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Saturday, November 5, 2011

Asexuality is an Orientation, Not a Disorder

Ever since my club, Communication Arts Society, had our diversity event ("Gays in the Media") I have been wanting to discuss asexuality. I hope that after reading this post you will be more understanding and accepting of asexuality, and will read the piece on Monica's Creative Juices called "My Asexual Relationship."

The psychology community has little by little begun to accept asexuality, while the LGBT community have been affirming more and more that asexuality is a legitimate orientation. Some simply define asexuality as the lack of sexuality altogether. In order to explain this detail, let's define sexuality. This is how the American Psychological Association (APA) defines it: 
Sexuality has three stages: Desire is an interest in being sexual. Excitement is the state of arousal that sexual stimulation causes. And orgasm is sexual pleasure's peaking.
If someone is asexual, they do not experience an interest or desire in being sexual and oftentimes they do not experience sexual attraction towards others. However, some are sexually attracted to others but do not feel the need to act on them. This is different from celibacy--celibacy is a choice to not act upon sexual desires. As the Asexual Visibility and Eduction Network (AVEN) explains, this so-called "lack of" sexuality is separate from the ability to form intimate and romantic relationships. Often, asexuals do feel attraction toward another person, but not in a sexual way--some do experience sexual arousal, some do not; some masturbate but feel no need to be sexual with others, others do not masturbate at all. Some do not feel the need to be in a relationship, while others form long-term romances with both asexuals and non-asexuals. I once read in an asexuality forum about an asexual couple who had been married for years, but never felt the need to consummate the marriage or be sexually intimate at all. 

One of the reasons asexuality is so fascinating to the psychological community and those who do not understand it, is that for a long time sexuality was undoubtedly viewed as inherent in human nature. In fact, APA states that if a person has a problem in one or more of the stages mentioned in the previous definition of "sexuality," then that person has a "sexual disorder." Asexuality is not a disorder, it is an orientation. 

A blog post by Bella DePaulo, Ph.D., on Psychology Today explains that many psychologists and psychiatrists still believe that the "symptoms" of asexuality point to "sexual aversion disorder." Dr. DePaulo, instead, says that diagnosing this is really up to the individual. If the person identifies as asexual and is perfectly content with that, then "back off" and keep "pathological labels locked in their file cabinets." Dr. DePaulo also says that we must work to shake off this fundamental idea that sexuality is "an essential part of what it is to be human." Sexuality is an ever-changing concept, and we need to recognize asexuality as a part of it. 

To learn more about asexuality from an asexual's point of view, visit these blogs/websites/articles:

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