Writing From Factor X

January 24, 2012

This Is Not My “Better Half”

So. That House episode, huh?

I admit, I’m not a regular watcher of House. I don’t watch much TV, honestly. So for those people who haven’t been paying attention, yesterday the television show House aired an episode called “Better Half,” written by Kath Lingenfelter, in which (among other things) in which an asexual couple is heavily featured. A lot of people went into this episode feeling really enthusiastic on the strength of a promotional clip that appeared to treat asexuality positively.

What they actually got was an episode in which two doctors (House and Wilson) make a bet as to whether one can find a medical reason for an asexual patient’s sexuality. In the end one part of the asexual couple is shown to be suffering from a brain tumor and the other is revealed to be faking it to be with him. In the reveal, in fact, Wilson explicitly compares asexuality to homosexuality when deciding whether to attempt to cure the man with the tumor–and House reiterates that they are, in fact, dealing with a brain tumor, not a valid sexual orientation. The narrative supports House, not the first doctor. When the man is presented with the knowledge of his brain tumor, his wife essentially pressures him into receiving treatment despite his discomfort and reveals that she was not only actually ace but that all along she had been craving sex that he couldn’t give her. The storyline concludes with House collecting his money and remarking on the extra win of “correcting two people’s wildly screwed-up world views. Not bad for a day’s work!” I think that more or less sums up the episode’s perspective on asexuality.

I wasn’t surprised by the episode, though (or Moffat’s recent quote on Sherlock’s asexuality, the other current piece of media discussion going on). I have to admit, I expected something like this to happen. Admittedly, I didn’t expect it to be quite this bad, but I was frankly expecting it to be insulting at best and… well, as it was at worst.

I would like to say that I expect more. I would like to say that the one page of positive asexual perspective in Guardian of the Dead didn’t reduce me almost to tears when I read it and nearly made me cry again when that asexual character’s orientation was respected for the length of the third of the story that he appeared in. I would like to say that my favorite ace character, one of the most respectful portrayals of my sexuality I’ve ever seen, isn’t one who is also explicitly portrayed as having that orientation because of a gang rape and a clerical vow. I would like to say that when Poppy on Huge came out as ace two years ago, my heart didn’t leap for joy–and drop just as quickly when the show was cancelled a few episodes later, having never mentioned her sexuality again.

You know, I’d like to say these things. I’d like to say that I treat asexual characters being respectfully portrayed as humdrum, because shouldn’t respectful portrayals of asexuality be the default? Shouldn’t I get to expect basic human respect on the (incredibly rare) occasions when my sexuality turns up in media?

But the fact is, I don’t expect that. What I expect instead is for anyone tangentially mentioning asexuality in the mainstream media to immediately attempt to delegitimize it. I expect to be told that really I must be sick, or repressed, or broken in some way. Characters in media are treated the same way–characters can’t be ace for the sake of it, but they must be inhuman, or ill, or traumatized. And frankly,  given the quality of reactions I expect to hear from people around me when encountering asexuality for the first time, I expect media portrayal to get worse before it gets better. As asexuality becomes more well known, I expect more people to bring it up in media–and I expect more of those people to handle it in an offensive way for cheap jokes, as happened in “Better Half” while the characters got around to showing that really, people who identify as asexual are “either sick, lying, or dead.” (This is a direct quote. Hey, the only one we didn’t get to see in the episode was the dead ace! Maybe next time.)

The writer of the episode, Kath Lingenfelter, has this to say about the very critical reaction aces have had to her work:

I am trying to communicate with several of the people of the asexual community who were displeased, so forgive me if I repeat myself. I did a lot of research on asexuality for the episode. My original intent was to introduce it and legitimize it, because I was struck by the response most of you experience, which is similar to the prejudice the homosexual community has received. People hear you’re asexual and they immediately think, “What’s wrong with you, how do I fix you?” I wanted to write against that. Unfortunately, we are a medical mystery show. Time & again, my notes came back that House needed to solve a mystery and not be wrong. So in THIS CASE, with THESE patients, it was a tumor near the pituitary. But I hoped I could (now it seems unsuccessfully) introduce asexuality to the general public and get them asking questions. All they need to do is one google search and they can see for themselves it’s a real community of great people. Originally, part of my dialog included thoughts about whether as a species we’ve grown past sex. Any time we tackle a subject, we risk the possibility of not doing it justice. I apologize that you feel I did you a disservice. It was not my intent.

[…]

Asexuality is a new topic for me and definitely one I find fascinating. It is a subject I would like to continue to explore here or ..on future shows I write for. I think it speaks to where humans are now and where we are going. I will do my best in the future to do it justice. Thank you for feedback and please share any and all thoughts.

Speaking for myself, the idea of Ms. Lingenfelter tackling asexuality in her work again after this initial showing is something I find appalling. Particularly given the quality of this particular apology, which suggests that Ms. Lingenfelter is “sorry that [asexuals] feel [she] did a disservice.” There is no feeling here. She undeniably did a huge disservice to my community. Instead of writing against the pathologization of asexuals, she used her large and well-connected platform to reinforce and entrench that pathologization.

