Asexual Performativity and the Asexual Spectrum

This is an essay I wrote for a research paper I did which I thought I’d put up here.

Introduction – The Emergence of ‘Asexual Orientation’

Since the early 2000s asexual identity and organizing has gradually emerged with the political aspirations of establishing asexuality as a legitimate sexual identity and has achieved the addition of an ‘A’ to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) acronym – arriving at LGBTIQA.[1] The development and solidification of this movement is largely due to the efforts of the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), formed in 2001 in the USA. With the term ‘asexual’ having been popularized by David Jay, founder of AVEN, the group have been among the most prominent mediums for discourses on asexuality (Hinderliter, 2009). AVEN state having two central goals as part of their advocacy, “creating public acceptance and discussion of asexuality and facilitating the growth of an asexual community” (AVEN, n.d.a). In a context where the absence or lack of sexual interest has faced centuries of pathologisation (Gressgard, 2013, p. 6) and where engaging sexually has increasingly been equated with status and health (Przybylo, 2011), AVEN have facilitated shifts in understandings of asexuality – within both popular culture and academia – from a pathological condition to most commonly a sexual orientation. This is seen in academic and non-academic writing, various documentaries and media reporting’s which have described asexuality as the ‘fourth sexual orientation’ (Bogaert, 2012; Silver, 2014; Roberts, 2012; 20/20, 2012). Much of this representation has been positive representation of asexual identity, showing progress in AVENs first goal. Since the launch of their website asexuality.org AVEN have also gained over 100,000 members from across various parts of the world, with satellite asexual communities having emerged across the globe over multiple languages (AVEN, n.d.b). This shows progress in AVENs second goal also, however, the movement’s main areas of impact have been within Europe and America (Gressgard, 2013, p. 179).

Yet asexuality has proven an evolving community, discourse and identity. Since its popularization asexuality has been challenged as homogenous from within the asexual community, leading to discussions of an asexual spectrum and a variety of new identities having been coined and included within the asexual spectrum such as aromantic, gray-asexual or demisexual (O’Brink, 2014). While adding variety, complexity and rich new vocabulary to understand and capture desire what has largely been left undertheorized, both within grassroots and academic discourses of asexuality, has been the essentialism which has been retained within discussions of asexuality and the asexual spectrum. These essentialist discourses have regarded asexuality and its interlinked identities as pre-discursive sexual or romantic ‘orientations,’ seeing identity as a being rather than a doing. Contrary to viewing the asexual spectrum as a continuum or discursively constituted, identities linked together within this spectrum have displayed a fixed and checklist like assumption – where one may tick various boxes to figure out what one essentially is.

The most common definition of asexuality has been someone who does not experience sexual attraction to people of any gender (Bogaert, 2004; Prause & Graham, 2007; AVEN, n.d.b). This is commonly contrasted with celibacy which is said to be a choice, thus cultural, yet asexuality is a sexual orientation and thus natural (AVEN, n.d.b; Asexuality Archive, 2011). This definition underscores the dominance of essentialist and pre-discursive views of asexuality and sexual identity. Pushing against essentialist notions of identity, this essay draws from and expands upon Judith Butler’s theory of performativity to propose asexuality as performative (Butler, 1990). This critique is particularly relevant as the essentialism of asexual identity threatens to undermine the community’s goals of positive representation and the very facilitation of representation itself. Essentialism stabilizes sexual identity in one form over and against its other possibilities and realities and does so within the sexual norms which constitute sexual minorities within problematic subject positioning’s as injured ‘Others.’ In contrast performativity emphasizes identity as discursive and contingent on already existing sexual norms to examine the subject positioning’s and power-relations which asexuality is constituted within and conduct a critique of identity within these structures.

