Sunday, June 10, 2012

Survey of asexual communities

In 2011, the Asexual Awareness Week team conducted an internet survey of asexual communites, and had over 3000 respondents.  For months, the results languished without proper analysis, but I volunteered to look at it.

Analysis of the 2011 Asexual Awareness Week Community Census

Thanks to AAW for hosting this document.

I still have the data, so I can answer additional questions.  I was also fielding questions on tumblr, so you can see what other people asked.

I tried to just present the results with as little interpretation as possible.  Of course, analysis requires at least a little interpretation, but I tried.  Here on my blog I can speak more freely, because it's just some blog on the internet and my words will not have too much weight.

The first most important thing to realize: This survey does not tell us about asexuality in general, but about internet asexual communities.  I seriously doubt that asexuals in general are 64% women, 13% men, 22% heteroromantic, and 42% atheist/agnostic.  However, the numbers are not meaningless, because the asexual community is itself important.  When I represent asexuals, I mostly represent the community.  When I talk to other asexuals, I mostly talk to people in the community.

The second most important thing to realize: The survey questions are flawed.  They give the sense of wanting to be politically correct at the expense of extractable information, and simultaneously has some rather un-PC errors, also at the expense of extractable information.

For example, question #11 asked how people perceive themselves.  Possible responses included "I am a virgin" and "I am not a virgin", and people could check as many boxes as they wanted.  It's nice that they allowed people to express themselves, and even disobey the law of excluded middle, but why didn't they just get rid of the loaded term "virgin"?  I mean, what we really want to know is how much sex asexuals are having, not how they feel about the word "virgin".

I wish to highlight a few statistics that I found particularly interesting.
  1. 22% of asexuals are heteroromantic, and 13% of heteroromantics consider themselves part of the LGBT community.  There are people out there who complain about heteroromantic asexuals are appropriating queer spaces.  But even if we believed they did not have a right to queer spaces, this fear is still totally unfounded.  Ironically, this complaint mostly comes from tumblr, where heteroromantics are an even smaller proportion, 17%.
  2. Men are a minority group, even less common than non-binary gender people.  This varies between communities, with men being 16% of AVEN, 11% of Tumblr, and 6% of LiveJournal.  It could be that asexuals are less likely to be men in general, or they are less likely to identify as asexual, or less likely to stay in the community.  Maybe we need male asexual support groups for a minority-within-a-minority, haha.
  3. 3% of asexuals are sexually active, 9% of gray-As, and 14% of demisexuals.  I believe this is significantly smaller than in the general population.  Many people find it confusing that asexuals can be sexually active, and wonder how this is different from normative sexuality.  But even demisexuals, who are closest to normative sexuality, are noticeably different.  This is consistent with the idea that asexuality is a lack of intrinsic motivation to have sex, though other factors may cause them to have sex anyway.
  4. 29% of asexuals do not fit in any romantic orientation.  (In the survey, I operationally defined this group as people who are not romantically attracted to anyone, but do not identify as aromantic.)  In my own visibility work, I try to emphasize that while romantic orientation is an important concept, it does not apply to everyone.  But I did not expect it was so large a group!
  5. 23% of asexuals are atheist, 42% are atheist/agnostic, and 64% are atheist/agnostic/non-religious.  I already knew the numbers were high, but that's just ridiculous.  Greta Christina once said that she felt more at home as a queer in the atheist community than as an atheist in the queer community.  I suspect the opposite is true of asexual atheists.
  6. Among people with non-binary gender (ie both male and female, or neither), 24% identified as transgender, 50% did not identify as transgender, and 26% were unsure.  I found this surprising, since it's at odds with the definition of transgender as "being a different gender from the one assigned at birth".  Clearly there is something I do not understand about the way transgender is used by non-binary people, and I feel humbled by my ignorance.  A friend suggested that many non-binary people feel uncomfortable with the term because of connotations of a change in gender or because it frequently gets conflated with transsexual.  Or maybe some are the sort of people who say, "I don't have a gender because gender isn't real". >_<
What statistics did you find most interesting?