• Fieldwork conducted in 2009• Mixed methods: 8 in depth interviews, 174 online surveys and online ethnography• How do people come to identify as asexuality? Focus on biographical trajectory.• My aim was to identify the differences, as well as commonalities, within the asexual community.• We covered the former in the intro.• In terms of the latter, I tried to conceptualise the convergences in personal experiences I found in the data, in a way that did justice to them.
• In this presentation I want to draw out the connections between asexuality and wider sexual culture.• I’ll offer an account of the biographical trajectory I’ve written about, intended as a provisional heuristic rather than some absolute theory of asexual experience.• This helps us isolate different points at which different sorts of wider factors can impact on personal experience in different ways.• I’ll then give an account of how I hope to link my research on asexuality into a wider post-PhD project on historical processes of sexualisation in the UK since 1949.
1.Experienced difference2.Assumed pathology3.Self Questioning4.Self clariﬁcation5.Communal identity• Methodological limitation: Recruited largely from a pool of people who had reached this end point
• I’m very interested in the temporal dimensions to these processes - otherwise it’s not possible to isolate how different social & cultural• Trajectory encompasses distinct stages identiﬁable with majority of respondents – pathway through that trajectory not homogenous.• The process of self-questioning and self-clariﬁcation as diachronic• Assumed pathology is temporally heterogeneous – disjuncture between pre and post internet experiences• Self questioning / self clariﬁcation is temporally heterogeneous - “Maybe you’re just a late bloomer?” / “Maybe you haven’t met the right person yet?”• Introduces epistemic doubt - how can one KNOW this isn’t the case? Without that epistemic conﬁdence, how can one come to a sense of identity that is sustainable & satisfying?
• As well as being synchronic, self-questioning and self-clariﬁcation are both monological and dialogical.• While the internet has made the monological dimensions of the process easier (impact of google), dialogue with trusted interlocutors crucial – how well do they understand?• "My friends seem to understand it fairly well, although a few seem to think that Ill change my mind about sex if I ever ﬁnd the right person"• "At the moment people have joked about setting me up with someone and that I need a boyfriend"• "some have basically said I dont believe you, but as long as youre happy• Is this lack of understanding down to phobia and prejudice?
• "Said people are no longer my friends because they made life really difficult for me. They would try and do everything they could to gross out the asexual. Be as vulgar as possible, put sex toys in my food and stuff like that"• "I had one friend who was very unsupportive; she just stood there while a friend of hers said all this terrible stuff about I was just scared of sex and needed therapy. They actually ganged up on me: I started crying and they just kept going."• This experience is seemingly very rare - as opposed to marginalization and invisibility• So what explains this lack of understanding?• As the AVEN website describe it “in a world where sexuality is promoted as the norm, many asexuals grow up thinking that they’re somehow sick, broken or deficient”
• They literarily don’t understand – why?• Is this failure to understand historically & culturally novel? Would the question even have occurred in previous generations?• Would people have even felt the need to articulate an asexual identity to ‘justify’ their lack of sexual attraction?• If so then what’s happened in between? How have these changes happened? What’s shaped them?
• As Claire, one of my interview participants, put it: “the impression you get from the media and from general conversation is that sex is really central to how you act, how you dress, how you talk to people, what you decide to do with your spare time.• This sexual assumption manifests itself in the dispositional reactions and the reflective judgements of peers, friends, family and others.• Sexual attraction is seen to be uniform and universal: everyone ‘has’ it and it’s largely the same thing in every instance.• It’s a habitual cognitive category in the sociological sense of the term. Drawing on my PhD research which looks at the relationship between internal conversation & cognitive categorisation in shaping biographical transitions.• Two key claims I’m making about sexual assumption: It’s not a universal and, furthermore, it’s not true.
• Does it just impact on asexuals? No I don’t think so. I want to try and do secondary analysis on qualitative data about sexual experience / anxiety in these terms.• So where did it come from? Ultimately an empirical question. Plan for post-PhD.• My underlying hypothesis is that increased visibility and publicity of sexuality created a discursive vacuum which emerging sexological discourses (in an uneasy concordance with politicised discourses emerging from the new social movements) filled.• A process mediated by the proliferation of a mass market for cultural products pertaining to sex & intensified by the structural pressures created by the shift to a consumption-driven economy (rise of sexualised advertising being the obvious one, suspect others though).• Some of these were problematic to begin with. All the more so when they subsequently lost whatever scientific context they had in the first place.
1. How does the 1949 Mass-Observation ‘Little Kinsey’ sex survey compare with available contemporary survey & interview data?2. What shifts in the underlying conceptual architecture of the most influential sexological texts can be identified on a decade-by-decade basis?3. What shifts in the underlying conceptual architecture of the most influential popular books on sex & sexuality can be identified on a decade-by-decade basis?4. How do the conceptual trends identifiable in academic and lay discourse help explain the experiential transition found in comparison of Little Kinsey and contemporary data.• Intended to be qualitative (discourse analysis) and quantitative (corpus analysis) assuming I can work out how to compile the corpus in a way that is suitable for the latter