Monday, September 17, 2012

Paper summary: Biological markers of asexuality

This post was modified from tumblr and cross-posted on The Asexual Agenda.

I'm going to summarize the paper, Furthering our Understanding of Asexuality: An Investigation Into Biological Markers of Asexuality, and the Development of the Asexuality Identification Scale, a psychology masters thesis from 2011 by Morag Allison Yule.  As the title suggests, it’s divided into two parts, the first investigating biological correlates with asexuality, and the second developing a questionaire to identify asexuals.

Part 1: Homosexuality is known to correlate with digit ratios and left-handedness, and in right-handed men it correlates with the number of older brothers.  This is often taken as evidence that homosexuality is to some extent caused by prenatal developmental conditions.

You might ask, are there similar correlations with asexuality?  This study shows a correlation between asexuality and handedness.  Also, asexual men were shown to have more older brothers, and asexual right-handed women were shown to have fewer older sisters.  The sample was too small to demonstrate a significant digit ratio difference.  These results tend to show that asexuality is also partly caused by prenatal developmental conditions.

My comment: The author motivates this study as a contribution to the question of whether asexuality is a sexual orientation or dysfunction.  But in some ways this is wrong; dysfunction as a category isn’t defined by etiology.  Nonetheless, I find the results very interesting.

Part 2: Yule develops a questionnaire that distinguishes asexuals from allosexuals*.  Yule claims it is valid for people who have not yet come across the idea of asexuality.  It’s a simple 10-question survey, shown in Appendix C.

*miller's note: allosexual is an alternative term for non-asexuals

My comment: Based on what little I know, designing an informative survey is a highly nontrivial task, so kudos to the author.  But I hope I don’t see this later as an online test “to see if you’re really asexual”.  It’s not supposed to validate people’s identities, it’s supposed to be a statistical tool for researchers.  On a side note, I’m a little confused about how to score this survey, since it uses a scale from 0-50, whereas the number of questions implies a scale from 0-40.  Just as well.

(Via Ace-Muslim)