According to Anthony F. Bogaert, a Canadian psychologist and professor in both the Departments of Psychology and of Community Health Sciences at Brock University, approximately 1% of the world population is asexual. These individuals have one thing in common: they do not feel sexual attraction towards other people and sex is not their priority. Asexuality is defined as the lack of sexual attraction, not to be confused as hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD). In recent years, more people are becoming aware of the term and it has begun to be more visible in sectors like the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual Community) and mainstream media in Puerto Rico.
Since when have people known of the term?
The term asexual may sound different or confusing, but many individuals around the world since the year 2001, with the creation of site asexuality.org (AVEN), a site dedicated to educate and create visibility for anyone under the asexuality spectrum or the general public, have begun to identify themselves with the term. There have been studies on low sexuality since the 1979, based on the models of sexual orientation by Michael Storms. Later on it was investigated in a series of surveys an and in 2004, Anthony Bogaert did a formal investigation on the topic from the orientation perspective.
No sex, no life?
Sam (fake name) is a Puerto Rican university student who started to feel different in her teenage years. Sam expresses that in her first year at college in the United States, she came across the term in her Psychology class and started to research the topic.
“At that time I didn’t identify myself as asexual because I was in a relationship with a woman. When I spoke to my psychologist about it, she told me that asexual people were like me”.
Sam says that she likes to have company, but in terms of intimacy, she doesn’t feel comfortable with the subject. The reason for this according to her, is not because it grosses her out, but rather if she have intercourse, it would be only to satisfy her partner. Moreover, she claims that in her lifetime she has not thought of anything sexual. According to Sam, she is only curious but feels no intense desire and it has never been the focus of her relationships.
“I would, however not be aromantic, which is a term associated with people who do not feel a romantic attraction. Right now I am in a relationship with someone with a similar mindset as my own and it is comforting to find someone who thinks like that. It means they are focusing on your feelings, emotions and setting aside the physical part”.
Sam reveals that it is pretty hard for her family and some friends here in Puerto Rico to accept that asexuality exists. Culturally, she analyzes that it is even harder for new generations to think that a person can have a relationship without having to be intimate with their partner.
“I don’t think asexuality is something strange. I think everyone makes their own choices and sometimes I would like to be normal to fit the standard and not have to explain myself, but I like to think that it doesn’t have to be a box of only some categories and standards of society, I think everyone deserves respect even if they are different and try to understand different perspectives of life”.
A new perspective on life
Daniella Hodgson is a college student in England that came across the term reading fanfiction (which according to WordReference.com, is fiction written around previously established characters invented by other authors). She says that she felt very identified with the character that was asexual, but had a hard time trying to get her head around the fact that there were people like her. She explains that it made more sense of the world around her when she understood that that the term applied to her.
“In my university environment there is more acceptance of the term and I personally haven’t had a bad experience coming out to my friends and people of my age. I haven’t told any older adults, people at church or my family. I just assumed that everybody else was like me and then I found out that everybody liked sex and it was weird. Now I know loads of people who are asexual here in England. The community has really given me something to bond over with people who share the same experience”.
A different culture
Jen San (Facebook name), a Costa Rican citizen, says that in her teenage years she felt really pressured by the people around her that asked why she didn’t feel attracted to anyone.
“I thought that I was a late bloomer or that I was too mature to fall for someone or have sex with them. Seven years ago when I was reading fanfiction on the web, the character was auto denominated as an ace (what asexual people sometimes call themselves), I felt very identified with said character. I then found the AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network), page and the definition of asexual was referring to what I was like. I thought something was wrong with me, and when I found the term, it was a liberation.”
Jen expresses that for the time being she hasn’t told her family because she considers it to be complicated in her cultural environment, but is more open on social media.
“My friends have told me: “I don’t understand it, I don’t think it exists, but I will respect it”. That is why I have created a group named “Asexuales Costa Rica” on Facebook, and it became a support group. The goal was to find people who were alike and share our stories with each other”.
Jen acknowledges that it is a very complex topic in Costa Rica and that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are considered to be one mix that many people cannot separate.
“I personally think that people don’t have to understand it, just respect it. Maybe we don’t receive the same treatment as homosexuals do, but we receive it in a different way: making us feel inferior, broken or that we don’t exist. At the end of the day the only person who can truly define you is you”.
What does science say at the moment?
Sexologist Lourdes E. Soto de Laurido, Ed.D., MPHE Professor & Director of the Research Institute for Global Health Promotions and Health education (IIPESAG), says that asexuality is not known to be a dysfunction, but in her work line it is considered as a non-manifestation of attraction. She says that there are studies that say that asexuality is a trait that a person is born with, however there are studies that say the contrary; that it is just the choice of not manifesting that attraction.
“They have just oppressed the manifestation of their sexual impulses, yet they do not report having trouble doing so, as some claim to not have a general interest at all. They do however need companionship like any other person, someone to have fun with, it can be a friend or someone who they have a romantic relationship with. The thing that is common in asexuals is that they do not need to prepare themselves mentally to not get excited, nor be attracted to someone, they simply aren’t according to them”.
Lourdes explains that it is very difficult to measure how many individuals are exactly and it is still being researched, because every case brings something new to the table. According to Lourdes, there have been women who have decided to become abstained from sexual intercourse for 25 years, yet they should not be categorized as asexual because they would have stimulus if they were exposed to sexual relationships. The same applies to those who choose to be celibate for a religious or specific personal causes.
“Different types of sexual attractions have been divided to help us understand how they work together and have a better understanding for future research. There are asexual people who recognize they have physical sexual necessities but can resolve them by masturbating. They are not completely rigid, they just do not prioritize having sex in their relationships.”
Additional links and references:
Article on coming out as an asexual:
Anthony Bogaert’s research and articles: