Jared Boot on Asexuality – Smart Sex, Smart Love

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This week’s show is about Asexuality. Did you know only about one percent of the population identifies as asexual? My guest, Jared Boot, explains what an isolating experience this can be. Jared, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the Michigan School of Psychology, has a passion for asexual inclusion, diversity and equity. “How people talked about homophobia in the sixties, is how people talk about asexuality today,” says Jared. He believes it needs to be more in today’s public consciousness, and he’s here to chat about how we can make that change.

Connect with Jared Boot:

Speaker 1:        Welcome to smart sex, smart love. We’re talking about sex goes beyond the taboos and talking about love goes beyond the honeymoon. I’m dr Joe court. Thanks for tuning in.

Speaker 3:        [inaudible].

Speaker 1:        Hi everybody. Today we’re going to be talking about asexuality. My guest this week is here to talk about that Jared boot, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at the Michigan school of psychology has been a longstanding member of the LGBTQ IAA research forum. One of Jerrod’s main research interest is asexual identity development. He has a passion for asexual inclusion, diversity and equity, and today we’re going to be talking about all things asexual. Welcome Jared.

Speaker 4:        Hi. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 1:        Yeah, and so glad to have you in and to really unpack this, this topic, which some people feel and sometimes I feel it’s complicated, it’s evolving, it’s changing. There’s new terms that are like, it seems like sometimes asexual is the umbrella term and then there are all these other terms and I hope that you’ll unpack all that, right? You’ve got a lot on your plate.

Speaker 4:        Well, I’m glad that you brought that up to start with. Yeah, it is confusing because there are different definitions out there. Um, one of the definitions that’s more limiting is the first, uh, definition, uh, published and research by Anthony poser. Um, uh, he was a British researcher in the early two thousands who defined asexual individuals as just people who, with a complete absence of sexual attraction. Um, and since then, uh, people have come up with, uh, differing definitions of asexuality as, uh, it being more of an umbrella term, such as, uh, one that is inclusive of demisexual, uh, inclusive of people who identify as gray sexual, um, and things of that nature. And what, um, I can get more into those, uh, uh, subgroup definitions as we go on, but I, I’m on ascribed to it being an umbrella term because, uh, I’m a fan of inclusivity. Uh, the umbrella term I like is a little no or no sexual attraction and inclusive of people with differing degrees of sexual attraction.

Speaker 1:        Hmm. I like that. So is that your definition of asexual?

Speaker 4:        That’s the definition I used. Um, um, I was basically citing, uh, chase then and 2011 he was a researcher of asexuality. And, um, I like that definition about I’m a fan of inclusivity of when we can do that.

Speaker 1:        Yes. No, I am too. And can you tell the, um, the audience what demisexual means? D M I sexual.

Speaker 4:        Yeah. Uh, so people who identify as demisexual, um, there is primary, uh, sexual attraction and secondary effectual attraction. So primary is the, Oh, that person is really attractive. They have the physical features that I want and a partner, uh, and secondary sexual attraction is where you’re building that longstanding emotional bond with someone. Um, so people who are demisexual, they can fill it statically appreciate physical characteristics of people, but their sexual attraction, I think based on those characteristics that only the secondary sexual, uh, uh, attraction that they experienced to other people.

Speaker 1:        So is this what you’re saying? Cause this is what I’ve always read, that um, they’re not walking around with sexual attraction to, to anyone until it’s this one person and then suddenly they, their sexual sexuality is activated toward that one person. Is that right? Or is that different?

Speaker 4:        Yeah, that’s a, that’s right. It can be more than one person though. If they have like a, an emotional bond, uh, with more than one person. It’s just like if, uh, someone who has demisexual and met someone who like had all of the physical attributes they find attractive in the bar, they wouldn’t really be able to perform for them, uh, until they built that emotional bond or connection with that person.

Speaker 1:        So let me ask you something, cause people ask me this, when I teach this, they’ll say, well, wait a minute, why? Why is that under asexual? There’s a lot of people and a lot of women will say, well, I feel like I only want to have sex with people that I’m emotionally bonded to, but why would that make me demisexual or under the heading of asexual? Do, do you have an answer for that?

Speaker 4:        Yeah. So I guess the way that I described, but sort of along the lines of, uh, the analogy that I used just a moment go. Like if, um, for example, if someone came up to you and you were at a club, a bar, or a party, and they were saying all the right things and, uh, had all of the characteristics that we’re looking for in a partner, somebody who had demisexual would not be able to do anything sexual in nature is them, uh, because they’re, you can’t develop secondary sexual attraction and one meeting with a person. Uh, whereas somebody who like, uh, values that emotional connection, they can develop it much more, uh, rapidly, I suppose. Uh, but somebody who’s done asexual, it has to be like the process of building that connection.

