Writing From Factor X

March 29, 2011

Amusing Interlude

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sciatrix @ 10:23 pm

To the person who got to this blog yesterday by searching “asexual powerful humans”: I now have the image of a team of all-asexual superheroes in my head, and it is wonderful. I’m not sure what, precisely, you were looking for, but I for one am highly amused.

March 27, 2011

Sunday Linkspam

Filed under: Signal Boost — Sciatrix @ 2:08 pm
Tags: ,

Lot of interesting fiction-heavy pieces this week! Again, guys, if you’ve seen something interesting I missed, feel free to link to it (or self-promote!) in the comments here.

From starsburn, a response on something I wrote:

I’ve recently noticed that I’ve fallen victim to this trend in my own storytelling. I’m aromantic and asexual and have not desire or intention on ever marrying or even dating, and I certainly don’t equate happiness with romantic relationships in real life, but for some reason I continually write my characters into happy endings that involve a significant other. Unless the character is specifically created to be aromantic and/or asexual then they almost always have some type of romantic interest.

From outlawroad: Nonsexual Love and Romance in Fiction

So I’ll continue to fine-tune the clarity of my fiction and hope that more and more readers see these character relationships for what they are, even if that recognition comes with astonishment or bafflement. I’ll continue to write this love that calls to me on the deepest level of my being—not to make other people understand but just for the pure bliss of writing it.

From The Baker Street Supper Club: Asexuality and Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes has been widely considered to be asexual and is certainly the most cited asexual fictional character.

From An Asexual Space: Writing as Deliberation

While attempting to contribute to public conversation, though, this works against me. I get convinced that I have to keep editing, because I’m convinced only a perfect product is worthy of a post. I’m never satisfied, and a post never goes up, or a comment takes days to write, or a comment never goes up at all.

From Meowing at the Moon: Is Acephobia a Big Deal?

And I want to be able to turn to someone with some power and say, “This is wrong,” and have them agree that is a Big Deal and worth telling the offender not to do anymore, without it taking away from the actual harm that others suffer as a result of untrue and negative beliefs about them.

From melonella: I recorded a video on asexual disclosure

I recorded a video on asexual disclosure this Saturday, but I’ve been kind of afraid to edit it because I wasn’t feeling too well and I may have been rambling — but never mind that. What I’m trying to say is that recording it made me think about what advice for aces in relationship with sexuals looks like.

Cinnabubbles posted their Asexual Bingo Card. Ouch.

Cakeyeahasexuals isn’t taking any of Dan Savage’s bullshit:

Blaming asexuals for being angered by your views on the sexually disinterested is absolutely unacceptable.

From an ace of kidneys: How much of an activist do I want to be?

This person is being celebrated in my hometown and sponsored by my neighbors, yet her past comments taint what I’m sure will be an otherwise enjoyable, woman-positive performance. The question is, what should I do? What CAN I do? There’s no activist asexual movement here. Heck, I’m not sure there’s an activist asexual movement anywhere (maybe San Francisco?). We tend to be low-key people.

From kisforkurama: Asexuality, a primer of sorts

So I want to talk about asexuality for a little while, because I feel like maybe if I yell loud enough someone might hear me.

From Purple and Grey: Radical Relationships, Part 4

But even in those communities, if two people walk in holding hands, or start cuddling on the couch, the first assumption is generally that they’re dating. And of course, if people are dating, the implication is generally that they’re having sex. And that really bothers me. Why is cuddling automatically assumed to be sexual? Why does physical affection and intimacy have to be limited to one specific kind of relationship?

March 26, 2011

A Carnival of Aces: Call For Participation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sciatrix @ 1:41 pm

Welcome to the first edition of A Carnival of Aces!

First, everyone, thanks for the feedback and interest on the original two posts that sparked this discussion! I’m really excited to see what this project produces!

