For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for the ‘Sexuality theory’ Category

Born to perform

Wotcha, dudes and dudettes. Let’s talk about PERFORMATIVE GENDER. And performative sexuality. And how they’re often confusingly confused.

And by talk, I mean squeal excitedly over this. And this. And this.

Because they’re all utterly amazing. And the first two, the one I found this morning and the one I refound this morning say such a lot about masculinity. Performing masculinity when it’s not automatic. Performing masculinity when you’re queer. Performing masculinity when you’re asexual.

I’ve been thinking recently about how amazing it would be to perform asexuality. Without purchasing a shirt that says ‘this is what an asexual looks like’ because that’s, you know, cheating! A surprising number of people have twigged from my general demeanour that I’m queer but not gay, and I’m now wondering, as a little social experiment, how high I can ramp up that number. How intuitive can I make my sexuality presentation? How on earth do you codify asexual?

I think some of it is about challenging gender stereotypes, but in a way which differentiates oneself from the camp. Personally, for example, I’m thinking in terms of the Edwardian morning suit, more than the muscle shirt, the feather boa. Alternative gender constructions that don’t owe much to previous ones. But I don’t know how much that’s just me, and the pernicious influence of the yadas.

I think there’s a lot I tend to reveal by the way I act, just on the basis of going around and being non-normative. I think some of it is in the way I just refuse to fit in the box in anyone’s head marked ‘single’, or ‘looking’. Some of it is in the way I play with sexuality, sexual attraction, gratuitously in conversation, with a perspective that’s clearly alien. Some of it, maybe, is in the way I’m clearly unmotivated by the possibility of relationships, and it shows in how I express myself.

I’m building up all these little flags, just from living in my own head long enough that I have an automatically new perspective.

And this roots itself in how I perform masculinity. It seems perfectly obvious to me that I’m affecting masculinity from a queer viewpoint. To follow DJ’s terminology, I’m subverting masculine sexual power by bringing that power to the heel of my asexuality.

In conclusion: Just read the posts/song I linked to at the beginning. While you’re reading Garland, think about how what he’s saying is also kinda relevant to asexuality, in a whole number of interesting ways. How performing gay has such a wide number of functions, and performing asexuality maybe the same. No, I’m not doing the hard work for you. Yes, I should be. Sorry, I have essays to write. Like, genuine, non-asexual ones.

There’ll probably be more on this later though.

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The gay agenda- it’s not just for straight people any more!

From the sinister and teal-clad minds of the Evil Fellowship of Aromantics (ie, Sciatrix and I) comes a new and terrifying game. Tiers of Queer, a game of privilege and plummeting, where the stakes are your lives. Wanna play?

This is based, by the way, on the beautiful last line on this post about asexuality, which was clearly not written by non-libedoists, bitter that we’d stolen their word:

Generally speaking, in terms of sex drive and desire, the homosexual and the asexual could not be further apart

(read the rest of the article. It’s short, but… informative)
This quote suddenly made staggeringly clear to me the hidden inference behind this. People like simple lines. Asexuals and other 2nd dimensional creatures, can mess up a linear world view. There’s us and them. And, for the more refined, there’s moderate us, between two thems. It’s how a lot of people view sexuality, and the tiers look something like this:

1.Celebate
2.Asexual (dragged down slightly because the word has been stolen by gay sympathisers. You know who you are!)
3.Decent folk.
4.Deviants (BDSMers, mostly. The definition is left usefully flexible)
5.The Homosexual (male. If you’re a lesbian, or homoromantic woman, congratulations. You’ve broken the game)
6.The Transsexual (not quite sure what these people are, but they must clearly be like the homosexual, but more extreme)

This is why asexual and homosexual are more opposite than, say, asexual and straight. Because being gay isn’t defined by what it is, attraction to men, but by the level of sexual deviancy that the quality posesses.

Sexual Deviancy is a single-score game. Maybe you fit into more than one category? Tough. Pick the biggest number that applies to you, and that’s your score.

And this is where it got to me. I’m 5 on that list. I am a homosexual. I’m not sure if I’ve directly typed that on this blog, before, but I’ve said several times that I used to think I was demihomosexual and realised I was more than demi. I don’t use gay, because I’m really not. I find it difficult not to identify in some way as asexual, even if there’s no technical asexual left about me. Because I’m an asexual blogger, because I’m aromantic, because to invalidate asexuality is to invalidate whatever the heck I am.

