Simon Fraser University was the first institution in the world to offer a full-length undergraduate course in asexuality studies. According to the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, an online asexual community, an asexual person is defined as someone who does not experience sexual attraction to another individual. However, asexuality should be regarded as an umbrella term because people with low sexual desires could also fall under this category.
In fall 2017, the department of gender, sexuality, and women’s studies offered a class titled “Critical Nonsexualites” that focused on the topic of asexuality. According to Dr. Ela Przybylo, Ruth Wynn Woodward postdoctoral fellow and the course instructor, asexual people make up approximately one percent of the population — so there is a good chance that you or someone you know is asexual. More than that, however, it is important to educate ourselves about asexuality and not assume that all people desire sex or are attracted sexually to others, she added.
Przybylo explained that the society we live in influences us to practice compulsory sexuality, which is the idea that romantic relationships only feel legitimate when the individuals engage in sexual activities or are sexually attracted to others. As a result, “learning about asexuality [is] important because it helps us think critically about compulsory sexuality and how it is that sex and sexual attraction have become so central to how we understand ourselves and our relationships with others,” said Przybylo.
“The core questions [in the course] were really around what is compulsory sexuality, how is it experienced by various people, and how can we take steps towards both including asexuality in feminist and queer spaces and thinking about compulsory sexuality critically,” stated Przybylo. “I want SFU students to think critically about why it is that we assume sex and sexual identity are normal and natural.”
Przybylo also noted that students in the course were invited to think about other identities and how they interact with asexuality. By doing so, the students explored how certain ways of being are privileged and rewarded over others. “A focus on asexuality helps us look critically at how so-called ‘normal’ ranges of sexual desire have serious effects for us all and especially for people who are deemed as having ‘excessive’ or ‘lacking” desire,’ said Przybylo.
The Peak asked Przybylo if the course will be offered again in the future but she said that “this will likely not happen at SFU.”
Although a course that focuses on the topic of asexuality won’t be offered again in the near future, Przybylo shared some of the exciting projects she is currently working on. At the moment, she is revising her book Asexual Erotics: Intimate Readings of Compulsory Sexuality in which she explores asexual forms relating across feminist, lesbian, and queer texts. She is also collaborating on several other projects on topics such as vegan masculinity on Instagram and critical disability studies approaches to menstrual pain.
In addition, she is collaborating with her research assistant Shahar Shapira on developing the course “Intersectional Feminist Journal Praxis” which will be offered in fall 2018. According to Przybylo, “This is a project-based course in which students will be asked to collectively develop — from start to finish — an inaugural issue of an undergraduate journal that will be launched via the Open Journal Systems Software. The goal of the course is to mobilize students to partake actively, at all levels, in feminist publishing and feminist making while learning how to work collaboratively.”