Monday, February 23, 2009

What would you ask an asexual?

I took this asexuality survey for the National University of Ireland. Their idea is to explore the experience of asexuality and sense of identity as an asexual, and I'm really glad that they provide space for essay-type answers rather than pigeonholing you into multiple choice. And happy that someone took this on, and would really like to see the results!

"How would you define your gender identity" is a relevant question, since I would expect many respondents not to have a strong gender sense. Some other questions seem largely irrelevant, like how does ethnicity or age or religion affect your asexuality. Age probably only has relevance in that people take you more seriously the older you are, but that goes for everything and not just asexuality. I'm curious about religion, as a disproportionate number of AVENites seem to be non-religious/atheist/agnostic. Pretzelboy is also making some guesses as to why so many don't have a religious affiliation. I guess the assumption many people on the outside make, is that being religious and believing you should not have sex much, makes people asexual... But in reality it seems rather the other way around. My completely unscientific 2 cents would be that a lot of religion is about instructions how to deal with sexual desires and channel them towards some spiritual ideal, doing right as opposed to wrong; and as asexuals are already living the experience of being outside of society's norm and not even having to control their sexual appetites, not fitting in and thus not having a strictly black-and-white view of the world, that kind of religion simply does not seem relevant, and has little appeal for them.

Some good questions in this survey were around relating to others, disclosing one's sexuality and how that has been accepted. How does asexuality fit into your self-concept. Other questions were decidedly too generic, like listing the good points and bad points of being asexual. And I would like to see more specific, juicier questions being researched, such as:

- When did you first realize you were asexual? Have you ever felt sexual? How did you discover this identity, and how did it feel? What did you identify as before?
- Do you ever fall in love? If you are attracted to people, do you have a gender preference?
- How do you feel about touching and sensuality? Hugging, kissing? How do you express affection and how do you view intimacy?
- What kind of close relationships would you ideally like to have in your life?
- Have you been in sexual relationships and how do you negotiate that? If you have had sex without actual desire for it, why did you do it?
- Do you want to have a family, children?
- Do you have a sex drive? Do you masturbate and how do you view masturbation? How about orgasm?
- Do you have a spirituality/religion and which? Does it bear any relation to your asexuality? How much does your (lack of) spirituality/religion define you?
- How was sex viewed in your family of origin, and do you think that has had any effect on your asexuality?
- When did you first realize that someone was sexually attracted to you, and how did you know? Are there particular areas of daily life that are confusing to you and that you would like more understanding around by people in general?

You know, lots of questions researchers could ask. Just imagine that your best friend comes out to you as asexual, what would you be curious about?

Update: Here Pretzelboy suggests some good Topics for future research in a more methodical way than me.


  1. This was exactly my own impression after taking the survey.

  2. At this point in time, there is very little research on asexuality. Moreover, most people studying seem to be outsiders who think, "Gee, I think I'll study asexuality" so they make their surveys and stuff but they probably don't spend large amounts of time familiarizing themselves with asexual discourse. As a result, they end up finding things that pretty much anyone who has read AVEN's FAQ's could tell you. But this is important because they find them with SCIENCE! Hopefully in five to ten years, after researchers have already discovered the things that we already know, they'll start doing more interesting projects.

    Also, with the part about nationality and ethnicity, I thought it was a worthwhile question. Likely, it will not be important to a large number of people. But it might be important to others.

  3. @Pretzelboy:
    "Gee, I think I'll study asexuality" >> my impression precisely
    "But this is important because they find them with SCIENCE!" >> LOL yup
    What made the question about nationality and ethnicity relevant to you? How does it have a bearing on asexuality?

  4. I was raised Christian, but not in an ultra-conservative way. For me it was just always odd learning about how to "control" my sexuality and sexual feelings and save the "wildness" for within marriage. But I couldn't fathom it, even within marriage. I never felt things, and never felt like I would.... "control my lust?" Sure; what's lust? All the talks and discussions and warnings were just not applicable.

    It sounds like an excellent study. Or rather, a good start! (So little science on asexuality.) I hope it works out well and is well put-together.