Some Different Perspectives on Asexual Experience: The Asexual Lives Project

A couple of, well, years ago now, I participated in a research project run by sociologists Susie Scott, Liz McDonnell and Matt Dawson from the Universities of Sussex and Glasgow. The project was called ‘Asexual Lives,’ and focused on how asexual people negotiate their everyday lives and everyday intimacies. Participating in the project involved an interview with Liz, and keeping a two-week diary where I wrote generally about how asexuality affected my life day-to-day, if/how I was aware of it, and how it influenced my intimate relationships (broadly defined).

I recently received an overview of the results and publications (most of which are still forthcoming) that have come out of the study, and I was very interested in – and sometimes a bit surprised by – the results. At the moment I’m only working from abstracts for the articles and papers, but one piece has been published online already and is available to people without academic database access. It does a pretty good job at touching on the issues raised in the individual papers, so I wanted to write a bit about my thoughts on the piece and the small response it got from a few members of the ace community. You can find it here: Asexual Lives: Social relationships and intimate encounters.

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to the article, summarising the focus of the research project:

Against this backdrop, asexuality appears curious, standing outside the sexual realm entirely. To have a minority status or engage in less common practices is one thing, but to not be a sexual person at all is quite another. Because it challenges social norms, expectations and cultural assumptions, asexuality is often viewed as a problem, a failure, or even a sickness. But is this an accurate portrayal? How do people experience asexuality themselves, and how does it affect their social lives?

To the best of my knowledge of academic writing on asexuality, relatively little research has been done on the micro-level, looking at these sorts of everyday-life questions. There’s been quite a bit on larger-scale questions of identity, community experience, and arousal, but this is the first I’ve seen specifically with a qualitative, experience-based focus. (Please correct me if I’m wrong – I try to keep up to date with the academic side of things, but obviously there’s stuff I miss as well.) So I find this topic really interesting, as someone reading the results now, and as a participant trying to figure out the everyday effect of asexuality on my life.

There are three key areas in this article: asexuality as a part of someone’s personal identity, community and social impact of asexuality, and practises of intimacy, each of which raised some interesting questions for me.

Personal Identity

The first finding that I found somewhat surprising was the idea that for most of the people in the study, asexuality didn’t actually comprise a very significant part of their identity. Most participants seemed to see asexuality as a bit of a non-issue – a part of their identity, sure, but just a part like all the other parts. The authors attribute part of this to some participants’ statements that because asexuality is often only able to be defined by lack or absence, there is no strong positive identification to form a ‘coherent sense of self around.’ I can definitely see where those participants are coming from – I think most asexual people have times where they wonder how exactly they’re meant to be something by not being all of the other things.*

I think this is really interesting, because a lot of the writing about asexuality in the ace community has strongly emphasised the idea that asexuality is a strong part of their identity: see for example Queenie on asexuality not being a removable component, Katie on integral identities, or myself on un-detachable sexualities, and probably just about anything in the tumblr ace community. (Again, correct me if I’m wrong.) But then again, I’m pretty sure I’ve also seen people writing about how their asexual identity isn’t that important to who they are, so the idea is not that radical. (Of course, I can’t find any right in this moment. Anyone?)**

The researchers suggest that asexuality isn’t an essential state, but one that comes into being in terms of social interaction, questioning, or challenging, quoting one participant who said ‘I can’t figure out how I would become aware of my asexuality aside from someone bringing it up or hounding me about whether or not someone is hot.’ Because the data from the study seems to support this, I have no trouble accepting this – that for this group of people, asexuality wasn’t a big thing. That doesn’t mean, of course, that every group of people will be the same, and it is really critical that both readers and researchers keep this in mind – a bit more on this later. But in itself, the fact that not all aces seem to see asexuality as a big deal in terms of identity is really interesting and important.

