Because this survey (on “sexual and asexual relationship dynamics” from Ball State University) did not have any option to leave comments on the design of the survey and what the questions were supposed to mean at the end, I’m going to just leave my comments here. I started copying and pasting questions into Notepad somewhere in the middle of the survey, so these are only some of the issues I had with this survey. I surely have forgotten others. At the end, I will mention the way the survey handled consent, but I’m mostly not focusing on that.
I want to preface this by saying that I am really annoyed by MOST surveys, I just don’t typically have the time to comment on them like this, and when there is an option to share comments about the survey within the survey itself, there is usually no need to share those comments publicly. This survey is not even remotely exceptional or surprising. More discussion of asexuals’ responses to academic surveys can be found in a fairly recent Asexual Agenda question of the week. I hope that people who research asexuality consider these problems when designing surveys in the future. Honestly, these are mostly problems that testing with a focus group could have helped iron out. It is very frustrating that these issues don’t ever seem to be corrected before the surveys are sent out.
“Please indicate the physical attractiveness of your partner”
How am I supposed to know what THAT means???? It is not specific enough about whether it’s talking about how she is perceived by other people in general, or my personal sense of whether or not she is “physically attractive” (a phrase I am not 100% sure I understand even in the case that it’s about my personal level of attraction to my partner, since it is often used as a euphemism for “sexually attractive” but can also be used to talk about whether you want to cuddle).
Survey asks, about polyamory, for me to rate my level of comfort with this:
“You and your partner may form outside romantic relationships, but they must always be less important than the relationship between the two of you.”
I don’t like this survey’s handling of poly relationships. Why is this ONLY listed with a caveat? Why isn’t JUST the first part listed? There was another similar statement, but that one also had a caveat. My partner and I can form outside romantic relationships. Period. We do not need to set a limit on those relationships and pre-determine that they must “always be less important” than our relationship. So far it has worked out that way—it’s hard to beat a relationship that’s been going for as long as ours, especially when your dating prospects are pretty slim. But there’s no reason that ALWAYS has to be the case, especially since my partner is aromantic and I’m greyromantic (I don’t recall there being space to list grey- or quoiro, so I just said “prefer not to answer” for the romantic orientation question).
Survey asks me to rate level of agreement with these statements:
- In most ways my sex life is close to my ideal.
- The conditions of my sex life are excellent.
- I am satisfied with my sex life.
- So far I have gotten the important things I want in sex life.
- If I could live my sex life over, I would change almost nothing.
The last 2 questions suddenly switch from current sex life to lifelong sex life, the way that I read them. It’s kind of confusing and awkwardly worded, so I’m not sure that was intended? Also it doesn’t really ask about what my sex life is CURRENTLY like, anywhere in the survey. It only asks in a “have you ever tried…?” sort of way. And I think it asked something about “are you likely to have sex in the next month” or something like that? So… kinda weird to ask about that with no context given for it. I want to note that what my sex life is like has varied DRASTICALLY at different times in my life. So has my “ideal” sex life.
Survey asks me to imagine the following scenario and then rate how likely I would respond with specific emotions to it:
“Imagine that you find out that your partner has fallen in love with another person. Your partner has become deeply emotionally attached to this other person, and thoughts of this other person consume your partner’s every thought”
This is very hard to imagine, since my partner is aromantic. And… how am I supposed to know how I would react to that if such a thing happened? At best, I’m making guesses. And again, I’m annoyed at what seems to be a presumption that her falling in love with someone else is not allowed. This is treated exactly like it’s cheating, but it’s totally okay within my relationship—which I couldn’t actually note anywhere in the survey.
“Imagine that you find out that your partner has been having sex with someone else. Imagine your partner trying—and enjoying—many different sexual positions and activities with this other person. Imagine that most of your partner’s waking thoughts and fantasies are about having sex with this other person.”
Okay, now this implies that my partner has been cheating. Since, you know, in a poly arrangement like ours, you wouldn’t suddenly “find out” that your partner “has been” having sex with someone else—she tells me beforehand if she’s even vaguely considering it, even when it’s extremely unlikely to actually happen. I guess I’m just confused about why it’s not explicit about the “without telling you” part.
And uh… MOST of her waking thoughts and fantasies are about sex with someone else? Why? Why is that the assumption I’m directed to make? It seems uncharacteristic for it to take up THAT much space in her life. And frankly, I’m suspicious whenever anyone makes the assumption that sexual fantasies (about one specific other person) take up such a disproportionate level of thought/fantasy life—for most people, most of the time, I strongly doubt that’s the case. So why, exactly, should I be primed to think of it that way?
And lastly (bolding added):
You indicated: “I am currently in a romantic/sexual relationship ” and you selected the following relationship type: “Polyamorous- A relationship with more than one person and this is an agreed-upon arrangement”
How likely do you think it is that your asexuality played a role in your relationship ending?
What?????? It hasn’t ended, wtf??? I already told you that in an earlier question? There was no “N/A” option for this question, nor was I directed to guess at how likely it might be to play a role in the relationship ending. I had to answer neutrally, since that seemed least likely to throw off the answers.
I just don’t understand why that wasn’t corrected before this survey was sent out.
Next, I’ll talk about consent, so if you’re not up for that discussion, feel free to peace out now.
I will say, at least, that this is somehow one of the better surveys I’ve taken when it comes to handling issues of consent (usually surveys are downright abysmal about it, so that isn’t saying much). It asks about how many “voluntary” sexual partners you’ve had in your lifetime, rather than leaving it 100% unspecified as to whether they wanted you to include non-consensual partners or not (although, you know, some people don’t even know whether a given partner counts as a “voluntary” sexual partner or not—gray areas of consent exist and gaslighting makes everything even more confusing). However, there is still (of course) a lot of eliding the full range of issues of consent. This part of the survey happened before I started noting problems, so I don’t recall exactly what the wording was, but among reasons for having sex, it listed something like “physically forced” and “verbally coerced.” There are plenty of non-consensual situations that don’t fall into either of those categories, though. I wish that cultural coercion and… I don’t even know what to call it, but maybe… non-verbal, even non-active (passive), coercion within the context of an abusive relationship, where you’ve been groomed to agree to having sex even if you don’t want to, and to not think of yourself as asexual… I wish that space would be given for those types of experiences. Not just in this survey, but in ANY survey.
At least there was sort of an area where you could provide your own response about reasons that you’ve had sex—but since it was a VERY SMALL text box that could not be resized, it was very difficult to provide a substantive open response. I felt that discussion of other reasons for having sex were structurally discouraged by the tiny box. It should have been a TextArea instead. Seriously, there are hundreds of reasons why people might have sex. Of course a tiny text box isn’t going to be able to cover that.
Sigh. It’s just… Okay, I’m done.