Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (UNL) Conference System, 1st Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies Conference

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Defining “sex” in relationships without
Mercedes Pöll

##manager.scheduler.building##: B Tower
##manager.scheduler.room##: T10
Date: 2015-09-25 04:30 PM – 06:00 PM
Last modified: 2015-08-07


This presentation is based on my dissertation research about experiences of people in relationships without sex. Its theoretical framework is grounded in Queer and Borderlands Theories, e.g. through the idea of social norms as constitutive of people’s personal lives, the discursive construction of social realities, and the determinative role of boundaries in shaping identities, feelings of belonging, and everyday experiences. The project features qualitative analysis of 15 specifically conducted narrative interviews with people in non-/monogamous relationships without sex.

The question of what sex actually is came up frequently in those interviews. In order to describe a relationship as “without sex”, partners need to consider (intentionally or not) what sex is or is not in conjunction with identifying what acts or practices they do or do not want to engage in. Drawing together perspectives from different participants of various backgrounds (such as age, gender identity, “race”, religion, etc.) I will discuss discourses that participants used to make sense of sex – discourses on, for example, the physicality/embodiedness of sex, the intangibility of affects or moods, and sex as an end in itself.

While this research was not built for teasing out results that are representative of a given population, I argue that it is nevertheless valuable to explore a range of differing approaches, imaginings, and opportunities. I argue that in considering the perspectives of people in relationships without sex, we can gain insights into how sex and its attached values, expectations, and assumptions function within certain contemporary intimate contexts.