Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Don't put much confidence in 'Intergroup bias toward Group X'

The paper "Intergroup bias toward ''Group X'': Evidence of prejudice, dehumanization, avoidance, and discrimination against asexuals" by MacInnis and Hodson has gotten more attention in asexual spaces than most academic articles, probably because what the authors claim to have found fits well with some people's politics. I'm deeply skeptical that their data show what they say the data show, and so I think that we need to have a serious discussion about the use of this paper in asexual politics. The paper uses scientific methods to get a politically controversial point that isn't remotely merited by the data. When conservatives do this, the paper tends to get the label "junk science." In this case, the supposed findings are more consistent with liberal biases, and so it has received less criticism. However, people of all sorts of political opinions are quite capable of bad science in the service of politics.

To start with, the title itself is misleading, probably intentionally: The title suggests the article provides "Evidence of...discrimination against asexuals." But how could they possibly make claims about discrimination against asexuals without any data from any asexuals? Probably what they have in mind is this: "Comfort with renting to and hiring a member from each sexual orientation were tapped on 11-point scales," which led to scores ranging from 0-10. Responses to this were then labelled (by the researchers) as "discrimination intentions". Both of these words are inappropriate. They didn't ask about intentions--they asked about how comfortable someone would be. Further, I believe that a major difference between discrimination and prejudice is that discrimination involves (unfairly) treating people differently, while prejudice is a matter of beliefs/attitudes/feelings (these are often related, of course). The question was about feelings, not behaviors, so the word "discrimination" is inappropriate. In the abstract, they state "Heterosexuals were also willing to discriminate against asexuals (matching discrimination against homosexuals)." Not only do they make this statement without any questions actually about willingness to discriminate, here's the actual summary of the data (possible scores range from 0-10).
Question Hetero- Homo- Bi- A-
S1-hire 9.5 8.92 8.61 9.09
S1-rent 9.45 9.06 8.76 8.84
S2-hire 9.68 8.86 8.97 9.05
S2-rent 9.63 8.87 8.87 9.00
From Tables 1 & 3.

If someone is asked, "On a scale from 0-10, how comfortable would you be with renting to an asexual?" I confess that I am not overly worried if people tend to answer, "I don't, maybe 9?" There is a significant difference in the means for the different groups, so there is a finding to be explained, but this doesn't remotely justify the claim in the abstract.

So the claims about "discrimination" are totally unsupported by their data. Next, I want to move to what the study is primarily about: attitudes. Attitudes are something they, in fact, did ask about. Now, it is true that differences in attitudes towards heterosexuals vs. bisexuals and homosexuals in research like this do correspond to how people are treated in the real world, but a VERY BIG QUESTION is whether this generalizes to groups that people have (possibly) never even heard of. MacInnis and Hodson state that one reason for study 2 was "to rule out outgroup familiarity as a potential confound." While this typically would mean, "To test whether the results of their first study are (at least in large part) due to this confound" they actually mean it as "to rule it out as a possible confound regardless of what results they end up getting." In fact, results of study 2 strongly suggest that lack of familiarity is a very large part of why the attitude thermometer scores for asexuals were lower than those of bisexuals or homosexuals. However, they try to hide this, and instead set up the absurd standard of whether lack of familiarity can completely account for the finding. (If the standard is "Does r^2=1?" I think I can rather confidently tell you that the answer is "no" without even looking at your data--or even knowing what you're studying--as long as you've got more than a handful of data points.)

If you take a close look at the paper, here are some things to notice:

Although one of the two main purposes of doing study 2 was to include "sapiosexuals" to test the possibility that familiarity accounts for why attitude thermometer scores for asexuals are so low, sapiosexuals are conspicuously missing from Table 3, showing attitude thermometer scores for study 2. They only report the data for sapiosexuals 2 pages later on p. 14, most likely so that readers don't notice that attitudes towards sapiosexuals are lower than attitudes towards homosexuals or bisexuals (though I don't know if it's strong enough, given their sample size, to be statistically significant).