I’ve been trying to introduce myself not as asexual, and it’s killing me. Outings are suddenly fifty times more painful than even asexual outings (which aren’t fun). I end up with people having no idea what I am, when what I want is to spread visibility. I want to be proud that I’m asexual. Without being asexual.
And if that happens, if I go back to the word asexual, without the doubt every time I introduce it, without the ‘so what’ of “Um… I used to identify as asexual?”, then guess what? I’m a homosexual, pretending to be asexual. I’m a repressed gay, dispite the fact that I think I’m doing pretty well at not being repressed. Dispite the fact that the biggest force ever repressing me was the fact that I knew I could be used as evidence that asexuality is invalid if I ever admitted who I was.

So now I want to say; yes. I am homosexual, and I will identify as asexual. I’m the betrayer in your midst. The wolf in sheep’s clothing. What’re you going to do about it?

Enough bitter not-quite-sure-which-bits-are-sarcasm for tonight? You’re probably right.

Sexuals talking asexual

This is dealing with cast-off issues from my last-post. When I approached the last post, my head was a mess of all the different things I wanted to put into it, and there was some extremely heavy-handed cutting to get it brief enough to be informative. This post will hopefully be target-audience appropriate right from the beginning.

So this is largely about discussing asexuality in your LGBTQ, or maybe your sex-positive or feminist non-internet-based group.

Asexual canvassing:
There is one discussion that you are perfectly qualified to have without any asexuals present, and that is how much you’re going to publicise that you are asexual-friendly. Are you going to add an A? Or a Q? (I know the Q doesn’t seem like that much of a victory, but I’ve seen enough asexuals banned from LGBT spaces because their name wasn’t above the door. It sucks to know that you’re there at the whim of your hosts) Or chuck the alphabet soup altogether? Are you going to add asexuality and a brief definition to your promotional materials, let people know that your support networks extend to include asexual people? This is a conversation you can have without asexuals, because it might help you snare some. Then you can move on to the next two discussions:

Asexual resources:
Ok, so you have a feisty asexual or two who are willing to spread the message. You can now go one step up and, if the asexual doesn’t mind doing some of the legwork, provide asexual resources. These will largely be resources from asexual people to asexual people. The flaw being that you don’t know how many asexual people are actually going to find these resources, it’s likely to be negligible. But it’s good to have them. I’m thinking mostly in terms of asexual leaflets, asexual-specialised support workers, maybe the occasional asexual meetup if there’s enough interest. This is something you can’t really do properly if you don’t have any asexuals on your team. While an asexual can still benifit from a normal queer/sex-positive support group, it’s a lie to say that you have resources for them when none of you knows the more complicated aspects of asexuality.

Asexual theory:
I realised the difference between this and asexual resources when a friend asked if I wanted more on asexuality in our LGBTQ. I think they were thinking of asexual resources, and I was imagining an hour of discussion about asexuality being “Asexuality is [trot out definition].” “Okay”. *55 minutes of silence*.
Asexual theory (and again, this ball is completely in the court of any asexuals you have around) is basically resources from asexual people to sexual people, with a little more discussion. This is why it is possibly the best way (except maybe a bit of joint visibility) to bring up asexuality in your group discussions. As I said last post, it’s the stuff that comes after the AVEN front page that is actually interesting. The stuff on the front page provides five minutes of talk, and 4.30 minutes of that is the “Is asexuality valid?” question, which is a really good way to piss your asexuals off.
Not entirely thought this through yet, but it’s essentially ideas that other people would find useful or interesting:
-The y-axis on the Kinsey Scale
-How asexuals define orientation and attraction
-Romantic attraction, aesthetic attraction (leading into Rabger’s model)
-Non-binary intimacy, community-based intimacy
-Asexuality and the LGBTQ
-Challenges facing asexuality/asexuals

That’s six topics which could each promote a good amount of discussion. In their own way, they’re radical. I feel like they’re as close to the heart of asexuality as the AVEN definition. They also all link into one another in a coherent order, and would make a nice presentation which would spark some truly enjoyable discussion.

In conclusion, see how hard I, an asexual (shush, brain. Not now), who has spent about four years active in the asexual community and a year active blogging, struggle to sidestep the initial unhelpful and vexing questions and get into a conversation. That’s how much effort you have to go to if you want to get a decent conversation about asexuality going among people who don’t know about asexuality. I want you to look at yourself and figure out if you really have the expertise to pull this off.

