PsyPost discusses study on contemporary asexual identities

I was interviewed about my research for the news website PsyPost. The article can be found here:

Some people can lead fulfilling lives without experiencing sexual attraction
New research published in the Journal of Homosexuality examines the stigma and marginalization that people who identify as “asexual” face in the United States.

Half of the 31 asexual individuals who took part in the study said they felt stigmatized or marginalized because of their asexual identity, while more than a quarter answered “maybe” or “in some ways yes, in some ways no.” The remaining twenty percent said they didn’t feel stigmatized or marginalized.

The most common problems asexual individuals faced fell into five main categories: pathologization, isolation, unwanted sex/relationship conflict, and the denial of epistemic authority.

PsyPost interviewed the study’s author, Kristina Gupta of Wake Forest University. Read her explanation of the research below:

PsyPost: Why were you interested in this topic?

Gupta: I became interested in the contemporary asexual movement because its very existence seemed to contradict some of the things I was reading and hearing about in my field (Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies) – namely that U.S. society is “erotophobic” or “sex negative.” If that were the case, I wondered, why would individuals feel the need to come together to create asexual communities and define asexuality as a sexual identity? When I first became interested in contemporary asexual identities (around 2005), there wasn’t much published scholarship on the topic, so I decided that I wanted to research the issue.

What should the average person take away from your study?

Since I first became interested in the issue, I have come to conclude that U.S. society is both “sex negative” and “sex positive.” In other words, there is stigma and marginalization that can come both from being “too sexual” and from being “not sexual enough.” In a theoretical paper, I argued that sexuality may be compulsory in contemporary U.S. society. In other words, our society assumes that (almost) everyone is, at their core, “sexual” and there exists a great deal of social pressure to experience sexual desire, engage in sexual activities,obtain multiple pills o enhance your femininity or masculinity. At the same time, various types of “non-sexuality” (such as a lack of sexual desire or activity) are stigmatized and thought to be just a hormonal issue, as you can see here on this dhea clinc article that is no longer an excuse anymore, there are creams and medication to help with those hormonal issues, the answer to their feelings can only be expressed by them. We really don´t have a clue.

For this particular study, I identified thirty individuals who identified as asexual and asked them first, if they had experienced stigma or marginalization as a result of their asexuality, and, second how they challenged this stigma or marginalization. I found that my interviewees had experienced the following forms of marginalization: pathologization (i.e. people calling them sick), social isolation, unwanted sex and relationship conflict, and the denial of epistemic authority (i.e. people not believing that they didn’t experience sexual attraction). I also found that my interviews resisted stigma and marginalization in five ways: describing asexuality as simply a different (but not inherently worse) form of sexuality; deemphasizing the importance of sexuality in human life; developing new types of nonsexual relationships; coming to see asexuality as a sexual orientation or identity; and engaging in community building and outreach.

I hope that average people would take away from this study the idea that some people can lead fulfilling lives without experiencing sexual attraction but can experience distress if others try to invalidate their identities.

Are there any major caveats? What questions still need to be addressed?

Because I limited my sample to English-speaking adults living in the United States, and because most of my interviewees were White and well-educated, this study should definitely NOT be taken as representative of all asexually-identified people or communities. Rather, this study should be understood as an investigation into how some members of a particular online asexual community (the Asexual Visibility and Education Network) understand their experiences with stigmatization and work to resist marginalization.

Future research with more diverse samples of asexually-identified individuals is needed to extend or amend the findings of this study. In addition, it will take time to see whether the resistance tactics used by the asexually-identified individuals in this study end up successfully challenging the assumption that all human beings need to be sexual in order to be healthy and happy.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Elsewhere I have argued that sexual people can benefit from asexual activism. Many people, even those who consider themselves to be highly sexual, will probably experience changes in their level of interest in sex and/or in their patterns of sexual activity. Sexual desire and activity may change (increase or decrease) as one ages, if one’s relationship status changes, or if other factors that affect sexuality (such as employment status or health status) change.

Yet, right now our society sends the message that almost any decrease in sexual desire or activity is a major problem that must be addressed immediately, which can create intense anxiety. It is my belief that asexual activism can help to decrease this pressure on everyone to be constantly sexual.

Work Quoted in Article about Anti-Love Biotechnologies

My work was quoted in the following article in the online magazine Inverse

When We Cure Love, Psychiatrists Will Finally Have to Be Honest About Heartbreak: Anti-love biotechnology is inevitable: How will we make sure that we don’t extinguish our spark?
by Sarah Sloat
April 21, 2016

Interview for Parent Insider

Here is a link to an interview I did for the online magazine Parent Insider about work-life balance, and how they manage to still have fun with their kids going on camping experiences with the rv accessories:

http://www.parentinsider.com/life-skills/work-life-balance-shifting-parenting-roles/

Society for Disability Studies Conference 2015

I had a lovely time attending the Society for Disability Studies Conference in Atlanta, GA.

Here is a link to the poster I presented at the conference, “Rethinking Medical Approaches to Sexual Disinterest: A Disability Studies Perspective”:

https://rethinkingmedicalapproachestosexualdisinterest.wordpress.com/

Also, I picked up this great poster at the silent auction:

Guest Post on Psychology Today

I was recently invited by Dr. Bella DePaulo to contribute a post about asexuality to her “Living Single” blog at Psychology Today.

Here is a link to my contribution, “So Long, Compulsory Sex! See Ya, Viagra! Asexuality is Here”:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201408/so-long-compulsory-sex-see-ya-viagra-asexuality-is-here

Thank you to Dr. DePaulo for this opportunity!