Heterosexuals: 8.78
Bisexuals: 7.02
Homosexuals: 6.92
Sapiosexuals: 6.81
Asexuals: 6.45

I've never seen anyone using this study to claim that there is more (or at least least as much) prejudice towards sapiosexuals as towards homo- or bisexuals. Probably this is because if we accept that relatively low attitude thermometer scores for sapiosexuals is largely a matter of lack of familiarity (which seems likely), then this suggests lack of familiarity is also a large part of the reason for the low attitude scores for asexuals. There's also another piece of data in the paper that suggests lack of familiarity with asexuality is largely the reason for their "finding" (again, under the assumption that this is largely responsible to low attitudes towards sapiosexuals): Table 4 shows that the strongest correlate of attitudes towards asexuals was attitudes towards sapiosexuals (r=.84). Excluding alpha reliability co-efficients, this is, in fact, one of the two strongest correlations in entire table (the other being attitudes towards homosexuals and bisexuals, which are also correlated at r=.84).

However, rather than being up front about these facts, they don't draw attention to the strong correlation between attitudes towards asexuality and sapiosexuality, and they try to hide the attitude data about sapiosexuals somewhere were most readers are unlikely to compare it to attitude data for homo- and bisexuals.

They present two arguments to "rule out" familiarity as accounting for their findings. The first is by showing that although sapiosexuals have a lower familiarity score than asexuals, asexuals have a lower attitude score than sapiosexuals. In fact what this means is that [the particular measure used in their study for] familiarity cannot completely account for the attitude data towards asexuals. I wouldn't expect it to, but I'll bet that it does account for a large part of it. As a second argument, they state that "In further evidence that familiarity per se does not explain dislike of asexuals, relations between [right wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation] or ingroup identification with asexual evaluations were relatively unchanged after statistically controlling for familiarity with asexuals (partial correlations equal −.36, −.31, −.24, and ps < .02, respectively). Prejudice-prone persons, therefore, were not more prejudiced toward asexuals as a result of mere unfamiliarity" (p.15). (The original correlations were -.34, -0.30, and -.25, respectively)

First of all, the correlation between attitudes about asexuality and each of these three wasn't all that strong compared to other correlates--in fact, in no case did it exceed the correlation between attitudes about asexuals and attitudes about heterosexuals (r = .36). Second, they never actually provide evidence that people in these groups tended to dislike asexuals. They labeled the endpoints of their attitude thermometers as "extremely unfavorable" and "extremely favorable." The mean attitude score for asexuals in the first study was 4.70, and in the second study 6.45. Possible scores range from 0-9, so 4.5 should mean neutral (or "I don't know"???) They then tell us that various things were negatively correlated with attitudes towards asexuals, so it's possible that if we made groups based on these scales, these people might had average attitudes below 4.5, but they don't tell us. The biggest problem, however, is the data given in the 2nd argument leaves open the possibility that attitude scores for asexuality among the less prejudice-prone people was correlated with familiarity. If they're trying to rule out (un)familiarity as a possible confound, it seems odd that they don't provide data on whether familiarity with X is correlated with attitudes about X, at least in the cases of asexuality and sapiosexuality. If I had to guess, it's because doing so wouldn't support their argument...

In summary, I don't think that this study provides good evidence of prejudice against asexuals. More likely, it shows us something about how people answer social psychologists' questionaires like this when asked about groups they've never/barely heard of before. That finding would much less exciting than their claim about asexuals, and I suspect that publishing pressures in social psychology encouraged them to take the route that they did.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Asexuality: Few Facts, Many Questions (New paper)

Van Houdenhove, Ellen; Luk Gijs, Guy T’Sjoen, & Paul Enzlin. in press. Asexuality: Few facts, many questions. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy.
Although there has been increasing interest in asexuality during the last decade, still little is known on this topic. In order to define asexuality, three different approaches have been proposed: a definition of asexuality based on sexual behavior, one on sexual desire/sexual attraction, one on self-identification, and one on a combination of these. Depending on the definition used, reported prevalence rates range from 0.6% to 5.5%. In this article, characteristics of asexuality are presented and biological, psychological and socio-demographic factors associated with asexuality are reviewed. Given the suggestion of existing overlap with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD), special attention is paid to similarities and differences between this condition and asexuality. It is further noted that theoretical models to understand (the etiology) of asexuality are underdeveloped.

