1- How the sexual imperative and what you’ve named the “hetero-coital cluster” can be thought together ?
I would say that heteronormativity works in tandem with the sexual imperative. If the hetero-coital cluster is that specific entanglement that directs our bodies towards a very scripted narrative of sexual relating (one that is, to say the least, hetero and coupled and coital and orgasmic and ejaculatory), then we can say that it depends on the sexual imperative. But even while the cluster loosens up, in the sense that a greater plurality of sexual practices is coming into the sexual vernacular, the sexual imperative is not loosening its hold. In this sense it becomes less devastating in a broad sense to have sex “incorrectly” than it is to not have sex at all. So I would say that hetero-coitality relies on the sexual imperative but the sexual imperative exceeds hetero-coitality.
2-The so called “sex wars” opposing the so-called pro-sex feminists and radical feminists rages in France. Do you think, as Cerankowski and Milks in their 2010 paper, that the study of asexuality could advance this discussion ? How ?
I am not really familiar with recent feminist debates around sex in the French context. I would agree with Breanne Fahs (2010) that asexuality has been lost in feminist debates in large part because of a polarized focus on the “pro-sex” v. “anti-sex” debate. I think it is important to not conflate asexuality with either of these perspectives but also to see that asexuality could be effectively deployed to complicate both sides of the impasse. So, for instance, asexuality can problematize a “pro-sex” approach that does not take stock of the sexual imperative. Conversely, asexuality also asks us to revisit “sex-negativity” which has acquired a much less popular position in feminist and queer theorizing.
3- Do you think that celibacy can be thought as a tool of empowerment for women ? Why ?
The first thing I want to say here is that I find it important in my work to blur strict distinctions between asexuality and celibacy which rely on assumptions that the latter is a choice, as such. I think that is more conducive to place asexuality and celibacy in dialogue with one another or perhaps even to see them as varying modes of nonsexual engagement. Undoing a categorical disassociation of asexuality from celibacy encourages us to better spot our anxieties around the politics of not “doing” sex – and whatever shape and form this might take.
To answer your question: while it is unfair to say that asexuality is feminist by default, asexuality offers a rich terrain for feminist involvement. It can be harnessed in the ongoing project of demolishing hetero-coitality and heteronormativity. It provides us with a renewed politicization of the conjoining of sex and love. It can offer a tangible means for distancing oneself from the pressure to conform to sexual normativity. But whether or not it is “empowering” for women really depends on the context, the uptake, the person in question. What Eunjung Kim (2011) has termed desexualization, for instance, has been used in the disservice of groups of women both historically and in the present.
1-Do you think that hegemonic masculinities depend on a certain conception of male sexuality ? What is this conception about?
Hegemonic masculinities are, at their core, about particular ways of having sex, being sexual, and ostentatiously performing one’s sexuality. For instance, feminist psychologists have put forward the “male sexual drive discourse” as the overwhelming cultural designation of men as endlessly in pursuit of sex (supposedly, with women). To be understood as “a man,” indeed to feel oneself as “the man” is thus predicated on fucking, screwing, being unabashedly hetero-sexual. Interestingly, one of the things that came up in the interviews I did with asexually-identified, masculine-identified men in Southern Ontario was that the public performance of the sexual imperative and the male sexual drive discourse is crucial to bonding with others and to social belonging. In a forthcoming book chapter, which will be out in October 2013 (the book itself is edited by Karli June Cerankowski and Megan Milks) I explore just this.
2-Can asexuality and male asexuality in particular offer an alternative to this all powerful conception of male sexuality ?
Asexuality does provide alternative forms of engagement with masculine ideals. For one it challenges the male sexual drive discourse. So asexuality certainly dishevels some of the basic coordinates of “being a man” today. The men I interviewed all experienced what Cara MacInnis and Gordon Hodson (2013) have called “antiasexual prejudice” or “antiasexual bias” in that they were bullied, teased, had experiences of “not fitting in,” had trouble finding romantic partners or companions, experienced degrees of social exclusion, and undertook unwanted (hetero)sex.
1-I’m trying to convince academics in France that the study of asexuality is a fascinating issue. If, after everything you’ve just said, some are still not convinced, what could you add to convince them ?
Asexuality is absolutely a pertinent topic. To defer a thinking of asexuality is to demonstrate an unambivalent investment in projects of the sexual imperative. I think asexuality studies will either develop into a burgeoning subfield of inquiry within the interdisciplinary study of sexuality or it will be deemed irrelevant, “unsexy.” If you find that others feel asexuality is not relevant or fascinating, it is worthwhile to consider what commitments, personal and political, make them feel this way. I strongly believe that asexuality matters to everyone, not just to those who identify as “asexual.”
2- On a personal note : what are you planning ? Are you going to write a book ?
Yes, I am currently developing my dissertation, which I plan to make into a book.
Thanks a lot Ela !