For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for the ‘The sexual reaction’ Category

Update: Aromantic sexuals- still evil

What’s this? An asexuality test? Now we can pinpoint with precise accuracy whether someone is a/romantic or a/sexual. Like, HALF the bandwidth of AVEN could be saved by this simple test! If only there weren’t these minor flaws in just a few of the questions:

1. Confuses sexual attraction and sexual activity.

2. Gives two options- finding sex a ‘biological necessity’ and ‘not caring’ about sex. Also, ‘liking to date’ and liking casual sex, and ‘not caring for a partner’ is kinda a restrictive spectrum. In fact, I’d personally agree with ALL FIVE of those things (admittedly, the first one only from a species-wide viewpoint). It makes ticking one box kinda hard…

3. How would you describe your libedo? Erm… irrelevant to my sexuality? We’ve kinda discussed this one. To death.

4. And this is where my WTFromance gets the better of me. I want EVERY SINGLE kind of relationship they propose. The rub being- I want them with different people, possibly at the same time. Because I’m fickle like that.

5. Do you think you are asexual?  Finally, the question is right! But every single answer is wrong:

‘Yes. I do not desire, want or care about sex’ -Not the definition of asexual

‘Maybe. I am a bit indifferent to sex, so it would be interesting to see the results’ -I’m not sure where to start with the wrongness of this one.

‘No. I am a sexual being.’ -A relatively trivial and arguable point, but I think that everyone with some sort of reproductive organs or piping is a sexual being. My definition of ‘sexual being’ is based in biology, not in sexuality. Of course, you can make a word have two meanings.

Ok, so badly written quiz, you say. Wait! There’s more! Here’s what I got:

Aromantic sexual

You are basically out to fulfil your sexual desires without buying into romance or love. On a purely honest level, you are admirable, but as an exemplar of social standards, you are dispicable.

Erm… thanks? This quiz just called me dispicable- I’m sure gonna give it a high rating. I mean, luckily, I wasn’t the only one it stereotyped. “American society is alien to you (asexual aromantics) and you are alien to it.” I mean, they’re TECHNICALLY correct- I’m not American, nor have I ever been to America, so, by the traditional meaning of ‘alien’ as ‘foreign person’, I am definately alien to America. God, this quiz is insightful. Or I could have been a Romanic Asexual!  Which means ‘of or relating to Rome or Latin’. So, you know- TOGA PARTY (do any of those people know how heavy togas are? They are definately not party gear, unless you have lots of chaise longues to be pinned to). Anyway, as well as all that lead poisoning, and the discomfort of living in a society that seems to socialise mostly through orgies, I would also ‘seek a prince or princess’, ‘suffer agonising loneliness’ and ‘be burned by my partner’s groinal needs’. No, serously.



Why am I spending all this time taking the piss out of a quiz which probably took 5 minutes and isn’t even spelt correctly? Well, I’m not gonna lie, it’s partly because when I took the quiz and got “Oh, hi! You’re dispicable! (dictionary definition: worthy of hatred and contempt)”, that really, really hurt. BUT! It’s also partly because very, very shortly after I took that quiz- this guy showed up.

It feels rather great to have someone else who has some stake in the label ‘sexual aromantic’ to be blogging. Because now I have someone to justify how dispicable I am. Because he has lots of awesome ideas about intimacy, and the way romantic monogamy as a culture creates and uses artificial intimacy scarcity. Let’s pull out some quotes from his two non-101 posts:

[On possible definitions of aromantic] saying that aromantics can form deep emotional connections, but they aren’t a “purposely initiated monogamous separation as found in romantic couples”. This definition seems little better, as it puts the essential difference in external, culturally defined relationship practices. This definition would include all polyamorous people in the definition of aromantic, which seems to miss the point….

…I think we’re onto something here. According to J, this natural high is much stronger with people she would consider herself romantically attracted to, doesn’t require touch but is amplified by it, doesn’t require symbolic gestures like flowers but is enhanced by them, and is not necessarily connected to sexuality, conversation, or “good company” (though it can and often should be combined with those things)….

…So here’s a preliminary definition, that I’d love to get some comments on:

“Aromantics are people who do not experience the feeling of romance. Romance is a natural high that occurs in the presence of certain people, without obvious connection to sexuality, ‘good company’, or emotional intimacy.”…

…Looking back at my life, a lot of the things I’ve done have been an attempt to squeeze a little more intimacy out of the world around me.

