For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

The numbers game

Dear Romantic Asexuals (and other, especially avoidant, asexuals who want to have intimate or committed relationships)

You’re told that nonsexual romantic relationships are a numbers game of two compatible asexuals meeting up.

You’re told that asexuals and allosexual people can work out relationship compromises, and then, if you ask what that looks like, you’re told it’s your partner having other lovers.

And everyone who argues this, allo or ace, will laugh in your face if you doubt them. But please, please doubt them. They’re wrong. They’re so wrong.

 

Who the heck said allosexual people all want sex?

Take this one study, which says that 9% of (USian, 25-45 year old) women and 14% of similar men describe themselves as virgins.
Now, admittedly, that’s gonna include a fair number of 26 year olds who have it on their to-do list. But not with the urgency that some people think all allosexuals have. And a good chunk of it seems to be devout christians, who might be on a no-sex-before-marriage pledge. But think of all the people on this list who just aren’t that interested, would possibly have it but wouldn’t mind not- that’s got to be at least 1% of the population. That DOUBLES your chances.
And then count all the people who’ve had sex, at some point, but don’t especially mind going without. That’s the number I can’t even guess, but I reckon there’s a lot. Seriously.

So, in conclusion, challenge ‘allosexuals need sex’. It’s a fucking massive thing to just assume.

This post brought to you by the ‘It’s complicated’ side. The ‘scientific’ evidence in it is… pretty fucking weak (if anyone has better, would love to see it). But see this as a laying down the gauntlet. We have actual numbers that suggest that sexual activity isn’t massively important to all allosexuals. If you want to keep stating ‘allosexual need sex’ like it’s proven fact, find something to back it up. Anecdata doesn’t count. ‘Everyone knows’ doesn’t count. You’re going to have to start doing better than that.

Mind the Gap

An idea that manifests itself in my head as a graph, and I’ve been trying to think of the words for it in my head for so long that I’ve now given up. It’s graph time.

 

Pretend this first graph is a bell curve. It’s the closest I could manage in 30 seconds of MS Paint. The x axis represents some amalgam of libido, desire, attraction. Lets call it ‘how much you want to have sex’. Where wanting to have sex is for  the forseeable future, not right now. The y axis represents how many people in the population have that level of desire. As you can see, a small subset of people are in the light blue shaded section. This is the space reserved for ‘asexuals’.

The first problem with the model is that asexuality doesn’t belong on the same scale as how much you want to have sex, because asexuality =/= not wanting to have sex. There’ll be some asexuals up in the non-shaded section, and there’ll be some non-asexuals in the shaded section. This is the other problem with the model:

 

This graph shows the level of desire people identify themselves with to the rest of the world. The bell curve is now skewed towards the sexual end, and there’s a gap between the asexuals and the rest of the population.

In quite a lot of circumstances, people who can rely on the label ‘asexual’ can validate their place at the low end of the spectrum. It’s abnormal, but it’s self-conciously, militantly abnormal. People (especially men) at the low end of the scale who aren’t quite low enough to get the label asexual, however, will often find immense pressure to identify upwards. Hence we get the second graph. The important point here isn’t just the skewed distribution. It’s the gap between asexuals and everyone else. This gap creates two problems. Firstly, non-asexual low-libido people don’t get to have role models. The gap self-perpetuates. And, secondly, as I discussed ages ago, asexual people don’t get to be part of the population. Asexual people are off to one side, away from the data set. They’re outliers with the reason for their outlieriness plain to see. And that skews the graph even more.

Which is bad for asexuals. Like, really bad for asexuals. Asexuals looking for romantic partnerships, for instance, really need to live in a society that is willing to accept that we’re on a scale, that there aren’t the outliers and then a gap. Acknowledgement of non-asexual low-libido voices is a massively big deal for asexual people. As well as the low-libido people themselves.

This is me finally managing to put into words when people say ‘what about the asexuals’ when they mean ‘what about the people who don’t want sex’. Sure, ‘what about the asexuals’ is a hell of a lot easier to say, but it doesn’t actually help ‘the asexuals’. It isolates them.

(PS. This post has been a LONG time coming. I was struggling to think how to present it back here, a post which I rediscovered today from a link in Figleaf’s asexuality tag. The second catalyst was this post by the ever-amazing Ozy of No,SeriouslyWhatAboutTehMenz?, which is an example of a post where I’d have, on further reflection, preferred every instance of the words ‘asexual men’ to be changed to ‘men who don’t want sex’, with an occasional ‘like, for example, asexuals! Spread the visibility love!’. This postscript added after a guilty realisation that I’ve been nothing but critical of NSWATM on this blog, and I want to clarify that this is just because it makes me Think Things, and, where the things are in agreement with NSWATM, I don’t often bother to write posts on them, because it’s already been said by someone with a much, much larger audience.)

Once out

 

I’ve been thinking about the way asexuals are pressured not to identify as asexual. They’re pressured not to be out, not to put words to it, not to ask people to respect their identity and use their words.

And something about it suddenly makes sense.

Everyone is allowed a free coming out once in their lifetime.

You’re allowed to id as straight/cis until you’ve figured the whole thing out entirely, and then you’re allowed, just once, to set yourself a new identity. And if you misuse it, you’re really going to have to fight for the next identity.