Speaker 1:        Okay. Got it. So then can you also now define gray sexual, G? R? E? Y? Sexual?

Speaker 4:        Yeah. So people who are gray sexual, um, it’s actually an umbrella term for people who, um, uh, express themselves sexually in a way that’s different than demisexual. And that’s different than Allo sexual, which is what everyone who is not demisexual, asexual, etc. Is so, um, that would be like a, what many of the listeners identify as a, it’s like comparable to heterosexual. Um, but, uh, uh, gray sexual are, um, people who like, they might masturbate but not really masturbate to anything. It’s more so just for a relief to have the pleasure, uh, something of that nature. Or it could be like a masturbating to, uh, in object rather than a person or like a King rather than a person. So like if they really, um, had a King for like Pete for example, um, they would masturbate to that. But when they describe it to a person, yeah.

Speaker 1:        So then what was the other word you just use? You edit a word.

Speaker 4:        Yeah, aloe. Sexual. So, uh, that would be, uh, aL , L, O and then sexual after that. And um, so what that is is it’s like a, so like, it’s like, uh, the vanilla to King or the heterosexual to homosexual. It’s like the like what society deems the like normal or like you automatically are ascribed with this identity. It’s what most people would be. Alex actual.

Speaker 1:        Okay. I see. Now, see, you caught me off guard a little bit because I thought a gray sexual and I, and I want to be clear. I’m glad to learn from you. I thought it was like somebody could have a full whole sex life just with themselves. They could even like be on cam watching porn, watching other, I mean cybersex um, but that they, um, so, but their whole sex life, they might never actually meet somebody or do it, but it’s, it’s all an inside inner life. Even it extended out to cybersex. Is that wrong?

Speaker 4:        Oh no, that’s definitely right too. I was just describing like some different ways of being great sexual, but uh, what you just described as also a way of being great factual too. So like people who, uh, like are attracted to other people, uh, through like pornography or something like that, but they don’t like, they’re like disgusted by the idea of actually doing the act with someone. Um, yeah.

Speaker 1:        Oh good. Yeah. And then some people are gonna listen to this. I’m telling you, I’ve heard you’ve probably heard this a million times too. Why do we need all these labels and can you answer that?

Speaker 4:        Yeah. So, uh, you know, everyone has a different answer to that question, but my answer is like, I believe that we need to labels and tell we don’t need the labels anymore. And what I mean by that is we’re asexuality before the year 2000 wasn’t in the public consciousness, we used the label and now people are starting to understand the experience of being a sexual one. We build a society that uh, understand that humans can vary in so many different and unique ways. Then maybe we don’t need the labels as much anymore then, but right now we need them to build awareness.

Speaker 1:        This just clicked for me. I really, really loved the way you just said this. What clicks for me is that these clients are coming in and even just living in the population for glitches therapy and people are saying to them, what’s wrong with you? Why you like this? How could feet be the only thing you like? Who don’t you want a person, you know, we need to get you relational. And these labels are saying, I’m normal. Fuck off. You know, this is what I like. This is who I am and this can be okay and enough for me. And the label sort of gives them permission. Would you agree with that?

Speaker 4:        Yeah, definitely.

Speaker 1:        I love that. I never thought about that. It makes total sense. And I know that as a therapist, I’ve been doing this 34 years, there’s been many, many, many long, long years that I would do it. People would come in and you know, because what is true sometimes about a fetish or even a kink, it can be debilitating to the point where the person does want romantic and does want to be out there with a whole person, but they’re confined to the body part. Right? So the work is to help them, not rid themselves of the fetish that won’t go away, but add to their sexual template. But some people are completely comfortable with this and they deserve the right to have that space.

Speaker 4:        Exactly. And that, that kind of goes along with like how, uh, uh, specifically the APA, because I’m studying to be a psychologist, uh, used to, uh, pathologize homosexuality. Um, you know, uh, the way that, uh, homosexuality was thought about in the sixties and seventies. It’s the exact same way people are talking about asexuality now that, Oh, we have to save the person from it. They’re going to miss out on life. People use that same language to talk about asexual people now. And it’s really unfortunate because that is their, that’s their true self. That’s their true life. They’re trying to live and they’re being pathologized by people who are supposed to help them.

Speaker 1:        I discovered recently, and tell me if you know about this, that Kinsey had an N factor or an X factor in his findings and he, uh, in the forties when he did the survey, uh, identified asexuals. Did you know that?

Speaker 4:        Yeah, yeah. That’s something that I include when I do a presentation. Uh, and I think that’s one of the awesome things. Like it’s been around for a long time and people have known about asexuality for a long time. It just hasn’t been in the public conscious consciousness. So yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 1:        I may have learned it from you. I may have learned it from you. And now that I think about it, I don’t even know where I learned things, but that sound, if you knew it already, I probably did learn it from you. Tell me, um, just so that people can understand if they, to a therapist, what are the therapeutic approaches for helping somebody? Asexual?

