Asexuality in a History’s Afterword

I’ve been browsing for some published works on asexuality. Demisexuality usually leads to “0 results”. The sparse information disappoints, but I’ve found a few treasures I’ll be reading.

One find I wished to share with you in time for the Carnival of Aces on History. I was overjoyed to see asexuality in the glossary of The Routledge History of Sex and the Body: 1500 to the Present. Granted, it led to the “Afterword”, but Lisa Downing used it to share a few good thoughts about asexuality from an academic and historical perspective.

“Bisexuality and asexuality are particularly significant modalities of identity that have arisen in counter- or reverse-discursive forms in recent years, as mode of resistance to dominant narratives of both sexual orientation organized on the principles of binary sexed and gendered attraction and to compulsory sexuality.

“Histories of sexuality have been rather silent on the subject of asexuality, understood in the current sense of an identity or ‘orientation’, rather than historically as a projection onto certain groups and classes of an ‘innate nature’ (such as women in the eighteenth century, following discourses of domesticity, as Kathryn Na[?]burg shows).

“A genealogy of asexuality might show that its discursive progressors are celibacy, a disciplinary practice of clerics, and the medicalized diagnoses of frigidity and impotence. Such a genealogy would offer a unique insight into the ways in which identity formation can issue from the silences, stigmas and stereotypes and would demonstrate an unusual temporal drag.” (‘drag’ as in lapse in time and ‘drag’ as in performance of gender or sex, coined by Elizabeth Freeman, an in-text footnote explains.)

“In parallel cases (e.g. homosexuality and fetish/BDSM), the historical gap between pathologization and the establishment of subcultures is much shorter, making asexuality a unique test case. [… I]t will be important for future scholarship to incorporate these emergent voices, identities and practices into an account of the past and contemporary landscapes of sexuality. It is also instructive to note how those subjects embodying less discursively well-established identity positions can find themselves marginalized even within putatively non-normative spaces such as queer and feminist communities.”

  • “Afterword” by Lisa Downing. The Routledge History of Sex and the Body: 1500 to the Present. Ed. Sarah Toulalan and Kate Fisher. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon, 2014. p. 530.
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Posted on July 30, 2015, in What others say and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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