There is, however, a socially sanctioned way of getting more intimacy: a “relationship”. In a (sexual, romantic, monogamous) relationship, you have a lot more freedom and power to gain intimacy. You are supposed to be a scheduling priority, and you can expect a certain amount of regular alone-time. You have some say into where your partner lives, and if the relationship goes long-distance you’re assured of constant communication and visits as frequently as possible. You have both the time and societal permission to really let down your barriers and be emotionally vulnerable. All of this is wonderful. There’s a reason I don’t spend much time single…

…No one negotiates with their platonic best friend about how their relationship will progress… but why not? Platonic relationships can be just as meaningful as the best sexual/romantic relationship, why not give them the same time and energy and communication skills? Why do we assume we have to only be “partners” with people we’re attracted to? If we decouple intimacy, sex, and romance, then we have so many more ways we can make our relationships work for us. Why not have a straight guy and an asexual guy as primary partners, with the straight guy having sex with women on the side? Why not have a triad where only one of the relationships is sexual? If we break down the assumption that we have to sleep with people we’re intimate with, we can start to solve our intimacy problem.

I think the (whateverwe’regoingtocallourselves)romantic scene needs this. I suspect a lot of the exciting discourse around romance, intimacy, relationship models, is going to happen around Intimacy Cartography. I’m happy because I finally have a second go-to blog for this stuff, now Asexual Underground doesn’t update regularly. I’m also happy because a (possibly) aromantic sexual is contributing to society. Is honest and emotionally mature and non-deceitful. Is, essentially, not wearing an opera cape and a twirly moustache. On a purely social level, we’re dispicable. We’re worth hating. Which shows we’re onto something good…

Smiling through the happiness

Ok, I’ve been spending way too long writing about asexuality. The reason I know this? I saw an advertisement today for eye-drops, which said “You may be up for the christmas party, but your eyes won’t show it!” or something similar. The idea being that you have to look smiley and happy. Looking happy being prized over being happy (especially for women, whom the advert was aimed exclusively at) is a big issue in itself, but my immediate thought was to the implications this has for asexuals.

The first of these is that we always have to seem happy in our sexuality for our sexuality to be recognised. Technically, an awful lot of asexuals could count as HSDD if it wasn’t for the ‘distress’ criterion. Distress is held up as the thing separating asexuality from HSDD, but I don’t know a single asexual who has never experienced distress over their orientation. That’s perfectly natural, it’s a new orientation, and the complexities of living as asexual can get really, really overwhelming, but asexuals have to smile through it all. If not, our sexuality is judged to be destructive, unhealthy, and the books even back it up. What’s worse, since the community is so focused around visibility, this pressure to smile at the world comes from inside the community, too. It would be nice if the world would give us space to not enjoy every minute of the ride.

I think asexuality gets a particularly bad deal here because aromantic people as seen as single, thus ‘Bridget Jones’; people who don’t want sex are seen as broken, unhappy, unconfident. I don’t know how our heteronormative world took the word ‘No’, one of the most powerful things you can do in the bedroom, a ‘no’ which is routinely scorned, cajoled and belittled, and turned it into a mark of lack of confidence.

And this segues rather nicely into my second point- consent. I’ve long realised this is (/would be, chance would be a fine thing) an issue for myself, but I’ve somehow never thought to associate it with all the other asexuals who want to/ wouldn’t mind getting frisky. The model which we’re told to want is the enthusiastic consent model. In its extreme, the progression went:
No means no (basics of consent, but lacks awareness of situations in which consent is impossible)
Yes means yes
OH, YES, GOD YES! means yes (enthusiastic consent)

Reading Emily Nagoski (awesome writer, maybe too heavy on bodily fluid discussion for the repulsed, a little gender-essentialist for me) recently, I was struck by the consent issues that her view of responsive desire brings up. How does someone with responsive desire ever say “OH, YES, GOD YES!” at the start of a sexual encounter? The only things they can say are no, maybe and a relatively unenthusiastic yes. She breaks it down:

The idea that functional sexual desire requires wanting sex out of the blue is bullshit – pervasive and intractable bullshit, but bullshit nonetheless.

