The Invisible Orientation: The Effacement of Asexuality


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Claudia Sterbini (University of Edinburgh)

Critic Angela Sondra Decker defines asexuality ‘the invisible orientation’ to describe how this sexual orientation is often under discussed and under-represented. Defined generally as the non-experience of sexual attraction, asexuality has often been effaced from public and critical discourses. Even in contemporary queer spaces, asexuality is often presented as a surplus, with the LGBTQ+ community questioning the inclusion of the initial for asexuality (A) within the acronym. Similarly, it has also often been left out of historical and critical queer histories. Asexuality lacks critical analyses, it is an excess excluded by both the academic and public conversations.

In 2023, asexuality has finally attained some attention, with brilliant titles such as Ace Voices (2023) and Sounds Fake but OK (2023) coming out recently. These works have revealed the ongoing stereotyping and misunderstanding of asexuality: often confused with celibacy, asexuality is stigmatized, with ace representation being either absent from contemporary media or depicted as a pathology, intrinsically connected to intellectuality, monstrosity and/or emotional coldness.

Following this increased interest in this sexual orientation, this panel wants to offer an opportunity for academics investigating cultural representations of asexuality to come together. Concentrating academic attention on asexuality relocates this orientation from the margin to the centre of theoretical discourse and allows for the questioning of stigmas regarding asexuality. Welcoming perspectives coming from all the humanities, this panel wants to offer new approaches regarding this sexual orientation.

Topics can include but are not limited to: the historical construction of asexuality as pathology; literary and media exclusion or inclusion of asexuality; the ways in which asexuality has been effaced from LGBTQ+ discourse; considerations of the co-constructed nature of asexuality across media and medical discourses.

This panel seeks papers offering new perspectives on asexuality and welcomes research coming from all humanities investigating the ways in which asexuality has been constructed historically, socially and in media representation.