When sexuals write asexuals

I’ve been hearing this a lot in the last two weeks and it’s only now, when I sat down to write a completely different blog post, that my brain suddenly linked it all together and said “Hey, dude, there’s this whole thing going on. Forget your other plans, talk about this instead.”

It came to me after reading the Feminists With Disabilities bulletin for the blog carnival. I had a load of stuff here about why FWD is an asexual-friendly space, but I cut it out because I want this post to be easy to read for its intended audience.

Suffice it to say that FWD is always very strong on the idea that if you want to know what’s best for disabled people, you talk to disabled people. Maybe this is what makes them so good at representing asexuality when asexuality and disability are two groups that the kyrarchy really tries to play against each other. Because FWD lets asexuals speak about asexuality.
And the ironic thing is that I’m sure a couple of their writers could speak so much better about asexuality than everyone else does, because they spend time listening. But, where possible, they encourage asexuals to talk, rather than speaking for them.

Someone recently mentioned that they were fed up of communities saying they were respectful to asexuals and then not trying to provide any asexual materials. This applies to internet communities and also to localised LGBTQ groups. I agreed a little, but on the other hand, I cringe because I know what sexuals write about asexuals when they’ve had little actual exposure to asexual thought.

A lot of people, and it happened earlier this week on a blog I’m not going to name, just flick onto AVEN, read the definition, read the FAQs if you’re lucky, and get this understanding of asexuality that is no better than the corny American shows that’re like “What happens when people don’t want to have sex?” Then they tie that understanding into whichever point they want to make, often quite clumsily, and there’s your asexual dialogue.

Which, as someone who devotes an inordinate amount of resources to furthering asexual thought, kinda pisses me off. It feels like they’ve proudly made a volcano out of a cola bottle and some papier mache and they hold it up to me and I’m like “Your paintwork is terrible. You’ve left most of the top of the bottle visible.” They hold up their big, inclusive asexual thought and I can see the holes.

This annoys me because I WANT sexuals to be part of our discussions. I really genuinely don’t want a world in which only asexuals can talk about asex, because I think the ideas behind asexuality are relevant to a lot of people. I’ve talked, face-to-face, with some people who have awesome views on asexual theory. I remember on AVEN, some of the commentors I respected and admired most were sexuals. I’d love to hear the views of everyone else. Also, since typing this paragraph, I’ve just re-remembered that I’m not actually asexual anymore. I suppose I’m a sexual commenting on asexuality, and no-one’s stopped me thus far.

But I think that this is the dividing line:
I’m fed up of hearing “So this is what I think about asexuality, ie. celebately-oriented people.” It’s too close to “Should we let asexuality exist?” And that’s a game I really don’t want to play any more. This is what I said a year ago last week:

It’s like the only asexual issue is whether we exist or not, and we’re too busy with that issue that we have no time to actually exist.

I said it about an article that was four years old. Yawn. Is bored now.

What I’d love to hear is what sexuals think about romantic attraction. What sex-positive people think about repulsed aces. What other minority groups think about detoxing. What other desexualised groups think about the way asexuals experience desexualisation. What polamorous people think about the relationship binary. What feminists think about our own brands of asexual feminism.
What we can add to the discussions on disability, virginity, polyamory, and an ongoing list. What you, dear reader, can add to us.

These are the conversations that are worth having. So when we say that we want you to take asexuality and talk about it, we really, really do. But you have to take more than one bite before you can get anything other than surface. Asexuality isn’t useful to you. It isn’t something you can talk about. If it was, you’d be asexual (damn, why does my existance always contradict my points nowadays?). But you’ll find something will hook you, if you look hard enough. It’s past the front page, I’m afraid. If you’re not willing to look for it, you could always write throwaway posts. Who knows, you may be thanked by asexuals for even deigning to notice that we exist, and not being more directly condescending than you would be at a museum exibit. You won’t write well. And you won’t engage me.