Speaker 4:        Yeah. So, um, there are a few different approaches that I think can be really helpful. Um, so one is a constructivist approach. So recognizing that everything that we believe exists in our society exists that way because it was constructed that way by society. If we can recognize things that way, that like, uh, aloe sexuality was described as the normal or fault, uh, uh, sexuality, um, and can appreciate that that’s the only because of social construction, not because it actually is the normal way of being. Um, then I think that’s something that’s good for therapists to ascribe to. And uh, definitely feminist multicultural, uh, type approaches to, uh, which emphasize the role of intersecting social identities, uh, help clients understand their roles. Acting in a larger system has environmental resources and strains and power differentials that exist in society and helping the client realize that they do have power and helping them find that power. Like, uh, one of the things that you can ask is like, what is the powerful thing you can do right now? And I, I don’t know. I really like using that approach when I’m working with clients. Um, and a humanistic approach to I, uh, study at a monastic institution and then I’m taking that Rogerian approach of, uh, having an empathic stance towards the person and entering the client’s internal frame of reference. Uh, rather than ascribing scribing your own values or judgment on the, um,

Speaker 1:        you know, I have had, uh, gay male clients who are asexual and hate it. And what they’ll say to me in my office is, I shouldn’t be this way. I should be like all other gay guys fucking around having open marriages, wanting to be fucked, wanting to top line and bottom, all this stuff. But, and so then they come to me and they want to learn to do that. They don’t like the term asexual. They feel stigmatized in the gay community. And many have had partners who say, I’m okay with you not being sexual with me. I love you and I don’t want to be with other men that we can make this work and don’t have to be sexual. And they still feel that kind of shame. And one of the clients I worked with one day, I said to him, he left, we, um, you know, terminated. He felt like we’d gone as far as we could go and he was going to accept it. He came back a second time. We tried again to activate what if he was sexual? And I just looked at him one day and I said, I feel like we’re doing repairative therapy for your sexual part of yourself that you are just asexual and can it just be okay? Can we, can you just embrace that? And he just started crying. It’s a, there’s a lot of shame attached to it for people.

Speaker 4:        Yeah. Yeah, there is. And I think that that because like studies have consistently found, uh, uh, it’s about 1% of the population, uh, is asexual. So it can be very isolating, not the smaller number than the people who identify as LGBT or transgender or gender nonconforming. Um, and when you’re that small with a number and you’re spread across all sorts of different identities. And what I mean by that is there is asexual, transgender, uh, folks, asexual fifth gender folks, they such sexual, LGBT folks, et cetera. And you’re like spreading that 1% across all those different groups. That can be a very isolating experience. And that’s why it’s really important to get social support and, um, like, or the resources out there.

Speaker 1:        So what about the idea of Ralph? So read that some asexuals can be very sexual in the beginning of a relationship. Like they’re walking around asexual all the time. They fall into romantic love. Somehow they are able to, their sexuality gets activated and it might, might go on for a few months, maybe a little bit longer, and then they go back to their normal self that which is asexual. Have you heard of that?

Speaker 4:        [inaudible] uh, I haven’t heard of, uh, like that particularly, but I have heard of a compromise in, um, uh, asexual aloe sexual mixed, uh, relationship. So like, just like a compromise can exist in a kinked vanilla mix, a relationship where like the vanilla a person in the relationship doesn’t necessarily like the King, they’ll do it for the pleasure of their partner and, uh, asexual people, uh, can and do. Um, I don’t have the exact percentage from a survey that was done off hand right now, but a sizable first time. Uh, Canon do have sex with their partner, uh, but don’t derive any pleasure themselves from it. They derived like a secondary pleasure that their partner has driving pleasure from the activity.

Speaker 1:        Thank you. Can you talk about your current research? What exactly are you researching?

Speaker 4:        Oh, yeah. So one of the things that I found, so, um, just a moment ago, I talked about like the importance of resources, uh, and community, uh, within, uh, the asexual identity. And, um, one of the things that I found with the survey I did, I did a survey, uh, through [inaudible], uh, the asexual visibility and education network. Uh, and they’re, they can be reached@asexuality.org, uh, and through, uh, asexual meetup groups, which exist in almost every major metropolitan area. Uh, if you just go to meetup.com and type in eight, uh, meetup group or asexuality meetup group, ACE as the shorthand term, uh, people in the community use for asexuality. Um, but I had distributed a survey through those two, uh, routes and I found that, uh, people who took the survey through those two mediums, uh, didn’t have any difference in, uh, depression or anxiety. Statistically significant difference. There was a difference that just wasn’t statistically different or significant difference, uh, but, um, they didn’t have a statistically significant difference between, uh, uh, aloe sexual people, uh, when, uh, comparing depression, anxiety youth in the Southern end PHQ assessment. So I found that really interesting because it says that they were part of, uh, [inaudible], uh, groups, whether it was a discussion forum online where they were finding community or amino group where they’re just going to the local cafe and meeting up with other asexual identified people and talking about their experience. Having that, it’s probably something that contributed to them on not having a lot worse depression or anxiety. Then the ELOs actual people I measured with my survey.