For those who are unfamiliar with them, a blog carnival is an event in which many people write blog posts around a single theme. These posts are then collected at the end of the carnival and linked together by the carnival’s host. Carnivals can be self-contained single events, as Spectral Amoebas was, or they can be recurring events that happen on a regular schedule. This carnival will hopefully be one of the latter sort, and should update roughly monthly. If that deadline is too short, it might be shifted to once every two months.

This particular blog carnival is an effort to encourage a variety of different voices to speak about asexuality from their own perspectives. Anyone can participate, but the responses should deal with asexuality or the asexual spectrum (grey-As, demisexuals) in some way. They should also relate in some way to the theme of each round of the carnival, which will change from month to month and will be chosen by the person hosting the carnival for that month.

The scope of this project is general–any post dealing with both asexuality and the theme of the carnival is welcome. Alternate forms of media are also welcome as long as they deal with the prompt! If you’re not sure whether your piece is okay, submit it anyway and we’ll figure it out. Submissions should be posted as comments here or emailed to me at sciatrix@gmail.com. If you don’t have a blog but you want to submit a post, I’m willing to host guest posts here; again, please either email me or comment in this post about that.

Posts may be submitted for this first round of the carnival until May 1st, at which point the carnival will travel to a new blog and I will create a round-up post full of all the submissions for this month.

The theme for this month’s post is coming out. Since this is often one of the first things asexuals do after identifying as asexual, I thought it would be a good theme to kick the carnival off.

If you’re not sure what to write about, here are some suggestions. These are not meant to be all-encompassing, only to provide possible ideas.

  • Who do you come out to? Who gets to know you’re asexual, who doesn’t, and why?
  • When do you come out to new people? Do you wait a while or do it early on?
  • How do you usually come out? Is there a method you use to try to avoid bad responses?
  • Why is coming out important?
  • What are some of the best or worst or memorable coming-out experiences you’ve had?

Thank you all so much, and I can’t wait to see what comes out of this!

March 23, 2011

Changes Round The Blog

Filed under: Asexual Community — Sciatrix @ 9:52 pm

So there was a ton of interest in either having a long-term blog carnival or setting up an asexual group blog on last week’s post. Awesome!

The thing is, I’m not yet quite sure how I’d go about setting up a group blog or finding people who are used to posting regularly without trying to steal writers from other, existing blogs. So what I want to do on that front is this: I’m soliciting guest posts for Writing From Factor X. If you’d like to write a guest post on asexuality for the blog, please contact me at sciatrix@gmail.com and we’ll work something out. If you’re interested in writing about asexuality but don’t have the inclination or ability to do it on your own or run your own blog, this might be a good alternative.

The blog carnival idea is easier to deal with. I’m willing to host the first one here and solicit posts for it. However, usually the way that long-term blog carnivals work is that they travel: different people volunteer to host the carnival for each installment, which means that whoever is hosting collects the posts for that installment. The person who is hosting also usually picks the installment’s topic. Would anyone be willing to volunteer to host future rounds of this carnival? I’ve been thinking in terms of perhaps a monthly or bimonthly event.

More on that in a few days, when I’ve written the introductory post for the carnival out properly.

March 19, 2011

Saturday Linkspam

Filed under: Signal Boost — Sciatrix @ 11:24 am

Okay, so I’ve finally gotten around to posting this one! As a heads up, by the way, if any of you have run into anything interesting about asexuality that I haven’t linked, feel free to link to it in the comments here. Likewise, if you have something to self-promote, go for it. More linkage is always a good thing.

From s. e. smith: What Does Asexuality Mean to You?

I cannot educate you about the entire asexual community in a single post. I’m not particularly interested in doing that. There are a lot of asexual 101 resources available if you want to search them for information about asexuality. Consider this a thumbnail post to break down some common misconceptions about asexual people, because I’m tired of seeing them repeated.

