How Do Scientists Measure Whether Someone Is Asexual?

Asexuality is a topic that has received an increasing amount of attention from sex researchers in recent years. For instance, studies have been published on the genital arousal patterns of asexual individuals in response to sexually explicit stimuli, the biological correlates of asexuality, as well as the masturbation practices of asexuals. However, the research in this area has generated some controversy over how to best measure asexuality because not all researchers have used consistent definitions and measurement techniques. A new paper just published in the journal Psychological Assessment describes the first attempt at establishing a valid measure of asexuality, the Asexuality Identification Scale. 

This scale consists of the following 12 items, each of which is rated on a 5-point scale, ranging from completely false/never to completely true/always:

I experience sexual attraction toward other people. (reverse scored)
I lack interest in sexual activity.
I don’t feel that that I fit the conventional categories of sexual orientation such as heterosexual, homosexual (gay or lesbian), or bisexual. 
The thought of sexual activity repulses me.
I find myself experiencing sexual attraction toward another person. (reverse scored)
I am confused by how much interest and time other people put into sexual relationships.
The term “nonsexual” would be an accurate description of my sexuality.
I would be content if I never had sex again.
I would be relieved if I was told that I never had to engage in any sort of sexual activity again.
I go to great lengths to avoid situations where sex might be expected of me.
My ideal relationship would not involve sexual activity.
Sex has no place in my life.

To learn more about how this scale was developed and why these items were selected, check out the video below, in which one of the authors of the Psychological Assessment paper, Dr. Lori Brotto, describes the process behind it. Brotto also discusses the potential uses and applications of this new measurement tool.

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To learn more about this research, see: Yule, M. A., Brotto, L. A., & Gorzalka, B. B. (2015). A validated measure of no sexual attraction: The Asexuality Identification Scale. Psychological Assessment, 27, 148-160.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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