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philos-phobos

David Jay on CBC Radio

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philos-phobos

Hey guys,

I was just listening to the radio and found out that David Jay is going to be on Q with Jian Ghomeshi on Thursday.

So if you want to check it out, the interview will be on CBC Radio One on Thursday at 10 a.m. (10:30 NT) and 10 p.m. (10:30 NT)

(I'm pretty sure that they'll make it into a podcast as well, so if you don't have the time to check it out you'll probably be able to download it here or on iTunes.

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CBC

Just heard about that yesterday and was going to post a thread about it myself, but I haven't had a chance to get on my computer and it's a bit of a pain in the ass to post links and such from my iPhone. Anyway yeah, I'm excited to hear the interview! :)

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Kavilk

That should be great. Ghomeshi is a good interviewer.

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Guest member25959

There was a thread in Announcements recently that was requesting some interviews for CBC Radio, wasn't there? Here we are!. Completely unrelated (I think?), but CBC Radio seems to be on a roll here! :D

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CBC

That's because the CBC is, of course, infinitely awsome! 8)

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Kavilk

This is happening pretty shortly for anyone interested.

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Qutenkuddly

Is it being streamed anywhere?

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Qutenkuddly

I'm guessing it will pop up here, eventually.

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CBC

Probably, and it'll also be repeated tonight at 10.00 pm. Well, I'm assuming it will; the evening rebroadcast of Q is only an hour (the morning one is an hour and a half), so they usually have to cut something out. Hopefully it won't be the David Jay interview!

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philos-phobos

I'm guessing it will pop up here, eventually.

It's up there now. The interview starts just a bit after the 30 minute mark.

*dashes off to go listen*

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sinisterporpoise

I'm guessing it will pop up here, eventually.

It's up there now. The interview starts just a bit after the 30 minute mark.

*dashes off to go listen*

I personally like the bit where he compared Sexual desire to the desire for an iPad. That was a definite WTH moment on my part.

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zoidberger

I thought the interview was pretty good. For the time allowed in the interview I think a lot was covered and it was quite positive rather than many of the insulting sort of questions a lot of interviewers mention.

Jian Ghomeshi is also very awesome :P

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CBC

Zoids has had a huge man-crush on Jian Ghomeshi for some time now. I'm entirely serious. :ph34r:

Just FYI. :P

And yes, good interview! I think it was quite informative. I'd say David Jay is still one of the best people out there to speak to when it comes to explaining asexuality to a wider public audience.

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Narval

I've never listened to CBC before, though I'm a big NPR fan. I gotta say, that was a pretty darn good interview. I think that it covered almost all of the important bases and did a generally good job at promoting awareness.

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zoidberger

Haha, yeah, Jian Ghomeshi is awesome! :P :ph34r:

I've never listened to CBC before, though I'm a big NPR fan. I gotta say, that was a pretty darn good interview. I think that it covered almost all of the important bases and did a generally good job at promoting awareness.

Yeah, CBC has some great shows. Very similar to NPR, but in my opinion it's better and has more character and flow.

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Qutenkuddly

I'll echo a lot of opinions expressed here; that interview was excellent!

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Faelights

Tried to listen to it, but my attention span for media of audio format is simply too low >_<

Does anyone know where one might find a transcript of it instead?

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hexaquark

Voilà. Transcript below the cut.

[January 19, 2012. CBC Radio’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi interviews asexual activist David Jay on what asexuality can reveal about human intimacy. ~ 0:29:56 to 0:52:17]

JG: It’s time for another instalment from our series on modern love.

[music: “Too much love, too much love, too much” repeats, fades out]

JG: Our modern love series has been delving into what’s next in sex and relationships. The series continues now to look at what is perhaps the least understood sexuality out there, one that is defined not by who you have sex with, but by the absence of any sexual attraction whatsoever. It’s known as asexuality, and in a hypersexualized culture that assumes sex is a driving force behind just about everything, it’s a phenomenon and experience that many people struggle to understand.

[audio clip from
, January 15, 2006. Voices are David Jay, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Star Jones]

DJ: Well, I’m not experiencing these things, I must be asexual.

JB: Well maybe it’s repressed sexuality, rather than, you know, you’re just like a normal guy walking around. Maybe it’s repressed because you don’t want to face what the sexuality might look like. Could that be? Lie down.

DJ: I wouldn’t…. I wouldn’t. [audience laughter cuts them off]

JB: Just lie down.

DJ: Thank you, thank you.

JB: That’ll be a hundred dollars there.

EH: Dr. Joy!

[laughter]

SJ: I was trying to figure out whether you want to analyze him or teach him. I didn’t know which one it was.

[clip fading out]

DJ: It’s funny you would say that…

JG: Huh. Well, that was my next guest getting grilled by the women of The View a few years back. David Jay defines his sexuality as ‘asexual’, and he is also a big part about why we are hearing a lot more about asexuality in the media, and why medical and psychological researchers are taking another look at what was, until recently, assumed to be a dysfunction, not a legitimate sexuality. David Jay is an asexual activist and the founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. He’s in a studio in San Francisco today. Hello David.

DJ: Hey, thanks so much for having me on the show.

