Monday, March 9, 2015

Why are there so few asexual men?

This post was cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

In my analysis of the 2014 AVEN Survey of online asexual communities, I showed that only 12% of aces (aces = people on the asexual spectrum) are men. The fraction of asexuals who are men is similar.* Someone asked me why that is, and I thought I'd make my answer public.

*This particular datum hasn't been reported, but I have the data right in front of me, so you'll have to take my word for it.

Extant data

In a community survey of AVEN in 2008, 28% of asexuals were men. Another community survey in 2011 reported 13% of aces were men. A Spanish-language community survey in 2013 reports that 36% of asexuals were assigned male at birth.

These are all community surveys conducted online, and they only tell us about people in the various online communities. They do not tell us about asexuals or asexual-spectrum people in general.

However, there was also an academic study conducted in 2004, based on a national probability sample in the UK in 1994. In that study 35% of asexuals were men. In theory, this should tell us about asexuals in general, although there are many reasons to worry about systematic biases.


1. Asexuality contradicts certain ideas of what men are supposed to be like. For example, men might be expected to be hypersexual, or they might be expected not to talk about personal feelings. This may make men less likely to acknowledge that they are ace. Although I could also imagine a world where this makes men more likely to realize they are different.

2. People with penises might think they simply can't be ace. I mean, most of these people get erections, and rates of masturbation are generally higher. Even though these characteristics are compatible with asexuality, it may stop people from identifying with it.

3. Men are expected to initiate. So if you're an ace woman, you can expect lots of bothersome unwanted solicitations. If you're an ace man, you can just try not to think about it too hard.

4. Maybe it's really less common amongst men. Who can say?

5. There could be a networking effect. In the 2014 AVEN survey, non-ace people (i.e. those not on the asexual spectrum) were encouraged to respond. The non-ace respondents are not representative of the general population, but come from "near" the ace community (predominantly Tumblr). 17.5% of the non-ace respondents were men, which is somewhat more than the ace respondents, but still quite low.

The theory is that there are many spaces, such as Tumblr, which are for whatever reason more popular among women than men. Because the asexual community is made up mostly of women, they will gravitate towards those spaces, generating more of a presence, and attracting even more women.

6. Even if men are identifying as asexual at rates comparable to women, it could be that they're less likely to stay in the community for as long. Possibly they feel less need for the community because they have fewer problems to deal with. Alternatively, they experience more problems to deal with, within the community.

Further reading

For perspectives on the experiences of asexual men, I recommend the Asexual Archive, The Thinking Asexual, and some stuff I've written.

1 comment:

miller said...

I am finding reason (3) quite plausible. It isn't that there are so many fewer asexual men, it's that by and large if you're male and don't particularly care about sex you can pretty much ignore it: apart from the cliche that you're going to live with your mum - as if sexuality had anything to do with the desire for independence and self-reliance. And the assumption that you're gay, for some reason, because y'know, dudes got to be into something, male or female.