Kelsey Fuson, a freshman at University of Richmond who identifies as asexual, conducted a survey on campus to find out what students know – or do not know – about asexuality.
Fuson conducted this survey two weeks ago when she found out through Tumblr that the second to last week of October was asexual awareness week. “I thought I might see something about it on campus, but I didn’t see anything,” she said.
“I don’t want to imply that I was angry or upset,” Fuson said, ”but there wasn’t a group that did anything, and I just thought that I could."
Fuson wanted to see what students knew about asexuality because there are so many misconceptions and a general lack of knowledge, she said.
The Asexual Visibility and Education Network describes asexuality as “a person who does not experience sexual attraction.”
Ted Lewis, the associate director for LGBTQ campus life, said, “This does not mean asexuals are not romantically or emotionally attracted to other people. There are degrees of asexuality.”
Fuson said, “It affects a significant portion of the population — the estimates are about 1 percent, which is about the same amount of redheads that there are in the world.”
One the biggest problems those who identify as asexual face is a general lack of knowledge, Fuson said. She therefore created this survey to find out what people on Richmond’s campus knew about asexuality.
At first, she put the survey in SpiderBytes, but realized there was a huge sample bias. Those who clicked on the survey were disproportionately female or identified as something other than “heterosexual.” They also overwhelmingly knew what asexuality was, which Fuson said she knew was not an accurate portrayal of campus.
To get rid of the sample bias, she then printed out copies of the survey and asked people at random in the Heilman Dining Center and Boatwright Memorial Library if they would fill it out.
Fuson said there was a huge difference between those who took the survey in SpiderBytes and those whom she selected at random. The random selection was more statistically representative of campus. They also were less likely to know what asexuality was, Fuson said.
Fuson found those who took the survey had two common misconceptions about asexuality, only one of which she had expected. Fuson said she expected the misconception of asexual people being people who were choosing to abstain from sex. The misconception she said she did not expect was people defined asexuality as if it were a gender by conflating it with the gender queer identities.
Of the 60 respondents, 44 percent gave an accurate or mostly accurate definition of asexuality in the survey, Fuson said.
“From what I’ve experienced this campus seems to be decently more educated than most other places,” Fuson said, “but even still, not even half of the campus really knows what it is.”
She said that as someone who identified as asexual, she just wanted awareness.
“What’s the point of having a label if I have to define it every time I see it?” Fuson said.
“There are many students, faculty and staff who identify as asexual or are on the asexual spectrum,” Lewis said, “but we [Common Ground] haven’t gotten a lot of requests for programming around this identity category.”
Lewis said Fuson had mentioned to him she wanted to do more to bring awareness to sexual identities on campus. As of now, Common Ground offers books and resources on asexuality and includes brief asexuality discussions during their Safe Zone training, Lewis said.
Being asexual reveals how sexually charged our society is, which can be really isolating, Fuson said.
“We live in a hyper-sexual society, which treats a sexual, romantic relationship as the end-all and be-all of life,” Fuson said. “The platonic relationships that are so important to us are so downplayed.
“Just be respectful of it and try to learn more. It’s OK if you don’t understand it all completely. I don’t understand it all completely — sexuality is a really complex thing.”
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