Asexuality: characteristics and definitions

Author/s Ilaria Prosperi, Adele Fabrizi, Chiara Simonelli
Publishing Year 2015 Issue 2015/2
Language Italian Pages 34 P. 49-82 File size 117 KB
DOI 10.3280/RSC2015-002003
DOI is like a bar code for intellectual property: to have more infomation click here

Below, you can see the article first page

If you want to buy this article in PDF format, you can do it, following the instructions to buy download credits

Article preview

FrancoAngeli is member of Publishers International Linking Association, Inc (PILA), a not-for-profit association which run the CrossRef service enabling links to and from online scholarly content.

Although there has been increasing interest in asexuality during the past decade, still little is known on this topic. Three different approaches have been proposed, to define asexuality: a definition that is based on sexual attraction, one on sexual behavior, one on self-identification. Depending on the definition used, reported prevalence rates range from .7% to 6.1% of a U.S. sample. Many authors suggests that asexuality can be better understood as a sexual orientation, distinguishing from sexual dysfunction, as hypoactive sexual desire disorder. Socially, asexuality attracted denial and resistance due to incompatibility with heteronormative societal expectations; asexual individuals may face the same social stigma experienced by other sexual minorities. This article explore the characteristics of asexuality, hypotheses on the psychophysiological etiology and review biological, psychological, and social factors associated with asexuality.

Keywords: Asexuality; sexual orientation; hypoactive sexual desire disorder; sexual attraction; sexual minorities; asexual community