JG: Nice to have you on the programme. I have to ask you about your experiences with the media later on, given what we just heard

DJ: [laughs] Yeah.

JG: Let me start at the beginning, and you know, I gave a shorthand definition of asexuality in the introduction and I hate to put you through this in a really didactic way, because I’m sure this is what you have to do regularly, but can you fully define what asexuality is for us?

DJ: Oh, I’m always happy to raise awareness. So, an asexual person is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Most people, either, you know, at the moment that they see someone on the street or when they’re in a deep relationship with someone, feel an intrinsic desire to make sex a part of how they connect with other people, and asexual people don’t. We don’t experience sexual attraction. Other than that, we’ve got the same emotional needs and drives as everyone else. We have the same drive for intimacy. Many asexual people still enjoy touch, just it’s not oriented towards sexuality.

JG: OK, let me break down some of what you just said. First of all, how does it differ specifically from, say, celibacy or from low sex drive?

DJ: So celibacy is a choice. Celibate people often feel sexual attraction but decide not to have sex. Asexual people don’t feel sexual attraction and may or may not to decide to have sex. So asexual people may, for instance, have sex because it’s important to their partner, and it’s a way for them to express their connection with their partner, but that doesn’t happen all the time, by any means.

JG: And it…

DJ: And low sex drive, I think it’s similar to low sex drive. Asexuality is a bit more like a sexual orientation. So there will be many people who go through a period of a month or two where they experience low sex drive, usually those people don’t identify as asexual. Asexual people, usually it’s more something we experience for our entire lives, but what we say in the community is: anyone who finds the word ‘asexual’ useful to describe themselves is asexual. We respect that.

JG: And when you say ‘the community’, how prevalent is asexuality?

DJ: So the best research that’s been done hints that about one percent of the population may be asexual. Right now the website you mentioned earlier, asexuality.org, the organization that I started is kind of the biggest community of asexual people out there, and we’ve got about 50,000 members internationally.

JG: OK. Does a lack of attraction mean an asexual person does not experience physical arousal, or just that you don’t have the desire to be sexually intimate with another person?

DJ: More the latter. Most asexual people, our bodies still work the same as everyone else, so we can still experience arousal, but it’s not… that arousal doesn’t mean that we then want to engage in sexual activity with someone, it’s just a thing that’s happening to our body.

JG: And is any level of sexual activity desired? I mean, what about kissing? Or touching? Is that still… is that also not desired?

DJ: It really varies from person to person. Some asexual people just aren’t interested in close touch at all. Some really like cuddling, I know I do. Many asexual people like kissing and for the most part when touch begins to become genital or too sexual, it just stops making sense to our bodies.

JG: Right and the kissing might not be sexual, it might just be a form of bonding or feel good, but it doesn’t…

DJ: Affectionate, yeah.

JG: Affection, yeah. And do most asexual people want a partner? I mean a relationship, even without sex?

DJ: Many people do. And one of the interesting things about the asexual community is that the definition of words like ‘intimacy’ and ‘relationships’, words that most of our culture, most of the time we strongly associate with sexuality, is really getting explored in a new way. So you have asexual people that desire romantic relationships. You have asexual people that essentially desire deeply committed friendships that they can spend their lives with one person or maybe more than one person. You have asexual people who see community building as their primary way of building intimacy, so they’re trying to build lots of relationships that all balance one another out, that create a stable environment where they can feel supported and happy. And you’ve got people who are doing combinations of all of those things. And all of those are seen as equally valid ways of finding connection in your life.

JG: And again, if you’ll forgive me for asking all of these questions, it’s not that you’re an alien… it’s that [laughing]

DJ: No, no, no!

JG: …there’s a lot of confusion and you know, I have a lot of questions and even announcing that we were going to have you on, there’s, you know, confusion around terms, and I want to make sure we know what we’re talking about. And you said that it doesn’t… again, that this varies in the asexuality community, but for you, is asexuality a lifelong orientation?

DJ: It has been for the… so I’m, right now, almost thirty years old and I’ve been asexual my entire life, and I’ve been happily asexual for my entire life. I mean, it took some figuring out, like anyone’s sexuality does. I don’t foresee that I would change. If I ever changed, I would accept that. I would, you know, I think that asexuality is a tool and not a label; it’s a word that I use to understand myself. It’s a word that I use because it helps me explain who I am to other people. It’s not a box that I have to stay in. And that’s how...

JG: OK, so do you know people in the community who’ve been asexual and then have stopped being asexual?

DJ: It’s about as prevalent as, for instance, straight women who become lesbians.

JG: OK. So it’s not that prevalent.

DJ: Yeah, exactly.

JG: You say this took some figuring out. When did you begin to suspect you were asexual?

DJ: So, when I was thirteen or fourteen, all of my friends – even a little bit younger, but that’s when I really started focussing on it – all of my friends were trying to figure out their sexuality. Sexuality was the big thing that everyone was gossiping about and talking about, and people wanted to know who I had a crush on, and more broadly in society, sexuality was everywhere. I was just beginning to realize that I lived in this hypersexualized society, that not only used sex to sell yoghurt, but that equated sex with happiness.

JG: Right.

