This month, the ace journal club discussed
The journal club meets once a month on Discord, using text or voice as club members prefer. We discuss a variety of academic works in ace studies, ranging from gender studies to psychology. Don’t worry about journal access, we can provide access. If you’re interested, please e-mail me at email@example.com for an invite.
Our discussion notes are below the fold.
The authors discuss incels as a logical extension of compulsory sexuality, and this is framed as an asexual critique. They argue for the possibility of queer world-un/making.
Asexuality as used by this paper
– The paper seems to go back and forth between referring to the modern asexual community and asexuality studies, to using asexuality in some abstractified form.
– Asexuality is only briefly defined, halfway through the paper. We thought this was unusual.
– We wish the authors followed better practices about distinguishing asexuality and desexualization (also discussed here).
– The connection between incels and compulsory sexuality seemed more warranted than the connection to asexuality.
– We liked how the paper criticizes common responses to incels, saying they just need to get girlfriends, or get laid, or trying to help them become more sexually desirable. These responses are rooted in compulsory sexuality.
Terms we learned
– Queer world-making refers to imagined futures, which can only be realized by the unmaking of our current world. This is a concept from general queer theory.
– Hegemonic masculinity refers to the culturally dominant form of masculinity. Abject hegemony refers to the reinforcement of hegemonic masculinity by “casting off” less masculine expressions, for instance, incels casting themselves off for having failed to perform masculinity.
History of “incel”
– “Incel” was originally coined in the 90s by a lesbian feminist, and the early community did not blame society for their problems. That came later as incel communities spread out.
– The authors found some statements from the early incel community that were mildly resonant with asexuality, but we were taken by surprise when the authors later act like they’ve fully established the connection between early incels and asexuality.
– The manifesto of Elliot Rodger (an incel and murderer from 2014) describes his utopic vision of a world without sexuality.
– Although Rodger does not use “asexuality”, the authors describe this as a misappropriation of asexuality
– We criticized this claim, as it’s not clear you can appropriate a concept without even referring to it. (Did people of past decades appropriate modern asexuality?)
Our own thoughts on asexuality and incels
– There are some surface similarities between ace and incel communities. People come to them because they’re not having sex and think that’s a problem. Incels say yes that is a problem and blame laws of human nature. Ace communities say that’s okay you don’t need to have sex.
– But incel communities are mostly men and ace communities are mostly women and nonbinary people. (We hope that that’s not where the ace men are going instead!)
– The authors argued for the possibility of unmaking the incel world to reject compulsory sexuality. But we were skeptical. Compulsory sexuality is right there in the framing of celibacy as involuntary.
– A reimagined community would probably drop the “involuntary” part.
– Many years ago, Aqua was trying to build a celibacy community, which wasn’t very successful. They dropped the involuntary part.
– We also imagined the possibility of a community that was based on the pursuit of alternative kinds of relationships.
– In theory, the MGTOW community follows that idea, withdrawing from sex and relationships and focusing on homosocial relationships. Of course in practice they spend 90% of the time complaining about women.
– Incel discourse participates in the narrowing of intimacy, and we thought asexuality could critique that.