HU Asexual Perspectives in Comparison with A Cultural Artifact Presentation

Harvard University

Question Description

I don’t know how to handle this Psychology question and need guidance.

Create a powerpoint presentation and script on the attached article. The presentation should be between 5-7 minutes long. In the presentation, you must include one quote that stood out to you the most that you would like to base the presentation on. The following are guidelines of what the presentation should consist of:

1. Title page

2. The chosen quote

3. A brief outline of the connection you are making between the quote/reading and a cultural artifact:

  • Connection to a cultural artifact (a recent news story, policy, or piece of media), please include a link or copy and paste the picture into the text box. If you are using a video, the video must have subtitles.

4. One discussion question to ask the class

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Article Ace of (BDSM) clubs: Building asexual relationships through BDSM practice Sexualities 2015, Vol. 18(5/6) 548–563 ! The Author(s) 2015 Reprints and permissions: DOI: 10.1177/1363460714550907 Lorca Jolene Sloan Adler School of Professional Psychology, Chicago, USA Abstract Since the, 1990s, asexuality has gained prominence as an identity adopted by individuals who do not experience sexual attraction. Paradoxically, many asexual individuals form relationships through Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, and Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) – acts conventionally assumed to involve sexual desire and pleasure. I interviewed 15 asexual individuals to illuminate why they participate in interactions where sexual attraction is often expected and expressed. I propose that BDSM helps these practitioners form non-sexual relationships by providing tools for navigating sexual expectations and redefining their behaviors as indicative of affections that do not stem from sexual desire. Keywords Asexuality, BDSM, identity, sex, sexuality I follow Jessie’s jeweled heels up two flights of stairs, past a smoking couple whose upturned lapels frame matching leather collars, and enter Chicago’s foremost BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism) club. For the next hour, Jessie strikes her partner’s shoulders until his flesh blossoms red and purple. Ginny draws pink constellations across her companion’s skin with a pocketknife and Michael sends current through electrodes affixed to his and his partner’s skin until they pulse together like twin hearts. Jessie, Ginny, and Michael perform acts that are common sights in the club, but they are not typical BDSM practitioners. Broadly speaking, BDSM describes consensual interactions in which two or more adults cultivate a power imbalance through physical restraint, emotional vulnerability, role-playing, pain, or other intense Corresponding author: Lorca Jolene Sloan, 6112 North Winthrop Avenue Chicago IL 60660, USA. Email: Sloan 549 sensations. While a single archetype cannot represent the heterogeneity of BDSM practices and motivations, most literature posits that BDSM practitioners gain sexual satisfaction from their behavior. However, individuals like Jessie, Ginny, and Michael maintain that they do not participate in BDSM for erotic pleasure or sexual companionship. In fact, they declare that they do not experience sexual attraction towards people of any gender. In their own terminology, they are asexual – or ‘‘ace’’ for short. The prospect that asexual individuals form intimate partnerships through BDSM contradicts the dominant interpretation of scholars and activists that BDSM practitioners derive sexual arousal and pleasure from exchanges of pain and control. How can asexual individuals form relationships through the practices of a subculture traditionally associated with sexual expression? How do they manage the possibility that their behavior might be interpreted as a wish to be sexually aroused or take pleasure from anticipating, fantasizing, or having sex? How do they negotiate the sexual desires and expectations of non-asexual partners? Contemporary consideration of asexual identities Most individuals come to identify as asexual through acknowledging and communicating that they do not experience sexual attraction towards individuals of any gender (Bogaert, 2004; Carrigan, 2011; Scherrer, 2008). To elaborate, they never feel a visceral desire to engage in intercourse or any other act with another person in order to experience arousal and/or orgasm. They never feel drawn to another individual or motivated to initiate a relationship based upon the desire for sexual intimacy or satisfaction (Carrigan, 2011; Scherrer, 2008). Asexual individuals’ responses to the prospect of sex range from revulsion to indifference, and it follows from this variability that asexual individuals do not necessarily abstain from sex (Bogaert, 2004; Carrigan, 2011; Scherrer, 2008). Some even enjoy arousal and orgasms, but attest that only objects, situations, or masturbation elicit these feelings (Carrigan, 2011). Their arousal is not caused by nor directed at an individual. Indeed, three of my informants explain that people are absent, peripheral, or ‘‘faceless’’ in their fantasies. A definition of asexuality that centers on not experiencing sexual attraction subsumes a variety of identities. But a recurring theme in many individuals’ narratives is a struggle to navigate the implications of lack of interest, aversion, or anxiety concerning sexual relationships within a society that expects and privileges sexual desire as a form of intimacy and self-expression (Cerankowski and Milks, 2010; Przybylo, 2011; Scherrer, 2008). Many asexual individuals experience attraction to – sometimes even romantic infatuation with – people they find comforting, inspiring, beautiful, or talented (Carrigan, 2011). But for most, their indifference or aversion to the prospect of sex alienates them within political, medical, religious, and media discourses that expect sexual desire to be a ubiquitous part of adulthood, if not a vital component of personhood and intimacy (Cerankowski and Milks, 2010; Przybylo, 2011; Scherrer, 2008). Adopting an asexual identity helps 550 Sexualities 18(5/6) these individuals assert that their relationships are not impeded by or compensating for a lack of sexual desire, but rather stem from viable forms of non-sexual attraction. Many authors have examined asexuality as a response to social pressures to highly value sexual desire and companionship, or at the very least to experience sexual attraction as a profound aspect of adulthood (Cerankowski and Milks, 2010; Przybylo, 2011; Scherrer, 2008). However, little work explores how asexual individuals form relationships through navigating partners’ expectations for sexual attraction, investments in