A-Identity Politics: Asexual Exceptionalism, Precarity, and Activism




Sheehan, Ryan

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This thesis explores the rhetoric of asexual awareness activists, specifically in regards to recent formulations within queer and post-structural feminist theory regarding precarity, vulnerability, and affect. An asexual is broadly defined as one who does not experience sexual attraction to others. While the term has existed throughout the history of sexology, the community and identity were formed in 2001 when David Jay created the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN). Queer and post-structural feminist analyses of have worked to elucidate asexuality’s cultural and discursive contingencies. This thesis builds upon much of this scholarship, but considers recent trends in queer and feminist theory towards conceptualizations of precarity: institutional discourses that maximize one’s sense of vulnerability. Precarity, I contend, creates a need for individuals to render their narrative recognizable by relying on discourses of cultural exceptionality along intersectional axes of identity. In considering the propensity for awareness activist to utilize exceptional narratives, I provide close readings of asexual awareness activist materials: Angela Tucker’s (2011) documentary (A)sexual, which features David Jay; along with The Invisible Orientation and “The Asexuality Top Ten” by Julie Sondra Decker. I conclude that while both of these texts offer important critiques of Western society’s conceptualization of intimacy and recognition, they are also predicated upon normative discourses in order to exceptionalize their subjects. I conclude by considering future possibilities for asexuality studies that could reconceptualize the politics of recognition and consider new directions for discussions of the affective and discursive elements of asexuality.



Asexuality, Queer theory, Feminist theory, Post-structuralism, Rhetoric, Precarity