If Ms. Lingenfelter needed a medical mystery to solve for House, I understand that. What I do not understand is why this mystery had to be directly related to the asexuality of the couple featured on the show. I’m an asexual woman, myself. I’ve been sick plenty of times. Aces are not mysteriously resistant to all unusual diseases except those pertaining to asexuality. Why, if she genuinely wanted to be an ally to the asexual community, did she make the choice to portray her characters’ asexuality as a disease and a lie? Was there some sort of reason that her asexual characters couldn’t have a completely unrelated disorder?

I’m not a writer, but it took me about thirty seconds to come up with a plotline that simultaneously included a respectful portrayal of an asexual character and a medical mystery for House to solve: An asexual character presents with assorted symptoms. House assumes the asexuality is a symptom and comes up with a list of disorders based on that as his primary symptom. Turns out it’s none of those, and instead is a completely different disorder unrelated to the character’s sexuality. Whoops, they wasted all that time on trying to diagnose a character’s sexuality when really the actual problem was something totally different! It’s not only respectful, it’s an accurate portrayal of the issues that asexual people going to the doctor for anything experience. She could have made social commentary on asexual pathologization a central part of the storyline. Instead, she chose to make the storyline pathologize asexuals explicitly.

You know, maybe I’m a bit sensitive about this because the last time I was told that I should have my asexuality checked out by a doctor was three weeks ago. By my mother, no less, to whom I’ve been out for years, and who knew this was an offensive thing to say to me when she said it. It’s not the first time I’ve been told to have my sexual orientation investigated by a physician, and it won’t be the last. In fact, after this I’m more or less expecting to have pathologizing responses increase in frequency, which means I (and other aces like me) will be saddled with the thankless task of undoing the misconceptions this episode spreads so gleefully.

I’m disappointed that a popular television show has chosen to encourage people to pathologize asexuals and treat our community with such disrespect. Ms. Lingenfelter?

If this is the best justice you can do asexuality, please stay the fuck away next time.

November 26, 2011

A Set of Affections Difficult to Characterize

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

I find attraction pretty hard to conceptualize, most of the time. I do experience aesthetic attraction, when I find certain people very pretty and other people less so, and I am pretty certain that I do not experience sexual attraction, since I have very little interest in having sex with any specific person. I’d really love for people who experience sexual attraction to talk about what that means to them, which is a conversation I don’t get to see often, but I think I understand it well enough to know it doesn’t apply to me.

And then you get on to romantic attraction. This is about the point where I start to get confused. I’ve written a lot before about how frustrating I find the concept of romantic attraction.  It seems to me to be poorly defined, a lot of the time, and people have a hard time articulating the difference to me, and I’ve largely given up attempting to understand it. I’ve also largely given up trying to shoehorn myself into traditional categories of romantic orientation and have begun identifying as “wtfromantic.”

So let me talk about how my affectional patterns actually seem to work.  I tend to have rather few friends at any given time, but these friendships are usually quite close. It is important for me to note that for me, there’s a definite gender skew here; I tend to gravitate towards forming close relationships with other women or people whose gender identity shades toward female. I can think of only one or two close relationships I have had with guys, and I am often much slower to warm up to strange men than I am to strange women. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like guys or that I think men are terrible or anything like that, just that I tend to form more relationships with other women and that my relationships to female or female-shading people tend to be closer than that of relationships with people of other gender identities.

I have a definite tendency to be all-or-nothing about people; either they are very important to me or they are only loosely important to me. And it’s this tendency—either a wealth of strong attachment and affection for a person or a comparative indifference in them—that I think is the most confusing thing for me about the difference between friendship and romantic relationships. All of my friends are very important to me; that’s why they’re my friends, and if they stop being that important I tend to walk away.

I don’t get jealous of the people I care strongly about unless my emotional needs stop being met. I think I’ve discussed this a couple of times, but as long as I feel like the relationship between me and a particular friend is strong and that I’m cared about back, I don’t particularly care who else someone I’m close friends with spends time with or whether they’re dating someone. Exclusivity and monogamy are things I do not understand very well in a gut sense, and I don’t really want either of them in any relationship for myself. That said—I recently walked away from a friendship with a person I cared very much about (and continue to care a lot about) because my emotional needs were not being met, largely because she didn’t seem to think my company was worth seeking out. I do need to feel like a relationship has a similar level of affection on both ends to feel comfortable.

I have no interest in sleeping (in the literal sense) with anyone on a regular basis. I also have no interest in ever sharing a room with anyone, even the people I am emotionally the most attached to. I would prefer not to live alone in the long term; my ideal situation involves essentially permanent roommates. With almost all of my close female friendships, I have gone through at least some phase of wanting to live together or close by. At the moment, I am trying to see if I can use my career as an excuse to move much nearer to two of my closest friends with an eye to eventually living with at least one of them. Both of them are asexual and have more or less the same romantic orientation I do, which is reassuring.