sex, and potentially ambiguous ideas about what behaviors constitute foreplay or sex. Some authors propose that viable asexual relationships require strict demarcations between ‘sexual’ and ‘non-sexual’ sensations and acts (Brotto and Yule, 2011; Haefner, 2011; Prause and Graham, 2007; Scherrer, 2008). But how can asexual individuals construct a sustainable framework for distinguishing sexual from non-sexual behaviors, given that they may define and value sex differently than their partner or mainstream society? I argue that BDSM provides asexual individuals with uniquely effective tools for setting unconventional boundaries and reformulating dominant scripts about how sexual desire should manifest and be valued, in effect creating spaces where they can express affections that do not implicate sexual attraction. These tools enable asexual practitioners to create relationships that they experience as non-sexual through behaviors conventionally associated with sexual desire, or even by having sex. It is not my aim to determine why my informants demonstrate non-normative responses to sex and sexual relationships. A variety of factors may inform their disregard or discomfort with sex – two individuals have experienced sexual abuse, and three transgender informants recount that sex possesses a volatile power to destabilize their gender identity. Instead, I intend to illuminate how asexual individuals negotiate expectations to have or desire sex and form relationships that affirm their non-normative boundaries and desires. Scripting sex and sexual desire Authors examining the cultural and historical variance of sexual behaviors theorize that acts, emotions, and relations become sexual not as expressions of an innate impulse, but rather through being ascribed scripted connotations with sex during social activity. Foucault (1990 [1978]) proposes that sexual desires are not intrinsic, invariable phenomena that social conventions repress or restrain. Rather, cultural systems associate sex with behaviors, physiological reactions, emotions, and gender, race, age, and class categories that script a unique interaction characterized by roles and affects that are collectively recognized and individually experienced as ‘‘sexual’’ (Gecas and Libby, 1976; Green, 2008; Simon and Gagnon, 1986). Sexual desire, then, is not a purely instinctual impulse with a definitive object, singular means of fulfillment, or invaluable function in relationships. Rather, its orientation, pleasure, and potential for self-expression emerge as individuals navigate the connotations of certain behaviors through performing social roles Sloan 551 (Gecas and Libby, 1976; Green, 2008; Foucault, 1990 [1978]; Plummer, 1996; Simon and Gagnon, 1986). Sex-positive rhetoric is a powerful and prominent instrument for contemporary advocacy groups to provide political support and education on behalf of safe sex practices and marginalized sexualities. At its core, sex-positivity is a philosophy that recognizes the potential of behaviors beyond penile-vaginal intercourse and encounters other than heterosexual partnerships to affirm personal sexuality and cause sexual pleasure (Glick, 2000). However, as these parties increasingly incorporate sex-positive rhetoric into their dialogues on sexuality, they risk proliferating scripts that privilege sexual expression’s capacity to engender intimacy and personal integrity. These discourses delegitimize asexual individuals’ intentions to form non-sexual relationships and obscure the mechanisms they employ to create and navigate these partnerships (Feministe, 2012; Glickman, 2011). Asexual BDSM practitioners offer an ideal opportunity to illuminate how individuals can use activities that are conventionally equated with eroticism to create intimacies that they experience as non-sexual. Behind the scenes: BDSM means and mechanisms Most authors, writing either as practitioners or outside observers, distinguish BDSM as practices that produce relationships by foregrounding, manipulating, and enacting scripts that delineate consent and power (Califia, 1994; Martinez, 2011; Weinberg et al., 1984; Weiss, 2011). Practitioners utilize BDSM archetypes, language, and props to converge social categories like race, gender, sexuality, class, and age through fantasy and activity in a way that constitutes radical intimacies (Califia, 1994; Martinez, 2011; Weiss, 2011). These tools rest upon three tenets that loosely bind individual BDSM practitioners to a community through an informal system of interpersonal accountability. First, most practitioners assert that BDSM activities should only occur between able-minded, non-coerced, and consenting adults (Califia, 1994; Martinez, 2011). Second, BDSM practitioners typically designate physical and imaginary spaces to cultivate and contain an imbalance of power, which can be considered the capacity to produce (through acts, commands, or emotional expressions) an intended somatic or emotional state in one’s partner (Califia, 1994; Martinez, 2011; Weiss, 2011). They refer to the physical location, time span, and fantasized scenario in which this power exchange takes place as a ‘‘scene’’ (Martinez, 2011; Weiss, 2011). Third, scenes generally conclude with an interval termed ‘‘aftercare,’’ during which partners dissolve and appraise their power exchange (Weiss, 2011). My informants describe aftercare as an opportunity to alleviate the intense emotions incited by scenes by cuddling, rehydrating, troubleshooting the scene, or recounting its successes. Generally, BDSM partners collaboratively negotiate and script a power exchange, enact this dynamic during the scene, and dissolve it during aftercare. It is worth noting that practitioners vary in how prominently they feature power imbalance in their activities, how explicitly they articulate consent and script their 552 Sexualities 18(5/6) activities, and how emphatically they believe that a power imbalance should exist strictly within the interval of a scene and be entirely dissolved upon its conclusion (Califia, 1994; Weiss, 2011). But while these three components cannot account for the heterogeneity of BDSM practices, their prevalence obligates one to be familiar with the relations they enable before exploring how asexual individuals use BDSM to create relationships. Current literature, whether produced by sexuality scholars or BDSM activists, primarily attributes BDSM’s potential for academic study or personal empowerment and pleasure to its nature as a sexual practice (Califia, 1994; Kleinplatz and Mosner, 2006; Martinez, 2011; Weinberg et al., 1984; Weiss, 2011). Most scholars, whether conducting field research or analyzing the subculture’s history, interpret BDSM as inseparable from sexual desire and pleasure regardless of whether intercourse occurs or whether informants describe their own behavior as erotic (Kleinplatz