Linkspam

I don’t usually do this sort of post, because most of the time I’d rather write up my own post and insert links as relevant. But right now I’m drained. My last post took a lot out of me, and I don’t even know that I actually finished writing out all the points that I wanted to cover in it. Originally it was going to be a two-parter, but the first part took so long that by the time it was finished, the carnival was already over. There may be a second part to it later, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, here are some things I want to mention that I don’t have the energy right now to make a full post on:

Asexy Stuff

  • SwankIvy’s book, The Invisible Orientation, is out! I haven’t had the chance to read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it. Please try to request that your local library (and queer resource center, if you have one) get a copy!
  • The August Carnival of Aces (on the Unassailable Asexual) round-up is here. The September carnival will be hosted at Grace of Diamonds, and the topic is “Asexuals, Advocacy, & Allies.”
  • Siggy posted something at The Asexual Agenda about doing visibility work, specifically on representing sex aversion to sex-positive audiences. I’m in on this project with him, and we’re looking for some input about how best to go about it. I’d like for sex-averse people to go and read the post and recent comments to give us some feedback. (Please note: sex-positivity here refers to the political movement. It is not about personal feelings about sex, and definitely not being “more than willing to have sex” as I recently saw it mis-defined. This specific sex-positive audience is probably more likely to value consent but perhaps not always realize the ways in which some of the rhetoric of the sex-positive movement devalues it and plays into compulsory sexuality.)
  • Two links on countering bullshit evolution-based arguments against asexuality: a more comprehensive one from SwankIvy; and one from biologist PZ Myers (which was meant to counter arguments against homosexuality, so he doesn’t actually mention asexuality but it applies equally well). Quote:

    “If evolution is all about competition, how come reproduction in sexual species requires cooperation between two individuals to occur? Have you ever noticed that reproduction isn’t actually literally replication? You take your complement of 20,000 pairs of genes, and you throw half of them away, splice the remainder into different combinations, and then you merge those with the similarly mangled set of genes from another person, and you produce a unique individual. Not a clone of either of you — someone completely different.

    That should tell you right away that you aren’t the focal point of evolution. You are a test platform for a battery of genes, genes that are shared with other members of your community. Evolution sees the propagation of a pool of genes that tends to produce successful individuals; look up inclusive fitness sometime. You share genes and combinations of genes with your siblings, your cousins, and more distant relatives — there’s more than one way for your population to propagate itself than for every individual to maximize the number of offspring they produce.”

  • Pretty old links at this point, but this discussion of the problematic aspects of the term “sex-favorable” mirrors some of my own thoughts about it, so I thought it was worth mentioning here. Still trying to think of a way to get out of the tendency to frame/read it as indifferent/repulsed dichotomy. Too historically entrenched to come up with an easy solution.

Other Stuff

  • [TW] Debunking Some Skeptic Myths about Sexual Assault – “why was a conference notorious for having a sexual assault problem hosting ‘Who’s Lying, Who’s Self-Justifying? Origins of the He Said/She Said Gap in Sexual Allegations’?”
  • [TW] What if rape at university wasn’t impossible to prove? – in support of these two posts by Maria Marcello.
  • [TW] Why is it easier to invent an anti-rape nail polish than find a way to stop rapists? – “So long as it isn’t me isn’t an effective strategy to end rape.”
  • What It Means to Choose Recovery – “Imagine yourself walking on a tightrope; some days you will be perfectly balanced, some days you will lean towards healthy, and some days you wont. And thats okay. You will constantly be on the tightrope.”
  • Ferguson: Some Concrete Actions You Can Take – However, I’d like to note that this sort of oppression isn’t new just because white people are paying attention to it, when they (we) haven’t before. It’s important not to perpetuate further violence via erasure. See these two posts from Gradient Lair.
  • Universal Snuggle-Care, Motivated Loneliness, and the Benefit of the Doubt – On Nice Guys:

    “The attention of paramours is not a reward for good behavior, but something you get by convincing someone that they want to be around you and share more of themselves with you than they share with their friends. That’s its own task, with its own rules and its own challenges.  You might resent that fact for a long time before you understand it, before you figure out that being “a nicer guy than Henry” does not, in fact, mean you have already done everything you need to do to earn someone else’s most intimate trust.  But when you recognize that a whole slew of habits, quirks, and preoccupations are telling the objects of your desire that you would likely make them regret letting you into their worlds, no matter your virtues, you will get better.”

  • Excellent post on the gender gap in schools and sexual harassment: “The girls figured out I won’t report them if they hit boys who are sexually harassing them, I’ll only report the boys.  This led to an increase in how often girls got the last word and boys got smacked in my classes, and, also, to a DECREASE IN HOW OFTEN GIRLS GOT SEXUALLY HARASSED.”

