Journal Club: Alcohol and asexuality

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This month, the ace journal club discussed

“Understanding Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption in Asexual Samples: A Mixed‑Methods Approach”, by Caroline Bauer, Sasha L. Kaye, and Lori A. Brotto (2020). (Publicly accessible on with account)

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.

This paper investigates the low rates of alcohol and tobacco consumption of people on the asexual spectrum using quantitative analysis and focus group discussions, and discusses the potential causes.

Data sources
– The quantitative analysis is mostly based on NATSAL I, II, and III, national probability surveys conducted in the UK in 1990, 2000, and 2010. NATSAL I is the same survey that Bogaert 2004 is based on.
– The introduction is largely grounded in the Ace Community Survey. This samples from ace communities, and about 60% of respondents are in the US.

Operational definitions
– This paper made a choice to include gray-asexuality as a group, which in the survey was operationalized as people who have felt sexual attraction, but are not sexually active and are satisfied with their sex life.
– We disliked this operationalization. The discussion talks about this as a source of distortion, but that feels like an understatement to us.
– Asexuality was operationalized as people who have never felt sexual attraction. This is identical to the definition used by Bogaert. There were mixed opinions on this.
– The question on sexual attraction is very black and white, and this is bad for capturing gray-A people.
– This could have been a good place to use the concept of “potential asexuals”, people who are not necessarily asexual-identified, but could be.

Sexual violence and trauma
– The study made the choice to exclude people whose first sexual experience was rape, “to differentiate aseuality from sexual aversion due to sexual trauma”. One participant was even excluded from the qualitative segment for this reason.
– It seems like these people ought to be included, as sexual trauma is a valid way to come to an asexual identity.
– The excluded group feels especially relevant when the paper discusses how sexual trauma (or risk of it) is a reason why asexuals might avoid alcohol.
– Also, people with fewer sexual experiences seem mathematically more likely to have sexual violence as their first experience.

Why do people drink?
– Some aces say they don’t like the taste or physiological effects, but that’s also true of many who do drink. So why do they? The paper remarks that the difference in behavior may tell us more about allosexual people than asexual people.
– We discussed various reasons why we do or don’t drink. These ranged from physiological reactions, to wanting to fit in socially, to liking/disliking the psychological effects.
– In some of our experiences, drinking spaces can have more hookup culture, or more people hitting on you, and that can be a reason to avoid them.

Bars and clubs
– The paper discusses the role of bars and clubs in LGBT communities, although in the data LGBT and straight people are comparable. The NATSAL studies are based on sexual attraction, and we wondered if the results might be different if you broke it down by sexual identity instead.
– We discussed the realities of ace meetups, and why they might not gather in bars.
– In the US, many aces are below drinking age. In the UK, we’re not sure, although we’ve seen meetups in pubs.
– might attract people who are less interested in drinking overall.

Other comments
– The study controlled for religion when making comparisons, but it would have been interesting to see what the interaction was. For context, the NATSAL surveys find that potential asexuals are more religious than the general population, while community surveys see the opposite.
– The paper claims that asexuality was initially theorized as a dysfunction, and says more research needs to be done to support the distinction. Our impression of the literature, is that there was never formal theorizing of asexuality as a dysfunction, and the subject of asexuality and sexual dysfunction is if anything overdone.
– The paper also included a long tangent on “ace discourse”, which it characterized as not a discourse at all. Note that academic literature already uses “asexual discourse” to refer to a different topic, for instance see Hinderliter’s dissertation.  We speculated on the possibility of doing linguistic research on “ace discourse”, and data should be easier to scrape now that it’s moved from Tumblr to Twitter.

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.
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