It is asexuality awareness week, and I think I should talk about the topic a little bit. Asexuality is not often discussed in the media or our personal lives, but it is the same as heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.  Let me define this for people who haven’t heard of the subject: asexuality is the lack of sexual feelings toward another person, regardless of gender. Some people believe that asexuality is a simple case of individuals who have gone undiagnosed with hypoactive sexual desire disorder or sexual aversion disorder. Unlike some, I believe that it is possible to have no attraction to either sex. There is not a large amount of literature dedicated to this subject in humans; however, asexual behaviour in animals can be observed in some creatures through asexual reproduction, such as with some fungi, amphibians and even sharks as I have seen in the media throughout my life. While humans cannot reproduce asexually, I believe that if animals can exhibit certain behaviours, it is possible for humans to exhibit them as well.  
                According to Prause and Graham (2007), who carried out an experiment on people who self labeled as asexual, these people showed low scores for solitary and dyadic sexual desire, the ability to become sexually aroused, and fear of sexual contact. These people showed no previous sexual behaviour and had no desire to see a physician about any problems they were having. According to the DSM-IV, the key factor to establishing a sexual dysfunction such as hypoactive sexual desire disorder and sexual aversion disorder is the recognizing of a problem and the motivation to seek help. If these individuals are comfortable with the sexual orientation of asexual than there is no problem and it cannot be classified as a sexual dysfunction. 
                People who have the sexual orientation of asexual encounter problems unique to them, such as problems with establishing an intimate yet nonsexual relationship, and a negative perception of asexuality brought on by the media. Adults who experience no sexual desire may still lead a normal and fulfilling romantic relationship, including sexual intercourse. You may think that asexual people having intercourse defeats the purpose of the label, but I must bring the point to light that many spouses will have sex with their partner to please them or to give in to nagging. Many asexual individuals do not see their orientation as a problem, but still wish to find the answer to why they developed into asexual adults. One of the factors predicting asexuality according to Prause and Graham (2007) could be a high threshold for being sexually excited, or maybe it could be some biological factor. This is where more research becomes necessary, not for diagnosing asexual individuals with a dysfunction, but to provide them with information into understanding their own sexuality.
                There are many misconceptions about asexuality, falsely labeling populations as asexual. Information that we receive about asexuality by the media paints a picture of persons with disabilities, not virile young men and women with no mental or physical disabilities. For persons with disabilities, this gives way to the problem of stereotyping and the resulting difficulty to obtain a life partner. While daily functioning may be impaired physically or mentally, this does not mean that sexual drive or desires are also impaired, they do not become incomplete people. Sometimes, a self-fulfilling prophecy may cause these individuals to internalize societal values and ideas and retreat from a sexual lifestyle. Most ideas of persons with disabilities being asexual comes from the notion that these people are incapable of making rational  and intelligent decisions, and the fact that presumed sexual dysfunction gives little opportunity for sexual expression and their needs are seen as being absent.  Literature remains scarce in the area of sexuality and persons with disability, without addressing the incorrect attitudes of society these individuals will continue to be falsely viewed as asexual.
                The elderly are also another group that is commonly mislabeled as asexual. Many people internalize the stereotype of the older adult, past their prime and unable to produce more offspring, as no longer being sexually active and even as asexual. Society even goes so far as to regard sexuality in older adults to be disturbing or disgusting. Not many people take into consideration the fact that they will wish to be sexually active their whole lives, these people may think that at a certain age a switch simply went off and sexual desire disappeared. This is another circumstance that the views of society may become a self-fulfilling prophecy and older adults will view their own sexuality as aversive.
                One reason for the perception of older adults having an asexual orientation may be the fact that many are widows or widowers. The sad fact of life is that many men will pass away before their wives, leaving many women without partners, leaving society to believe that they resign themselves to asexuality. I have heard from several places within university classes that elderly women commonly turn toward homosexual relationships, with intimacy and sexual contact. This fact shows that aging adults still experience sexual desire. Another fact that may contribute to the perception of asexuality in older adults is the dropping levels of sex hormones, such as after menopause. While it is true that older adults can no longer reproduce together, we all know that people don’t just have sex for reproductive purposes. Why should older adults be deprived of experiencing sexual pleasure?
                Adults who experience no sexual desire may still lead a normal and fulfilling romantic relationship, including sexual intercourse.
                As I have stated several times before, the area of sexuality in older adults needs to be studied further. Not only is more research required of asexual adults, adults with disabilities, and older adults, but this research needs to be made more public than academic studies are usually made. If more academic research on this topic is not made widely public, stereotypes about these populations will persist and they will continue to be suppressed, stigmatized, and stereotyped. As far as I am concerned, being asexual is the same as being heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual; we do not choose to be the way we are, but in order to understand why we have certain preferences, more research is needed.

*Originally posted on October 28, 2011*