From UBC Wiki

The medicalization of asexuality is the process in which someone who have never or rarely ever experienced sexual attraction is considered to have a sexual dysfunction.[1] It assumes the natural state of a person to be a sexual one, thus making someone who isn’t sexual abnormal and in need of treatment.

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The conflict between asexuality as a sexual orientation and a sexual dysfunction is an ongoing one between psychologists and researchers. [2]The main source of contention is on the diagnosis of Hypoactive Sexual Disorder (HSDD) in the DSM IV, now reformed as the Female Sexual Interest/ Arousal Disorder in the DSM V. Asexual activists have argued against the disorder, connecting it to the medicalization of gay people in the DSM [3]

Another area of disagreement seems to be focused on the way data is obtained, with Calon and Clayton[4] criticizing the basis of theoretical data used for FSIAD. Because the research on asexuality is still relatively new, many researchers on the topic refer to the Asexual Visbiility and Education Network (AVEN), an online asexual community as a resource. Aven was started by David Jay, an asexual activist, in 2001 as a way to bring awareness to asexuality and provide a safe space for those who are asexual or are figuring out their identity.

What is Asexuality?

Asexuality is a sexual orientation where one does not experience sexual attraction towards others.

According to AVEN, asexuality works as an umbrella term for other identities that are not allosexual -- those who do feel sexual attraction towards others, It is described to work as multiple spectrums; one that focuses on sexual attraction, another on romantic attraction and may be broken down into primary and secondary attraction. For instance, grey-asexuality is a large sub-group within asexuality that refers to people who experience sexuality in a manner that does not fully fit into asexuality or sexuality. One example of this is demi-sexual, someone who only experience secondary sexual attraction – attraction that only occur after making a deep connection – and not primary attraction – physical attraction.

Hyposexual Desire Disorder (HSDD)

Hyposexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) is a sexual dysfunction disorder described as the “persistently or recurrently deficient (or absent) sexual fantasies and desire for sexual activity [causing] marked distress or interpersonal difficulty” in the DSM IV. [3] It was formerly known as Inhibited Sexual Desire (ISD) in the DSM III. Criticisms for HSDD was focused on the “interpersonal difficulty” aspect of the definition, arguing that under that definition they would have a disorder if someone else in their life decides so. Another reason is because some people who are asexual are not aromantic, meaning that they still experience romantic attraction and want to be in a partnership with another person. Meaning, they may experience interpersonal difficulty or distress due to their desire to please their partners. However, the distress is not due to their lack of sexual desire but due to their relationship.[5] (look to Asexual Census charts)

Under the DSM V, the Hyposexual Desire Disorder has been separated into two gendered categories: categories: Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder (FSIAD) and Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder. (MSDD) [6]

The female aspects of HSDD was also grouped together with Female Sexual Arousal Disorder to create a diagnosis of female sexual interest/arousal disorder (FSIAD). [7]Additionally, the new version stated that “If a lifelong lack of sexual desire is better explained by one’s self-identification as “asexual”, then a diagnosis of female sexual interest/arousal disorder would not be made.”[6] With the new changes, FSIAD addresses the main issue with HSDD, however, activists are still concerned that the new definition does not apply or help those who are still questioning about their sexuality.

Asexual Census 2016

According to the Asexual Census 2016, the most common reason for an asexual person to have sex is in order to please their partner. The most common words used include “expected”, “relationship”, “partner” and “supposed”. The themes presented in the survey are in line with the HSDD diagnosis of “interpersonal difficulty” and “distress”. File:Acecensussexupdate1-1.jpg#file


A pharmaceutical drug initially created as an antidepressant is prescribed for pre-menstrual women with HSDD.  Sathyanarayana Rao and Andrade (2015) found that although Filbanserin worked better than the placebo, it was not found to be effective.[8]

Asexual activists have argued against the drug, stating that it may be another attempt to ‘fix’ an asexual person that delegitimizes their identity.[9]


Asexuality is not something that is easy to represent as it is not a physical tangible thing, it is the absence of something. On top of that, Asexuality is often not represented in the media. When it is shown, it can be misconstrued to fix a narrative.

In the episode “Better Half” of the show House, after Dr.House repeatedly rejected the couple’s self-identification of asexuality, discovers that the man has a tumor that is causing his low sexual desire, and that his spouse has been pretending to be asexual as a way to support him.

Jughead Jones in the Archie Comic series have been said to be asexual. [10]However, in the Riverdale television show, that is loosely based off of the comic books, Jughead is no longer presented as asexual. Instead he is in a romantic and sexual relationship with Betty Cooper.

These representation of asexuality in the media can push the narrative that there is something wrong with not having the desire to have sex, or that asexuality is simply not real.

  1. Basson, R; et al. (December 2003). "Definitions of women's sexual dysfunction reconsidered: Advocating expansion and revision". Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology. 24: 221–229 – via Taylor & Francis. Explicit use of et al. in: |first= (help)
  2. Yule1, Brotto2, Gorzalka3, Morag1, Lori2, Boris3 (August 2014). "Sexual fantasy and masturbation among asexual individuals". The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality. 23: 89–95.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jutel, Annemarie (January 28, 2010). [10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.11.040 "Framing disease: The example of female hypoactive sexual desire disorder"] Check |url= value (help). Social Science and Medicine: 1084–1090.
  4. Balon, Richard (February 05 2014). "Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder: A Diagnosis Out of Thin Air". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 43: 1227–1229. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. Epstein, Steven (June 2017). "The proliferation of sexual health: Diverse social problems and the legitimation of sexuality". Social Science and Medicine.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders". American Psychiatric Association. 2013. |first= missing |last= (help)
  7. "The Voice of the patient: Patient-Focused Drug Development Initiative Female Sexual Dysfunction Public Meeting". Food and Drug Administration. June 2015.
  8. Sathyanarayana Rao1, Andrade2, T.S1, Chittaranjan2 (July 2015). [10.4103/0019-5545.166630 "Flibanserin: Approval of a controversial drug for a controversial disorder"] Check |url= value (help). Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 57: 221–223.
  9. Robb, Alice (June 08, 2015). "Could The New Female Viagra Threaten Asexual's Identity". Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. BURLINGAME, Russ (September 25 2015). "Chip Zdarsky Opens Up About Jughead". Comic Book. Check date values in: |date= (help)