Our society cannot see sexuality or gender as a growing thing, as a complex enigma which doesn’t always relate to the simple words we demand it to be expressed in. We have an idea that if you cut someone in half, ‘gay’ or ‘boy’ or whatever is written across their heart. Culturally, problems in identifying become problems of social pressure. ‘How do I create a new identity within heteronormative society?’ is the acceptable question. ‘What identity suits me best?’ is read as a proxy for this question, finding out who you are is equated utterly with overthrowing repression. ‘Finding out’ is a euphemism for ‘admitting’.

Because everyone is secretly one thing, and everyone gets one chance to say what that thing is.

And so when someone comes out as asexual, a definition based on ‘I haven’t yet, so probably won’t’ more than ‘I definately have’, they are literally losing something. They’re losing the chance to be something else. They’re taking up their one chance to define themselves as Not Straight.

And you don’t get that back.

Love is like pain.

 

That’s a pointlessly dramatic start. I’ll elaborate.

Pain is a famously fickle emotion. One person cannot understand what type of pain another is in. How it feels, how much it hurts. We assume a common vocabulary, but there is no guarantee that there is any real commonality.

 

Or, to deepen the metaphor, attraction is like colour. We think we all have the same words, that we all see the same spectrums, that the models in everyone’s heads are interchangable. And they really aren’t.

I would really recommend that video. I think, as a simple demonstration of perception, it’s going to stay with me for the rest of my life. For those who can’t or don’t want to watch 8 minutes (you can skip the first 4), there’s a succinct summary here. Also, for the scientifically minded.

And this is  the problem I have when people ask me to describe what is going on in my head regarding sexual attraction. My answer is; at least 3 different things. It’s difficult because we’re told that there is ‘sexual attraction’, and I have essentially no linguistic ability to seperate this further. It feels like staring at a wheel of identical squares and being told that one is different. Sometimes I think there could be as many as a dozen entirely seperate phenomena going on in my head that I’ve never been trained to recognise.

There are two problems here. The first is that I believe the colour analogy fails significantly, because there are actually a finite number of colours that we essentially (ignoring colourblindness for the moment as being unweildy to the analogy) share. Europe and the Himba tribe may not have the same models or words, and may end up actively contradicting each other, but the colours we see could be fed through a computer and the computer would ignore all that.

When it comes to sexual attraction, I think that people are actually all different. There are probably a huge number of people out there who have their own feelings, which they identify as sexual attraction, which are completely alien to me. There are probably people (given how the rest of the world doesn’t share the relentless asexual focus on the word ‘attraction’) who define what they feel as sexual attraction when it would feel, to me, more like romantic or aesthetic attraction which links, in practical terms, to the sex drive or to associations of sexual enjoyment. In short, there’s a whole load of sexual attractions that I don’t, as a sexual, experience.

The second problem is that this complicates even more the idea of where the line is between sexual attraction and other attractions. I see it as an attempt to square up my terminology with society’s- there has to be a vague boundary of generalised meaning for ‘sexual attraction’, and I can presumably apply whatever I think that is to the feelings I have, to see if they’re sexual attraction or not. This is a fraught process. To give one example, I’ve been aware since before I developed sexual attraction of what I’m tempted to call the ‘man on the street’ test. That is, if you walk past someone on the street and find them attractive in a sexual (still a difficult word to define) way, that counts as sexual attraction. I’ve absorbed this to the extent that fleeting urban encounters are now the way I judge my attractions (which are incredibly fluid, in random cycles of aroud about 2-3 weeks- the fact that they’re actually strong enough now to show the patterns intrigues me) and, recently, the first time I felt that potential for sexual responsiveness when passing a woman, I felt shockingly like my gynophilia had just become ‘official’. This view ignores fantasies, which are traditionally almost the sole element of judging where one is on the Kinsey Scale. I also really have no idea about becoming sexually attracted to someone as a result of their personality/after knowing them. I genuinely don’t know if I do this or not.

(and a quick note for any asexuals who suddenly have the impression that everyone on the streets is secretly lusting after them- my guess would be that these forms of attraction don’t commonly take the form of, say, graphic fantasies. For me (and, I think, for others, but who knows), this form of sexual attraction is a lot closer to aesthetic attraction, the sexual element comes in with what I described above as ‘potential for sexual responsiveness’. I don’t know how to describe that in other words, but it’s a small, internal feeling. I’ve described it before as when you open a door onto a room in total darkness, the feeling you get which tells you that there’s open space in front of you.)

So that’s the post on sexual attraction(/s) that I’ve felt almost duty-bound to write for quite a while. Shortly before starting this post, I described it as a ‘This is what sexual attraction feels like, guys. loljks, I actually still have no idea’ post. Because the question itself, I believe, is fundamentally unanswerable.

 

Irritating, isn’t it?

Milking it

I’ve been browsing some of the tumblr stuff this morning. Short version: Some people are doing what looks a lot like privilege-denying- deciding that a group of people they know nothing about has no problems and no right to discuss their own experiences, and, with no sense of ironic self-awareness, using models of privilege to justify it. Some asexuals are still attempting reasonable dialogue in the face of a lot of people shouting really loudly that they’re being oppressed and ignoring all personal boundaries. I wish those asexuals luck, I don’t think I could have carried on for this long.

 

The main thought I want to share today is that there’s a really easy way to win this battle. We have all the tools to win right now. Because it’s important to remember firstly that these people who are so incredibly angry at the asexual overlords are a very, very small number of people right now. They’re a group of idiots on the internet in an ocean of idiots on the internet. And, secondly, that this overwhelming level of anger is easy to summon up when you’ve spent 5 minutes failing to read what someone has written. It’s harder when you’ve spent 5 minutes talking to someone.

