Writing From Factor X

May 26, 2012

Tongue-Tied

Filed under: Fitting Sideways — Sciatrix @ 9:01 pm
Tags: ,

A few days ago, Siggy bemoaned the death of the asexual blogosphere as a direct result of Tumblr. I agree with everything he said, as it happens. I could whine about Tumblr being a more easy formula–longer posts are much more time-consuming and intimidating to write–but frankly, I’d rather read a longer, well-thought out post, and I suspect I’m not the only one. So I thought I’d try to help revive the blogs a little by updating my own.

Lately, I’ve noticed an issue I’ve had in conversations with people I’m trying to get to know better. The subject of dating will come up, or people will start bonding by discussing attractive people, and I’ll freeze, confused about what to say. It’s not a matter of hiding my asexuality, either; this happens with people who know I’m asexual, too. It’s more a matter of not knowing how to react and feeling that responses along the lines of “good for you!” are perhaps more condescending than I want to be.

I’m not a particularly socially adept person outside of my comfort zone, and I’m not always good at reacting to new things on the fly. When it feels like people are asking me to reciprocate in some way, because the experience of dating/having crushes on other people/admiring attractive people is totally universal, I’m often at a loss to respond. It’s particularly awkward for me because I started identifying as asexual at fourteen, never felt particularly pressured to experiment with dating, and consequently have zero anecdotes or experience with dating to use to keep conversation going. I have experience with relationships in general, sure, but bringing those up in the context of dating feels strange to me.

I usually end up just remaining silent and feeling awkward, especially if everyone else is sharing personal experiences. I’m not exactly sure what to do about that, except… continue to occasionally feel awkward when someone is trying to connect with me. Honestly, this isn’t an issue anyone is at fault for or that I think I can or should expect anyone else to change for. It’s not like my experience is a particularly common one, after all, and bonding over dating experiences and cute people is a terribly common, generic topic of conversation. I even do enjoy those conversations when it’s clear what I can contribute to them, as for instance cheering on a friend’s enthusiasm over a new crush or offering advice on a specific interpersonal situation.

I do find it interesting that spending more time with people who aren’t particularly familiar with asexuality and discussing their expriences makes me feel more unusual and more in need of a word like “asexual” to describe how I experience things differently than spending more time around other people who identify similarly to me. I know Siggy has mentioned a similar experience in the past, too. I’m particularly interested in this effect because I wonder if it might partially underlie the tendency of some people to declare labels like “asexual” are unimportant, or even whether it might play into the strength with which someone feels a particular identity. After all, if everyone around you shares similar experiences to yours, or your experience is easily understood by everyone you come across, does your particular label for that experience even matter? It’s only when differences become more salient that it becomes necessary to find words for your experiences and discuss them.

11 Comments »

  1. It’s more a matter of not knowing how to react and feeling that responses along the lines of “good for you!” are perhaps more condescending than I want to be.

    This ALL THE TIME, in the “bonding by discussing attractive people” way. Whenever my allosexual best friend is linking me to photos of celebrities and sending me IMs that consist of “unfff” I’m like, what is the appropriate response here, I don’t even know what the appropriate response would be if I was allosexual (she knows I’m ace). I want to be like, “I am glad you are enjoying yourself” but that sounds unbelievably dismissive and sarcastic. Usually I end up awkward “lol”ing just so she knows I’m not ignoring her messages, but that’s proably equally as bad.

    When I’m in ace spaces or talking to ace friends, I do notice that I don’t think about my asexuality as often. I don’t even think about it much when I’m talking to my allosexual girlfriend, because at this point she so easily integrates it into the way we relate to each other that I don’t have to. But if I’m in a group of allosexual people I’m not out to, or who don’t think about asexuality, all of a sudden I am very aware of how I am not like other people.

    Comment by ace eccentric — May 27, 2012 @ 7:08 pm | Reply

    • It’s so frustrating! It’s like people keep bringing me slime molds to squee over, except I would actually be personally interested in the slime molds! (About once every four months one of my friends digs up this XKCD comic and tells me it totally describes me, actually–I wonder if there’s a polite way to explain that I feel the same friendly bewilderment over their enthusiasm about hot people that they seem to feel when I’m going on about, say, my love of trilobites.) And I’m genuinely happy people are enjoying themselves even if I have no way to connect to them on it, but that never seems to be an acceptable emotion to express, especially when I’m worried about coming across as shaming people for their sexuality if I come off as condescending instead of pleased for them.