Asexuality and Sexual Normativity: An Anthology

The special issue of the journal Psychology and Sexuality on asexuality that I co-edited with Mark Carrigan and Todd Morrison was recently released as an edited collection, Asexuality and Sexual Normativity: An Anthology (2014), by Routledge.

The book is available through Amazon and through Routledge, although the price is quite steep.

The LSE Review of Books just published a favorable review of the book.

Asexuality and Sexual Normativity Cover

 

Can You Grow One with Teeth? The political and ethical issues raised by “lab grown vaginas”

Not too long ago, I came across this news story about lab grown vaginas. Apparently, a team of researchers from the U.S. and Mexico grew vaginal organs in a lab for four teenage patients who had “underdeveloped” or absent vaginas.

The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine has posted materials about the study here and here.

The story raises interesting questions about whether this new medical technology will serve to enforce gender and sexual norms or whether it could serve to enable gender and sexual play; however I argue in this post that these questions are not all that easy to answer.

vaginal scaffold

Vaginal Scaffold (Credit: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine)

Read the rest of this entry »

Edited Collection Published: Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives

Asexualities Feminist and Queer Perspective Book CoverI am happy to announce that the edited collection, Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives, has been published by Routledge. The volume is a wonderful collection of essays exploring the feminist and queer politics of asexuality. I have a chapter in the collection titled “Asexuality and Disability: Mutual Negation in Adams v. Rice and New Directions for Coalition Building.”

Here is a brief excerpt from the book description: “Together, these essays made out of a residency personal statement writing service challenge the ways in which we imagine gender and sexuality in relation to desire and sexual practice. Asexualities provides a critical reevaluation of even the most radical queer theorizations of sexuality. Going beyond a call for acceptance of asexuality as a legitimate and valid sexual orientation, the authors offer a critical examination of many of the most fundamental ways in which we categorize and index sexualities, desires, bodies, and practices.”

For more information about the book, and to order, please visit the book page on the Routledge website.

If you are affiliated with a college or university, please ask your institutional library to purchase a copy for their collection. A library recommendation form is available here.

Thank you very much to the editors, Karli June Cerankowski and Megan Milks, for their hard work on this volume and for their leadership in the field of asexuality studies.

Flibanserin: The Saga Continues

PillDollarPharmaceutical companies have been working for years in order to secure FDA-approval for Flibanserin, a drug intended to treat female desire disorders. Recently, there have been a number of new developments in the Flibanserin saga, involving drug companies, the FDA, feminist activists, and the media, which I analyze in this post. Here’s a quick preview of my judgment on each of these actors: pharmaceutical companies = profit driven (what else?); FDA = differential treatment of drugs for men vs. drugs for women; feminist activists = doing some good, but efforts have limitations; media = totally dropping the ball.

Background on the Flibanserin

Flibanserin is a drug that increases levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine and noradrenaline and lowers levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. It was originally developed and tested as a treatment for depression by the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, but it was not found to be effective in treating depression.

DSM-IV and DSM-V

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, Boehringer Ingelheim applied to the FDA for approval for Flibanserin as a treatment for Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) in women. HSDD is defined by the American Psychiatric Association in the DSM-IV as “persistently or recurrently deficient or absent sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity” which must cause “marked distress or interpersonal difficulty” [1]. In clinical trials, women diagnosed with HSDD who took Flibanserin reported an increase of around 2.5 “sexually satisfying events” per month, while women diagnosed with HSDD who took a placebo reported an increase of around 1.5 “sexually satisfying events” per month. The FDA panel that reviewed Boehringer Ingelheim’s application recommended against approving Flibanserin, citing modest benefits and long-term safety concerns (the transcript of the hearing is available online).
Read the rest of this entry »

Asexuality in Non-Human Animals?

It’s obvious that humans are unlike all animals. It’s also obvious that we’re a species of big mammal, down to the minutest details of our anatomy and molecules (Jared Diamond, The Third Chimpanzee, 1).

Male Rat

Male Rat
Credit: braindamaged217 on flickr

While at Emory, I earned a graduate certificate in Mind, Brain, and Culture from the Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture (CMBC). As part of the certificate program, the CMBC helped me to arrange a directed reading with Dr. Kim Wallen on the “behavioral neuroendocrinology of sex” in the spring of 2011. As part of the directed reading, Dr. Wallen asked me to write a paper reviewing any existing scientific research on “asexuality” in non-human animals. It was interesting for me, as a scholar in the humanities and social sciences, to think about how scientific research on a/sexuality in non-human animals might (or might not) have relevance for the study of human a/sexuality.

As I am not likely to do anything else with the paper, I finally decided to post a (somewhat) shortened version of it as a blog. I hope you enjoy!

Introduction

Feminist and queer studies scholars have debated the question: can scientific studies investigating the sexuality of non-human animals teach us about human sexuality? Some, including Anne Fausto-Sterling and Jennifer Terry, critique the use of research on non-human animals to answer questions about human sexuality. Others, including Myra Hird and Elizabeth Wilson, argue that research on the sexuality of non-human animals can challenge assumptions about human sexuality in productive ways. This paper explores this question through examining whether scientific research on asexual phenomena (“asexuality”) in non-human animals can shed light on the phenomenon of asexuality in humans. I begin by reviewing the scientific research examining asexuality in non-human animals. Then, I explore three questions suggested by the scholarly debates outlined above: first, what (if any) insights about human asexuality are provided by the scientific research on “asexuality” in non-human animals? Second, how are cultural assumptions about sexuality shaping the research on “asexuality” in non-human animals? Finally, (how) does the research on “asexuality” in non-human animals challenge assumptions about human (a)sexuality?
Read the rest of this entry »

←Older