Asexual Zines

I wanted to give a quick shout-out to a few asexy zines that I’m aware of. So far, I haven’t been able to contribute myself yet—it’s a little weird, to be honest, because the things I have written that might be appropriate are all quite personal and I haven’t decided how I should handle publishing them yet. One particular essay also involves lots of pictures, which I’m not sure I have the appropriate permissions for. Perhaps it would be better to just try to compile these into my own collection… But in any case, I wanted to make sure others know about them, so that you can contribute if you want to!

First, Mage is working on two zines, one about asexuality and feminism, and a second one that is more personal called Asexy. She is looking for contributors for the second issue of Asexual Feminism, which will be about the medicalization of asexuality. You can download the first issue as a .PDF file and put it together yourself; the instructions and download link are posted here.

The other zine I’m aware of, but haven’t heard anything about in quite a while is Weird Terrain, which I’d highly recommend. Do you know of any others that aren’t listed here, or thinking about starting one yourself? Let me know in the comments!

Facebook Faux Pas

If you are on Facebook and have any significant number of female friends on it, then most likely you’ve seen the most recent so-called “breast cancer awareness” meme.

Here is the message that I received:

One of my friends has suggested that we women should do something special on facebook in order to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s so easy to do, that I’d love you to join in to make this a memorable online event.

Last year, the idea was to post the colour of the bra you were wearing on facebook…and it left men wondering for days, why women were posting colours, seemingly at random.

This year’s game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home; for example “I like it on the couch”, “I like it on the kitchen counter”, “I like it on the dresser”. Well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your status (i.e. don’t respond to this message, but put it on your status) – and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox.
The bra game made it to the news. Let’s get the purse in as well and see how powerful we women really are!!!

REMEMBER – DO NOT PUT YOUR ANSWER AS A REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE- PUT IT IN YOUR STATUS!!! PASS THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!!

Jen McCreight of Blag Hag (who unintentionally set off Boobquake a while back) posted a pointed critique of this meme here, which I totally agree with. I think it’s important to question the way we do activism, and make sure that in our attempts to promote awareness of anything, breast cancer included, we absolutely need to make sure we’re not harming other activist causes we agree with, like feminism or sex positivity.

Now here’s what I really want to start a conversation about: why does “it,” unqualified, even mean “sex” at all? Why are we, as a culture, so invested in cutesy euphemisms, fake confessions, and pretending that sex is a dirty little secret that we should interpret it that way? Yeah, this is a little Foucaultian. But I really think we ought to question this norm. There are about a million things that “it” can refer to, so why is sex the default?

And obviously, this meme is totally uninclusive. Besides the fact that men can get breast cancer, too… How exactly is an asexual supposed to participate? Especially considering that national Coming Out Day is only a couple of days away. I wouldn’t participate in this meme because I think it’s sexist and does very little to save lives—at most, it might potentially remind someone to get a mammogram, but that’s only if they’re in on it already—but what if I did want to do it? I mean, sure, maybe it might be funny. But I imagine that for me at least, it would end up being way more awkward than funny. My facebook friends are largely acquaintances that I don’t know all that well, who may or may not be aware that I’m asexual. Posting a variant of this meme would be an opener for people to start questioning my asexuality.  Suddenly the comments would start pouring in: “Haha, I knew you weren’t really asexual.” Or, “Mmm, hot!”

And I really just don’t want people to think of me in a sexual way. I don’t want to titillate anyone. As a reasonably attractive woman by society’s standards, I get enough sexual attention already. I don’t want to open the gates for any more comments about how it’s a “waste” that I’m asexual, I don’t want any virtual catcalls; I wouldn’t appreciate them any more than I do when I get them on the street, and then get called a bitch for ignoring them. It bugs me enough that people seem to think that I’m holding hands with my girlfriend to get their attention. Of course I laughed when some guy ran into a curb because he was too busy staring at us to pay attention while driving. But while it might be funny to cause my Facebook friends to do a double take at my status, it’s not really the kind of thing I want to open myself up to.

I’m somewhat tempted to try to start an awareness meme for asexuality in reaction to this one on Facebook, but I doubt it would do much good. I’m not sure that we actually have the numbers behind us to get a meme like that going, and most likely people’s reactions would be to just brush it off, call us humorless, and move on.

Guest Post: Interview with K on Female Sexual Dysfunction

This past June, as some of you will remember, I posted a link to a petition to stop the FDA from approving Flibanserin, a drug the media repeatedly called a “Viagra for women.” I did so with the assumption that my readers would follow the link and read what the advocates who created this campaign had to say about it, rather than taking my short comments as a full explanation of my concerns. It seems that many misunderstood my position. Andrew Hinderliter of Asexual Explorations then made a series of posts all over the asexual communities explaining in more detail the reasons why we should be concerned, which sparked an unexpected explosion of controversy. My own view on the subject boiled down to this: given the lack of proof that the drug actually worked as advertised, and given the great potential for harm that would come from an advertising campaign not just to asexuals who would be falsely targeted by it, but also to women who might be offered this drug as a cure for their genuinely unwanted condition only to find that it doesn’t work, I felt it was appropriate to support such a petition. I had little faith in the FDA to make the correct choice without a strong case against it, as they have been known to screw up on occasion, and so I felt it would be helpful to bolster the cause by showing the FDA how many people were concerned what effect Flibanserin’s approval would have. Had the drug been proven to have a more significant effect, I would have supported it, and focused instead only on the advertising campaign and spreading asexual awareness, but all the evidence I encountered suggested otherwise.

What I did not realize at the time was that the New View Campaign, the force behind this petition, has had a history of alienating women with sexual dysfunctions. As I was shocked to discover, some of us in the asexual community (as well as the feminist community) also have tendencies not only to alienate, but to outright marginalize women with sexual dysfunctions in our attempts to advance our own goals (not that we all share the same goals; we’re too diverse for anything remotely resembling an “agenda” but the point still stands). This was never my intention, and I want this blog to be a safe space for women with sexual dysfunction as well, and so I asked K of the Feminists with FSD blog to make a guest post here to highlight these issues. Due to my unexpected hiatus, this post was long delayed. It was originally written shortly after the Flibanserin fiasco, and has subsequently been edited by K.

Some ground rules for comments: this should be obvious by now, but I will tolerate absolutely no disparaging, insulting, or ablist comments. I would also like this not to get derailed by arguments about Flibanserin itself—that’s old news and we don’t need to rehash it here. (If you really want to talk about it, I guess you could dig up the dead threads on some forum, but I wouldn’t recommend that either, honestly.) What I’d like to see addressed here is how our communities can become aware of and accepting of one another, so that we can work together without any nastiness coming from either side. Whether deliberate or otherwise. So please, by all means, check your privilege before posting a comment.

(By the way, I’d also like to mention that if you are a person who is both asexual and also has a sexual dysfunction, I’d like to hear from you, too!  Please contact me at grasexuality [at] gmail.com if you would be interested in making a guest post.)

————–

I am a feminist blogger living with female sexual dysfunction, specifically the pain category of FSD. I have vulvodynia, specifically vulvar vestibulitis, (though at the current moment it is fairly well managed,) and some residual pelvic floor dysfunction/vaginismus. I have been blogging about feminism and sexual dysfunction for two years, in part motivated by frustration with mainstream depictions of sexual dysfunction (or the complete lack thereof.) I approach these topics from the perspective of a white, cis het woman. I am not a doctor or therapist in any way shape or form, so most of what I know comes from personal experience (mine and that of others) & what I’ve read. While I feel I have made good faith efforts to do my homework, what I say should still be taken with a grain of salt, and I do not claim to speak for anyone save myself. Today I am here to try to answer some questions about sexual dysfunction that were raised on a+, regarding sexual dysfunction and flibanserin.

In my spare time, I enjoy video games and cartoons.
Some basics:
What is Female Sexual Dysfunction? What kinds of FSD are there?

Female sexual dysfunction is a broad term encompassing several types of sexual problems with a common denominator of personal distress. A good overview of sexual dysfunction can be found at harvard.edu. When discussing FSD in general terms it is important to remember there it is not limited to one specific manifestation. In addition to sexual medicine, there’s a lot to talk about with regard to female sexual dysfunction.

There are a few different ways of looking at FSD. The two ways I’m most familiar with looking at FSD are through the medical model and the social construction model.

The medical model is probably the most widely recognized way of looking at FSD. The medical model of FSD looks at sexual difficulties as problems to be addressed medically. It is derived from Masters & Johnson’s work on the Human Sexual Response Cycle. To refresh your memory, the cycle goes arousal, plateau, orgasm, resolution. Deviations from this cycle may be viewed as problems.