(The guest posts idea is still a very good way to get the discussion about asexuality started among your readership. An a certain quasi-asexual blogger is always avaliable, if you want to commission one…)

(a lot of this was also inspired by the blog post by Minerva about the sexual Sherlock fandom writing asexual and ACTUALLY DOING IT RIGHT!! I’ve found some small scraps of the discussion since then, and there really is some incredibly in-depth, gorgeously respectful discussion going on, a lot of which is by sexuals who have very little experience of asexuality. I was going to discuss what makes this work so very well, but I had to cut that out for succinctness, and because I don’t really know. I think some large proportion of it is for the reasons I’ve mentioned, because they’re willing to go beyond 101. But it just shows that sexuals can write asexual)

Saving Spaces

EDITED TO ADD A DISCLAIMER: I’ve come under severe criticism for being so blindly supportive of sex-positivism in this post, which I think is pretty fair. The problem is, up until this was pointed out to me, I’d always gone with the sex-positive movement’s rhetoric of assuming that sex-positive is a synonym for non-judgemental. I’m not going to edit anything out of this post, but for now, please read ‘non-judgemental about people’s sexualities’ where I’ve written ‘sex-positive’.

Not been writing much recently, restraints of work, and all, but every few days, I seem to stumble across new cool asexy blogs. My list has increased almost exponentially. Check out the list to the left-hand side if you’re interested.

One post in particular, from Dreki’s archive, has just got my head spinning.
If you’re interested in (post-101) asexual community building, you must read this.

(It’s so important that I’m not going to summarise what they say. I’m going to wait here until you’ve read it. Done? Good. I’ll carry on).

I’m still really not sure if I want to believe Dreki is telling the truth. On the one hand, they argue well, it is, for example, kinda weird that the only safe space on AVEN is for sexuals. There’s a whole thing about asexual investment in sexual pain which is another issue entirely- I think a lot of it stems from romantic clichés of bodies burned by the irresistible forces of lust, and unavoidable hyperbole when sexual people try to describe sexual attraction.

My biggest argument against them is that asexuality is fundamentally different from most other minority groups. We live in societies that are cissexist, ablest, racist, ect, but we also live in societies that are often quite anti-sex. When some other minority talks in a way which might be called ‘un-PC’, the privileged can ignore them. That’s what the privileged do anyway. When asexuals talk with a hatred of sexuality, that hatred is fuelled by the strong political groups which invest in creating hatred of sex, in breeding judgement and human misery. That hatred is also picked up by the same currents in society. These are horrible lies, I don’t want to see them spoken at all, let alone by people in a group that theoretically represents me. I’ve always seen sex-positive conformity as an acceptable price. True, it means we can’t say what some of us think, but it also means we’re not feeding straight into the judgemental power games of the natural opponents of alternate sexuality. Asexuals should be held to the same standards as others when making judgements about the moral value of sex.

These were my initial thoughts. Essentially, this is what I think the chief difference would be if AVENites stopped self-policing so rigorously. There would instantly be a lot more of the vile sex-negative threads that pop up occasionally, and there would be no stopping them. All the good work of AVEN would be wiped clean, massive asexual loss of credibility, planes falling out the sky, etc. And I don’t think it would help if we had safe spaces, because I still don’t want that filth in my community, thanks.
But then, re-reading and re-reading, I realised that this doesn’t answer the entire charge. In a slight twist to the Ideal Asexual idea, Dreki asks; why is it that transpeople and people with mental health problems and non-neurotypical people (three communities which appear to have a larger incidence in the asexual population than the general population), have to be hidden away? What sort of positive community can that make?

And are we limited to sitting around for an eternity saying “Jolly good lark, this asexuality business! Such fun!” while we secretly blog and queersecrets and PM our (perfectly valid) questions about intersectionality? That’s why I like the blogosphere and apositive, we can talk without worrying too much what the sexuals will think. When I posted a series of angsty cries for help because the loss of my assumed privilege as a romantic person hurt Too. Damn. Much, a month or two ago, I found myself supported by other bloggers going through the same things as I was. It’s comforting, and a conversation which probably couldn’t have happened on AVEN, where there’s suggested censure at your unhappiness, and no way you could have a proper discussion about romantic privilege.

Dunno. What do you guys think?

Operational definitions: Where things get technical

First- time for a short squeal of delight. A personal first: Someone I know mentioned the split between romantic and sexual attraction without being asexual or, to my knowledge, knowing an asexual. This made me fiercely happy. It also gave me the perfect conditions with which to bring up asexuality for the first time with my LGBT, but various people interrupted and the topic moved on to something different.

