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Position on the Dignity and Rights of Asexual Individuals

Asexuality is a sexual orientation generally defined as those who experience little or no sexual attraction or those who self-identify as asexual (Chasin, 2011). Like other sexual orientations, asexuality can be fluid or fixed and exists on a spectrum that ranges from never experiencing attraction, to experiencing attraction in particular relational contexts. Standard terms that describe variations on the spectrum of asexuality include demisexuality and greysexuality. Demisexuality is a term that describes people who experience sexual attraction after developing an emotional bond with someone (Decker, 2015). Greysexuality is a term that describes people who do not readily identify as asexual. These people may feel sexual attraction, but it is weak, or they may cycle through phases of feeling sexual attraction and phases of not feeling a sexual attraction (Decker, 2015). It is also important to recognize evolving language for identities that have otherwise been unnamed, including allosexual, a term which refers to those who experience sexual attraction and are not asexual.

The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT) takes the position that asexuality and ace-spectrum identities are not mental, developmental, or sexual disorders. They are not responses to trauma or inexperience - they are valid and fulfilling identities and orientations. We oppose any and all reparative or conversion therapies that seek to change, fix, or pathologize a person’s sexual orientation. We define reparative or conversion therapy as any service or intervention purporting to “cure” any sexual orientation that is non-allosexual, or services that seek to change non-allosexual orientation because of the assumption that asexuality or ace-spectrum identities are mental disorders. AASECT does not believe that diverse spectrum of non-allosexual sexual orientations need to be fixed or changed. Asexual individuals often face distinct difficulties in obtaining orientation-affirming services due to a lack of cultural sensitivity and a long history of compulsory sexuality within Western cutlures (Flanagan & Peters, 2020). Similarly to the homonegative diagnostic criteria of early editions of the DSM, pervasive cultural stigma has limited the ability for asexual people to experience their orientation in non-pathologizing ways. For allosexual people, the lack of sexual interest may present as a concern or sexual symptom. People who are content with little or no sexual desire toward others commonly experience distress from social stigma and prejudice rather than distress because of their lack of sexual attraction to others (Bogaert, 2006; Flanagan & Peters, 2020). In contrast, psychosexual dysfunctions have additional criteria that need to be present, like marked distress and interpersonal difficulty (Brotto, 2010). Additionally, phobia-like inhibition to engage in desired sexual activity (Brotto, 2010), is a different stress than those who identify as asexual. Providers should assess thoroughly sources of distress when working with people who present with low or no sexual desire, and treat asexuality identities with dignity.

There are many myths perpetuated by popular culture regarding asexuality. Some have derided asexuality as something fabricated, a complex, a form of immaturity, a pathology, or inherent loneliness (Cerankowski & Milks, 2010). Thankfully, most contemporary sex educators, counselors, and therapists recognize the parallels between these allocentric myths and those perpetuated by heterosexism and cissexism. In the same way that the field of sexuality has denounced the pathological positioning of homosexuality, sexual fluidity, queer orientations, trans identities, and non-binary identities, sex educators, counselors, and therapists should do the same regarding myths perpetuated about asexuality.

The estimated percentage of asexual-identified individuals has remained constant at under 2% (approximately 1-1.7%) since the work of Alfred Kinsey was published (Bogaert, 2004; Kinsey, 1948; Miller 2011; Poston & Baumle, 2010; Rothblum, 2019). Many sexuality professionals are unaware Kinsey’s scale included an X outside of the 0-6 to identify individuals with little or no sexual attraction. This is roughly the same population of people globally who have green eyes. Special care consideration should be made to ensure that communities that are marginalized by population numbers are not further othered by discriminatory healthcare practices, misinformation, or social stigmatization. If counselors and therapists are working with asexual-identified clients and not practicing culturally competent care, they may be reinforcing the social stressors experienced by clients outside of the therapy room (Carroll 2020; Chasin 2015; Rothblum et al., 2019).

Our position is consistent with our professional colleagues, including but not limited to: the American Psychological Association’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Sexual Minority Persons (2021) and the National Association of School Psychologists’ (2021) position statement on Comprehensive and Inclusive Sexuality Education.

References & Resources for Further Reading