The important thing is not really that this viewpoint is disproved. We can argue using logic all we want, but the reality is that someone who hears that asexuals are privilege-denying and oppressive will make that their default assumption about asexuals, at which point the onus of proof is on us. And often no level of evidence is enough to make someone change their mind, even if it’s a lot more than the evidence that got them believing the original thing.

So, if you, like me, don’t have the energy and determination to make a tumblr just to argue with people who will never concede an inch, here’s the top-secret plan to win this debate and get accepted into the LGBTQ community. It’s split into 2 sections, depending on how much time and energy you can commit:

1. Turn up at local LGBTQ groups (or online LGBTQ groups, I suppose, but personal connections are harder online). Introduce yourself to people. Make friends. Do it for you, primarily, and the asexual community second. Don’t be The Asexual, just be [your name], casually out. Homoromantic and trans asexuals, do this wherever the hell you want, and just make it abundantly clear that you think heteroromantics are LGBTQ as much as you are and won’t budge on the issue if it ever happens to come up in conversation. The point is not that you’re agressive and assertive, the point is that you’re normal. You’re clearly one of them. Heteroromantics, don’t loose faith. I’ve heard of heteroromantics ending up running LGBTQ groups, and the only group I have personal experience of has a heteroromantic* as one of the most regular members. A lot of people are seriously fine with all asexuals fitting under the LGBTQ banner, especially when their first interaction with an asexual is face to face.

This works best if you be yourself and remember to spend as much time talking about issues which aren’t primarily seen as asexual issues, things like trans rights and blood donation. That is, if the LGBTQ group you join is largely issue-based, and not just a socialising thing. If it’s just a socialising thing, just socialise.

*(The politics of which labels are adjectives and which are nouns is interesting here. In the same way that I have a worse reaction to the phrase ‘a Jew’ than I do to ‘a lesbian’, asexual as a noun is something I’m fine with. Heteroromantic as a noun is something I’m deeply uncomfortable with. Which I think speaks to how much this categorisation doesn’t make sense to us.)

2. Get actively involved in LGBTQ groups.

Take minutes, act as treasurer, bake a cake, co-blog, help mod a forum, come to campaigns. Organise campaigns (campaigns about LGBT stuff, not just ace stuff). Do a volunteer shift in LGBTQ charities. Be a really, really good ally to LGBT rights, even those that don’t intersect with your own. Obviously this only works if queer activism/community-building is something that appeals to you personally. But I know that one or the other is likely to appeal to a lot of the people who might read this. And the point here, by the way, is not to gain rhetorical points in arguments with trolls. We’ve given up on the trolls. The point is that every single person who sees you, knows you’re asexual and knows how hard you fight for the rights of other LGBTQ people is another person immunised from the rediculous idea that the asexual community is denying LGBT oppression. Also, that, if the topic comes up, people will be more likely to respect your right to be there as a heteroromantic, or your opinion that heteroromantic people have a right to be there.

 

This is about controlling the idea before it spreads. This is about acting fast and creating something positive. Because right now, the patchwork of LGBTQ communities, of LGBTQ minds, is like a long corridor of doors, one by one slamming in our faces. We can struggle really hard to open a door that’s been locked, we can sit in the hallway and bemoan the fact that the doors are slamming on us. Or we can go into the rooms which are still open. I firmly believe that to be most of them. Right now, we effectively have what we want. If we argue about getting it, people will notice and it will disappear. If we claim it and live up to it, we will have it forever.

Reverse sexism. Benevolent sexism. Hegemonic masculinity.

Doesn’t it kinda make sense that men are suffering in the equal and opposite to women? Where women are made too x, men too y. Right?

This is possibly the best example of the trope:

(A poster with a cartoon of a gender-nonconforming person in the top right, wearing half a pink dress and half white t-shirt and trousers. The rest of the poster is full of writing, sentences alternating black and pink. I’ll be looking at the written things later in the post)

I see this a lot on What About Teh Menz, as well. I was going to link to the comment thread of an early post, but that appears to have been taken down. I was also going to say that, while the commentators perpetuate this idea, the contributors tend not to. Then, this morning, they posted this.

The problem with this idea becomes obvious when you look at some examples. The idea that women experience slut-shaming and men experience the opposite, for example. Do you agree with this idea? I don’t have any concrete examples of men being shamed for having too much sex (not in ways which don’t combine with things like poly- and homophobia and prejudice against sex workers and such), but do you think that the constant repetition of this idea, that oppression and stereotyping is simple and gendered, helps them at all? And on the other end of the spectrum, the idea that it’s impossible for a woman to feel anything other than slut-shamed in our society, that women can’t feel pressure to be sexual, I think the best thing for me to do would be to link to the words of an asexual woman who laughs bitterly at your hypothesis.

I think I might go so far as proposing a counter to Ozy’s law. For every gendered stereotype that exists, there is an equal and opposite stereotype about the SAME gender.

Don’t believe me? Look at the above poster. When you read through it the first time, how many of the points seemed reasonable to you? For me, it was 100%. Let’s go through them:

For every girl tired of acting weak when she is strong, there is a boy who is tired of acting strong when he feels vulnerable.

This is actually the only one I have very little satisfactory counter for. Maybe the well-documented-by-feminism fact that girls have to be amazing where men can be just average?

For every boy who is burdened with the constant expectation of knowing everything, there is a girl tired of people not trusting her intelligence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger wearing cute woolly hats and laughing. It took me about 5 seconds to come up with this example of an alternate stereotype.

The best example of a stereotype that goes both ways. Because education fails boys, and I’d argue the pressure on girls to be academic and boys to underachieve is actually a greater stereotype.

For every girl who is tired of being called over-sensitive, there is a boy who fears to be gentle, to weep.

This one actually contradicts Ozy’s law on its own, and is completely true. Men and women are often judged for showing their emotions, men because it is apparently feminising, and women because they then fall into the ‘neurotic and unreliable’ stereotype.

Personally, I don’t think I can write about the alternate side of this, societal pressure to show a lot of emotion, in a way which makes it seem like a serious problem. It occurs to me that some of my readers are likely to be familiar with the autism blogosphere, so if you have any links which sum up this problem, please comment below.

For every boy for whom competition is the only way to prove his masculinity, there is a girl who is called unfeminine when she competes.

So there’s apparently research which suggests that young boys achieve social control through agression, young girls achieve social control through more manipulative methods. Either way, I think this only makes sense for a very limited definition of ‘competition’ (try googling ‘how to be the best’ and see what the predicted searches are). For example, girls who don’t get involved in the more feminine-coded competitions, such as fashion and social intrigue, are often at a massive disadvantage, while men are obviously discouraged from these competitions.

For every girl who throws out her E-Z- bake oven, there is a boy who wishes to find one.

Because, as we all know, cooking is dominated by women. All professional chefs are women, and it is very difficult for men to get involved in the business without having to push against sexist assumptions.

/sarcasm.

For every boy struggling not to let advertising dictate his desires, there is a girl facing the ad industry’s attack on her self-esteem.

So this was the bit that first made me read this poster critically. All the others seem reasonable at first glance, but this one is just really and obviously fucking sexist.

Women experience desire. Women’s desires are the stuff of adverts.

Men experience unhealthy pressures on their body. From advertising.

Men’s desires shouldn’t be framed as objectively harmful. (Eugh, can’t find a link for this one. Trusty commentors?)

Gay people exist. (No, no citation for this one, either. You’re just gonna have to trust me).

Also, I’m suprised I’ve managed to get this far without mentioning it, but not everyone is a man or a woman. (Again, trust me).

 The poster finished with: For every girl who takes a step towards her liberation, there is a boy who finds the way a little easier.

And it kills me to disagree with this, because it’s one of the most beautiful rallying points for my kind of feminism I’ve ever heard. But every girl?

Every girl who argues that heterosexual sex is fundamentally oppressive? Every girl who campaigns for fathers who don’t pay child support to go to prison, even if they have no money? Every girl who runs for the most powerful office in the world on the back of gender-normative ‘christian’ values? Every girl who, to pick an article from today’s blog feed, tries to erase men’s ability to consent? It’s how feminism should work, sure. To argue that that’s how it does work, that everything any woman does in the name of liberation is clearly better for men long-term, even if it looks worse, strikes me as a “We’re just vilifying you and undermining your humanity until we get our rights. Then we’ll come back for you.” argument that I’ve heard somewhere before… (spoilers: they don’t come back).

So pretty much everything on this poster is wrong. Or, not wrong, but so far from the whole story that it isn’t worth the writing. And I worry that this is what feminism that includes men’s issues is going to look like. Men are made x, women are made y. Because it looks right, and it makes pretty posters. And when the fact that these simplifications go utterly against reality becomes too much, maybe we could invent some new equasions where p = privilege and things get complicated around the intersections, but they’re still simple in the middle.

They’re not, by the way. They’re complicated right the way through.

This series is a message to the social justice community in general, comprising mostly of bashing people’s heads together. (I sense this is going to get a lot of clicks from google, from the title. Sorry, googlers. This is not any sort of sex guide/sexual opinion piece. The opposite, in fact). Part One- Sex-positive people, Sex-negative people and asexuals.

 

Because this conversation happens:

A: “Society is far too obsessed with sex. Sex is assumed to be part of every important relationship, and those who don’t want it are seen as broken and worthless.”

B: “Clearly, you’re not looking hard enough. If you did, you’d discover sex is actually treated fairly harshly. Those who show any interest in it are often ostracised or even attacked. Large parts of our shared culture don’t provide any decent sex education and all people get is a sense of shame.”

A: “No, it’s you who isn’t looking hard enough! You don’t understand the shame and fear people have to live through when they don’t want sex. If you did, there’s no way you’d make out that it was so easy for us.”

B: “But society is fundamentally sex negative!”

A: “Nu-uh!”

B: “Ya-ha!”

A: “Nu-uh!”

B: “Ya-ha!”

And so on. And on. And on. It doesn’t just happen. It happens a lot.

Stop it.

What the fuck made you think that the entirety of at least two continents worth of culture could express its entire view of sex as: “It’s good.” Or “It’s bad”? Why are we arguing on the basis that society is some great monolithic whole? There’s shitloads of nuance here. I can’t believe it’s passing you by.

So stop using the phrase ‘sex-negative society’. It’s a stupid phrase. Stop denying the experiences of others, or assuming that, while there might be outliers, the thing that matters is what affects you.

