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Nico-Nico Friendo

Article on Asexuality -- NY Times

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Nico-Nico Friendo

I don't know if anyone has seen this already, but I'm going to post it anyway:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/09/fashion/...nyt&emc=rss

June 9, 2005

For Them, Just Saying No Is Easy

By MARY DUENWALD

BIRDS do it, bees do it. But not necessarily all of them. Among bees the

sisters of queens do not engage in sex. And in certain species of birds -

Florida scrub jays, for one - some individuals, known as helpers, do not

breed but only help the breeders raise their offspring.

But could indifference to sex extend to humans, too? An increasing number

of people say yes and offer themselves as proof. They describe themselves

as asexual, and they call their condition normal, not the result of

confused sexual orientation, a fear of intimacy or a temporary lapse of

desire. They would like the world to understand that they can live their

entire lives happily without ever having sex.

"People think they need to convert you," said Cijay Morgan, 42, a

telephone saleswoman in Edmonton, Alberta, and a self-professed asexual.

"They can understand if you don't like country music or onion rings or if

you aren't interested in learning how to whistle, but they can't accept

someone not wanting sex. What they don't understand is that a lot of

asexuals don't wish to be quote-unquote fixed."

Considering the pervasive advertising for drugs to enhance sexual

performance, the efforts to market a testosterone patch to boost sexual

desire in women and the ubiquity of sexual references in pop culture, it

is not surprising that those professing no sex drive whatever have been

misunderstood, or at least overlooked. Only one scientific survey seems to

have been done. And many experts in human sexuality, when told there is a

growing Internet community of people calling themselves asexual, say they

have not heard of it. Yet most of those experts find the concept

unsurprising.

Three-fourths of the patients who go to the Center for Sexual Medicine at

Boston University lack any sex drive, said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, its

director, who is also the editor of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. "We

call that H.S.D.D., hypoactive sexual desire disorder," he said.

Lack of interest in sex is not necessarily a disorder nor even a problem,

however, Dr. Goldstein quickly added, unless it causes distress, if it

leads, for instance, to conflict within a marriage or romantic

relationship.

Dr. John Bancroft, the recently retired director of the Kinsey Institute

for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, said,

"I think it would be very surprising if there weren't asexuals, if you

look at it from a Kinseyan perspective, that there's this huge variation

in human sexuality."

Not all clinicians agree that lack of interest in sex can be considered

normal. "It's a bit like people saying they never have an appetite for

food," said Dr. Leonard R. Derogatis, a psychologist and the director of

the Center for Sexual Health and Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in

Baltimore. "Sex is a natural drive, as natural as the drive for sustenance

and water to survive. It's a little difficult to judge these folks as

normal."

Asexual people often say they have been aware of their lack of interest in

sex since adolescence and that while it may have troubled them, they never

knew anything different. "I realized I was asexual about the same time I

realized I was short, when I was about 15," said Miss Morgan of Edmonton,

who is 5-foot-1. "I realized I was short when everyone grew taller than

me, and I realized I didn't have sexual feelings when everyone else

started expressing and experimenting with theirs."

The Internet has provided a platform for people calling themselves asexual

to announce their collective existence. The anonymity of the Web makes it

easier to converse about the topic, said Todd Niquette, 36, a systems

analyst in St. Paul and a member of the Asexual Visibility and Education

Network, an Internet group. With more than 4,000 registered participants,

it is the largest such community of asexuals. "What we're really trying to

find out is: how can I feel less alone in this?" Mr. Niquette said.

His network defines an asexual as someone who "does not experience sexual

attraction." This definition is, of course, distinct from the much older

concept of asexual reproduction, practiced by amoebas, jellyfish and

whiptail lizards, for example, as well as by many species of plants.

Asexuals might have sexual urges and even masturbate, but they do not want

to have sex with other people, said David Jay, 23, who founded the Asexual

Visibility and Education Network (called AVEN by its members) four years

ago, when he was in college. Asexuals often feel romantic attraction for

other people, Mr. Jay said. It just doesn't involve sex.