DJ: That equated sex with being an adult. That equated sex with intimacy. And I just couldn’t relate to that, I didn’t have an intrinsic experience to understand what everyone else was going through. And that was terrifying. And I assumed that I was broken, I assumed that there was something wrong with me.

JG: That’s such a strong assumption, that sexual desire is going to be the most important thing for a teenage boy right?

DJ: Oh yeah. Yeah. And I was being told that from every angle. And so I made up the word ‘asexual’ out of nowhere, out of the blue, to just try to understand what was going on. And it turns out, that at the same time – this was in the mid-nineties – in the same time, thousands and thousands and thousands of other people all over the country, all over the world, were also making up the word; independently making up the same word ‘asexual’ to describe themselves, and feeling broken, and trying to understand what was going on. And it wasn’t until about 2001-2002, when I made this website, that there was kind of a spark of critical mass, that for the first time asexual people began to find one another on the internet. And all of these people who’d independently invented this term started typing it into Google and, for the first time, finding a community.

JG: Take me back, for a second – I’ll come to the community – back to when you were a teenager. How did… so you start to realize this, and self-identify, and make the segue out of feeling – as you called it – “broken”, to sort of saying “well maybe this is who I am”. How did your friends and family react when you told them that you self-identify as asexual?

DJ: Well at that time I was very closeted. So many asexual people, in the same way that gay people do, will come out and have a time where we need to understand ourselves kind of privately first. And I started out assuming that I was broken and then it took me about four years of really reflecting on it. I had several close friends who I would sit down and kind of have these deep, in-depth discussions about the nature of sexuality and where I fit into it. And it was only after really, really examining myself that I came to the conclusion that maybe this was okay, that there didn’t have to be anything wrong with not experiencing sexual attraction. And when I began to realize that and began to accept that, it was extremely, extremely empowering. And very validating…

JG: And your family?

DJ: Say what? And I came out to my family a little bit after that. After I’d become more comfortable with who I was, when I was starting this website because I wanted them to know before a community of people knew. And I think they were, they were nervous about it at first, they thought that I was closing myself off to possibilities, that I was closing myself off to possible relationships. But over time as I began to tell them more about the experience that I was having, they realized that me accepting my asexuality and exploring life on my own terms was opening up way more interesting possibilities for me than trying to live my life as a sexual person.

JG: And when you tried, I mean, you must have been… as a teenager, I would imagine you attempted intimate moments with people, or sexuality, what did it feel like? You just felt nothing? What was the feeling that made you realize that this was something you weren’t interested in?

DJ: So, I didn’t need to physically experience anything to know that I wasn’t interested…

JG: OK.

DJ: …the same way that most teenage boys don’t need to psychically experience anything to realize they are interested.

JG: Right. [chuckles]

DJ: When I finally did get around to experimenting physically with sexuality, I didn’t have sex for many, many years, but I experimented with making out with people and some other activity, and what I found was that some of it felt good. I like cuddling with people, and so things that felt like cuddling with people were enjoyable and I, at first, didn’t enjoy kissing and then kind of learned to enjoy it. It felt a little bit like being handed a script, like there’s a whole path, physical path, that sexual people go on that feels like a very, very narrow band of the possible things that people could be doing with their bodies. That’s really, really appealing to sexual people, but to me it feels like kind of an arbitrary, not that interesting way to go. And as things got closer and closer to sexuality, it – as I was saying before – it just stopped making sense to my body, it felt like neural static.

JG: Right.

DJ: It didn’t feel pleasurable and it certainly didn’t feel like something I desired.

JG: One of the things you’ve done as an activist is to challenge the medical and psychological communities to view asexuality not as a disorder but just as another sexuality. Where are you at in that quest?

DJ: So we recently had a campaign around the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is the big book of mental disorders that’s put out every ten or so years, every ten or fifteen years. And they have a disorder in there called Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder which is the disorder you have if you don’t like sex enough, and we gathered together, we campaigned, we gathered together all the medical literature, we gathered together lots of expert opinions to really say “look, there’s a whole population that don’t experience this as a disorder.” And as a result of that, they, the committee that was reviewing this disorder changed the definition and said “look, there’s a category of people, people who have – who identify as asexual – who have a lifelong disinterest in sexuality, a lifelong disinterest, a lack of sexual attraction, and we should treat them differently. We should have a different category, if someone who is asexual walks into a therapist’s office, that therapist should have a different way of treating that person that’s more like you would treat a gay person who is distressed about being gay.” It’s more about self-acceptance.

JG: We talked to Anthony Bogaert. He’s a professor in community health sciences and psychology at Brock University, and he’s the author of the forthcoming book “Understanding Asexuality”. I want to play you some of what he had to say:

[audio clip of Dr. Anthony Bogaert]

AB: Some of the research on asexuality shows that there may be a biological predisposition to asexuality. So there’s some evidence that some predisposing factors may affect certain brain structures, altering sexual attraction. And so they are looking at pre-natal hormonal mechanisms, looking at gene mechanisms, and a variety of other mechanisms. I think there is a trend in society for people to think that people who are asexual need to be fixed, but my basic criteria is that if they are distressed themselves, and if they’re not distressed themselves then I don’t think they need to be quote-unquote fixed.

