Asexuality and epistemic injustice: a gendered perspective

Cuthbert, K. (2022) Asexuality and epistemic injustice: a gendered perspective. Journal of Gender Studies, 31(7), pp. 840-851. (doi: 10.1080/09589236.2021.1966399)

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Drawing on original qualitative research, I argue that the concept of ‘epistemic injustice’ proposed by the feminist philosopher Miranda Fricker, and located within a long genealogy of Black feminist scholarship, can be used sociologically to help understand the lived experiences of asexual people. I show how participants’ accounts of their asexual subjectivities were frequently denied, dismissed and over-written. However, I argue that these experiences were heavily gendered, in that asexual women were subject to epistemic injustices to a degree and in ways that their male counterparts were not, and that this must be understood within the power relations of hetero-patriarchy. These epistemic injustices revolved around old yet prevailing constructions of femininity and womanhood as ‘naturally’ asexual, passive, and lacking agency. When asexual men experienced epistemic injustice, this was rooted in familiar understandings of masculinity as necessitating an active and desiring sexuality. Using Fricker’s elucidation of hermeneutical and testimonial forms of epistemic injustice, I show how asexuality remains a culturally unfamiliar hermeneutical frame in a context of ‘compulsory sexuality’ but also how stories of asexuality are ‘heard’ based on the gendered (and unequal) distribution of testimonial credibility.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cuthbert, Dr Karen
Authors: Cuthbert, K.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Journal Name:Journal of Gender Studies
Publisher:Taylor & Francis
ISSN (Online):1465-3869
Published Online:17 August 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 The Author
First Published:First published in Journal of Gender Studies 31(7): 840-851
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
190423ESRC Doctoral Training Centre 2011...Mary Beth KneafseyEconomic and Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/J500136/1Research and Innovation Services