Gentle Nuances

[TW: mention of (corrective) rape, gaslighting, denial, verbal & psychological abuse, mention of personality disorders (ASPD, NPD)]

Have you ever been serenaded? I have, many times.

Several members of my family are musically inclined, including my father. Once or twice he may have written a song about me. My grandfather on that side used to lead a country band, and the older generations on both sides of my family like that kind of music a lot.

So I grew up hearing a hell of a lot of country music, and very little else. It’s not really my style, though. I find it too whiny and woe-is-me most of the time, and too religious or heteronormative the rest of the time. It’s kinda like emo, but for conservatives. Besides that, it’s also just really formulaic, and too often feels like I’m listening to the same song over and over again.

Music is a big deal for me, though. I’m not patient enough to keep playing instruments myself, so I stick to vocals only—but almost never in front of other people. I tend to surround myself with musical people, some of whom are even professional musicians.

One such was my perpetrator. He was primarily a percussionist, but also played guitar and sang—and not badly, either. Occasionally he would share his own original compositions with me.

More than once, both in person and through Skype, he sang me this song. Continue reading

Guest Post: I was curious, so I chose to have sex! Then, my curiosity was satiated. I decided never to have sex again.

This is a guest post by luvtheheaven, for my project expanding on and then revising my consent guide, How to Have Sex with an Asexual Person. I am collecting a bunch of posts to link to in my revision, since so many readers have come to me looking for more on the subject, and some ace people felt their experiences weren’t represented well enough. There’s a lot more that could be said, but I’m not the best person to write all of it! So if you have anything that you think would be useful for non-asexual-identifying people who are or might want to become sexual partners of ace-spectrum people to read, please submit! Ideally, I’d like to cross-post these as guest posts here, as a safety net in case the original posters’ blogs eventually move or get taken down, but that’s not required. You can also submit anonymously. Please email me at prismatic.entanglements [at] gmail.com or comment to submit.

Someone has also kindly offered to translate the article into Spanish (!), so I’m going to open my call for supplemental posts to Spanish-speakers, too. Gracias!

Below you’ll find luvtheheaven’s notes about the post, and then the post itself, which was originally posted here.


 

[Content Note: the following blog post is NSFW and contains very explicit descriptions of sexual situations. I also discuss menstruation/ovulation briefly.]

Elizabeth over at Prismatic Entanglements is collecting as many different articles related to the topic of respectfully approaching sex with asexual people as people are willing to write. In order to do my own small part to help, I’m sharing my experiences below. It is a response to this Tentative Revisions post she put up, and I definitely recommend you read onlyfragmentspost which was also written for this purpose as well. She discusses her journey toward where she is now: enjoying a sexual relationship with her girlfriend. It’s a very different post than what I am writing, below.


Continue reading

More thoughts on #AceDay with some suggestions for next year

First of all… since my initial post on this subject apparently read very harshly and negatively to some people, and appeared to be siding with people who think that aces just shouldn’t have any days outside of AAW, let me clarify that that is NOT the case! I’m fully supportive of the event, just confused by it. As I said, that kind of criticism of the event is part of why I was confused. Why make such a big deal out of it? There’s nothing wrong with having a day like that, even if it’s not necessarily appealing to my personal tastes, and even if I’m confused about what’s going on. I held back my criticisms on May 8th and just made jokes specifically because I didn’t want to bring people down—and hoped that at least some people would enjoy the humor.

There’s also, as I said before, nothing inherently wrong with seeing an opportunity and being inspired by other successful activism campaigns, although I think there was some issue with the event seeming not distinct enough from, in particular, TDOV—the initial name for it was Ace Day of Visibility, which seemed to be a direct rip-off rather than just something that was inspired by TDOV and that, understandably I think, felt disrespectful to many trans folks.

However… I think what the main issue was with the event was that… there wasn’t really a clear goal communicated to everyone. It was sort of made up as it went along, and changed quite a bit due to the controversy surrounding it. Once that drama had actually started happening, everything got even more confusing as things had to be changed, so some of that was unavoidable. Tumblr makes everything confusing by default, because of its horrendously bad design. All conversations hosted there are confusing to me, because I have to keep scrolling up and carefully measuring how the comments are nested in order to even figure out who said what. Besides that, posts tend to get buried and otherwise lost. So with all of that going on, I didn’t even know what day it was going to be until I checked Twitter on that day.