Anyway, I’ve been stumbling across a new way of defining myself for a while now, and I think I’ve finally got it sorted. It reconciles asexual and homosexual in a way that demihomosexual never did for me.
It’s based on the idea that sexuality has a number of ways of defining it, subtly different in ways that normally don’t matter. The three which I’m largely thinking of are:

The social constructionist:
Sexuality is defined by identity, feelings, belonging. It isn’t prescriptive or intuitive. Whatever labels fit, stick. It’s also very generic and vague, offering absolutely no definitions of what sexuality is, how important sexual attraction is, etc. In being open, it is blurred and unspecific. According to this definition, I’m asexual.
The asexual:
A definition of sexuality created by people who were told about sexual attraction in the assumption that they’d already know about it. A logical, thorough image of sexuality, like painstakingly painting around something invisible. Very much based on the word attraction. Compartmentalised, due to the difference in the romantic and sexual feelings of many of its creators. I’m guessing I’ll get a bit of flak for saying that asexuality doesn’t reflect reality, but my point is that nothing does. Not completely. I think the asexual theory is utterly awesome because it’s the only one that really looks deep into the complexities of what orientation means. Under the asexual definition, I’m homosexual.
The behaviouralist:
Defined entirely by how you act/want to act. A pretty sucky approximation for orientation, but it has in its favour the fact that it’s actually more important than orientation, in a real-world kinda way. In this sense, I think I’m bi.

The nice thing about this is that it gives me a reasonably succinct description of my sexuality that invites dialogue and hints at the complexities involved, while referencing all the identities that are important to me (my preferred label, my technical label, my behaviour). It’s way better than the “Don’t know, not sure how to say it” that I’ve been trying for recently, which is so difficult to make not sound defensive. Instead, I’ve got “depends on what definitions you use. From a general understanding, I’m asexual. From an asexual understanding, I’m homosexual. From a behavioural understanding, I’m bisexual.” Which is- well, it’s the most compact I’ve got it since I gave up being asexual, and it makes me feel so much happier than any partial label.

Witness the awesome power of synoyms!

In primary school (dunno what non-UK equivalents are. Kindergarten?), they told us never to use the word said. Or nice. We had a big list of synonyms up on the wall, and we were told synonyms had power. Synonyms were strong and had specificity (my new favourite word).
So we, as asexuals, have the generic word ‘friend’, which we’re trying to extract highly varied, nuanced and specificitised (sorry) meanings from. And we’re having as much luck as juicing a stone. Time to turn, as my teachers would be glad to hear me say, to the awesome power of synonyms.

As a thought exercise, inspired by a comment from WritingFromFactorX, I’m going to list a variety of synonyms and the meanings we might have a chance of getting them to have:

Someone I know- Less formal-sounding than acquaintance, without the commitment of friend.

Acquaintance- A fairly simple one. It’d be nice if we used this more. If you ‘Acquainted’ someone on facebook. It would remove a lot of the extreme end of the devaluation of friend. However, it sounds rather frosty. It’d be tricky to use often in real life without people thinking you were standoffish. Which you especially don’t want to do when you’re forming your Awesome Circle of Asexy Intimacy.

Associate- Someone you associate with. Someone you work as a team with? Would be useful, if it didn’t sound as if you were threatening corporate takeover every time you used it.

Mate- Still fairly casual. To me implies someone you spend time with, but it doesn’t run that deep. Banter and paintball, not soul-searching and commitment. Alternatively pal, buddy, etc.

Confidant- A nice word, indicating a relationship very deep but not romantic or necessarily committed. I think this could be one of the more useable ones on this list, especially if you find yourself with an inner circle who you tell everything to.

Companion- You could get it to imply some sort of faithful commitment outside of sexual/romantic relationships. There’d be a bit of the romantic idea brought it. I think this word would only really be useful if you had a few strong, primary relationships, romantic friendships, binary-blurring stuff, and decided together that you would actively use the word ‘companion’ instead of ‘partner’, to indicate the different nature of your relationship.

Partner- A good fallback for a primary relationship that’s still not best described by standard labels. However, it’s a bit too monogamous.

Darling, dear, treasure, honey, pet, duck- Said with a bit of humour, I think meaning could underlie the joke. If there’s someone with whom you’re very intimate in some way, constantly referring to them as ‘my darling’ (both in first and third person) could show a little more flexibility in the status of the relationship than just ‘friend’. Definitely that you see your relationship as important enough to give them their own unique title.

What do you think? What words do you want in your vocabulary?

PS. The online thesaurus has girlfriend as the antonym for boyfriend. How peculiar.

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