Monday, August 25, 2014

Maintaining the asexuality bibliography

When I first started my bibliography on asexuality, there were very few academic publications out there. Since then, the number of publications has increased enormously, and so has the rate at which articles are published. I've fallen behind in maintaining it. Partly, this is because there is a lot that has come out. Partly, this is because the whole thing is in need of a serious overhaul and I would like to develop a better method for maintaining it (especially now that, in my own writing, I've learned how awesome bibtex is).  I was curious if any readers would be interested in collaborating with me to help maintain the bibliography, and help make it more easy to update in the future.  If anyone would be interested in helping, that would be greatly appreciated.  If anyone who is familiar with bibtex and/or Python is interested in helping out, that would be even better.

Another reason that I've been behind on updating the bibliography is that I'm seriously questioning the value of having an exhaustive bibliography as the primarily bibliography for asexuality publications on my site.

For a long time, I attempted to treat all publications equally regardless of what I thought of the quality. I made a slight modification to this a few years later by putting a couple of recommended starting places at the top of the bibliography. But some of the publications on asexuality are so utterly awful that I feel the authors are doing a disservice to people by publishing them (i.e. they're wasting the time of potential readers), and I feel like I may be doing a disservice to users of the bibliography by even including these.

Something that has become clear to me from following the academic publications about asexuality is that the peer-review process and other quality control methods are failing miserably in at least some parts of academia. I've seen articles that do "history of asexuality" with virtually no use of primary sources. I've seen sweeping generalizations about the field of psychiatry by people who give no evidence of having ever read anything from that field. Probably the most epic example was that one paper who quoted the AVENites "Megan Mitosis" and "Asexy A-postle".*  Evidently, their understanding of AVEN was so limited that they didn't know the difference between the post ranking field and the username field.

More generally, I feel that a lot of the papers and chapters out there...basically fail to make any meaningful contribution to our understanding of asexuality. They don't present any original research (quantitative, qualitative, or historical/archival). They don't present any original ideas about asexuality.  They just...say stuff.

So my question for readers is what would be most useful to readers of my bibliography who are wanting to have a better understanding of asexuality.  Should it continue to try to be as exhaustive as possible (which will likely became unmanagable after a few more years)?  Should there be somewhat greater restrictions on what is included?  If so, what sort of standard would be fair?  (I certainly don't think that "Did I like that paper?" is a good standard.)  Should I have two bibliographies--an exhaustive-as-possible one and another for things that pass some sort of standard of quality control?)

I know that some of these issues are closely related to larger issues in academia today:  Many people feel that the peer-review process is not doing a good job of quality control, but quality control is vitally important for intellectually credible scholarship.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Article: " Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals."

A new research article on asexuality recently came out:

Yule, M.A., Brotto, L.A., & Gorzalka, B.B. (2014).  Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. 89-95

Human asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual attraction, and research suggests that it may be best conceptualized as a sexual orientation. Sexual fantasies are thought to be universally experienced and are often understood to represent true sexual desire more accurately than sexual behaviour. We investigated the relationship between asexuality, masturbation and sexual fantasy as part of a larger online study. Self-identified asexual individuals were compared to sexual individuals with and without low sexual desire. A total of 924 individuals (153 men, 533 women, and 238 individuals who did not respond to the query about sex) completed online questions asking about masturbation and sexual fantasy. Five hundred thirty four were classified in the asexual group, 87 met diagnostic criteria for hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), 78 met criteria for subthreshold HSDD without distress, and 187 were a sexual comparison group (i.e., identified as sexual, and had no reported difficulties in sexual desire or distress). Asexual individuals were significantly less likely to have masturbated in the past month and significantly more likely to report never having had a sexual fantasy. Specifically, 40% of asexual participants reported never having had a sexual fantasy compared to between 1% and 8% of participants in the sexual groups. Eleven percent of asexual individuals reported that their sexual fantasies did not involve other people, compared to 1.5% of all sexual individuals. Taken together, these findings suggest that there are notable differences in patterns of sexual fantasy between asexual individuals and sexual individuals with and without low sexual desire.