My relationship to touch is another thing again—I like being touched in certain circumstances, although I tend to be weird about it. I am told I’m very standoffish about touching people and being touched until suddenly I’m not, and then I tend to curl up on people if they’ll let me. (One close friend of mine has remarked that I cuddle with her more often than her boyfriend does.) I do react very badly to certain kinds of touch—in particular, I always react badly to being touched unexpectedly from behind, sometimes violently, and this goes regardless of my feelings about the person doing it.  

I suspect that this pattern could be characterized as either homoromantic or aromantic, depending on how you perceive things. Or, I suppose, as secondary romantic attraction, or any number of other things. I tend to see the kinds of emotions I have as combining traits from both friendship and romantic models, which is why I usually use “queerplatonic relationship” and related terminology. I have listened to people describe relationships with similar levels of feeling to mine as either friendships or romantic relationships, and I really have a hard time figuring out where the distinction is. I also have a hard time figuring out where attraction comes into it, because for me it’s a matter of strength of feeling, not type of feeling.

I would like to know, though—for those of you who are comfortable with and understand the distinction between romantic attraction/romantic relationships and friendships, how do you conceptualize that distinction?

November 16, 2011

Let’s Not Generalize, Please

So right now, Tumblr is my primary ace community. I haven’t been too active in the blogosphere recently, mostly because of work. And I want to talk a little bit about some things I’ve been noticing–mostly in this community, but this is something I think is relevant to all ace communities. It’s not like I didn’t see similar dynamics during my time at AVEN, for one thing.

I keep seeing things in the ace tag like people saying “aces don’t get sex jokes!” or “aces don’t think about sex so they’re surprised when other people bring it up!” And “all aces are totally grossed out by sex all the time!” And people making jokes about “asexuals love cake so much it’s like they’re sexually attracted to cake!”

And I was thinking about community norms, and the kinds of people who tend to speak up in the ace community. And in particular, lately I’ve been wondering exactly where our sexually active aces are, and thinking about the ways in which people might feel more or less comfortable about speaking up in our community. I had a conversation recently with a close asexual friend of mine who has sex, who enjoys sex, and who often feels uncomfortable discussing their experiences in ace spaces, and that worries me. That tells me that there is a problem that we should be working on.

Look. When you say “you know you’re ace when someone makes an innuendo and you think of something completely unrelated to sex?” That erases the experience of a lot of aces. Mine, for one–I usually see the innuendo. Or not being able to comprehend “sexy”–oh, come on, I can tell when someone is gorgeous and I’ve never had any trouble understanding what “sexy” means, if only from the way others use it. Hey, we keep talking about the fact that there are asexuals who have sex and asexuals who enjoy it! Let’s remember that when we’re talking about what an asexual experience is. Even in jest–jokes do a lot to set the tone and culture of a particular space.

Can we please try, when we discuss ace experiences and in particular asexual experiences, to remember that asexuality comes alongside with a host of very different experiences? Generalizing one’s own experiences and tendencies onto an entire sexual orientation, particularly one with the level of diversity we have, is a bad idea. People are going to feel erased. They are going to feel uncomfortable, and they are going to feel less likely to want to speak up. Communities should be safe for everyone, and part of that is not constantly joking that a particular subset of ace experiences are the only or even the main ace experiences.

And admittedly, walking that line between catering too far to one subgroup of aces in a community space is hard to do. But I think it can be done. There has to be a line between saying “repulsed asexuals are really all mentally ill, not actually asexual” (which I have seen), and “asexuals who have sex are not asexual, they are at best grey-A” (which I have also seen). There has to be a place in  the middle ground where all experiences of being asexual and grey-A can be affirmed in at least some space, even if it takes multiple spaces to do that. And I do think that multiple spaces might be what is required here.

Tumblr happens to be terrible for creating clearly defined spaces for discussion, which is one of the things I miss about forum formats. Elizabeth wrote a really important post about defining the purpose of spaces for discussion a while back, and I think that post is very applicable for ace spaces, too. Face it: ace spaces must serve conflicting community needs. Some aces, particularly asexuals who feel pressured to have sex they don’t want, need a place to blow off steam and bond about their lack of interest in sex. I’ve written about detoxing and why it’s important to have spaces where that can happen. On the flip side, though, we need spaces for people who are dealing with the issues that being a sexually active asexual can bring–issues like negotiating compromise, affirming asexual identities, and discussing personal experiences with sex.  And some of these spaces need to have warnings: detoxing can feel very hurtful to sexually active aces and *sexuals, for example, and repulsed aces should have the option to avoid graphic material they may or may not be comfortable with.

What can we do to solve this? For myself, I think that the best thing to do is try to make clear decisions about the kinds of discussion a given space is set up for. Let people know ahead of time whether a space is going to be a place for detoxing or whether it’s a safe space for emotional support or whether it’s a place to discuss issues of personal sexuality or what. I think the blogs actually do a better job at this than any other space I’m part of–I know, for example, that when I go to Verbs, Not Nouns I’m going to see discussion of kink from an asexual perspective. And for general spaces–treat them like general spaces that are set up to welcome and address all ace perspectives.

If we’re claiming to be talking about all asexuals? Let’s remember that the only thing tying us together as a community is that lack of sexual attraction thing. Everything else is open for debate.

