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Understanding Asexuality [Hardcover]

by Anthony F. Bogaert
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

August 9, 2012 1442200995 978-1442200999
Asexuality can be defined as an enduring lack of sexual attraction. Thus, asexual individuals do not find (and perhaps never have) others sexually appealing. Some consider “asexuality” as a fourth category of sexual orientation, distinct from heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality. However, there is also recent evidence that the label “asexual” may be used in a broader way than merely as “a lack of sexual attraction.” People who say they have sexual attraction to others, but indicate little or no desire for sexual activity are also self-identifying as asexual. Distinct from celibacy, which refers to sexual abstinence by choice where sexual attraction and desire may still be present, asexuality is experienced by those having a lack or sexual attraction or a lack of sexual desire.

More and more, those who identify as asexual are “coming out,” joining up, and forging a common identity. The time is right for a better understanding of this sexual orientation, written by an expert in the field who has conducted studies on asexuality and who has provided important contributions to understanding asexuality. This timely resource will be one of the first books written on the topic for general readers, and the first to look at the historical, biological, and social aspects of asexuality. It includes first-hand accounts throughout from people who identify as asexual. The study of asexuality, as it contrasts so clearly with sexuality, also holds up a lens and reveals clues to the mystery of sexuality.

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Editorial Reviews


Bogaert (psychology, Brock Univ.) is known for his research on birth order and sexual orientation. Here, he examines another aspect of his research—asexuality. Bogaert sets out to carefully define and describe asexuality using a four-part approach to help categorize the processes of sexuality: A (attraction and arousal), B (behavior), C (cognition), and D (desire). Bogaert describes asexuality as a sexual orientation that is perhaps statistically as prevalent as homosexuality. Other chapters discuss asexuality in regard to masturbation (why would an asexual person masturbate?), gender (is asexuality more prevalent among females?), sexual identity (how is asexual identity different than homosexuality?), the “madness of sex” (how do asexuals view sexuality?), and more. VERDICT Bogaert successfully introduces asexuality as another sexual orientation that demands further research. He likewise demonstrates the importance of asexuality not only in its own right as an understudied subject but also in how it contrasts with other sexual orientations. (His chapter on art and food, showing how sex permeates human culture, is a good example of this.) Recommended for readers interested in human sexuality. (Library Journal)

Rather than tackle the overdone topic of sexuality, this book takes a fascinating look at asexuality. A professor of community health sciences and psychology, Bogaert writes about people with (gasp!) no interest in sex and no feelings of sexual attraction. (These folks may still be romantic, though, and they may still masturbate to relieve tension.) Taking a deeply historical perspective, he notes that although sex is the main form of reproduction for species on earth today, it was not for most of the nearly 4 billion years that life has existed here. Given to humorous asides, Bogaert writes of questions surrounding “the exact date of the emergency of sex––call it, ahem, the little bang theory,” and observes that coupling brings the advantages of genetic diversity. The author’s small-type notes are just as interesting as the main text, making this an unusually intriguing and enlightening inquiry. (Booklist)

People who aren't interested in sex can teach the rest of us who are a thing or two about it. Indeed, they help us sexual beings better understand why we do what we do, says sexologist Anthony Bogaert, professor of community health sciences and psychology at Brock University. More to the point, they help us understand what sex is, and what it is not, he says. In his newest book, Understanding Asexuality, he explores what he calls the fourth dimension of sexual orientation. In simple terms, a person who is asexual does not feel sexual attraction. At all. Never. It's not celibacy -- that's a choice. Instead, it's part of the person's very being, just like being straight or gay, he says. [Bogaert] hopes his book will teach asexuals a little more about themselves, and enlighten everyone else about their own sexual orientation. (St. Catherine's Review)

Understanding Asexuality helps people understand asexuality in a way that asexual websites cannot.
(The Examiner)

Bogaert (Brock Univ.), who has published numerous articles on sexuality, takes on the little-researched topic of asexuality--lack of interest in sexual relations with others. He struggles with philosophic questions: How should one judge another's mental health? What really is pathology? His chapter on "the madness of sex" is insightful in exploring what is abnormal, what is normal, and the benefits of being asexual--such as less contact with the criminal justice system and mental health agencies. Bogaert seems to speak directly to readers and shows his humor through such chapter titles as "Do You Have Hypoactive Skydiving Disorder?" Because asexuality is an area of minimal research--due to asexuals' not bringing themselves to the attention of others--Bogaert must speculate based on what is known to build a picture of asexuality and provide a solid background for further research. He explores ways that genes can direct or influence a person's sexual choices and gives examples of some features more prominent in the asexual cohort than others, including a larger number of left-handed, later-born sons than average. The bibliography includes some 250 entries. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals. (CHOICE)

Essential reading for anyone who wants to explore how asexuality is transforming our understanding of sex. (David Jay, founder of Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN))