Community

As related to the first point, the second major finding of the study is that not all asexual people socialise or form a community identity with other asexual people, and that this seems to be correlated with demographic factors. While the study does acknowledge that some aces engage in political activism and community-building in places like AVEN, just as many don’t:

Although some asexual people engage in political activism through groups such as AVEN, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, asserting the positive identity ‘ACE’, this only represents one demographic: mostly young, white, college-educated, middle class people.

Equally common in our sample were those who were older, less socially networked or otherwise lacking the resources needed to make the personal political. Lisa, in her late thirties, had always felt she was ‘different’ from her peers but dismissed this an individual quirk and focused instead on her career. Like many others, she had not heard of the term ‘asexual’ until well into adulthood, by which time she had built an identity around other things.

Can we take a moment to think about this, please? Because I think it’s kind of amazing in that it shows just how important it is for us, the predominantly online asexual community, to recognise that not every ace is like us. We have the incredibly privileged position to basically be the ones creating and writing asexual discourse. And yet there are entire groups out there who aren’t us, who aren’t white and young and middle class and might not share our concerns and have different ones altogether. I know that some people in the ace community (The Agenda and others) have been trying to address this and have been doing a great job in encouraging writing that deals with intersectionality and different perspectives. This shows just how important it is.

But it’s more than that, actually – it also highlights for me that academic research on asexuality doesn’t have to lag behind what we already know, but can actually provide us, the online community, with a means of access to aces who aren’t active online. It adds to a more diverse understanding of asexuality. It allows us to hear the experiences of other asexuals which we might not otherwise hear, and to take them into account. In the end, that will only lead to a more accurate knowledge and representation of who makes up the asexual population of the world. (Ok, so I’m being a bit dramatic here, but I do think this is really valuable.)

Practises of Intimacy

A large part of the project involved figuring out what everyday practises of intimacy felt like for asexual people, and for the large part, I think the results nicely show the diversity I would have expected:

In everyday life, the vast majority of our participants enjoyed indulging in non-sexual ‘practices of intimacy’, such as platonic kissing, hugging and cuddling with special people, having fun with colleagues, talking to close friends and other emotional self-disclosure… Those in relationships reported much negotiation and discussion, sometimes formalised in explicit practical arrangements… some asexual participants said that they engaged in sexual activity to satisfy their partners, despite not enjoying it themselves, regarding it an act of altruistic love.

In one of the abstracts I was sent which focused more on this part of the project, the researchers argued that in contrast to other studies on asexuality which focused on the transformative and political nature of asexual intimacies (a ‘unique’ form of intimacy), their results showed that asexual people seem to make more pragmatic adjustments and negotiations to get the intimacy they want, but without seeking to radically change the nature of intimate relationships. I found this really interesting, and also a bit confronting, because I tend to agree more with the idea that asexual relationships do have a lot of radical potential, as the links above also suggest. At the same time, I can actually still identify with the idea that sometimes practises of intimacy can be very much based on pragmatic, practical adjustments rather than large-scale re-writing of narratives. I think I’ve started to see, perhaps, that both of those things can actually exists at the same time. And I think demographics come into it, again. I’d be very interested to see how individual people in the study actually categorised or described their relationships (romantic or other), and how that might affect these findings. But overall, those findings do make sense to me, even if they contradict some of our talk about how inherently different ace intimacies can be.***

The other interesting, and somewhat contentious, suggestion the study makes is that ‘asexual’ practises of intimacy on a day-to-day basis are also things that other, non-asexual people engage in. This ‘blurring of boundaries’ suggests that there are no uniquely asexual practises that are separate from sexual practises. I can definitely see where the researchers are coming from here, and in general, I think it’s really important for us to recognise that non-asexual people have really, really diverse experiences of sexuality and desire and intimacy just as we do. But I do think the (albeit tentative) suggestion at the end takes this a bit too far:

Perhaps it even raises the question of whether ‘asexual people’ exist as a minority group who are essentially different from the presumed sexual majority. Could asexuality just be a way of relating to others and negotiating intimacy, which can be practised by anyone? 

