Women Dancing on the Edge of Time
: Reframing female (a)sexualities through Zorbitality

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In the early twenty‐first century, asexuality has emerged as a sexual orientation
category, defined as a ‘lack’ of sexual attraction. This thesis challenges such a
definition, arguing that it erodes individual idiosyncrasies; assumes that
everyone is sexual, and that sexuality is immutable; and fails to note that sexual
orientation labels are products of patriarchy and capitalism. A study of female
(a)sexualities is long overdue. Very little has been written on the topic.
Furthermore, with the rise of postfeminism, women are often represented as
desiring their sexual objectification, whilst the narratives of asexual‐identified
women are in danger of being lost. In response, this thesis poses two questions.
Firstly, what are the junctures and disjunctures between discursive
representations of female (a)sexualities and women’s engagements with
(a)sexualities across their life spans? Secondly, what are the embodied
moments when female (a)sexualities are in transition, and in particular, what
role do ecstatic collective movement rites play in these shifts?

To answer these questions, this thesis employs three methodologies: (i) a two-part genealogy, comprising a sociohistorical exploration of female (a)sexualities
and alternative narratives, articulated through the literary imaginary, Western
and Afro‐diasporic dance and Zumba; (ii) ‘me‐search,’ featuring nine
autobiographical passages written between September 2013 and August 2016;
and (iii) collective biography workshops with nine women/life history
interviews with seven women, conducted from April to June 2015. The data
suggested that patriarchal structures constrain women’s collective ecstatic
motion. This led to the emergence of a new concept for reframing female
(a)sexualities: Zorbitality. Zorbitality is a resistant imaginary, which navigates a
threefold process from vulnerability to inner ecstasy and collective ecstatic
motion. It harnesses the collective joy of Zumba, a global Latin dance fitness
phenomenon, as a central example. Zorbitality features realigned and evershifting erotic poles, from autoeroticism to polyamory. Ultimately, as a resistant imaginary, Zorbitality challenges representations of ‘asexuality’ as a categorical orientation, by situating collective ecstatic motion as the basis of a feminine libidinal economy, which embodies an ethical openness to otherness.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorAnanya Kabir (Supervisor) & Anna Reading (Supervisor)

Cite this