“When We Talk about Gender We Talk about Sex”: (A)sexuality and (A)gendered Subjectivities

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Gender diversity is seemingly prevalent among asexual people. Drawing on qualitative research, and focusing on agender identities in particular, this article explores why this might be the case. I argue that previous explanations that center biologistic understandings of sexual development, the liberatory potential of asexuality, or psycho-cognitive conflict, are insufficient. Instead, I offer a sociological perspective in which participants’ agender subjectivities can be understood as arising from an embodied meaning-making process where gender was understood to be fundamentally about sexuality. I emphasize the importance of understanding asexuality and agender in the broader structural context, as particular subjectivities were shaped and sometimes necessitated in navigating hetero-patriarchy. However, these entangled understandings of (a)sexuality and (a)gender were sometimes rendered unintelligible within LGBTQ+ discursive communities, where there is often a rigid ontological distinction between gender and sexuality arising from histories of misrecognition and erasure. I complicate this, arguing that already-invisible subjectivities may be made even more invisible by this distinction. The article illustrates the need to empirically explore the meanings of the categories “gender” and “sexuality,” and the relationship between them, rather than siloing them in our methodological and conceptual frameworks.




Cuthbert, K. (2019). “When We Talk about Gender We Talk about Sex”: (A)sexuality and (A)gendered Subjectivities. Gender and Society, 33(6), 841–864. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243219867916

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