The first sentence? There’s a lot to that. Society tends to have this very monolithic view of the ‘presumed sexual majority’ that ignores how much diversity in terms of sexuality is actually natural. That’s not something that I think asexual people should feel threatened by at all. But I do think it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that asexuality can be ‘practised’ by anyone, because in the end, asexuality isn’t defined by its practises – it does remain, as some of the comments point out, an orientation, based on a lack of something most other people do experience, at least to some extent. It’s really helpful and interesting to look at the different ways asexual people do negotiate and engage in different intimacies, and to point out that a lot of those aren’t so radically different. But in the end, this is still a rather small sample, and I don’t think such a sweeping hypothesis, however tentative, is justified.

A Few Comments on the Comments

One last thing I want to mention briefly is the small response to the article, in the comments. There are some very relevant questions which are raised (e.g. on the comparisons to LGBT+ communities), but overall I was quite surprised at how negative some of the comments were, and how some of them seemed to not be able to think outside the very narrow focus of ‘accepted’ online asexual discourse. Some of the main objections include  to the use of words like ‘becoming,’ or the idea that asexual identity is a  ‘fluid and changeable social identity,’ or the researcher’s interest in behaviours when asexuality is not about behaviour, and that this somehow means they were saying that people were ‘choosing’ to be asexual, or the use of both desire and attraction in the definition of asexuality.

To be honest, I find a lot of the criticisms and objections that are being made to be quite nit-picky. It seems to me that many of them are coming from a very rigid idea of what asexuality is and what it isn’t – i.e. the discourse that has emerged as dominant in the online asexual community, with a sort of ‘no-dissenting-allowed’ attitude. Many of the things that are criticised are actually things that asexual people are still on the fence about, so I think the ‘you’re doing asexuality wrong’ comments could do with a bit more flexibility and readiness to actually think about what they might mean, rather than just dismissal.

The other thing that strikes me is that some of the comments don’t seem to realise that this article is based on actual research with actual asexual participants, whose perspectives are just as valid as everyone else’s. Researchers don’t just make shit up to support whatever hypothesis they want to go for – maybe bad ones do, but I had the advantage of actually participating in this project and that’s not the impression I got! Yeah, some of their conclusions don’t mesh with my own personal experience either, but that doesn’t make them invalid. This is only one study, and I think all of us – readers and the researchers alike – should remember that it exists in the context of a lot of other research and non-academic writing as well.

If anything, this study reminded me of just how diverse the asexual community is, and that we need to be much more aware of some of the demographic differences between asexual people and how that might affect their relationship to asexuality. Rather than writing this off as damaging and stereotyping because of a few differences and one not-really-justified suggestion, I think we should take it as an example of how different groups within the asexual population can be more inclusive and flexible in thinking about asexuality.

What are your thoughts or comments on this study? Hopefully I’ll soon have access to more of the material, and will be able to look at the findings in more depth, which I suspect will add another layer of nuance.

——–

* Of course, this idea of negative identification probably is influenced by whether you have any other identities as well as asexual – for instance, if you have a romantic orientation that you strongly identify with, that does give you more of a sense of positive identification, because you can say ‘yes, I feel romantic attraction towards…’ rather than ‘I don’t feel sexual attraction.’ Aromantic people (like myself) may be more strongly affected by this.

** And maybe there’s a bit of a sample bias in that people who write about asexuality are probably a bit more invested and involved than those who are ace, but don’t see it as a thing worth writing about.

*** I think it’s also worth pointing out that a lot of the discussion about relationships and intimacy in the ace community is hypothetical and can be very idealised (like this thread on AVEN). This is something that actually frustrates me a bit, because from my own experience of being in a relationship with another ace person, nothing is ever as easy or simple as you imagine.

 

About Jo

Jo is an ancient history honours student in Australia, with a particular interest in gender and sexuality in antiquity. In her free time she devours books, tea and Doctor Who, but is honestly not that into cake, and proudly calls herself a feminist and an activist. She identifies an an aromantic asexual a little bit more every day. Jo also blogs at A Life Unexamined on feminism and asexuality.
This entry was posted in Articles, asexual politics, Community, Intersectionality, personal experience, Relationships and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Some Different Perspectives on Asexual Experience: The Asexual Lives Project

  1. As someone who didn’t discover asexuality until I was in my 30s, and who thought it was just a weird thing about me, I definitely identified with that section of the discussion.