November 5, 2011

Fuck Yes, I Have Pride

Filed under: Anger,Fitting Sideways,Reacting To Assumptions — Sciatrix @ 10:36 pm
Tags: , , ,

I feel the need to tell a story about pride. (This is bouncing off a post Ily recently wrote, which, again, is fantastic and which you should read.)

One day, I was having lunch with a friend. And at this particular lunch, the topic of some personal insecurities of mine came up. It had been a pretty bad day, and I was in the middle of one of my figuring-out-how-my-affectional-orientation-works-and-freaking out phases, and the topic of autism had come up in a most faily way earlier, and I was tired.

So I complained about how badly, some days, I wish I could just fit in; how much I sometimes wish I could be normal, just so I didn’t have to deal with certain kinds of shit. Being different: it’s exhausting. Microaggressions are exhausting! Existing in a world that is adamantly not set up for you is exhausting! Always being the only one in the room is exhausting! And some days, the prospect of getting to stop being exhausted is a really tempting one.

And she was completely flabbergasted. “How can you ever want to be normal?! You always seem to take such pride in being different!”

I paused for a moment, looked at her and answered: “Of course I take pride in being different. It’s that or hate myself.”

I’ve never forgotten this exchange, because it illustrates something that’s pretty fundamental to the way I work.

Every time I say “I’m proud of who I am,” I’m also saying: “Fuck you, world, for telling me I should ever think differently.” Every time I say “being ace is awesome” I’m also saying “and fuck anyone who says otherwise.” Every time I say “I wouldn’t change my autistic status for the world” I also say “and fuck all of you who would rather seen a child dead than see it born autistic.”

My pride is a reaction to an entire lifetime of being told to be ashamed of who and what I am. To being told that I should hide away, should pretend to be something different, so that other people can be more comfortable. Or less bored. Or something, anything, but forced to consider that I exist.

I have encountered a lot of people, over the years, who see my existence as something to grieve over; whose first response to hearing about people like me is unthinking pity or scorn. I have encountered a lot of people whose first reaction to me telling them about an essential part of myself is to ask me if I’ve looked into curing it, if I’ve sought treatment, if I’ve tried to make that part of myself go away. I have encountered people who are completely baffled by the idea that I would find attempts to make sure no children like me are ever born again offensive.

I’m also a naturally contrary, angry person. And there has been nothing in my life as freeing as the realization I had a while ago, that I can say “fuck them.” That for every person I come across saying my asexuality is something pitable, for every fucking Autism Speaks bumper sticker I come across, I can stand up and say “I’m fucking awesome, just the way I fucking am.” And I can say: “I’m proud of who I am, who I am is great, and if you think otherwise you can go screw yourself.”

I don’t know that I would be as proud of what I am, of who I am, if so many people hadn’t attempted to make me feel otherwise. But I do know that if it’s a choice between being proud and taking joy in who and what I am and listening to the people who tell me I should be ashamed and hate myself?

I’ll take the pride every time.

October 4, 2011

Carnival of Aces Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sciatrix @ 8:23 pm

Right! I have not been blogging frequently lately or running linkspams, and honestly this state is likely to continue for at least the next two months because there is a lot of stuff going on in my life right now. (Most of it is good stuff, or at least things likely to lead to good stuff, like graduate school applications and thesis writing and assorted things to do with my major! It’s just that there is a lot of it and blogging is going on the back burner until I there is less.)

HOWEVER. I am posting this to let you all know that the Carnival of Aces is not dead! It was recently hosted at Norah’s blog with the topic of “family,” and I would like to apologize right here for not promoting it the way I should have done. Go read the posts linked there! (I’ve also updated the Master Post, which I haven’t done recently; again, I apologize for not keeping up with that.)

Kaz is hosting right now! This month’s topic is “gender.”

I’m going to try to keep up with at least posting remainders and posts for the Carnival here, but I would really appreciate it if other people could remind others about the Carnival in their spaces and help the monthly hosts get the word out, too. Just an odd post in your spaces “hey, there’s a carnival going on, check it out and maybe submit a post” would help a lot. I know I’ve been dropping the ball on this one lately, and I’m going to try to fix that too.

September 24, 2011

Pulling Out the Brain Worms

Filed under: Fitting Sideways,Growing Up Asexual — Sciatrix @ 7:09 pm
Tags: , ,

A while ago I was tossing around post ideas on my tumblr and mentioned dealing with the nasty brainworms that growing up as asexual has left me with. So. This is that post. This one is going to be very sensitive for me.

One of the biggest things I have been trying to convince myself of lately is that I have a shot at a meaningful personal life. Because the thing is, growing up I have had no meaningful models in my life of adults with strong emotional relationships besides their spouses. My parents move every four or five years; they keep in touch with a few old friends through email, but they see each other perhaps once in ten years at reunions.

Okay, that’s not quite true. I’ve also seen adult role models in my life rely on extended family! Except the whole thing where I don’t fit very well into my family at all rather puts a crimp into that. (Besides the whole sexual orientation thing, I also manage to be the political black sheep of a very politically active extended family on my paternal side. They’re strong Republicans. There are also some interpersonal dynamics that make relying on extended family rather uncomfortable for me.)

So I internalized the idea that I couldn’t really have much in the way of emotional connection. After all, every adult I was intimately familiar with growing up relied heavily on their spouses for emotional support. And I don’t think I ever met adult close friends more than once or twice across the span of my entire childhood, and I’m counting my teenage years. Everyone I met who interacted with the adults in my life was either related to them or married to them. Occasionally I met boyfriends and girlfriends.

I figured that at some point you got too old for real friendships. Oh, you might have long-distance correspondences, but you don’t get to have people drop by and say hello, you don’t get to go eat dinner with them or celebrate birthdays or really spend any off time in their company. You don’t get to have friends who actually stick around in your life as an adult, is my point.

(This is where I just completely boggle at people who react to the idea of queerplatonic relationships as more or less already what people mean when they talk about friends. Because I never so much as met an adult with personal friends they regularly hung out with, as a child. I’m sure that adult friendships that are closer than that exist, but when we’re talking the things I saw growing up, the things I internalized and incorporated into my vague sense of How the World Works? Yeah, there was nothing.)

Add to this the fact that I am naturally a bit of a workaholic and a perfectionist. This isn’t all that unusual; my parents are both similar types and so is at least one of my siblings. I like to work on things I’m good at, and I like the things I make to be as good as I can make them.

I decided that the solution was to make my professional life take the place of my personal life.

Specifically, I decided that if I could find a career I thought was interesting enough and high-powered enough, I could spend more or less my entire life in it. I figured I could spend however much time I needed to at work to forget that I didn’t actually have anything to go home to. If I started feeling lonely or noticing that I had no personal life to speak of, I could always work harder until there was no energy left for noticing what my emotions were doing!

This is some seriously fucked-up shit, guys.

I should add something here that illustrates the environment I grew up in and the attitudes my family has to friendships. My mother in particular has always seemed a little baffled by the level of closeness I have with my friends and generally reacts in a horrified fashion if I mention actually sharing some insecurity with them. So a few months ago, when I was discussing my asexuality with her, I mentioned this–I mentioned that I was afraid for the future, I mentioned that I was scared of being alone and that I thought it was probably how things were going to turn out. I was hoping a little that she’d tell me I was wrong and reassure me.

What she actually did was nod matter-of-factly and told me I’d need to keep in close contact with my sisters, because no one else would ever be there for me. And the thing was, I believed her. Part of me still does. (And another part of me is pretty sure that my sisters won’t necessarily be there for me, either.)

I look around me at people who have their personal lives all planned out and I laugh, because I never thought I’d have a personal life to plan out. I thought I’d have to bury it in a career so I wouldn’t ever have to remember I was alone. I more or less planned to have nothing, because I never expected to have a shot at anything else.

When I was sixteen, I did an internship class which involved spending a lot of time sitting around and thinking about my future career choices. One of the things they wanted us to do in this class was detail where we wanted to be five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years from that point in terms of our careers and also in terms of our personal lives. I had spent most of my life up until then carefully not thinking about the future of my personal life, and I’ve spent most of the intervening years continuing to carefully not think about that, but I had an assignment to complete and I had to write something.

I have never forgotten looking down at that piece of paper and having absolutely nothing more personal to write about my hopes for the future than a desire to have a couple of dogs. Seriously, I had to fill in the section on where I planned to write about my expectations–no, my hopes–for my personal life, for things that should have been filled with dreams about family, I had to fill that in with ramblings about dogs. Because I figured having a couple of dogs, that was actually attainable. You can have dogs, as an adult. I didn’t think you could have any kind of family if you were like me.

I am still endlessly grateful that we received no commentary on that assignment. Because I can’t imagine any commentary from my teacher that wouldn’t have been salt in my wounds.

So I wrote this to mention that I’m trying to get rid of that conditioning. And it’s slow, and it’s painful, and incidentally it’s very much tied up with all the conversations I’ve been having in various spaces about queerplatonic relationships and other people who are more or less like me, who have similar wishes for the future. I still plan to have nothing, but hope is beginning to creep in around the edges. Part of me finds this absolutely terrifying–because hope means I might have something to lose.

But it also means I might have something to gain.

August 24, 2011

Wednesday Linkspam

Filed under: Signal Boost — Sciatrix @ 7:27 am

As usual, feel free to self-promote in the comments here!

Also, because I forgot last week: The deadline for the Carnival of Aces is swiftly approaching! This month’s topic is media and this month’s edition is being hosted at An Asexual Space.

There’s a new Dreamwidth community set up as a safe space for ace umbrella people called group_x. For joining instructions, click here.

From kuremu: Aces, they ain’t even trollin’

But I think that’s often an erroneous assumption. “Troll” beliefs are too often loudly, honestly defended by people I’ve encountered IRL for me to dismiss hateful bigoted posts as simply an attempt to rile.

From Asexy Miri: Hey, aces! Help me with a little poll?

Here’s the question: What’s caused you the most trouble, your romantic/gender identity, or your aceness?

From Ace Admiral: My list of demands

Sorry, LGBT community, but when we talk about you, you’re lumped in with all thoseOther People. You know the ones. When we speculate about whether or not “sexual privilege” exists, or complain about the hurtful things people say to us, you’re not special, some category set apart.

From weesleyisourking: Wow, the “queerplatonic” post has over 70 notes

Most of which are people replying, saying things akin to “No one cares about your micromanaging of your relationships”; “Stop trying to be pretentious or get oppression street creds”; “I have relationships like this, you don’t need a special word for it”; and even, “Wow, the asexuals always have to make ridiculous words for things that already exist”

From Black Dog Musings: Of Vegetables and Termites

But as I was lying in bed last night, I got wondering. “How would I have answered that question?” I thought to myself. And the answer I received was “I don’t know.” I probably wouldn’t have answered yes, because technically speaking I’m don’t have a boyfriend. I will never have a boyfriend. Asking me if I will is like asking a fish if it will ever have a spaceship – mostly pointless.

From wiring: random thought on invisibility and aceness and exes

There are no good colloquial terms for “ex-friend” as far as I know, which sometimes is weird to me. I don’t have any “exes” because I’ve never dated, but I have a lot of very important and now … defunct(?) friendships that I find actually draw a lot of parallels to the sort of relationships-with-a-capital-R that most people talk about, in the way they progressed and eventually ended. Relationships which, being ace and demi/greyromantic, were pretty much the most important I’ve ever had.

From violentopposites: Asexual Representation Vs. Erasure

It bothers me a lot when I hear the argument that “any character whose orientation is not made obvious and/or doesn’t have sex could be asexual” (so I’m supposed to be happy with that and shut my mouth about asexuality.) This is just like saying that a character may be Native American if no race is mentioned specifically or may be Pagan if no. This is not visibility. This is derailing.

From FemPop: The Sexy Robin and the Unsexy Orientation

Not to put too fine a point on it, but for a number of fangirls, queer visibility was a sales gimmick, a way of keeping their OTP apart. So what’s interesting isn’t the possibility of Tim Drake being gay, straight, asexual, or a robot built to attract fangirls. It’s the pattern of behavior some of those fangirls fit into.

From Eater of Trees: Sex Positivity is Rape Culture in Disguise

Something I’ve seen going around for a while is this idea that there is such a thing as “Fake sex positivity” which, well, generally is sex positivity that rather blatantly is rape culture, such as, for example, sex positivity that tells asexual people they’re defective and that people are obligated to give sex to their partners.

This is pretty obviously fucked up, but… it’s not fake. It’s real sex positivity. It logically follows from the idea that sex is a good thing that you’d want to encourage people to have more sex, and from there its only a short hop to telling people they must consent to sex they don’t want.

From Kaz’ Scribblings: Sex-positivity, sex non-judgementalism, and me

Sex is a positive thing for some people. In some situations. It’s also a negative thing for other people, in other situations. (For instance, I’m repulsed. Any sex involving me is never anything but bad.) Sex, in and of itself, is inherently neutral. It becomes good or bad, spectacular or horrifying, depending on context.

From demi-lesbian: On Compromise Sex in Asexual-Sexual Relationships

If an asexual (or anyone) is indifferent/wants to have sex, and is free from pressure to have sex unless that’s something they want (asexuals can want sex too), and chooses to have sex, how is that a compromise? That is just sex.

If an asexual (or anyone) is repulsed, and/or is under pressure to have sex even when they don’t want to, and has sex, how is that a compromise? That is in some cases rape, and in some cases a product of sexism, heterosexism and rape culture. But that is definitely not “just sex” and definitely not a compromise.

From Asexual Explorations: Three new articles about asexuality

The most recent issues of the journal Sexualities has three articles on asexuality.

August 21, 2011

Starved For Recognition

Filed under: Asexual Community,Visibility — Sciatrix @ 10:46 pm
Tags: , ,

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

Last week, as I was checking my Tumblr feeds, this showed up in the asexuality tag. I was very excited at first–not even because I expected a story about an asexual character, but because of the way the creator described the project he was working on.

I was excited, you see, because the way this interview framed asexuality as an actual sexual orientation. I don’t get to see that very often. And so you’ll forgive me if I was fairly upset to note, after checking the source and doing a little bit of Googling, that the entire thing was a hoax. (I do not have enough fuck you in the world for the original poster.)

Most asexual characters seem to have been created by accident. The creators were looking for that extra special touch of inhumanity, or playing up stereotypes of the socially awkward genius or sociopathic serial killer. And when the asexual community, which is starved for representation and for acknowledgement, makes itself known–well. Their reactions tend to not be very pleasant. Even when, in my experience, all asexual people are doing is expressing slavish gratefulness for the crumbs they throw us.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock, responded to an asexual fan thanking him for the work he’s done for the asexual community by saying “How? He doesn’t get out much.” Cumberbatch has also suggested that Sherlock’s sexuality is the result of being “burned by a woman.”

Steven Moffat, who writes both Sherlock and Doctor Who, both of which contain asexual icons, has said

“On the subject of the Time Lord’s perceived asexuality, Moffat has this to say: “I think that his asexual nature was perhaps read into the series by its more asexual fans. If you look at the old show, it’s not true. At some stage the Doctor had a wife and a family, because he’s got a grand- daughter. He likes everything: he drinks, he eats, why wouldn’t he date?”

Chuck Lorre, who works on The Big Bang Theory and is the creator of Sheldon Cooper, had this to say:

Lorre says it’s unlikely questions surrounding Sheldon’s sexuality will ever be answered. “Why would we have to [brand him ever] if the character is so thoroughly focused on his work?” he argues. “If touching other human beings of any gender is irrelevant to him, why label the thing? Why can’t there be a third gender — male, female and Sheldon?”

Awesome. So we have “no they’re not asexual” over and over again, we have conflations of asexuality with being burned on relationships, and we have the conflation of asexuality with gender and workaholism.

I thought–for a second when I saw that Tumblr post, I thought we had a writer who realized that asexual people exist. I thought a writer realized that we are people, and that he was kind enough to stand up and say “yes, this character is.”

I was so excited to see a creator commenting on an asexual character while acknowledging that asexuality is a sexual orientation. Seriously, that tiny thing alone had such an impact on me. It’s so, so rare to see asexuality treated like a sexual orientation anyone can have in non-asexual spaces. If it is mentioned, it’s always in the context of an individual character’s individual quirks, something that can be explained away as part of the weirdness of that character. (And the characters are always framed as weird.)

You see this in-story, but if anything it’s more pronounced when creators are asked about the asexuality of the characters they work on. Often, creators react with contempt and derision when made aware of fans who have asexual identities. It is so often clear that I am not included in the audience.

It saddens me to realize the things that so excited me about the original post are the same things that should have clued me in that it was a hoax.

Can’t we have creators who acknowledge asexual fans, too?

August 17, 2011

Wednesday Linkspam (Belated Edition)

Filed under: Signal Boost — Sciatrix @ 8:00 am

So yeah, I am going to keep doing these. This one is more or less things I bookmarked while taking a step back from blogging, so it’s very disorganized; I should be blogging more frequently in the next few weeks as I’ve begun to get my life back under control. Next weeks’ ought to be more comprehensive.

Feel free to self-promote in the comments!

From Scarleteen: Sp[ace] Exploration: What Sexual People Can Learn From Asexual Communities

Asexuality saved my sex life.

No, seriously — I mean that.

From Skeptic’s Play: On asexual relationships

But it still frustrates me when asexuals imply that we should all want unconventional relationships.  It’s a pretty easy mistake to make.  First you’re complaining about people who think there’s no middle ground between romance and friendship.  Next you’re complaining about people who refuse to be in the middle ground.  I feel this is akin to a bisexual complaining that not everyone is bisexual.  Or more aptly, a polyamorous person complaining that some people are monogamous, or a monogamous person complaining that some people are polyamorous.  It sucks, I know, and you want to complain.  But I don’t feel comfortable with complaining about other people’s sexualities when that’s just a part of who they are.

From Anger is Justified: Shame cannot fight shame

Shaming people for their lack of desire is not sex positivity. It’s not progressive. It’s not helping remove the cloak of shame around sexuality. It’s just encouraging more people not to open up about the subject, thus reinforcing the shame. Oppressing people about their sexual choices is not on, and it’s no good if the people meant to be fighting that shaming perpetrate it upon different groups. Face it, while there’s a lot of sex-negativity at large in our culture, there’s also a hell of a lot of no-sex negativity.

From asexual curiosities: 100% positive

This post is about holding asexuals to a particular standard of non-judgementalism in sexual matters. I’ve seen it said that the existance of judgemental asexuals reflects badly on asexuals as a whole. Which is not just wrong on the basis that it judges everyone in the minority by the standards of one member’s faults. It is also wrong because it is blatently hypocritical.

From sir-kit: The difference between “characters not currently engaged in sexual relationships” and “asexual characters” and why it is important

The absence of a sexual relationship doesn’t erase the character’s sexuality any more than it erases a real person’s sexuality. It’s a part of how people interact with the world.

From findingsherlock: How to Love Your Asexual Without Really Trying

Moral of the story: love isn’t that complicated, it just is what it is. But talking about love is complex and often overladen with socio-linguistic meaning and cultural baggage and suffocated in “supposed tos” and “must dos.” Relax, take a deep breath and hold on.

The key to being a sexual while loving your asexual is to love them. That’s it. Honestly.

From the Veerblog: A Love Letter From the Sidelines

Because of the online ace community, I no longer feel alone. I plan to head the school’s GSA, so that I can try to make sure no one ever feels so alone again, and so that I can give them the same level of support I’ve received. The ace community has equipped me with the words and ideas I need to give a speech on the subject, which I plan to give to all 180 students in my year, and more if I can. I’ve found something that I am fascinated by and truly passionate about.

From Shades of Gray: Confirmation Bias and Anti-Asexual Sentiment

The same phenomenon is happening here, only with asexuals. In any group, there will be people who step out of line, and say offensive things. But to say that all of us are like that, especially when in order to even see the comment in question you have to go through other asexuals who are calling that person out, is pretty ridiculous. And it’s especially so because this exact same phenomenon happens to gay people, too.

From Black Dog Musings: On how not dating doesn’t make it easier

My relationships, on the other hand, are more “So, here are your eggs. And you remember hearing about that box everyone else gets? You don’t get one. But you do get this one. We’re not sure what it’s made of. Could be bloody Graphene, could be straw. We don’t know.

From A Fine Line: Monopoly, dining out, and DIY relationships

When people ask me if I’m dating anyone, going out with anyone, or — more commonly — if I have a boyfriend, it feels rather like they’ve asked me if I have wings or a tail. I’m sure this question would be relevant to some (X-Men!), but I’ve clearly wandered into the wrong party.

August 13, 2011

Building A Path

Filed under: Asexual Community — Sciatrix @ 9:54 pm
Tags: , ,

A little while ago, I got my internet back after moving. I checked Queer Secrets, as you do, and I stumbled across this. It hit me pretty hard at the time, which I mentioned in a couple of spaces. I didn’t take the time to elaborate then on why it hit me, though, and I’d like to do that now. So the explanation goes like this:

I am often gut-wrenchingly terrified when I think about the future.

I am a person who takes solace from tradition, at least when that tradition isn’t harming anyone. I like to know that other people have walked the same paths before me and I like to know that they came out fine in the end. I like to know that happy endings exist, that what I’m trying to do has precedent, that it has worked in the past. I draw strength from my ancestors, from my elders, from those who came before me.

No one seems to have come before, here. Oh, I don’t mean that no one like me has ever existed–I don’t think asexuality is a new thing even if the identity itself is only about ten years old. But I mean that we have no role models, really. We don’t have older asexuals saying “this is what it was like for me, and I turned out fine.” The last time I talked about this, a friend of mine mentioned that she had considered naming me as an asexual role model. I love the compliment, but I’m twenty years old and I haven’t managed to figure out anything yet and I think I might have my relationships figured out a little bit but I have to figure out how to move to another continent before I’ll really believe it and–well, I don’t view myself as someone who’s really figured out how to make this work in the long term quite yet.

And there’s another fear. If our relationships–no matter what they eventually come to look like–fail to pan out, what then? If we manage to construct something that works, knowing what the odds are, what if it doesn’t work? What if they end–or actually, more realistically, when they inevitably end (as they will for some people) how do we negotiate that?

(I’m just coming off an end to a relationship that I don’t quite have words to describe, except ouch. I’m not even sure how to talk about it, not sure how to explain the depth of my feeling or what those feelings are or what words to use. It’s hard enough to talk about relationships that blur the lines when they’re going well–talking about them when they fail is infinitely worse, I think. And overlaying all that confusion and hurt and upset is the fact that I am pretty sure that discussing the whole thing in public spaces would result in being dismissed and told that my feelings were nothing, because this relationship was a friendship, not romantic.)

To me, it feels like this: straight people have got this road well travelled to walk their lives down. It’s a wide road, well paved and well maintained, and it’s mostly flat and easy to walk down. Many people have walked down it, many people have used it, and mostly people have a good idea as to where that road ends up. (Or the places it can end up, really.)

And other queer people have got a different road for their lives. It’s not as wide, and it’s got dirt instead of pavement and a lot more hills and rocky places, but people have gone over it enough now that it’s easy to see from a distance. And people who use that road change it as they walk down it; there are people trying to fix the rocky places and keeping plants from growing in it. With every person who walks down the path, it becomes more solid, more strongly defined, easier to see.

We have a goat track up the side of a mountain. A very few people have gone up it, but not enough to widen it much. Branches are growing across the trail and sometimes sharp rocks stick out of the ground and sometimes the trail vanishes altogether and we have to try to guess where it goes.

I desperately want–I want it to be twenty years in the future, really. I want to know where I’m going. I want to know the path I’m trying to walk doesn’t fall off a cliff somewhere. I want a lot of things, but most of them boil down to a degree of certainty, and I’ll never have that.

So I’m scared of being alone,  too. I’m scared of a lot of things about being asexual.

The thing is–and, o anonymous writer, thank you–I’m still asexual, too. I have occasionally been tempted to recant–to try to pass for something I’m not my whole life, to pretend just hard enough to take the safer road, the one that’s proven to work. Most of the time it works, anyway, for most of the people.

Except trying to do that wouldn’t change who–and what–I am. Standing up, then, and saying “I’m scared, but I’m not stopping”–that’s a powerful image for me. “I’m scared, but I’m doing this anyway.” “I’m scared, but I believe in this.”

And I do believe in what I’m doing.

So I stand up and I talk and I come out over and over again and I say what I am, I talk to my community and I wail about my fears and my anger and above all I speak. I try to take the first halting steps down a path I can live with, try to clear away the debris as best I can and leave it a little wider for the next traveller.

One day, I hope our roads will be wider and easier to walk down. If not for us, than for the children who will follow.

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