She suggests further down that ‘desire’ should be replaced with ‘willingness’, and that suits me. A lot of asexuals are physically incapable of desire for sex, it doesn’t stop them being willing. Bottom line- enthusiastic consent is a barrier too high for a lot of people to live up to.

And yet- and here’s the issue- it’s fairly important as a notion. The idea that you have to actually want it and not just be coerced in some way is something I’d love to fight for, especially when not-really-consent is an asexual issue too. ‘Willingness’ is something which can be manipulated, ‘desire’ can’t. And I’m lost. How can we create a definition which helps those who don’t pass the desire criteria while still making sure that the system works for the majority?

When I told Sciatrix I was writing this post, she linked me to this conversation. There’s some interesting stuff going on in there, and I especially like the conversion of ‘green-yellow-red’ (yes, go carefully, stop), which I tend to hear in a BDSM context, for asexual uses. The very concept of ‘yellow’, that there is consent which isn’t enthusiastic or total, is likable, and it keeps the power of consent in the hands of the consentee, while other non-enthusiastic, non-total consent mechanisms can be more easily abused.

So, I leave you with this. A world in which displaying our emotions labels us mentally disturbed, and bottling them just makes us more damaged. A world in which we have to confront bigots daily without anger. A world in which we’re encouraged to smile when we don’t want it, but can’t manage a smile if we do.
And even if we get out of this still happy, we have to keep smiling through the happiness.
Till next time, folks,
Keep smiling

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)

Just a tiny little bit?

So today I’m going to talk about an idea that is used in different ways to invalidate monosexuality and asexuality. It’s the idea that everyone’s a little bit bi. Or, in the asexual case, that everyone’s a little bit straight.

The scientific backing to the idea stems, I think, mostly from Kinsey, who created the scale going from fully straight to fully gay. As with all spectrums, the idea is that no-one really occupies the very extreme points. Everyone is in the middle to some extent. And the important thing about this is that it’s a model, not a theory. The Kinsey scale is important because it provides a sliding scale of sexual attraction. Someone can, plotting their space on the Kinsey scale, be basically monosexual despite the occasional query. That little twinge doesn’t invalidate their sexuality because everyone has them. Bisexuality is normalised.
And you see the occasional recently-outed bisexual getting a bit pushy about this. It’s natural to conclude that everyone is like you, and sometimes the Kinsey scale is used as a justification for the fact that everyone is secretly bisexual, everyone is repressing their desire to be exactly like you. I get where that comes from.
But the important point is that there are still these big monoliths of straight and gay at each end. If you insist that no-one is completely, 100% monosexual, despite everything they tell you, then there’s going to be a lot of people clustering around the 99.9% point. A world in which we’re all theoretically bisexual creates a world in which we’re all theoretically equal. It’s a nice ploy, but it denies the realities of those who genuinely only feel attracted to one gender.

And then asexuality bursts onto the scene, and sexuality GOES 3D!!! (well, ok, 2D). And this desire to make everyone technically bisexual is shown for the other side of what it is- a desire to make everyone the most sexual they could be, out of the misplaced belief that more sexual = more free = happier. The idea is that bisexuality is a liberating concept for straight and gay people has flaws, but is simply laughable if you apply it to asexuals. The freedom to be asexual is the freedom to be less sexual, to be sexually attracted to no-one. The invocation of a tiny little invisible bit of sexuality just negates what we’re trying to say.

So now we actually explore what’s meant by that ‘tiny, little bit’. Does everyone really have a tiny, unnoticeable amount of attraction to both genders? Maybe. I have no idea. Is it relevant enough to base your assumptions of the universe on? Hell no. When you get right down that scale, sexual attraction (already a slightly nebulous concept) looses any meaning it had.

I think this is one reason why the official definition of asexuality is ‘little or no’ sexual attraction. Because it’s so deeply lodged in the public psyche that everyone has these little tiny bits, that no-one can be completely without attraction to both genders. The idea of the invisible but ever-present amount of attraction makes invisible all the sexualities based on lack of attraction to something.

So just what do you do all day?

The annoying girl (let’s call her V) from the last post returns! In a birthday party she had last Saturday, she brought her boyfriend along, who knew all about my asexuality, and he became the third person (after V and a guy from college), who responded to this news with the question:

“So just what do you do/think about all day?”