The performative analysis within this essay will involve asking three question within the three sections which follow: firstly, what structures of power has asexual identity been performed within? Foregrounding the simultaneous constitution and repudiation of asexuality through the heterosexual matrix and its order of sex/gender/desire, the assumptions of compulsory sexuality embedded within this order will be analyzed to highlight the existing norms which constitute asexuality as a problematic subject positioning. Secondly, how may essentialist notions of asexuality reinforced these structures and with what consequences? Examining discourses of the asexual spectrum and asexual orientation, the continued regulatory and exclusionary consequences of stabilizing asexual identity will be foregrounded. Finally, how may asexual performance contest these structures? Drawing on Butler’s theory of performativity, this essay suggests viewing asexuality as a doing rather than a being to open who counts as an asexual open to contestation.

Section 1: The Order of Sex/Gender/Desire within Compulsory (hetero)Sexuality

Butler uses the term heterosexual matrix to describe the grid of cultural intelligibility which bodies, genders and desires are naturalized through (Butler, 1990, p. 208). The heterosexual matrix particularly points towards a hegemonic discursive model of gendered and sexualized norms which (re)produces bodies as intelligible through notions of a natural ‘sex’ expressed through a culturally constructed ‘gender,’ in a hierarchal binary of ‘male/female’ which is conducive of complementary desire – where male desires female and visa-versa. The intelligibility of gender and sexuality within this order requires that certain identities cannot exist or exist as abnormalities – where gender does not ‘follow’ from sex and desire does not follow from either sex or gender (Butler, 1990, p. 24). What can follow is a political relation instituted by cultural norms that establish and regulate the shape and meaning of sexuality. Foregrounding this order and its establishment of sexual normativities highlights the structures asexuality has been constituted within.

Intelligible genders or sexualities are particularly those which maintain coherence through the order of sex/gender/desire. Due to certain identities failing to conform to these norms of intelligibility they appear as developmental failures or logical impossibilities from within this order. Those who fail to conform, however, only become thinkable as failures in relation to its constitution of intelligibility and incoherence. Queer theory and activism has in particular unsettled the hetero in compulsory heterosexuality (Rubin, 1984; Sedgwick, 1990; Butler, 1990). However, little attention has been paid to the sexuality which is implied in this order. Asexual performance contributes this project by brings to light that the heterosexualization of desire is also the sexualization of desire (Gressgard, 2013; Flore, 2013; Chu, 2014).

Embedded within this order is an assumed compulsory practice of sexuality. Within compulsory (hetero)sexuality, ‘persons’ gain intelligibility as naturally ‘human’ through being recognized as sexual subjects. This presumption of the human subject as necessarily a sexual one has been geared towards creating an internal coherence of a ‘human subject’ – one which gains the status of personhood through an assumed innate sexual drive (Flore, 2013). This may explain why many asexuals face confusion and a sense of complex and unexplainable abnormality prior to learning the term and identifying as ‘asexual’ (Milks & Cerankowski, 2014). Asexual identity as well as other sexual minorities become problematic, abnormal or impossible subject positioning’s within this order, yet their very emergence and persistence provides the tools and opportunities to expose the limits of this domain of intelligibility.

The proliferation of asexual identity and organizing challenges the assumption of compulsory sexuality to expose it as a normative ideal rather than a descriptive feature of ‘human’ experience. As essentialist notions of human identity are stabilized through the concept of innate sexuality, ‘the person’ is called into question by the emergence of ‘incoherent’ asexual subjects who fail to conform to the sexualized norms of cultural intelligibility by which persons are defined. In this manner, asexuality brings to question the very ‘human subject.’ The presumption of human nature as essentially sexual is shown as socially instituted to maintain norms of intelligibility.

Section 2: Stabilizing Asexual Being through the Asexual Spectrum

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For the asexual movement the development of a language that is felt to facilitate representation has been necessary to foster visibility considering a history of either misrepresentation or not being represented at all. As such, discourses of asexuality have been evolving since their emergence and popularization to establish a representative discourse. AVEN initially emerged through a singular and stable notion of ‘asexual’ which visibility and representation was pursued for. To an extent the asexual community recognized the premature insistence on a stable asexual identity and the need for its reformulations, resulting in discussions of an ‘asexual spectrum’ which sought to show that sexuality and asexuality are not “black and white” (AVEN, n.d.c). The asexual spectrum has worked to ostensibly account for the gray-zones between sexuality and asexuality, captured by gray-asexual or demisexual identity. Discourses of romantic ‘orientation’ also emerged through the asexual community as members increasingly distinguished between their sexual and romantic attractions. While it is said that asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, they may be romantically inclined in forming non-sexual romantic relationships.

This evolution of asexual identity as occurring within a spectrum has been turned to as ‘the subject’ of asexuality came under question. This was and continues to be relevant as the discourses whereby the subject is reproduced result in extending representation to what can be acknowledged as the subject; the qualifications for being a subject must first be met before representation can be extended. In light of the lack of representation which many felt by the original notion of asexuality, discourses of asexuality and the asexual subject themselves evolved to accommodate representation where it was felt to be foreclosed. Nonetheless, while the stability of asexuality was questioned through the asexual spectrum, the notion of a stable ‘asexuality’ was paradoxically reinforced through the proliferation of new identities included within the spectrum to account for the moments of instability. The propagation of new identities functioned as the optics whereby the asexual was further stabilized as singular and specific ‘sexual orientation’ through the very attempts to challenge this homogeneity. The continued stabilization of ‘asexuality’ and its interlinked identities may be seen in the ‘asexual spectrums’ retention of a distinct binary between ‘sexual’ and ‘asexual’ – with the spectrum shown to stretch from asexual to sexual, with gray-zones in between. Yet how possible is it to create a distinction between asexuality and sexuality? Is such a distinction even desirable?

This presumption of a necessary distinction between ‘asexual’ and ‘sexual’ is challenged by those who have come to identify with both asexual and sexual identities. Tracing the confusions of identifying within legitimated regimes of sexual norms, Danielle Cooper writes “why can’t I self-identify as experiencing same-sex sexual attraction and opposite-sex asexual attraction” (Przybylo & Cooper, 2014, p. 297). In a similar vein Ryan Sheehan, a self-identified cisgender gay male writes “it has been difficult to explain to others how I occasionally desire nonsexual intimate connections” (Sheehan, 2015, p. 1). The presumption of ‘asexual identity’ as necessarily an opposite of ‘sexuality identity’ functions to stabilize a discursively constituted distinction with regulatory consequences of continued exclusions. If the asexual spectrum stretches from asexual to sexual, is it possible to exist within two positions among this spectrum? Can one be both sexual and asexual? Can the spectrum account for the diversities in desires and practices of those who position themselves within the same points on the spectrum? Does the spectrum represent a continuity or stable positions one is either in or not in, and never between?

Furthermore, as discourses of romantic attraction have been included within the spectrum, how do romantic ‘orientations’ enter this spectrum? The convergence between sexual and romantic ‘orientation’ has increasingly been thought of as a grid with two axis, one where the representation of sexual attraction is displayed and the other for the representation of romantic attraction. Yet is it possible to separate sexual attraction and romantic attraction into two discrete and separate categories? The persistence of demisexual identities – those who develop sexual attraction only following the development of romantic attraction – seems to suggest greater overlap between romantic and sexual desire than their separation on the spectrum has assumed. As does Coopers self-identification as homosexual, homoromantic and heteroromantic. We may further ask, how do the many other forms of attraction which asexual communities have used to describe their attractions enter into or complicate the spectrum, such as aesthetic, sensual, emotional or intellectual attraction (LGBTQ Center, n.d.). How do we account for this? Can we account for this? Should we attempt to account for this by formulating increasingly complex grids?

This presumed distinction between asexual and sexual, aromantic and romantic, and the very assumption of stable and unified subjects in advance may paradoxically undermines AVEN’s very goals of representation and the expansion of community through representation. How possible is it to find ‘truths’ which bond diverse populations together into distinct categories of sexual or romantic categories and represent these truths of ones being within a two dimensional graph? If we cannot do so then continued insistence on stable sexual and romantic identities generates the need and possibilities for their own refusal and reformulation. In this manner, asexuality identity also faces similar problems to other projects of identity politics when the term assumes a common identity. Rather than functioning as a stable signifier, even in the plural, asexual or an interrelated identity cannot be all one is. Nor can it capture the diversity of experiences of those who identify within the same categories, or those who fall outside of its methods of categorization. The term fails to be exhaustive, but instead homogenizes diverse ranges of desires into stable identities and has the potential to erase existing desires. By way of analogy, we may consider how sexual identities in general cannot work as stable signifiers and how this also relates to asexual identity.

The subjectless critiques of queer theory unsettle attempts to categorizing populations into distinct categories through sexual identity (Butler, 1990; Foucault, 1978; Eng, Halberstam, & Muñoz, 2005; Better & Simula, 2015; Beasley, Holmes, & Brook, 2015). Discourses of asexuality may be seen to have been normalized and legitimated through the heterosexual matrix’s ‘gender-centric’ (Better & Simula, 2015) notions of ‘sexual orientation’ – with desire seen to follow from sex/gender. The common trope of asexuality as the ‘fourth sexual orientation’ has contrasted asexuality with existing sexual identities to produce certain meanings over-and-against others; It is often said that “Heterosexuals are attracted to the opposite sex, homosexuals are attracted to the same sex, and asexuals aren’t attracted to any sex” (Asexuality Archive, 2011). Sexual identities and in particular notions of ‘sexual orientation’ when functioning as taxonomic tools attempt to categories populations into discrete sexual identities that revolve around sex/gender and which populations are assumed to naturally be subdivided by. As Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick notes in Epistemology of the Closet:

It is a rather amazing fact that, of the very many dimensions along which the genital activity of one person can be differentiated from that of another…, precisely one, the gender of object choice, emerged from the turn of the century, and has remained as the dimension denoted by the now ubiquitous category of ‘sexual orientation’ (Sedgwick, 1990, p. 8)

Though not drawing directly from Butler’s heterosexual matrix, we may see that Sedgwick’s identifies that discourses of sexual orientation as formulated within the order of sex/gender/desire have overwhelmingly interpreted desire as existing in relation to sex/gender. Sedgwick further notes that there is more to sexuality than knowing the gender identity we are attracted to, suggesting we also turn our attention to other factors such as “effeminacy, butchness, femmeness” or “other terms, too, such as top and bottom” (Sedgwick, 1995, p. 16). We may further add that there is more to sexuality than knowing who we are not sexually attracted to and what acts we are not interested in and may turn to the same or similar terms to capture the forms of attraction asexuals and aromantics do have.

Similar to Sedgwick, Better and Simula call for a broadening of research to encompass dimensions of sexuality which are not formed in relation to gender preferences (Better & Simula, 2015). Drawing on the tensions between how individuals self-identify sexually and their sexual practices or the gender of their partners, they question gender as a prominent focal point in directing our thinking of sexuality as orientated around sex/gender for its failures to capture dimensions of sexuality and desire which are not exclusively, or at all, related to sex/gender. As they note, other factors such as race (668, 669), BDSM roles (671, 672-4) or personal connection (675) may be just as, or more, important in ones sexuality. What forms of desires and attractions may asexuals have, how may these be erased and how may they be captured?