Also, make sure that everything you say or write supports this. If you say, for example, ‘society fundamentally wants everyone to have sex’ then you have no right to be angry when someone points out that there’s some fairly hefty social pressures on a lot of people (priests, women, disabled people and queer people come to mind, but, again, even these issues have a lot of nuance- see oversexualised queer people or women without a choice) not to engage in sex, definately not the sex they want when they want it.

 

And, for the love of god, don’t try to pick the nuance apart and give it a slightly new rationalisation that serves for the next five minutes but is also clearly untrue. Such as: Poorer communities are more anti-sex, richer communities are more unthinkingly pro-sex. America is more anti-sex, Europe is more unthinkingly pro-sex. Men are allowed to have sex, but women are shamed for it (Oh, there’ll be more on this one later. Count on it). Essentially, this is an exercise in poking your head out of your thought bubble for just a minute or so and checking in with reality, rather than carrying on carving up people into groups and deciding what, in your rhetoric, people’s experiences should be. It’s a skill which academicy social justice is really, really bad at.

Say it with me, folks:

“Our society, as it is, can be a harmful place to practice sexuality and also a harmful place to refuse to practice it. This doesn’t come in simple patterns, one person can be judgemental about people who have too much or the wrong kind of sex and judgemental about people who refuse to have it. Let’s accept that each other’s problems are real and aren’t a threat to our ideologies in any way, as long as our ideologies are based on the fact that people are individuals, that the world is complicated. If not, then it’s our ideologies that need to change, not the people who they erase.”

That wasn’t so difficult, was it? Join me next time for ‘Life’s complicated: Gender’.

STOP THE PRESSES!

Ok, so apparently they were HIDING the overwhelmingly misandraic stuff behind innocuous looking tabs and bad website design.

Canny bastards.

Now, because I’m apparently very self-indulgent today, I’m going to go over the rest of it. You may want to skip this post.

Let’s start with the equal and opposite of what Holly first mentioned. They ask what sexuality you are, including homosexual, and then Q1 assumes you want a romantic relationship with a woman.

Q6 is the textbook example of a question which could so easily have not been a leading question:

Do men get screwed by the courts in divorce?

 Yes.

 No, men and women generally get fair and equal treatment.

 No, if anything, women are the ones who get screwed by the courts.

Q9. How many dates should a man pay for?

 All of them.

 The majority of them until the relationship is established.

 The majority of them for the duration of the relationship.

 No more than the woman does.

 None. The woman should pay for them all.

Compare and contrast with the women’s survey. It’s almost like they know what answers they want, and are using a mixture of closed and open questions to get them. Almost.

Q13. Do you know anyone who has set up a secret Facebook account to conceal a relationship from his girlfriend/wife?

 Yes.

 No.

 I have done so myself.

Is it just me, or does this not make sense at all? So you create a new account so your mistress can add you as a friend. But presumably, you don’t want your ENTIRE circle of contacts to be in on it, so you have no, or very few, friends on the other account. So your mistress either knows that your new facebook account is secret because you don’t want to get caught, at which point, why aren’t you just using email? Or she thinks it’s your public account, and that you have practically no friends. And what happens when your partner’s mother or some other acquaintance searches for your name and comes up with the secret account not the public one? Or with both accounts? THIS PLAN MAKES NO SENSE. Why can you not just use email?

Q17. How often do you make an effort to be romantic?

I’ve decided to be bitter about this question. *is bitter*

Q19. Do your current/past partners recognise your efforts to be romantic?

There’s no option for ‘I haven’t dated’. Also, no option for ‘I’m not romantic,’ even if you’re using the word in the sense they’re using it.

Public health message on Q22: Have you ever lied about the number of sex partners you’ve had?

The answer ‘Yes, it’s no-one’s business but my own’ is wrong. You’re not allowed to lie to potential partners about your sexual history. /Message.

Qdidn’t makeanoteofthenumberandcbatogoback. In your opinion, how often do couples with healthy sex lives have sex?

I found out the other day that the NHS gives out sexual aids on the basis that people will have sex once a week, because that’s the average. Any more than that, no luck. Any less, what a waste.

This fascinating Radio 4 tidbit is intended to fill the void in this post where my opinion about how much sex you should be having should be.

Q24. Have you ever insincerely told a woman you love her in order to get sex?

This is possibly the best example, but all the questions here are based on the idea that men are sexually voracious and hunt women. There’s always the option to say ‘no, I’m not like that’, but there aren’t questions about, for example, how much you value romance for its own sake, or whether you’ve ever been lied to by a woman.

The statistics that are going to come out of this will be fairly strongly pointing in the direction that men do whatever they want to get sex and women never offer it willingly, because those are the questions they never ask.

Q25. Have you ever fantasised about a partner’s friend?

 Yes, I fantasise about her friends regularly.

 Yes, I have in the past, but I try to avoid it now.

 No, but I have to restrain myself from doing so.

 No, I have no interest in any of her friends.

This is the second question I nominate for the ‘How not to make a survey’ textbook. It’s simply classic as an example of a subtly moralising question. It doesn’t say “FANTASISING IS WRONG. DO YOU DO IT?” but it insinuates it with every word. And, for the record, I don’t see what’s wrong about it. Non-monogamous non-romantic asexual is essentially clueless as to why this is an issue. And is actually struggling, at this point, not to turn the entire thing into a theology debate about the teachings of Jesus, because that would just be far more interesting and relevant to modern life. Fortunately, I’m not quite that self-indulgent. *deletes theology paragraph*

Q26. Of the choices below, which sexual act do you most fantasise about engaging in with your partner?

