Monday, October 20, 2008

Research on asexuality

An expanded list can be found on the page Exising Research on Asexual Explorations the website.

I am sometimes interested in seeing what searches people use to find my blog, and I’ve noticed that one of the most common is from people looking for the article “Asexual and Autoerotic Women: Two Invisible Groups” by Myra T. Johnson published in 1977. (I hadn't expected this to a common search for finding my site.) Because of this, I thought that I would post something to people some time in trying to find it. And while I’m at it, I figured that I would post a list of published materials on asexuality along with some thoughts on them and information on how to get a hold of them. (I had already been working on this list.) Hopefully this will be useful to anyone doing research on asexuality, whether to publish something, or to do something for a class, or simply out of curiosity--It was largely my own curiosity that caused to me find most of it. I realize that there are places (like the AVEN wiki) that have pages for this, but I don’t feel comfortable opining on wikis, whereas I have absolutely no qualms about doing so on my blog.

Papers on asexuality
1.) Johnson, Myra. (1977) "Asexual and Autoerotic Women: Two invisible groups." in ed. Gorchros H.L. and Gochros J.S. The Sexually Oppressed. New York: Associated Press.

This is the first known publication on asexuality. Asexuality is defined a little differently than in modern usage. She distinguishes autoerotic women (women who masturbate but don’t desire sex) from asexual women (women with desire from neither.) In current usage, both of these groups are contained under the term “asexual.” Also, she defines asexuality in terms of sexual preference rather than sexual attraction or asexual self-identification. Her data come from letters to the editor in women’s magazines in the 1970’s. Even though this chapter is almost 30 years old, it remains one of the best discussions of the topic that exists. The book may be a little hard to get a hold of, but should be available via interlibrary loan or something. At my university, it is kept in off-site storage. There is a (low-quality) PDF version available if you know who to email, but you can’t find it via a search engine. (Joining Apositive or PMing someone on AVEN would be a good idea.)

2.) Bogaert A.F. (2004) Asexuality: Its Prevalence and Associated Factors in a National Probability Sample. The Journal of Sex Research, 41, 279-287

After the Johnson chapter, the next academic publication on asexuality did not appear for another quarter of a century. (Rather ironic if we consider the title of Johnson’s piece.) Data came from a 1994 probability sample done in the UK that gave several options for sexual orientation, including “I have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all.” This study does a series of regressions using the respondents who chose this answer. There are significant methodological shortcomings, but the author does a good job discussing them. This paper is available online by clicking the above link.

3.) Bogaert A.F. (2006) Toward a Conceptual Understanding of Asexuality. Review of General Psychology, Vol. 10, No. 3. pp.241-250

After publishing the above quantitative paper, Bogaert published another discussing how to conceptualize asexuality. He has some important things to say, and my only real criticism of it is the section on defining asexuality—this section is primarily based on his own speculation of what he thinks asexuals would be like rather than actual knowledge of people who report not experiencing sexual attraction. I was able to download this with my university library account.

4.) Prause, Nicole & Cynthia Graham (2007) Asexuality: Classification and Clarification. Archives of Sexual Behavior. 36 p.341-35

This paper was designed to be an exploratory study on people who identify as asexual. They did two studies—one was a qualitative study and the other was a quantitative one. The only thing that worries me is that some readers will use the qualitative study (n=4) to construct an image of “the asexual," taking these four as prototypical of asexuals more generally. The quant. section leaves much to be desired, though it was simply designed merely to be an exploratory study.

5.) Scherrer, Kristin (2008). "Asexual Identity: Negotiating Identity, Negotiating Desire" Sexualities 2008; 11; p. 621

Participants were recruited from AVEN and asked to fill out an open ended questionnaire. The focus is on asexual identity, and this qualitative study was based on a much larger sample size than the one used in Prause and Graham (2007). (n=102 people rather than n=4.)

