- Editorial Introduction:The Erotics of Asexualities and Nonsexualities: Intersectional Approaches
This special issue is fueled by the growth, involvement, and excitement stemming out of asexual community organizing, scholarship, and friendships. Since David Jay created the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) in 2001, asexuality groups have blossomed both online and offline across the world. One would be hard-pressed to find a part of the world where people do not identify as asexual and seek out asexual knowledge and community, including in nations as far-reaching as China, Poland, the United States, Canada, Iran, and Brazil. AVEN's early definition of asexuality as "experiencing little or no sexual attraction to others" has been affirmed, challenged, expanded, and complexified over the past two decades of asexual community organizing, with many identifying as not only asexual but also gray asexual, demisexual, aroace, reciprosexual, aceflux, and beyond. Asexuals are now represented in television shows (such as BoJack Horseman, Shadowhunters, and Sirens) and in young adult literature (such as Claire Kann's Let's Talk About Love and Kathryn Ormsbee's Tash Hearts Tolstoy), and greater visibility has increased general literacy around asexuality. Asexuality is also becoming more and more integrated into LGBTQ2IA+ organizations and spaces, with pressure for the A of the acronym to stand for asexual and aromantic and to be included under the queer umbrella. Recent years have also seen aromanticism burgeoning as an identity that challenges commitments to romantic modes of relating and attraction, one that is distinct from asexuality. As with asexuality, multiple aromantic forms—including grayromantic, demiromantic, aroflux, and of course aroace—have developed.
Asexuality studies, which we understand broadly as the interdisciplinary field of asexuality-affirming scholarship, has likewise played a role in building knowledge and community. Across disciplines, asexuality studies affirms that asexuality is valid and prolific in the face of the undermining and disbelieving of its legitimate claim to being a sexual orientation and identity. Although visibility of and literacy around asexuality have increased, asexuality is too often still regarded as a form of repression, drawing on pseudo-psychoanalysis, [End Page vii] or it is pathologized as a medical problem in need of redress (Chasin 2015; Kim 2014; MacInnis and Hodson 2012). Such asexphobia (Kim 2014) draws attention to the ways in which asexuality is stigmatized and sexual relationships are elevated above other forms of relating and considered integral to happiness and well-being. Asexuality studies thus offers critiques of the interconnected systems that encourage sex and romance as relational modes prized over other forms of intimacies—an encouragement termed sexusociety, sex normativity or sexualnormativity, and/or compulsory sexuality by asexuality studies scholars (Carrigan 2011; Cerankowski and Milks 2010; Chasin 2011; Chasin 2013; Emens 2014; Gupta 2015; Hinderliter 2009; Przybylo 2011; Rich 1980). In this sense, asexuality studies asks not only for queer communities and society more broadly to accept asexuality but also demands that everyone take the concerns of asexuality seriously in how they think about their own modes of attraction and relationships. Thus, the contributions of asexuality studies matter to everyone, as they help us all question the compulsory nature of sex and romance as well as its uneven application across lines of ability, racialization, gender, age, and geographical context.
As the coeditors of this special issue, we are invested in and energized by this ever-developing scholarship and the challenges it poses to the compulsoriness of sex, sexuality, and romance. We both became interested in researching and writing about asexuality early in our academic careers: Ela Przybylo published her first piece on asexuality and sex-centralized society, or sexusociety, in 2011, and Kristina Gupta published her first piece on the constraining effect of the sex for health discourse, also in 2011. Nearly a decade later, academic work on asexuality is robust and has been published across academic fields as well in popular formats (i.e., Chen 2020; Decker 2016; Hills 2015). To briefly summarize some of the main themes in this scholarship: Researchers in psychology have examined asexuality as a sexual orientation, assessing its prevalence and its correlation with other psychological, biological, and behavioral variables (e.g., Antonsen et al. 2020; Bogaert 2004; Brotto et...