Continue reading

Seduction and Its Nasty Implications

[Trigger warning for sexual assault.]

When I posted How to Seduce an Asexual, I left out a lot of things about seduction that I have a problem with. Namely… well, the entire system of ideology that’s behind it.

I had an extended conversation with C about it after I made that post, and the conclusion we both came to is that ultimately, seduction comes down to placing blame. Or credit, as the case may be—boys patting themselves on the back for having “scored” with so-and-so, bragging about it to other boys.

Historically, it has probably been more about blame than credit. Here are the definitions of the verb “seduce” given by the OED:

1. trans. To persuade (a vassal, servant, soldier, etc.) to desert his allegiance or service.

2. In wider sense: To lead (a person) astray in conduct or belief; to draw away from the right or intended course of action to or into a wrong one; to tempt, entice, or beguile to do something wrong, foolish, or unintended.

3. trans. To induce (a woman) to surrender her chastity. Now said only of the man with whom the act of unchastity is committed (not, e.g., of a pander). Cf. DEBAUCH v.

4. To decoy (from or to a place), to lead astray (into). Obs. exc. with notion of sense

5. To win by charm or attractiveness. Obs. rare

Inherent in most, if not absolutely all, of these is a value judgment: sex is bad, it is the wrong course. For the seduced, having sex is foolish or at the very least unintended. According to C’s way of thinking, you cannot be seduced if you set out originally to have sex with whomever you happened to have sex with. You might say that you were seduced, but I think most people would agree that if you intended to do it from the outset, you weren’t actually seduced. So that means that at least in some sense, having sex would be something negative. Maybe that means you have “chastity”—some kind of innocence or purity which can be given away. A virginity, whatever the heck that means, that you are protecting by not having sex. You’re trying to hold to these principles, and you wouldn’t normally do it, but someone came along who was just so amazingly tempting that you had to give in. He seduced you. Notice who is both the subject and the agent of that sentence. It’s not you, it’s him.

Or maybe you’re not a virgin. Maybe you’re married. If you’re committed to a monogamous relationship, then it’s wrong to have sex outside of that relationship. You do it anyway, and when your partner finds out, you say, “She seduced me.” Whether or not that’s true, if you can get your partner to believe it, it may shift some of the blame onto the “seductress.” While you may not be absolved of blame in the public eye, the focus shifts. Google Michelle McGee, for instance, and you’re likely to find blog posts about her where people have had to use a disclaimer: “Of course Jesse James is also in the wrong, but…”

Seduction is inherently about manipulation, even if the result is framed as something which is liberating. It is about strategizing, cajoling, overcoming resistance—even if that resistance comes from “unfounded fears” or negative ideas about sex, and results in a welcome removal of such fears. It is a choice made under pressure deliberately calculated by the seducer, if it does constitute a choice at all. It’s not really even framed as a choice; it’s framed as something that was done to someone.

And it’s scary, because a person in “seduction mode” will likely not recognize very obvious signs of non-consent and back off. M laughed at me once for pulling his hand out of my underwear, and then put it back. He thought of my actions as if they were a move in a game, apparently, when really I wanted him to stop, and it would be hedging to say I was merely “uncomfortable” with what he was doing. I was scared. I could tell he would be able to overpower me, and most likely nobody would take my side. He didn’t respect me or the knowledge I had about my sexual orientation—not that he even listened to me when I tried to explain and make my boundaries clear. I thought that if I could just communicate to him what asexuality really means, he would stop violating them, and start to take me seriously. That never happened. He was convinced that I was “not really asexual” and apparently thought that he was sweeping me off my feet, getting rid of my “unfounded” fears, and so on.

Why is it that consent is allowed to be implicit—indicated by anything from the clothes a victim is wearing to his/her previous history and character—but there is no room for implicit non-consent? Why does a lack of a no apparently mean yes? Why does Cathy Young say that requiring initiators to seek explicit consent for sexual activity:

“infantilizes women (while the policies may be gender-neutral on their face, they generally presume men to be the initiators in heterosexual encounters). Are women so weak that they can’t even say ”no,” or otherwise indicate their lack of consent, unless the man takes the initiative of asking?”

Hey, I tried to indicate my lack of consent. It didn’t work. And having heard from 90 people so far (and still counting) about their experiences with rape and sexual assault, I realize that it is a common phenomenon to have one’s boundaries treated like they are a joke, even in cases where the victim very explicitly said no.