When all the information about the event is contained in Tumblr posts, it’s also harder to find, so it’s worth considering having the official information about the event hosted on a page somewhere (else?), and updated as necessary. Link to wherever the official, up-to-date information is going to be hosted on every post that promotes the event, so that people can easily find out what has changed if they happen to see an older post.

Here are some questions that I think should be asked, answered, and communicated before the next #AceDay campaign:

What is the goal of this event?

Try to be as specific as possible, and if there’s more than one goal, list each one. Also try to present some reasons for why these particular goals are chosen. Please be more specific than just saying “solidarity” or “visibility” because those are very abstract concepts that can be interpreted in many different ways. The more clear your goals are, the less confused people will be.

Who is the target participation group, and why?

One person suggested that this was meant to be a Tumblr-only event for “getting to know your local community” but if that was the case, why involve Twitter? If it’s multi-platform, try to specify which platforms should be involved, and which are not the main focus. If the event is limited to only certain platforms, let us know why. If your personal ability to advertise on certain platforms is limited, you might consider finding a few other people to co-organize the event with you. They may be able to focus their efforts in places you normally wouldn’t be able to, or reach a wider audience than you could.

Where are the most effective places to advertise?

Even if only Tumblr was the goal, there was still a failure to let people know what was going on. I would argue that even if the goal is only Tumblr users, it may still be useful to advertise at least on The Asexual Agenda’s weekly linkspam (we need a little bit of advanced notice), since there is a large tumblr following there. They can help spread the word, if you get their attention.

If you also want Twitter (or Facebook?) users to get involved (and why not?), I’d argue that AVEN is still a good place to advertise since many users there also have Twitter accounts—and if you’re uncomfortable posting on the forums yourself, you have only to ask a member there to do it for you. If you can get it onto AVEN’s home page at least a week before the event, a lot of people will see it and spread the word for you. If you email the AVEN team and let them know what’s going on, they’ll be perfectly happy to advertise for you—as they already did on their own. Giving them a little more guidance and advanced warning can only help. AVEN also tends to be the main focus for media requests, so they can potentially put you in contact with journalists, if that’s something that you care about pursuing—and having journalists generate wikipedia-credible articles would help if the goal is to eventually get it on there.

Ask around by email to see if people would be interested in advertising for you, because some may agree, or even be interested in organizing a part of the campaign on a social media platform you don’t normally use. (But please only ask each person once and don’t bug them or take offense if they don’t respond.) And, as I said above, strongly consider keeping an up-to-date official page for the event somewhere, so that if things change, people can easily find out what those changes are.

How has this campaign broadened in scope from the original intent?

Obviously, there was significant activity on Twitter and possibly other social networks. What about Facebook? Instagram? Beyond thinking about just targeted social media sites, what else might have broadened in scope? Will there be additional goals for next year? A way to accommodate those who are uncomfortable categorizing their romantic orientation? What about adding some nods to ace cards from Tarot or other non-traditional playing card decks? Is there a way to expand beyond the card motif?

Why was this date chosen, and could other dates be more effective?

In my neck of the “woods” May 8th is a day that many college students tend to be busy taking finals, moving out of their dorms, or graduating. They may not even have internet access while they’re on the move. That might be okay in the age of smart phones, though. I personally find the 8th to be a confusing choice, because all ace cards are the first in their suite, and A is the first letter of the alphabet. I think the reason for going with a particular date, especially if it’s counter-intuitive like that, should be communicated well. By the way, May 8th also sometimes falls on Mother’s Day, and it will next year! That makes it a particularly bad choice, I think. There is no possible way that Ace Day could not get drowned out by another holiday next year, if the same date is kept.

Is the writing in the official announcement(s) clear?

It may be worth running it through a round or two of beta readers who can help you revise before posting. Both The Asexual Agenda and Resources for Ace Survivors does this, and I think those posts/pages that go through this sort of revision process benefit greatly from it. Asking others to read and give feedback helps us catch where our blind spots might be. If you give me enough advanced notice, I can do this kind of thing for you—email me if you want!

All of these questions above are applicable to any other kind of activist event or social media campaign. I hope other people considering starting one will also consider them.

On a personal note, to Sara… I realize that a lot of the drama and confusion surrounding this event is not something you are personally responsible for, and that this is your first large-scale campaign, and that it’s surely been somewhat under pressure because of Asexual Outreach deadlines. All of this combined with the inevitable trolls is quite a lot to handle at once. Take care of yourself as best you can. And know that I truly do wish you the best in all of your projects, and hope they succeed!

And again, I don’t follow things going on at Tumblr very carefully, and the way I use Twitter is generally to go post something, maybe glance at things, and then close the page—or link something from an app without even looking at Twitter itself. I also reply to comments here from mobile pretty frequently, so I can’t always check things out right away, but I will try when I am able. So I’m sure I’ve missed things! If there’s something else relevant to this conversation that anyone would like to link me to, please feel free.

Have you emailed Resources for Ace Survivors?

Did your email include an attachment? If so, your email may have been blocked or gone directly to a spam folder. I’m trying to investigate this issue, so if you did email us and never got a response, please let me know.

For the time being, if you need to send an attachment, you can email our backup gmail account: asexualsurvivors [at] gmail.com. Or, you can use a service like Dropbox or Sendspace.

I’ll be away from my computer for the time being, btw, so I may not be able to get back to you immediately.

Sorry for the inconvenience, everyone! At least we’re figuring this stuff out before the full site launches, though.

 

#AceDay and credibility

I’ve very loosely followed this Ace Day drama from a distance. I don’t get it. So many things about the event—how it was planned, how it was criticized, how it was promoted, why it is even on the 8th instead of the first of some month, and why it apparently had to happen RIGHT NOW instead of say, in three weeks, if there had been so little preparation for it that had been promoted to neither AVEN (as in, on the forums) nor The Asexual Agenda.

(That’s a lie, actually. I can figure it out. I think it had to happen sooner because it had to do with promoting the Asexual Outreach Indie Go-Go campaign. They need the money for the conference in June, so waiting wouldn’t have been ideal. Please donate to it if you can, though, honestly. It’s a good cause.)

Why did the ace cards have to represent romantic orientation? Nobody ever sat down and thought about how having to categorize like that would leave a lot of aces out? I wouldn’t have known which suite to pick.

When the day rolled around, I made a joke out of all my confusion:

It’s even funnier if you know me personally.

Moreover, why are we only considering ace cards from the traditional deck of cards? Ace cards in other kinds of decks are beautiful and well worth photographing, too. We don’t need to hold so strictly to tradition, and the incessant focus on categorizing is not helpful.

The most significant effect that I noted (from my limited corner of the community, and no, I was not following closely) as a result of Ace Day was that search engine traffic was very high, and many googled “alloromantic” on May 8th. They mostly seemed to flock to Queenie’s article criticizing the divide between alloromantic and aromantic. Knowing that may at least assuage some of the frustration those who felt pressured to categorize their romantic orientation felt, I hope.

Jokes aside though… there are some serious credibility issues with this campaign. And theasexualityblog has seemed… totally oblivious about them, and somewhat belligerent and unconcerned when those issues have been pointed out. (I’m not saying that’s actually the case, btw—I’m saying that’s how people have been reading theasexualityblog’s responses, and with good reason.)

To begin with, I think that while a lot of incorrect and very hurtful things were said about Blackout and TDoV… I think people are correctly perceiving an opportunistic attitude on the part of theasexualityblog. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with opportunism—or being inspired by other successful activist campaigns—by itself. And Ace Day did accomplish something. A day of pride and love for asexual people is not a bad thing. This type of campaign is not something that appeals to me, but if other people like it? Hey, why not?

But the way that it was handled was not ideal. I think a lot more care has to go into planning for next year—and the idea has to be expanded to be inclusive of all aces, not just those who are easy to categorize (and, perhaps, more palatable to the mainstream?).

But the very worst credibility-killer is that they seem to think that they actually have enough credibility to get wikipedia to acknowledge them… and have fundamentally misunderstood the way that wikipedia works. (Discussion of wiki spamming here.)

What on earth is getting a page on wikipedia going to accomplish anyway? The event is over. Do it again next year, and the year after that, and build your credibility before demanding to be acknowledged. If you’re expecting wikipedia to somehow give you credibility, then… LOL. Wikipedia is actually being considered less and less credible anyway.

The thing is… if you start spamming people with things without first building credibility? They stop listening. The filter learns your name, and you get automatically deleted. Spamming doesn’t work for emails, and it doesn’t work for wikipedia either.

And I’m sorry to say it, but doing this sort of thing really makes you come across as unprofessional, and will have an impact on others’ willingness to submit to or invest in your future projects. Building credibility is slow. It takes hard work and a lot of time. If people see you as unwilling to invest that time, if they see you trying to brute force acknowledgement and take credibility… how can we be confident that you won’t try to take those shortcuts in anything else you do?

Learn from these mistakes—and acknowledge it so that people know you’re listening. Learn the rules first, and don’t try to make others change their well-established guidelines for you. Next Step Cake has made a guide to getting on wikipedia for you. Ace activists, please take it to heart.

I know I will.


 

Addendum: There was a gap of time between me writing this post and seeing new things that had been posted about this (my posts are frequently scheduled to go up when I won’t be at the computer). I think this one is relevant, and shows a considerably better response. A clarification: The wikipedia article was not planned by theasexualityblog, and was written by someone else. I should have made that more clear in the original post, so I apologize for that.

More further reading: I posted some more thoughts on #AceDay with some specific things to consider for next year. Theasexualityblog responded to criticisms that were raised here. I think it’s a good response and addresses how people had been feeling pretty well… although I will note for clarification that Sara seems to have interpreted “opportunistic” as I used it here to mean something far more negative than I meant. “Opportunism” in my view does not necessarily imply exploitation or being motivated by personal gain; it means seeing an opportunity as it arises and going for it. Other critics may have assumed that Ace Day was exploitative of trans people in some way, but I don’t agree. I will also note that tumblr’s absurdly bad format in itself is probably responsible for a lot of the confusion, misinformation, and critics not being well-informed—things will always have to be addressed multiple times if your responses get lost on tumblr, which I think is some degree of inevitable. It’s my hope that linking Sara’s response here will help keep it from being lost to the ages—since WordPress is far more conducive to creating posts with longevity than tumblr.

On friendships, part 2: Ace culture and ideals of friendship

When I think of asexual culture, I think of a community that has come together in true joy and relief, of many isolated individuals finally discovering that they are not alone in their experiences—that we are not broken, not disordered, and not delusional. That we are normal.

Last week, I shared an exchange I had with my partner on twitter:

The context of this conversation is a little fuzzy and half-remembered by now, but it’s perhaps not quite what you’d think. Her meaning, when she said that, was along the lines of “yeah, asexual people do get depressed and struggle with friends… just like everyone else.” That we try to hold ourselves to superhuman standards in order to be accepted, because so many people unfairly assume that asexuality must be a defect caused by [insert BS here] and must be cured.

We have named that phenomenon: Unassailable Asexual.

When I think of the asexual community and the culture we’ve developed, I think of a group of people who share common struggles, and try to come together to help one another. I think of a group of people who, before we even know each other, often already have a sense of kinship or intimacy with each other, although not on an individual level—and also have names for that sort of feeling (community-based intimacy), because we are that interested in delineating different kinds of connections human beings can have with each other. Continue reading

On friendships, part 1: feeling I am not entitled to friendship, and I am a burden

[tw: allusions to sexual violence, domestic violence, religious abuse; descriptions of bullying and abusive friends, invalidation of asexuality. Heavy warning for abandonment trauma.]

On some level, I know other people don’t feel that way about me. That these are just my own insecurities, formed from so much abuse, so many attacks from a lack of understanding both asexuality and trauma, and how they can coexist—how my asexuality is used against me by my abusers, and my trauma is used to invalidate my asexuality.

On some level, I know there are people who really like and respect me, and really do want to be my friend. And yet. Continue reading

Announcement: Resources for Ace Survivors website

So I’ve been working with Queenie for the past few months to expand Resources for Ace Survivors to a stand-alone website. Please check it out!

Special thanks to Stormy, who has also been working on this with us! We really wouldn’t have made this happen so quickly if we hadn’t had so much help!

Here are some features of the site that I’m quite excited about:

  • We’ll be launching a multi-author WordPress blog sometime in the next month or so. We’re currently looking for contributors—both to blog with us regularly and to submit guest posts.
  • We have a private forum which we’re currently testing, and using to organize all of our projects. If you’re interested in working with us but not quite able to devote a lot of time to it yet, you can still help us out by joining the forum, helping us test it, and giving us your opinion on how you’d like to see it run. And we will really need some moderators!
  • We will be able to offer an alternative method of communication between survivors who need someone to talk to and people on The List. This will be really helpful for survivors (like me) who are too triggered or vulnerable to their abusers to use tumblr!
  • We will be launching a very big project to educate therapists, health professionals, advocates, grassroots organizations, and so on to competently treat ace survivors. This includes providing educational resources, and also collecting a list of recommended providers/organizations to refer survivors to, along with contacting existing organizations and working with them to create asexuality tags for the therapists/etc. in their systems—and better educate their volunteers.

Please check out our full list of projects. There’s a lot to do, so please consider joining us if you can!

Thanks to everyone who consulted with us to help get this going! I am really behind on emails right now because I’ve been focusing so much on getting all of this ready in time for Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so I’m sorry I haven’t been back in touch with some of you. Please know that your help has been very much appreciated!

Guest Post: Asexual/Allosexual Relationships and Sex

This is a guest post by onlyfragments, reposted with permission for the purpose of making more resources available to people reading my How to Have Sex with an Asexual Person post, which I plan to revise. I will be collecting as many different articles related to the topic of respectfully approaching sex with asexual people as people are willing to write, and linking to them from that article when I fully revise it—ideally I’d also like to cross-post them here on my blog. If there was anything you wished had been covered in the original article, please consider submitting something, even if you are only writing about your personal experiences and not making an expert’s guide. I can give you feedback and help you edit before publishing if you feel your writing could benefit from that as well. You can reach me at prismatic.entanglements [at] gmail.com.

This article is cross-posted here at onlyfragments’ blog.


 

[ Warning to friends/family/others: I’m going to discuss my sex life below. If that’s TMI for you, I suggest not reading this. ]

After reading PrismaticEntanglement’s post about the topic of sex between allosexuals and asexuals, I decided to write my own post about how my girlfriend and I navigate this difficult topic. I’m going to try to impart some advice based on our experiences; that being said, this is based solely on my personal experience and what worked for us. I’m not an expert – just a person with a blog. Continue reading

Question: “can an asexual ever have a one time encounter that’s extremely satisfying…?”

[tw: fetishizing, mentions of: rape threats, Magic Genitals, sex as self-harm]

So I usually don’t do this anymore, but today someone got here by this search term:

“can an asexual ever have one time encouter that i’s extremely satisfying with this one person” (sic)

I think it’s reasonable to assume that whoever typed that meant a sexual encounter. If it’s about non-sexual encounters, then it should be pretty obvious that of course that’s possible, so I see no reason for them to be asking that question. So let’s assume they meant a sexual encounter.

My answer: Possibly? Maybe? But it would be exceedingly rare.

If you are wondering whether you could “count” as asexual because of an experience you had enjoying sex—yes! you can still be asexual and enjoy sex! Even one-night-stand sex! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you’re not asexual and hoping for that to happen in real life, don’t. Most of us are not interested in sex. Those of us who are open to trying it are usually not looking for a one-night stand type of situation. Most of us who do try that (one-time encounters) find it to be… well, lackluster. If not worse than that, because it’s been coerced. Some of us might seek out situations like that not for pleasure but to self-harm, or while desperately trying to be not-asexual. In my experience, people generally do not care enough to make sure a one-time sexual encounter is a good experience for asexual-spectrum people. So a more likely scenario is that such a thing would end very badly. Hopefully those norms will change, and more people will be able to have good, fully consensual experiences.

If you’re writing a story where that happens, really don’t—unless you’re actually ace, I don’t think it’s wise to try to navigate those waters. It’s completely unrealistic as a representation for a group that has almost no representation as is, and it plays into the Magic Genitals myth. (That is, that some “right person” is going to come along and magically make us have amazing sexual experiences that somehow “turn us,” like vampires or something—and yes, people actually try to be that person. In real life. It’s a type of rape threat.) You will do our community vastly more harm than good, because people really want that myth to be true, and they will latch onto it as if it’s representative of the whole community. People sometimes tend to fetishize asexual people.* That’s not cool.

If that actually does happen? And you’re sure that’s what’s happened, not just assuming it? Then okay, fine.

But do not expect it. And DO NOT try to coerce an asexual person into a one-time sexual encounter with you. If you’re in a situation where an asexual person might actually agree to have sex with you, please follow this guide. Be respectful of their identity and try to make it the best experience they could have had—and if the best experience for them is not having sex, then don’t push for it!


* My ancient article about fetishization** is getting linked around a bit again, but for a more recent (and less creepy) example, check out how journalists treat David Jay.

** That old article makes me cringe now, as much of what I thought back then was the product of grooming. Being fetishized (among other things) was something I was conditioned to accept instead of challenge, and I was barely starting to break out of that back then. And the landscape of what’s out there about asexuality has changed drastically in the past seven years, so keep that in mind too.