This is a review article about asexuality, and overall I think it does a good job of reviewing the literature on the topic, although a consequence of the relatively slow speed of academic publishing is that by time it's published, it's already out of date. Obviously, the most recent research articles (i.e. the analyses of NATSAL-II by Bogaert and by Aicken et al. both published this year, Yule et al.'s paper on asexuality and mental health issues) aren't covered. I'm not really sure why Mark Carrigan's work isn't discussed--they mostly rely on Scherrer's qualitative work regarding asexual identity (in my view, Carrigan's 2011 paper gives a more accurate picture of asexual discourse and identity than does Scherrer's). They also do a good job of covering the main findings reported, how confident (or not) we can be in those findings, and the various possible explanations that have been proposed for these.

It seems that, to help somewhat speed up the process, they have published a version online not only ahead of print, but ahead of submission of corrections along with the galley proofs. [Note: Typically, at some point after an article has been accepted, authors will be sent galley proofs with editorial comments to be addressed, generally about grammar and references.]

One of my biggest complaints about the paper is that they keep citing "asexuality.org" as a source for claims about the asexual community. For example:

In this respect, it is urgently needed that the validity of some ‘new’ categories that are widely used in the asexual community (www.asexuality.org), i.e., hetero-romantic, homo-romantic, bi-romantic and a-romantic, is being tested.

Now, I have long hoped that researchers would investigate the scientific validity of these (and other) categories devised in asexual discourse, but I have no idea what part of AVEN they're citing.

AVEN is a big site. As of a couple weeks ago, the English language forums on AVEN viewable to non-members (minus Off-A and JFF) had around 76 million words. If you included hotbox, meet-up mart, the wiki, AVENues, and the static content, my guess is that this would come to around 100 million words of English language content. (By comparison, all 7 Harry Potter books combined have around 1.1 million words.) So what part of AVEN are we talking about?

Some of the AVEN-citations are of questionable veracity:

While most asexual persons indicate they have always felt this way, others report possible ‘causes’ of their asexuality in their history (www.asexuality.org). Within the asexual community, there is an ongoing debate on whether persons with a potential cause in their history, such as an experience of sexual abuse, can be considered as ‘truly’ asexual.

And then there are ones like this:

Within the asexual community, it is questioned whether asexuality and masturbation can co-occur (www.asexuality.org).

I believe it would be more accurate to say, "About 10 years ago, it was debated whether..." There was a time when this was debated, but the matter had more-or-less already been settled by time Tony Bogaert's 2004 paper was published.

The other main aspect of the paper that I took issue with concerned future research on the etiology of asexuality, possible negative reactions from the asexual community should the evidence suggest pathological/pathology-related causes. I think that this is an important topic, but the handling of the conceptual issues seems rather muddled, in my view. If I get time, I'll try to put together a post on that topic.

In general, I think the paper is a fairly good review article on asexuality, which is something for which there was a need, and I agree with the authors' hope that "this literature review may be a source of inspiration for other researchers to contribute to a better understanding of asexuality."

Friday, July 12, 2013

New Chapter on Asexuality

Bogaert, Anthony F. 2013. The demography of asexuality. International Handbook on the Demography of Sexuality, ed. by Amanda K. Baulme, 275-288. New York, NY: Springer.

As with many chapters in edited volumes, this one doesn't have an abstract. The bulk of the chapter is an analysis of the asexuality data in NATSAL-II, primarily examining the same things that Bogaert's 2004 paper on asexuality examined with the NATSAL-I data.

For those unfamiliar with it, the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles
is the largest scientific study of sexual behaviour since the pioneering studies of Alfred Kinsey in the US in the 1940s and 1950s.

Natsal was originally set up because of an urgent need for information about sexual lifestyles in the context of the HIV/ AIDS epidemic.

Natsal first took place in 1990, with the second study taking place in 2000. The third Natsal began in 2010 and its results will be published in 2013.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A second survey on asexuality-related terminology.

In May, I started running the first of two surveys on asexuality-related concepts and terminology, which was the first of two surveys I will be running this summer.  I am now running the second one.

To participate, you must be at least 18 years of age or older, be proficient in English, and identify as asexual, gray-A, or demisexual.

