On The Possibility Of A “Fourth” Sexual Orientation

Some scientists believe that there may be a fourth sexual orientation in our species, one characterized by the absence of desire and no sexual interest in males or females, only a complete and lifelong lacuna of sexual attraction toward any human being (or non-human being). Such people are regarded as asexuals. Unlike bisexuals, who are attracted to both males and females, asexuals are equally indifferent to and uninterested in having sex with either gender.

In one recent interview study published in a 2007 issue of the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a group of self-described asexuals was asked how they came to be aware they were different. One woman responded:

I would say I’ve never had a dream or a fantasy, a sexual fantasy, for example, about being with another woman. So I can pretty much say that I have no lesbian sort of tendencies whatsoever. You would think that by my age I would have some fantasy or dream or something, wouldn’t you? … But I’ve never had a dream or a sexual fantasy about having sex with a man, either. That I can ever, ever remember.

In another interview study, this one by University of Michigan researcher Kristin Scherrer, an 18-year-old woman put it this way:

I just don’t feel sexual attraction to people. I love the human form and can regard individuals as works of art and find people aesthetically pleasing, but I don’t ever want to come into sexual contact with even the most beautiful of people.

According to Brock University psychologist Anthony Bogaert, there may be more genuine asexuals out there than we realize. In 2004 Bogaert analyzed survey data from more than 18,000 British residents and found that the number of people (185, or about 1 percent) in this population who described themselves as “never having a sexual attraction to anymore” was just slightly lower than those who identified as being attracted to the same sex (3 percent). Since this discovery, a handful of academic researchers have been trying to determine whether asexuality is a true biological phenomenon or, alternatively, a slippery social label that for various reasons some people may prefer to adopt and embrace.

By all appearances most asexual people are normal, healthy, hormonally balanced and sexually mature adults who, for still uncertain reasons, have always found sex to be one big, bland yawn. Asexuality would therefore be like other sexual orientations in the sense that it is not “acquired” or “situational,” but rather an essential part of one’s biological makeup.