to think that semantics are important. Language shapes the way we interact with the world, and informs everything we do. It can be a powerful thing.

      Having said all that, I can see a lot of value in asexuality (as a term) for asexuals such as yourself. We do live in a sexualised world, and a lack of romantic or sexual attachment is commonly seen as some sort of shortcoming. It’s useful to be able to deflect such suggestions – which I’m guessing happen a lot – in such a straightforward and elegant fashion: “I’m asexual”.

      And thanks for the kind comments. In these pages I occasionally try to raise a bit of awareness of things that might not be obvious to the majority of furs, and I think asexuality fits into that category. I have been surprised, pleasantly, by the number of friends and acquaintances who have used this article to tell me that they consider themselves asexual.

      You have done a lot of good in that direction as well by gently suggesting to Klisoursa that asexuality needs to appear in the Furry Survey. I’m sure there are a lot of asexuals out there who were happy to see it appear as a legitimate option.

      1. Alright, I suppose I had misinterpreted your meaning – apologies for the confusion!

        I think you have pretty much nailed the issue. One one hand, I am indeed extremely hesitant to brand myself with a label and generally avoid doing so, for a variety of reasons. On the other hand, there is a clear need to be able to have a simple word or phrase to refer to when friends or family members or colleagues ask certain types of questions, rather than having to provide a lecture about the subject on the spot. Not only does it avoid having to provide an uncomfortable explanation about a highly personal issue, the establishment of a publicly-understood label in the lexicon is an important part of establishing in the public mind that this is a real and legitimate way that many people are (as opposed to an attempt to concoct some sort of excuse for why we can’t get girlfriends.)

        Although, personally I find the term “asexual” to be a poor one because that already means something quite different in biology. “Nonsexual” would have been a lot better – but that ship has already sailed.

      2. re: counter-productivity – as with related identity stuff, it’s all about dysphoria or the lack thereof, isn’t it?

        If someone’s claiming asexuality to justify (or conceal?) loneliness, that’s not actually the “label’s” problem.

        I’ve looked askance at the concept myself, particularly when everyone came out at once when it hit the media, but as far as integrity of the person – assuming more serious medical issues aren’t involved – maybe treatments are available, but their use has to be a personal choice.

        As libidinous critters, it’s easy to overlook that just because certain urges/frustrations/natural bodily functions (with a salute to Dr. House) are part of our condition, they’re not necessarily essential to anyone else’s. [Insert crude omorashi reference here.] How often are we just projecting our own ‘loneliness’ because we’re hoping to meet someone compatible and ‘they don’t know what they’re missing’? [People have named the “Friendzone” for a reason – it’s biologically frustrating.]

        I can legitimately envy those who are “off by default” for having one less problem, even if being made out of meat also obliges me to insist that nature’s crack (going through the motions of reproduction and enjoying it) is worth experiencing when possible.

        1. [Insert caveat that asexuality can be more complicated than “off by default” as per the first comment on this article – which I can actually relate to a bit, because reasons – so acknowledging that I’m projecting a personal thing there: A rapid on/off switch would be super handy.]

        2. A therapist will tell you that this problem with identity labels is that they can become self-limiting. It’s not a problem with the label per se, it’s more about the relationship with have with language, and how language affects the way we see ourselves.

          There are loads of asexuals out there, but they fall all over the spectrum with regards to sexual drive, sexual attraction, romantic attraction, orientation, and who knows what else. Many will have correctly diagnosed themselves as asexual, and they may find it convenient shorthand when explaining to people, or to help them find a community that can assist as they negotiate a sexualised world.

          Others will get it wrong. For example, a person may notice that she is not attracted to the opposite sex, and therefore decide that she is asexual. When this person realises she is gay, she now has an extra mental hurdle to overcome: she has to reform herself as someone who is both sexual and a lesbian. And she may decide to retreat to the safe ground of the “asexual” label, and opt out of her self-discovery.

          Labels can be dangerous because they sometimes become self-fulfilling prophecies. In general I think it’s often better to avoid them where they don’t have a clinical definition, and where they might be self-limiting.

          1. Not disagreed, except that all labels carry these risks (and yet somehow they’re still a popular sport to attempt to define ourselves or just how we’re feeling today).

            I propose that, as much as I reflexively question it too, it’s only perceived as dangerous because it’s unfamiliar and new and don’t-we-have-enough-already?

            In a culture that can accept lesbian-until-graduation (a pejorative, sure, but an observed possibility), asexual-until-determined-otherwise doesn’t seem to raise any new issues (that wouldn’t exist equally under any other scheme of sexual taxonomy) except for the outsiders confused by it.

            The only real risk, and the one Dan Savage was promoting before he wised up, is the fallacy that we ‘must’ pick and settle on one of these labels for life, for reasons of rights and identity and that brief but important moment where being ‘born this way’ managed to justify others’ preferences where appeals to reason could not. But I’ve seen no valid argument that an electric slide all over the Kinsey Scale (or above, beyond, or beside it) is excluded from the set of ‘this way’s.

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