For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for March, 2010

Aromance of a non-virtual vind

So I had my first real-life discussion about the aromantic loss of privilege today, and it was with the irascible V, of all people. Talking to V is sometimes surprisingly cool, because she’s conservative through simple lack of thought, so I explain what I think in simple ways and see it click. For example, last week, I had to explain to her why gender stereotyping is bad. It’s challenging because she doesn’t have the same worldview as me, so I have to explain right from basics.
The conversation went something like this:

V: (thoughtlessly) I don’t think you’ll ever fall in love
Awkward silence
V: Sorry, that was a really horrible thing to say. Of course you’ll…
Me: No. I don’t think I will ever fall in love. (first time I’d ever said that, out loud or possibly even in my head. Felt weird)
V: Ok. Are you upset about that?
Me: (pause) Not about not falling in love. I’d be ok with that. It’s just all the other things that automatically come with it.
V: (thinking of sex) But I thought you didn’t want those things?
Me: No, like the fact that it’d be almost impossible for me to have children. Like the fact that it’d be much easier to set up a home if I had a partner and lots of useful wedding presents. Like the fact that, as people get older, they automatically withdraw into their romantic relationships and leave the friendships, so I have so much less security against being alone than others.
V: I’d never thought of it like that. I suppose most married people don’t spend much time with their friends any more.

V: (later) Maybe you could marry [mutual friend who doesn’t seem interested in sex or relationships].

I think the thing about my conversations with V is that I’ve realised the extent to which anyone, even someone of a completely different mindset to you, can eventually understand what makes you tick if you just both take the effort to meet in the middle and you make sure you use the right sort of language and the right shape of ideas.

The ‘coming out’ game

So I’ve been browsing blogs again, as always, and came up with this random nugget:

The “What are You?” Game (U.S. Edition) Rules and Regulations

Minimum 2 players, no maximum.

Object: You.

Goal: Retain as much dignity as possible while dealing with racial ignorance.

Materials: All you need is yourself – an ethnically-ambiguous human being – and somebody else’s lack of respect.

Be born into this world. Interact with other human beings. Game-play should ensue shortly.

When to Play/Who to Play With: The “What are You?” Game can be played at any time, anywhere. It can be played with friends and family, but is best played with casual acquaintances and outright strangers. Any time another human being asks you the question “What are You?,” the Game has begun, and your humanity can be earned or lost. Again, it is important to stress that this can happen at any time, as ignorance has no concept of appropriate boundaries and/or timing.

Game-play is commenced once another person (“the Asker”) asks you (“the Person”) “What are You?” It is then your turn.

There are things in this article that strike me as ‘OMG, yes, so been there’, and a lot that doesn’t seem much to do with me personally. With ethnically-ambiguous people, there’s not necessarily any answer, with asexuality, there is an answer. But the minute you tell someone the answer, you have basically thrown away your right to steer the conversation onto something else. Once you come out as asexual, you have to stick it through to the end, through however many faux pas and completely bewildered looks they give you, until they’ve grasped the simple facts.

It’s a problem I risk coming across as I make the changes I want to make to who I am, more flamboyant, better-dressed, proudly owning my androphilia and acting generally camp and unmasculine whenever I happen to think it suits me best. It takes no effort for someone to ask what your sexuality is, and it takes a lot of effort to answer, if you’re asexual.

And so you end up with what is best described as game-play. Game-play for your very humanity against awkward silence and the (understandable, but difficult to work around) ignorance of the majority. Like the writer, asexuals are in a weak position made weaker by a world that sees in binary- ‘black/white’, ‘straight/gay’, and in which asking “What are you?”, or, more likely for me, “Are you gay?” doesn’t fixate on your identity but on your ability to conform to the asker’s worldview, an act of erasing who you are, not celebrating it.

For the record, I am pretty much completely out. Except that my dad has never heard me talk about my sexuality, I never tick the ‘other’ box in job applications, and all of my friends but few of my acquaintances know about my sexuality. And the reason for this closetness isn’t a fear of reprisal. It’s because I know coming out takes so much effort. Almost every time.