Most of the survey consists of a series of questions about a number of terms.  It is expected that some will be familiar and others unfamiliar to you.  Please do not look things up while taking the survey.

Click here to participate

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Survey about asexuality, gray-asexuality, and demisexuality

As many readers know, I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign.  My dissertation is about online asexual discourse, with particular interest in its development over time.  I ran one survey last January, and I am now conducting a survey on asexuality-related concepts and terminology.

To participate, you must be at least 18 years of age or older, be proficient in English, and identify as asexual, gray-A, or demisexual.  The  survey has a number of language-related questions, and it is asked that you do not look things up while taking the survey.

Click here to participate.


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Temporary open access for two articles

There's been a fair amount of discussion on tumblr and on The Asexual Agenda about the special issue of Psychology and Sexuality about asexuality, especially regarding the last article, called "A mystery wrapped in an enigma – asexuality: a virtual discussion."

Most of the comments that people made about it weren't especially good, feeling that many of the authors seemed to have only passing familiarity with asexual discourse and communities.  I confess that my impression in reading it was quite similar (of course, I hoped that people didn't feel that way about my comments, though I certainly expected some of what I said to be controversial.)

Right now, A mystery wrapped in an enigma – asexuality: a virtual discussion is freely available online, as is the introductory article, Asexuality special theme issue editorial.  According to Mark Carrigan's blog, they will be open access (i..e. they're freely available online) until the end of May.

Because many people felt that the comments weren't especially good, Siggy wrote unpacking an enigma, giving his own answers to the questions in the article, and encouraging others to  write their own responses.  I probably would have taken him up on this if it wasn't for the fact that I was one of the contributors.  So if you want to know my answers, now you go read them if you couldn't before.

Monday, January 28, 2013

More of the politics of science

In introduction to linguistics classes, students are told that linguistics is a science because it takes a descriptive, rather than a prescriptive, approach to language. In introduction to psychology, a different approach was taken. First, the concept of “confirmation bias” was introduced—people have a tendency to look for evidence to support their views rather than for evidence to contradict them, and they are often dismissive of evidence that contradicts their views. Therefore, to be a science, psychology must have research methodologies to help overcome confirmation bias.

Both approaches have their value. I like the approach taken by linguistics, and it has to do with my view on the is-ought problem, combined with my experience that using strongly ought-laden categories for descriptive purposes tends to lead to skewed pictures of things. (I realize that this itself closely relates to my normative judgment that researchers should avoid such analytic categories when possible. But I am not arguing for value-free research [which would make no sense at all, given that feeling a need for research involves epistemic values]. Rather, my position is that scholars’ epistemic values should take precedence over political values [with the exception of ethical obligations to research participants.])

Dealing with the problem of confirmation bias is also very important for science. It has often been said that science is not a process for always getting things right, but it is an inherently self-correcting process. I think this view of science is basically correct (provided that social values/taboos do not make some topic essentially unresearchable, or only researchable from a very limited range of perspectives).

In my last post, I discussed approaches to “objectivity” in research, and indicated my own preference for a) striving for (limited) objectivity, and b) putting epistemic values over political values in our research. Confirmation-bias is a major part of why (limited) objectivity is so difficult. In my view, there are three main means of overcoming it.

1) Be aware of the problem. If we are aware of the problem and strive for limited-objectivity, then recognizing (and trying to counter it) is an important step. But this is not nearly enough.

2) Hypothesis testing. I firmly believe that both quantitative and qualitative methodologies are important for studying humans. Among those studying asexuality, no one thinks we should only use quantitative methods, but there seem to be some who seem committed to only using qualitative methods, and this is something I am wary of because I am distrustful of our impressions of trends and tendencies (salience causes us to overestimate frequency). Rigorous methodologies, including quantification (if done well), allow for more rigorous forms of testing our hypotheses/beliefs.

