Scholarship on asexuality is a growing but underexplored area in the social sciences. In the U.S., asexual people (i.e., individuals who do not experience sexual attraction) navigate a society in which being a sexual person is regarded as a normal and even compulsory aspect of human health and subjectivity. Utilizing an asexual subsample from a broader study of queer young women, this article integrates Foucault’s theorizing around sexuality and repression with scholarship on healthism to examine how discourses of sexual healthism operate among asexual young women in the U.S. South. We argue that in rejecting theories of sexual repression and compulsory “healthy” sexuality, asexual young women both confirm and resist the moral authority and power of religious and health discourses to affirm their identities and find language and communities to make their experiences more intelligible to themselves and others. Our analysis advances emerging scholarship on sexual healthism and its discursive and material effects on marginalized groups.


asexuality, asexual identity, in-depth interviews, identity formation, healthism

Author Bio(s)

Anna Sheppard is a graduate of the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina and a graduate student in the School for Social Work at Smith College. Please direct correspondence to annasheppard07@gmail.com

Dr. Emily S. Mann is a sociologist and Associate Professor of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina. Please direct correspondence to emily.mann@sc.edu

Dr. Carla A. Pfeffer is Professor and Chair of Sociology at Michigan State University. Please direct correspondence to cpfeffer@msu.edu


This research was supported by grants from the Office of Undergraduate Research Magellan Scholar Program and the South Carolina Honors College at the University of South Carolina.

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