That’s all I’ve got for now, although I’m pretty sure some of the links I had wanted to post slipped through the cracks. I am going to try to use Twitter to start sharing links more often, so feel free to follow me there.

One final note… I’m aware I’m very slow at responding to comments sometimes, especially those hosted elsewhere, where I generally don’t have the same reminders visible to me as I do here. I just get overwhelmed trying to do too much and follow too many conversations at once. Sorry!

Shutting Up: On writing, audience, and representation

Every writer has a pile of drafts that have never been published. Some of it just doesn’t deserve to see the light of day, but other drafts? Some of them are held back because we as writers just aren’t ready for the sort of attention that it would inevitably bring. Some of them are about topics we aren’t quite able to focus on long enough to bring to completion, because they are topics that sap so much mental and emotional energy that they would leave little room for the rest of… well, life, and especially enjoyment of it. Sometimes it’s a topic that has to be thought through very carefully in order to reach any sort of clarity about it, and that thinking-through period can last months or even years, well before the actual process of writing things down begins. Some writers like to go on about how nothing except the part where you actually sit down and do the writing counts as writing, but I disagree. I think the part where you do research and careful critical thinking about the subject you’re planning to write about is just that—critical to the process of writing. Writing without the benefit of reflection results in very shallow words that don’t offer anything truly insightful. Writing without being (or while trying not to be) vulnerable results in similar shallowness, and when your writing is very personal, you can end up with layers of dishonesty—unintentional, probably, but nevertheless real.

I’m going through a weird transitional phase right now as a writer. I’m not a student anymore, but I’m also not quite at the stage of publishing anything that will give me any sort of royalties, although I’m certainly working on it. At the moment, I’m trying to figure out how to support myself while working on it, which projects to work on, and how to find the support and self-care methods I will need to get through it.

This post is partly for the August 2014 Carnival of Aces (this month’s theme was the Unassailable Asexual), and partly something I would have eventually written anyway.

[Content Note: The rest of this post discusses sexual violence, minimization and victim-blaming, and vulnerability to abusers, as well as exploitation and privileging of certain narratives over others for the purpose of pushing compulsory sexuality. All links in this post also come with a huge warning. Please be mindful of your triggers and practice self-care. Please let me know if you think anything else needs to be included here.]

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Book Review: My Life in Hetero: An Ace in the Closet by C. Kellam Scott

Cover: My Life in Hetero

Cover of My Life in Hetero: An Ace in the Closet

I’m generally glad to see a new book crop up about asexuality. A few weeks ago, I saw My Life in Hetero: An Ace in the Closet by C. Kellam Scott pop up in my Amazon recommendations. I noted that it was a self-published memoir, which automatically made it somewhat dubious, but I bought it anyway. Priced at only $3, it’s not a huge investment.

It’s a familiar story, for most of us who identify as asexual. Going through life with confusion, feeling like somehow we are broken or shouldn’t exist. Finally finding out what asexuality is, feeling that weight lifted as we see our own lives reflected in our new-found community.

It’s a story that needs to be told, and I’ve long held that it must be told in non-fiction before it will be widely accepted as fiction.

Unfortunately, like many other self-published endeavors, this book suffers from the sore lack of an editor.

Paragraphs in this book are generally long and somewhat hard to follow as the sentences themselves begin, meander, and end in odd places, with commas placed almost haphazardly—sometimes where they would be expected, but more often not. There are also several instances of choosing the wrong word when words sound the same, like using “bizarre” instead of “bazaar.” On the level of the individual line, the book needs to be combed through by an editor to catch such common mistakes.

But even more than that, there needs to be a deep editing, a drastic revision. There may be an interesting story there, but it gets so lost in extraneous anecdotes about the author’s day-to-day life that the most important parts don’t stand out. The entire book is written without entering a scene: translated from writer’s lingo, that means that it’s written as if it’s someone telling you something, but not showing you. Instead of recreating a setting from his life, describing it with sensory details, and showing you a dialog between himself and the people around him, Scott just tells you that he said this and so-and-so said that. This makes it very, very difficult for me to connect with his story. It makes the narrative fall flat, because everything sounds so much the same that it’s like a voice that goes on for so long you start tuning it out, skimming, and losing track of what’s going on. What’s saddest of all about this telling-not-showing approach is that the voice of Scott’s past self is not represented at all; we as readers only get to hear his present self telling us how things used to be, and so his anguish comes out muted, suppressed. It should be represented like the rage of the mosh pit (which he does describe well), but instead we only get to see this mediated by the calmer older self, instead of seeing it described directly.

