39 44 of participants said that their asexual

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39 (44 %) of participants said that their asexual identity means that they do not experience sexual attraction or sexual desire. AVEN’s role in providing one possible meaning of an asexual identity is evidenced by Natalie, a 26-year-old white woman who describes what her asexuality means to her by saying, ‘I follow AVEN’s description of asexuality’. For Natalie, her internalized meaning of asexuality is hard to separate from AVEN’s own conception of asexuality. Another participant, Jenn, an 18-year-old white woman, elaborates on this lack of sexual attraction: I just don’t feel sexual attraction to people. I love the human form and can regard individuals as works of art and find people aesthetically pleasing, but I don’t ever want to come into sexual contact with even the most beautiful of people. While lack of sexual attraction and desire was a highly common feature of participants’ descriptions of their asexuality, it was by no means a universally shared definition of asexuality. Sexualities 11(5) 626
The most common description of asexuality used the same language as the AVEN website, however the remaining 50 participants put forth alternative understandings of their asexual identity. Of these 50, 13 participants offered definitions of their asexuality that continaed relatively limited information about the meaning of their asexual identity. For instance, Barry, a 29-year-old white male characterized his asexuality: ‘It’s just who I am, romantically and sexually speaking’. Of the remaining 37 participants, the most common definition of asexuality centered on a lack of interest in sexual behavior that was described as not necessarily associated with sexual attraction. For instance, Jodi, a 32-year-old Asian woman describes her asexuality: ‘I am sexually attracted to men but have no desire or need to engage in sexual or even non-sexual activity (cuddling, hand-holding, etc.) with them’. Similarly, Sarah, a 22-year-old white woman, says that for her asexuality means that ‘I don’t have sex and don’t understand why people would want to have sex’. For both Jodi and Sarah, an asexual identity is not about attraction, but rather intent to participate in sexual behaviors. In addition to the wide variation in the definition of an asexual identity, there was also variation as to what behaviors ‘count’ as sexual. Despite describing themselves as not experiencing sexual desire or attraction, 13 participants described interest in some sort of physical intimacy with another or others when describing an ‘ideal relationship’. For Mark, a 36-year-old multi-racial male who identifies as a romantic hetero-asexual, ‘I’m romantically attracted to the opposite sex, but don’t desire sexual contact. I enjoy cuddling, and kissing and even pleasing my wife, but I don’t desire sexual intercourse.’ Callie, a 28-year-old white woman, said physical affection is fine, ‘so long as the physical contact does not become sexual in nature’. This is similar to Dan, a 21-year-old white male, a self-identified hetero-romantic asexual, who says, ‘certain things

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