For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for the ‘Wider kyriarch-bashing’ Category

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)

Asexual literary criticism I: “How would a gay person read this?”

Note on the series: This started off as one post, but it’d be fiendishly long if I did that. I’m now considering doing it in three, this introduction and comparison to homosexual criticism, then a post linking to various worthwhile pieces of asexual criticism, then a conclusion on what asexual literary criticism might look like. I could take this series down another aromantic, non-binary route, but I’m going to try my absolute hardest to drag it back to standard, possibly romantic, asexiness. Which basically means screeching the blog to a halt and turning it back the other way again, but these things have to be done.

Note on homosexual literary theory: I don’t actually dislike it. It’s because I respect it that I am especially disappointed when it descends to laughableness. I did a whole essay on the homoerotic themes in Hamlet last year. Along with one about the stagnancy of traditional romantic models in Brideshead Revisited, and another about the heteronormativity of WWI literature. Looking back, I wonder what my teachers made of me.

This is based on the summary of literary criticism in my English textbook, and, more specifically;

What lesbian/gay critics do:
[points summarised in brief]
1. Identify lesbian/gay authors
2. Identify lesbian/gay pairings in mainstream work, and then discuss them as such, as opposed to reading same-sex pairings in non-specific ways
3.Set up an extended, metaphorical sense of ‘lesbian/gay’, so that it connotes a moment of crossing a boundary.
4. Expose the ‘homophobia’ of mainstream literature and criticism.
5. Foreground homosexual aspects in literature which have been glossed over.
6. Foreground literary genres which influenced ideas of masculinity and femininity.

To which a queer friend responded: “Not all of us!” (by which they meant, ‘Some of us just read and criticise literature while also being gay.’)

Maybe you can see my criticisms of this section of criticism. For a start, it’s trying too hard, mugging the book in favour of the critic’s obscure and unobjective approach (so, in #3, for example, practically any sort of conflict could be seen as ‘gay’. And since conflict is at the heart of literature, the kids at school were entirely right when they told you reading was ‘gay’). From a more asexual point of view, #2 is downright disrespectful- why must you read a relationship as being gay when it is actually a close friendship? That just a) denigrates further the already impotent power of friendship, b) allows no possibility of an asexual reading, c) makes it harder for two people of the same gender to be allowed to be friends without someone reading into it.

And it occurred to me that we already have the basis of an asexual literary criticism (PHD material? That would be kinda cool). A lot of what we do is ‘literary’ criticism (see Ily and Shockrave), Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, Sheldon Cooper, Dexter (wow, writing the names of all those aliens/psychopaths/sociopaths all together made me feel kinda sad).
And notice we’re fighting already against homosexual criticism, gay people and asexuals both laying contradictory claim to Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes, even Spongebob Squarepants. We are never given heroes. We must find those we like the best, and then fight like hell to make sure no-one stronger takes them.

And this is part of where homosexual criticism invisibilises us. It’s not just stealing our characters, it’s actually writing us out of existence. In the frantic desire to analyse what isn’t necessarily there, gay critics, hungry for evidence, revert to the following formula:

Absence of heterosexuality = Homosexuality

Gee, doesn’t that look familiar. Where have I seen that before? How about, oh, everywhere?

On redefining queer, and who’s allowed to use it

First off, a quick asexy link, courtesy of my friends at American Virgin. I think I’ve heard about this film before, and I’m guessing the first place they came to fundraise was AVEN, but, in case you haven’t heard the trailer, go and take a look.

Anyway, I forgot to write down the big list of topics I had to write about, so now I’ve forgotten them all, and I’m back to writing whatever comes into my head.

How does this reclaiming the word queer thing work, guys? Are we still meant to be slightly disapproving of anyone who uses it and doesn’t fit in the LGBTQ crowd? Does it still hurt too much that we don’t want to give others a free pass to use it?

I ask because I may one day decide that asexual is too confusing a shorthand for demisexual etc, and decide queer would be better. If I label myself queer, am I defining myself by a word that over half my friends can’t even say? Cos that sort of sucks for them. It sort of sucks for me, as well, when they try and explain what I am, and can’t use the actual word that I find most helpful.

Is it free to use, but you have to be prepared to grovel the instant any non-hetero-cis person takes offense?
Or is it based on how progressive you are? Feminists and sex-positive people get in free? Do you have to donate a certain amount to gay rights organisations (in which case, I’m not entitled, and won’t be until I have some actual disposable income, in several years time [hopefully])?
Maybe you have to have a seal of approval by an actual queer person. If so, we could get little cards printed. That would definately save on confusion.

Or maybe we could just say ‘ok, a word’s a word. What’s more, it’s the only word we’ve got for a concept that needs expressing*’. If it’s used in hate, sure, point out the hate, same as you would if someone viciously spat the word ‘gay’ at you, but just agree that the word itself isn’t offensive any more.

*And a concept that needs expressing is a concept that EVERYONE needs to be able to express.

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