Mr. Jay, who works for an educational nonprofit organization in San

Francisco, is a talkative, outgoing man with a ready smile and plenty of

friends. He is, he said, interested in "deep emotional involvement" and in

raising children (though "not necessarily having my own"). But he has

never had sex, he said, adding there is a good chance he never will.

If asexual people are commonplace, why have they not been mentioned in

history books or anywhere else before the advent of the Internet?

Elizabeth Abbott, a research associate at Trinity College of the

University of Toronto, is the author of "A History of Celibacy." She

speculates that it may be because such people have stayed under the radar.

They never married perhaps, or they entered into sexless marriages, or

they had sex without wanting to. Unlike homosexuality, she noted,

asexuality has never been illegal.

Society has not always accepted it, however. As early as the Middle Ages,

Dr. Abbott said, "nonconsummation of marriage" was considered "an insult

to the sacrament of marriage" and a ground for divorce.

Asexuality, she noted, is distinct from celibacy, which implies a

conscious decision to stifle a desire for sex. What appears to be the only

published study of asexuality - which defined it as a lifelong lack of

sexual attraction to either men or women - found that 1.1 percent of

adults may be asexual. The figure was drawn from a survey of 18,000

Britons who were interviewed in 1994 about sexually transmitted diseases.

The data were reanalyzed by Dr. Anthony F. Bogaert, a psychologist at

Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, who published his findings

last August in The Journal of Sex Research.

Dr. Bogaert found that 44 percent of those expressing no interest in sex

were either married or living with partners or had been in the past.

One might assume that by avoiding sex and all the emotions and

responsibilities that go with it, let alone the health risks, asexuals

might have a comparatively easy life.

"But I think we exchange all that for a different set of trouble," Mr. Jay

said. "Sex is very central to life in a lot of ways, and one of the real

challenges of being asexual is trying to figure out where you fit."

That problem typically arises during the teenage years. "I knew when I was

16 or 17 that sex was just something that seemed tremendously important to

everybody else but that I just didn't get," said David Warner, 55, a

technical writer and editor in a Virginia suburb of Washington.

Like many other asexuals, Kate Goldfield, 21, a student at Goucher College

in Baltimore, once thought she might be a lesbian. "I decided I must be

gay because I knew I wasn't straight," she said. But she said she has

since realized that she is not sexually attracted to women either.

Asexuals say they are often told that they will change when they meet the

right person or when circumstances change, but those predictions do not

ring true to them.

"Why do I need sexuality in my life so much that I should divert my time

and energy to finding out what it is that will turn me on?" Mr. Jay asked.

Physicians have found that they can prompt sexual desire in both women and

men by giving them supplemental hormones. And some scientists suspect that

hormones might be involved in some cases of asexuality. Or, Dr. Bogaert

suggested, it could be that certain brain structures may have developed

differently in asexual people.

Dr. Derogatis agreed that low hormone levels usually underlie low libido

but said sometimes psychological mechanisms come into play. "Some of these

people may have a very powerful phobia about sex," he said.

Yet a small and still unpublished survey of 1,146 people - including 41

who described themselves as asexual - conducted in online interviews by

Nicole Prause, a graduate student in psychology at Indiana, found that

asexuals do not resist having sex because of fear. Rather asexuals "only

lack the excitatory drive," Ms. Prause said in an e-mail message.

Barry W. McCarthy, a professor of psychology at American University and an

author of "Rekindling Desire," a self-help book for married couples, said

many people who experience inhibited desire would be well advised to

examine that inhibition because it may turn out to be the result of fear,

rather than a natural desire to forgo sex. "You have to respect people's

individual differences," he said. "But for the great majority of people

with inhibited desire the answer is not asexuality."

People often experience periods of asexuality. Many married couples give

up sex after a number of years, said Dr. Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at

the University of Washington in Seattle and the author of "Everything You

Know About Love and Sex Is Wrong." "Some people are relieved to not only

back-burner sex, but to no-burner it," she said.