3) Science is a social enterprise conducted by people of a variety of biases. Everyone has their biases and their prejudices. I’ve got mine, and you’ve got yours. If everyone working in a certain area has the same biases, then you’ve got a serious problem for any hope of limited-objectivity or scientific advancement. If we have different biases, different prejudices, and these are combined with shared epistemic commitments, then there is hope.  If I do a study and those with similar views find my analysis convincing, but those with rather different ideologies have differing views, this can be helpful, but it depends on how they respond. If they attack my research on purely moral/ideological grounds, this is a serious problem. If they criticize it on methodological grounds (as is popular in academic arguments), that’s fine, but what would advance the field is if they think that my findings are the result of some problem/limitation with my methodology, and then respond by trying to do a better study with improved methodology. Perhaps they discover that, even with those improvements, my findings are largely replicated. Perhaps they find that, without the improvements, my findings are replicated, but when this or that is controlled for, the effect goes away. Either way, as long as the research is well-conducted, the field has been advanced.

For this to work, there must be a shared epistemic commitment. Personally, I read things primarily because I want to learn (or because I have to read it for a class, a reading group, or because it pertains to something I’m working on, but then I very much hope that I will learn from it). If some researcher has an obvious political agenda, their work is empirically weak, it’s clear that they allow their political commitments to trump epistemic commitments, and I’m not especially interested in working on their particular political cause, why should I waste my time reading their stuff? If I have to read their stuff because academic requirements make me feel obliged, I feel it causes me pain: It can be annoying to read, and I’ve wasted time reading crap that could have been spending reading something more informative.

By contrast, if I have a number of political/ideological disagreements with someone, but they research issues closely related to mine, it is methodologically rigorous, and we share epistemic commitments, then my epistemic commitment will require that I take their work seriously. This is precisely the situation that we need to have to fulfill the third criteria necessary for achieving (limited) scientific objectivity.

If a field puts its political commitments above its epistemic commitments, the consequence is that they tend to be ignored by people who don’t already agree with them, and they run the risk of creating echo chambers. This especially concerns me because my experience has been that a dangerous temptation to which many activists are prone is to consider complex issues from a narrow range of concerns, and to consequently have a high tolerance for collateral damage and low regard for the law of unintended consequences: Pain that they cause others is OK because it is done in the name of justice.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some thoughts on the politics of asexuality research

When I first discovered asexuality, one thing that greatly frustrated me was how little research there was on the subject, and how there was a lack of quality information available to people wanting to know more.  Since 2007, there has been a lot of improvement in the amount of community-developed literature on asexuality (and increasingly on demisexuality and gray-As), and there has been much more academic literature produced on the subject, with an increasing number of people researching it.

The standard by which I judge academic articles on asexuality has long been, "OK, tell me something I don't already know."  Most articles don't do a very good job at this.  Several of the early pieces seemed to tell us little beyond what people who'd read AVEN's FAQ already knew, but I'd hoped that this would change over time.

I'm not sure that it really has, and I believe that part of the reason for this concerns academic activism.

Obviously, everyone who publishes on any topic does so for some reason(s), and sometimes this involves aiming to bring about some sort of social change.  I have long known that much of the work that I do constitutes a form of academic activism, and I do see potential benefits from academic activism, but also potential dangers, depending on how it is conducted.    I probably take a different view on what is appropriate/inappropriate academic activism than some, but I think it is important for asexuality researchers to think critically about how to do (and not do) academic activism.

Most of the academic work on asexuality is presently coming from three general areas: psychology, sociology, and gender studies/communication, as shown in the figure below.

Figure 1: Number of English language academic works on asexuality per year.*

Feminism and queer theory are overtly political, and that work clearly has political goals.  I strongly suspect that some of the research on asexuality coming from psychology was motivated partly from the backlash against the promotion of FSD (i.e. if you're wanting to challenge what you see as the over-medicalization of female sexuality, studying asexuality is a good way to do it).  My own research is partly motivated by a desire to promote better understanding of asexuality and increase academic visibility.

In my view, scholars' primary commitment in research should be epistemic, not political.  We should seek first of all to better understand things, and to promote better understanding in others.  Trying to improve society through research is acceptable only if done in this framework.  Because this involves striving to be “objective,” and “objectivity” has gotten a bad name in many areas, I want to discuss this matter:  I've generally found that people adopt, roughly, one of three main stances towards "objectivity."

1)  Researchers should be unbiased and objective (like me), not prejudiced ideologues (like people who disagree with me).