Speaker 1:        Okay. Wow. It sounds really good. Really important. Really a needed addition. So little is out there. What resources exist for people who may have loved ones who identify as asexual or for those who identify as asexual themselves?

Speaker 4:        Yeah, so, um, the asexuality.org website, there’s a discussion forum on there. Uh, people can ask question, uh, like they can say, I experienced sexual attraction when asked, but, uh, all the rest of the time, I don’t, whatever is, uh, someone in the forum. There’s thousands of people worldwide who go on this website. One of the first places people go, um, to reach out for support and community. Um, and there’s a history of the organization, a history of, uh, like when a sexuality started coming into the public awareness. Uh, and then like I said, meetup group is another really good one. But also for like friends and family, uh, P flag group. Um, that’s one of the things that, uh, I’ve done in the past and I really want to start doing more of is, uh, speaking at a, a P flag, uh, chapters, uh, about the importance of like recognizing when a children may be asexual and what resources, uh, support, uh, parents, uh, friends and family can get them. Um, but, uh, yeah, I think those are all really great places for people to go for support.

Speaker 1:        I will say that as a therapist, what is hard is when someone comes in and they say they’re asexual and they might be, uh, or they might be a trauma survivor, meaning they have had so much sexual trauma, they don’t want to address it, so their sexuality is shut down or they have such low sexual desire that they don’t want to deal with it or even try to activate it. So, uh, they identify as asexual. Have you ever heard of that? And teasing that out in a therapy room was hard.

Speaker 4:        Yeah. Yeah. So that’s, uh, one of the things that there’s actually a debate about [inaudible] in the research communities right now. Um, so, uh, if someone, uh, with potentially a, what someone diagnosed as sexual aversion disorder or hypoactive sexual desire disorder, uh, are they asexual or not? And uh, that’s, um, I think the stance, uh, one of the stances in, uh, the community right now with researchers is let the client self identify and their identity can be fluid over time if that the identity that they ascribed to don’t like try to change if they’re comfortable with it. But if someone comes in and they say, Oh, I think I have a low sex drive and I miss being sexual Ben, you can maybe explore other things with them, but just like approaching it from a pathologizing approach, uh, isn’t something that I really would do.

Speaker 1:        I like it. And I’ve learned, you know, I’ve been doing this 34 years, right? And I’ve had to change the way I think about so many different things. And I S it continues to change. Like I used to think I knew exactly what I was doing and I do know a lot about what I’m doing, but not everything I’m doing, it’s not so cut and dry. The binary’s gone the way of looking at things one way or another. There’s so many betweens and it’s always been there. It’s just what’s nice about asexuality is it’s teaching us that this, this continuum is, is, is, uh, is, is there, let’s make it visible. Right,

Speaker 4:        right. Exactly. Okay.

Speaker 1:        What else would you want to say about asexuality before we wrap up? Any last words?

Speaker 4:        Uh, well, uh, one of the resources I actually realized, I forgot to mention, uh, at one, uh, LGBT indeed book award. Um, it’s this book called the invisible orientation. Um, and it was written by Decker in 2013. I think you can get it on Amazon or wherever else. And it’s a really good resource there. It’s broken into three different sections. It’s broken in. The first section is, I think I might be asexual now. Why. And then I think the second section is I think my family member might be asexual. Now what [inaudible] and the third section is I want to know more about asexuality, but I’m not, and I don’t have a family member who is so it gets a little repetitive if you read the whole book. But it’s a really great book because it’s built for three different audience.

Speaker 1:        That’s awesome. Thank you so much. Now where can people find you, Jared?

Speaker 4:        Uh, well, um, people can uh, check out my website, uh, at Jared booth.com. Uh, they can uh, follow me on Twitter at Jared boots, uh, and I, uh, am working part time at a Fowler center associates in Ann Arbor right now.

Speaker 1:        Okay, great. Thank you so much. I knew you’d be a rich resource and I hope to maybe have you on again and just do more work with you in the future cause you’re, I’m a smart guy and you’re doing really good work. Thank you so much Jared.

Speaker 4:        Thank you for having me. Thank you for paying attention to this important subject. It’s a very important subject. Thank you. See you. Thank you.

Speaker 1:        Thanks for listening to this episode of smart sex, smart love. I’m dr Joe court and you can find me on Joe kort.com that’s J O E K O R t.com. See you next time.

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