[Note: this post discusses sexual violence, domestic violence, and not being believed. Please proceed with caution. Comments are closed to prevent this from being Douche-Rushed.]
I wish that I could say I was surprised to find the following comments posted on the youtube video of the panel I did on Friday:
Berendo4ever: A father saying “You’ll change your mind the first time you get raped” to his daughter that came out as asexual sounds made up.
I have no trouble believing family not understanding or accepting a person being asexual, but this is bizarre and not believable.
Jason Thibeault: There is absolutely nothing unbelievable about this. Just because YOUR father might never suggest corrective rape, to YOU, doesn’t mean NOBODY’S would. It’s not like the “someone will rape you and you’ll suddenly like sex” is an unheard-of trope.
Berendo4ever: +Jason Thibeault It is fairly unbelievable. This accounts states the speaker was living with a father who assumed his child would be raped, and would benefit from such a rape. A father not understanding his child at all and saying something like you’ll grow out of this, or wait until you find the right guy, or wait until you have sex it totally believable. Such a parent also kicking out a child or abusing a child including sexually is believable as well.
This story could be true as recounted, but it still does not sound like something I would accept as true. This comment deviates from the information within the video, but putting it out there that to some ears, the stories sound “enhanced”.
Thanks for calling him out, Jason.
This guy made a lot of bad assumptions about my experiences, the context of which I left entirely out of the discussion. It wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to dominate the panel explaining why it’s not actually that unbelievable for my father to say what he did. I got to the point: he did say it. And those were his exact words, in no way “enhanced” or changed.
I didn’t actually say at any point that I was living with my either of my parents at the time that I came out as asexual to them—and I also did not come out to them (or anyone else I mentioned) at the same time. I came out to my mother around May of 2005, and I came out to my father either half a year later (most likely, I think) or a year and a half later. It has been a LONG time since then (don’t let my looks fool you, I’m closing in on 30), so I don’t remember the exact year, but I could find out if I searched through my old writings. I know that it was during Thanksgiving break while I was at college, and it was before 2007. I know that when I did it, we were driving together on a long car trip, and we had gotten into an argument (read: he decided to go on a tirade) during which he made some accusation about my supposed sexual inclinations which warranted correcting. It probably wasn’t worth it to tell him I’m ace at that time, especially in a situation that I couldn’t possibly escape. But his assumptions about me pissed me off, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, if I told him he would back the fuck off.
Obviously, that didn’t work. I think maybe he took it personally that I wasn’t following his psychotically sexist religious script. He was really just trying to hurt me as much as possible.
Which he did. Even after all the physical abuse that he’d put me through over the years, even after that one time he nearly broke my wrist, I never expected him to go that far.
I wrote down his exact words, because they were so unbelievably cruel. I wish I had them recorded, but honestly, if I had carried around a tape recorder at all times around my father I’d have… mostly a lot of repeat footage of him ranting and raving about whatever nonsense it is he’s gotten into his head recently. Most of it is just plain stupid. There’s no warning when he’s going to say something really horrible. And to date, he still has never topped that comment.
Although I really enjoyed the time when, instead of arguing with me about how God would surely never command him to kill a baby (as most believers would), he actually agreed that if God told him to do that, then it would be the right thing to do. No questions asked.
Look, my dad is no ordinary father. He is most definitely mentally ill in some way, and perhaps might even be diagnosed with a personality disorder if he didn’t do everything he possibly can to avoid any situation where he might be diagnosed. He’s spent nights in jail, but always managed to avoid actually being charged with anything… mostly because he intimidates witnesses. Domestic violence is very, VERY difficult to get out of—my mother is still married to him (but separated from him much of the time) for reasons she won’t explain, but I suspect she never went through with her plans for divorce because she just didn’t feel safe enough to end it. And she was probably right.
If it helps make my story believable to picture him as Fred Phelps, then do it. There are significant differences between my father and him—mostly that my father is more covertly a super-wingnut, and also more of a coward. But their ideologies are very similar (although to be fair, my dad has gotten less awful since then—perhaps because now that my sister and I are adults, he knows he can’t get away with the same level of abusiveness). Most people in my family do not know how deep down the rabbit hole his religious beliefs go. He can’t find a church that suits him because they aren’t fundie enough. So he mostly sits alone in his house, listens to wingnuts on the radio, and drinks.
My sister and I have both gotten into religious arguments with him intentionally just to try to get him to air his beliefs in front of nearby family members, who might then actually have some appreciation of what kind of horrible childhood we had because of them. Who might then actually believe us.
