Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is asexuality a sexual dysfunction?

In the asexual community, we are sometimes asked about how asexuality is different from Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder or whether asexuality isn't "just" Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. To date, the primary strategy--at least in media articles and university lectures--has been to distance ourselves from the diagnosis. We assert that the DSM-IV-TR says that lack of interest in sex is only a disorder if it causes the person distress: since asexuals aren't distressed about their asexuality, asexuality is not a disorder. We may concede that many sexual people are distressed about loss of sexual desire and choose not to challenge the pathologization of other people's lack of sexual desire. Our sexual disinterest is not a disorder, and whether or not their is is no concern of ours.

In approaching the relationship between asexuality and HSDD--and the relationship between asexuality and "sexual dysfunction" more generally--there are two main approaches for advocating the normalization of asexuality: distancing asexuality from "sexual dysfunction" and challenging the classification of sexual disinterest as being somehow dysfunctional.

I feel that both have their place. The former is easier, is likely to produce faster results, and requires less of a challenge to the current conceptualization of sexual problems. Ultimately, I feel that the latter is the direction asexual politics should head. It is the direction that a number of sex therapists are already headed for rather different reasons. (See, for example, the New View Campaign)

This is a topic that I have a lot of thoughts on, but it will be a challenge for me to organize them in a way I feel comfortable presenting. Over the course of the summer, I hope to be able to write about some of them.


Queers United said...

I think variation is a key word for asexual politics. Just as homosexuality is not a disorder, just a variation of the human condition, so must asexuality be accepted as such. There are those with dysfunction who have psychological/physical issues, but again they are distressed over it. Also distress needs to be looked at carefully. Is the person distressed because they want whatever everyone else has, or they want what they know they should have? An asexual could potentially be disturbed because society tells them they should be sexual, again that is not pathological behavior in the asexual, but the consequence of an a-phobic and unaware society.

ToyboxCharley said...

Right on, QueersUnited. A poor remote child is distressed by his desire for the things he thinks he should have... only after Daddy brings home the consumate wish developer, a (little old 2nd hand) TV.

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