In today’s hyper-sexual youth culture, a less-common sexual orientation is being increasingly recognized on college campuses: asexuality.
Inside Higher Education reports the rise of student support groups for asexual students at colleges around the country. In some cases, such as the University of Georgia’s Lambda Alliance, existing LGBTQ student alliances are adding asexuality to their formal mission. In other places, standalone groups are forming, such as the Aromantic/Asexual Student Society at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
According to the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network, asexuality is a sexual orientation for people who don’t experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, it isn’t a choice or a lifestyle but an intrinsic part of a person’s being. Asexuals can also form relationships. Though asexuality is not a new orientation, awareness of it is growing (Asexuality Awareness Week was held earlier this month).
Today, like many LGBT students, asexuals typically face a lot of misunderstanding when they talk with others. “There’s a pretty strong belief in our society that if you don’t experience sexual desire or sexual attraction, there’s something wrong with you,” Laura Haave, director of Carlton College’s gender and sexuality center, told Inside Higher Ed. The center is reportedly redoing its programs on communication and consent to acknowledge that some people may simply not be into sex with anyone, male or female.
There’s generally not much research about the prevalence of the orientation, though it’s been known for many decades. One 2004 study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that about 1% of the British population surveyed identified as asexual. A 2010 study of survey data from the U.S. of people ages 15 to 44 found that, depending on how you define asexuality, anywhere from less than 1% up to around 5% of the U.S. population could fit the bill.
As awareness of asexuality as an option grows, more young people may embrace it. Zach Powell, a student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, began talking about his asexuality after seeing a 2011 documentary, (A)sexual. He told the CU Independent, “It started to sound like how I was feeling.”