On the basis that pretty much everyone who I’ve ever come out to who isn’t a largely disinterested virgin has said this in some form, and it’s something I’ve not heard of from any other asexual, I think this idea deserves more examination.
Before, I’ve always answered with “Whatever you do/think about when you’re not doing/thinking about sex,” and they go away still bemused. This time, and largely to annoy V, who thinks I have some problem with her sexuality, and because I was revelling in the discomfort of this conversation, I asked her boyfriend, “How often, as a proportion of the day, do you spend on sex and girls?”
And he said, after much thought, and after we’d debated whether time spent sleeping could count, that everything he did was because of sex and girls. From the high-class degree he’s studying to the amount of time he works out, everything he does (direct quote) “is so people can find me attractive, and spending time with people who find me attractive.” He then asked me why I hadn’t accomplished anything major with my life. I have, in fact, done very little, despite not having this overwhelming amount of time dedicated to sex and romance, which he seemed to feel was fairly normal.

At this point, trusty V, in an effort to make the conversation awkward for me, and not for her, began to suck his face off. I escaped to the prudish corner of the room (which, given the inexperience of my friends, was basically all of it that didn’t have V in it).
But that’s been rattling round in my head ever since. What do you do all day? What have you achieved with the time you’ve been granted by your asexuality and effective aromanticity? What positives have you made out of a situation that would make people like V feel life isn’t worth living?

I was going to write this down and blog it, but I didn’t have an answer. I felt there was no conclusion. And then, today, on the irritating MSN popup window that always opens, I found this article.
I tend to like perusing the dating articles on MSN (which they have about once a week, sponsored discreetly but not too discreetly by an internet dating service), on the basis that, since this girl ruined Cosmopolitan for me, it’s the best way to press my face against the glass of cosy, vapid, thoughtless heteronormativity, and feel that sort of blankness that comes from seeing your future everywhere, which is normally denied to me.
In a cynical, objective way, of course.

I really can’t tell why, but this article got me thinking about my seemingly inevitable slow-motion realisation of some innate aromanticness in me. Somehow, it got me thinking about how people invest such a great amount of time in boyfriends and girlfriends, and how I have nothing to fill that void, no hope of an intimate connection that is just automatically an intimate connection, because society says it is.

And that’s when I realised. I can spend all of my life forming those intimate connections with other people, connections that don’t have to end, and that have a healthier amount of communication than the standard romance, and that are more tailored to our needs. And I can spend all of my time, outside of work and recreation and sleep and all that other stuff, thinking about my friendships, where they are, how to improve them, how to let my friends know how much they mean to me. THAT’s what I do all day. And I really think I’ve picked the longest straw.

Dead inside

Ok, so I now have some sort of reasonably stable rountine. Seriously. It remains to be seen how long it’ll last.

So I’ve resolved to post something on this blog every single Tuesday. If I’m busy or forget on Tuesday, then Wednesdays. Basically, I have no excuse not to do something every single week, which’ll get myself into the habit of it. It’ll mostly be random little things- I have two series lined up, one in which I talk about the manifestations of romantic attraction, and one in which I discuss a Q+A article I found written by Joy Davidson.

Anyway, today’s (or rather, yesterday’s) snippet of thought concerns Freud. Good old Freud. In this article (which I found linked to in Pretzelboy’s blog), which I read a while back, Freud, in his discussions on impotence, talks about “all those men who are described as psychoanaesthetic: men who never fail in the act but who carry it out without getting any particular pleasure from it—a state of affairs that is more common than one would think…. An easily justifiable analogy takes one from these anaesthetic men to the immense number of frigid women”.

The term stuck in my mind because it has a nice ring to it, and it’d make a good ironic label to adopt, especially since it’s actually almost the opposite of my actual sexuality (I’d refuse sex a lot more than I’d accept it, but probably enjoy the physical act) and it’s based in all these outdated notions of gender and sexuality that are worth bringing up, just so people question current notions of gender and sexuality.

It was much more recently, as I was pondering the term, that this blanket word for all asexual or low-libedo men literally means ‘mentally numb’. A better translation for Freud’s asexual men would be ‘dead inside’.

Gee, thanks doc.

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