    I also didn’t used to think that asexuality was a big part of my life – but as I’ve explored asexual discourse and learned from the experiences of other aces, I’ve come to realize that I had long ago shaped my life so that my asexuality didn’t have to come into conflict with pressures from society or from other people. In other words, it was only a minor thing because I had made a space for myself where it didn’t have to be a big thing.

    I’m still unpacking so much of this.

    • Jo says:

      It’s interesting to think about everyday life and asexuality – while I was doing the diary part of the study, I often had days where I would write down ‘nothing actually happened today that made me aware of my aceness, etc.’ But then, I do spend a lot of time thinking and theorising about sexuality every day, and writing and reading, so that’s a different sort of everyday awareness.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Hm, very interesting. Still sort of processing it all, and I may have more comments later. I haven’t really read the comments on that article yet, but I suspect that the overreach of that last paragraph may be unduly agitating the commenters. And an unwillingness to accept asexuality (sexual orientations in general maybe) as fluid has been pretty common throughout my time in the asexual community—any sort of grayness or fluidity is so often subject to gatekeeping attempts.

    For me… I’ve found asexuality sometimes less relevant the more stable my life is, and the more I’m getting my needs fulfilled without necessarily involving the asexual community. When meeting other asexuals in person, sometimes I feel a sense of disconnect because we don’t have that much in common other than like, asexuality and maybe having cats. I’ve gone through periods where I drop out of the ace community for a while and don’t think about it as much, because other parts of my life are taking up most of my focus. So I sort of understand that sense of it not necessarily being a big deal or the most major part of my identity. But… I also think that may be, for some people, possibly a luckier person’s perspective, if that makes sense? If you’re able to surround yourself with people who are pretty cool with asexuality (even while perhaps not necessarily knowing anything about it), and don’t make it a big deal, you might be doing better than other aces, who may feel almost forced to make it a key part of their identity because of all the resistance they’ve faced from it. But then also identifying yourself as asexual publicly will make you more likely to face that kind of resistance, so it may be self-perpetuating to some extent.

    There’s also, of course, the issue of diversity and how many people who aren’t white and middle-class don’t feel like they fit in with the asexual community. I’d like to see us become much more welcoming to those people… but to some degree it might just be that they may not necessarily have that much in common with those of us who frequently write asexual discourse. They may find it pointless to spend so much time reading things on the internet or something. That kind of thing I would be really interested to find out, and I’m glad to get this rare insight into aces who don’t tend to participate in the ace community as much.

    • Jo says:

      The new insight is definitely something that I enjoyed as well. I do agree with your points on ‘lucky’ aces, I think that is a pretty big factor (kind of like ‘passing’ privilege) and on other aces not necessarily finding much relevance in the sorts of things we tend to write about.

      I think age and life experience in general seem to be pretty big points of difference too. Someone who already has a career and possibly a family and a wide network of people and hobbies might not find it that necessary to spend time wondering about asexuality, as they’ve got other things to be getting on with. I really notice all of this sort of thing when submissions come in for the ace story project – the vast majority are from sixteen and seventeen-year-olds, who all tell exactly the same story of their high school realisation that they’re different, etc. That’s kind of telling, but as a resource it’s also useless to a lot of people (which is somewhat sad).

      • Elizabeth says:

        Yeah… Age, life experience, racial diversity, class, and personal communication preferences are all things I meant to imply as possible factors in whether or not an ace person would find anything in common with other ace people… among other things, really. Also, having kids could be a major reason why a lot of aces don’t participate! It’s hard to keep up with this sort of thing when you have to manage a busy life. I hope that we get more articles by ace parents one day, but I really understand why we haven’t been. There are a lot of barriers for a variety of people to overcome—possibly things like podcasts might fit in better into a lot of aces’ lives than long text posts.

