Žižek on asexuality

It’s been at least seven years since I last worked on asexuality but I inevitably encounter the topic on a regular basis. I was a bit surprised to find it in Slavoj Žižek’s recent book Hegel in a Wired Brain, in spite of his penchant for god awful writing about trans issues in recent years. This is what he writes about asexuality on pg 40:

This is why the addition of “asexual” to the series of sexual positions listed by the partisans of LGBT + is crucial and unavoidable: the endeavor to liberate sexuality from all “binary” oppressions to set it free in its entire polymorphous perversity, necessarily ends up in the abandoning of the very sphere of sexuality–the liberation OF sexuality has to end up in the liberation (of humanity) FROM sexuality.

It’s obviously inaccurate to talk about asexuality as the liberation from sexuality. I’d say rather it’s a matter of recognising the diversity of actually existing orientations towards sexual attraction, starting from those who have never experienced it and/or have consistently felt repulsion at the thought of it and extending through to groups like demi-sexuals (only experience attraction to those they have a close emotional bond with) and gray A’s (those who exist in the grey area between sexuality and asexuality).

However what I think he does capture is the sense that social awareness of asexuality has potentially transformative implications for sexual culture. It’s not a case of ‘abandoning’ sexuality but rather recognising how inarticulate we have been about our varying experiences of it, with our vocabulary largely restricted to who we feel sexual attraction towards and how we prefer to act on these attractions. In my past life as a sociologist of (a)sexuality I used to write about the sexual assumption: the uniformity and universality of sexual attraction which is so widely assumed.

Far from asexuality being a negation of sexuality, as Žižek suggests, I’ve always understood it as a deepening in which sexual culture comes to be increasingly reflexive about what it is we are experiencing in the ‘sphere of sexuality’.

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