Journal Club: Judging an Absence

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This month, the ace journal club discussed

“Judging an Absence: Factors influencing attitudes towards asexuality” by Cassandra Thorpe and Kelly Arbeau in The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality (2020). (no public access)

The journal club meets once a month on Discord, using text or voice as club members prefer.  We discuss a variety of academic works in ace studies, ranging from gender studies to psychology.  Don’t worry about journal access, we can provide access.  If you’re interested, please e-mail me at for an invite.

Our discussion notes are below the fold.

Summary: This study measured antiasexual bias and several other characteristics to see if there were any correlations. Being LGBTQ+ or having a close relationship with an asexual person was correlated with more favorable attitudes, while rightwing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and singlism were correlated with less favorable attitudes. General familiarity with asexuality was not a strong predictor.

Related studies
– “Intergroup bias toward ‘Group X'” study by MacInnis and Hodson (2012)
– “Development and validation of the Attitudes Towards Asexuals (ATA) scale” by Hoffarth et al. (2015)

– The study recruited from social media, but which social media?
– The sample was very familiar with asexuality (92% were familiar, 46% knew an asexual person, 11% were asexual). Contrast with Hoffarth et al., which used Mechanical Turk to recruit, which found only 29% had heard asexuality, and 12% knew an asexual person.
– Since we don’t know where they recruited from, we’re not sure to what extent the prejudice they’re measuring is of the exclusionist variety vs the more generic variety
– We wish they had asked LGBTQ+ participants whether they see aces as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
– Antiasexual bias has changed a lot over time, so we’d think that even if sampling was done the same way, results would be different from earlier studies.

– The paper seems to avoid “phobia” terminology, for instance using “antiasexual bias” and “homonegativity”. This makes sense since they aren’t really phobias.
– They refer to “antiasexual discourse” and “asexual-exclusionists”, which for us is a first in quantitative literature.
– We complained about “exclusionist” language as a false binary. Many asexuals may not consider themselves part of the LGBTQ+ community. And it’s ambiguous whether “community” means “people who interact with one another” or “demographic group”.
– This study changed the definition of “asexual” compared to Hoffarth et al., allowing for people to have little to no sexual attraction, and omitting “typically do not engage in sexual activity with others”. A slight change, but sounds like an improvement to us.

Correlation with LGBTQ+
– Some of us were surprised that the non-ace LGBTQ+ group was associated with less antiasexual bias. Others among us were not surprised.
– We might expect more hostility from LGBTQ+ people because we see more of it online. But that might also be because they’re more willing to talk to us.
– Surprise vs lack of surprise could be a generational thing. Some of us remember when even LGBTQ+ people were unfamiliar with asexuality.
– One day, the straights, too, will graduate from generic ignorance to outright hostility. They’re already getting there.

General Comments & Nitpicking
– Correlation is not necessarily causation. For example, exhibiting more positive attitudes on asexuality could make the ace people around them more likely to disclose that they’re ace.
– At one point, the paper says “asexual identity (for example, participants who described themselves as asexual, demisexual, or aromantic).” Demisexuality is more properly part of the asexual spectrum, and aromanticism is a separate thing that could apply to non-asexuals.
– On that note, we’d be interested to know if allo aros cluster more with the non-ace LGBTQ+ group or the ace group.
– It would be interesting to see anti-aro attitudes compared.
– In the discussion, the authors suggest that the relation between singlism and antiasexual attitudes may arise out of the debate over the definition of asexuality. That doesn’t sound right to us.
– A lot of aces are in fact single. That includes alloro aces and gray/demi people. Issues relevant to singles disproportionately affect us.
– The article includes a big correlation matrix, but some of the details confused us. It’s questionable to calculate Spearman correlations when gender and orientation code categories as integers (1=heterosexual, 2=non-ace LGBTQ+, 3=ace). We were puzzled why orientation is negatively correlated with knowing an asexual person.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
This entry was posted in Articles, Intersectionality, Research and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Journal Club: Judging an Absence

  1. Pingback: Ace, Just Ace: A Personal Response to Unwanted “Inclusion” in the LGBTQ/Cishet Binary | The Ace Theist

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