Empirical asexuality and the scientific study of sex

Producing facts: Empirical asexuality and the scientific study of sex

From Feminism & Psychology 

Asexuality, quickly becoming a growing sexual identity category and subject of academic inquiry, relies at this budding moment of identity demarcation on a series of scientific studies that seek to ‘discover’ the truth of asexuality in and on the body. This article considers the existing scientific research on asexuality, including both older and more obscure mentions of asexuality as well as contemporary studies. The goal of this paper is to question the existing knowledge on asexuality. Such work is especially necessary at this moment when predictions are being made about asexuality’s vibrant academic career.  It serves as a critical reflection on the ways in which ‘scientific’ writings are edifying cultural understandings and definitions of an identity and sexual concept that is necessarily cultural.

Abstract

Asexuality, quickly becoming a burgeoning sexual identity category and subject of academic inquiry, relies at this budding moment of identity demarcation on a series of scientific studies that seek to ‘discover’ the truth of asexuality in and on the body. This article considers the existing scientific research on asexuality, including both older and more obscure mentions of asexuality as well as contemporary studies, through two twin claims: (1) that asexuality, as a sexual identity, is entirely specific to our current cultural moment – that it is in this sense culturally contingent, and (2) that scientific research on asexuality, while providing asexuality with a sense of credibility, is also shaping the possibilities and impossibilities of what counts as asexuality and how it operates. In the first section, I consider how older scientific research on asexuality, spanning from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, is characterized by a disinterest in asexuality. Next, turning to recent work on asexuality, the beginning of which is marked by Anthony Bogaert’s 2004 study, I demonstrate how asexuality becomes ‘discovered’, mapped, and pursued by science, making it culturally intelligible even while often naturalizing, in the process, what I argue are harmful sexual differences.

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Article details
Ela Przybylo
Producing facts: Empirical asexuality and the scientific study of sex Feminism & Psychology May 2013 23: 224-242, first published on April 20, 2012 doi:10.1177/0959353512443668

 

 

 

 

 

     
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