Who reports absence of sexual attraction in Britain? Evidence from national probability surveys

Catherine R.H. Aicken, Catherine H. Mercer, Jackie A. Cassell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

There is little evidence about the prevalence of absence of sexual attraction, or the characteristics of people reporting this, often labelled asexuals. We examine this using data from two probability surveys of the British general population, conducted in 1990-1991 and 2000-2001. Interviewers administered face-to-face and self-completion questionnaires to people aged 16-44 years (N = 13,765 in 1990-1991; N = 12,110 in 2000-2001). The proportion that had never experienced sexual attraction was 0.4% (95% CI: 0.3-0.5%) in 2000-2001, with no significant variation by gender or age, versus 0.9% (95% CI: 0.7-1.1%) in 1990-1991; p < 0.0001. Among these 79 respondents in 2000-2001, 28 (40.3% men; 33.9% women) had had sex, 19 (33.5% men; 20.9% women) had child(ren), and 17 (30.1% men; 19.2% women) were married. Three-quarters of asexual men and two-thirds of asexual women considered their frequency of sex 'about right', while 24.7% and 19.4%, respectively, 'always enjoyed having sex'. As well as providing evidence on the distribution of asexuality in Britain, our data suggest that it cannot be assumed that those reporting no sexual attraction are sexually inexperienced or without intimate relationships. We recognise the possibility of social desirability bias given our reliance on self-reported data, but suggest that its effect is not easily predicted regarding absence of sexual attraction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-135
Number of pages15
JournalPsychology and Sexuality
Volume4
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2013

Keywords

  • asexuality
  • sexual attraction
  • sexual behaviour
  • survey

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