For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for the ‘The sexual reaction’ Category

The American Virgin (and thoughts on asexual denial)

Somehow, I think possibly in my wonderings over various sex- and kink- positive blogs (because they tend to make quite interesting reading), I ended up on the blog The American Virgin yesterday. Reading through it again earlier this morning, I got a strong feeling that this is a very useful resource for triggering asexual thought.

Basically, the blog is dedicated to virginity. It appears staunchly pro-sex education, though, and I would guess that it takes the same line as a lot of asexuals; sex positivity, while pointing out that sex isn’t and shouldn’t be positive for all.
The posts seem to be either about the pressures and stereotypes of being a virgin in this culture, a chord which I know will resonate with a lot of asexual virgins, or about people’s personal stories and experiences of virginity.

I haven’t come across mentions of asexuality yet, in the few posts I’ve skimmed, but that’s why I think this blog is so interesting from an asexual point of view. Sometimes I feel we asexuals get so obsessed with our own, socially constructed, definitions and labels that we might not realise that, just outside or beside the asexual label, there are people with whom we can still relate. In terms of Venus’ fabulous colour wheel, these people are greeny yellow. Or yellowy green. Or turquoise, cerulian and aquamarine. Or greeny red (a colour which I occasionally see out of the corner of my eye, but probably only due to my colour blindness). Or, indeed, greeny grey.

Ok, overstretching the palette a bit, but you get the idea. Maybe asexuality should look outside of itself a little. It doesn’t help the asexual movement much, but it certainly helps asexual individuals to see how people without the magic label justify their similar sexualities and sexual choices.

EDIT: Oh gee, I forgot one of the main reasons I wrote this post. It’s often difficult, when justifying a sexless life, to hit that right balance. You always end up swerving off into a pre-created position.
Either you think sex is icky and everyone should stop doing it, or you pretend you’re more sex positive than you are so that no-one can call you erotophobic (when plenty of sexual people are just as uncomfortable about the role of sex in modern society, which is actually pretty screwed up).
Either you open yourself up and say, as the last interviewee on the American Virgin blog did, something like; “I’m worried that I have some kind of undiagnosed social anxiety disorder” and open yourself up to the idea of being ‘damaged goods’, with a disinterest in sex that is obviously entirely the cause of an oversimplified and malignant psychiatric disorder, or you close yourself up and become the Ideal Asexual, with a standard of psychiatric health, confidence and complete wellbeing that no human being could aspire to.

This is the choice asexuals (and other celibate people/deliberate virgins) have to face. Either you deny who you are, or you give your enemy the power to accuse you of denying who you are.
Ok, so I’ve only read a little of this blog. But, from what I’ve read, it seems to float above that whole mire quite effortlessly and beautifully. People just are who they are. If they don’t want sex, it isn’t a problem with a cause, but a choice, with a whole array of reasons. It’s something to be admired, and if we can gain that same tranquility and honesty, I feel we’d all be a great deal happier.

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The A is never the problem

Ok, so I’ll succumb to the pressure and have a little rant about those darned asexohaters. Just one. Just to get it out of my system.

A couple of months back, there was a thread on a sex-positive forum, which I think has now been blocked, in which the members of this forum discussed the validity of asexuality, quickly joined by AVENites, anxious to set them right. There was only one poster who seemed to directly disagree with the idea, once we’d explained what asexuality was not.
For three or four pages, the battle raged on between this poster and a handful of determined AVENites. It was only a short time before the thread was finally blocked by the moderators (not for the constant flaming on all sides, but for various weird reasons) when we figured out she didn’t disapprove of asexuality. What she disapproved of was the labelling of sexualities, believing people should be free to experience whatever they experience without it being tied down in a label.

The view has been echoed by the arch-asexohater Joy Davidson (who, to be fair, has probably been cast in that role more by chance, from Montel and such, than by an especially sustained malevolence to the community), who says that asexuals are “closing themselves off” (paraphrased from Montel show) to possibilities.

For the moment, I’m going to lay my cynicism aside and pretend that this isn’t hypocrisy. I’ll pretend that they’d react exactly the same if a straight or gay person came out. I won’t mention that only asexuals (and possibly other minorities the speaker is uncomfortable with) get this reaction. I’ll take them at face value and assume that many asexohaters really do just want all sexual labels to be weakened, and just happen to be taking them on alphabetically.

Arguments about the validity of sexuality still have no place amongst arguments about the validity of asexuality.

The two are completely different issues. In a world where everyone believes in straight and, often, gay, the idea of sexual orientation, however flawed, is an assumption that we’re perfectly aware we’re making when we talk about asexuality.
The phrase ‘asexuality is a sexual orientation’ wouldn’t make much sense if there was no such thing as a sexual orientation. But the arguments over whether sexual orientation makes sense are so massive that they eclipse the whole point of the debate if brought in to argue against asexuality.
Our hypothesis should be “Asexuality is a sexual orientation, given that sexual orientations are valid.” We don’t bother with the last bit because, to those of us who identify as asexual, it often seems self-evident. But it annoys me when any passer-by with an axe to grind about conventional sexuality then has to do it on asexuality, because it’s weaker.

I doubt this is how many asexohaters think about it. Joy Davidson may not think she’s attacking sexuality when she criticises asexuality. But so many of the arguments against the validity of asexuality don’t actually make any sense until you consider them as criticisms of sexuality as a whole.

Here’s where I borrow from some really good recent articles on the rest of the asexual blogosphere, which argue that criticisms of asexuality can be equally applied to any other sexuality, a thought which was the main inspiration for this post.
The argument that ‘asexuals haven’t met the right person’ is based on the idea that sexuality can change, and sexual identity is often too rigid to allow this change. There’s just as much chance of someone of a more conventional sexuality falling for someone outside their presumed parameters as there is an asexual.
The argument that ‘you’re all repressed’ is based on the idea of denial. Sexual identity is a confusing place, and the identity you choose affects far more than how you think about your feelings- sometimes, it can be life or death. So there’s a lot of denial going on around sexuality. The traditional asexual answer to this, as shown on Montel, has been in explaining that the asexual community is very hard to find, and still full of questions about your sexuality even once you’ve identified, so not likely to provide any space for denial. It’s a good response, but I rather like the Venus of Willendork’s new angle. Of course asexuality can serve as denial. So can all sexualities.
I expect the largest proportion of people denying their true sexuality (even if it’s just a Kinsey-esque ‘a little bit bi’) can be found in heterosexuality. It’s an argument against sexuality, sure, but not really one against, or even about, asexuality.

I’ve run out of claims that are made about asexuals. I think those are the main two, but said in slightly different ways. They’re arguments that sexual identity is too constricting, too obstructing a thing to be placed on anyone. Except they focus on asexual identity specifically, for unexplained reasons. Tell me if there’s more I’ve missed.

So I’m finally brought, in a round-about way, to the title of this post. The A is never what people have the problem with. People have a problem with the sexuality. It’s only when a startlingly new concept, like asexuality, comes up, that people start to see the problems engrained in sexuality, which they hadn’t allowed themselves to see before.
Actually, no. Scratch that, it’s a load of rubbish. People use arguments against sexual identities as a whole to argue against asexuality because they’ve decided asexuality is unnatural, and they need to find reasons why they think that retroactively. It makes a pretty depressing end to this post, though.

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