Why are there so few asexual men?

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2015.  I made a few minor updates, but all the speculation still applies today.

In my analysis of the 2014 AVEN Survey of online asexual communities, I showed that only 12% of aces (aces = people on the asexual spectrum) are men.    According to my numbers, the fraction of asexuals who are men is similar.  [Update: The 2015 Asexual Census finds the same result.]  Someone asked me why that is, and I thought I’d make my answer public.

Extant data

In a community survey of AVEN in 2008, 28% of asexuals were men.  Another community survey in 2011 reported 13% of aces were men.  A Spanish-language community survey in 2013 reports that 36% of asexuals were assigned male at birth.

These are all community surveys conducted online, and they only tell us about people in the various online communities.  They do not tell us about asexuals or asexual-spectrum people in general.

However, there was also an academic study conducted in 2004, based on a national probability sample in the UK in 1994.  In that study 35% of asexuals were men.  In theory, this should tell us about asexuals in general, although there are many reasons to worry about systematic biases.


1. Asexuality contradicts certain ideas of what men are supposed to be like.  For example, men might be expected to be hypersexual, or they might be expected not to talk about personal feelings.  This may make men less likely to acknowledge that they are ace.  Although I could also imagine a world where this makes men more likely to realize they are different.

2. People with penises might think they simply can’t be ace.  I mean, most of these people get erections, and rates of masturbation are generally higher.  Even though these characteristics are compatible with asexuality, it may stop people from identifying with it.

3. Men are expected to initiate.  So if you’re an ace woman, you can expect lots of bothersome unwanted solicitations.  If you’re an ace man, you can just try not to think about it too hard.

4. Maybe it’s really less common amongst men.  Who can say?

5. There could be a networking effect.  In the 2014 AVEN survey, non-ace people (i.e. those not on the asexual spectrum) were encouraged to respond.  The non-ace respondents are not representative of the general population, but come from “near” the ace community (predominantly Tumblr).  17.5% of the non-ace respondents were men, which is somewhat more than the ace respondents, but still quite low.  [Update: In the 2015 survey, 26% of non-ace respondents were men.]

The theory is that there are many spaces, such as Tumblr, which are for whatever reason more popular among women than men.  Because the asexual community is made up mostly of women, they will gravitate towards those spaces, generating more of a presence, and attracting even more women.

6. Even if men are identifying as asexual at rates comparable to women, it could be that they’re less likely to stay in the community for as long.  Possibly they feel less need for the community because they have fewer problems to deal with.  Alternatively, they experience more problems to deal with, within the community.

Further reading

For perspectives on the experiences of asexual men, I recommend the Asexual Archive, and some stuff on The Asexual Agenda.  [Update: I also recommend some more recent writing by Michael Paramo]


  1. A. Noyd says

    I wonder if the widespread tendency to base men’s sexuality on the sexual objectification of women confuses asexual men’s ability to identify their lack of sexual attraction. If you’re always told it’s normal to consider women merely a means to an orgasm, then it’s probably harder to realize that non-ace men are feeling something more than that.

  2. says

    Maybe A Noyd is onto something there. Not ace here, but the way I was socialized to objectify was so constant and over the top (junior high the fucking worst), that if I was less sexual I could see myself getting confused about what that meant. My boyfriend points to some of his observations of dudes in tha wild that hint they are less sexual than we are led to believe.

    Example: When surveyed about which of a sequence of women was the sexiest, a solid majority chose the one with a socially-acceptable-as-sexy description, while the women didn’t look all that different from each other. As a sexual person without too much madonna-whore damage, I am horny for who I’m horny for, not for how they fit a check list of prestige traits. If more men were actually sexual, I suspect they would have had more diverse interests in that survey. Attraction can be influenced by social damage, but not to the extent 90% of anonymous randos would go for “thin with large breasts” as words under a fairly average looking person. I’d think.

    Example 2: When you look at “incels” and MRA types, the perfect woman some of them describe suggests they’re so unfamiliar with how human bodies work that they might not even see very much porn. Feels like they see the object of their possessiveness as something required for social status, rather than something they physically desire.

    All unscientific conjecture, but it’s what I do.

  3. milù says

    Your guesses seem to assume asexuality somehow pre-dates socialisation (a kind of “born that way” rationale) but what if asexuality is more often than not an acquired orientation?

    Then, seeing how straight sexuality is generally more dangerous for women than for men under the current patriarcal regime, and most women are straight, it would make sense that more women than men would “choose” (maybe not consciously) to opt out.
    Is that a horrible thing to say? i’m ace myself, but not straight cis female so i might be talking out my ass. Please if this is offensive to someone and they’re up to explaining me why i’d be very grateful.

