Writing From Factor X

June 29, 2011

Wednesday Linkspam

Filed under: Signal Boost — Sciatrix @ 7:54 pm

As usual, feel free to self-promote, link to other interesting things, or ask me odd questions in the comments.

Also, a reminder–the deadline on the Carnival of Aces is swiftly approaching! You can submit posts for the carnival here. This month’s topic is community.

From An Asexual Space: Importance to the Plot

Does asexuality have to be important to the story? Wouldn’t it be nice to just have an asexual character who got to be in the story without making their asexuality an issue?

The answer to both those questions, I think, is yes.

From Black Dog Musings: On movies and romance and humour (or the lack thereof)

In movies, being “Alone” (caps fully intended) is (nearly) always positioned as both a temporary thing and a Bad Thing.

From Charles the Unicorn, Ace Detective: Really, though

If a character is not expressing sexual interest, it doesn’t mean that they’re written poorly. It just means they’re written differently. Any level of sexual interest is a normal level of sexual interest, and seeing someone criticize a book for portraying a character who does’t fit into the expectations regarding a certain group just raises my hackles because it is a fundamental denial of the validity of my own experience.

From Hacking the Heart: Clothing as Costume: Geek Culture and the Sexual Gaze

But it’s slightly frustrating that if I wear something more revealing it’s automatically assumed that I’m trying to send the message that I’m sexually available.  That no matter what I wear it’s assumed that my clothing choices are telling people whether I’m a slut or a prude.  There’s a parallel to the “male gaze” that is talked about so often in feminism; I call it the “sexual gaze.”

From andtheechoes: ranty ace time.

And I notice you say nothing about the opposite end of this spectrum—that a sexualshouldn’t be with an asexual because of forcing their sexuality onto them. It’s only the asexual, the ‘minimally sexual’ as you put it, who’s doing something wrong.

From asexual curiosities: The asexual community and rape culture

The next step in the promotion of rape culture is moving responsibility onto the asexual person. First, it is assumed that asexuals, by seeking out romantic relationships, have themselves to blame for any compatibility issues. Then it is assumed that the asexual person has to be the one to deal with the beast they’re unleashing, a beast that is pretty much fictitious.

From mountland: Asexual Musings

However it is not this phenomena of ‘pure’ asexuals that I am calling in to question today, I am more interested in the idea of asexual love amongst sexuals. Does is happen? Is it even possible? In modern society sex without love is common place and unquestioned but the idea of love without sex is seen as completely implausible, ridiculous even.

From outlawroad: If I ever decide to experiment with sex… 

If I wake up one day and randomly decide I want to try out sex just to see what it’s like, I will pay a stranger. Preferably a professional.

From Childfree Ace: “Good Sex” Is An Oxymoron! 

The main problem here: there is no objective measure of whether or not the sex was “good”. We only have what the partners involved choose to mention — and hell, I wouldn’t ask for more. It’s not possible to have objectively good sex, not enjoy it, and finally have these people say, “Well, you had good sex, and you didn’t enjoy it. So I guess you really are asexual.” Not possible because you can’t define objectively good sex.

From Love From The Asexual Underground: Asex Notes from a Sex Party

Recently there’s been a wave of friends inviting me to sex parties, which (if you’ve never had the experience) is a little like your accountant friends inviting you to a REALLY GOOD conference on depreciation schedules. You wanna go, because bookkeeping is one of those things that’s good to understand and because it’s a rigorous intellectual and social challenge, but somehow it’s just hard to find the time.

From polisci-prelaw: My Life: Lack of Understanding

I’m certain that this can’t just be me, but so much of my trouble in figuring out my sexual and romantic identities has been from the fact that I talk in a certain language when it comes to people. I relate to them in a certain way, I conceptualize all sorts of things — sex, relationships, sexual feelings, etc. — in a certain way. And the way I understand the world is, in many ways, a fundamentally different way than most other people seem to understand it.

From Feeling Green: Sex Is Overrated

The thing the two sides have in common though, is that marriage is a given. Heck, it’s normal if a frum woman is married before the age of 20 and have a child every nine months until the have, at minimum, five kids running around. In a society that isn’t ruled by God’s law, it’s okay if people take a bit longer, just as long as they do find someone in the end.

From demisexuality: Asexual Erasure Fest: RCIA Edition

What I learned in this session that broke some stereotypes though, is that:

  • The Catholic Church isn’t anti-sex; it’s just all about abstinence before marriage, but after that you’re supposed to be having sex (and possibly children) or else it’s not a “valid” marriage.

From Kaz: Ace miscellany

Why is it I’ve never seen people mention annulment of marriage due to nonconsummation as an example of institutionalised anti-asexual attitudes? Some internet research leads me to conclude that laws like these are still on the books in a *lot* of places[1], and I’m pretty sure “if you don’t have sex your marriage isn’t real” counts as pretty damn anti-ace.

