"The Erotics of Nonsexualities: Intersectional Approaches"
Guest edited by Ela Przybylo and Kristina Gupta
Full papers due August 19, 2019
This special issue seeks to bring into conversation intersectional work on erotics and on nonsexualities. The word erotics, derived from the ancient Greek eros, marks a way of thinking intimacy, relating, and kinship that can include but is not tied strictly to sexual desire. This way of thinking explores many different ways of being drawn to one another and forming relationships. Audre Lorde, in “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” (1978), depicted the erotic as a concept including more than sex and sexual desire, exploring the healing power of inner resolve, deep friendships, and life-affirming activities. For Lorde and scholars such as Sharon Holland (2012), Angela Willey (2016), Lynne Huffer (2013), Mireille Miller-Young (2014), and L.H. Stallings (2015), the erotic has been a powerful source of self-knowledge, of action in an unjust world, and, in Lorde’s words, a critique of the “European-American tradition, [where] need is satisfied by certain proscribed erotic comings-together.” Erotics also figure prominently in Indigenous feminist and queer thought through such frameworks as “Sovereign Erotics” and “Indigenous erotics,” which envision sexuality and intimacy on terms that are not bound to settler colonial understandings of sexuality (Qwo-Li Driskill 2004; Tracy Bear 2016).
We use the word nonsexualities to include asexuality, other forms of nonsexuality, and critiques of compulsory sexuality. Although definitions of asexuality vary, individuals and groups who identify as asexual often define an asexual person as someone who does not experience sexual attraction to other people. We reserve the term asexuality specifically to connote individuals or groups who self-identify as asexual. We use the term nonsexualities broadly to connote a variety of potentially related phenomenon such as asexual identification, abstinence (chosen or otherwise), singlehood, and/or experiences of low sexual desire. We use the term compulsory sexuality to “describe the assumption that all people are sexual and to describe the social norms and practices that both marginalize various forms of nonsexuality…and compel people to experience themselves as desiring subjects, take up sexual identities, and engage in sexual activity” (Gupta 2015).
We see erotics as an important theoretical interlocutor for thinking about nonsexual intimacies in terms that challenge settler colonial and Western knowledge paradigms. Erotics holds space for imagining nonsexual intimacies as places for celebration, protest, and world-making. A focus on erotics draws on queer of color contributions to challenging the separation of sexuality from other realms of life, community, identity, and activism (i.e., Cathy Cohen 1997; Patrick Johnson 2001; Omise’eke Natasha Tinsley 2010). In this special issue we ask: What are the histories of asexuality and nonsexual erotics and how have they been ignored by settler colonial, Western, and sexological approaches to thinking sexuality? How can we think about erotics as a place from which all forms of desire can flourish, as a way to explore intimacy on the broadest terms possible? How can erotics foster an intersectional approach to feminist action, theorizing, world-making, and celebration that holds space for asexuality and other forms of nonsexuality?
We seek submissions that develop intersectional approaches, in all their many forms and iterations. We use the term intersectionality to mark an approach to thinking about systems of oppression that has a strong lineage in black feminist thought. According to Patricia Hill Collins and Valerie Chepp (2017), “the first core idea of intersectional knowledge projects stresses that systems of power (e.g., race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, age, country of origin, citizenship status) cannot be understood in isolation from one another; instead, systems of power intersect and coproduce one another to result in unequal material realities and the distinctive social experiences that characterize them.” This special issue seeks scholarship on erotics and nonsexualities that employs intersectionality as a key analytic.
We welcome submission on topics including but not limited to:
- new, intersectional, and interdisciplinary perspectives in asexuality studies
- analyses of the desexualization and hypersexualization of individuals and populations and how these relate to gender, race, age, sexuality, ability, nation, and Indigeneity
- historical and present-day genealogies, representations, manifestations, and “resonances” (Przybylo and Cooper 2014) of asexuality and nonsexualities in relation to gender, race, age, sexuality, ability, nation, and Indigeneity
- intersectional engagements with Lordean erotics
- intersectional engagements with Sovereign and/or Indigenous erotics
- intersectional engagements with eco-erotics and/or eco-intimacies
- intersectional challenges to Freudian and Foucauldian conceptualizations of sexuality through erotics and/or nonsexualities
- intersectional analyses of forms of nonsexuality such as abstinence, kinship and kin networks, friendship, family formations, non-monogamy, singlehood, virginity, chastity, human-animal and interspecies intimacies
- violent, misogynist, and white supremacist interpretations of celibacy and abstinence (such as the religious right)
- intersectional reflections on prudery in conversation with sluttiness and sex positivity
- intersectional approaches to asexual community formation and identity including considerations of whiteness, racism, and trauma in asexual communities
- histories of the function and role of compulsory sexuality in relation to whiteness, sexism, settler colonialism, ableism and/or science
- intersectional considerations of “normal” levels of sexual desire in relation to who is encouraged to reproduce, stay “fit,” seek pleasure, and be happy
- intersectional explorations of feminist, queer, Indigenous, and anti-racist organizing in relation to strategic and/or imposed sexual absence
We welcome engagements with the following topics: erotics, Audre Lorde, Sovereign and/or Indigenous erotics, eco-erotics/eco-intimacies, intimacy, incel, kinship, making kin, trauma, asexuality, nonsexuality, abstinence, celibacy, spinsterhood, friendship, political asexuality and celibacy, prudery, compulsory sexuality, frigidity, platonic love, Boston marriages, aphansis, sexual desire disorders, and virginity, among others