From five-rounds-rapid: A question (mostly) for my fellow aces

Considering that I don’t actually know any aces in meatspace, I figured I would ask the Internet about this. Am I the only one who has a problem with the rhetoric of sex-positivity?

From Stephanie Silberstein: Asexuals Shouldn’t Laugh Off Glee’s Acephobic Attitudes

It doesn’t matter that Glee’s writers most likely have never heard of asexuality; these attitudes contribute to the idea that asexuals are broken, that they are missing something fundamental that everyone is supposed to have.

From asexual curiosities: Yes and no

And I almost can’t believe I’m saying this, it’s so blindingly obvious, but the reason everyone isn’t spiritually pansexual is because no is a really GOOD word. No goes beautifully with sex. Without it, the entire sex-positive mission just crumbles.

From Asexuality Unabashed: The “R” Word

People, indirectly and other times very plainly, explain to me that what I’m describing to them is impossible.  I can’t be romantically attracted to someone if I don’t have sexual feelings towards them.  I blame this on the fact that in romantic relationships, love is inseparable from sex, and romance is viewed as an accessory to love.

From Virgin!Roar: Nightsky’s Roar

I am a virgin not because I’m auditioning for sainthood but because I’m an aromantic asexual: I have never experienced sexual attraction to anyone, of either sex, ever; and it doesn’t bother me because I don’t seem to have any particular need for it. This admission comes with a few standard responses, chief of which is “You poor thing.” This is especially common in feminist circles, where female sexual empowerment is considered a very important goal.

From Kaz at asexual_fandom: Gen, femslash, slash, het, and asexual relationships

How do you/would you label romantic relationships between two asexual people in fic? Slash/femslash/het, the same as if there’s sex involved? Would you ever call them gen? Or do you think they don’t fit into the categorisation system?

From Skeptic’s Play: Asexuals: Who are they and why should you care?

The workshop was wildly successful.  The room was packed with about 100 people.  People were asking questions, laughing at my jokes, and participating in discussion.  Somebody asked about demisexuality, which is just about the hardest question you can ask, but I think I handled it fine.  Several people came up to talk to me afterwards and said it was really awesome.  A couple wanted a similar presentation elsewhere.

From Asexual Cupcake: Active Asexuality

The more I mention asexuality and talk about it in real life, the more comfortable I become talking about it, explaining it, and telling more people about my orientation. The less strange it seems to the people around me, and the more it seems like just another unchangeable fact of me.

From swankivy: Are Asexuals Queer?

Are asexuals “queer”?

Perhaps I should start with my conclusion:

I don’t know.

Sweet Asexy Love Day is still soliciting last-minute submissions!

March 17, 2011

Try This At Home

Filed under: Asexual Community,Reacting To Assumptions — Sciatrix @ 12:51 am
Tags: , ,

Last week when compiling my linkspam I ran across this. I wanted to respond to it, frankly because it both hurt me (as someone who asks for these conversations fairly frequently) and because it made me rather angry. I haven’t done it before now because I’ve been exhausted and my life exploded, to be honest, and I simply haven’t had the energy to discuss it before. But I want to talk about it now.

When I ask to see discussion or post about something, I’m trying to have that conversation right there, in the initial post. Anything I write about, I hope will spark conversations. I hope people will respond in comments, or on their own blogs, or on forums. When I say “I want to talk about this,” what I want to see is people saying in response “well, have you considered this?” and then we’ll be off. I think that any post about a given subject, in fact, is trying to start a conversation about that topic–that’s what comments are for.

The thing is, I think my major problem with wanting to see discussion is this: it’s hard to have a discussion by yourself. I can post about something, certainly. I even get more comments on a regular basis than I think any other asexuality blog–certainly I regularly get more comments than any other blog dedicated solely to asexuality that I know of. This is not a difficult competition. On an average post of mine, maybe five or ten people might comment. And then a few days pass, and the comments stop coming, and then the conversation dies because no one is keeping it afloat. I can’t post over and over again about the same thing to keep the conversation going without feeling really, really repetitive.