        I wish I had a better term for it than lucky, it doesn’t sound quite right. Passing privilege is something that I… maybe could have if I wanted to try to pass? But I don’t see what the point of that would be, if it means so much of my experiences would go misunderstood.

  3. Sara K. says:

    I think aces who think asexuality is an important component of their identity are over-represented among ace bloggers, for obvious reasons.

    Me, I’m in between. Obviously, I think it’s important enough to write about on a regular basis, but I don’t think asexuality is *such* an integral part of who I am that, if I weren’t asexual, I would be a different person.

  4. Sennkestra says:

    Lol, I’m pretty sure 3/4 of those comments were from me (as Cleander). Looking back, a lot of them were really nitpicky, but I think it was because I was coming off a kick of reading a lot of really mediocre/outright bad asexuality papers and was generally frustrated with the current state of asexual research.

    I still stand by most of my concerns though. A lot of them are not about whether statements are wrong per se, but about whether they’re basing these on actual things asexual people said or if they’re just making them up – it’s hard to tell when they have no citations and no quotes. This is hopefully something that’s be clearer in any more formal published works.

    (Like with the statement about the only activists on AVEN being white middle class college students – I mean, I wouldn’t be too surprised, but I’d like to know what they base it on – another study? statements from interview subjects? observations from the forums? just assumptions? who knows?)

    That’s generally one of the pitfalls of certain types of qualitative/interview based research – you often have to rely pretty heavily on the author’s integrity and awareness by assuming they are being honest about what interviewees said and not cherrypicking or misinterpreting quotes to suite their own opinions (which is, to varying degrees, a pretty common problem), since it’s harder to spot if an interpretation is off than if numbers aren’t adding up. But that’s always going to be a fairly unavoidable problem with all qualitative research.

    • Jo says:

      The points you raised were definitely the more relevant ones – but I know the feeling of reading so much terrible stuff that you just feel like you need to lash out at something! 😛 (Also, I am terrible at keeping up with people’s pseudonyms!) I think a lot of it really does come down to the nature of that article here, with the questions about where particular statements come from, etc. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on some of the more formal stuff as well. There’s an article in the ‘Sexualities’ journal from April, which you can find online, but then when I log into the journal with my uni access it only gives me access to March issues! Gah. I’ve also asked for a whole bunch of seminar presentations to be sent to me, which they offered when they sent us the abstracts. From the abstracts the papers look at different aspects more in detail, and the methods are probably a lot better too.

      • Sennkestra says:

        Haha yeah, I have way too many pseudonyms online and I tend to change my mind every few years….

        I think the quality of this article probably wasn’t super high because it was probably just something they whipped up quickly for a blog, but unlike most actual papers, it included a comment section…and I have too many opinions.

        I didn’t know about the Sexualities article though, thanks for the heads up! I’ll keep an eye out to see if I can get ahold of a copy.

  5. Sennkestra says:

    Also a note re: the value of research as a way to research potential asexuals who may not be involved in asexual communities online.

    That actually is one thing that can be valuable about research, as they have the time and money to actively seek out people who might not be found in the standard online communities.

    On the other hand, I’m not sure if this study is an example of that? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I remember this study, and I think they recruited most/all their participants from AVEN, so they were still really just looking at people already involved in ace online communities – those people just may not have been involved from a *political activist* perspective, which is how I interpreted that quote?

  6. Jo says:

    I think with AVEN you might be more likely to get people who kind of show up at the site once or twice at the beginning but then don’t get involved further – but yeah, I don’t know. You may be right on the political activist thing.

  7. Sennkestra says:

    Also, I think it’s interesting to see different reactions here, because for me the idea that for many people, asexuality is not a big part of their life wasn’t surprising at all! Maybe it’s because I interact with other aces a lot offline, but I know a lot of people whose only real connection to ace “communities” is that they’ve read a few things online maybe and might have one or two asexual friends. And even for myself, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I turned out to enjoy nerding out about asexuality in blogs, it probably wouldn’t have been that big a deal for me – there were so many other ways to explain away not being in relationships, especially since I already fell into the forever alone nerdy librarian stereotype for other reasons.

