For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for the ‘Aestheticals’ Category

You make yourselves another: On make-up and power

“God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another”

-Mysogynistic rant in Hamlet, III i.

So while catching up on the blogs I lurk, I discovered S. E. Smith on feminism and make-up:

Few feminist conversations confuse me as much as the one surrounding makeup and beauty standards, a reminder of my outsider status in the feminist community in a lot of ways because of my gender and socialisation. This conversation is conducted in a way that assumes everyone is on the same page, everyone is thinking the same things, everyone has the same experiences, but that’s not actually how it goes. With the makeup conversation, there are some of us who feel really, really at sea, and it’s hard to express it in a way that doesn’t come off strangely, evidently.


Read the rest. Something about this really struck me, so much that I needed to talk about it even though I don’t think S. E.’s personal blog allows comments, and it doesn’t properly fit with the theme of this blog, though I manage to shoehorn asexuals in later.

Firstly, my experience is of agreeing with S.E. I’m young enough not to have encountered the middle-class job-market sexism yet, but the only people among my friends who feel they have to wear make-up are goths. I can name at least 3 ciswomen friends who I know for a fact have never worn make-up a day in their lives, several more of the gothy persuasion who have never worn ‘respectable’ make-up. A lot of people I know simply don’t wear make-up in their daily lives and it isn’t a problem.

And this reaction sounds a lot like “I haven’t experienced it, so it’s not a problem,”- the standard reaction of the privileged. I can’t comment on the lived experience of people of a different class, generation, culture and gender to me, who I’ve never met. If they say expectations of wearing make-up are a problem for them, I’m going to believe them. What I don’t like is the assumption that everyone else’s experiences are the same, because a lot of people really don’t have that problem.

I’m going to go further than S. E. and argue that make-up can, in some circumstances, be a source of power. S. E. points out that transwomen are under expectations not to wear make-up. As a cisguy, if the walls of gender expectation came tumbling down tomorrow, I would rush out and buy make-up. Partly because I love the performativity, partly because the simplest contouring and eye-shaping makes my face into what I want it to be, not what it is. I’ve mentioned on yadaforums a group of people who I hang with who tend to do the whole ‘getting ready for a night out’ thing with a massive amount of clothing and hairstyling for both genders, and how comfortable I feel with them. The same group of people also often spend hours sitting in a circle and, unigenderedly, putting on theatrical make-up. Again, I feel so comfortable.

So, yeah, make-up is something I want, want, want, and am never going to be able to have, and I’m going to spend as much of my life as possible appropriating that privilege at halloween and Pride marches until I’m too old for that to be acceptable. And I’m slightly bitter.

That’s not to say that you’re not allowed to complain about unfair cultural expectations on you. I am entirely sympathetic, and will fight for your right not to wear make-up. But when you consider that, in my experience, make-up is entirely a choice for all women who aren’t in the fashion buisness, your cries of “Oh god, it’s so DIFFICULT being able to do this thing that you’re NEVER going to be able to do!” are not going to make me like you.

Lots of people are not allowed the privilege of make-up. At the time when asexuals were the big ‘trend piece’ in the media, I recall there being some talk about a programme where asexuals were presumed not to want the make-up which would make them look good under the studio lights. Asexual people were refused this marker of performativity, attractiveness, which everyone else was expected to want. Asexual people apparently do not have the privilege to wear make-up, to re-invent themselves, to be whatever they want to be. Asexual people, the station presumed, are less-than-normal.

Make-up can be oppression. Make-up can be objectification. Make-up can be privilege. Make-up can be power.

Don’t assume your reality is worth more than mine.

The lures of the feminine- bloomin’ quests

Recently, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been having the tiniest bit of sexual attraction to women. I tend to over-minimise my attraction on this blog, so ‘tiny’ tends to mean ‘minor’. In this case, it means ‘less than tiny’. It’s not even got to the stage of being sexual attraction yet, it’s like… increased responsiveness. Like before, I went looking for the bit of my brain that stores my gynophilia and there was just a wall there. Now, the room is still empty, but the wall has disappeared. There’s a room in my brain that I’ve never been into before, waiting to be filled up.

I use this metaphor because that’s what it feels like when this feeling strikes. It’s that physical sensation when you open a door in pitch black, and somehow, you can sense the open space in front of you.

And I’ve been thinking about why this is, and what this means. Neither are easy to answer. Neither, I know, are strictly neccesary to answer, sexuality can be what it is without cause. But I think it’s useful to look deeper.

