My Research Process

Asexual people are not only underrepresented in mainstream media, but scholarship as well. One of the first pieces of scholarship I stumbled upon, was the book, “Understanding Asexuality,” by Anthony Bogaert. He commends himself on being one of the first scholars to study asexuality.

While Bogaert recognizes the fluidity of asexuality, the questions and arguments he prompted are somewhat alienating to asexual people. As an asexual person myself, I felt dehumanized within this scholarship.

Bogaert defines asexuality as an “enduring lack of sexual attraction” (122). He believes that to be asexual, one must not have had any sexual attraction. Though he acknowledges the spectrum asexuality is on, he does not really mention the spectrum itself. For example, terms like “demisexual,” or “gray-asexual” are rarely mentioned.

It is important for the subject you are researching, that you maintain some distance with what you are researching. But Bogaert tackles asexuality with too much distance. One question he asks, “Should we consider asexual people disordered because they lack an important interpersonal dimension – sexuality?”

The answer he poses, “No, not necessarily.” I understand that this question was asked to argue against making asexuality a disorder, but I feel that it is simply more alienation. Should I consider myself disordered because I lack sexual attraction?

In another instance, he writes, “And yet, if you are a sexual person, you may have a vague notion… that regardless of these arguments, asexual people still must be missing something” (88). These are at least two things wrong with this statement. Using the term, “sexual,” to describe non-asexual people is also somewhat demeaning. “Allosexual,” coined in the early 1970s, is the correct term. This book was published in 2012.

Second, Bogaert may be trying to expose all of the counterarguments, but I believe this is more emblematic of his own beliefs. Does he, as this “so-called” sexual person, believe we must be missing something? Is this book meant to be cover for his own prejudices against the asexual community?

This may be a far-fetched argument, but one that I cannot overlook in this scholarship. As a psychologist, I assume Bogaert is one to examine the environmental and psychological influences on sexuality. He is actually known for his study on this. When discussing Emily Bronte’s alleged ace identity, he asks, “And if so, had she lived in modern Western society, and exposed in childhood and adolescence to its sexualizing influences… would she [Bronte] have developed into a sexual person?” (32).

We asexuals are human beings. Our sexual orientation may be shaped by environment, but it is ultimately biological. In this statement, I have no choice but to believe that Bogaert thinks it’s psychological. Sexual orientation is not a choice, nor easily influenced by other people. It simply is.

Even more so, the book is subtly misogynistic. One sentence, sums it up, “The holy grail of sexual mysteries is female sexuality” (55). Are women, then, a demeaning mystery for male psychologists to study?

However, the most demeaning and alienating part of the book, is the section titled, “Asexuality and Humor.” Bogaert starts the chapter off with a sexual joke.

Bogaert argues, “The content of humor is often sexual in nature,” and that the so-called “fuel” for this humor is sexual tension (105). After this, he asks if asexuals understand sexual humor? For how can they, if there is no sexual tension? He then begins to analyze why or why not someone may laugh at the joke.

The first reason may be that someone might not get the joke. They must get the sexual nature of it, as well as the punchline itself. Second, if the person has a “cognitive ‘understanding’ of” masturbation, they may experience a deeper “emotional connection” to the joke.

He expects that the “asexual” person would “not laugh” or “at least laugh less” than an allosexual person – which again, he terms the “sexual person,” a very outdated look for a book in 2012 (110). This whole section is extremely alienating. Asexual people are treated like subjects to study: we must not be human, for we do not have sex. Consequently, how can I understand a sexual joke? But the main reason, Bogaert, forgets to bring up, is that the joke is simply not funny.

Even in the ultimate paragraph of the section, Bogaert writes, “Some asexual people may have resentment toward and fear of… the sexual people” (111). Are asexual people so different that we must fear “the sexual people?” He certainly seems to think so.

I did not simply criticize “Understanding Asexuality,” for its subtly acephobic tendencies (and I think it needs no saying, that Bogaert doesn’t fully understand asexuality). As scarce representation of asexuality exists in mainstream media, it also does in scholarship. Even in ones that pride themselves on the study of asexuality, there is still so much to learn, to explore.

Group of asexual people protesting.

As I continued my research process, I also stumbled upon some books of queer theory. Though these books were published around 2009, there is still no mention of asexuality. One book, that focuses on the “sexual politics” of television, lacks to mention what happens when asexuality is thrown into the mix. It lacks a specific argument and thus, becomes superficial.

Note that I am not disparaging against books like these, as they have clever analysis I have used in my own writing. But how can you analyze queer representation, queer identities when you consistently neglect them?

Of course, I might be too harsh. Asexual representation is still very nonexistent, so why would a scholar write about basically nothing?

Even so, it was hard to even find my identity represented in my research. It illustrates, that despite the growing studies of asexuality and queer theory, there is still more work to be done.

Works Cited

Bogaert, Anthony F. 1963-. Understanding Asexuality. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012. WorldCat Discovery Service,