2)  While view-from-nowhere objectivity is impossible for humans, more limited forms of objectivity are both possible and desirable.  At least most of us have had the experience of reading works that were fairly "objective" and others that were less so.  We've read authors who fairly and accurately portrayed a variety of views, including ones the author(s) disagreed with, and we've read authors who present caricatures of opposing views.  We've read authors who openly acknowledged issues/data that are potential problems for their analyses, and we've read authors who try to sweep under the rug potential confounds, alternate hypotheses, and problematic data, hoping that readers won't notice.  In both, the former is felt to be “more objective” and this limited sort of objectivity, though often difficult, is desirable and something scholars should strive for.

3)  View-from-nowhere objectivity is impossible, so I'm free to be biased as all get out.  (Often, this will mean freedom to be biased towards what they view as morally good.)

As a caveat, I would like to distinguish between being objective and claiming to be objective.  My experience has been that people insisting on how oh-so-objective they are almost always have a rather obvious agenda and either a) they're hoping people don't notice this, or b) they hold to Type-1 objectivity and are oblivious to the matter.  Of course, those who adopt (2) have an agenda as well, if we regard "better understanding a topic" and "doing educational work to make others more informed" as agendas (which I think they are, though they are generally less partisan agendas.  Of course, scientific debates sometimes become partisan as well, but they at least generally have the virtue of the potential to ultimately be resolved with more research and new generations of researchers open to new ideas).

I very much favor Type-2 objectivity, and authors taking this approach are the ones whose work I most appreciate and find most informative.  This is the approach that I hope most people studying asexuality will take, but it can be difficult to do so.  In a future post, I intend to discuss means for striving for limited-objectivity.

*Figure 1 includes English language monographs (1);  journal articles [including editorials] (20); book chapters (4), doctoral dissertations (1), and masters theses (3).  For journals published online ahead of print, articles are coded based on when they go to press.  Two articles currently in press as well as one published in 2013 have not been included.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2013 Call for Papers about Asexuality: National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA)

2013 Call for Papers about Asexuality National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) November 7-10, 2013, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

 The NWSA Asexuality Interest Group welcomes papers for the 2013 NWSA annual conference. These asexuality-related themes are orientated towards the full NWSA 2013 CFP which can be found here: http://www.nwsa.org/content.asp?contentid=27 If you are interested in being a part of the 2013 Asexuality Studies panels at NWSA, please send the following info to the designated panel organizer (listed under each theme) by Monday, February 11, 2013:
*Name, Institutional Affiliation, Mailing Address, Email, Phone
*NWSA Theme your paper fits under *Title for your talk
*50-100 word abstract We will try to accommodate as many qualified papers as possible, but panels are limited to 3-4 presenters. NWSA will make the final decision about which panels are accepted. Presenters accepted into the conference program must become members of NWSA in addition to registering for the conference.

Theme 1: The Sacred and the Profane
 • What is secular? Spiritual? Religious? Sacred? How do these terms work as we begin to open a dialogue between asexual communities and celibate communities? What are the challenges asexual people face from religious communities; what are the challenges celibate people face from asexual communities? Where do we understand the place or non-place of the sacred, religious, or secular in these conversations?
 • How do the sacred and religious inform identity in a global context? What paradigms deemed central to asexuality or celibacy shift when these terms are incorporated? How does the common assertion of celibacy as choice and asexuality as inherent become troubled when we move the terms to a global context, or between religious and spiritual connotations?
 • Is feminist critique inherently secular? Can feminist frameworks provide key insights into religious beliefs, affects, and practices that go beyond secular versions of insight and knowledge? Can feminist frameworks enhance how we understand celibacy and asexuality both within and without religious beliefs and practices? • Is there more overlap or disconnect between celibacy and asexuality when understood from perspectives of indigenous studies, queer studies, and/or trans studies? And how does this tension between the terms challenge the meaning of sex, desire, sexuality, the sacred and profane?