From Shades of Gray: Safe Spaces

There is not even one “queer community” to begin with. Talking about it like it’s a monolithic entity is hugely inaccurate. We refer to it like there is one for simplicity’s sake, but in reality it’s just a bunch of related groups with vaguely similar goals. Sort of. Actually, that’s the problem, isn’t it? Each queer group needs to specifically delineate its goals and guidelines so that members know what to expect, and most of them (at least in my experience) fail to do so.

June 26, 2011

On Community

This post was originally written for the Carnival of Aces. This month’s prompt is “community.” 

When I first saw that Siggy had chosen the topic of community for this month’s carnival, I was excited. I could do this one! I’d been meaning to write a post about community anyway!  I could share my feelings about how important community is to me!

And then I promptly got distracted and forgot to actually write the post for several weeks. Whoops. (In fairness, I am less late than I have been with the two other carnivals I’ve written things for, when I ended up writing posts on the evening before. I’m not great with deadlines.)

The thing is, I think community is really, really important. Especially if, as with asexuality, you’re banding together around an identity that’s generally rendered invisible in every aspect of our lives. When you’re dealing with people telling you all the time that you can’t exist, it can be lifesaving to have people who not only say “yes, you are real,” but “and I’m the same way.”

I’ve gained a lot from interacting with asexual communities over the years. Just the knowledge that I’m not alone is very important to me. I can’t stress that enough; knowing you’re not the only one out there

But it’s stronger than that. It’s things like–when I was beginning to figure out what I wanted in terms of relationships, when I was confused and upset and trying to understand what I wanted, I had people who would tell me that it was okay, they wanted that too. And I had people explaining what they wanted when I asked, and trying to explain what they felt when I asked to know that, and telling me that however I ended up it was okay. Even when I didn’t ask, reading the explanations other people wrote of the kinds of relationships they wanted and didn’t want helped me to understand what I wanted, too.

When I’ve said I’m scared for my future, people have crowded around to tell me they understand, they’re scared too. Or that they’re optimistic that things will get better. Or even just that they hear my pain, they acknowledge it, and they wish the world was a better place.

When some asshole on the Internet says something nasty about asexuals, I know that I’m not the only person who will stand up for us. When I complain about being depicted as sociopaths in media, I know that other people will band around me to share in my anger, and when I’ve needed to vent about experiences that have left my hands shaking and barely holding back tears, I have had people who will bandy around me and tell me that what happened was wrong, but not my fault.

Community is important. Standing up for each other is important. Alone, I am easily ignored; with community standing behind me, we can begin to change the world a tiny bit.

When the Ace Admiral wrote this post about responsibility for one another some months ago, I nearly applauded before I remembered I was sitting at a laptop. Because I fundamentally agree with the central argument of the post: we have a duty to one another. Not a duty that asks for more than we can give, no. But I think that we owe it to each other to pay support forward at least a little. And I think we have an obligation to help each other as best we can.

One of my primary goals in creating this space is to try to engender a sense of community in the asexual/aromantic blogosphere. It’s why I run linkspams: I want everyone’s voices to be heard, not just a few voices. It’s why I started the Carnival of Aces to begin with–I wanted to come up with a way to encourage people to start sharing their thoughts. It’s why I’m experimenting with open threads right now. I want people to discuss their problems and feel comfortable bouncing ideas off each other and find support with each other. I want people to feel comfortable writing their own blogs or sharing their experiences or speaking their minds in any format they like.

And I want them to have different spaces to have those discussions in. I am a big believer in decentralized communities and having multiple spaces devoted to particular topics. I’ve seen many new community types spring up in the past year, from vlogs like HPOA to a slew of new blogs in the blogosphere to the active Tumblr scene to at least three or four new forums. Having a lot of different spaces to interact with serves a variety of purposes. Some people are more comfortable interacting with people in some formats than others; I, for example, really dislike dealing with video, so spaces that are more text-oriented work much better for me. And the different cultures that form in different spaces even within the same medium can create niches for different people.

I’d like to see more kinds of spaces for asexuals yet. I’d like to see more offline spaces, just for starters. Most of all, though, what I want to see is asexual communities decentralizing. I’ve seen communities take huge, bounding steps in this direction in the past year, and that fills me with joy. Because here’s the thing: Lots of smaller communities are more likely to be able to serve everyone, or almost everyone, than one big community.

June 24, 2011

Open Thread Friday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sciatrix @ 8:24 am

Since Monday’s ace swag post went rather better than I figured it would, I thought I’d try seeing if open threads would work here. If this one goes well, this will probably become a weekly or biweekly thing, just as the linkspams did.

Feel free to discuss anything in the comments here!

So, a question to kick things off: What would you, personally, like to see in an asexual character? Since the posts I’ve done about asexuals in fiction have been consistently some of the more commented-on pieces I’ve done, I thought I’d ask what opinions other people have on fictional aces.

June 22, 2011

Wednesday Linkspam

Filed under: Signal Boost — Sciatrix @ 6:53 pm

As usual, please feel free to self-promote or link to other interesting things in the comments of this post! Since people often use these posts to ask me about other, off-topic things–well, I am officially designating these posts as a good place to do that as well!

From Charles the Unicorn, Ace Detective: But they aren’t the same thing!

And asexuals fit into that. Asexuals (and those otherwise on the ace spectrum) have to deal with being a sexual minority in a world that doesn’t understand or support them. The problems they face are fundamentally different from those faced by members of the other established sexual minorities, but they are no less valid.

From Agalmic Desires: The pathologization of asexuality: Evidence for its systematic oppression

Based on my research into past and present pathologization due to the DSM’s classification of mental disorders, I firmly believe that asexuals are pathologized under the label of Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD). Because of this, I believe that asexuals do experience systemic oppression at the hands of the psychological/psychiatric establishment.

From sir-kit: Another post about asexuality and queer.

And one of the things that has annoyed me most about the discussions of asexuality and queer is that both sides frequently assume the queer community is monolithic to a certain degree.

From Asexual Cupcake: I think I’m sick of the concept of privilege

I don’t care who’s privileged anymore. I have goals to accomplish, and that’s what my time is for.

From Kaz: A brief history of asexuality in fandom

Asexuality in fandom, asexual representation in fandom, attitudes towards asexuality in fandom, all of that – these are changing incredibly quickly.

From takesthesword: Things I feel when I read Ace!fic

I’m noticing a trend in ace!fic where the ace person is bewildered by themselves and their chivalrous partner/best friend swoops in and says FEAR NOT! FOR YOU ARE ASEXUAL! and nonchalantly describes asexuality (and also generally recognizes it instantly) to their bewildered ace friend/partner. This also usually includes the informer mentioning AVEN and having googled it at some point and I’ve got to admit that this is when I generally roll my eyes. Really?

From this ain’t livin’: Why the Hell Does an Aromantic Asexual Read Romance Novels? 

Before I came out as asexual, many people thought my romance habit was a little odd since I didn’t seem like ‘the type’ to read romance, and now, people think it’s just plain bizarre that a person who identifies as aromantic would be reading romance.

Trigger warning: discussion of childhood and adult trauma and abuse.

From Hypomnemata: The Fallacy of Causality: Asexuality & Trauma

Over the years I have had far too many conversations with people, post-sexuality disclosure, that involve some form of “do you think your asexuality is the result of (sexual) trauma?”

From Intimacy Cartography: What a Poly, Aromantic Relationship Looks Like

I’ve been seeing an excellent woman (let’s call her S) for a couple months now. We’re definitely in the middle of New Relationship Energy (so ask me about it again in several months) but I’m excited enough about it that I wanted to share the love. I think we’re working out in practice some of the stuff we like to talk about here.

From Hacking the Heart: Asexuality and Kink

So what this all boils down to, I think, since this has mostly been a stream-of-consciousness post with a vague outline I was working from, is that I can get a lot out of kink.  And I don’t experience it as sexual at all, most times, unless a heavily sexual element is somehow presented, at which point I would probably start feeling uncomfortable if I didn’t know about it beforehand.

From Asexual Explorations: Asexual History graphic

There’s a recent thread on AVEN called A history of asexuality, by an AVENite who’s been doing a lot of research in this area.

From littlepaperfrogs: What do you think the closet or being closeted means to you? 

Because no matter how much I talk about my asexuality, no matter how many times I sit down and give strangers the whole “asexuality 101 lecture,” it feels like I’m still invisible.

June 20, 2011

My Feelings on Ace Gear

Filed under: Visibility — Sciatrix @ 9:59 pm
Tags: ,

I’ve rather distracted this week, what with learning to knit (most fun hobby ever) and certain terrifying incidents that have come up at work and, well, other things catching my attention. So this post is going to be pretty light, really, because I haven’t had time to properly chew over the few topics rotating in the back of my mind.

I’ve been trying to wear more visible signifiers of asexuality lately. Being mistaken for something I’m not has become increasingly stifling, and it’s not like I can be read as ace in public without being really, really obvious about it. I already wear the black ring and have for almost a year now, but that’s very subtle–you have to be quite close to me to see it, and it’s very easy to miss. And I did a mug up in the colors of the asexuality flag, but you more or less have to be visiting my apartment to see that, too, and at that point chances are I’m probably out to you.

One of my goals for my knitting is to eventually make a scarf for myself in the colors of the ace flag. (I’m quite fond of our emo flag, in fact.) I’m working on a blue practice scarf first, but I already have the yarn for the ace scarf purchased and sitting in my old purple tote bag, just waiting for my one set of needles to be free and my first project to finish up.

