Date of Award

May 2019

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication and Rhetorical Studies

Advisor(s)

Dana Cloud

Keywords

asexuality, flibanserin, HSDD, medical rhetoric, sexuality

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Abstract

Using a Foucauldian-influenced approach to discourse and power, this thesis analyzes the production of nonsexualities, such as the lack of sexual desire, in the contemporary United States. In psychiatric discourse, the distressed nonsexual subject is produced as the patient with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). This discursive formation was put to use in the debate surrounding pharmaceutical drug flibanserin (Addyi) in order to secure its approval by the FDA in 2015. I posit that, by emphasizing the distress of the HSDD patient experience, the rhetoric of pro-flibanserin advocacy succeeded in producing an ethical exigency, arguing that it would be cruel for the FDA to reject the drug. Centrally, its support for this claim relies upon the construction of an ideal (hetero)sexual marriage and problematizing nonsexuality as a threat to love. Flibanserin’s rhetorical support depended, then, upon casting nonsexuality in the role of a destructive enemy force. As a counter-discourse, the discourse of the asexual community—which produces “asexuality” as a sexual orientation—codifies a point of resistance to these claims.

Access

Open Access

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