Friday, October 28, 2011

A Feminist Approach to Asexuality

In the Fall 2010 issue of Feminist Studies, there was an article on asexuality that was written by Karli June Cerankowski and Megan Milks.  It was entitled New Orientations: Asexuality and Its Implications for Theory and Practice.  The article was a call for a new academic approach to asexuality, one that overlapped with women and genders studies.  Despite it being a relatively short article, I feel it is one of the most important ones out there.  Cerankowski and Milks have pointed out the connections of asexuality to gender and sexuality theories, thereby creating a dialogue of asexuality as identity rather than as a disorder or abnormality.

The article looks at the online community of asexuality, which has been steadily growing since 2001 and has grown into a worldwide movement.  Asexuality is steadily gaining the visibility that asexuals desire.  There is currently a documentary in the making called Asexuality: The Making of a Movement, by Angela Tucker.  In 2009, for the first time ever, asexuals from AVEN marched in the San Francisco Pride parade.  They received support and acceptance from the watching crowd.  Indeed, the most support asexuals receive is from the LGBTQ community, further evidence of intersecting dialogues of sexuality and sexual identity.

Milk and Cerankowski are interested in tracking how asexuality intersects with discussions of feminism and gender.  They mention the diversity of asexuality and what constitutes it.  For example, someone who does not engage in sex but does not identify as asexual is generally not considered asexual.  Perhaps the most interesting part of this particular article is their discussion of its relevance to the pro-sex/anti-porn sex wars of the 1980s.  Using critiques from these two very different arguments, they theorize that asexuals can create a new discussion about how to avoid sexual hierarchies and also caution us about using terms such as "dysfunctional" and "repressed" especially in connection with one's sexual identity.

Perhaps another important discussion is whether or not asexuality can be considered inherently queer.  There is a worry that this makes the notion of queer much too general: defining it as simply "outside the norm".  However, there are some asexuals that do identify as queer and the parallels between the treatment of both groups is undeniable.  Asexual people are often told that they have not fully developed their sexual identity, not experienced their sexuality, or are hiding from it and then interrogated about past trauma or abuse.  Asexuality has been viewed solely as a disorder and still considered a disorder.  When brought up, it is often used to describe something negative (like the classroom experience I mentioned in the second post).  When looking at these similarities, it is no wonder that the asexual community has found such an ally in the LGBTQ community.

Cerankowski and Milks end on a positive note.  Both are working to expand the dialogue around asexuality and asexual issues.  Together, they are hoping to edit a volume of various studies and theoretical perspectives on asexuality.  This article is an important one for expanding the current dialogue on asexuality as a political movement and I highly recommend looking it up.

Tomorrow is the final day of the first every Asexual Awareness Week.  Overall, I am pleased with how this blog/site has been received and I hope it is just the first step in creating an awareness of asexuality within Beloit College.

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