An emerging minority gets literal about sexual liberation
Baby, when I think about you, I think about l-o-o-ve.' So begins the hoary ballad by Bad Company, a British band whose 'Feel Like Makin' Love' has been a sleazy anthem for the horny masses since 1975. But what if you think about other people and feel like making lunch? There is a minority group out there that has absolutely no interest affirming love by exchanging bodily fluids. Coalescing on the Internet, this small but increasingly vocal faction claims to be perfectly healthy and happy not to be getting any.
These self-described asexuals are 'announcing to the world that they are not broken or defective, or sexually dysfunctional' writes Sylvia Pagan Westphal in New Scientist (Oct. 16, 2004). They are simply '100 percent uninterested in sex.' Unlike celibates, who choose to abstain from intercourse even if they are physically attracted to another person, asexuals claim to not be aroused by either gender at any time.
The newly organized drive to bring asexuality out of the closet is taking a lead from the gay liberation movement, according to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). Like the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, AVEN strives to offer asexuals a sense of belonging without infringing on their diverse senses of identity. For instance, some people identify as both gay and asexual, some masturbate (albeit without fantasizing about a specific person), while others enter sexual relationships as a way to express romantic or emotional attraction (but not to satisfy a sex drive). Many asexuals describe 'romance drives,' or the need to be intimate, but not sexual, with another person.
One of the challenges asexuals face is convincing the rest of the sex-crazed world that they really aren't interested. 'Most people find that at some point or another they want to get it on with another person,' writes Punk Planet sex columnist Sex Lady (Jan./Feb. 2005), 'and to fall outside of that huge mainstream can be difficult.' Asexuals argue that underreported studies have shown asexual activity in certain animal populations, and a recent human survey in the United Kingdom found that 1 percent of respondents had 'never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all.' While there's been virtually no research on the genetic origins of asexuality, John DeLamater, a human sexuality expert at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, says that categorizing a percentage of the population as predisposed to sexual inactivity might be novel 'but it's not unreasonable.'
Sex Lady admits initially thinking that asexuals are 'latent queers or abuse survivors who are horrified by the prospect of sexual contact,' since a lack of sexual desire is often the result of physical or emotional trauma. While she still believes there are a number of folks who fall into this category (and someone who is sexless and unhappy should seek medical help), Sex Lady is now convinced that asexuality is more than a state of mind. It's 'not just that they have no interest in their unkempt, lazy-ass lover of 20 years,' she writes. They have 'a complete lack of desire for any kind of sexual contact.'
As the asexuality movement gains momentum, more asexuals are out and proud. AVEN founder David Jay, 22, works hard to raise awareness by giving talks, networking, and getting the topic in the media. He believes a true movement is under way. Indeed, asexuals are discussing what it means to be A-sexy and have A-pride. And as all effective movements eventually do, AVEN has a newly minted slogan T-shirt available on its Web site (www.asexuality.org): 'Asexuality: It's not just for amoebas anymore.'