JG: That’s Anthony Bogaert, a Brock University professor and author of the forthcoming book “Understanding Asexuality”. I’m speaking with asexual activist David Jay as part of our modern love series. David, what is your reaction to the research that seems to be suggesting that there is a biological reason for asexuality, and I imagine one that medical science will then try to develop a quote-unquote treatment for.

DJ: I would… I think that, I think it’s fascinating, I would love to read the research, I do a little work in the life sciences myself, but I think it’s probably very preliminary. Sexual attraction is a very, very complex social experience, and how we experience sexuality is a little bit like how we experience biological hunger, but it’s also a little bit like how we experience the desire for an iPad, it’s a very culturally defined thing. And I think that there’s certain ways that we can tie that back to genetic, biological components, and there’s certain ways that it’s just too complicated. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to tie human sexuality to a gene, or something as complex as sexual attraction to a protein…

JG: How do you think the…

DJ: …and for that reason I don’t think there will ever be a pill that changes how people experience it.

JG: Right, I was going to say, how do you think the asexual community would react to the notion of being treated for asexuality? Is that offensive to you?

DJ: To say that… to go off what Anthony Bogaert was saying, we’re not a community that’s seeking treatment. We’re not a community that is distressed about the way that we engage with sexuality, and so, I think that if a treatment were to be made available, that would be a little bit offensive, a little bit odd. It would imply that we needed to be fixed. It would be like implying that gay people needed to be fixed. But I don’t think that we’re seeking that kind of a treatment. I certainly wouldn’t, am not seeking that kind of a treatment, and I also don’t think that we’d functionally be able to develop it. I don’t think that biological sciences would be capable of making a pill that could switch someone’s sexual orientation.

JG: It wasn’t that long ago that people were saying the same thing about homosexuality, Right? We need to find a cure, you know? Which would certainly be seen as offensive now. Being an activist has put you in the media spotlight. I mean, you’ve been grilled on your sexuality. It’s funny doing the research on this and seeing some of these TV programmes. Everyone from strangers you meet to major American broadcasters grill you. Judging from the media accounts, people just seem to be incredulous too, as though it’s impossible to believe that some element of sex doesn’t drive everybody. What are some of the most common reactions and misconceptions that you’ve had to contend with?

DJ: Oh, that asexual people just can’t get laid, that we just got out of a bad relationship, that we’ve had some sort of trauma that stops us from ?_________? [@ 0:48.40, I can’t quite catch this –HQ] sexuality. Or that we just haven’t tried it.

JG: [chuckles]

DJ: I think that, I think that for many people – I call it the Green Eggs and Ham situation – there are people who just assume that sexuality is such a vital part of the human experience, that if I say that I’m asexual, they need to find a reason why I’m not. They need to find some situation that… in which I would be a sexual person, so that they can fit me into their worldview. And I think that’s really odd, I think that it’s unfortunate that we take this one really narrow band of how people connect with one another, and we give it such overarching importance, because to me, the important thing isn’t this one tiny mechanism of how we connect. It’s the fact we connect. It’s all of the broad, broad ways that people can experience intimacy. And for a lot of people, I think, when you take sex out, you take all that human… you take out a vital part of that human connection.

JG: Yeah, yeah, yeah…

DJ: And that’s really unfortunate, but that’s, I think that’s why they have such a problem accepting asexuality.

JG: Yeah… well you’ve talked about feeling that you might need to have sex in order to secure a long-term relationship personally.

DJ: Mhm.

JG: Because so many people use sex as the same thing as intimacy, right? What is your view of sex as intimacy?

DJ: I think that sex and intimacy are fundamentally different things. I think we live in a society that often equates them, and that… and where, for many people, sex is a necessary part of having a relationship that’s taken seriously, because it’s a big part of how society takes relationships seriously. I’ve been fortunate enough to get in a long-term relationship with another asexual person, and so we’re able to have our relationship on our own terms that is really, really phenomenal. But for a lot of asexual people, especially asexual people that really, really want romantic partnership, that’s not an option, the community’s still really small. And so I think it’s challenging, but I think that we’re leading a really important dialogue on exactly why sex matters. I think sex can be a really fantastic, beautiful, important part of many, many people’s lives and not be a necessary part of connecting with another person. Of forming a deep connection with another person.

JG: I’ve only got about a minute left with you here, but if we understand asexuality better, do you think it will help our understanding of sex and relationships in general? I mean, you said the word ‘single’ won’t make as much sense anymore if we looked at human relationships differently.

DJ: Yeah, I would agree. I think that if we deeply understand asexuality, two things are going to happen. First of all, the word ‘single’ is going to lose it’s meaning because we’re going to have to start talking about not just people’s sexual relationships, but all of the relationships where they have an emotional connection, and we’re going to realize that everyone has a deep relationship, has deep emotional relationships. I think right now there is also a sense of shame when people aren’t sexual enough and that’ll go away, there’ll be a sense that if you’re not sexual, that’s fine, so long as you’ve got deep ways of experiencing connection with yourself and with other people and if you are sexual, that’s great too.

JG: David Jay, it’s a pleasure to get to talk to you, thanks for this.

