Should asexuality be identified as a sexual identity in a census?

New wave of dinner discussion

In September, I noticed that a new topic had made its ways to dinner conversations. It was about asexuality which is defined to be the lack of sexual attraction (by human beings) to anyone, or low or absent interest in or desire for sexual activity (Wikipedia). I thought it might be coincidental even though the topic was discussed with different groups of friends, over different main courses and in different cities.  It seemed plausible that this topic was bantered because people were weary of talking about the Clinton versus Trump spectator showdowns. And then, an article appeared last week in the National Post titled “Asexuality needs to be recognized as its own, unique sexual orientation, Canadian experts say”.  It mentioned that there is interest by the U.K. and Canada to add asexuality as a group to an upcoming census questionnaire.

Why should we care?

My research into asexuality gave me the impression that it is a highly charged concept. The dinner conversations certainly reflected a range of opinions about claims and consequences on this topic. Some experts say that asexuality should be recognized as a major sexual orientation like heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality.  Asexuality is not a problem. Others qualify asexuality as a psychological or biological disorder.

I wondered if opening the conversation about this topic could help people who are dealing with issues about asexuality.  For example, it could enlighten couples who are having problems with intimacy and place blame on a partner.  When I think of the September dinner table conversations, there were a few young women (who were present without their husbands) who had gone to marriage counselling and were told that their husband’s lack of intimacy with them was the wife’s fault. counchSome other experts would instead have considered the possibility that the husband was or had become asexual rather than making the wife feel guilty. More education could help people in those situations rebut narrow-minded advice.  In another other example, dialogue would give some answers to young people understand their disinterest in intimacy, when they start dating, making them feel less isolated and lonely in those situations.

I recognize that the examples are simplified and there could be other reasons for concerns about lack of intimacy in relationships. Nevertheless, I mention them to point out that the lack of awareness about asexuality can limit our capacity to understand differences in human behavior.

The links to the census

Whether you accept or not the concept of asexuality, research shows that it exists. It’s in our world, it’s real.  Adding this sexual orientation as a group to a future Canadian census could give the topic of asexuality a forum for discussion and hopefully provide better knowledge about it. Empathy could ensue rather than discrimination. It could benefit asexuals as well as those who are in relationship with them.

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2 thoughts on “Should asexuality be identified as a sexual identity in a census?

  1. I’m curious about one of your examples. If asexuality is a sexual orientation just like heterosexuality or homosexuality, can people become asexual? To me that suggests that asexuality isn’t an orientation so much as a phase or state of being (and certainly studies have shown that people who aren’t sexual active do tend to divert that sexual energy to other pursuits, which would support the “becoming asexual” concept). Personally why or how one is asexual isn’t that important to me as knowing that that is where they are at and respecting their reality. Interesting post and interesting dinner conversation!

    • Apologies for the delay to reply,fellow student. Based on my research about the topic (since that dinner conversation), it appears that asexuality is recognized as a sexual orientation – except for the camp of experts that believe such behavior to be some type of disorder. And with regards to your comment that asexuality could be a phase or state of being, the research would support that notion because it is not known whether asexuality is life-long or acquired and when asexuality is determined. Furthermore, your comment would be supported by the fact that not all asexuals are necessarily alike. For example, some asexuals engage in sexual activity simply to please a romantic partner. Others have no sexual feelings at all which would possibly mean that there is no sexual energy to divert elsewhere….. I have read that the rationale to include a question about asexualilty as sexual orientation in a census could possibly help challenge the assumptions that not all humans are sexual animals. I think that there is still too much of a grey zone about what is asexuality and what is not. The scholars and sexologists cannot agree. What matters to me is to accept our differences.

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