Actually, up to 88% of those who have been sexually assaulted experience some degree of involuntary temporary paralysis during the assault. It doesn’t make them weak or infantilize anyone, male or female; that’s just the way that most people (and other animals) instinctively respond to such a threat. In fact, it is probably adaptive and helpful, since resistance may only make an attacker more violent, and do more damage.

Treating sex like it is a game to be played out, especially a game wherein one party is expected to be the gatekeeper, and show resistance that is supposed to be overcome… well, I think it’s awful. Especially so for those who are assumed to be consenting when they are not. And even when the sex IS consensual, framing it as seduction removes the implication of free choice from the “seduced” and places the blame/credit on the “seducer.” And I wonder why, if you really made a fully informed and free choice to have sex, you wouldn’t want to give yourself credit for making that choice.

I just wish that we could get away from a manipulative model of how sex works and put everything out in the open. There is nothing wrong with having sex if you want to, and there is nothing wrong with not wanting to, either. I mean seriously, what is with all this sneaking around? Why is it such a huge problem to just outright ask if someone wants to do it or not, and then honor their wishes?

Survey: Experiences of rape and sexual assault

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It’s also usually the most strenuous month of classes for me, although this year due to a barrage of midterm papers all due at the same time, that may well have been March instead. So for the most part, I’ll be working on school projects this month instead of blogging.

One of the projects on my to-do list is a work of creative non-fiction in the topic and format of my choosing. As rape culture is something I have been exploring, and since it is a topic much on the mind lately, I decided I would do it on that.

Of course, although I have had some experience with Not-Rape, I have never actually been raped, so I cannot speak to what that experience is like. I need to do some serious research, and for that, I turn to the internet. I would like to compile stories of others’ experiences of rape and sexual assault and braid them in with a critical reflective voice which provides a focus and trajectory, with the goal of creating compassion and raising awareness of rape culture.

I will use no one’s story without their explicit consent. And since this is a lyric essay, there are specific aspects of the stories that I am looking to incorporate more so than others—specific details will help me to contextualize the stories, but beyond that, what I am looking for are concrete details which reveal the emotional texture of the event, and a lot of times those details get lost in the typical retelling of events. So, both in order to more easily find what I am looking for and solve the problem of explicit consent, I’ve created a survey.

If you have ever experienced rape or another form of sexual assault, and you want to help me tell this story, I invite you to participate. All information gathered here will of course be kept strictly confidential, and no identifying information will be used.

Click here to take the survey.

I am still collecting responses, and will continue to do so until further notice. I have posted a project update for this here, and you can find a link to the survey there.

Of course, feel free to link this post around, so that I can cast my net a little wider. Additionally, I welcome any articles or book recommendations you may have on the subject, and if you have a story to share about how rape culture has affected you even though you have not been raped or sexually assaulted, please feel free to share in the comments or via email (my contact info is on the sidebar).

The Vaginal Corona

I don’t have much time to blog lately because I’ve got a bunch of mid-term essays to write, but I wanted to at least pass on this link.

Last year I read Virgin by Hanne Blank (which I highly recommend) and had been trying to collect my thoughts to make a post on virginity, but that never really materialized. Basically, I am convinced that the concept of virginity, or at the very least all the emphasis on the supposed “purity” of virgins, is an archaic concept that no longer makes sense in a society with DNA testing and birth control—and especially not in a world where women are no longer considered property passed on from fathers to husbands. I should hope that we are moving towards a society where women’s choices about their bodies are valued and respected (though we are not there yet), where neither a woman’s choice to have sex NOR her choice not to have sex are something for which she is shamed.

The idea of this membrane that has two possible states—intact/unbroken or damaged/torn—and that first-time penetration inflicts a wound to the woman which can be measured in blood, is extremely problematic, and has been used as a way to sentence countless women (some of whom were undoubtedly still virgins despite the lack of blood) to slavery, imprisonment, rape, mutilation, or murder. We may want to believe that we are more civilized than to kill, maim, or torture a girl because she has lost her virginity, that this just doesn’t happen in our society and that the most that we have to contend with is slut-shaming, but here’s a news flash: in 2004, a twelve-year-old girl was forced to drink bleach by her own mother because the mother believed she had lost her virginity.