Here’s the thing: long-term conversations need meatier posts than that to keep going. They need more people to think about the topic and say, “well, I’m not sure you’ve considered this,” either in a comment or in their own space. They need people to go away and think for a while and then post again when they’ve chewed over the topic. And they need different perspectives to really be able to fully discuss the topic. For instance, it’s very unlikely that I am going to end up in a traditionally romantic sexual/asexual relationship because of the way my romantic orientation works (or doesn’t, or mystifies me). I’m seriously uncomfortable with trying to have a discussion about the challenges of traditional romantic sexual/asexual relationships without soliciting the opinions of the people who are most likely to actually be involved in that particular type of relationship. And the same goes for a whole host of other topics–there are a whole ton of ways to be asexual, and they all bear on specific topics of conversation.

In short, what long-term conversations need is community. I’m not convinced that a community of people who are interested in a) discussing asexuality in b) the context of social justice exists as of yet. If it does, it is small. Small groups of people don’t make for nearly the level of good conversation as large ones do. This is one thing AVEN has in its favor: it is very, very large and has a ton of people on it, which means that there is a ton of discussion that goes on there. There are lots of big conversations on AVEN because there’s lots of people to have them there.

The trouble is that AVEN isn’t, in my experience, very used to thinking about asexuality in terms of other social justice discussions. And more, its moderators don’t always make the space safe for everyone. I spent two years trying to discuss asexuality in the context of social justice there and feeling that the tone of the site was really not suited to having the conversations I wanted to have, because I’d say things like “so could we maybe discuss why this discussion is problematic?” and then get derailed all to hell. So one of the things I want to do with this site is to create a community at least large enough to actually have discussions of these things without being bogged down by derailings and general fuckery.

Blogs might not be the best medium for this, I don’t know. The yadaforum is wonderfully acefriendly but no good for actually starting up long-running serious conversations about asexuality, and Knights of the Shaded Triangle is fairly good for conversations but has too few people for very much that is truly interesting to crop up. Anyway, half the posts there are by me and I already have a blog. I can’t generate content for a forum on top of that. So I write my blog, and I run linkspams. (More linkspams in a few days. I’m currently on vacation and would rather make the most of the city I’m visiting just at the moment.)

I’ve thought about trying to construct a group blog that updates more often than once a week; maybe that would be better for community-building. ‘Course, then you’ve got the same problem: you’ve got to have people to write the blogs and people to write the comments.

But the bottom line for me is this: I want a community of asexuals who are influenced by general social justice discourse. Well, okay, the best I can do is talk a lot and see if anyone wants to join in. And people have, and this is fantastic, I get to talk about things I think are important with people who think they’re important too. I’ve seen a whole bunch of new blogs springing up like grass lately and I try very hard to link to everything new I stumble across, because I want to see lots of different voices getting heard. I’ve been pretty bad at commenting elsewhere lately, largely because I’ve had a lot of non-blog work to do in the last month, but I can at least try to make sure that everyone knows what interesting things other people are saying.

There’s this song by a fellow named Frank Turner that I’ve been listening to while writing this post. It’s about not being intimidated out of doing something you want to and remembering that singers are human, and it ends like this:

So tear down the stars now and take up your guitars, and come on folks and try this at home.

And that’s what I’d love. If you think the asexosphere isn’t writing about the things you want it to write about, or you think that aces aren’t following up on the conversations we ask to have, take up your pen–or your keyboard–and start your own conversations. Actually, even if you think that the current writers in the asexosphere are doing perfectly, think about starting your own blog anyway or even writing a couple of stand-alone posts about things you care about. Because what we need as a nascent community isn’t a few people speaking well about asexuality.