The term asexual has drawn in a diverse range of people for various reasons. Many self-identified asexuals have even discussed having sexual attractions or sex with a preferred sex/gender, as seen in discussions of ‘asexuals who like sex’ (Asexual Agenda, 2013). Nonetheless ‘asexuals who like sex’ are drawn to identifying as asexual for various reasons, for example only liking certain forms of sexual activity and not others, having sexual attraction but no desire to engage,  having desire to engage but no sexual attraction, or desiring to do something for their partner. This highlights certain problems with a stable asexual identity. How do we draw lines between attraction, desires and engagement? If demi-sexuality and gray-asexuality are able to capture gray-zones on a spectrum between sexuality and asexuality, which identity is positioned closer to sexuality and which to asexuality? To what extent may one develop sexual attraction which distinguishes sexuality from gray-asexuality? To what extent does one need to develop romantic attraction to develop sexual attraction which distinguishes sexuality from demi-sexuality? In contrast to views that “[a]sexuality describes an orientation, not behaviour” It appears the very opposite may be true, that asexuality is a behaviour, or the lack of, and not an orientation (Asexuality Archive, 2011).

The problem of regulatory consequences, erasure and continued exclusion cannot be resolved through appealing to identity for strategic purposes as the exclusions will sustain unintended consequences (Butler, 1990, p. 6). By continuously relying on a representational politics articulated through the stabilization of identities, the asexuality movement opens itself up to accusations of misrepresentation. The task may then not appear to be one which involves creating more complex grids to map out the truths of what one is, consequently stabilizing the subject through presumptions of what will count as the subject. It may instead be to create room to contest the subject and allow room for representation to those who may be excluded by its stabilization. As Erica Chu warns “those of us intending to further this line of research: are we taking theoretical positions that value all identities – including those still forming? What new revisions will come, and how can we create theoretical construction that affirm the full diversity that exists amongst those with asexual identities, those with erotic identities, and those with identities we have yet to encounter?” (Chu, 2014, p. 93). This warning may be best accounted for by considering (a)sexuality as a performative doing rather than an essential being.

Section 3: Performativity and Asexual ‘Doing’

In eluding essentialist notions of asexual ‘being’ in favour of asexual ‘doing’ Butler’s theory of performativity proves particularly useful. Originally coined through an analysis of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ which complicated and destabilized assumptions of fixed categories such as ‘women’ or ‘men,’ performativity points towards an anti-essentialist understanding of identity. Challenging the nature/culture divide which sees sex as natural and gender as cultural, Butler argues that both are discursive constructs – in particular that gender is the means by which sex is rendered as natural and pre-discursive (Butler, 1990, p. 7). When sex is thought of as natural and gender as cultural, the link between the two is left unexamined, as is the assumed biological nature of sex. Yet if what is natural and what is cultural is not as easy to distinguish as commonly assumed then the presumed ‘reality’ of sex which gender is said to imitate itself is exposed as an imitation, parodying the notion of an original (Butler, 1990, p. 188).

This nature/culture divide is also how asexuality has been understood. Commonly contrasted with celibacy to produce meaning, it is generally stated that unlike celibacy which is said to be a choice and thus cultural asexuality is a sexual orientation and thus natural (AVEN, n.d.b). This popular trope of asexuality utilizes the nature/culture divide to relegate and safeguard asexuality as natural and pre-discursive through definitions of celibacy as cultural. Pryzbola has contested this distinction arguing that “celibacy and asexuality may both be imagined as politically motivated “choices”” (Przybylo & Cooper, 2014, p. 307). Yet as Butler and Athanasiou hint towards, the issue of ‘choice’ and ‘sexual orientation’ are both complicated as neither can specifically capture the performative nature of sexual identity and its relation to norms and structures of power (Butler & Athanasiou, 2013, pp. 47-49).

Performativity highlights the discursive formation and reproduction of ‘the subject,’ as opposed to taking the subject for granted through assumptions of its existence prior to discourse; as Butler argues “the question of “the subject” is crucial for politics” (Butler, 1990, p. 4). Drawing on Michel Foucault, performativity positions subjects as (re)produced within and in relation to structures of power – with power conveying the expression of relations between individuals and collectives which are productive of certain possibilities over-and-against others (Blasius, 1994, p. 17). It is by being positioned against structures of power and its legitimation of certain norms in which the subject is formed, defined, and continuously reproduced. This is opposed to essentialist views of identities as fixed, permanent or existing prior to discourse.