DJ: Thanks so much

JG: Bye-bye.

DJ: Bye.

JG: David Jay is an asexual activist, founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network found online at asexuality.org. He was in San Francisco today.

Does anyone know about the research Dr. Bogaert mentioned in that clip?

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Faelights

Voilà. Transcript below the cut.

[January 19, 2012. CBC Radio’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi interviews asexual activist David Jay on what asexuality can reveal about human intimacy. ~ 0:29:56 to 0:52:17]

JG: It’s time for another instalment from our series on modern love.

[music: “Too much love, too much love, too much” repeats, fades out]

JG: Our modern love series has been delving into what’s next in sex and relationships. The series continues now to look at what is perhaps the least understood sexuality out there, one that is defined not by who you have sex with, but by the absence of any sexual attraction whatsoever. It’s known as asexuality, and in a hypersexualized culture that assumes sex is a driving force behind just about everything, it’s a phenomenon and experience that many people struggle to understand.

[audio clip from
, January 15, 2006. Voices are David Jay, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Star Jones]

DJ: Well, I’m not experiencing these things, I must be asexual.

JB: Well maybe it’s repressed sexuality, rather than, you know, you’re just like a normal guy walking around. Maybe it’s repressed because you don’t want to face what the sexuality might look like. Could that be? Lie down.

DJ: I wouldn’t…. I wouldn’t. [audience laughter cuts them off]

JB: Just lie down.

DJ: Thank you, thank you.

JB: That’ll be a hundred dollars there.

EH: Dr. Joy!

[laughter]

SJ: I was trying to figure out whether you want to analyze him or teach him. I didn’t know which one it was.

[clip fading out]

DJ: It’s funny you would say that…

JG: Huh. Well, that was my next guest getting grilled by the women of The View a few years back. David Jay defines his sexuality as ‘asexual’, and he is also a big part about why we are hearing a lot more about asexuality in the media, and why medical and psychological researchers are taking another look at what was, until recently, assumed to be a dysfunction, not a legitimate sexuality. David Jay is an asexual activist and the founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. He’s in a studio in San Francisco today. Hello David.

DJ: Hey, thanks so much for having me on the show.

JG: Nice to have you on the programme. I have to ask you about your experiences with the media later on, given what we just heard

DJ: [laughs] Yeah.

JG: Let me start at the beginning, and you know, I gave a shorthand definition of asexuality in the introduction and I hate to put you through this in a really didactic way, because I’m sure this is what you have to do regularly, but can you fully define what asexuality is for us?

DJ: Oh, I’m always happy to raise awareness. So, an asexual person is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. Most people, either, you know, at the moment that they see someone on the street or when they’re in a deep relationship with someone, feel an intrinsic desire to make sex a part of how they connect with other people, and asexual people don’t. We don’t experience sexual attraction. Other than that, we’ve got the same emotional needs and drives as everyone else. We have the same drive for intimacy. Many asexual people still enjoy touch, just it’s not oriented towards sexuality.

JG: OK, let me break down some of what you just said. First of all, how does it differ specifically from, say, celibacy or from low sex drive?

DJ: So celibacy is a choice. Celibate people often feel sexual attraction but decide not to have sex. Asexual people don’t feel sexual attraction and may or may not to decide to have sex. So asexual people may, for instance, have sex because it’s important to their partner, and it’s a way for them to express their connection with their partner, but that doesn’t happen all the time, by any means.

JG: And it…

DJ: And low sex drive, I think it’s similar to low sex drive. Asexuality is a bit more like a sexual orientation. So there will be many people who go through a period of a month or two where they experience low sex drive, usually those people don’t identify as asexual. Asexual people, usually it’s more something we experience for our entire lives, but what we say in the community is: anyone who finds the word ‘asexual’ useful to describe themselves is asexual. We respect that.

JG: And when you say ‘the community’, how prevalent is asexuality?

DJ: So the best research that’s been done hints that about one percent of the population may be asexual. Right now the website you mentioned earlier, asexuality.org, the organization that I started is kind of the biggest community of asexual people out there, and we’ve got about 50,000 members internationally.

JG: OK. Does a lack of attraction mean an asexual person does not experience physical arousal, or just that you don’t have the desire to be sexually intimate with another person?

DJ: More the latter. Most asexual people, our bodies still work the same as everyone else, so we can still experience arousal, but it’s not… that arousal doesn’t mean that we then want to engage in sexual activity with someone, it’s just a thing that’s happening to our body.

JG: And is any level of sexual activity desired? I mean, what about kissing? Or touching? Is that still… is that also not desired?

DJ: It really varies from person to person. Some asexual people just aren’t interested in close touch at all. Some really like cuddling, I know I do. Many asexual people like kissing and for the most part when touch begins to become genital or too sexual, it just stops making sense to our bodies.

JG: Right and the kissing might not be sexual, it might just be a form of bonding or feel good, but it doesn’t…

DJ: Affectionate, yeah.

JG: Affection, yeah. And do most asexual people want a partner? I mean a relationship, even without sex?