  1. American Psychiatric Association (1987). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed., revised.), Washington, DC: Author.
  2. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed.), Washington, DC: Author.
  3. American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th ed., text rev.), Washington, DC: Author.
  4. American Psychiatric Association (2013). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Washington, DC: Author.
  5. Bogaert A.F. (2004). Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample. Journal of Sex Research, 41(3): 279-87. DOI: 10.1080/00224490409552235
  6. Bogaert A.F. (2006b). Toward a conceptual understanding of asexuality. Review of General Psychology, 10(3): 241-50. DOI: 10.1037/1089-2680.10.3.241
  7. Bogaert A.F. (2008). Asexuality: Dysfunction or variation? In: Carrol J.M., Alens M.K. Psychological sexual dysfunction (pp. 9-13), New York, NY: Nova Biomedical Books.
  8. Bogaert A.F. (2012a). Understanding Asexuality. Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
  9. Bogaert A.F. (2012b). Asexuality and autochorissexualism (identity-less sexuality). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(6): 1513-4. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-012-9963-
  10. Bogaert A.F. (2013). The Demography of Asexuality. In: Baumle A., International Handbook on Demography of Sexuality, Springer Netherlands, pp. 275-88.
  11. Bogaert A.F., Visser B.A., Pozzebon J.A. (2015). Gender Differences in Object of Desire Self-Consciousness Sexual Fantasies. Archives of Sexual Behavior. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-014-0456-2
  12. Bogaert A.F. (2015b). Asexuality: What It Is and Why It Matters. The Journal of Sex Research, 52(4): 362-79. DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2015.1015713
  13. Brotto L.A., Yule M.A. (2009). Reply to Hinderliter (2009). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(5): 622-3. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-009-9514-6
  14. Brotto L.A. Knudson G., Inskip J., Rhodes K., Erskine Y. (2010). Asexuality: A mixed methods approach. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39(3): 599-18. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-008-9434-x
  15. Brotto L.A., Yule M.A. (2011). Physiological and subjective sexual arousal in selfidentified asexual women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(4): 699-12. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-010-9671-7
  16. Brotto L.A., Yule M.A, Gorzalka B.B. (2015). Asexuality: An Extreme Variant of Sexual Desire Disorder?. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12(3): 646-60. DOI: 10.1111/jsm.12806
  17. Carrigan M.A. (2011). There’s more to life than sex? Difference and commonality within the asexual community. Sexualities, 14(4): 462-78. DOI: 10.1177/1363460711406462
  18. Carrigan M.A. (2012). “How do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it?” Asexual agency and the sexual assumption, (a cura di) Morrison T. G., Morri son M. A., Carrigan M.A., McDermott D.T., Sexual Minority Research in the New Millennium, New York: Nova Science, pp. 3-20.
  19. Carrigan M., Gupta K., Morrison T.G. (2013). Asexuality special theme issue Editorial. Psychology and Sexuality, 4(2): 111-20. DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774160
  20. Cerankowski K.J., Milks M. (2010). New orientations: Asexuality and Its Implications for Theory and Practice. Feminist Studies, 36(3): 650-64. DOI: 10.2307/27919126
  21. Chasin C.J.D. (2011). Theoretical Issues in the Study of Asexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(4): 713-23. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-011-9757-x
  22. Chasin C.J.D. (2013). Reconsidering Asexuality and Its Radical Potential, Feminist Studies, 39(2), 405-26.
  23. Chasin C.J.D. (2014). Making Sense in and of the Asexual Community: Navigating Relationships and Identities in a Context of Resistance. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 25(2): 167-180. DOI: 10.1002/casp.2203
  24. Derogatis L.R., Rosen R., Leiblum S., Burnett A., Heiman J. (2002). The Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS): Initial Validation of a Standardized Scale for Assessment of Sexually Related Personal Distress in Women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 28(4): 317-30. DOI: 10.1080/00926230290001448
  25. Diamond L.M. (2003b). What does sexual orientation orient? A biobehavioral model distinguishing romantic love and sexual desire. Psychological Review, 110(1): 173-92. DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.110.1.173
  26. Diamond L.M. (2004). Emerging perspectives on distinctions between romantic love and sexual desire. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(3): 116-19. DOI: 10.1111/j.0963-7214.2004.00287.x
  27. Diamond L.M. (2008). Sexual fluidity: Understanding women’s love and desire, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  28. Fisher H.E. (1998). Lust, attraction, and attachment in mammalian reproduction. Human Nature, 9(1): 23-52. DOI: 10.1007/s12110-998-1010-5
  29. Fisher H.E. (2000). Lust, attraction, attachment: Biology and evolution of the three primary emotion systems for mating, reproduction, and parenting. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, 25(1): 96-04. DOI: 10.1080/01614576.2000.11074334
  30. Fisher H.E. (2004). Why we love: The nature and chemistry of romantic love, New York: Holt Paperbacks.
  31. Flore J. (2013). HSDD and asexuality: a question of instruments. Psychology & Sexuality, 4(2): 152-66. DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774163
  32. Foster A.B., Scherrer K.S. (2014). Asexual-identified clients in clinical settings: Implications for culturally competent practice. Psychology Of Sexual Orientation And Gender Diversity, 1(4): 422-30. DOI: 10.1037/sgd0000058
  33. Gazzola S., Morrison M. (2012). Asexuality: An emergent sexual orientation, In: Morrison T.G., Morrison M.A., Carrigan M.A., McDermott D.T. (a cura di) Sexual Minority Research in the New Millennium, New York: Nova Science, pp. 21-44.
  34. Gressgard R. (2013). Asexuality: From pathology to identity and beyond. Psychology and Sexuality, 4(2): 179-92. DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774166.HeimanJ.R.,RowlandD.L.(1983).Affectiveandphysiologicalsexualresponsepatterns:Theeffectsofinstructionsonsexuallyfunctionalanddysfunctionalmen.JournalofPsychosomaticResearch,27(2),105-16.DOI:10.1016/0022-3999(83)90086-7
  35. Hinderliter A. (2009). Methodological issues for studying asexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38(5): 619-621. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-009-9502-
  36. Hinderliter A. (2013). How is asexuality different from hypoactive sexual desire disorder?. Psychology and Sexuality, 4(2): 167-178. DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774165
  37. Höglund J., Jern P., Sandnabba N.K., Santtila P. (2014). Finnish women and men who self-report no sexual attraction in the past 12 months: prevalence, relationship status, and sexual behavior history. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(5):879-89. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-013-0240-8