and Mosner, 2006; Martinez, 2011; Weinberg et al., 1984; Weiss, 2011). Weinberg et al. describe BDSM as ‘‘blatantly’’ (1984: 385) sexual, even though intercourse may be ancillary or absent in practitioners’ scenes. No literature considers whether BDSM can foster connections that do not stem from sexual desire, let alone whether it can sustain asexual relationships. Academic consideration of BDSM as a primarily sexual practice stems in part from the subculture’s history of supporting marginalized sexual identities and relationships. Early BDSM subcultures in the 1970s drew considerable membership from gay communities, and so were dedicated to creating spaces to sustain marginalized sexual practices (Califia, 1994). Writers from within the BDSM community are invested in preserving the subculture’s rich history of providing marginalized populations physical and social spaces in which to explore and articulate stigmatized sexual desires (Bauer, 2007; Califia, 1994). This history deserves to be celebrated, but neither academic nor activist authors leave space in their analyses to consider whether BDSM can create radical intimacies through means other than fostering sexual expression and pleasure. I intend to address this gap by exploring how asexual individuals use BDSM practice to form intimate relationships and navigate expectations to have or desire sex. Methods I interviewed 15 individuals who self-identified as asexual and had participated in some form of BDSM. From July 2012 to April 2013, I met five informants through events at a popular 18+ BDSM club in Chicago and conversed with three bloggers. Ten informants contacted me after administrators of Asexual Visibility and Education Network (2011–2012) permitted me to post a research request on the site’s forums. Currently the largest asexual community, AVEN provides information and forums for asexual and questioning individuals, friends and family, researchers, and the press. I conducted two-hour interviews either in person or via online messaging (depending upon informants’ availabilities) based on pre-prepared questions Sloan 553 about informants’ experiences identifying as asexual, realizing interests in BDSM, and articulating these identities and interests to partners, BDSM communities, families, and peers. To avoid distressing informants, I did not inquire about abuse, mental or physical illness, or transgender identification unless they explicitly brought up these topics. In total, I interviewed ten women and two men who can be described as cisgender, in that they self-identified as the gender assigned to them at birth, and two women and one man who self-identify as transgender. My informants spanned 19 to 34 years of age, most being in their mid-20s. There were 13 Americans (seven from Chicago), and two hailed from the UK. All names in this article are pseudonyms. My informants’ stories reflect a complex diversity of asexual identities and BDSM practices, informed by a variety of backgrounds and ‘‘coming out’’ narratives. Informants I interviewed online were afforded more privacy than those I spoke to face-to-face, which could have led them to disclose more. On the other hand, these individuals were capable of revising their responses before sending them to me. Informants volunteered to be interviewed, suggesting that they were motivated to share and reflect upon their experiences with a greater degree of honesty than if I had randomly requested their participation. However, since I relied on individuals who frequent clubs, online forums, or blogs to volunteer their stories, my data does not comprehensively represent the range of ages, disability statuses, locations, or comfort with disclosure that could characterize asexual practitioners as a population. Also, my description of non-asexual or ‘typical’ BDSM practice derives from informants’ experiences, current literature, and my own observations rather than from a comparative sample of non-asexual practitioners. Asexual BDSM relationships: Unbinding power from sexual attraction While identifying as asexual enables informants to articulate their lack of interest in sexual relationships, participating in BDSM helps them form partnerships based on attractions they do feel and fantasies they do wish to realize. In Amy’s words, ‘‘the ace community let me communicate what I didn’t want. Kink gave me the language and confidence to communicate what I did want.’’ I will explore two ways that asexual practitioners use BDSM to create intimate, frank, and compatible relationships that they experience as non-sexual. First, BDSM negotiation provides a reliable space for them to set physical boundaries and proactively dispel partners’ expectations for them to desire or have sex. Second, some informants use BDSM discourses to foreground reasons for arousing or having sex with their partners that do not invalidate their asexual identities. These discourses outline motivations for having sex that diverge from conventional narratives of consummating sexual desire and attaining sexual pleasure, and enable informants to communicate the anxiety that sex may involve. 554 Sexualities 18(5/6) ‘‘Just another kink’’: Negotiating sexual expectations Most informants integrate BDSM into their relationships to form connections based on mutual vulnerability, trust, and accountability. Some explain that relinquishing control over their physical and emotional condition requires ‘‘absolute trust’’ in their partners’ intentions, skills, and self-control. Jessie attributes ‘‘the trust I’ve learned to give and the protection I’ve learned to accept’’ to how BDSM helps her expect respect when she is vulnerable rather than fearing mistreatment if seen as powerless. Being an effective dominant requires informants to take responsibility for their capacities to exercise control – by virtue of their intelligence, brawn, or intensity – and wield power in a manner that benefits their partners. Bella states that dominant/submissive relationships ‘‘invite me to use my strengths in being attentive to a partner and creating a life that is rewarding for [her].’’ She explains that the ‘‘exchange of authority’’ involved in dominant/submissive relationships generates self-discipline, accountability, and attunement that ‘‘isn’t important in a more egalitarian relationship.’’ But asexual individuals who seek relationships in BDSM spaces or wish to incorporate BDSM into preexisting partnerships face a conundrum. To feel safe and respected, informants must be able to trust that their partner will not expect them to desire or have sex regardless of what activities they participate in. Consequently, they are generally guarded about participating in ‘‘sexual’’ acts – a label most use to denote behavior that might cause a partner to desire intercour ...
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Final Answer



