Journal Club: Introducing Asexuality

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This month, the ace journal club discussed

“Unthinking Compulsory Sexuality: Introducing Asexuality” by Ela Przybylo, from Introducing the New Sexuality Studies: Original Essays 4th Edition, edited by Nancy L. Fischer, Laurel Westbrook, and Steven Seidman (2022). (accessible with account)

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 for an invite.

Our discussion notes are below the fold.

This chapter introduces asexuality and related issues to an academic audience.

General remarks
– This work seems like it might be targeted at undergrads taking a course in sexuality studies. So we’re not necessarily the target audience, but we still thought in was interesting in terms of the choices of what to include.

Things we liked
– We thought it was neat to see how academics have proposed a lot of similar ideas all circling around the same thing: compulsory sexuality, sexusociety, sexual normalcy, sexual normativity.
– There’s a paragraph that describes how asexuals can feel unwelcome or isolated in queer publics, because of their commitment to a radical politics of sex and sex positivity, and because of how sex and sexuality are used in social bonding. We also speculated briefly on whether this is changing for the younger generation, now that asexuality has more of a presence in LGBTQ+ student groups.
– We liked the use of House as a hook in the introduction. Many discussions of fictional representation of asexuality skip over this because it’s very negative, but it was a formative moment for the community.
– We liked that “discourse” is used in the proper academic (neutral) way, as opposed to the derogatory term it has become on social media.

– Przybylo is interested in people who may have a lot in common with asexuals, but don’t necessarily identify as asexual, so she downplays the role of self-identification in the meaning of asexuality.
– It’s relevant to bring up that people might not be aware of the term “asexual”, or may wrongly believe that something like having crushes disqualifies them.
– However, Przybylo also brings up the Asexuality Identification Scale, developed by Yule, Brotto, & Gorzalka, which is supposed to identify potentially asexual people, independent of whether they identify as asexual. We think this should have been presented a lot more critically.
– In the same paragraph, Przybylo also brings up the idea that asexuals are capable of genital arousal but don’t experience subjective arousal. This is largely speculation that wasn’t ever confirmed.

– Asexuality is initially defined using the AVEN definition, which seems like a bad start, but it broadens out and presents multiple (imperfect) frameworks.
– The AVENwiki is cited for the definition of gray-asexual, although the definition presented doesn’t quite match what’s in the wiki. We observed that no source is cited to define several of the other terms, and that might be the better choice as the AVENwiki isn’t the most reliable source.
– Sexual and allosexual are used interchangeably throughout this work. We don’t think “sexual” should be used to refer to allosexuals, because it has so many other meanings attached to it.
– “Aroace” is introduced next to “reciprosexual” and “aceflux”, which is odd since aroace is more of a compound word than a neologism. Aromantic isn’t even introduced until the next paragraph.
– “Sex-positive” is used instead of “sex-favorable” in parallel to sex-neutral and sex-averse. This is one of the top 6 mistakes in asexuality studies that Coyote recently listed. These terms are incorrectly framed as coming from scholar Mark Carrigan, when they actually came out of the community.

Citational disagreements
– The Storms model is cited to talk about the “asexual-sexual spectrum”, although Storms didn’t really talk much about spectrums.
Poston & Baumle 2010 is cited for a “high” estimate of the number of asexuals, but this study uses some questionable proxies for asexuality, such as whether people have ever had sex.
– Warnock 2002 is cited for the claim that one third of cis women in the US could fall under the parameters of HSDD. There should be a lot more skepticism of this work, because it seems likely they’re overestimating the “typical” amounts of sexual desire.
– MacInnis & Hodson are cited for asexual prejudice, but there are methodological criticisms of this work. They make a strong claim that there’s a specific kind of anti-asexual prejudice that doesn’t apply to any other group, and try to support this by using sapiosexuality, of all things, as a control. Their conclusion might be correct but isn’t supported by their own data. To look at anti-asexual prejudice, the journal club came up with several other papers by Gupta and a thesis by Tamara Deutcsch.
– Elgie’s 2020 master’s thesis is cited for the “split attraction model”, and we strongly disagree with this choice. It seems like people cite this paper because it’s the one paper that uses “split attraction model”, but what it actually argues is that the split attraction model it’s colonialist and bad, and that aros and aces don’t put any thought into it. See Ace Admiral sharp critique of this thesis. If scholars can’t find a better source on the phrase “split attraction model” then maybe they shouldn’t use the phrase (using less fraught terms like romantic orientation, which is explained in The Invisible Orientation by Julie Decker).

– The first International Asexuality Conference was not in 2014 in Toronto, but in 2012 in London, albeit under a different name.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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2 Responses to Journal Club: Introducing Asexuality

  1. Pingback: Journal Club: Asexuality and Microaggressions | The Asexual Agenda

  2. Pingback: Journal Club: The investment model in asexual relationships | The Asexual Agenda

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