Some other published literature dealing with asexuality
5.) Storms, M. D. (1978) "Sexual Orientation and Self-Perception" in P. Pliner K. R. Blankenstein and I.M. Spigel (Eds), Advances in the Study of Communication and Affect vol. 5 Perception of Emotion in Self and Others. New York. Plenum

6.) Storms M. D. (1980) "Theories of Sexual Orientation." Journal or Personality and Social Psychology 1980, 38, 783-792

7.) Stein, Edward "The Mismeasure of Desire: the Science, Theory, and Ethics of Sexual Orientation." Oxford University Press. 1999

Storms argued for a model of sexual orientation that includes asexuality in two papers published a while ago. Both papers are fairly similar and are based on the same study. Stein gives a slightly expanded argument for that model in chapter two of his book. The 1979 paper may be a little difficult to get a hold of (I had to go to a dark and scary part of the library to get a book that hadn’t been checked out in over a decade), but the main parts are repeated in the 1980 paper as well as in Stein. (I was able to download Storms 80 with my university account. Stein’s book shouldn’t be too hard to find in a library.) Also, Storms defined asexuality in terms of (low/lack of) sexual attraction and sexual fantasies towards/about males or females.

A couple conference papers

Poston, D. L. and Baumle, A. K. , 2006-08-11 "Patterns of Asexuality in the United States" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal Convention Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada Online
This is available online
Methodologically, the quantitative section was really lousy. The discussion before the quantitative section, however, may be of interest.

There are a few other papers that mention asexuality, but will be of less interest.

Nurius, Paula S. "Mental Health Implications of Sexual Orientation." The Journal of Sex Research" Vol. 19, NO 2 pp. 119-136.

This is one of the few attempts to use a 2-dimensional model for sexual orientation. Asexuality is defined in terms of sexual preference (at the time of taking the survey.)

Lever, Janet et. al "Behavior Patterns and Sexual Identity in Bisexual Males" Journal of Sex Research Vol 29. #2 May 1992 p.141-167

In their data, there were some people who wrote asexual (as a write in?) as their sexual orientations. The author decided to remove them from the study.

Andres-Hyman, Raquel, et al. "Ethnicity and Sexual Orientation as PTSD Mitigators in Child Sexual Abuse Survivors" Journal of Family Violence, vol 19, no. 5 October 2004

They included asexual as a possible sexual orientation (They define asexual in terms of self-identification.)

Berkey, B. R., Perelman-Hall, T., & Kurdek, L. A. (1990). The multidimensional scale of sexuality. Journal of Homosexuality, 19, 67-87.

They include asexuality in their list of orientations, but define it as not experiencing sexual attraction to males or females, not falling in love with males or females, and not having sex with males or females. No one in their study qualified as asexual, which they, bizarrely, attributed to asexuality being “rare” rather than the fact that they recruited people for their study based on their sexual orientations. (To back up their claim that asexuality is rare, they cite a human sexuality textbook by Masters, Johnson, and Kolodny, though I wasn't able to find in that book what they were referring to. I do hate it when journal articles cite books without using page numbers.)

Ingudomnukul, Erin, Simon Baron-Cohen, Sally Wheelwright and Rebecca Knickmeyer. Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions. Hormones and Behavior. Vol 5. Issue 51 May 2007. pp.597-604.

Part of this study involved sexual orientation of women with austism spectrum conditions and asexual was an option. A rather large portion of the women chose "asexual" though how this should be interpreted is unclear.

I was able to download all of these though my university account except for the Multidimensional Scale of Sexuality, which also required a trip to a scary, dark part of the library. Also, you can take the multidimensional scale of sexuality as an online test, which seems to use the same questions (and hence, it is possible to see how they define asexuality. (Evidently, it can also be taken at OKCuipid as well.)

Also, there is one more source of information that I didn't mention--the stats on "X" in Kinsey's work.

I think that there are a few case histories that exist here and there, but I haven't personally run across many of these.

I'm not entirely sure who exactly this information will appeal to, but hopefully someone will find it useful.


Queers United said...

added you to my blog roll

pretzelboy said...

Thanks. I've added you to mine as well.