ABS 2024
What Can Human Asexuality Teach Us about Animal Behavior?
Matthew E. Nielsen1,2. 1University of Bremen, Bremen, , Germany; 2University of Helsinki, Helsinki, , Finland

Heterosexuality is often portrayed as a “biological” imperative for humans and a fundamental part of our nature. These assumptions are often justified through analogies to animal behavior. Careful behavioral reasoning, however, reveals that instead the opposite is happening: a limited view of human sexuality is being applied as a restrictive metaphor to animal behavior. If we don’t even fully understand human sexuality and its diversity, how can it possibly be an appropriate model for animals. Considering human asexuality—a sexual orientation characterized by a lack of sexual attraction to others—can help us move beyond these assumptions. Critically, asexuality (like other sexual orientations) cannot be determined by observation of a person’s behavior because there are many other reasons that people engage or don’t engage in sexual activity. Likewise, just because we observe animals engaging in sex and associated behaviors, it does not mean they follow a heterosexual model of attraction. Avoiding anthropomorphic assumptions of sexuality can allow us to develop new models of animal behavior with less “human” bias while also combating restrictive assumptions on humans.