In regards to sexuality, essentialism is the idea that sexuality is a natural force and properties of individuals which exist before discourse, social life and institutions (Rubin, 1984, p. 149). Essentialist notions of sexuality have predominatly searched for the ‘truths’ of sex to explain what one essentially is (Foucault, 1978, p. 56). Such views have particularly been evident in psychiatry, medicine, psychology and academic studies of sex/gender and sexuality (Foucault, 1978, pp. 23-25; Rubin, 1984, p. 149; Gressgard, 2013). This search for ‘truths’ of sex has not been undermined by emergence and proliferation of those who identify as asexual. On the contrary, the emergence of asexual identity has been followed by expert disciplines which have attempted to find the truths of asexuality. As Gressgard has argued, the discursive formation of asexual identity has particularly taken place through liaisons between expert fields of knowledge production which have sought to produce these truths through an interface with, and often in support of, asexual activists, AVEN members and the goals of AVEN (Gressgard, 2013, p. 179). Pushing against the ‘expert’ discourses which search for the ‘truths’ of (a)sexuality, performativity allows us to examine identity through an anti-essentialist framework by underlining the enactment of identity through iterative parodies of the notion of an original. This is not to suggest one wakes up and decides which identity to perform for the day and choose a new identity to perform the next. Performative parodies of identity are not necessary intentional nor simply a matter of choice but instead they draw from a history of such citations being given meaning to produce intelligibility within existing regimes of knowledge and structures of power.

The performative nature of identity highlights the non-permanent and malleable nature of identity, problematizing the possibilities of representation occurring when the subject is presumed in advance (Butler, 1990, p. 8). Nor will not be enough to mobilize around representation through the same structures which identity is constituted within. Doing so becomes particularly problematic when those structures and discourses which asexual identity relies on for its articulation positions the asexual as an ‘Other,’ outside of the very norms of personhood, with injury and exclusion being codified as identity (Brown, 1995, p. 21). When seeking representation through structures which produce the subject as injured, uncritical appeal to those same systems for positive representation may itself be self-defeating. A performative view of asexuality may be able to elude this problem through shifting our focus from the subject to how the subject is produced within the field of power to critique identity within the very structures in which it is continually reproduced.

In doing so performativity may prove useful in theorizing poststructuralist concerns over meaning, being and doing (Sedgwick, 1993, pp. 1-2). Drawing on Friedrich Nietzsche argument that “there is no “being” behind doing… “the doer” is merely a fiction added to the deed – the deed is everything” Butler argued that that “gender is always a doing, though not a doing by a subject who might be said to preexist the deed” (Butler, 1990, p. 34). Yet asexual performativity may require alternative understanding than gender, queer and sexual performativity. What form of doing is asexuality when specifically positioning itself against forms of ‘doing’? As a negative or anti identity, a reversal of sexuality, what asexual performativity may draw attention to is that the eminence of the deed, when the deed is everything, drives the very absence of the deed to constitute a form of performance of there being ‘those who do’ and ‘those who do not do.’ Yet the notion of ‘those who do not do’ requires certain forms of doing to constitute itself; the iterative speech acts when performing asexual identity, the ‘coming out’ as asexual, the moments of rejecting the expectations to engage, asexual organizing, organizing within pride parades, and the singing of asexual chants such as ‘asexy and I know it!’ Such acts are examples of where the ‘doing’ of asexuality occur.

