Remember that awesome post by Ozymandias that I reacted to by being incredibly overemotional?
It’s now a blog. Check it.
I appear, for reasons either inexplicable or Semiel-based, to be one of the few people on their still-young blogroll. And one of the first, due to the way asexual issues tend to be adressed first in alphebetised systems (damn my asexual privilege). I am so glad I was halfway through a relatively coherent post about asexuality and feminism.
Also, obvious trigger warning is obvious, though I’m keeping mostly academic.
This idea was sparked when I read a post critiquing parts of the asexual community a while ago (yeah, I’m pathetically slow at the whole blogging thing). Part of the argument was that the way the needs of sexuals were discussed in some parts of the asexual community equated, to feminist eyes, to something that looked a lot like rape culture.
I should start by pointing out that I’m really not happy with the way sexual attraction is presented to asexuals (often by other asexuals, who, to be fair, don’t know much better). Sex is presented as something that no-one who isn’t asexual can live without. This is just another example of that self-creating denial of reality I mentioned. It ignores the fact that large swathes of the human population wait until marriage before sex, many of them because it’s ‘nice’, rather than out of fear. It ignores the fact that a surprisingly large percentage of college graduates are still virgins. It ignores direct evidence that a lot of ‘normal’, non-asexual people just aren’t that bothered.
So sexual attraction is described as a rampant animal. It cannot be controlled. It cannot be reasoned with. And it is normalised- 99% of the population go around with this all day, every day, in the same way that we’re told that all (non-asexual) men think about sex so often that they would never be able to, for example, go on a game show and concentrate on naming items on a conveyor belt or steering metal around an electrified wire without connecting the circuit, because they’re thinking all the time about sex.
So I’m a man who experiences sexual attraction. I’m calling bullshit on that myth now. If you, dear reader, genuinely feel that you have a very high sex drive, that you couldn’t be in a monogamous relationship with someone who doesn’t want sex, for example, then feel free to express that. But don’t express your desires as universal desires. Because all you’re going to do then is deligitimise your own opinion. Sexual attraction doesn’t work as a raging beast of hunger for most sexual people, or for most men.
The next step in the promotion of rape culture is moving responsibility onto the asexual person. First, it is assumed that asexuals, by seeking out romantic relationships, have themselves to blame for any compatibility issues. Then it is assumed that the asexual person has to be the one to deal with the beast they’re unleashing, a beast that is pretty much fictitious.
For anyone who has a good idea how rape culture works, hopefully your mind is racing to this conclusion. Asexual people and women are both seen as a sexless class (though this is not exactly true of asexuals, and very much not true of women). A myth of an unquenchable sexuality is created and this sexuality is normalised. Then the sexless class is given responsibility for maintaining a sexuality that they cannot comprehend or predict.
The effect is different. In mainstream rape culture, it leads to victim blaming, rapists as a force like gravity, one which it is your duty to protect yourself against. When used against asexuals, it tends not to justify rape, but to encourage ‘compromise’ in romantic relationships, and to discourage any notion that non-sexual romantic relationships can work.
I am still unsure as to how this similar but different experience of rape culture can inform feminism. Perhaps it reinforces the idea that normalising female sexuality, making sure women are allowed to feel desire and say yes, stops women being responsible for the bugbear of male sexuality. Perhaps the asexual community can say something new about relationships- about how compromise works in mixed-libedo relationships and what happens when compromise is impossible. There’s something to be learned here. Even if it’s just the disheartening realisation that the right to say no is just the beginning.