Asexual Perspectives Script
Institutional Affiliation




“Many authors have examined asexuality as a response to social pressures to value sexual
desire and companionship highly, or at the very least to experience sexual attraction as a
profound aspect of adulthood..”(Jolene Sloan, 2015 pg. 551) The quote stands out the most in the
entire article due to the weight it carries when it concerns matters of asexuality. As a society, we
tend to blame people for the kind of choices they make without considering the reasons that
might have pushed them into such. Personal decision making is all about what works for
individuals, which might not be similar for everyone (Jolene Sloan, 2015).
The quote and entire reading closely relate to a news article by New York times that was
published in November 2019 to show the impacts social media has on people, specifically girls.
There is a close connection between the image of perfection and how people feel about their
appearance. The article tries to discourage people against comparing themselves with others on
Instagram as it will not build their self-esteem but rather damage it. Young women should realize
that social media does not positively influence their self-worth (Marikar, 2019).
The news piece relates directly to the chosen quote in a way that both depend on external
forces to make confident choices. Just like asexual individuals, women feel judged for not living
up to a certain standard of beauty and perfection. Asexuality is a decision that is sometimes made
out of reacting to social pressures that may come from close family, friends, and society at large.
They find it difficult to live up to the expectations of people concerning companionship and
sexual desires, hence decides to form non-sexual relationships. Young women feel the same way
looking through I...

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