DJ: Many people do. And one of the interesting things about the asexual community is that the definition of words like ‘intimacy’ and ‘relationships’, words that most of our culture, most of the time we strongly associate with sexuality, is really getting explored in a new way. So you have asexual people that desire romantic relationships. You have asexual people that essentially desire deeply committed friendships that they can spend their lives with one person or maybe more than one person. You have asexual people who see community building as their primary way of building intimacy, so they’re trying to build lots of relationships that all balance one another out, that create a stable environment where they can feel supported and happy. And you’ve got people who are doing combinations of all of those things. And all of those are seen as equally valid ways of finding connection in your life.

JG: And again, if you’ll forgive me for asking all of these questions, it’s not that you’re an alien… it’s that [laughing]

DJ: No, no, no!

JG: …there’s a lot of confusion and you know, I have a lot of questions and even announcing that we were going to have you on, there’s, you know, confusion around terms, and I want to make sure we know what we’re talking about. And you said that it doesn’t… again, that this varies in the asexuality community, but for you, is asexuality a lifelong orientation?

DJ: It has been for the… so I’m, right now, almost thirty years old and I’ve been asexual my entire life, and I’ve been happily asexual for my entire life. I mean, it took some figuring out, like anyone’s sexuality does. I don’t foresee that I would change. If I ever changed, I would accept that. I would, you know, I think that asexuality is a tool and not a label; it’s a word that I use to understand myself. It’s a word that I use because it helps me explain who I am to other people. It’s not a box that I have to stay in. And that’s how...

JG: OK, so do you know people in the community who’ve been asexual and then have stopped being asexual?

DJ: It’s about as prevalent as, for instance, straight women who become lesbians.

JG: OK. So it’s not that prevalent.

DJ: Yeah, exactly.

JG: You say this took some figuring out. When did you begin to suspect you were asexual?

DJ: So, when I was thirteen or fourteen, all of my friends – even a little bit younger, but that’s when I really started focussing on it – all of my friends were trying to figure out their sexuality. Sexuality was the big thing that everyone was gossiping about and talking about, and people wanted to know who I had a crush on, and more broadly in society, sexuality was everywhere. I was just beginning to realize that I lived in this hypersexualized society, that not only used sex to sell yoghurt, but that equated sex with happiness.

JG: Right.

DJ: That equated sex with being an adult. That equated sex with intimacy. And I just couldn’t relate to that, I didn’t have an intrinsic experience to understand what everyone else was going through. And that was terrifying. And I assumed that I was broken, I assumed that there was something wrong with me.

JG: That’s such a strong assumption, that sexual desire is going to be the most important thing for a teenage boy right?

DJ: Oh yeah. Yeah. And I was being told that from every angle. And so I made up the word ‘asexual’ out of nowhere, out of the blue, to just try to understand what was going on. And it turns out, that at the same time – this was in the mid-nineties – in the same time, thousands and thousands and thousands of other people all over the country, all over the world, were also making up the word; independently making up the same word ‘asexual’ to describe themselves, and feeling broken, and trying to understand what was going on. And it wasn’t until about 2001-2002, when I made this website, that there was kind of a spark of critical mass, that for the first time asexual people began to find one another on the internet. And all of these people who’d independently invented this term started typing it into Google and, for the first time, finding a community.

JG: Take me back, for a second – I’ll come to the community – back to when you were a teenager. How did… so you start to realize this, and self-identify, and make the segue out of feeling – as you called it – “broken”, to sort of saying “well maybe this is who I am”. How did your friends and family react when you told them that you self-identify as asexual?

DJ: Well at that time I was very closeted. So many asexual people, in the same way that gay people do, will come out and have a time where we need to understand ourselves kind of privately first. And I started out assuming that I was broken and then it took me about four years of really reflecting on it. I had several close friends who I would sit down and kind of have these deep, in-depth discussions about the nature of sexuality and where I fit into it. And it was only after really, really examining myself that I came to the conclusion that maybe this was okay, that there didn’t have to be anything wrong with not experiencing sexual attraction. And when I began to realize that and began to accept that, it was extremely, extremely empowering. And very validating…

JG: And your family?

DJ: Say what? And I came out to my family a little bit after that. After I’d become more comfortable with who I was, when I was starting this website because I wanted them to know before a community of people knew. And I think they were, they were nervous about it at first, they thought that I was closing myself off to possibilities, that I was closing myself off to possible relationships. But over time as I began to tell them more about the experience that I was having, they realized that me accepting my asexuality and exploring life on my own terms was opening up way more interesting possibilities for me than trying to live my life as a sexual person.

JG: And when you tried, I mean, you must have been… as a teenager, I would imagine you attempted intimate moments with people, or sexuality, what did it feel like? You just felt nothing? What was the feeling that made you realize that this was something you weren’t interested in?

DJ: So, I didn’t need to physically experience anything to know that I wasn’t interested…

JG: OK.

DJ: …the same way that most teenage boys don’t need to psychically experience anything to realize they are interested.

