Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

Sociology and Social Policy

Research Student: Mercedes Pöll

A-/Sexual Intimate Borderlands: Exploring Boundaries and Liminal Spaces in Close Personal Relationships

In my PhD research, I discuss asexuality as a mode of relating that is located in the margins of the intimate landscape. Subsequently, I seek to investigate what it means to inhabit these borderlands and how the presence or absence of sex is being used as a major factor in classifying a relationship as romantic, familial or friendly.

The empirical component of my research will furthermore help assess what participants think of as (not) sex, as well as how they conceptualise their relationships using existing behavioural-affective scripts of relating. Throughout the project, I consider the notion of liminality, which is used to continually evaluate the grey areas, overlaps and boundary spaces that occur when talking about a-/sexuality, types of intimacies and the status of different relationships in society.


I completed a BSc (Hons) with the Open University comprised of courses in Social Work & Policy, Creative Writing and Linguistics. My MA was in Gender Studies with an added focus on social research methods at the University of Leeds. My own research to date has been structured around asexual intimacies and intimate citizenship, as well as touched on childfreedom and Queer Theory.

Academic interests and activities

More generally, my academic interests include:

  • Intimacies and sexualities (asexuality, BDSM, polyamory, etc.)
  • Liminality and boundary-work
  • Non-normative genders
  • Intimate citizenship
  • Childfreedom (voluntary childlessness)
  • Alternatives to pathologising narratives concerning mental health and disability (such as multiplicity [DID/MPD] and D/deafness)

Jointly with Alexa Athelstan and Stefanie Boulila, I am co-convenor of the Interdisciplinary Gender Studies Colloquium here at Leeds. I am continuously involved in academic and activist events concerning sexuality (especially asexuality), feminism and Gender Studies more broadly in the UK and abroad.


I am currently teaching on the following modules in the School of Sociology and Social Policy:

  • SLSP1091 Sexuality, Subcultures & Stigma
  • SLSP3071 Sexualities & Society

I have previously taught on:

  • SLSP2010 Research Methods


‘Asexual Intimate Citizenship’ (Forthcoming) In: Carrigan, M. A. (ed.) Asexuality Studies. Palgrave Macmillan.

'Thriving on the Edge of Cuts'. With Athelstan, A., McLuckie, C., Mills, L. & Pesarini, A. (eds.) Special edition of the Graduate Journal of Social Science, October 2011.

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