    I think the internet nature of these communities is in itself a big barrier too. There are a lot of people I know who know of AVEN and Tumblr, but never participate just because they don’t enjoy using forum or microblogging sites. These people might be more interested in alternative things like ace happy hours or ace hiking groups or ace professional networks, but those alternatives just don’t exist yet. The only reason the internet is such a big part of ace culture is we just don’t have the population density or established connections or required resources to gather in other ways.

    Like, when I think about LGBT friends I know – most of them don’t actually spend much time in LGBT-focused online communities, other than maybe chatting with other LGBT folks on tumblr or checking out dating websites. They interact with their community much more often though offline friend groups or student clubs or nightclubs or bars or social outings. I suspect the ace community would be similar if we had more opportunities like that available.

    The internet and it’s demographics also I think play a role in affecting how certain groups feel in the ace community too. Like, most of the groups described as dominant – young, white, middle class, college educated – are the same groups that dominate the internet in general.

    There’s also a really noticeable difference in the community between college/high school students, and people who have moved on from school and started working – I hear a lot about it from people in the ace meetup groups I go to (mostly non-student) and you can see a lot of conversations about it in the older asexuals forum on AVEN (and the fact that that even exists is telling).

    This is part of just a general population-wide cultural gap, I think – the experience of being a student, especially if you are still dependent on parents, is just so different from the experience of being a working adult, as I’ve been discovering now that I’m no longer a student. And students tend to dominate the internet, on account of being younger and more internet savvy, and also on account of having a whole lot more free time to post and write things. And because so many internet spaces are so young-people and student-focused, it’s a little alienating sometimes for older people and nonstudents.

    • As someone who hasn’t been a student in a couple of decades, I definitely feel out of place sometimes by how the Tumblr ace community is dominated by college students and grad students.

      I’ve never been a member of AVEN because I dislike the discussion forum format.

      Online communities actually work really well for me, and there just aren’t any offline options where I am or that would be easy for me to get to.

  8. Siggy says:

    I think that’s part of the reality of being a radical activist, or even a not-so-radical activist. You end up fighting on behalf of a group that doesn’t really care as much as you do, or may even disagree with what you do. It’s the same as how I’m part of an atheist student group with about 15 people, when we know the number of atheist students at our university is in the thousands. Or the fact that as a man, I’m a lot more feminist than most women I know. You have to have the courage to disagree sometimes with the people “on your side”, while always keeping those disagreements in mind.

    I honestly don’t know how a *qualitative* study can conclude that the people more active in the communities are those who are white, young, educated, middle class. But if that’s true, then you’d expect that, for instance, activists interested in asexual POC intersections are even more nonrepresentative of the subgroup they intend to represent. But these activists are also important, to make the community as a whole more representative, so that’s just something we have to accept and deal with.

  9. cinderace says:

    On the question of asexuality being a major part of one’s identity or not, for me it definitely is (and I think maybe part of the reason is that I’m not just ace but also sex-repulsed and celibate, and those three things combined make me feel very different from the norm, so I think that strong sense of difference is what makes being ace such a big part of my own identity). So the way the research was presented in that paper is frustrating to me because they seem to be assuming that the reports they received from their participants reflect the attitudes of all aces. Like this quote: “Indeed, to form a self-identity around a peripheral, insignificant or even absent attribute seemed bizarrely irrelevant.” And I get that they’re summarizing what the actual participants told them, but that is so not my experience, and just the wording they’re using feels really dismissive of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. If they are just objectively reporting what they were told, then their sample was either really biased or too small.