The other major issue I had with it is that I really couldn’t keep track of the large supporting cast of friends, coworkers, and romantic non-interests. Most of them are mentioned by name first, and only later do they get introduced with a very brief description, though I’m fairly sure there are a few who must have slipped through the cracks. Because there are no scenes in the book through which to display any identifying characteristics, I know nothing of their personalities or quirks. It reads like someone’s report of their day on their livejournal with the names of friends sprinkled in without any explanation, except I’m not in the author’s circle of friends, so I don’t know who any of them are at all. What few descriptions there are get lost, and as years pass the cast is shuffled around without re-introduction, so that if I have any inkling where and when Scott met this person, how well they had known each other and kept in contact, or whether they had fallen out of touch and gotten in contact again, it is only the barest, vaguest guess. In the most extreme example of this confusion, I couldn’t tell dogs from people and it took me a while to figure out which “ladies” Scott had taken on a walk.

There is an issue here that I want to be sensitive about, and that is the author’s lack of education beyond a high school level. Within the book, he admits having a sense that he was allowed to graduate from high school only because the administrators of his high school “wanted to keep their numbers up.” Sadly, in light of that fact, he decided not to pursue higher education just to deny those administrators one more graduate who went on to receive a college education. This author is not stupid, but he was never encouraged to pursue his education in any way that felt genuine, so he has been left trying to educate himself with far fewer resources available to him. Of course he is not going to know the ins and outs of writing (and especially editing) a memoir, in that case. Few resources about it are free, and finding a serious writer’s workshop group that is actually open to works of non-fiction outside of meeting other writers at school is hard. Most likely, the only people available to critique Scott’s work would have been his friends and family.

What the book does have going for it is that it is very much genuine and raw, so if that is your thing, you may still enjoy it. But unfortunately, it was published prematurely in what I suspect was a rush to be the first asexual memoir on the market—probably not to make money, but rather to spread visibility—and because of this rush and the author’s lack of resources/knowledge about the process of editing and publishing, it ended up being ineffective.

If this is meant as some sort of healing journal, then it’s served its purpose and nothing more needs to be done. But if this is actually meant to reach an audience and do real visibility work, then it needs lots of editing. As it stands, I cannot recommend it, especially not to people who are not already familiar with asexuality. And for those who do already identify as asexual, it doesn’t add much that can’t already be found elsewhere for free.

The best I can hope for is that this author has learned a lot about both writing and himself through this process, and will continue to grow despite receiving criticism. I wish him luck!

App and blog recommendations, please!

All right, so I still have a lot of stuff to set up around here. I’m working on getting widgets set up, and then I’m going to be creating a content use and comment policy, as well as reworking some of my older pages. I’ve set up a new twitter account to go with the blog, you can follow it @prismatangle. There is nothing there yet, other than that you can see my newly chosen full pseudonym. I’ll be going by Elizabeth Leuw instead of just Elizabeth from now on.

You’ll notice my blogroll has been missing from the sidebar since I changed the layout, and that’s because it really, REALLY needs updating. A lot of the old blogs I used to list have since moved, and there are a bunch of new ones that I haven’t even discovered yet, or maybe read a link from one time and then kind of forgot where they were.

My biggest issue? I’m trying to read on my iPad, and not at the computer, but the app I’m using freezes when I try to add any new blogs to it. It’s incredibly frustrating. Plus it only displays a certain number of posts, and any posts older than that it just won’t display, period. So there’s a lot of stuff I’ve missed and continue to miss if there’s more activity than the app can display.

The one I’m using right now is Feedly, just because I had already migrated my old Google Reader blog list onto it when Google Reader stopped being supported. It works sort of okay, for the older blogs that have kept going since then. But other than that, not really. I’d really like one that I can add new blogs to without having to go on the computer every time I want to follow something new.

So, what iPad-compatible blog readers do you all use? And also, how is the native WordPress blog reader? I haven’t used it before, is it worth using?

And, are there any blogs I should check out and add to my list? Feel free to self-promote, especially if your blog is fairly new!

I’ll also open this thread to any more general app recommendations. If you have an iPad, what are your favorite apps?

The False Dichotomy of Repulsion vs. Indifference

This post is for the July 2014 Carnival of Aces.

*

About a month ago now, as I started trying to catch up on things that had been going on in the asexual blogosphere while I was on hiatus, I came across this post about how sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces are apparently being treated as (per the title of the post) a “dirty little secret” in the ace community (mostly on Tumblr, which is why I haven’t seen it), and that being “indifferent” towards sex is apparently now seen as the “default” or True Way to Be Ace.

My reaction was along the lines of “What the hell? Since when?”

Like I said in my comment to that post, I’ve been part of ace communities (multiple) for ten years now. In 2004, when I joined AVEN, it certainly wasn’t the case that there were way more resources for asexual people who do have sex than for those who don’t. Sex-positive aces felt very much NOT welcome, to the point that in (I believe?) 2007, a bunch of members of AVEN went to form their own forum specifically devoted to creating a non-judgmental space for higher-level discussions of sex, among other things (although this sort of discussion has since migrated off the site). Believe it or not, it was actually to the point where forum posts on AVEN that were about sex, especially asexual people trying to figure out healthy and positive ways to have sex, were regularly derailed with “ew, that’s so gross” and comments both implying and even outright stating that True Asexuals don’t want to have sex, ever.

So from where I’m standing, it’s a complete reversal to hear that now “indifferent” aces are treated as the default at least in some circles, even if that’s not universally true. It’s weird, yo.

And it’s fucked up. 100% stupid.

Do not ever go around saying that people who don’t want to have sex because they feel repulsed/averse to it should go to therapy to “fix” that so that they can have sex. Having sex is not a universal goal. If you have aversion and you want to work through it, then okay! Go work through it! But don’t assume that other people have the same goals as you. They don’t and shouldn’t. Putting that sort of pressure on people is completely inappropriate and harmful in many ways, not to mention counterproductive because it is more likely to increase feelings of aversion that decrease them.

And DON’T think that just because I write resources for asexual people who want to have sex, that I am somehow implying that all asexual people should want to have sex. I didn’t think that was something that I should have to say, but apparently it is.

This post has gotten linked around. A lot. Like, more than everything else I’ve ever written over the past 6 years combined. And while the reaction seems to mostly have been positive, I’m pretty sure that not everybody has read it fully or understood it, and it seems mostly to be an issue of not understanding the audience that it was intended for and weighing their level of interest/engagement against the desire to have everything included, everyone represented, in that particular post. I don’t want to get into a long discussion of this now, although I do intend to talk about it in more detail later. I fully acknowledge that the post is not perfect, there are several ways I have noted that I should edit it. But there are also several criticisms of it that I do not think are valid, and one of them is that I am “contributing to erasure” of sex-averse aces and survivors of sexual violence.

That makes no sense, because I am myself in both of those categories. I made reference to the latter without making it explicit, because it is not something that I am comfortable talking about publicly just yet. Even saying it that explicitly puts me in some danger of private harassment, which is something I’m trying to figure out how to manage. And so for now, I’m not going to go into any more detail than what I’ve already said in previous posts and comments. Also, my blog is not a community. It’s one person, talking about one life, with occasional guest posts. A single voice does not a community make, and even in the educational essays I write there is not room to cover everything. I think to try to cover aversion within the same breath as advising potential sexual partners to asexual people of how to (appropriately) approach sex with those who are interested in having sex is inadvisable, because it would not do justice to either topic, not least because I don’t have the expertise required to write such a thing. At best, I could maybe link to something else about aversion to make the point, but when I wrote it, there was the little issue that I didn’t know of any such posts to link to.

But anyway, let’s get one thing straight here: just because I’ve described myself as being “indifferent” or (more accurately) on the whole pretty much neutral towards sex, just because I can and have enjoyed it in the right circumstances, that does not mean that I don’t also have feelings of aversion or repulsion about it. It’s NOT mutually exclusive, and I think that’s the danger of categorizing ourselves as if we fit into either the Indifferent box or the Repulsed box. Independent of any of this nasty shaming that’s apparently started going on mostly (from what I gather) on Tumblr towards averse/repulsed aces, I’ve felt for the past few years that these categories have outlived their usefulness. What exactly is the point of dividing ourselves thus? For me at least, it’s gotten to the point that I’m more misunderstood for using the label of “indifferent” than I would be if I just dropped it entirely.

And, related, I’m starting to see the phrase “Sex-Favorable” come up in various places around the asexual community. I missed this word being coined during my absence, apparently, so I’m just catching up on its usage now… but from a lot of the comments I’ve received and seen on various other sites where I’ve been linked to, I seem to be categorized as sex-favorable more often than anything else (even before this word was coined). Just because I make efforts to say that, contrary to popular assumptions by those unfamiliar with asexuality, attraction and desire are not the same thing, and asexual people can enjoy sex. Those are things I have devoted a lot of my writing to talking about, because I saw that it was lacking, and I saw that people unfamiliar with and even within ace communities assume that by default, asexual people are sex-averse/repulsed (and still do, as some comments I recently deleted attacking other commenters on my previous posts indicate). So yeah, since that’s what I talk about, that’s how I seem to be perceived a lot of the time.

And… no, I don’t think it fits well. Some of my experiences with sex have been favorable, yes. But me, myself, the whole of my experiences? No. Certainly not, and especially not in the past couple of years. My overall interest in sex has greatly decreased. Fortunately for me, so has my partner’s. There have been no freak-outs about how I “can’t do this anymore,” nothing like that. Instead, my partner tells me, “I’m glad you’re asexual, I don’t know how I could date someone who isn’t right now.”

So there isn’t a label that fits me. It’s inaccurate to say I’m indifferent, and it’s also inaccurate to say I’m repulsed. I can’t categorize myself on a scale between Averse-Neutral-Favorable, because I range at different points on that scale at different times, depending on my mood. It doesn’t even make sense to me to make it a scale. I feel like what gets subsumed in this sort of discussion, even when there is an acknowledgment that these categories are not mutually exclusive, is an understanding that it should be expected that people in general, not even specifically asexual people, will tend to have different feelings about sex at different times throughout their lives. There are times when I can consent to it enthusiastically, and there are times when I can’t. The default assumption should always be that a person doesn’t consent until they explicitly give permission, and as a matter of sexual safety, there should be check-ins if it ever becomes unclear that someone is enjoying it. There shouldn’t be any situations where people’s consent gets thought of as a “give once for all time” sort of thing, because it should be understood that people’s moods change, and sometimes suddenly without warning. Aversion and repulsion can just suddenly happen in the middle of sexual activity that was previously fine, even if most of the time it’s not enough of an issue to even discuss it. And they can even happen at the same time as sexual desire, just as you can hit the brakes and the gas at the same time in a car, because desire and aversion work on different mechanisms.

So for me personally, while I could maybe oversimplify to describe myself as sex-favorable (as I might have in the past), sex-neutral, or (as I have in the past for lack of a better word) just indifferent… it still doesn’t work, because it loses that nuance. And while I’m not one to decry labels (they’re useful and necessary, and I’m not having that argument here, I’m sick to death of it), these particular ones leave me feeling uneasy in general, even though I’m not using them myself. This sort of categorization still gets applied to me as people read my posts and assume I’m “erasing” sex-aversion/repulsion and such just because I’m not talking about those topics right then, and they do sometimes lash out at me for that perception, in exactly the sort of dynamic Siggy described here.

And for that reason, I’m left wondering… Is there some better way we could possibly describe this sort of thing? Something that encapsulates this sort of shifting, ambivalent experience? Something that could express more diversity, more variability, while also allowing space for people who find themselves at both ends of the aversion/desire “spectrum” (for lack of a better description) consistently enough to identify as sex-averse or sex-favorable, without encouraging so much conflict?

Having separate communities for many different groups of aces would be a start, of course. Focus groups, if you will. But for someone like me, while I would probably take a sex-favorable community over one focused on aversion (mostly because I think my personal experiences of training myself to tolerate sexual touch would be seen as anathema to people seeking to avoid being pressured to do that very thing), I don’t think I would really feel at-home in either type of (hypothetical) community.

Permission

I’ve wanted to make a post on this topic for a while now. I think I even started writing it before, but never ended up finishing it. Even before my hiatus, ever since I set up my Formspring ask page, I’ve had a lot of people come to me, describe themselves, and then basically ask,

“Hey, do you think I could be asexual?”

Since my blog burnout and subsequent hiatus, I’ve missed so many emails just like this. I regret that I couldn’t answer all of them directly. But my answer would be the same in each case, so I’m going to try to answer them here.

Now, I do think that saying, “If you identify as asexual, then you are asexual” is problematic. For one thing, it’s reductive. Identity is a very complex process, and I think that it can, in fact, be mistaken. In my particular case, I think I was mistaken in the past when I identified as bisexual. At the time, I did not understand sexuality well enough to realize that there was a big difference between being equally attracted to either gender (or all of them), and being equally not attracted to anyone. As my understanding of both what people generally meant by “bisexual” and my understanding of myself grew, my identity changed.

And that’s fine. The thing about identity is that it’s not static. It’s a process. Often, it’s a process of fine-tuning until you find the words that seem to fit you just right (and in some cases, inventing new terms if there are none available that do), and even then, as you grow and change, there will be times when you will grow away from a particular label, and find that what once fit doesn’t anymore. I’ve done this publicly, right here on this blog. I used to identify as gray-ace, and now I don’t anymore.

To all of you coming to me to ask if you might be asexual, I get it. I totally understand your concerns, and I empathize.

There’s a lot of fear, I think, in choosing a label, especially one as misunderstood, maligned, and outright denied as asexual. There are people out there who will actually tell you that it’s harmful to identify as asexual, because of all the ~opportunities you’ll miss~ to explore your sexuality. They’ll say “maybe you’re just repressed, or maybe you have a sexual dysfunction.” For all the progress we’ve made, this is absolutely NOT a thing of the past. I’ve read some articles taking down people saying things like this recently, although I read them on my iPad and now I can’t remember where they were from (if someone could supply links, I’ll happily add them inEdit: Thank you! I was indeed thinking of the posts responding to Matty Silver, starting here).

Be suspicious of everything those people say, because what they are implying is seriously fucked up. Most of them don’t even realize it, and think they are acting in your best interest, but they aren’t.

If you’re not interested in sex, you shouldn’t have to explore it. You DON’T have to explore it. Don’t ever have sex because you’ve been made to feel that you need to explore it for some reason. Really, don’t. You should only do it if you are actually interested in doing that sort of thing!

And realize this: these people who say this sort of thing are failing to understand that you can perfectly well explore your sexuality, including sex itself, while still identifying as asexual. If you want proof of that, read my other posts. There is nothing barring you from it, and in fact exploring your lack of interest should bloody well count as exploring your sexuality! Asexuality is a sexual orientation, and coming to understand yourself as asexual can potentially give you the opportunity to approach sex in a way that is healthy for you. IF you want that sort of thing.

Even when moving past all of that, there is still so much anxiety about choosing an identity. You ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong? What if I misrepresent the community? What if one day I decide I’m something else and then people think that asexuality is just a phase?”

Well, you know what? If people think that way, then they are mistaken. It is not going to be your fault that they are mistaken, not unless you actually go out and tell them that asexuality is not real. (Which some people have done, but if you’re worried about other people thinking that way, I’m pretty confident that you won’t!) And even if one day you realize that you aren’t asexual after all, you can still correct them, and help spread awareness about asexuality! In fact, I think it’s valuable to the community to have people who once identified as asexual and now identify as gay (as the most frequent example) or sexual in some other way, because you can help show the world that we are not in any way telling people to stop exploring their sexuality. We very much encourage continual exploration and growth.

And really, I don’t think there’s an ace person alive who hasn’t thought “What if I’m wrong? What if I am sexual after all?

Self-doubt is very heavily conditioned. There is no escaping it. And even if it weren’t so heavily conditioned, most of us would probably have it anyway, because occasional self-doubt is actually healthy.

My partner said this to me yesterday:

“Do you know what [my therapist] used to tell me? She said that if you don’t have doubt and anxiety at all, that’s what’s really unhealthy, because it means you’re not understanding how big of a deal things are.”

And it is. It’s a huge deal, to start to identify and label yourself as asexual. Even to continually do it, when you’ve been doing it for years, it’s still a big deal.

And being wrong? That’s probably the scariest thing of all.

But you know what?

It’s okay to be wrong. Everyone is wrong sometimes.

If you’re to the point of actually questioning whether or not you could be asexual, then you probably already know the definition. In case there’s anyone reading along who doesn’t, though, it’s a person who lacks sexual attraction. If you’re not really sure what sexual attraction even means, then chances are, you haven’t personally felt it. I would define it as “a visceral desire to have sex with someone based generally on their looks, voice, mannerisms, or personality traits.”

Does that fit you? I don’t know, and there’s no way that I can possibly know. We are talking about internal experiences here, and there is no reliable way to measure that from the outside. It is totally up to you to decide.

And I hereby grant you permission to do it, even if you might be wrong.

Relaunch & Rebranding

I am back!

In case you are reading this on a feed and you can’t tell who posted it, this is Elizabeth from the blog formerly known as Shades of Gray.

Henceforth, this blog will be called Prismatic Entanglements. The domain has changed to prismaticentanglements.com. My blog-related email address has also changed to prismatic [dot] entanglements, still at gmail.com.

Gray doesn’t suit me much anymore. I no longer identify as gray-ace, and there have been several confusions over the years with people choosing the same name as my admittedly uncreative old moniker (the most irksome of which, of course, has been a frightening work that originated as Twilight fanfiction). Had I known that this blog would last so many years, I would have put a little more thought into naming it.

The other day, I saw the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. It filled the entire sky unbroken, with such distinct colors that even the broad band of violet, so often subsumed in the backdrop of clouds, stood out against the darkness behind it. There’s probably a metaphor in that. I wanted to pick a new name that would evoke that sense of color and light, and nothing fit better than a prism. The way that it refracts, bending and splitting light to show its constituent spectrum—that’s the sort of thing I aim to do with cultural assumptions. I want my experiences to serve as a sort of prism for my readers, so that they might come away from it understanding something that they didn’t before.

Plus, it’s a totally nonspiritual, non-religious metaphor. Rather than referencing the rainbow itself, I would rather reference the reason behind its wondrous appearance.

Searching for a second word was much harder, but I had this image in my mind of an intricately spun web of connections, each strand intersecting, inextricable from the rest. They all vibrate together in the breeze. The web is sticky and strong, so much stronger than the delicate filaments would seem, and the spider is good at repairing it, but the struggling of one can still be felt throughout.

My focus is widening. Asexuality is not my whole life—not even remotely. In fact, these days it’s something that I don’t (usually) have much cause to stress about in my day-to-day life, since I’ve been partnered to someone for the past five years who not only doesn’t mind it but actually tells me she’s glad that I’m ace. Maybe I’ll get her to write a guest post.

I don’t promise to write with any particular frequency. I’m still working on things behind the scenes here, and that will take considerable time. But at least I’m working on making this a space that I feel comfortable writing in again.

I have a backlog of 85 comments stuck in moderation, and I will go through them at some point, so please be patient. If you emailed me during my hiatus, I’m sorry that I didn’t get around to responding. I don’t intend to spend that much time catching up, since frankly, I doubt my response would be relevant anymore.

Please post any really awesome links or news that I should know about from the past few years!

Spoons.

Between all of the shit that’s been going on in my life, both now and over the past year, I haven’t got any left for blogging. So until further notice, this blog is suspended.

Every comment that has been left is still there, but I haven’t read them. They and all future comments left during this period of suspension will be kept in the moderation queue until I’m able to devote time to blogging again. Likewise for the questions on formspring. I intend to answer them eventually, but I have no energy to devote to them now.

I won’t be checking my blog-related email for the time being. You can still send emails if you’d like, but just know that you may be waiting a very long time for a response.

When I do eventually come back to blogging, it’s likely that I’ll be changing the name of this blog. It’s not particularly accurate anymore, and has acquired some unpleasant associations with a certain fanfiction lately. It’s about time to re-brand.

Rest assured that I am still writing. For the time being, though, my work will have to remain private.

The distinction between Verbal vs. Oral

Still too busy to make a proper post, but I wanted to write a response to this comment on my How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person post that I just saw on Tumblr:

This is a great article aside from the emphasis on exclusively verbal communication. I agree that clear communication and having a complete understanding of how and when a person(or persons) is ok with what is entirely necessary; however, it is also important to remember that there are other entirely unambiguous forms of communication that some people use that are nonverbal.

You mean communication like signing, right? Thank you for the reminder, and sorry for not picking that up. I’ll try to keep this in mind.

I do mean communication like signing, using an communication board, using a pen or pencil and paper, using a tablet pc, using an alphasmart or any other adaptive technology. Just because someone is nonverbal (to whatever extent and for whatever reason) doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t give consent and frequently the sex education and consent education that any nonverbal (for reasons of disability) people receive is inadequate or nonexistent. This is related to the lack of disability related material on this subject overall but is also of course related to the general forced desexualization of disabled bodies.

I think there’s a miscommunication in how we’re defining terms. I’m a little confused, here. How is writing something down using any of those different methods, or signing or using a “talker” (this is what we’ve called them in my family), non-verbal communication? Is sign language not still a language? Verbal, to me, means using language. Sign language and written communication are INCLUDED under the category of “verbal communication.” At least under my definition!

Here’s what is NOT included under the (very broad) category of “verbal communication” by my definition: sighing, facial expressions, what clothes you’re wearing, that you have gone home with someone for a night, that you had coffee with someone, etc. Basically, any kind of assumption that someone might make about whether or not you want to have sex without asking you in some form of direct language whether you want to or not.

I was quite deliberate about the word that I chose, because I wanted to avoid this exact miscommunication.  If I wanted to refer ONLY to spoken communication, I would have said oral communication.

However, I probably should have consulted the dictionary before I posted, because I was not aware that one of the definitions referred specifically to oral communication. Every definition but the third one refers ONLY to words. So I see where the confusion came from, and I apologize for causing it. My intent was not to exclude anyone with a disability.

Is there some phrase more specific than “verbal communication” to refer to a BROAD UMBRELLA of different types of communication that include words? Or do I just have to go back and elaborate on what I mean every single time? How can I make this more inclusive when I revise it?

Edit: I also touched on this in my last post responding to Tumblr comments, but it bears repeating: The person who is being asked for consent can give it with a clear nonverbal signal, like a thumbs up. But the person who INITIATES must use some kind of direct, unambiguous language to do so rather than relying on assumptions based on body language or circumstance. (Unless, of course, what is and is not okay has already been pre-negotiated, using words. You still should check in to make sure it’s still okay every now and then, though.)

On post titles, re: tumblr comments

Well, goddamn. You Tumblr people. If you like something, that shit gets around, doesn’t it! I came back to check on the blog to find that I’d had just shy of two thousand views in a single day. My previous high record, set only four days before, was a mere 700. If this trend continues for only a little while longer, that post will have become the most popular post of all time by the end of this month. And I’ve been blogging for almost four years already. It’s already #3.

Since I hate hate hate Tumblr’s format and refuse to get an account, I’m just going to respond to some of the comments from there here.

Someone commented that the title of my How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person post is “misleadingly” creepy. Yes. It’s creepy on purpose. It’s creepy because it’s based on REAL search terms I have repeatedly gotten leading to my How to Seduce An Asexual post, which was itself based on a similar query. It’s actually a toned down version of those search terms. There are enough people out there who google things like “how to convince an asexual to have sex” (that one was just yesterday) that I felt it was necessary to make a guide for it. I was consistently getting these searches, and they are different enough from my old post’s title that I’m convinced it’s not just people who read that post and wanted to find it again. There have also been more and more people searching for this lately, to the point that I was finally convinced I had to do something about it. These are people who actually want to “seduce” asexuals enough that they’ll look for ways to “get an asexual to fuck you” on the internet.

And the best way to do some damage control is to use a post title that will attract those people. Hopefully some of those people will bother to read it, at least a little. Even if they don’t read the whole thing, maybe they will at least gather that you can’t make anyone do anything, and that it’s a lot more complicated than it’s worth to try. I hope this will reduce the number of people who try to pressure asexuals into having sex or go into it thinking they can manipulate an asexual person into “becoming sexual.” Even if most of the creepers ignore it, if it manages to reach a portion of them, then I’ll count it as a success. On that note…

This is great, but I highly doubt there are many guys who would be willing to put so much thought into something like this. ^^;;; Hell, I don’t think I would want to either….it’s too complicated. >.<

Better that someone who is unwilling to put thought and effort into making sure things are okay gives up because they think it’s too complicated than be obstinately, petulantly manipulative. I HOPE my post scares some people off. It should!

The funny thing is, apparently now I’m on the 2nd page of search results for “how to have sex.” Uh… woo? I didn’t realize there were that many people searching for such things. More visibility, I guess?

Should this not be how you have sex with anyone? Unless there’s a roleplay thing going on in which case remember the safety word.

Yes, it should apply to having sex with anyone, not just asexuals. But like I said, the point of making the post is to try to get through to people who really don’t get it. People who use hostile and aggressive tactics, without realizing how wrong they are. People who are specifically targeting asexuals, with the idea that they can “fix” us. Many of the things in section 2 are concerns that apply to asexuals specifically and likely do not apply as much to people who are not asexual. It’s not a completely generalized guide. But really, the vast majority of it, it’s not “special treatment” for asexuals. It’s common courtesy.

Part of me read this and was convulsed with sick laughter, the face of my ex overlaid on the screen, like a parody of all the writer warns against.

I know that exact feeling. I had a specific person in mind when I wrote it. The date it went up is also personally significant.

There were quite a few people who had specific people in mind when they read it, and I feel for all of you. If I could, I would give each one of you a (safe) hug.

I like this; it’s a decent resource, but it definitely made me raise an eyebrow with the “You must obtain verbal consent.”  Because, well, that can be problematic for those of us who lose the ability to be verbal, sometimes even before sex.

I am one such person who becomes nonverbal during sexual activity.

Yup, me too.  And again, this is an excellent reason to come up with some sort of signal system and to talk about as much as possible beforehand.  But I did think the rest of the article was very well-written.

Is this not in the article already? Pre-negotiation, and especially pre-negotiating signals in case you become non-verbal, I mean. I mentioned the keys as one possible signal, should I try to expand on this whenever I come back to it? Perhaps it’s unclear what I meant in some places. Clear nonverbal indicators that things are okay, like a thumbs up, are totally fine—why wouldn’t they be?—but the questions about whether or not x is okay should be explicit and verbal. Always, until it’s been firmly established by prior negotiation what things are okay and you’ve become so familiar with your partner’s nonverbal signals that you are able to tell when things aren’t okay anymore. If it’s ever in question, then you should ask.

There were also some people who commented that not all asexual people will want to take such a passive role. Of course not. But this is primarily aimed at people who are attempting to seduce asexuals, and it’s a relatively safe assumption that the people who get there by actively googling ways to convince an asexual to have sex are going to be taking the role of the initiator at the very least. And an asexual who is able to take the more dominant role isn’t going to be at quite as much risk as one who is passive, simply because it requires more confidence and know-how. For “brevity’s” sake (lol), I didn’t address it. (I considered splitting the post into a series of posts because of the length of it, actually, but decided against it because for every click you require a visitor to make to continue reading, you lose people. I’d rather have someone skim the post than miss important points that weren’t contained in whichever part they happened to read.) I may go back and add something about being dominant, or just add a link to another post about it later.

It’s certainly something that can still be improved. Other suggestions are welcome.