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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Asexuality : investigations into a lack of sexual attraction Yule, Morag Allison


Human asexuality is generally defined as a lack of sexual attraction. Various theories have been proposed to explain how asexuality should best be conceptualized, including that asexuality should be classified as a sexual orientation, that it is due to a mental health difficulty, that it is an extreme variant of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), or that some asexual individuals actually experience a paraphilia of some kind. This dissertation employed a series of Internet-based research studies to investigate these three topics: an examination into mental health correlates of asexuality, a comparison of asexual individuals with individuals who meet diagnostic criteria for HSDD, and an investigation into patterns of sexual fantasy among asexual individuals. By investigating these topics, I sought to test whether asexuality might be a psychopathology, sexual dysfunction, or a paraphilia, with the ultimate goal of testing my hypothesis that asexuality is, in fact, a unique sexual orientation. My findings suggested that asexuality may be associated with higher prevalence of mental health and interpersonal problems, including anxiety, hostility, phobic anxiety, psychoticism, and suicidality, but that it is not, itself, a mental disorder. I concluded that this may be in response to perceived stigma against their sexual orientation, which might lead to psychological symptoms, or that lack of sexual attraction may arise from an underlying difficulty such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Next, I found that asexuality is unique from the well-known sexual dysfunction HSDD. In my test of whether asexuality was a paraphilia, I found that asexual individuals were less likely to masturbate than sexual individuals, and that they were more likely to report never having had a sexual fantasy. Further, there was a large amount of unexpected overlap in the content of sexual fantasies between asexual and sexual participants. Together, these findings suggest that at least some asexual individuals may have a paraphilia. Overall, this dissertation highlights that no single theory can explain asexuality, and underscores the diversity among the asexual population. This dissertation leads to a number of new hypotheses about the nature of asexuality that will be the focus of future research.

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