Senior Stories: Mark Smith: Not your average sex study

Mark Smith has spent his time at GW trying to unravel a concept that many others have never even considered: human asexuality.

The lack of sexual attraction in humans, says Smith, is a subject that has been explored from a psychological perspective. But what he believes distinguishes his study is that it is the first to examine the issue from an anthropological angle.

To start, he has distributed a survey to members of asexuality.org, an online forum that brings together 18,000 people who experience no sexual attraction. And this June, Smith will travel to San Francisco to march with the asexual contingent in the annual LBGT pride parade.

His goal is “to collect and analyze discovery narratives” – in other words, he will try to understand how it is that asexuals discover that part about themselves.

But besides the intriguing research, there is a lot more to Smith’s collegiate career. Recently, he started volunteering at the Suicide Prevention Action Network. He says what motivated him to do this was his interest in advocating reform of the U.S. health care system.

“In a way, it’s like becoming a lobbyist,” he said.

Smith, who is graduating a year early, said that he would like to spend a lot of time overseas. And as someone who has studied Spanish, French, Arabic, Japanese and Farsi, he would be well equipped to do it. Specifically, he said he would like to work in East or Southeast Asia.

“I think Japan is fascinating,” he said, expressing possible interest in living there in the near future.

If not, he says he is looking into graduate school, specifically a master’s program in humanities and social thought at New York University. Whether he will attend immediately out of college or after a year of working in his field, he says, is yet to be determined.

Either way, Smith has accumulated a diverse foundation of experiences. In D.C. he has volunteered with For Love of Children, a nonprofit organization that works to alleviate the problem of child abuse and neglect.

For now he is concentrated on getting his research proposal approved by GW’s Institutional Review Board. He is optimistic about his prospectus and eager to continue his study. Asexuality, he said, is an especially thorny subject considering that it is so seldom discussed.

“How do you know something about yourself if you’ve never heard of it?” Smith said.

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