Thursday, October 14, 2004

'Asexuals' Come Out of the Closet

Sex? No thanks
JAMES REYNOLDS

THE sexual revolution of the 1960s gave rise to a generation who fought with the law to sleep with men, women or both at the same time. Today, a new generation are fighting for the right to sleep alone.

People who are glad to be "A" are coming out of the closet to declare they have no interest in sex, according to a new study.

Some research suggests there are almost as many asexuals as there are gay individuals.

A report in the journal New Scientist reveals they are starting to insist on their right not to have sex. Many adherents now believe asexual activism could soon mirror the gay revolution.

Although some might simply have low libidos, others claim to represent a new category of sexual orientation.

Despite having sex drives, these people are not remotely attracted to either gender.

Brian, an asexual navy veteran from Virginia, USA, said: "The place where we draw the line is the desire to interact sexually with other people."

Although such a category of sexual identity has never before been claimed, certain historical figures could have fitted the "type" without themselves being aware of it.

PG Wodehouse was married to his wife Ethel for 60 years, but the couple never had children. His biographer, Joseph Connolly, recently wrote: "I think it is entirely possible that he was asexual, as indifferent to the whole business as he was to anything that did not involve books, writing, cricket, golf, television soap operas and Pekingese dogs."

David Hume, the Scottish philosopher, never married. There are no records of any romantic relationships in his life, and biographers instead refer to his preference for engaging in debates at Edinburgh’s Select Society.

Dr Anthony Bogaert, a psychologist at Brock University in Canada, has just published the first study to try to estimate the prevalence of asexuality.

He drew on a survey of sexual practices among more than 18,000 people in the UK published in 1994.

The survey did not specifically focus on the issue of asexuality, but did include questions about sexual attraction.

One option offered was: "I have never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all." One per cent of participants chose this option. The figure was not far behind the rate for same-sex attraction, now believed to be running at 3 per cent.

Another American researcher, Nicole Prause, a PhD student at Indiana University, recruited asexuals via the internet to ask them about their sexual experience, arousability and desire levels.

She found that people who describe themselves as asexuals are often having sex when they do not really want to.

Her study suggests that asexuality is not a kind of illness. "People are using it as their sexual orientation," she told New Scientist.

As one T-shirt puts it: "Asexuality: it’s not just for amoebas any more."

... While the 'promiscuous' 10% contribute to a crisis

ONE in ten adult women and one in eight adult men have two partners concurrently, according to a medical study that calls for tough new measures to combat the UK’s sexual health crisis.

The report, published in the BMA specialist publication, the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, also highlights Britain’s problem with the seedy side of sex, with surveys revealing that up to 5 per cent of adult men have paid for sex, increasing the chances of contracting a sexual disease.

According to Professor Mark Bellis, who compiled the study with colleagues from the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University:

"By and large our attempts to avoid a sexual health crisis and, more recently, to manage it, have failed. At the core of this crisis is an unwillingness to deal with the ‘promiscuous’ 10 per cent: a significant group of people who have multiple sexual partners."

ROB TOMLINSON