Compulsory Sexuality and Its Discontents: The Challenge of Asexualities Open Access

Gupta, Kristina (2013)

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Scholars have begun to use the term compulsory sexuality to describe the fact that contemporary sexual norms may compel people to identify as desiring subjects, take up sexual identities, and engage in sexual activity. In response to compulsory sexuality, some individuals have begun to identify as asexual, or as experiencing little or no sexual attraction. Drawing on insights from feminist theory, sexuality studies, and disability studies, this dissertation uses textual analysis and qualitative research in order to contribute to an understanding of contemporary sexual norms. This dissertation makes three primary contributions to scholarship on sexual norms: first, by focusing on biomedical discourses about low sexual desire and feminist writings on sexuality, I demonstrate that asexuality can be used as an analytical tool to understand how certain discourses promote compulsory sexuality. Second, using data from thirty in-depth interviews, I show that an analysis of the narrativized experiences of individuals who identify as asexual contributes to our understanding of how sexuality is regulated in contemporary society and how these regulations produce both resistance and accommodation. Finally, I show that using asexuality as an analytical tool and taking into account the narrativized experiences of individuals who identify as asexual necessitates a rethinking of important concepts within the fields of women's studies and sexuality studies. Overall, this dissertation contributes to a broader and deeper understanding of how norms about sexuality are constituted and naturalized and how they might be re-envisioned in order to accommodate a greater diversity of ways of being in the world.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction p. 1
Chapter 2: "There Is a Great Deal of Denial in This Population": Biomedicine and Compulsory Sexuality p. 29

Chapter 3: "One Door into the Palace of Full, Vivid, Ecstatic Life"? Feminism(s) and Compulsory Sexuality p. 83

Chapter 4: "And Now I'm Just Different, but There's Nothing Actually Wrong with Me": Compulsory Sexuality and Asexual Resistance p. 140

Chapter 5: Conclusions: Stabilizing and Destablizing Sexual Desire p. 202

Appendix 1: Interview Guide (Revised Version) p. 223

Appendix 2: List of Codes p. 227

Bibliography p. 244

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