Despite an adaptationist flavor, Understanding Asexuality is a thoughtful, nuanced, and even paradigm-changing book. (Maurine Neiman, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Biology, University of Iowa)

It was refreshing to see the rare publication of a book that delves into the subject and attempts to shed more light onto it, even give it a voice and credibility which is still way too far in the margins.
On the whole, I have to say, I found this book interesting, even enjoyable. It is an excellent starting point for study and debate, a brilliant introduction to asexuality.
The work he has done is truly enlightening and important.
Bogaert made an excellent attempt at deconstructing a very complex issue, identifying and analysing components of romance, sexual desire, behaviour, attraction, sexual pleasure, cognition and identity, differentiating between them, trying to establish whether the absence or presence of each of these components signifies asexuality. He goes into the history as well as current societal representation and culture.

About the Author

Anthony Bogaert, Ph.D. is professor of community health sciences and psychology at Brock University. He has published numerous peer-reviewed journal articles, along with book chapters, on such topics as asexuality, sexual desire, sexual orientation, birth order and sexual identity, and other related topics.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (August 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442200995
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442200999
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #802,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An encouraging start August 23, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In this, the first book-length academic text on the subject of asexuality, Dr. Bogaert, whose previous work includes pioneering research into the "older brother effect" providing evidence for events in prenatal neural development as factors in the etiology of sexual orientation, presents his and others' findings on the phenomenology of asexuality and frames the experiences of asexual people within a broader context of psychological and sexological theory. Understanding Asexuality fulfills the promise of its title, at once addressing the most persistent questions of those newly discovering asexuality and integrating into theoretical models the anecdotes of self-identified asexual people. Surveying such diverse related fields as neurobiology, art history, and evolutionary theory, the author examines asexuality and the foil it provides to other forms of asexuality through macro- as well as microscopic lenses. His ability to examine at once both the forest and the trees, his balance of disparate theoretical models, and his approachable, lightly humorous prose make this a worthwhile read for his colleagues, for asexual people interested in a scientific perspective on their sexualities, and for members of he general public seeking a technical introduction to the subject. My complaints about the text are, firstly, that it acknowledges the sophisticated spectra of sex and gender and the relatively high incidence of "atypical gender identity" amongst asexual people, but otherwise maintains a failry simplified view of the male/female dichotomy, and secondly, that it encourages in this reader a hunger for more research!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Basic But Insightful Look at Asexuality February 3, 2013
There hasn't been a great deal of work done on asexuality as a sexual orientation, but Tony Bogaert is certainly considered one of the experts in the field. This book is about halfway between a scholarly work and a popular science book. Given the subject matter, there is by necessity a fair amount of scientific terms and ideas, but Bogaert combines them with a large amount of humor and simple anecdotes. As a result, Understanding Asexuality would probably be fairly accessible and understandable for most interested adults, and certainly most college students.

Bogaert starts by providing a definition of asexuality, which might sound simple, but given the murkiness of the field is actually a somewhat challenging and incredibly important endeavor. He then goes on to explore asexuality in the context of biology, evolution, psychology, and social interactions. Throughout the book, he compares asexuality to sexuality, and as a result, it is as much an exploration of sexuality as the lack thereof.

Understanding Asexuality does a good job of summarizing what is known about asexuality and what research still needs to be done. The entire book is well structured and makes for compelling reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost July 13, 2013
By B. Love
This is a fairly good general subject book about asexuality. The research is solid, and so are the arguments for why asexuality shouldn't be pathologized. The defense of asexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation is good, as is the discussion of the history of the asexual movement and the different communities that are out there. The distinctions between various aspects of sexuality, like arousal, desire, and attraction, are thoughtful, and so is the critical, analytical look at how modern American/European society treats romance and sex.

There were some parts of the book that felt like fishing expeditions, where Bogaert could have benefited from talking to asexuals instead of speculating about their feelings. The chapters on asexuality and humor, and asexuality and food, were like this, and felt like they were included to increase the page count. For example, the speculation that asexuals might be less prone to eating disorders felt off-base and not made from a great understanding of the causes of eating disorders. The book would be more valuable if these chapters were strengthened by interviews with asexuals, or replaced entirely by something more worthwhile, like examining the dynamics of asexuality and race or asexuality and non-binary gender.

Overall, this book presents enough new, thoughtful material to be worthwhile to asexuals, but would probably also serve as a decent introduction to the concept of asexuality for someone who's never heard of it before. However, I would advise readers in either category not to take some of the later chapters too seriously.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Book on the Fourth Sexual Orientation! January 26, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Thank you, Professor Bogaert, for writing about this topic that's in so much need of public understanding right now. Written from an academic viewpoint, this book is nevertheless a great read and easy to understand. Perfect for enthusiasts of human sexuality, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and other fields. The price was a little high, but it was totally worth it!
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