But to no avail.
So no, it’s definitely NOT the first time I’ve had some naive, sheltered little thing come along and say I must be making things up. I’m sorry, dude, but that’s actually NOT the way the world works. And if you decide to believe differently? Then stop criticizing religious people, because you are doing the exact same thing.
Erasure of Evidence
Frequently in the asexual community—usually when some outsiders come in to argue that asexuals are “not queer” or some bullshit like that—there is this talk about how asexuals “aren’t oppressed” in the same way that LGBT people are. When what they mean by “oppression” is unpacked, usually whoever is arguing about it will claim they are referring to either employment discrimination or violence.
Except, here’s the thing.
Whenever one of us actually TALKS about the violence that we’ve experienced as a direct result of coming out as asexual… People just ignore it. Or say, “No, that wasn’t because you’re asexual. That was because you’re [a woman/black/perceived as gay/whatever].” As if those things can be separated, and as if the asexuality has no impact whatsoever on an abusive person’s decision to target us with violence.
Or we’re just told that we must be making it up.
Like that’s not a reason why someone would want to target us in the first place. Hello? If people already don’t believe someone, of course it’s going to be easier to get away with hurting them. Of course they would make more tempting targets.
Either way? It’s not okay. It’s not right.
We’re being held to a standard of evidence way higher than other groups. It’s such a narrow standard that it’s impossible. People just throw out whatever evidence contradicts what they WANT to believe—that it’s not a big deal, that aces are actually just pathetic tumblr kids “going through a phase” or whatever, who have never actually experienced real violence. Never mind what age we actually are, or whether or not we actually use Tumblr. It doesn’t matter what the facts are. That’s the image that these people (who are potentially perpetrators of something more serious than harassment) want to encourage the world to see when they look at us, so that they won’t even begin to listen to what we have to say.
And in my case, I strongly suspect there’s an element of White privilege working in my father’s favor. Would people really find his reaction to my coming out so hard to believe if it came from someone who is not White? Someone who maybe comes from a country other than the United States?
I really fucking doubt it.
I Am Not Alone
There’s something else I left out of the panel.
I’ve done some significant research on what others’ experiences with sexual violence have actually been like. Both asexual and not. I know what the scientific literature on sexual violence says, too. Before I extensively researched both the scientific literature and heard the stories of those who directly volunteered them to me, I wouldn’t have called what happened to me sexual violence at all. But now I know that it is, and I know that I’m not the only one.
I debated whether or not to talk about my research during the panel for a long time, but ultimately I decided against it, for two reasons: 1) it’s entirely unscientific data, gathered solely to help inform my personal writing on the subject, more in line with traditions of journalism than anything else; and more importantly 2) it’s not what the people who bravely shared their experiences with me (thank you!) signed up for to air any of that in this context. They never agreed to that, so I decided that it would be better to speak only from my own experience.
I realize that many people will tend to be skeptical, and especially more so with only me talking about my experiences, and in a carefully limited way, at that. But others’ stories are not mine to tell. I’ve been preparing to tell my story for quite some time now, although I certainly won’t be telling it in full until I publish my memoir. I keep pretty extensive records of the things that happened to me, and there are witnesses I can call on if absolutely necessary. I never want to go through the legal system (I am opposed to state violence and want nothing to do with it, personally), but if one day I have to? I do have a lot of evidence to back my words up.
I’m not interested in punishing people. I just want things to change.
Science hasn’t so far reflected the experiences of asexual survivors very well, but it will catch up. There are researchers who are interested in the topic—one actually had wanted to contact me during my long blog hiatus, though I only found out after I returned, and I’m not sure what I could have provided at the time anyway. It’s slow, because science is slow and survivors are rightfully reticent, and slow to trust. But it will happen.
Baby steps: here is a study which found that asexuals “are the sexual minority that is most clearly considered ‘deficient’ by heterosexuals” (p 739). Prejudice against asexuals was found not to be solely caused by lack of familiarity. Intent to discriminate in both housing and employment situations was found to be about the same as it is for gay and bi people.
Most of us (aces) knew this long before 2012, when the study was published, but let’s not forget that many people preferred to deny it, even within the asexual community, and downplay the seriousness of the prejudice we face.
I want people to recognize the truth, and actually support the tellers of it instead of madly rushing to tear us down. So here’s the question: Do YOU want to?