Asexuality (and related concepts) 101 part 4

This is part 4 of my Asexuality (and related concepts) 101 page, and I’m looking for input. This section is probably big enough to be its own page though!
EDIT: This is an edited version, based off of suggestions made in the comments. Thanks to luvtheheaven and sablin27 for the suggestions. This section is still open to more suggestions.
Because of how large this section is, it’d be better to split it into a separate page, that the “Asexuality (and related concepts) 101” page will link to.

Attitudes towards sex

How someone feels about having sex is separate from whether they’re asexual or not. Asexual and gray-asexual people’s attitudes towards the idea of themselves having sex, and towards sex/sexuality in general, are as diverse as allosexual people’s viewpoints.

Personal attitudes towards sex

The three terms usually used in the asexual community to describe how someone personally feels about sex, or the idea of sex involving them, are repulsed, indifferent, and favorable.

Statistics from the two relevant censuses of the asexual community will be used. The questions to measure personal attitudes towards sex were phrased differently, with radically different results, because of it*. For each group, breakdown by asexuality, gray-asexuality, and demisexuality will be given, for both surveys.

Repulsed

Repulsed (or “sex-repulsed”) individuals strongly dislike the idea of themselves having sex, under most, or all circumstances. They may feel physically or mentally grossed out by it. There are different degrees of sex-repulsion, ranging from someone who is completely repulsed by anything sexual, and doesn’t want to talk about it, to those who like the idea of sex in theory, but are repulsed by the thought of actual sex involving themselves.

Sex-repulsion isn’t itself a sign of being asexual, but the sex-repulsed do make up the majority of the asexual community, and the asexual group has the highest percentage of sex-repulsed individuals.

Results from 2011 AAW Census

  • Asexuals: 65%
  • Gray-asexuals: 51%
  • Demisexuals: 37%
  • (no stats for allosexuals given)

Results from 2014 AVEN Census

  • Asexuals: 55%
  • Gray-asexuals: 27.4%
  • Demisexuals: 15.9%
  • Allosexuals: The percentage still needs to be calculated**

Another term that’s sometimes used is sex-averse, which sometimes is synonymous with sex-repulsed, but other times, it’s something similar, but not interchangeable.

Indifferent

Indifferent (or “sex-indifferent”) individuals are indifferent towards the idea of themselves having sex. They often describe their attitude towards sex as “take it or leave it”, or “wouldn’t mind having sex under some circumstances, but would be perfectly content to never have it”. Some are willing to have sex, even if they might get little, or nothing out of the act itself, such as if they have an allosexual partner who wants sex, and the want to make their partner happy. Not all these relationships are sexual, for different reasons, described later in the “Mixed Relationships” section.

For indifferent individuals who don’t want sex, it’s not that they find it repulsive, but rather, they feel like it may not be worth it for them from a cost-benefits perspective.

Results from 2011 AAW Census

  • Asexuals: 24%
  • Gray-asexuals: 32%
  • Demisexuals: 34%
  • (no stats for allosexuals given)

Results from 2014 AVEN Census

  • Asexuals: 42.3%
  • Gray-asexuals: 61.2%
  • Demisexuals: 54.3%
  • Allosexuals: The percentage still needs to be calculated**

Favorable

“Sex-favorable” individuals are those who are favorable towards the idea of themselves having sex under some circumstances.

Results from 2011 AAW Census

  • Asexuals: 1%
  • Gray-asexuals: 4%
  • Demisexuals: 11%
  • (no stats for allosexuals given)

Results from 2014 AVEN Census

  • Asexuals: 2.7%
  • Gray-asexuals: 11.4%
  • Demisexuals: 29.8%
  • Allosexuals: The percentage still needs to be calculated**

Not everyone neatly fit these labels

Not everyone can neatly fit their experiences into just one of these labels. Some individuals may be unsure, or ambivalent towards the idea of themselves having sex. Others may feel like their experiences are a mix of them, and can’t neatly be categorized. Some individuals may also identify with multiple of these labels under different contexts.

Desiring sex is separate from wanting it. Sex-favorable asexuals may want sex for the sake of it under some circumstances, despite not having any intrinsic desire for it, and there are sex-repulsed and averse allosexuals who never want sex despite having an intrinsic desire for it.