    Another possibly still worse root cause (ugh.. well) is biology. disclaimer i know this is de facto MRA turf—i just dont think thats reason enough to throw the baby with the bathwater. So, for the record i do not believe that “genetically predisposed=good or inevitable”.. dont know if thats a good enough disclaimer; please just trust me i’m not an MRA/troll ok?

    The hypothesis is that human females have less of an evolutionary “need” for a sex drive; they can be impregnated by force (this seems to occur in many other animal species), so “innate” asexuality makes sense genetically whereas its more of an evolutionary aberration in males.

  4. says

    With the ace community being 12% men vs 64% women, sexual pain disorders would have to affect the majority of ace women in order to account for that difference. AFAIK they are not so widespread. There are studies that address this question, but I don’t have a citation on hand.

    @A. Noyd & GAS,
    Hmm, maybe one thing to think about, is that there are multiple expressions of asexuality, with some aces maybe being able to go along with the cultural messaging that some sort of sexual ideal is sexy, and others not. Your hypothesis would be that the former type of expression makes it harder for (cis) ace men to realize that they’re ace. This would suggest that among self-identified aces, the former type of expression is less common among cis men than it is among cis women. I don’t think we could really test this but I find it helpful to imagine how we could test it, hypothetically.

    So, I think both of these hypotheses fall under #4. One issue with the “choice” hypothesis is that most people don’t have a subjective experience of choosing anything, and it’s not clear that a lot of aces have a preference for being ace early on. Your suggestion that it has to do with straight sexuality being more dangerous for women… that might cause people to have a subjective preference one way or another, but then if this “choice” doesn’t follow our subjective preferences, it’s not clear how that factor is relevant. Perhaps another hypothesis, is that people make choices which affects the probability that they are ace, but people are not aware that the choices have that effect. Men and women systematically make different choices, that much is obvious.

    As for the evolutionary hypothesis, that could be, but it’s worth noting that “evolutionary aberration” isn’t really a concept in evolution. It’s better to think of it as population diversity. I don’t know much about sexual dimorphism so it’s hard for me to address this.

  5. sonofrojblake says

    If you’re an ace man, you can just try not to think about it too hard.

    If you’re an ace man, why would you need to try not to think about it? (The daily deluge of advertising bullshit notwithstanding – I don’t have to *try* not to think about smoking, for instance, and never have.)

    It seems perfectly reasonable that something like this would disproportionately affect one gender rather than the other, and while “blaming” biology might be right out of the MRA playbook, like a stopped clock, on this occasion they may just be right by coincidence. /shrug/ Does it matter?

  6. says

    Well the main problem with a biological explanation, is that it doesn’t explain why the percentage changes over time and across communities. Although it’s not like we have to stick to just one explanation, probably multiple work in tandem.

  7. says

    I think it’s pretty well accepted now there are multiple causes of asexuality, and anyone experiencing any of them should be considered valid if they choose to identify as asexual. At least, in the community as I’ve seen it, in random posts on tumblr.

  8. sennkestra says

    For comparison, I think there are some interesting glimpses in the NCHA surveys, which represent a different type of sampling in that they explicitly ask about identification as “asexual” (unlike Bogaert and other NATSAL research) but have a somewhat random sample (of college students), unlike most existing research which pulls from ace communities: http://www.acha-ncha.org/reports_ACHA-NCHAIIc.html

    Caveat: There’s some controversy around whether everyone who checks “asexual” on a survey like this would actually consider themselves asexual in the way the current ace community does, especially if that’s their first exposure to the word, but I think that argument can be made about a lot of survey data so I’m setting that aside for now, and I think it’s still useful data either way.

    In the last couple NCHA surveys, ~5% of men, ~5-7% of women, and ~7-9% of “unknown” (which I believe probably includes some nonbinary folk) identified as asexual in a multiple choice question. In this dataset, it looks like women and “other” did report asexuality at higher rates, but not to the level we might expect from ace research.

    Compare that also to bisexuality (2-3% / 5-7% / 5-7%) – there’s a similar pattern there, and it’s one that seems to pop up in other research as well. I think that it’s definitely worth looking into similar parallels from bisexuality research that often find that men are less likely / women are more likely to identify as bisexual (for reasons that are again hotly disputed). Pansexual and Queer seem to follow similar trends, although it’s harder to tell due to small sample sizes overall.

    On another note, though, the NCHA survey seems to regularly get twice as many female as male respondents, which is much more disparate than most actual ratios of college students, so that raises another point to consider – that “maybe women like taking surveys more” is another confounding factor to consider.

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