PhD Thesis proposal

The Asexual Revolution: discussing human rights through the lens of asexuality in Portugal

Supervisor/s: Ana Cristina Santos and Maria Gabriela Moita

Doctoral Programme: Human Rights in Contemporary Societies

The present study takes a queer and feminist theoretical approach to discuss the intersections between asexuality and sexual rights. The aim is to understand how discourses and practices about asexuality — produced by the Portuguese media, healthcare providers and asexually identified people — are being constructed, negotiated and challenged in contemporary Portugal and what they can teach us about sexual and reproductive rights.

This research also lays claim for the importance of the existence of asexual people in the LGBTQI+ communities and that their voices should be considered whenever new relevant social policies are introduced or discussed, or existing ones are rethought.

The title pursues a twofold ambition: 1) "The Asexual Revolution" shows how asexuality can produce knowledge that challenges traditional codes of behaviour related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships; 2) the subtitle - "Discussing sexual rights through the lens of asexuality" - highlights that it does so through its contribution to rethinking intimate citizenship and human rights.

The data was collected over 24 months in Portugal and it includes field notes and participant observation reports of asexuality-related events, media coverage from 2000 to 2017, an account on a focus group with healthcare professionals, and semi-structured interviews with self-identified asexuals (April-November 2016). This interdisciplinary and multi-method study uses a descriptive, analytical and critical perspective to identify spaces of change and contestation of normative discourses that are emerging through the collective action of asexual people.

The research revealed that positive outcomes towards the subject in Portugal over the past decade have been mainly enabled through spaces where asexually identified people were able to share their lived experiences. Digital platforms, together with asexual activism and media participation have all contributed to creating a difference in the asexuals' lives and general perception about asexuality.

The present research and thesis has been entirely supported by the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia in the framework of doctoral fellowship (SFRH/BD/52281/2013) within the POPH programme.