Theses defended

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

Rita Alcaire

Public Defence date
October 7, 2019
Doctoral Programme
Human Rights in Contemporary Societies
Ana Cristina Santos e Maria Gabriela Moita
The present study takes a queer and feminist theoretical approach to discuss the intersections between asexuality and human 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 human rights.

This action-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" points to my conviction that asexuality can produce knowledge that challenges traditional codes of behaviour related to sexuality and interpersonal relationships; 2) the subtitle - "Discussing human rights through the lens of asexuality in Portugal" - highlights that asexuality can be an epistemological lens and a critical contribution to rethinking intimate citizenship and human rights.

The data was collected over 24 months in Portugal and it includes fieldnotes and participant observation reports of asexuality-related events, media coverage from 2001 to 2017 and an account on a focus group with healthcare providers, 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.

Keywords: asexuality, human rights, sexual citizenship, healthcare, media