When I was younger, I used to think that girls were off-limits. I used to surpress any proto-feelings I developed for girls, and encouraged the ones for boys, because I’ve been raised in a culture where heterosexuality is destructive. Where it is a metaphor for destruction heaped on the female by the male. Fires which, as they kiss, consume.

I’ve been going on a bit of a journey on that front, recently. I’ll write about it when I have time. Knowing internally what I knew academically- that heterosexuality isn’t wrong. Giving myself permission to feel things. When I do, now, it’s interesting, exciting, not shameful or confusing. I feel like I’m on a new, a wholesome, adventure. And that could be the reason for my feeling of newfound space.

Also, and I’m less sure about this one, I’ve hinted before that my attraction to men may be as much about who I want to be as who I want to be with. Now I’ve come to the horrific realisation that I’m moderately attractive, I feel like that whole issue is coming to a close, and leaving me more mentally healthy.

So, it appears I have a flexible sexuality. And, what’s more, it appears that my sexuality is often tied into whatever issues I’m dealing with at the moment. So, here I am, the perfect example of a late bloomer who deals with repression to fully accept themselves and suddenly open new vistas of sexuality. Yes?

Well, no, not really. The important take-away message I have about asexuality and flexibility here is that it really works both ways. As someone like me goes on a journey, their sexuality will change to reflect that journey, in subtle and unexpected ways. All too often, in our society, coming into a sexuality is seen as maturity, openness, a good end goal. But coming into asexuality, a restriction of sexuality, can be just as much of an emotional blossoming. It can stand for maturity, contentment, refinement of personal knowledge. So there is such a thing as a late bloomer. Right now, I feel like I’m blooming quite a lot. But asexuality is just as much a bloom as sexuality.

As sexy as they get

This depressing thought struck me as I was waiting at the platform of the train station in the rain.

I am an attractive young man.

I have no deformities, nothing that would repulse the shallow or unsuspecting. I am tall, dress smartly, my hair finally looks like it was grown by someone who realises that hair can be aesthetic. I fit narrow, Euro-centric, even Aryan beauty standards. Careful choice of glasses hides the things I hate about my face, and careful choice of clothes hides the things I hate about my body. I am skinnier than I think, even if I will never take the massive time/money/pain investment that leads to a great body. I am reasonably healthy. People who know me well wouldn’t call me confident, but various strangers have loved my confidence so much that they crushed on me. When I talk with passion, when I reveal what I tend to hide, I can feel people responding to that.

When I realised this, I felt as if I’d been gutted. Because that’s it. Battle over. Goodbye, irrational complexes, see you again sometime in middle age. Have fun.
Because I’ve spent so long looking at uber-pretty men, I can’t bear to accept that this is it. This is how far I get. This is attractive.

I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel like I always imagined attractive men to feel. So therefore I don’t feel like I’m attractive.

It’s sort of like the myth of thin, which I read about somewhere and now cannot find (prizes to whoever provides me with a link). You keep putting your life on hold, thinking ‘when I’m attractive, I’ll have this amazing and successful life’.

Well, I’m attractive.

It’s time to start living.

The demi closet

So, quick recap:

In the last post, I promised my next few posts would be short. I then wrote a post that I thought would be really short, and it ended up the same length as the others.
In the post before that, I promised to make things less asexual-based, or at least more wired towards a readership that I don’t assume to be asexual. That’s also notably been failing.

Today, I hope to meet promise #1, if not promise #2.

I’ve been thinking about how little I really mention the sexual side of my demisexuality on this blog. A lot of what I write about is written from the ‘asexual perspective’, and I almost seem to be trying to aviod the part of me that’s, well, normal. Seriously. Second-guessing how sexual everyone really is makes my brain hurt, but I reckon there’s happily sexual people out there with the same level of sexual attraction to me. I know that my feelings are the only ones I can comment on, but the more I let them be what they are, the more they seem to mark me out as subversively on ‘the other side’. It doesn’t mean I’m not asexual, the label is still the most useful to me without getting complex (like demihomosexual), but maybe that I’m less asexual than my deliberate persona.

I think it’s a matter of bravery. I don’t want to stand up and say “This is who I am” because it goes against the idea of the Ideal Asexual. Or maybe, if the Ideal Asexual is the asexual sexuals want to see, the Pure Asexual, the one who’s as asexual as possible, who has earned their place at the table of the sexless.