Rhetoric to avoid

  • Certain usage of “Asexuals can enjoy sex too!” (particularly right after talking about sex-repulsion): It’s true that some asexuals can enjoy sex, but how this phrase is often used, has been used to silence repulsed asexuals, by sweeping them under the rug. When talking about both sex-repulsed and sex-favorable asexuals, take care to mention both sides respectfully. Acknowledging one group doesn’t have to come at the other’s expense.
  • The assumption that all indifferent and favorable asexuals are open to sex: This one may be unintentional, but it does seem to be implied a lot. Liking, or at least not being repulsed by the idea of sex, doesn’t automatically mean being open to sex, and there are other reasons someone might not want it.
  • Assuming that a repulsion or aversion to sex is something that must be treated: Many sex-repulsed individuals aren’t distressed by being sex-repulsed; their distress comes from isolation, and lack of acceptance, and there have been many repulsed individuals who don’t feel welcome talking about their experiences, even in the asexual spaces.
  • Assuming that if someone’s sex-repulsion isn’t “supposed” to have a cause: Some sex-repulsed individuals feel that their repulsion does have a cause, including trauma, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way. Their repulsion isn’t any less valid.

Attitudes towards sex in general

How someone feels about personally having sex (repulsed, indifferent, favorable), is also separate from how they feel about others having sex, or how they feel towards sex in general. There are terms used for describing attitudes towards sex in general, but the definitions for each of them are widely disputed.***

The AVEN 2014 Census showed that most respondents don’t have any problem with consenting adults engaging in sex, but many of those same respondents also at least somewhat agreed with the statement “Our society has too much sex in it, and it would be better if it were diminished.”. Agreeing to both of those statements may not be contradictory, considering how sex is treated as compulsory by society as a whole, and there’s a lot of pressure to have it.


Footnotes:

*On the full page, I’ll have a footnote addressing the discrepancies between the percentages of sex-repulsed, indifferent, and favorable individuals in the 2011 and 2014 surveys. These discrepancies are likely due to methodological differences between each survey, and how they measured personal attitudes towards sex.

**The percentages of sex-repulsed, indifferent and favorable allosexuals will be added when those statistics from the 2014 AVEN Census become publicly available.

***I’m also planning on writing a terminology page, with a section for terms whose meanings are highly ambiguous or disputed. The “sex-positive” and “sex-negative” labels are two of them.

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12 thoughts on “Asexuality (and related concepts) 101 part 4

  1. luvtheheaven

    This page is very confusing and I feel like there are a lot of sections that need to be (at the very least *slightly*) re-written.

    First of all, combining the results for the 2011 and the 2014 censuses might need to be done a different way. Remember the average person reading this is going to skim past the line “according to the 2011 census” in a paragraph, just interested in the percentages as if they were fact, and then would get confused when you start providing radically different percentages later on from the 2014 census.

    You also say “65% of the overall respondents” and then “Breaking that down by group, it’s 65% of asexuals” and it seems like that might be a mistake since 65% is the same number each time. Is “of overall respondents” even a necessary statistic to mention on this page?

    I think it’d be clearer if you started off with “we’ve done two relevant censuses of the asexual community, one in 2014 and one in 2011. We phrased questions differently and got radically different results. Here is the breakdown:” and then had two separate very clear sub-headings or titles for 2 separate charts or whatever, one reading “Results from the 2011 census” and the other “Results from the 2014 census” or SOMETHING like that. As it is now it just doesn’t work for me.

    “Some do have sex, and are willing to, usually for their partner within a mixed relationship” – I know you asked a question sort of like this on the AVEN survey, so you might have the “evidence” backing up that this is “usually” why indifferent aces have sex, but… but this wording worries me. You also don’t mention other reasons people might have sex – “feeling pressured into it by their partner or society at large”, “one-time curiosity”, etc and to remind people that even some people who do want to make their allosexual partners happy don’t have sex with them because a) the allosexual partner is only into it if their partner is fully into it or b) they may find sex too boring to muster up the willpower or c) they have too low of a sex drive or d) any of a number of reasons, and it doesn’t matter the reason, because CONSENT means No is no and they don’t need to justify themselves. You also said “though it’s not something they would’ve sought out on their own.” and do you have any proof of that? Are you sure no indifferent ace-spectrum folks don’t seek out sex on their own? I bet plenty do. They are probably curious to find out if sex is really as great as their friends/the media/etc says it is. They probably hate the social stigma of being a 20-something- or 30- or 40- year old virgin. Etc. There are a ton of reasons they might seek it out so maybe this sentence is not necessary.

    Also you probably want to make sure “mixed relationship” is defined before you start using the term.

