“Asexualism: the genetics but not the sex”

This is the title of a section about asexuality in the textbook Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity by Janell L. Carroll, the revised version copyright 2010, which has a brief mention of AVEN. Here is the unfortunate passage in its entirety:

“A final type of gender category is asexuality. On occassion, usually because of a mother’s hormone use during pregnancy, a child is born without sexual organs of any kind. This means that the child has no ovaries, uterus, or vagina; has no penis or testicles; and usually has only a bladder and a urethra ending in an aperture for the elimination of urine. Although such a child has a genetic gender (that is, has XX or XY chromosomes), the child has no biological gender. Most are assigned a gender in chilhood, are given hormones, and live as male or female.

In 2001, the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) was founded to facilitate the growth of the online asexual community and help build acceptance and discussion of these issues (see Chapter Resources for more information). Over the last few years, a growing movement in support of asexuality has been building, helping develop programs for asexuals and foster research (Prause and Graham, 2007). Today AVEN is the world’s largest asexual community.” (emphasis in original; page 105)

Following that is a brief definition, which says: “Asesuality: Often refers to the lack of sexual desire but can also refer to a lack of maleness or femaleness.” I have found no other relevant mentions of asexuality in the rest of the book.

I’m not going to provide any commentary on this, as I trust you all will have commentary to provide yourselves. (Plus it’s late and I’m typing on a really crappy keyboard.)

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15 thoughts on ““Asexualism: the genetics but not the sex”

  1. Strange. It seems like a combination of holding on strongly to their own preferred definition of “asexual” and then sort of trying to get AVEN in there, with little appreciation of the misleading impressions it gives.

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  2. I will note one thing that annoys me beyond the obvious issues about their presentation of asexuality: the phrase “biological gender” etc. Despite their explanation earlier in the chapter about how sex is biological (physiological), while gender is social, they still get them mixed up!

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  3. I took a Human Sexuality text with this textbook used last semester. My brain about exploded when I ran into their “definition.” Talk about not doing the research! It looks to me like about what Andrew is saying–having a very firm preconcieved notion of what asexuality is but having maybe heard of AVEN and wanting to incorporate a link to self-identified asexual people. Without, you know, doing the very basic work of actually looking to see what asexual-identified people are doing first.

    What gets me is that according to the best possible data I’ve been able to accumulate, intersex people without external sexual organs (let alone those without sexual organs at all) occur so infrequently that only a handful of cases have been recorded across medical history. Why do we need a specific name for this, again?

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    • Moreover, why does this name have to be “asexual” if we do need to have a specific name for it? I think something like “non-sexed” would make more sense, personally, as it would avoid confusion with the two or three other definitions of the word, and be more consistent with the term “intersexed” which it is most similar to or possibly fits within that category.

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    • On further thought…textbooks do release new editions frequently. If we wrote to the publisher, maybe they would change it in the next edition. That would be better than having the misinformation persist indefinitely. I wonder if it would be effective.

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      • I thought about that too. I think we have a good chance of it being effective, considering what happened last time we took that strategy (the Plan B thing, I think it was?). I wouldn’t be too sure how to organize it myself, though. I do want to write a long paper correcting that misinformation (among others), which may work better than simply complaining (although lots of other people doing that would likely help); it might take the OMG EFFORT out of them doing the research themselves, since I guess they can’t be bothered.

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  4. Hokey smokes! A book on sexuality dated 2010 defines asexuality as primarily meaning genital-less? I realize there are persons born without genitals (overshare: I saw one give a an excellent interview YEARS ago on Sally Jesse Rafael’s show), and I don’t want their identity erased, but I am sure there are more people who are asexual in the sense that we use the term than in this sense. Most of us are not the “them” the author alludes to, although methinks she may be confused enough to think so. Bad sexologist, BAD!

    I mean, even Marie Claire magazine had an asexuality article last year. That’s about as mass distribution as you can get.

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  5. Wow. The author didn’t even go to AVEN and see how people on AVEN, even if we can’t agree on a single definition of asexuality, use the word to clearly designate a sexual orientation. x_X

    My high-school sociology textbook was published pre-AVEN, and it included asexuality in the sexuality chapter. It defined it as a sexual orientation where a person does not experience sexual attraction. I don’t know why other textbooks in the years after AVEN’s beginning still haven’t caught on.

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  6. *late comment is late*

    I had that same textbook for my human sexuality class! It pissed me off when I saw that…when I wrote an essay on asexuality for that course, I pointed out that error. How they managed to get that sort of misinformation printed without someone going “Hey, maybe we should look at the front page of the website we’re mentioning,” is beyond me.

    Just as infuriatingly (in my copy at least) the page opposite those paragraphs has a photo of some genitals, captioned “a completed M-to-F transsexual” and “a completed F-to-M transsexual”. Really? “Completed”? So I and many others are “incomplete” for not getting bottom surgery? You couldn’t have used terms like “post-operative”, or just described them as a phalloplasty and a vaginoplasty? (That was in edition…eight, I think. I really hope they changed it in later editions…just…it’s a bad choice of words!)

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