“Asexy and we know it”: The Emergence of Asexual Activism as a Sexual and Gender Social Movement

de Lappe, Joseph (2018). “Asexy and we know it”: The Emergence of Asexual Activism as a Sexual and Gender Social Movement. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e529


This thesis considers the emerging character of asexual activism in Western societies. It asks what the key factors are impacting on triggering, mobilisation, organisation and performance that motivate asexual-identified individuals into collective activism. It considers the significance of wider LGBT+ and Q activism exemplified by Pride as performed spectacle, as a factor influencing the character of contemporary asexual activism. This is considered both in terms of how the staging, setting and scripting of Pride speaks to asexual activists in the West, and, how they speak back to Pride as actor-activists, audience and bystanders to its political theatre. Methodologically, this thesis is based on 15 months of ethnographic research: online semi-structured interviews with asexual activists in both Europe and North America; auto-ethnographic participant-observation of Pride events in Europe and North America, and, specific case studies of WorldPride 2014 and Berlin Pride 2015. Theoretically, it draws cross-disciplinarily on: insights from Social Movement Theory, particularly recent work which emphasises the significance of emotive, cultural drama in contemporary activism; insights from Sexuality & Gender Studies concerning scripted behaviour and LGBT+ and Q identity-formations, and, emerging research in Asexual Studies concerning asexual orientations, identities and socialised behaviours. The thesis emphasises the work of Goffmann (1971, 1974, 2017), Jasper (2008), Plummer (1994), Rubin (2011), Stallybrass and White (1986) and Tilly (1995) to analyse the presentation of the asexual activist self, the collective activist performances through which that self is embodied, and the interrelated asexual and Pride narratives that are contended. Through auto-ethnography it considers the researcher’s engagement with these contentious repertoires, as academic and participant-observer who is also an actor-activist, audience member and bystander. This analysis reveals a disconnect between the ongoing, framed scripting of Pride activism in the West and the emerging core-frames of asexual activist scripts; even as asexual activists seek alignment.

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