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    1. luvtheheaven

      Also I think it might be relevant to use the data from the 2014 census about how often sex-favorable and sex-indifferent ace-spectrum folks have sex – the fact that it’s only a few times a year for certain people might be very helpful for certain people to know. Also maybe to know frequent sex is possible, they’re not the only ace who has sex multiple times a week, but that the percentage of aces who do that is very very low.

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    2. Aqua Post author

      I wasn’t sure how to reconcile the differing statistics between the two surveys. I guess that the “overall respondents” part isn’t necessary.

      I like your idea of breaking down the statistics, and will try to do that in the re-write. I knew the approach I took was clunky, but I was at a loss for an alternative until it was brought up.

      For much of what I wrote for the sex-indifferent section, I was going by what I’ve read of indifferent asexuals’ experiences about why they might or might not have sex. One of the distinctions I’ve seen made for sex-indifferent vs. sex-favorable asexuals, is that sex-favorable asexuals may want, and enjoy sex for the sake of it, while indifferent asexuals might for example, get pleasure from their partner’s pleasure, but not from the act itself. I don’t know if I’m wording this very well. However, I know that not everyone makes that distinction (or finds it a meaningful one), and typing this up, I realize now that the lines between sex-indifferent and favorable can be blurry. I don’t know how to address that yet though.

      The other reasons for sex that you mentioned could apply to any group of asexuals, and probably should be its own section.

      What you mentioned about indifferent asexuals not having sex with their partners in a mixed relationship could either go there, or under the upcoming “mixed relationships” section. I forgot to define that term first, and thanks for pointing that out!

      By “seeking out sex on their own”, I intended to mean only seeking it out with an intrinsic motivation tied to it. Social pressure, and the social stigmas against being a virgin past a certain age are extrinsic motivations. Curiosity might count as an intrinsic reason though, but I wonder if there hadn’t been so much emphasis on sex, curiosity would be a much less common reason that it is.

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      1. sablin27

        I like the way the stats are laid out much more now, but I’m a bit puzzled as to why you’re including them here at all. As someone already familiar with the terms and how they get used, it’s pretty interesting, but it seems pretty complex for a first introduction. You haven’t put in more than one or two statistics over the previous three pages (including the relative numbers of asexuals, grey-As and demis) and here you have over twenty.

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        1. Aqua Post author

          I included the stats, because a lot of people may not have accurate ideas of what the percentages actually are, not even in the asexual community. Particularly on AVEN, it can seem like the majority of asexuals are sex-indifferent, when that’s actually not the case. I’ve heard of sex-repulsed asexuals thinking they make up 20% of the asexual community at most.

          Because of the complexity of this section, I wondered if it’d be best to split it off into its own page?

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          1. luvtheheaven

            Yeah, I think maybe you should break down what you have on this page into multiple pages. It’ll keep things more readable and concise and people won’t be as likely to just skim and miss relevant information.

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          2. sablin27

            Maybe you could give a couple of rough estimates in the text and link to the figures on a different page? eg. “Most asexuals and a substantial portion of grey-asexuals and demisexuals are sex-repulsed. (Link) (This is particularly noteworthy, because some areas of the asexual community community seem to assume the opposite.)” That would also allow you to include notes about the surveys’ methodologies with the data, without breaking up the flow of the page.

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  2. sablin27

    Sex-repulsed and sex-indifferent serve double duty for whether people are/ aren’t bothered by explicit descriptions or portrayals of sex.

    I think it’s worth saying that people can identify as more than one of your three categories at the same time or identify differently for different contexts. (eg. repulsed at sex scenes on TV, indifferent to their roommate’s noises; favourable to the idea of having sex, but not to the reality.) It’s not a “pick one” scenario.

    I think you should definitely mention that etiology is irrelevant here. Especially, that you still count if you think your feelings are caused by trauma, even if they’re not what you think you should be feeling.

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    1. luvtheheaven

      That last paragraph is so important – trauma or mental OR physical illnesses (and sometimes the two are linked such as in the case of eating disorders) might have caused your repulsion/aversion to the idea of personally having sex and that’s OKAY.

      I agree that you might have too many statistics here, since this is just a first introduction, but at the same time I feel torn because I like the idea of the statistics clarifying how common each thing is. So I’m not sure what the best answer is.

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      1. sablin27

        Well, the initial definition given is “strongly dislike the idea of themselves having sex”. I’ve seen “sex-repulsed” used with this definition, but also for “repulsed by sex and sexual stuff, regardless of personal participation” (with “sex-indifferent” as the most common contrast). So, unless the two definitions could be comprehensibly merged, the words have two (related) definitions. They serve to express both, hence “double duty”.

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