 A threesome.

 Anal sex.

 Sex in public.

 Filming ourselves having sex.

 None of these.

If you’ve been keeping up to date with Holly’s Cosmocking series, you’ll know why this is a bad question. Essentially, Cosmo has an article lined up with “_% of men think __ is the best thing ever!”, or, more likely, “All men love ___”. And they’ll slot in the winning option. It doesn’t actually mean anything about what men love, because they’ve already decided all the answers which will be acceptable. And these answers will seem like they’re coming out of the mouths of men, not magazine editors.

Q27. Would you be willing to tell your partner that you want to engage in this fantasy together?

 Yes.

 No, I would be scared that she wouldn’t be into it.

 No, I would be scared that she’d think I was a pervert.

Here’s a subtle one. There is no option for ‘I DON’T want to engage in the fantasy with my partner. I just like fantasising about it.’ Which says a lot about our attitude to fantasies and desire (especially when you might find something, like filming sex, hot in theory but too risky in practice).

In fact, the lack of ‘No, I’m scared I wouldn’t be into it’ could say something about the way we characterise sexual exploration for men.

Public service announcement #2: For question 30: Would you be offended if a woman faked an orgasm during intercourse with you?, the answer ‘Yes,  I would be offended that I wasn’t able to pleasure her’ is the wrong answer. Orgasm =/= pleasure. Also, you have to be offended AT someone or something. Are you annoyed at her because you couldn’t pleasure her? How does that make the situation better, or prove that you’re a mature adult? Also, you know that something like 70% of… eugh, fuck it. Everyone reading this knows all this anyway.

There is a question about whether the man has faked an orgasm, though. Which I approve of.

Q35. At what point does a woman become sexually promiscuous?

Answers range from 5-50 sex partners (at least they’re acknowledging homosexuality again), then ‘never’. I think the answer is 2.

Interestingly, 2 is also the answer to the question ‘Out of the last 3 questions in this section, how many are direct repeats or rephrasings of questions at other points in the survey?’

Q11 (wait, whut?) In your opinion, of the choices below, which country has the best-dressed men? 

 U.S.

 UK.

 France.

 Spain.

 Japan.

 Germany.

 Australia.

 Brazil.

 Italy.

I skipped a load because they were dull and about cars (or about clothes, but completely ignoring the existence of charity shops). But this one reminds me of a question on a personality test, where your choice presumably says something meaningful about you. Possibly what character in Hetalia you’re most like.

Q13. Who would win in a cooking competition between you and your partner?

 I would win.

 She would win.

 I am single.

YOU ADMITTED THAT SOME PEOPLE ARE HOMOSEXUAL! YOU INVITED THEM TO TAKE YOUR SURVEY! YOU SPECIFICALLY MADE PROVISION FOR THEM! WHAT! THE! FUCK!!!

Q14 is about which body parts women like. Unsurprisingly, cock isn’t there. But nor is face, hair, smile, eyes. Any of the stuff I really go for (or would choose in my choice of same-gendered male-male queer partner *hint hint*). This is why we have headless men on the packaging of all underwear ever. Because men have this weird notion that nothing above their neck is sexy. Which must be partly being fed by the fact that the other things become sexy when you pay money at a gym, wheras your smile becomes sexy when you feel confident in the body you’re in.

Lots of questions about business and career. The statistics will show that men care about their careers and women are strangely silent on them. That’s because the statistics didn’t ask.

Q20. Do you feel that you have ever been sexually harassed in the workplace?

I like this question. There have been a handful like this, and, at this late stage in the game, I decided it was unfair to only do the problematic ones. AskMen has done some things right, and some of their questions are much less stereotyped and have much greater integrity than I expected.

Of course, what with the fact that relatively few respondents on any internet survey will have been harassed at work, and the fact that people in general, male people in particular, are taught not to recognise harassment, not to mention the disproportionate number of AskMen readers who I expect to be relatively young (thus not necessarily in career mode yet) and keen on proving their manliness through their sexual voracity (it’s a site dedicated to ‘how to be masculine’. You know it’ll attract some of that sort), what we’ll probably end up seeing is that the response to this looks tiny compared to the response to, say, ‘Would you lie for sex?’. But kudos on asking.

Q21. Do women put too much value on a man’s financial worth?

 Yes, and it bothers me that women are so shallow.

 Yes, but men put a lot of value on women’s looks, so it balances out.

 Yes, but it works to my advantage.

 No.

This was in the Women’s Survey too. It makes a lot more sense now I know it was copied directly over from the Men’s.

Q22. Of the choices listed below, which one workplace achievement gives you the greatest satisfaction?

 Completing a challenging project.

 Being publicly applauded for a job well done.

 A flirting session with the secretary.

 Humiliating a colleague by publicly defeating him in an argument.

 Winning a cross-board stare-down.

 So apart from wondering what a cross-board stare-down is (is it like the apprentice, where they’re all moody and manly and make their egos fill up the room with no sense of self-awareness? Or is it when you’re stuck in a meeting that’s really dull so decide to make stupid faces at the person across the table from you?), and kinda loosing the points I awarded them for awareness about workplace harrassment, I think this question is a good example of the rest of the survey.

Compare with the last question Holly reviews. Compare and contrast. There is an equivalent ‘status symbol’ question later, but the fact that they have this, in amongst a list of questions about career aspirations and ethics, really shows what they expect of a man. And what they don’t expect of a woman.

Having just read the amazing Holly Pervocracy’s review of Cosmo’s ‘Great Women’s Survey’ (summary: “this isn’t really “The Great Female Survey.” This is “The Great Female Survey About Males.” Activities that a woman might engage in that don’t include men (or at least don’t include sex/romance with men) don’t get much of a look in”) I decided to scurry over to the opposite ‘Great Men’s Survey’ to deconstruct fastidiously the appalling sexism and heterosexism within.

Q1. Who would make a better King?

Prince Harry

Prince William

Prince Charles

Buh? Where’s my manly man things? Well, I suppose ruling the country is a manly man thing. There must be more later.

 Q2. Which gender is winning?

Men

Women

It’s not a competition

This question… this question is phrased so that gender egalitarians can answer it, right? In fact, it’s phrased preferentially towards their answer. I mean, the question, in the way it’s written, doesn’t even make sense. The idea of a gender of people ‘winning’ is surely a parody of the ‘gender war’? It makes it laughable.

Q3. How should the UK reboot the economy.

Now you’re just taking the piss. ‘Is the UK still a great global power?’ ‘Should we increase our nuclear power?’ ‘When is political assassination justified?’ Really? If you genuinely had 43 questions which you could ask all men, but only men (and not, say, people), these would be it? Not, for example, ‘Do you think men should be the highest earners in a family’, ‘So, women, eh?’, ‘In ten words or less, what’s it like to have a penis?’ (Yes, all questions hetero- and cis- sexist. But the survey made me answer ‘rather not say’ for my sexuality, I don’t think they care too much).

So we get to the sexism, by and by (and by ‘the sexism’, I mean, assuming that men are men and women are women, rather than assuming that women are women and men are people, which is all over this, but doesn’t show up unless you’ve read the women’s quiz). One question asks how you work out, and somehow fails to mention dance/athletics. It doesn’t really go into the idea of ‘working out’ for pleasure, it seems like just a gruelling task men have to do. (And one of the options is ‘Personal Trainer.’ The way I understood it, personal trainers make you do at least one of the other things, they aren’t a workout option all on their own. Unless I’m VERY wrong on the functions of a personal trainer.)

(I would have loved, parenthetically, to see this question:

Q13. Which type of working out do you perform most regularly?

Long multiplication

Percentages

Long division

Trigonometry

Maths is a man thing, right?)

A lot of the questions are just lazy. For example:

Q43. Have David Cameron and Nick Clegg changed life in the UK?

So to acknowledge that Cameron is generally bad for our health, I’d have to pretend to believe that Nick Clegg has any power and influence? My answers for the two are really not the same.

Q20. Who should have been cut some slack by the media for his sexual transgressions?

List of celebrities I have vaguely heard of

None of the above. They all got what they deserved.

This is one of several questions in the survey where the only-tick-one-box system doesn’t work at all. It might work slightly better if there was an option for ‘All of them, I think the press has no particular right to judge people for their private sexual decisions, however foolish they are’ or ‘I have no idea what these men did. The only celebrity gossip I hear is the stuff that percolates down to feminist blogs.’ And, yes, this question assumes and, in assuming, will likely seem to prove, that men are harshly judgemental of those who stray outside agreed sexual behaviour, or that they are sympathetic towards those who cheat. I think what reading about the Weiner ‘scandal’ taught me is that any interaction is complicated and multifaceted. What people saw as the ‘crucial’ thing about Weinergate was always different, for some, it was that his lying to the public, for others, it was the relevance to his job, for others, it was the lack of the hypocrisy that you get when an anti-gay politician gets caught in flagrante, for others, it was that the images were foisted on people who didn’t ask for them. It’d be easy, I expect, to make a strong case why the ‘winner’ of this poll was different from the others and assume that this is what the poll ‘proves’, when he was actually voted in for a completely different reason. In the same way that I answered ‘Charlie Sheen’ for ‘Q36. Of the choices below, which male public figure are you most tired of hearing about?’, and they’ll probably assume that my reasons for being tired of hearing about him are the same as theirs, and not, say ‘It depresses me that our media can have such mawkish glee in the recovery attempts of a drug-addicted and mentally ill man simply because he’s famous.’

There are about 2 more questions which could be argued to be specifically about men. One (and I’m including this because it would never be in the woman’s version) is:

Q33. What would you rather have?

A child

A dog

Both

Neither

To misquote JRRT: “That’s cheating, you snook two questions in at once.” The question makes little more sense than ‘Would you like a car, a lollypop, both, or neither?’

Finally: Q34. Which of the following best defines a “Real Man” in 2011?

Being a great leader and motivator.

Being charismatic and popular.

Being a great seducer and/or lover.

Being a great father and husband who takes care of his family.

Being wealthy.

Having manly skills, like the ability to fix things.

None of the above.

Guess which I picked? Annoyingly, this question is the heart of the ‘Tell us your sexist views now! Wait, there isn’t an option if you don’t have any? Stop whining! What sort of man are you?’ which so dominates the Great Women’s Survey. And here, it’s just two questions, both of which have options the non-gender essentialist can tick without remorse. As Holly said about the ‘sluts and whores’ question, there is no option for ‘That word you used is not a real word! Just so you know…’ but it’s not… bad.

So what takes the place of all these questions about how gender roles are awesome, aren’t they? and how you are currently trying to ensnare your opposite-sex partner? Video games.

Or, more accurately, technology. 18 out of 43 questions, close to half, are about personal gadgets. They’re questions which make me feel more isolated than even the one about how to stimulate the British economy (If I knew that, I’d bloody well be running for Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

There is a lot of repetition. Such as ‘Which screen do you spend most time behind, not at work’ and ‘When not at work, which gadget do you most use,’ both of which have exactly the same answers. There is the casual assumption that everyone has a smart phone (I’m sorry if I prize go-anywhere rigidity and the ability to last for two weeks without mains electricity. My lifestyle needs clearly aren’t sophisticated enough for you. Wait until the apocalypse. I have an app for that.)

There is a question about who you most regularly play video games with, including an option on ‘friends, in person’, and then the next question asks whether you play games on: MY computer, MY console, MY handheld gaming device. Apparently purely social gamers like me who occasionally use other people’s consoles or watch as they play don’t exist. Or they’re all women. Or something.

So this is the Great Binary Survey, folks. Women like men. Men like computers. And also have opinions about the world, including a precise knowledge of exactly how the economy works. I feel aggrieved, as a man, that my survey was far less rebukable than the Woman one. Men like important things, like politics, and cool things, like computers. I suppose if men like important things, that makes men important, which therefore means women also like important things. Nifty.

 We’re just generally assumed to be people. And people who might be able to spot a really bad or misleading survey, at that.

(yes, this post was NOTHING to do with asexuality. At all! The reason is simple: I am very self-indulgent. Get used to it)

 

EDIT: This post now has a PART TWO. Somehow.

Image: Pinkie Pie, the overenthusiastic and gregarious horse from My Little Pony; Friendship is Magic, is rearing up on her hind legs. She has been crudely photoshopped to resemble a Bad Asexual Fairy, with an ace-of-spades shaped wand, sparkly wings and an asexual flag over her flank. Behind her, and partly obscured by her, is a wall of text, starting with large font and ending up tiny. This says:

GREAT, YOU’RE ASEXUAL! HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT WHAT ROMANTIC ORIENTATION YOU ARE YET?! WE ALL HAVE ONE! (KINDA). THAT GUY OVER THERE IS HOMOROMANTIC, HE’S ATTRACTED TO PEOPLE OF THE SAME GENDER, BUT NOT IN A SEXUAL WAY! ISN’T THAT GREAT! BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE! IF THAT DOESN’T HELP, YOU CAN SPLIT YOUR CONCEPTS OF ATTRACTION DOWN INTO SMALLER AND SMALLER PARTS UNTIL YOU HAVE A REALLY GOOD IDEA WHAT MAKES YOU TICK, AND, HEY LOOK, A CONVERSATION ABOUT NON-TRADITIONAL INTIMACY MODELS, YOU COMING? SO IT DOESN’T MATTER TO US WHAT YOU DECIDE YOU ARE–THE IMPORTANT BIT IS THAT YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR LABEL FITS AND IS COMFORTABLE, AND IF THE WORDS DON’T WORK YOU SHOULD TOTALLY MAKE SOME UP!!! MAKE UP SOME WORDS! GO ON! IT’S FUN! HERE, TRY SOME PUNS!! HAVE A GOURD! DOES THIS FIT? NO? WELL, HOW ABOUT THESE? DO THESE MODELS SEEM USEFUL? LOOK! I DREWED YOU A GRAPH! AND ANOTHER GRAPH, I DIDN’T LIKE THAT ONE!! YOU ARE THE POINT OF ORIGIN! NOW YOU’RE SPECIAL!! HOORAY! LOOK, HERE’S A RIDICULOUSLY COMPLEX SPIDER CHART! HOW MANY MORE DIMENSIONS DO YOU NEED? I’M UP TO 26! YOU SHOULD SEE IF YOU CAN CHART YOUR ORIENTATIONS TO BOTH MEN AND WOMEN AND POSSIBLY NONBINARY PEOPLE!! HAVE YOU NOT QUESTIONED YOUR GENDER YET, BY THE WAY? GET THEE TO A YADARY! IT’S FUUUUUUUUN! AND WHAT MAKES GENDER ANYWAY? HAVE SOME MORE LABELS…

The image is based on a conversation Sci and I had after reading Dan Savage’s interview with DJ, and the text is all taken from that conversation. Essentially, this is the standard reaction towards anyone who enters the asexual community. It explains why asexuality is actually one of the worst places to be if you’re in denial of yourself.

I suppose I should have a serious reaction to the interview. I don’t, really. Savage is still trying to make it seem as if asexuals are trying to keep their shameful secrets until the wedding night, to ensnare people, when our actual concern is simply that asexuality should come out at about the same time as other baggage, not in the first five minutes of the first date. It’s definitely something to have been addressed by the first time you have sex, or would have had sex, and that’s not the stage, in most of Western society, by which you’ve committed an irretrievable mass of time and energy to the relationship (possibly? I know nothing about romantic norms). I think it’s reasonably obvious when a relationship is still a musing over potential and when it’s an actual thing that is committed to. The entire thing feels like a non-issue to me.

So my only strong reaction was “Bad Asexual Fairies?!!?! NOW I know what I’m wearing to World Pride!”

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