    The quote from one person especially, “I don’t need to go on at people that I really, really like pizza!” just seemed completely off. Most people that I’ve encountered like pizza. Most people that I’ve encountered also experience sexual attraction. So you can’t compare liking pizza to not experiencing sexual attraction–tell people the first one is true of you and you’ll be met with no surprise, even a “duh, of course”. But reveal the second, and you’ll often be met with confusion, misunderstanding, even annoyance/disapproval. So no, those two things are not at all equivalent and I don’t get how anyone could say that they are…

    Anyway, I didn’t mean to rant. It’s just that that section basically came across as saying, “Asexuality isn’t a major part of most aces’ identities, which makes sense, because why would it be?” And that’s just such a misrepresentation when it comes to my experience that I had to complain about it a little.

    • Elizabeth says:

      The “sex is like pizza” metaphor was common 3-5 years ago, so that’s probably what that person’s comment was based on. I don’t really think it’s a metaphor that works very well… Food metaphors really break down in a situation like this. I can… sort of see where they were trying to go with that? But as you said, it’s really not comparable, so it ends up being a comment that doesn’t make much sense.

      • luvtheheaven says:

        I feel like there was a typo in the article though, like really “don’t” like pizza is what they were trying to say?? I mean I just got confused at that part. 😛

        • Elizabeth says:

          Oh yeah, probably. I read it as if it said “I don’t like pizza” so I guess my brain just filled in whatever it thought should’ve been there.

          • cinderace says:

            Yeah, at first I thought there should be a “don’t” there too, but when I reread it it did seem like they meant to say it as it was quoted. So I was just taking it to mean that being ace and liking pizza were equally insignificant to that person when it came to their sense of their identity.

          • luvtheheaven says:

            Oh, thank you so much cinderace. I think I get it now. You’ve finally cleared up my confusion! It’s still a stupid part of the article though and could’ve been so much better presented.

  10. Matt Dawson says:

    Hi Jo, from the whole research team, a huge thank you for taking the time to write such a wonderful review of our project. We greatly enjoyed talking to all of our participants and are really glad to see the research being taken up like this. As you highlight here, one of our overarching findings has been the sheer diversity of our sample of the different practices, positions and connection to identity our participants hold. These are things we’ve picked up and expanded upon in the articles and hopefully you, and anyone else interested, will be able to read these soon.

    We would now rephrase some of the article you quoted from here including that final section which you highlighted and, rightly, criticised. As you say, our key point was not that asexuality isn’t an orientation, more that we should recognise commonalities, especially concerning practices of intimacy, across sexual orientations along with differences. We should also make clear, and again this is something we discuss more in the forthcoming papers that we did speak to participants who did see their asexual identity as a central and key part of who they are. Again, as you say, it was really diverse and we hope we’ve done justice to that in the writings we’ve done to date.

    Thanks again Jo for your interest in your project and this really wonderful response. Seeing someone respond like this to your work is a real joy of doing research.

    Matt Dawson

  11. Emily says:

    While I agree that some of the comments on the article may have been a bit too strict in their own interpretations, and that the study as a whole was quite interesting, I will say that I did have some concerns about the researchers final conclusions.

    Of course I find a lot of issue with the comparisons to other LGBT+ identities, and the fact that they were unsubstantiated concerns me, as this IS supposed to be presented good research, and good research really needs to be thorough when making these kinds of comparisons.

    While i definitely appreciated the researchers reporting that most of their participants seemed to view asexuality as something that’s not necessarily significant in their everyday lives, I feel that their conclusions about asexuality being simply being a “way of relating to others rather than an identity” could have stood to be more nuanced. Like, it’s not that I think that’s an incorrect theory or anything, and if that’s what the participants all said, then that’s it. However I just kind of feel that maybe the researchers took a little too much liberty with proporting that theory as something that can be said of the experience of all asexual people, regardless of any kind of intersectionality.

    I want to be clear that being critical of a research study isn’t the same as saying that the study is BAD- I don’t think it is, and I certainly think there’s a lot of good information that can be taken away from it. All I’m saying is that I wish that the researchers would have been a little more thorough/nuanced in expressing their conclusions.

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