And then there’s my favorite shirt. It’s more of a stealth pride shirt than anything, to be honest, as emblazoned across the front of it is “On a scale of 0 to 6, I’M AN X.” I am ridiculously fond of this line but can’t claim credit for it myself–I stole the idea from a post neekabe made on the asexuality LJ community last year. I’ve been looking at other T-shirt slogans lately, with rather mixed results. I quite like one that I found that says “My Kinsey number is imaginary” (why yes, I do like Kinsey scale references) and this other one that says “asexuals don’t.” On the other hand, I’ve come across a lot of stuff that is seriously unimpressive or even actively confusing.

So what about you? Are you interested in ace swag? Any slogans you think would be cool to see on a shirt?

June 15, 2011

Wednesday Linkspam

Filed under: Signal Boost — Sciatrix @ 4:46 pm

As usual, feel free to self-promote or link other things in the comments here!

From Shades of Gray: Overlap

I contend that if you insist that asexuals remove every instance of sexual privilege from the list that is also experienced by non-asexuals, then in order to be logically consistent, you also would have to remove items from your own list that are shared with other privilege checklists. Otherwise, you’re making a special exception for asexuals just to be exclusionary.

From lizziegoneastray: Okay, I thought I was done with this topic, but I guess not

 For me (not necessarily for anyone else, but for me), it’s like the asexual community is one big happy basket full of kittens, all different colors and breeds, but people keep coming along and deciding they want to take home all the kittens except the calico ones, or all the gray ones and not the rest.  And that’s upsetting to me, because I don’t want to lose any of my asexual kitten-siblings and I don’t want to be taken away from them.

From The Fifth Estate: Because now’s an awesome time to start thinking about the queer identity and asexuality debate.

Asexuality is about breaking through that barrier of invisibility, misunderstanding, and misconceptions constantly and hoping that when you take a breather the barrier won’t patch itself up. Asexuality is invisibility because everybody assumes everybody wants/needs sex and unless you say something you’ll be taken as another sexual being.

From Asexcapades: Privilege, Erasure, Oppression, Queerness. Gender.

What I really think about all this is that while members of the LGBT community may or may not consider asexuals to be queer, we’re still a large community of some of their closest allies, not to mention the huge overlap–the vast majority of asexuals I know of, and who are active in the community, are themselves queer, being either homoromantic, panromantic, trans, or rejecting gender binaries and heteronormativity in some way.

From outlawroad: The Culture of Hypersexuality and the Erasure of Asexuals and Nonsexual Love

From observing all forms of media, as well as the attitudes and relationship organizations of the people we interact with on a daily basis in our personal lives, the following points may be concluded about the hypersexual nature of Western Culture.

From Ballerinas Dance With Machine Guns: Asexuality and Demisexuality: Queer or Anti-Queer?

With Freud we have inherited a dangerous notion of essentialized SEX DRIVE—which has produced a form of sex normativity so totalizing that it is nearly impossible for me to bring up asexuality without people—queers and non-queers alike—giving an extremely reactive response.

From Charlie the Unicorn, Ace Detective: Asexuality and Christianity

Asexuals are not (or at least, not yet) the subject of irrational levels of disgust or mistrust, but neither are they universally systematically privileged within religious groups for the simple fact of being asexual, and in fact they often face many, if more subtle, just as difficult problems as members of the Church.

From asexual curiosities: Coding

Barney and Sheldon are two of the major represented aromantics who aren’t magical aliens. I keep trying to positively re-appropriate them because they both have, to my warped view, an incredible depth- you can weave out of either of them a story of strength, coping strategies, positivity and ingenuity.

From Captain Heartless: The Impossibility of Coming Out

And the fact of the matter is that I can never explain everything. Despite how many definitions and distinctions the asexual community has come up with, I still can’t explain just how my relationships work- there just aren’t the words for it. So people make assumptions, and I am unable to correct them.

June 12, 2011

What I’d Like To See

Filed under: Visibility — Sciatrix @ 8:50 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Last week, the Ace Eccentric asked me on Tumblr what I’d like to see in media in terms of representations of aromantic people. And I got to thinking. (For the purposes of this post I am more or less categorizing my wtfromantic identity under a larger “aromantic” umbrella–I’d count any character who isn’t sure they fit well with the concept of romantic orientation here.) Here’s my list.

0. I want to actually see some aromantic characters to begin with.

I am pathetically grateful to see aromantic characters at all. I very rarely see aromantic characters written from the perspective of someone who is paying attention about asexuality, and I don’t believe I have ever seen a work written respectfully about an aromantic sexual person.

From an asexual perspective, when it comes to writing about asexuality (particularly in fandom, which is currently my main source of writing about asexuals because the writing doesn’t really exist in published fiction), I see a lot of emphasis on writing romantics, which in the absence of writing aromantics can feel erasing. For instance, there’s this project called queer_fest which involves writing about the experiences of queer characters and which this year explicitly welcomed asexuality. When I was watching the prompts go up for it, I noticed that a lot of them used the phrasing “asexual but not aromantic” character over and over and over again–but I never saw anywhere near the emphasis on naming aromantic  asexuals in other prompts.

That said, here’s my wishlist for the characters once I have them.

1. No more aromantic sociopaths. Or inhuman characters. 

Please, please, please. This is an offensive stereotype. Aromantic people are not necessarily emotionless. We are not robots, serial killers, sociopaths, emotionally stunted–we’re just people who don’t grok the romance thing. I would like more aromantic characters who buck this stereotype.

Experiencing romantic attraction does not necessarily make you a good person. It does not necessarily make you emotionally open or a warm person, either. So why do people seem to assume that taking romantic attraction away makes you evil or inhuman or emotionless?

Treating aromantic characters as otherwise normal people who don’t happen to experience this one kind of attraction would be nice. So would making more of them unquestionably human. I’m done with robots and aliens, thanks.

2. I’d like to see more aromantic characters who are not men.

Seriously, what is with this one? I don’t know if it’s a combination of the sociopaths thing with tropes about women being more in tune with emotions or what, but the aromantic characters I’ve seen have been heavily male.

Actually, since women are more likely to be shoehorned into works primarily as romantic interests for male leads, combined with stereotypes about women being more focused on avoiding being single, I think it might just be that fewer women are portrayed as single at all, let alone anything that could be construed as terminally single. It would be nice to see more works that buck that stereotype altogether.

(I’d also just like to see more nonbinary characters in fiction period. Hence phrasing this as “more not-men” rather than “more women.”)

3. I want to see characters that actually read to me as aromantics, not romantics who just so happen to be single at the moment.

I mean. As a person who doesn’t do the whole romance thing? I do not think like a romantic person who just so happens to be single at the moment, okay. My orientation informs how I think and how I plan for the future and how my interpersonal relationships work, as well as a whole other things about my personality.

I’ve noticed this trend where characters, if they’re labeled as asexual, never have the narrative spend much time on what that actually means to them. And this seems to be somewhat worse for aromantics than romantics, in my limited experience. I think a lot of people assume that since aromantics aren’t dating anyone that they have no particular special problems and can be more or less written like a perpetually single romantic character, especially if they’re also asexual. The thing is, it doesn’t actually work that way.

Think about what being aromantic means. You’re generally going to have the same need for emotional intimacy and support, but you’re not going to be able to get it from the same source that society has “set aside” for that purpose. Some people draw their support from communities, either large ones or small ones. Some people draw it from groups of friends of varying sizes or from their families. Either way, I’d like to see aromantic characters being shown finding support from alternate, nonromantic channels.

4. I want to see the long-term effects that being aromantic has on a person.

I actually don’t know any aromantic or wtfromantic people who are all that enthusiastic about the future of their personal lives. I’ve written before about how I plan to be alone, and that hasn’t changed–I’m sufficiently pessimistic about my chances at getting to have friendships that last, particularly in meatlife, that I assume it’s not going to happen. (I have gotten very slightly more optimistic in the past month, but not much.) And okay, maybe I just hang around with pessimistic people, but that planning to be alone is something that every aromantic or WTFromantic person I know does to a greater or lesser degree.

I also want to see characters who worry about losing friendships or having friendships with unequal emphasis on the importance of the relationship. If you’re trying to rely on friendships for emotional support and your friends all happen to be romantic and subscribe to a model of friendship that says “friends are back-ups for when your romantic relationship isn’t working,” there’s going to be an imbalance between your view of what the friendship is “for” and theirs. That can be painful, and I’ve written about that to a limited degree before, too.

I want to see what the effect of being told that you’re basically inhuman for not experiencing the whole romantic attraction thing is. Because I’ve seen that over and over again, including people telling me that to my face when I explained what my orientation actually is. And it’s actually, as far as I can tell, worse for aromantic sexuals in this respect. That kind of thing takes its toll, and everyone reacts differently to it.

5. I want to see the aromantic character’s extant relationships acknowledged as important.

This doesn’t mean a queerplatonic relationship, necessarily (although I’d love any author who gave me one for ever). But it does mean that I want to see the relationships the character has acknowledged as important. I hate the “we’re ‘just’ friends” phrase in all situations, but I would be especially upset to see an author frame friendships or other platonic relationships as unimportant with an aromantic character. I don’t care how the aromantic character derives their emotional intimacy, be it a queerplatonic relationship or several friendships or larger communities or something totally new, but I want to see their relationships treated with respect.