  38. Jay D., (2008), Asexuality visibility and education network, Retrieved from
  39. Johnson M.T. (1977). Asexual and autoerotic women: Two invisible groups, (a cura di) Gochros H.L., Gochros J.S., The sexually oppressed, New York: Association Press, pp. 96-09.
  40. Johnson W.R., Johnson J.A. (1963). Human sex and sex education, Philadelphia: Lea & Febiger.
  41. Kim E. (2010). How much sex is healthy? The pleasures of asexuality. In: Metzl J., Kirkland A. (a cura di) Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality, New York: New York University Press, pp. 157-69.
  42. Kinsey A.C., Pomeroy W.B., Martin C.E. (1948) Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders.
  43. Kinsey A.C., Pomeroy W.B., Martin, C.E., Gebhard P.H. (1953). Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, Philadelphia, PA: W. B. Saunders.
  44. Lucassen Merry S.N., Robinson E.M., Denny S., Clark T., Ameratunga S., Crengle S., Rossen F.V. (2011). Sexual attraction, depression, self-harm, suicidality and help-seeking behaviour in New Zealand secondary school students. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45(5), 376-83. DOI: 10.3109/00048674.2011.559635
  45. MacInnis C., Hodson G. (2012). Intergroup biases towards ‘Group X’: Evidence of prejudice, dehumanization, avoidance and discrimination against asexuals. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 15(6): 725-43. DOI: 10.1177/1368430212442419
  46. MacNeela P, Murphy A. (2015). Freedom, invisibility, and community: a qualitative study of self-identification with asexuality. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(3): 799-12. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-014-0458-0
  47. Masters W.H., Johnson V.E. (1966). Human Sexual Response, Toronto; New York: Bantam Books.
  48. Masters W.H., Johnson V.E., Kolodny R.C. (1986). Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving, Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
  49. Nurius P.S. (1983). Mental health implications of sexual orientation. The Journal of Sex Research, 19(2): 119-36. DOI: 10.1080/00224498309551174.PachoA.(2013).EstablishingAsexualIdentity:TheEssential,theImaginary,andtheCollective,GraduateJournalofSocialScience,10(1):13-35
  50. Mustanski B.S., Bailey J.M., Kaspar S. (2002). Dermatoglyphics, handedness, sex, and sexual orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 31(1): 113-22. DOI: 10.1023/A:1014039403752
  51. Plummer K. (1995). Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change and Social Worlds, London: Routledge.
  52. Poston D., Baumle A. (2010). Patterns of asexuality in the United States. Demographic Research, 23(Sept): 509-30. DOI: 10.4054/DemRes.2010.23.18
  53. Prause N., Graham C. (2007). Asexuality: Classification and characterization. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36(3): 341-56. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-006-9142-3
  54. Prause N., Harenski K. (2014). Inhibition, lack of excitation or suppression: fMRI pilot of Asexuality, (a cura di) K. J. Cerankowski, M. Milks, Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives, Taylor & Francis/Routledge Boo.
  55. Przybylo E. (2011). Crisis and safety: The asexual in sexusociety. Sexualities, 14(4): 444-61. DOI: 10.1177/1363460711406461
  56. Przybylo E. (2013). Producing facts: Empirical asexuality and the scientific study of sex. Feminism & Psychology, 23(2): 224-42. DOI: 10.1177/0959353512443668
  57. Przybylo E. (2013). Afterword: Some thoughts on asexuality as an interdisciplinary method. Psychology and Sexuality, 4(2): 193-4. DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774167
  58. Robbins K., Graff Low K., Query A. N. (2015). A Qualitative Exploration of the “Coming Out” Process for Asexual Individuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, Settembre 2015. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-015-0561-x
  59. Rosen R., Brown C., Heiman J., Leiblum S., Meston C., Shabsigh R, Ferguson D., D’Agostino R. (2000). The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI): A Multidimensional Self-report Instrument for the Assessment of Female Sexual Function. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 26(2): 191-08. DOI: 10.1080/009262300278597
  60. Rosen R., Riley A., Wagner G., Osterloh I.H., Kirkpatrick J., Mishra A. (1997). The International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF): A multidimensional scale for assessment of erectile dysfunction. Urology, 49(6): 822-30. DOI: 10.1016/S0090-4295(97)00238-0
  61. Rothblum E., Brehony K. (1993). Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships among Contemporary Lesbians, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.
  62. Scherrer K. (2008). Coming to an asexual identity: Negotiating identity, negotiating desire. Sexualities, 11(5): 621-41. DOI: 10.1177/1363460708094269
  63. Scherrer K. (2010a). Asexual relationships: What does asexuality have to do with polyamory? (a cura di), Barker M., Langdridge D., Understanding Non-Monogamies, London: Routledge, pp. 154-9.
  64. Scherrer K. (2010b). What Asexuality Contributes to the Same-sex Marriage Discussion. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 22(1-2): 56-73. DOI: 10.1080/10538720903332255
  65. Scott S., Dawson M. (2015). Rethinking asexuality: A Symbolic Interactionist account. Sexualities, 18(1-2): 3-19. DOI: 10.1177/1363460714531273.StormsM.(1980).Theoriesofsexualorientation.JournalofPersonalityandSocialPsychology,38(5):783-92.DOI:10.1037/0022-3514.38.5.783
  66. Van Houdenhove E., Gijs L., T’Sjoen G., Enzlin P. (2014). Asexuality: Few facts, many questions. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 40(3): 175-92. DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2012.751073
  67. Van Houdenhove E., Gijs L., T’Sjoen G., Enzlin P. (2015). Stories About Asexuality: A Qualitative Study on Asexual Women. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 41(3): 262-81. DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2014.889053
  68. Van Houdenhove E., Gijs L., T’Sjoen G., Enzlin P. (2015b). Asexuality: A Multidimensional Approach. Journal of Sex Research, 52(6): 669-78. DOI: 10.1080/00224499.2014.898015
  69. Yule M.A., Brotto L.A., Gorzalka B.B. (2013). Mental health and interpersonal functioning in self-identified asexual men and women. Psychology and Sexuality, 4(2): 136-51. DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774162
  70. Yule M.A., Brotto L.A., Gorzalka B.B. (2014a). Biological markers of asexuality: handedness, bir82th order, and finger length ratios in self-identified asexual men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 43(2): 299-310. DOI: 10.1007/s10508-013-0175-0
  71. Yule M.A., Brotto L.A, Gorzalka B.B. (2014b). Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 23(2): 89-95. DOI: 10.3138/cjhs.2409
  72. Yule M.A., Brotto L.A., Gorzalka B.B. (2015). A validated measure of no sexual attraction: The Asexuality Identification Scale. Psychological Assessment, 27(1): 148-60. DOI: 10.1037/a0038196

Ilaria Prosperi, Adele Fabrizi, Chiara Simonelli, Asessualità: caratteristiche e definizioni in "RIVISTA DI SESSUOLOGIA CLINICA" 2/2015, pp 49-82, DOI: 10.3280/RSC2015-002003