Accurate Data: Using Young Adult Science Fiction to Explore the Impacts of Compulsory Sexuality on Young Ace Lives
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This thesis uses Young Adult science fiction to explore regulatory systems of compulsory sexuality, and the ways in which the resulting societal norms and values impact the lives and experiences of young ace individuals. Most prior asexuality studies research is sociological, while that in the humanities has been confined to the representation and exploration of asexuality, or the re-examination of literature through an ace lens. Instead, I analyse how recent ace YA texts have engaged with compulsory sexuality and its impacts, then use my YA SF novella, Accurate Data, to offer a unique exploration of these issues and to envision the concept of a society without compulsory sexuality and its potential impacts on young ace lives. Accurate Data features the perspectives of four ace-spectrum protagonists aged twelve to seventeen, and explores their varied experiences of being ace within three imagined future societies: one with entrenched compulsory sexuality, one allonormative, and one aronormative. I examine various impacts that compulsory sexuality has on these protagonists, demonstrate the value of non-romantic relationships with an exploration of ace notions of intimacy, and establish small- and large-scale ace communities which offer refuge from compulsory sexuality and contest its monopoly. An accompanying critical essay begins by reviewing prior research of asexuality and compulsory sexuality, questioning the lack of critical attention to these concepts. I offer a consideration of non-normative ace intimate relationships, explored in Accurate Data, and specifically address the absence of research into young ace individuals’ experiences of compulsory sexuality. Alongside an analysis of key ace YA texts Loveless by Alice Oseman (2020) and the ‘Sal and Gabi’ duology by Carlos Hernandez (2019, 2020), I then detail my use of the features of YA fiction to explore ace teenagers’ experiences of compulsory sexuality in Accurate Data. This includes a discussion of parallels between coming out and the YA coming of age narrative, the use of multiple perspectives to reflect the diversity of ace experiences, engagement with a number of impacts of compulsory sexuality on ace lives, and the portrayal of an aromantic ace intimate relationship. Lastly, the essay examines the unique opportunities provided by SF’s limitless creative possibilities to explore compulsory sexuality, allonormativity, and even aronormativity, while also using a non-sapient robot character to highlight the issue of dehumanisation of asexuality in SF, and considering the value of labels to ace individuals in combatting hermeneutical injustice and the denial of epistemic authority. Through its breadth of ace diversity, consideration of compulsory sexuality, and refutation of allonormative narratives, this thesis therefore exposes, interrogates, challenges and resists compulsory sexuality and presents experiences of asexuality in original and innovative ways.
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