6. I’d like to see happy endings in there somewhere.

This isn’t so much a realism point as a personal wish list. Going back to that fourth point about a lot of the aromantic and wtfromantic people I know being pretty pessimistic about their long-term chances… well. This is contradictory to a point with the rather gloomy things I’ve discussed there, but it would be nice to see works that tell aromantic people that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and that good things are possible.

Besides, in my experience happy endings in fiction tend to go right along with finding a romantic partner to settle down with, possibly with children involved. It’s a type of ending that is almost perfectly geared to leave aromantics out in the dark.

That’s my wish list. Anyone have more points to add?

June 8, 2011

Guest Post: Lucky

Filed under: Identity Policing — Sciatrix @ 2:09 pm
Tags: ,

This guest post was originally written by Anne

Let me start by pointing out that I have a crapload of privilege. I’m white. I’m American. I’m of comfortable socio-economic class. I’m a citizen of my country and a native English speaker and I’m binary and cisgender and right handed and have matching romantic and sexual orientations. I’m well educated. I’m currently able-bodied and neurotypical. I am, like I said, privileged as fuck. I readily acknowledge that and I do my best to keep it in mind when I interact with people so as not to deny my privilege or oppress others. I’m not perfect, but I try.

But there are privileges I don’t have. Male privilege. Religious privilege. Sexual privilege, most especially heterosexual privilege. That last is what I want to highlight right now. I am not heterosexual. I am, as point of fact, asexual and, more specifically, an aromantic asexual. I do not have heterosexual privilege and I hope that would be obvious to most people. If I had heterosexual privilege, I’d call myself heterosexual. That’s not the label that fits me. Asexual is. And I will defend the fact that this means I lose privilege, that this puts me at a social disadvantage that this, yes, means I am oppressed.

Permit me to divert momentarily from privilege and recount my coming out process. Specifically, my coming out to my family. I told my father in an email that I was aromantic. He responded by telling me that I was being presumptuous and that one is never old enough to proclaim that one can’t fall in love with someone. Basically, that I couldn’t be right about myself, and, furthermore, that no one could actually be aromantic and we were all just pretentious and would find the right person. I came out to my mother as asexual over Christmas vacation and, while I think she believed me in the end, it took explaining and arguing to get the point across and she still thinks that one day I’ll change my mind and have sex and pass on her genes. My brother I didn’t come out to directly, but he knows I’m asexual and has several times implied that it’s because of some flaw in my personality or character. I think he intends it as some kind of joke, but it’s not funny.

Now that I’ve said that allow me to also say that I consider myself hugely lucky. My family accepts me. They haven’t threatened to kick me out of the house or told me that there’s something seriously wrong with me or told me I should see a therapist so that I can be “normal”. They’re far more concerned about my grades and my finances and whether or not I keep my room clean than they are about my sexuality. I am, like I said, lucky.

Lucky, though, is different from privileged. I am not privileged. What I am is invisible. Being invisible is hard. Being invisible means having to attach a 101 explanation to every coming out. Being invisible means finding almost no examples of someone like you in popular media. Being invisible means not being anyone’s target market. Being invisible means being told that you shouldn’t label yourself, that you can’t know, that you’re limiting your potential. Being invisible means that any mention of your orientation at all is cause for celebration, even if that mention is negative or even downright incorrect. Being invisible means thinking yourself alone in the universe, damaged in some way you can’t understand, with no one to tell you otherwise unless you stumble upon one of a handful of resources available to you. Being invisible is not privilege.

I’m lucky, because I was able to grow up without caring what anyone thought of me. From a very young age I have lived primarily in my own world, oblivious to many social norms and not caring about many others. I don’t shave my legs or, for that matter, anything else. I don’t wear so-called fashionable clothing. I don’t wear makeup. I don’t think men should be taller than me. I am perfectly content to sit in the back of the room and read a book and not talk to anyone. I make friends with teachers and librarians and for the most part ignore my peers, both because talking to them is hugely stressful and because I simply don’t want to. The thing I hear most often when people describe me is some variation on, “confident enough in herself to avoid succumbing to peer pressure.” Thus I was able to escape a lot of the questioning and self-hatred and fear that comes with growing up asexual in a world that doesn’t like to admit that you exist. I didn’t think that I was broken, I didn’t keep expecting to grow into sexual attraction, I didn’t even really want to be sexual.

I’m lucky.

I’m also unusual. So many more people had to go through part of their live thinking there was something wrong, that they were broken beyond repair, that they were utterly alone. The suicide rate among asexuals has not, I believe, been accurately documented, but informal polls put the number of aces who have considered it at really quite high. That shouldn’t be surprising. We live in a society that tells us that there’s something wrong with us because we don’t feel this thing called sexual attraction. We live in a society where corrective rape is a real threat, where doctors don’t necessarily believe us, where one of the most common reactions to coming out is, “they can give you something to fix that.” We live in a world that either doesn’t acknowledge our existence or thinks that we need to be fixed, often forcibly. And that? That is not privilege.

