Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives (July 15, 2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Karli June Cerankowski, Stanford University; Megan Milks, University of Illinois at Chicago

"Asexual: a person who does not experience sexual attraction." This definition is provided on the homepage of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), a web community of nearly 30,000 members worldwide that is generally considered the mouthpiece of the asexual community. AVEN's political platform calls for the depathologization of asexuality and the recognition of asexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation, with AVEN working toward these goals through an engagement with a variety of media – their website, blogs and discussion boards, guest appearances on television talk shows, documentary film, and participation in public events like Pride parades and public sex workshops.

The emergent academic discourse of asexuality has been primarily concentrated in descriptive, qualitative studies in sociology and social psychology (Boegart, Prause and Graham, Scherrer). While this type of scholarship is useful and necessary, and as asexuality continues to gain recognition, largely due to the efforts of AVEN, we are looking to broaden the scope of the study of asexuality through critical engagement across multiple fields and disciplines, including but not limited to cultural studies, literary studies, science studies, history, and anthropology. In this interdisciplinary exploration of asexualities, we are particularly seeking out papers that employ feminist and queer methods of analysis.

In a commentary forthcoming in Feminist Studies, we suggest that a concentrated study of asexuality is most appropriately begun at the cornerstones of feminist and queer studies, as asexuality challenges many existing assumptions about gender and sexuality. In putting together an anthology on asexualities, we are interested in pushing beyond descriptive scientific analysis into new territory that explores the multiple ways of being asexual and thinking about asexuality in connection to sex practice, politics, gender, race, class, religion, location, and so on. We invite scholars from across the disciplines to critically theorize asexuality in relation to gender studies, sexuality studies, feminist studies, and queer studies.

How might we begin to analyze and contextualize a sexuality that by its very definition undermines perhaps the most fundamental contemporary assumption about human sexuality: that all people experience, or should experience, sexual desire? How do we understand asexuality as a sexual orientation or sexual identity, and as a way of relating to others? How can we theorize asexuality in connection to race and/or class? What questions does asexuality raise for gender identities? How might asexuality conflict with or confront a sex-positive ethics? How do we understand the rhetoric and politics of AVEN in connection to community formations and activism around sexual identities?

With this project, we are interested in not only collecting but also inciting scholarship on asexuality. Possible topics include but are by no means limited to:

-asexuality and queerness
-asexuality and pro-sex feminism
-asexuality and disability
-asexuality and race
-asexuality and religion
-asexuality and virginity
-asexuality and celibacy
-asexuality and eating disorders
-asexuality and transgender/gender variant/genderqueer identifications
-asexuality and kinship structures
-asexuality and love
-asexuality and biomedical and/or psychological discourses
-asexuality and the DSM
-asexuality and liberatory politics
-asexuality and neoliberalism
-the asexual community and online identity formation
-the asexual movement and the rhetoric of collective identity

Please submit a 300-500 word abstract or proposal by July 15, 2010 to Karli June Cerankowski ( and Megan Milks ( Full drafts of essays will be due by November 15, 2010.