Asexual subjectivity – and the performance of subjectivity in general – involves citation and impersonation, whether one is impersonating another asexual subject, a sexual subject or themselves (Weber, 1998, p. 79). Naturalizing the ‘being’ of a subject involves the hard work, and for asexuals the technological privileges, of accessing and reiterating accepted discourse as being a subject – a sex, gender or sexuality – is impossible and the accepted discourses to naturalize this sense of ‘being’ are constantly changing. Yet recognizing asexuality as a doing and the fragmentations within those who ‘do’ may work to facilitate coalition precisely because the unity of identity is neither presumed nor desired. Some efforts have been made to articulate asexual identity through formulations which do not assume in advance the content of ‘asexual.’ As the conclusion to AVENs overview page state:

There is no litmus test to determine if someone is asexual. Asexuality is like any other identity- at its core, it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out. If at any point someone finds the word asexual useful to describe themselves, we encourage them to use it for as long as it makes sense to do so (AVEN, Overview, n.d.d).

While essentialist notions of ‘the fourth orientation,’ the nature/culture, asexual/celibate divide and even those displayed through the asexual spectrum have gained greater prominence, it is this ethos which opens room for representation where essentialism may foreclose its possibility.

Conclusion

This essay has argued that while asexual identity has been constituted through the heterosexual matrix’s order of sex/gender/desire, it also contributes to challenging this order. Intelligibility within this order has assumed the ‘human subject’ as a necessarily sexual one which asexuality unsettles. Nonetheless, while destabilizing sexual regimes of intelligibility, discourses of asexuality have unintentionally, yet problematically and in contrast to queer aims, also reproduced this system through attempts to legitimate asexuality within the fields of power in which it is constituted. To highlight this asexual identity was examined in relation to the asexual spectrum. Far from resembling a spectrum as a continuum, discourses of the asexual spectrum have worked to stabilize the identities which have been incorporated within it and systems of understanding desire as in relation to sex/gender. Yet even as a continuum, a spectrum may fail to account for diversity and construct distinctions which may exclude desires of some from representation. While the spectrum was turned towards to facilitate greater representation, which to an extent has been achieved, it may paradoxically also display regulatory and exclusionary consequences.

These consequences underline the importance of recognizing the performative nature of asexuality – its expression as a modality of power through discourse – and its relevance for asexual communities in achieving the mutual goals of positive representation and representation itself. The stabilization of identity sets out in advance the criteria which subjects must adhere to for representation to be extended, reinstituting relations of domination and exclusion which are sustained through seeking representation within the existing structures which performativity may confront and bypass. The performative analysis undergone within this essay does not appears to suggest a need to refuse a politics of representation and identity or the asexual spectrum necessarily. Instead it points towards a need to question the search for inherent truths and essential notions of asexuality and its interlinked identities as ‘beings.’ The task may instead be to formulate a critique of identity categories within the structures that produce, reproduce and stabilize them in one form as opposed to another. It is suggested that to facilitate greater representation of asexual subjectivity we may leave who counts as asexual and what counts as asexual ‘doing’ open to contestation rather than intensifying attempts to stabilize the subject. While AVEN have advocated for opening the term to whoever may feel the need for representation through it, essentialist notions of asexuality have nonetheless appeared to gain greater attention than anti-essentialist positions.

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Sedgwick, E. (1995). Gosh, Boy George, you must be awfully secure in your masculinity. In M. Berger, B. Wallis, S. Watson, & C. Weems, Constructing Masculinity (pp. 11-20). New York: Routledge.

Sheehan, R. (2015). A-Identity politics: Asexual exceptionalism, precarity, and activism. George Mason University: USA.

Silver, M. (2014, June 24). The fourth sexual orientation. Retrieved from Stuff: http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/love-sex/10192627/The-fourth-sexual-orientation

The 4th sexuality: Asexuality (2013). [Motion Picture].

Weber, C. (1998). Performative states. Millenium: Journal of International studies, 27(1), 77-95.

[1] This is not an official acronym or so. The ‘A’ is often also said to stand for ally rather than asexual

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I'm Aran and I like political theory. Particularly feminist, queer, green, postcolonial and poststructural modalities of political theorizing. Heavily critique me.

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Posted in Queer Theory
One comment on “Asexual Performativity and the Asexual Spectrum
  1. […] civilization-phase-iii wrote about asexual performativity and the asexual spectrum. […]

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