      Comment by Sciatrix — May 27, 2012 @ 8:50 pm | Reply

      • Hee, I remember that XKCD comic. So many comics there end up relating to my life even though I’m a dreaded liberal arts major 😉 I do agree that there is not really a socially acceptable way, most of the time, to say “Good for you! I don’t understand but I’m glad” without coming off as sarcastic or dismissive or, like you say, shaming. It’s just difficult to formulate a response to something where the accepted response is a mutual one. I do not want to shame my friends, but I also don’t want to have to come up with mutual responses. It wouldn’t really be me speaking and it would hurt my head, besides, putting so much energy into it.

        The only thing I can think is that maybe asking questions could extend the conversation without having to provide that kind of response. Someone saying “Oh, he’s so hot!” followed by “Ah! What do you like?” but … that might just prolong the conversation until you’re back in the same place of being expected to provide some kind of mutual response. Sigh.

        Comment by ace eccentric — May 27, 2012 @ 9:36 pm | Reply

  2. I think I might have it easier here. There are people I find gorgeous, and also people I find awesome, so I can kind of participate in the general squeeing over attractive people as long as it’s not specifically about sexual attraction.

    But at the same time, I definitely know where you’re coming from with feeling out of place talking about both subjects. That does happen to me, too. I usually either try to encourage my friend to talk if they basically just want to squee about an attractive person or potential date, or I change the subject.

    Comment by Aydan — May 28, 2012 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

    • Well, I mean, I do have aesthetic preferences about people, but the other uncomfortable thing about talking about that is that people will give me funny looks and generally intimate that I’m not “really” asexual if I try to talk about them, so that… also feels terribly uncomfortable a lot of the time.

      Those are essentially my strategies, too. I actually really enjoy listening to people squee! I just don’t have much to say in a more general conversation.

      Comment by Sciatrix — May 29, 2012 @ 5:54 pm | Reply

      • but the other uncomfortable thing about talking about that is that people will give me funny looks and generally intimate that I’m not “really” asexual if I try to talk about them

        Oh… yeah. I get that a lot. I do tend to contain my squeeing to people who know me well, but even then there’s an element of self-censoring such as “Do they think I’m not really asexual and are just keeping quiet about it?”

        Comment by Aydan — May 30, 2012 @ 2:01 pm | Reply

  3. I deal with this a bit in gay spaces, where talking about cute guys and old crushes is very much a point of bonding. After all, that’s one of the things that sets them apart from normative sexuality. Unfortunately, these are not among the experiences I share with gay men. But it’s a totally legitimate topic, so I feel there’s nothing I can or should do about it. I just sort of tell people it’s not an experience I share.

    Comment by Siggy — May 29, 2012 @ 3:10 pm | Reply

    • Yeah, that’s pretty much the way I feel–this is a really legitimate topic and I would never want anyone to feel uncomfortable discussing it! It’s just… not something I have much to say about.

      Comment by Sciatrix — May 29, 2012 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

  4. I feel this way whenever anyone starts talking about “ideal” dates or “what you look for.” I mean. I’m not looking for anything. There is no ideal.

    I also agree that tumblr killed the blogosphere. :/

    Comment by Annah — June 9, 2012 @ 1:50 am | Reply

    • I am so sorry for taking this long to respond to you or let you out of moderation! I’ve been househunting all week and haven’t had much time to respond to… well, anyone.

      And yeah. I’m not looking for anything, either. As for tumblr killing the blogosphere–yeaaaah. The worst of it is that there really isn’t any interesting discussion at all happening on tumblr either anymore–everything is responses to the anti-ace brigade, which is just boring. Unfortunately I’ve rather run out of things to say and energy to say it here, so it’s hard to think what to do about it.

      Comment by Sciatrix — June 11, 2012 @ 10:04 pm | Reply

  5. I’m really curious about how sexuality works, so I usually either sit there taking mental notes or I start asking questions.
    Does get awkward if they ask me who I like, and I have to come out because I’m compulsively honest.

    Comment by ettina — December 31, 2016 @ 9:29 pm | Reply


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