And then there’s the excuse. The excuse being- we live in a society with screwy notions about sex (especially queer sex), and I know that I can never rely on this blog to be anonymous. I want the worst real-life experience I can come away with to be “Yes, I blogged about asexuality for several years. God, I was privileged, time-wasting and self-obsessed back then” and not to be “You’ve read my blog? Oh, great. Now you know way too much about how I think about sex.” I draw the line very high so I have a little further to slip.

And the problem is that it’s quite a good excuse. The chances aren’t all that remote, especially as I remain openly asexual, if someone just decides to google asexuality and do a lot of reading on it. I’m probably blowing the effects out of proportion, I’d never planned to be any sort of graphic sex blogger. After all, that would isolate some of my asexual audience (see promise #2, above) and be practically impossible, considering I’m not reckoning on having a sex life to write home about any time soon.

But anyway. What’s courage and what’s foolishness?

And, looking back, I’m less convinced that I’ve met promise #1, or that I’ve not met promise #2. The moral of this story is- I always break my promises (must be because I’m an evil demisexual aromantic).

Attraction, attatchment and asexuality (and alliteration)

This post (shows you how long it takes me to write posts) on appositive reminded me of some musings I had on the very same subject, although they were pretty unrefined, because all I knew of it was a friend (who studies psychology) referring to the model in a discussion about sexuality (she was using it because she thought it’d prove to me that most people need to feel lust to be in a close relationship, a slight misunderstanding of the model, and an argument I’ll discuss later).
There are some very interesting ties with various asexual theories, which I shall now discuss in a haphazard manner.

Here, by the way, is the full report. For this relatively surface analysis of the themes, I’m going to be drawing from this shorter and more layman-friendly article, which focuses more on the human applications of the model. The model basically breaks attraction down into three parts- lust, attraction and affection. I’ll try to explain what I think these parts are, but if you want a clearer view, it’s best to go to the article.

The first part of changing this model to fit asexuality is simple- as with the Kinsey Scale, we must add the y axis. The y axis here stands for either the amount you are capable of feeling this type of attraction, or how important you judge this type of attraction in your relationship. It adds possibilities from “Very interested” to “Not interested at all”. Where are asexuals and asexual aromantics on these scales?

In terms of lust, the answer is very obvious. Lust translates into asexual terminology as ‘sexual attraction’, the lack of which unites asexuals. So asexuals would have little or no lust.

Attraction is a little harder to line up exactly with asexual terminology. Fisher does describe this as ‘romantic attraction’ at one point in the article. I’ve never been entirely certain on what romantic attraction is, but it seems to be what Fisher describes- the desire to spend your time with someone in a romantic bond. This scale would be the one defining whether you’re romantic or aromantic.

Fisher describes attraction as the ephemeral process at the start of a relationship, which doesn’t fit easily with the asexual version of ‘romantic attraction’.
Some of the quotes; “attraction is also associated with feelings of exhilaration, intrusive thinking about the beloved, and the craving for emotional union”, lead me to wonder exactly where crushes fit in with this model.
Enough asexuals report crushes to make it seem that they don’t need a sexual basis. Are they a form of lust which just doesn’t need to be driven by sexual motives? Or are they a form of attraction which doesn’t need to have a whole relationship built up around them?
This model is designed to talk about relationships, so the crush, generally a precursor to relationships, isn’t mentioned. To make it properly asexy-friendly, though, I’d like to know where the crush lies in this model.

The third and final stage of the fictitious typical relationship, and the last division of attraction, is attachment, the simple desire to stick to someone, even if the initial sources of other attractions are lost. This might also fit well with ‘romantic attraction’ in the asexual terminology, the desire to pair up. However, the good thing about this model is that the labels don’t quite fit with the asexual labels, so it’s another new angle to view things at.

For the sake of convenience though, I’d say that I’d interpret the three elements of a relationship as sexual attraction, crushes/squishes(/aesthetic attraction?) and romantic attraction. There’s a question about whether ‘relationship elements’ (which is how a lot of romantic sexuals tend to think) can really be changed into forms of attraction, which is how asexuals tend to think, but if I get into that, I just know I’ll never finish writing this.

The importance of this theory is a way in which sexual and romantic attractions can be featured in every type of relationship. For different people, their level of interest in the three aspects will be very different. So we can talk about people in relationships who have differing levels of these three attractions, and asexuals don’t seem quite so remote any more. There might be people who don’t have the attachment or crushes or any other combination, and there are a lot of asexuals who have at least one of the other two.

I’d intended to talk about the relationship between the Fisher Model and the big tripartite asexuality model, the Three T’s, in this post, but it’s been languishing in draft form for ages, so I’ll just release this bit and I promise there’ll be a part two. At some point. Promise.

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