Mr. Jay acknowledged that some asexuals have spent - or will spend - some

time being sexual. "We'll have people in AVEN who get into a relationship

where suddenly they enjoy sex, and we have many people who say they used

to enjoy sex but really not anymore," he said. "But the majority of the

community is pretty stable."

A 32-year-old man in Dallas named Keith (he declined to give his last

name) said he had tried to cope with his asexuality by marrying. "I

thought that getting married would fix me and suddenly I would become

interested in sex." After six years he and his wife were divorced, and now

he is living with a younger man in a relationship that he described as

loving and romantic but free of sex.

Mr. Jay said he believes asexual people can learn to negotiate

relationships with sexual people.

"In high school and early college, when I would sense that someone was

hitting on me, I would go into defensive mode and be like, 'O.K., this

can't work,' " he said. "But since then I've realized that if someone is

going to approach me sexually, it means they like my personality."

In recent months many people have logged on to the asexuals' network Web

site to learn to understand better partners or spouses who are asexual,

Mr. Jay said.

"There's a real desire out there to figure out how do you manage

relationships without sexuality?" he said. "We don't have anything like a

self-help book we could write on this yet."

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Kelly

Thanks! :)

That is a rather good article, all considered. And I recognise a number of AVENites in the article.

I had not seen it before.

There are some good quotes from people. But we also see that some other people still consider A's to be broken or defective. Overall, the theme was positive in that we do exist, it is natural, and it is OK to be A.

Yay!, Lunamoth for sharing it! 8)

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jewel_box554

Wow, that's pretty awesome! In the New York times too... :D

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Lehcar

Yay! More literature on AVEN! *bounces around in excitement* I'm trying to convince my friend to write an article on asexuality for the newspaper, but she wasn't sure 'cause there isn't much out there yet, and she's supposed to write about 'up and coming issues'. Thank sooo much - this should help! :D

BTW, I like the article - it's interesting to hear the 'general public' approach to it.

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EGAD!

Hurray!

**applause**

:D

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Charlieee

That was such an awesome article!! :D

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KAGU143

That was from a long time ago ... but it really was a good article.

-GB

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jaybird721

Ah, very nice.

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Kikyou

That was an interesting read, thanks! They seemed to get their facts straight, as far as I can tell... :D

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live wire

so now along with a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy scare, a few mental helth issues and hayfever - I'm now supposed to have hypoactive sexual desire disorder. :|

Lack of interest in sex is not necessarily a disorder nor even a problem,

however, Dr. Goldstein quickly added, unless it causes distress, if it

leads, for instance, to conflict within a marriage or romantic

relationship.

Oh, OK, so I only have it when I'm in a relationship with someone shallow enough to have a problem with the way I live my life, that's my fault of course...

"It's a bit like people saying they never have an appetite for

food," said Dr. Leonard R. Derogatis, a psychologist and the director of

the Center for Sexual Health and Medicine at Johns Hopkins University in

Baltimore. "Sex is a natural drive, as natural as the drive for sustenance

and water to survive. It's a little difficult to judge these folks as

normal."

QUICK EVERYBODY!! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE BECAUSE WE'RE NOT HAVING ENOUGH SEX - QUICK, SHAG ANYTHING THAT MOVES ASAP, YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT!!

(sarcastic trumpet sound here)

I wish some people would shut up and think about what they're about to say before they let it out. There's a bigger picture here that people are ignoring entirely when they say stuff like this.

Well done to the New York times for keeping it fair and balanced though and publicity is publicity I guess.

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thylacine

This just proves that a lot of experts are just plain dumb. Lookit, you need food, you need air, you need water... you do not "need" sex. Sex is something that happens in nature to ensure the survival of the species in general. For humans, sex is a "want" not a need. 99% of the people "want" sex. Some of us don't. These experts need to just get over it, man.

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Neabsco
"But for the great majority of people with inhibited desire the answer is not asexuality."

:? How do they know? I'd really like to see the research . . . oh wait . . .

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FISH'

Cijay :D

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