Walking the Line

As promised here, I’m going to jot down a few thoughts about the Line between asexual and sexual. I’m interested, as I mentioned in that post, in times when asexuals draw the line differently to sexuals. This is more initial thoughts and outlines than conclusions, and is intended to mildly enrich the ‘definitions of asexuality’ debate. I’m going to use myself as a case-study, and pretend to be analytical and scientific, when I’m actually probably being closer to navel-gazingly introspective and live-journally. Oh well. That’s the way I roll.

There are two variations of Line-discrepancy. Times when asexuals draw the line lower than sexuals, and times when they draw it higher. One results in perilous no-man’s land, the other in overlapping yet contradictory labels. Fortunately, I believe my scientifically-chosen study-subject (ie. me), is subject to both these conditions.

In the first example, we see asexuals sticking to a very reductive, prescribed definition of asexuality- ‘lack of sexual attraction’, while sexuals go for a more nuanced definition, one which reflects the realities of their lives more. So, for example, I almost definitely have some form of sexual attraction. This sexual attraction is very abstract, I’d describe it as being more likely to be physically attracted to someone who’s in a sexual situation to someone who isn’t. Asexuality is very much about what is or isn’t going on in your head. I have a theoretical form of sexual attraction, therefore, from an asexual point of view, I’m above the line. However, a lot of sexuals bind their sexuality around more practical ideas- who do you fancy? Who are you in a relationship with? Who are you screwing? Were I to call myself gay, I’d instantly draw to myself a whole host of untrue assumptions about how pronounced my sexuality is, what my relationship to my sexuality is. In fact, my relationship to my sexuality is far, far closer to a physically-attracted asexual than to a sexual person. I can imagine myself saying ‘Well, I’m not asexual, because my physical attraction to people is often enhanced by sexualisation, even though I don’t want to act on it,” to even the most understanding sexual, and they’d look completely blank.

In the second example, we have the asexual bending the definition of asexuality while the sexual holds to it. This can be seen in the example I linked to above- Joy thinks that not experiencing sexual attraction the vast majority of the time and then coming to it occasionally is just part of the range of experiences of a sexual person. A lot of demisexuals would be confused if you told them their experiences were in the normal range of sexuality, because the reason they identify as demisexual is because they don’t feel any space in a sexual label for them. For example, I think that, were I to have a romantic attraction which pointed in the same way as my aesthetic/sexual attraction, the issue of asexuality would never come up for me. I would assume that my sexual attraction was complete and normal, I would pursue relationships, feel attracted to the people I was having relationships with, and enjoy sex. Any energy I was lacking from sexual attraction could be drawn from other aspects of my sexuality. I reckon there are a lot of people like me out there, who have less-than-complete (whatever that means) sexual attraction, but just assume that they’re normal, because they function perfectly well. In my case, only my hetero- or a- romanticism and my over analysis have jarred with the ‘normal’ life. Then how can I really claim to be asexual, when there are sexuals somewhere out there existing quite happily as straight or gay or bisexual, who have less sexual attraction than me?

Running long on words and short on time now, and this was just meant to be something for you all to ponder. Do any of you have any idea how these could be reconciled? Personally, I think the key is in shared experiences. Demisexuals and grey-a’s share all their experiences of living without instant, obvious and actionable sexual attraction with asexuals, which makes them closer, gives the asexual label a relevance to them that their corresponding sexual label wouldn’t. Which is why we live by it- because it describes us, in the spirit, but not in the word.

Which begs an awful lot of questions about how seriously we want to take the prescriptive definition of asexuality.


I’ve not been posting for so long, or, at least, it feels that way. It’s probably good that it’s nagging at me now, when last year I didn’t update for months at a time. Dunno why I’m so slow, I promise to get more involved in this blog again at some time this month. For now, I leave you with this wonderful essay I’ve found on asexuality and disability, which, as far as I’m aware, has mostly stayed in the parts of the internet related to disability and not been seen much in the parts related to asexuality, and has lots of interesting thoughts about this particular intersection.

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