 Please submit materials to theme organizer Karli June Cerankowski at karlic@stanford.edu

Theme 2: Borders and Margins
• How are the borders and the margins of asexuality studies being constructed over time?
 • In what ways does asexuality studies “traffic” in the objects, knowledges, preoccupations, desires, and/or body of disciplines of study, identities or movements?
 • How has the field of asexuality studies been shaped by or enhanced by utilizing women's and gender studies methodological approaches or pedagogical perspectives? How does this relationship and its converse exist or manifest (or not) in the visibility of asexual interests?
 • How have shifting geographies of technology, labor, economy, and migration impacted study of asexuality? How might these new forms of “encounters” be studied and enacted through asexual movements in the future?
 • How do the actual geographies of women’s and gender studies locations—in institutions of higher education, in surrounding neighborhoods, communities, cities, towns, and other spaces—renegotiate the borders and margins of the discipline?

 Please submit materials to theme organizer Aasha Foster at aasha.foster@nyu.edu

Theme 3: Futures of the Feminist Past
• What are the visible and invisible feminist and queer histories of asexuality?
• What are asexuality’s archives and how do they bear on the present asexuality movement and community?
• Given the difficulty of tracing asexuality historically, what strategies of historiography can we undertake to render asexual histories? How might feminist and queer historiography help us in telling asexual stories?
 • How might the definitional parameters of asexuality be questioned, complicated, and rethought when searching for asexuality historically? What possible overlaps might there be between asexuality, celibacy, frigidity, and singlehood?
 • How could we account for moments of anti-feminist asexuality and what are the points of encounter between feminist and non-feminist modes and moments of asexuality?
• In what ways does asexuality complicate our relations to the past, to history, and to temporality?
• What new categories, methods, and strategies might an asexual history call for?
• Who and what are the subjects of asexual histories and feminist & queer asexual histories? How might various affects, including loss, mourning, desire, and hope be mobilized by these histories?
• Finally, what is at stake in telling asexual stories and seeking asexual histories? How does the past bear on asexualities’ presents and futures?

 Please submit materials to theme organizer Ela Pryzbylo at przybylo@yorku.ca

Theme 4: Body Politics 
• What role does the body play in communal articulations of asexual identity? How do members of asexual communities understand the relationship between embodiment and asexual identity?
• Given that asexual identities have primarily been articulated in online spaces, to what extent are communal articulations of asexual identity detached from the body? At the same time, how have bodies remained relevant and/or present in online asexual communities?
• What is the relationship between asexuality and medical/psychiatric categories like hypoactive sexual desire disorder?
• What is the relationship between asexuality and disability rights politics and/or disability studies?
• Does asexuality facilitate particular types of bodily practices, such as types of bodily comportment or bodily presentation? Does asexuality facilitate particular ways of relating to the bodies of others?
• What does theorizing about asexuality have to offer theories of embodiment in general?

Please submit materials to theme organizer Kristina Gupta at kgupta2@emory.edu

Theme 5: Practices of Effecting Change
 • What does it mean to create visibility about asexuality? What are the strengths and limitations of identity politics surrounding asexuality?
 • How do we teach about asexual identities, communities, and movements in women’s and gender studies classrooms?
 • How do social movements--such as antiracist, feminist, and LGBT movements--relate to asexual movements? How do asexual activists and scholars take inspiration from and work with other social movements?
 • What do asexual communities have to learn from radical queer and trans communities? From polyamorous communities?
 • What are the interpersonal, contextual, institutional, and ideological factors that constrain and/ or nurture the legibility of asexuality as an identity and social movement?
 • How might we harness new technologies and media in our efforts to create visibility and awareness about asexuality?

 Please submit materials to theme organizer Regina M. Wright at wrightrm@indiana.edu

New paper: Picturing Space for Lesbian Nonsexualities: Rethinking Sex-Normative Commitments through The Kids Are All Right (2010)

Gupta, Kristina. (2013). Picturing Space for Lesbian Nonsexualities: Rethinking Sex-Normative Commitments through The Kids Are All Right (2010). Journal of Lesbian Studies, 17. 103-118.
This article examines representations of lesbian nonsexuality in the film The Kids Are All Right and in responses to the film by feminist and queer scholars. In some moments, the film offers a limited endorsement of lesbian nonsexuality, placing pressure on the category lesbian to include nonsexuality and asexuality. However, in their responses to the film, many feminist and queer scholars rejected nonsexuality as an aspect of lesbian experience, placing pressure on the category lesbian to exclude nonsexual and asexual women. Asexual activism challenges scholars to question their sex-normative commitments and to keep the category lesbian open and flexible.