JG: Right. [chuckles]

DJ: When I finally did get around to experimenting physically with sexuality, I didn’t have sex for many, many years, but I experimented with making out with people and some other activity, and what I found was that some of it felt good. I like cuddling with people, and so things that felt like cuddling with people were enjoyable and I, at first, didn’t enjoy kissing and then kind of learned to enjoy it. It felt a little bit like being handed a script, like there’s a whole path, physical path, that sexual people go on that feels like a very, very narrow band of the possible things that people could be doing with their bodies. That’s really, really appealing to sexual people, but to me it feels like kind of an arbitrary, not that interesting way to go. And as things got closer and closer to sexuality, it – as I was saying before – it just stopped making sense to my body, it felt like neural static.

JG: Right.

DJ: It didn’t feel pleasurable and it certainly didn’t feel like something I desired.

JG: One of the things you’ve done as an activist is to challenge the medical and psychological communities to view asexuality not as a disorder but just as another sexuality. Where are you at in that quest?

DJ: So we recently had a campaign around the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which is the big book of mental disorders that’s put out every ten or so years, every ten or fifteen years. And they have a disorder in there called Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder which is the disorder you have if you don’t like sex enough, and we gathered together, we campaigned, we gathered together all the medical literature, we gathered together lots of expert opinions to really say “look, there’s a whole population that don’t experience this as a disorder.” And as a result of that, they, the committee that was reviewing this disorder changed the definition and said “look, there’s a category of people, people who have – who identify as asexual – who have a lifelong disinterest in sexuality, a lifelong disinterest, a lack of sexual attraction, and we should treat them differently. We should have a different category, if someone who is asexual walks into a therapist’s office, that therapist should have a different way of treating that person that’s more like you would treat a gay person who is distressed about being gay.” It’s more about self-acceptance.

JG: We talked to Anthony Bogaert. He’s a professor in community health sciences and psychology at Brock University, and he’s the author of the forthcoming book “Understanding Asexuality”. I want to play you some of what he had to say:

[audio clip of Dr. Anthony Bogaert]

AB: Some of the research on asexuality shows that there may be a biological predisposition to asexuality. So there’s some evidence that some predisposing factors may affect certain brain structures, altering sexual attraction. And so they are looking at pre-natal hormonal mechanisms, looking at gene mechanisms, and a variety of other mechanisms. I think there is a trend in society for people to think that people who are asexual need to be fixed, but my basic criteria is that if they are distressed themselves, and if they’re not distressed themselves then I don’t think they need to be quote-unquote fixed.

JG: That’s Anthony Bogaert, a Brock University professor and author of the forthcoming book “Understanding Asexuality”. I’m speaking with asexual activist David Jay as part of our modern love series. David, what is your reaction to the research that seems to be suggesting that there is a biological reason for asexuality, and I imagine one that medical science will then try to develop a quote-unquote treatment for.

DJ: I would… I think that, I think it’s fascinating, I would love to read the research, I do a little work in the life sciences myself, but I think it’s probably very preliminary. Sexual attraction is a very, very complex social experience, and how we experience sexuality is a little bit like how we experience biological hunger, but it’s also a little bit like how we experience the desire for an iPad, it’s a very culturally defined thing. And I think that there’s certain ways that we can tie that back to genetic, biological components, and there’s certain ways that it’s just too complicated. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to tie human sexuality to a gene, or something as complex as sexual attraction to a protein…

JG: How do you think the…

DJ: …and for that reason I don’t think there will ever be a pill that changes how people experience it.

JG: Right, I was going to say, how do you think the asexual community would react to the notion of being treated for asexuality? Is that offensive to you?

DJ: To say that… to go off what Anthony Bogaert was saying, we’re not a community that’s seeking treatment. We’re not a community that is distressed about the way that we engage with sexuality, and so, I think that if a treatment were to be made available, that would be a little bit offensive, a little bit odd. It would imply that we needed to be fixed. It would be like implying that gay people needed to be fixed. But I don’t think that we’re seeking that kind of a treatment. I certainly wouldn’t, am not seeking that kind of a treatment, and I also don’t think that we’d functionally be able to develop it. I don’t think that biological sciences would be capable of making a pill that could switch someone’s sexual orientation.

JG: It wasn’t that long ago that people were saying the same thing about homosexuality, Right? We need to find a cure, you know? Which would certainly be seen as offensive now. Being an activist has put you in the media spotlight. I mean, you’ve been grilled on your sexuality. It’s funny doing the research on this and seeing some of these TV programmes. Everyone from strangers you meet to major American broadcasters grill you. Judging from the media accounts, people just seem to be incredulous too, as though it’s impossible to believe that some element of sex doesn’t drive everybody. What are some of the most common reactions and misconceptions that you’ve had to contend with?

DJ: Oh, that asexual people just can’t get laid, that we just got out of a bad relationship, that we’ve had some sort of trauma that stops us from ?_________? [@ 0:48.40, I can’t quite catch this –HQ] sexuality. Or that we just haven’t tried it.

JG: [chuckles]

DJ: I think that, I think that for many people – I call it the Green Eggs and Ham situation – there are people who just assume that sexuality is such a vital part of the human experience, that if I say that I’m asexual, they need to find a reason why I’m not. They need to find some situation that… in which I would be a sexual person, so that they can fit me into their worldview. And I think that’s really odd, I think that it’s unfortunate that we take this one really narrow band of how people connect with one another, and we give it such overarching importance, because to me, the important thing isn’t this one tiny mechanism of how we connect. It’s the fact we connect. It’s all of the broad, broad ways that people can experience intimacy. And for a lot of people, I think, when you take sex out, you take all that human… you take out a vital part of that human connection.

