Asexuality: an extreme variant of sexual desire disorder?

J Sex Med. 2015 Mar;12(3):646-60. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12806. Epub 2014 Dec 24.


Introduction: Human asexuality is defined as a lack of sexual attraction to anyone or anything. Various theories have been proposed to explain how asexuality should best be classified, and some have maintained that asexuality is an extreme variant of hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD)-a sexual dysfunction characterized by a lack of interest in sex and significant distress. To date, this has never been empirically examined.

Aim and method: Using measures of sexual desire and behavior, sex-related distress, personality, and psychopathology, the aim of the current study was to compare individuals scoring above the cutoff for asexuality identification (AIS >40) (n = 192) to sexual individuals (n = 231). The sexual group was further divided into a control group (n = 122), a HSDD group (n = 50), and a group with symptoms of low desire that were nondistressing (n = 59).

Results: Analyses were controlled for age. Individuals in the AIS >40 group had a greater likelihood of never previously engaging in sexual intercourse, fantasies, or kissing and petting than all other groups and a lower likelihood of experiencing sex-related distress than those with HSDD. For women, those in the HSDD and AIS >40 groups had significantly lower desire than the subclinical HSDD and control groups. Men in the AIS >40 group had significantly lower desire than the other three groups. Symptoms of depression were highest among those with subclinical HSDD and HSDD, whereas there were no group differences on alexithymia or desirable responding. A binary logistic regression indicated that relationship status (long-term dating/married), sexual desire, sex-related distress, and lower alexithymia scores were the best predictors of group membership (HSDD vs. AIS >40).

Conclusion: Taken together, these results challenge the speculation that asexuality should be classified as a sexual dysfunction of low desire.

Keywords: Asexuality; Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder; Romantic Attraction; Sexual Attraction; Sexual Dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Coitus
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Personality
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / classification*
  • Sexual Dysfunctions, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires