Writing From Factor X

February 14, 2011

They Still Don’t Care About Us

Filed under: Anger,Visibility — Sciatrix @ 9:30 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

So reviewing the Dan Savage commentary from his admittedly fucked-up recent post about fat marriage in the general social justice blogosphere has been illuminating. Namely, people are talking about it. Big-name people. Small people. My Google reader exploded! People care about the fact that fat people maybe don’t deserve to be vilified for the fact of their bodies. Awesome, fantastic, this is a topic that needs to be talked about!

His equally fucked-up commentary about “minimally sexual” and asexual people in the same week, on the other hand? Absolutely zilch. Except coming from asexual people ourselves, of course. It’s been a slap in the face, actually. It’s a remainder that no one gives a damn about asexuals but ourselves. Savage can say whatever the hell he likes about asexuals, and who we should and shouldn’t inflict ourselves on, and no one will speak up for us but ourselves. Other people have allies who leverage privilege in their behalf. We have nothing.

In fact, I bet some of the asexuals reading this are thinking “we should expect other people to speak up for us?” and looking gobsmacked, because the belief that we can trust others to know and care nothing about asexuals is that ingrained. And it’s not an irrational belief, either; it’s not like experience teaches us otherwise. I suppose I’m the irrational one, in fact, for believing that people ought to care about asexuals.

Actually, you know what? At this point, I don’t even care whether you do care about us. I’m just tired of seeing people throw asexuality in as an aside without ever actually backing up the word with a breath of actual conversation about asexuals.

Shakesville, in particular, if you want to call yourselves asexual-friendly? You want to call yourselves allies?

Don’t just slap a cutesy “the cultural narratives surrounding romantic relationships assume you’re sexual” on your post and never mention the existence of asexuality again on a post, please. In fact, at this point? Either find someone to say something tangible about asexuality from a social justice perspective, or stop putting us in your so-inclusive lists and go back to pretending asexuals aren’t important. That we’re not worth talking about. Everyone else is doing it, you won’t even have to feel bad about it, but it would be a damn sight better than this bait-and-switch thing you’re doing.

I am sick and tired of seeing asexuality listed in groups of marginalizations–if I’m even that lucky–and never seeing people even stop to educate themselves once.  I am tired of never seeing issues that relate to people like me come up, ever. I am particularly sick of seeing lists that pat themselves on the back for being inclusive and never follow up that promise of inclusivity with action.

I am sick and tired of people putting asexuals on those lists, and then never actually so much as trying analyze a single issue from an asexual perspective. Because actually, the existence of asexuality could enrich discussions of consent, medicalization, ignoring boundaries, rape culture, concern trolling about one’s health, anything–even an aside that makes it clear that one is actually considering how a given issue might affect asexual people.

I am sick and tired of flinching when I come into social justice spaces when my own damn orientation comes up because I am waiting for the flurry of insults, concern trolling, and general demands to prove my existence in spaces that are ostensibly supposed to be safe for queer people. In fact? I flinch worse in queer spaces.

The omission is getting obvious. And you know, I’m greedy, and I do expect more. I’m tired of handing out cookies. Either be actual fucking allies and say things of substance when tangible issues of asexual oppression crop up, or stop putting on the pretense. But right now? I’m feeling pretty fucking slapped.


  1. grrrrr, so infuriating. thanks for another great post.

    at least the dating/relationship advice column on After Elton wasn’t rude or horrible, it is the second question down.
    although i thought it was interesting that the person referred to themselves as “straight” which seems odd, since straight means hetero*sexual*

    sometimes i reassure myself that this process we’re going through is a common struggle of many queer identities -look how bisexual people are still omitted and insulted in queer spaces. not that this makes it any better, just less lonely.

    i also think it is a good reminder to look at our own community, to make sure that we don’t allow our community to work for asexual “legitimization” (whatever the h#ll that means) by omitting or distancing from aces with disabilities, aces with mental illness, aces on the spectrum, trans aces, and questioning aces.

    Comment by tomatl — February 14, 2011 @ 11:31 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for the compliment!

      The parallels to bisexual invisibility and biphobia are actually something I’ve found interesting, because so many of the mechanisms I see used to shut down asexuals are quite similar to the attacks on bisexuals I see. “You must just be closeted gay and unwilling to admit it,” for example, or “you’re just attention-seeking,” or flat-out “That doesn’t really exist.” In some cases, I’ve seen acephobic insults that look like the person dug through the Biphobic’s Handbook and replaced all the references to promiscuity with accusations of frigidity.

      And yes, it really is a good reminder, because that’s an important point to keep in mind. (And something I worry about, in fact. I occasionally fear that visibility efforts respond to accusations that asexuals are “just sick/autistic/trans/etc.” by saying “no we’re not!” rather than “that’s a silly thing to say, because these things are unconnected” or “actually that wouldn’t invalidate the claims we’re making about being a legitimate sexual orientation because X.”)

      Comment by Sciatrix — February 15, 2011 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

    • “asexual “legitimization” (whatever the h#ll that means) by omitting or distancing from aces with disabilities, aces with mental illness, aces on the spectrum, trans aces, and questioning aces.”

      As a blind, autistic, transgender, asexual person with mental health problems, I thank you. While these aspects of my existence intersect, it really hurts when people try to delegitimize parts of me by saying that they must be caused by other parts of me, as if there’s some real me that’s hidden by all these things that should be taken away. The closest I’m comfortable coming to explanation and blame is that living in a society that hates, devalues, and ignores people like me certainly doesn’t *help* the mental health issues even if it’s not a 100% cause.

      Comment by teafeather — February 15, 2011 @ 6:34 pm | Reply

  2. I saw Shakesville’s post yesterday in my Google Reader, the one titled “Dan Savage: Please Stop” and got so excited because oh my God, Shakesville was coming to our defense! And then, no. I mean, on its own it was a good thing for them to put up, but… I was pretty disappointed when I started reading and it wasn’t about the “stop inflicting yourselves on normal people” column.

    I’d almost rather not be listed at all if people aren’t going to ever discuss us. I’d rather not get my hopes up. It’s easier not to expect anything than it is to expect something and get disappointed.

    Comment by ace eccentric — February 15, 2011 @ 11:53 am | Reply

    • This is honestly how I feel about it. I’d rather keep being hopeless than getting indications that other writers know we exist, know we’re real, and unaccountably just don’t care enough to ever discuss anything about us. At least invisibility doesn’t feel intentional.

      Comment by Sciatrix — February 15, 2011 @ 4:25 pm | Reply

  3. In fact, I bet some of the asexuals reading this are thinking “we should expect other people to speak up for us?” and looking gobsmacked, because the belief that we can trust others to know and care nothing about asexuals is that ingrained.

    Actually, I disagree. You spend a lot of time in social justice spaces, where you expect people to advocate for all marginalized groups. Most people are not used to that. To them, it does not seem like asexuals are being “ignored” any more than any other group.

    My point is that if this is a problem (ie that there is not enough active advocacy from non-asexuals), then it is confined to social justice spaces, where people are supposed to be advocating for all marginalized groups. Most people, not spending any time in social justice spaces, will not recognize a problem.

    I often find there is a major disconnect between AVEN and the queer community. Many AVENites don’t seem to understand why they should expect anything from the queer community. But large swaths of the queer community fancy themselves as advocates for all gender and sexual minorities. To them, it seems obvious that they should advocate for asexuals, it’s just that they’re not any good at it!

    Comment by Siggy — February 15, 2011 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

    • Within the context of the post, though, I’m talking entirely about social justice spaces (and specifically general social justice spaces that claim to be inclusive), so the contention that I might possibly talking about general spaces is… strange to me.

      Granted, I can certainly see asexuals who don’t spend much time in social justice spaces being confused by that framing. Given that one of the main things I do with this blog is to apply social justice framework to asexuality, though, I tend to assume my readers are conversant with that, and wrote that sentence with that in mind. If I’m wrong, anonymous lurkers, please let me know!

      To be harsh on AVEN, I often think that most AVENites don’t expect anything from nonasexuals in general, not just the queer community–you’re an ally if you don’t actively say we’re diseased or something, and you mustn’t be harsh to anyone who isn’t asexual on AVEN because then you might be alienating potential allies! So of course AVEN is not going to expect much of the queer community, because AVEN’s view on activism is that asexuals must be extremely polite and educate calmly and logically at all times, no matter the provocation, and that other people can almost never say anything offensive that you’re allowed to get visibly angry over. I’ve written before about why this is problematic.

      AVEN also has that disconnect between people who think asexuality is intrinsically queer and use according advocacy tactics and people who think asexuality is… somehow not a sexuality at all, and who think we should play down any possible queer associations lest others think they might be gay. Given the site’s fragmented approach to whether asexuality itself is queer, I’m not surprised not to see much expectation on it that the broader queer community do any kind of activism.

      Comment by Sciatrix — February 15, 2011 @ 7:59 pm | Reply

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