JG: Yeah, yeah, yeah…

DJ: And that’s really unfortunate, but that’s, I think that’s why they have such a problem accepting asexuality.

JG: Yeah… well you’ve talked about feeling that you might need to have sex in order to secure a long-term relationship personally.

DJ: Mhm.

JG: Because so many people use sex as the same thing as intimacy, right? What is your view of sex as intimacy?

DJ: I think that sex and intimacy are fundamentally different things. I think we live in a society that often equates them, and that… and where, for many people, sex is a necessary part of having a relationship that’s taken seriously, because it’s a big part of how society takes relationships seriously. I’ve been fortunate enough to get in a long-term relationship with another asexual person, and so we’re able to have our relationship on our own terms that is really, really phenomenal. But for a lot of asexual people, especially asexual people that really, really want romantic partnership, that’s not an option, the community’s still really small. And so I think it’s challenging, but I think that we’re leading a really important dialogue on exactly why sex matters. I think sex can be a really fantastic, beautiful, important part of many, many people’s lives and not be a necessary part of connecting with another person. Of forming a deep connection with another person.

JG: I’ve only got about a minute left with you here, but if we understand asexuality better, do you think it will help our understanding of sex and relationships in general? I mean, you said the word ‘single’ won’t make as much sense anymore if we looked at human relationships differently.

DJ: Yeah, I would agree. I think that if we deeply understand asexuality, two things are going to happen. First of all, the word ‘single’ is going to lose it’s meaning because we’re going to have to start talking about not just people’s sexual relationships, but all of the relationships where they have an emotional connection, and we’re going to realize that everyone has a deep relationship, has deep emotional relationships. I think right now there is also a sense of shame when people aren’t sexual enough and that’ll go away, there’ll be a sense that if you’re not sexual, that’s fine, so long as you’ve got deep ways of experiencing connection with yourself and with other people and if you are sexual, that’s great too.

JG: David Jay, it’s a pleasure to get to talk to you, thanks for this.

DJ: Thanks so much

JG: Bye-bye.

DJ: Bye.

JG: David Jay is an asexual activist, founder of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network found online at asexuality.org. He was in San Francisco today.

Does anyone know about the research Dr. Bogaert mentioned in that clip?

Thank you so much!!!! :cake:

EDIT: I'm also a little curious about said research... as well as some DSM campaign that DJ mentioned? I feel like I'm out of the loop or something, because this DSM thing seems to me like it would be a big deal.

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hexaquark

I'm also a little curious about said research... as well as some DSM campaign that DJ mentioned? I feel like I'm out of the loop or something, because this DSM thing seems to me like it would be a big deal.

There is information about the AVEN DSM taskforce on Asexual Explorations and also a post on the beginnings of the project on Love from the Asexual Underground. It started before your AVEN registration date so, easy to miss? Here are the last proposed revisions of the DSM-5 on this issue (from July 29, 2011). There is probably something I'm missing, because I'm not clear on how they are more asexual friendly.

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CBC

Thanks for posting the transcript! Though I really enjoyed listening to the interview, it's nice to have a copy of it to read... and I'll probably do something nerdy like copy/paste it into a Word document, haha.

Oh, I meant to mention that I played the interview for my mum a week or so ago when she was visiting. She knows that AVEN is where Zoids and I met and has generally been pretty open-minded towards the whole asexuality thing. She seemed to find it interesting... though she didn't say a whole lot, really. Maybe it's just weird talking/thinking about your kid's sexuality or something, haha. (Which is probably the reason I'm not gonna bother getting into the whole concept of being grey-a or demisexual... that sounds kinda awkward to me, personally. :P)

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Faelights

I'm also a little curious about said research... as well as some DSM campaign that DJ mentioned? I feel like I'm out of the loop or something, because this DSM thing seems to me like it would be a big deal.

There is information about the AVEN DSM taskforce on Asexual Explorations and also a post on the beginnings of the project on Love from the Asexual Underground. It started before your AVEN registration date so, easy to miss? Here are the last proposed revisions of the DSM-5 on this issue (from July 29, 2011). There is probably something I'm missing, because I'm not clear on how they are more asexual friendly.

Thank you!!! Yeah, according to Mic, the project was started waaaay before my time. XD I'm not even an AVEN year old yet (though I will be in 2 more weeeeeeeks. ^_^

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Faelights

I'm also a little curious about said research... as well as some DSM campaign that DJ mentioned? I feel like I'm out of the loop or something, because this DSM thing seems to me like it would be a big deal.

There is information about the AVEN DSM taskforce on Asexual Explorations and also a post on the beginnings of the project on Love from the Asexual Underground. It started before your AVEN registration date so, easy to miss? Here are the last proposed revisions of the DSM-5 on this issue (from July 29, 2011). There is probably something I'm missing, because I'm not clear on how they are more asexual friendly.

Sorry for double-posting, but...

I confess, I don't see it either. Maybe someone can explain clearly what "progress" was made in this project? Sorry.

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