Wednesday Linkspam

Filed under: Signal Boost — Sciatrix @ 11:12 am
Tags: ,

As usual, feel free to self-promote or add links I missed in the comments here!

Having to Do With The Recent Drama

From Charlie the Unicorn, Ace Detective: Privilege Denying Asexuals…

Potential trigger warning for sexist slurs, discussion of coercive sexual situations, asexual denial and erasure, and abundant profanity. 

Asexuals are a sexual minority. Asexuals deal with shit for being a sexual minority. Is that hard to grasp?

From Miss Mary Max: Not That PDA: Unpacking the Notion of Asexual Privilege

For ace privilege to exist, there would have to be a systemic benefit to asexuality – a system of benefits denied to sexual people.  But ace people are not propped up socially at the expense of sexuals.  The vast majority of people don’t even know asexuals exist.

From outflewenza: We interrupt your regularly scheduled trolling for a deep and heartfelt post

And second, I’d postulate that demisexuality as it is actually defined is not what society would consider an appropriate sexuality for a woman to begin with.  Rather, the ideal female sexuality according to the definition the kyriarchy would have us accept is a type of monogamy or serial monogamy in which a woman, under the umbrella of a committed monogamous relationship, feels attracted to her partner and wants to have sex with him. This might fit some demisexual women, but not all!

From Tafadhali: Goddamnit, I hate privilegedenyingasexuals

That doesn’t really happen for demis. I can only really speak for myself here, but finding someone I actually want to be in a relationship with? Is incredibly difficult.

From Kaz: another thought on that “dividing us up according to our romantic orientations” business

As a result, sexual people, when you’re doing the “let’s delete the -romantic a-” thing? You’re not presenting a new and novel idea to the Xromantic aces who have totally never considered identifying as anything other than ace. Chances are most of them have already tried fitting into the “Xsexual” box, and most of the ones who were fine with just that as their identity stayed there. When you’re talking to the Xromantic aces you’re in large part talking to the group who tried it and couldn’t stand it and you’re asking them to go back anyway, just so they can better fit into YOUR worldview.

From ayries: Where the fuck is all this ‘heteroromantic asexuals can’t call themselves queer’ BS coming from?

Yes.

Yes they can. And fuck anyone who feels like identity policing that.

From Captain Heartless: Hidden Sexual Normativity

Often times these people have rejected the idea that sex is morally bad- which is progress. But they have failed to reject the idea that sex is a moral issue. Instead, they still cling to the idea that one’s preferences regarding sex directly represent one’s moral character (they don’t), and that is reflected in how they react to asexuality.

From Skeptic’s Play: Privilege is not ordered

Another big misconception is the idea that groups are ordered from most privileged to least privileged.  In truth, two groups can each be privileged over the other in different ways.

Trigger warning for corrective rape and asexual denial and erasure.

From gallifreyanteenagerebel: Sexual privilege and my life

Please do not try and erase the horrible things that have happened to me because of my prior orientation or my asexuality. It makes me very upset in a way I can’t even describe.

Trigger warning for traumatic sexual encounters.

From babykillinglesbians: Trigger Warning: Internalized Sexualism

So, since this whole asexual-bashing thing is going around at the moment, can I just state how desperately badly I wish I was sexual.

Having to Do With Other Interesting Things

From Intimacy Cartography: Towards a Better Model of Attraction

So, our model divided attraction into four components: romantic, sexual, emotional, and kinky. Following this post on Hacking the Heart, I’m going to add a fifth: sensual attraction.

From grasexuality: On the Definition of Sexual Attraction

I’m writing a much longer post about attraction and the asexual identity, which should cover a lot more issues, but I thought I’d get this definition of Sexual Attraction that I’m working on circulating to get some opinions.

From outlawroad: My Core Relationships: Or, Wanting Stuff Without Clear Labels

I think it’s important for me to say that I experience romantic feelings on a spectrum, rather than in an “either/or” fashion. I don’t feel romantic feelings for ONLY one person at a time or in ONLY one way and I don’t associate romantic feelings exclusively with traditional couple relationships. I think there’s more than one kind of romantic love (you’ll see what I mean, below), and I think you can have different kinds of romantic relationships and more than one at the same time.

From asexual curiosities: Power to the poly

In short, non-monogamy has its drawbacks. By offering it as one of the first and most major ways asexuals can make it work, we’re enforcing the idea that asexuals are responsible for taming this uncontrolled beast of sexual attraction, a beast that I’ll soon argue is fictitious. Non-monogamy is simply not a practical option for a lot of asexuals, and we need to address that.

