A group, Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), working to raise awareness about people who have little or no interest in sexual activity and relationships celebrated Asexuality Day on Friday in France.
According to Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), the purpose of marking the day was to inform the public about asexuality as a category of sexual identity.
France's first-ever Asexuality Day comes the same week the country legalized same-sex marriage.
Asexuals are people who have little or no interest in sexual activity and relationships. In broad terms it is a lack of heterosexual, homosexual or any other form of physical sexual attraction and little or no interest in sexual activity. A 2004 study concluded that the prevalence of asexuality in human populations is about one percent.
Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) is one of the most prominent asexuality groups. It was founded in 2001 by David Jay.
AFP reports that French asexual Julien, described his experience: "I learnt that I was asexual by watching a TV program one evening." He said that before he realized he was asexual, he "didn't feel normal, and so I completely suppressed it.” He had a girlfriend with whom he had sex, but says he did it only to please her.
After Julien first learned about asexuality on TV, he began visiting web forums for more information. During his interactions on a forum, he met an asexual girl with whom he says he now has a happy sexless relationship.
Although France is associated with sensuality in popular imagination, studies estimating that at least one percent of the world's population is asexual, mean that the country has a minority of several thousands whose needs Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) is serving.
Paul, vice president of the association, told AFP: "Society presents sex as something that is obligatory..." Thus, to many, asexual individuals appear "odd."
While it seems natural to think of asexuality as a lack of sexual orientation, many asexual activists insist it is a different form of sexual orientation alongside homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality. Paul said: "Asexuality is a form of sexuality. It belongs to the diversity of human sexuality and it’s way more important to recognize its existence and validity than to try and criticize it." He added: "We want asexuality to be recognized as a fully fledged sexual orientation."
Activists distinguish asexuality from abstinence or abstention which is considered generally motivated by beliefs. According to activists, asexuality, unlike abstinence, is not a choice. Asexual persons may engage in sexual activity to please their partners or for procreation.
Asexuals may feel attracted to men or women, fall in love and marry, but unlike others they do not feel a desire for sex. Although some report experiencing pleasure during sex, all say they do not feel motivated or driven to seek sexual gratification.
The confusion that asexual persons experience due to the fact that society and culture does not recognize asexuality as a legitimate category is illustrated in comments from asexuals in a popular web forum for asexuals.
One commenter states: "I had buried my emotions for many years due to almost nonexistent desire."
Another said: "I met a woman around five months ago, and I fell in love... But there is no sexual desire and I can feel she is distancing herself even though it is hard for her as she loves me deeply. What suffering. I cry with rage."
Asexuals could be male of female. The widespread belief that women have lower innate libido than men may lead to the assumption that most asexuals are women. According to AFP, a study by the pioneer sexologist Alfred Kinsey, suggests this assumption is correct.
Paul told AFP that many asexuals enjoy relationships with other asexuals because having a relationship with or falling in love with a "sexual" could lead to problems. Many asexuals are forced to accept "open relationships."
One of the first formal references to asexuality in scientific literature was by Alfred Kinsey in the late 1940s. He created a heterosexual-homosexual rating scale that ranges from exclusively heterosexual (zero) to exclusively homosexual (6), with asexuals classed in a separate category "X."
According to La Dépêche, Brock University psychology professor Anthony Bogaert, conducted the first comprehensive study of asexuality in 2004. He estimated the global incidence of asexuality at about 1%. AFP reports he said: "There is more evidence of pre-natal hormonal influences having some sort of permanent effect that makes one more pre-disposed to being asexual or heterosexual or gay than there is for having atypical levels of hormones in adulthood."
He noted that asexuals may find it more difficult to find acceptance in society than LGBT people. However, the advent of the Internet has provided opportunities for asexuals to meet on forums and connect with each other and share experience.
The first international asexual awareness week was organized in 2010 and since then the week is observed annually in may countries including the United States.