What we need is voices. Lots of them. Disagreeing vociferously and agreeing and seeking clarification and adding the different life experiences of all of us to the pot. Voices to reflect the diversity that is so strong among asexuals, and voices to speak up about all kinds of subjects. We need a whole lot of people to speak about what is important to them. So please, if you’ve ever thought about starting up a blog of your own, think a little harder about giving it a shot.

We need your voice.

March 13, 2011

On Romance in the Media

This week, I’m going on a road trip. I actually finished it yesterday and am on vacation now, but preparing for the road trip reminded me of an incident that happened on a similar trip I made some years ago. I was driving down south at the time with a couple of friends and one of them joked “If this was a spring break summer flick, who would be the hero?” And I thought immediately, “Not me. There couldn’t be a romantic subplot.”

There’s something wrong with storytelling when you can’t tell a story without your main character falling in love. Movies are hands down the worst genre about this, but it’s pervasive in all media: it seems like a story isn’t deemed complete if there’s no Designated Love Interest for the main character.

Especially if you’re not male. Women are often tokenized and thrown into these stories specifically so that the (invariably male) main character has someone to fall in love with. So if you’re ace and male, you might be able to find a hero who isn’t displaying interest within the story–but women in fiction? Almost always the love interest for somebody, even when they’re meant to be the hero in their own right, and often as not there will be only one. (If you’re nonbinary, you’re shit out of luck; generally media is pretty sure you don’t exist.)

This state of affairs actually sucks for a whole lot of people. It sucks for queer people because this focus on romance is usually intensely heteronormative, meaning that same-gender relationships are generally conspicuously absent while romance is lionized. It sucks for women because it reinforces the message that dating and theoretically marrying someone is the highest possible goal for a woman, one that every woman must aspire to. It sucks for romantic asexuals because romantic relationships are usually constructed in these narratives as specifically sexual. It sucks for anyone who is currently single because it constructs anyone who is single for any reason as essentially incomplete. The whole thing sucks for polyamorous people, it sucks for kinky people, and frankly there are a whole lot of reasons why the mass media focus on one specific type of opposite-gender relationship leaves a whole lot of different people out in the cold.

But it really sucks to be sitting here and thinking “awesome. No story without a romance is important, and I don’t do romances.” What does that say about my stories? About how important I am as a person? Can someone like me ever be a hero in my own right?

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that every confirmed asexual main character so far is romantic. Romantic relationships are constructed as a way to humanize characters–or rather, their absence is constructed as dehumanizing, because romantic is the default. Characters who don’t experience romantic relationships in fiction are almost uniformly portrayed as sociopaths, and in some cases even have their sociopathy mitigated by falling in love with the right person. There are some nasty tropes here, guys.

The desexualizing and arguably deromanticizing influence applied to several minority groups in fiction–other types of queer people, people of color, disabled people–reinforces this tendency to equate lack of romantic relationships with dehumanization, because in the shorthand conventions of fiction you can’t be a fully realized center of a story without a significant other. Unfortunately, while going “fully realize characters like us by giving us more screen time of them dating!” is a pretty natural response to that, it’s also pretty upsetting when you don’t fit into that paradigm of discussing who matters. If I never run across another person talking about poor media representation of minority characters by decrying the “asexual” nature of these characters, it will be too soon.

Even characters we can initially read as aromantic get significant others as they get a bit more authorial limelight. As soon as the narrative cares about you, the burgeoning love interest lurks in the background. The Big Bang Theory in particular has been a shining example of this: as the Sheldon character gets more and more focus within the narrative, the show introduced a “girlfriend” for him. It’s not enough to exist on your own; you have to have a “significant” other to complete you properly.

So what do we do about it? Frankly, I have no idea. I’m not a writer of fiction. I try to support works that don’t do this by buying them, but I’m a college kid and my wallet is generally pretty lean.

I just want to talk about it, because remembering that knee-jerk reaction hurt. And I’d like a world in which other aces’ response to that question–“we’re in a movie? Who’s the hero?” wasn’t immediately “Not me.”

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