Asexuals Push for Greater Recognition

"The biggest challenge would be the pressure to become sexual," Coleman said. "Asexuality has been assumed to be abnormal. Sexual drive is a basic and fundamental appetitive drive and would be the expected norm."

Jay agreed that the subject of relationships is complex when asexuality enters the picture. "I think it's a very tricky issue," said Jay, who has himself never had sex but has been in relationships in which he engaged in a certain degree of sexual activity.

"There are plenty of people in the asexual community who have relationships with sexual people and have those relationships work," he said. "The sense that I have is that if sex is something that one person in the relationship wants, that's one thing. If that is the only way that they can communicate intimacy, then that's another issue."

Another option, of course, is for those who are asexual to form relationships with each other. Jay said that there is an emerging asexual dating scene, and some online dating services geared toward asexuals have appeared.

What is an asexual relationship like? Jay likened it to an intimate partnering of "very, very close best friends."

Pushing for a Change

Advocates say there is much to be gained from a greater awareness within the psychological community of asexuality, particularly when it comes to ensuring that the DSM does not treat asexuality as a disorder that must be treated.

"The fear is that with a new definition, asexuality would somehow make its way into the DSM and be considered a psychological illness," Brotto said.

For something to be considered a psychological illness, Brotto said, "a person needs to be distressed or bothered by the condition. Asexual people are not. Their only distress is distress over the idea that they will not be accepted by society."

"This is certainly not a sexual dysfunction, and it is certainly not a mental disorder."

But not all psychologists agree.

"Given that I believe our sexuality is a great emotional and physical asset, it is hard for me to think asexuality is appropriate to declassify," Schwartz said. "On the other hand, we certainly do not want to oppress someone who is happily asexual and does not have a deprived partner."

Still, Jay said that he believes AVEN is making significant progress with those behind the DSM. And he said that he is hopeful that greater understanding among the public in general will follow.

"The take-home point should really be a question they ask themselves," he said. "That question is: Why does sex matter so much?"

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