From asexualnews: Asexual Suicide Project–Full Details from Narrow Path Publishing Owner

Purpose: To expose the frequency of suicidal thoughts, feelings and actions within the asexual community, as a precursor to engaging the asexual community and possibly other communities in suicide prevention efforts for the community.

From the Asexual Sexologist: June 2011 Survey, Topic: You and the LGBT(+++) Community

If you’d like to share your experiences and perspectives I’d love to hear them!

From Asexual Explorations: Radical refusals: On the anarchist politics of women choosing asexuality

Up to this point, when I have announced articles, I’ve decided to that I should keep my opinions to myself regarding what I thought of the article. This one has convinced me not to do that anymore, largely because I feel that it needs to go in my bibliography, but also needs a comment/warning.

June 6, 2011

Taking Up Space

Filed under: Fitting Sideways,Visibility — Sciatrix @ 8:44 pm
Tags: , , ,

So one of the things I see a lot is this weird contention that homophobes/society at large wants gay people to be asexual. I see it when I’m gathering posts for linkspam, I see it when sexuals decide to get it into their little heads to debate our relative queerness, and I see it when people are discussing the way that queer people in media (as well as other groups) get desexualized. Sometimes the gay person in question (and for some reason in my experience, it’s almost always gay, very rarely bi or pan) doesn’t seem to know what asexuality is, exactly, and sometimes they do.

This is another one of those things I run across a lot that makes me laugh a bit bitterly. Because, you know, being asexual I have kind of noticed that heteronormative society at large and heterosexist people in particular are not exactly a fan of my identity, either.

Here’s the thing: the heteronormative world we live in is set up for straight people. By that, I mean heteroromantic and heterosexual. (It’s also set up for people who are majority on a number of other axes, as Anghraine helpfully points out here, including cisgender people and monogamous people.) If you’re not straight, you’re going to stick out, and the more things you stick out on, the more noticeable you’re going to be. And if you’re noticeable, that’s going to draw the attention of the people who are most happy when enforcing heteronormativity and the equivalents for these other axes of sexuality, not just passively partaking in a heternormative worldview. That is: heterosexists.

These people want everyone to at least pretend to be straight. It doesn’t matter if you’re not set up that way–and in fact, I generally get the impression that they don’t care, necessarily, as long as you’re pretending well enough to pass. (I note that passing privilege is actually something that all queer people can achieve if they put their minds to it; the only difference is how much of your soul you have to carve out of yourself to do it. The gayest gay man in all of Gaytonia could pass if he was willing to live in the closet and marry a woman and spend his life lying to himself and everyone around him. It’s just that passing as straight if you’re not requires you to carve pieces out of your identity and silently pretend the wounds aren’t there to everyone who asks.)

So because they want everyone to at least pretend to be straight (and cis, and monogamous, and the rest of it), heterosexists are really not thrilled when people are open and honest about what they actually want. These people want queer people of all stripes to be as quiet and ashamed of themselves for daring to be different as possible, preferably to the point of being deeply closeted. If you’re gay and you’re not strong enough to act properly straight, they think, at least you should have the decency to shut up about it, to take up as little mental space as possible, to pretend as best you can to be not-different.

The thing is, being celibate and silent about all the ways in which your sexuality isn’t heterosexuality and being quietly ashamed? That’s not what being asexual is. It’s not my asexuality, anyway. The fact that I spend my free time writing about what my orientation means to me, about the things my community experience? That alone should be enough to cue you in: heterosexists aren’t any happier about me, either. Because I’m taking that space up. I’m refusing to be quiet and ashamed, and I’m certainly refusing to pretend.

Asexuality isn’t about trying to take up as little space as possible. It’s not about trying to buy into heteronormative frameworks to hide in corners so we don’t draw heterosexists’ ire. It’s certainly not about pretending to be straight and buying into a normalized view of how we “should” perform sexuality and how we “should” organize into relationships and how we “should” treat consent issues. It’s not even about not having a sexuality, since kinky asexuals and romantic asexuals and libidoist asexuals all point out that “sexuality” is a more complex thing than patterns of sexual attraction.

I don’t see heterosexists talking about how wonderful asexual discussions of alternate relationship models are, for example, and I certainly don’t see them going on about how awesome the way asexuals often spend a ton of time discussing sexual orientation and dissecting how it might or might not work is. What I actually see is people going “oh, that’s boring, don’t talk about that” or “that doesn’t exist, everyone is sexual for something” and generally trying to silence asexuals in more or less the same place. Stephanie Silberstein just posted about her experiences with being told to be quiet more or less every time she speaks out about asexuality, and I confess I’ve often experienced something similar.

And that’s the thing–owning your sexual orientation and speaking up about it is universally unpopular with people who believe that everyone should be at least pretending to be straight. It doesn’t actually matter what that orientation is, only that it’s different.

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