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Review by Brittney Miles

Ela Przybylo’s Asexual Erotics explores how asexualities can be explored through erotic frames and representations, and it expands our conception of sexuality and relationality through the possibility of asexualities. Definitionally, this text engages with asexuality and nonsexualities with broad and nuanced conceptions of queerness, plurality, and spectrums that add contextually rendered layers of depth to foundational definitions. Przybylo situates asexualities relative to and as a critique of compulsory sexuality by prioritizing erotics instead. Erotics allows the author to successfully read a politic of relationality into the texts, rather than identity or performance.

This book interrogates various texts since the 1960s across a range of mediums rich with new possibilities provided by asexual frames. Methodologically, asexual resonances are the method where the work of reading texts that has queerness bound by compulsory sexuality takes on new shapes when read through asexualities – whereby queer genealogies are expanded outside of static sexual relationalities. Asexualities, explored alongside queer, feminist, and lesbian politics, becomes the basis for reconsidering new ways of relating.

Organized as an introduction, four body chapters, and an epilogue, this book is well organized despite the chapters clearly being in conversation with one another and utilizing multiple texts. Chapter 1 considers how the feminist liberation movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s employed political celibacy, asexualities, and nonsexualities as an erotic setting in which feminisms could be a counter to biased and unjust systems of inequality. The lesbian death bed is central in Chapter 2, where supposedly failed lesbian sex takes new meaning through an asexual lens by differently considering what makes productive selves and relationships. Also, this chapter beautifully engages lesbian art to read beds, further expanding our understanding of erotic spatialities and representation. Chapter 3 explores where asexualities are situated relative to the erotics of childhood through queer frameworks, in contrast to the desexualization of American children, in intergenerational familial relationships. Here, the author establishes asexuality as an identity that one grows into rather than out of. Chapter 4 shifts the erotic narrative of aging populations away from deficit and disposability logics that perpetuate a desexualization of this population that is grounded in agism. The epilogue calls us to consider anti-erotics in involuntary celibacy (incel) politics that prioritize white supremacy and misogyny. This nod to this counternarrative frame serves as an urgent juxtaposition to the rest of the text that highlights the relevancy of the intersectional asexualities as erotics offered throughout the book.Asexual Erotics is best suited for interdisciplinary advanced sexualities courses, particularly in women’s studies, English, and sexualities. Students who already have a foundational understanding of gender and sexualities would be able to add to their critical repertoires with this text. Courses that may be about queering sexualities or intimacies are great places to explore how erotics and asexualities can be reconstituted by one another for various demographics. Relative to disability studies, the continual engagement with diverse texts and artworks, as well as the intersectional analyses, the author’s approach is complementary to disability studies. Beyond the recognition of the desexualization of people with disabilities, Przybylo’s book shifts the ideas about the relational politics of diverse bodies and being as politically erotic sites that refuse disposability and sexual essentializing. Overall, this text is a necessary intervention in sexualities and queer studies; it is an amazing addition to the asexualities canon. Ela Przybylo’s Asexual Erotics: Intimate Readings of Compulsory Sexuality is an expert depiction of how to do the work of using the erotics of asexualities to reposition us to theorize how we can be together differently.

This review was published as part of Disability Studies Quarterly, Spring/Summer 2022.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated.

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

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