So I am all for the idea of changing the terminology we use to describe this highly misunderstood part of a woman’s anatomy. The more education there is about this, the better. And changing the name to something more accurate is bound to catch people’s attention, and allow for more widespread education about what women’s bodies are really like.

Continuing a Discussion on Asexuality and Rape Culture

My blog was linked by Britni today in a discussion on asexuality and rape culture, which you can read here (NSFW). I found the discussion very interesting. I was just going to leave a comment on her post, but first I exceeded the character limit and then even when I tried to split up my comment into different posts, after five attempts at posting the comment Blogger was STILL giving me some weird unspecified error message. So I gave up and decided just to post my thoughts here and hope the link to this post will make it into the discussion somehow. I figured you all wouldn’t mind having something else to read, anyway.

So here’s my comment:

Interesting discussion! I am glad this topic is being raised among people who are otherwise not likely to come across asexual discourse. :D

First, I want to explain something about asexuality, because it seems to me that some of the commenters here are getting the meaning of asexuality confused with the meaning of its individual morphemes (not + sexual), rather than understanding it in the way that asexual people typically understand it. Asexuality is about a lack of sexual attraction, not about lacking a sex drive or not being sexual in any other way (in fact, plenty of asexuals have sex drives). Asexuals aren’t sexually attracted to men in the same way that straight men aren’t attracted to other men. And they also aren’t attracted to women in the same way that gay men aren’t attracted to women. Thus it is parallel to the other three widely accepted sexual orientation labels, and I think it should be considered a fourth option (rather than dismissed as “category x” as Alfred Kinsey apparently thought it should be).

If the definition is still unclear to anyone, please read this post. It’s not really geared towards outsiders, but it does address some of the most frequent issues with miscommunications between asexuals and non-asexuals that I have encountered. For the record, I agree with ignorantarmies‘ point about labeling yourself whatever you want. Labels (and all words) are useful in social settings. If you just make one up without ever working towards its social acceptance, it’s doomed to be an empty word. There are a few people in the asexual community who think that asexuality should be defined intuitively based on however each person thinks it fits their life, but I don’t think that’s tenable as a definition. I think that asexuality should have an objective definition… however, due to the internal nature of sexual attraction, and the fact that there is currently no way of objectively measuring it (penile plethysmography and the like are flawed because they measure arousal, not attraction), you can’t really go around telling people they are or aren’t asexual with any real degree of accuracy (although admittedly, in the six-ish years I’ve been around, I have seen some people in the asexual community that I suspect may not actually be asexual).

With that said… Not being sexually attracted to other people in a world where it is expected that you should be to the point that it is not even considered POSSIBLE for a person to NOT experience sexual attraction is… alienating, to say the least. I think that asexuality really ought to be recognized as an option, because a person who is asexual can go their entire lives thinking something is deeply wrong with them, without ever being able to identify what the problem is. An asexual woman who thinks she’s heterosexual (because she doesn’t know that asexuality can exist) might get into a romantic relationship of some kind, even a marriage, and find that she is especially susceptible to coercive situations, or even outright rape. And that’s the issue I wanted to bring up.

Personally, I believe that NOBODY, asexual or not, should ever be expected to have sex against their will, even if they are married to the person who is coercing them. Ever. And if marriage (or any romantic relationship) is really meant to be an institution which allows a sexual free-for-all with absolutely no thought given to consent, well then that’s a pretty skeezy institution, in my book. It puzzles me why domestic violence does not apparently include marital rape, why beating up your wife can land you in jail but raping your wife (in far, far too many places) won’t (and yes, I get that rape is much harder to prove, but it should at least be considered a possibility). What is the difference? Why is one apparently condoned (and not even accepted as “real” rape), while the other is not?

What constitutes a “real” rape?

Did M rape me? No. Did he come close to it? At one point, yes. I don’t think he meant to at all, and if I had told him to stop, I think he would have. I didn’t give him that choice because I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to choose to ignore my rescinded consent, even though I was 95% certain that he wouldn’t. The 5% of doubts that I had came from his playfully pushy and mildly coercive behavior, which was largely behavior that is considered socially acceptable and even expected. I think that he was greatly affected by rape culture, had absorbed a lot of ideas from it without ever examining them or realizing that he SHOULD examine them. I doubt he had ever even heard of the term “rape culture” at all.

I kind of take issue with people saying that he was the “wrong” person for me, because in many ways he was the “right” person—and in fact, I think the ways in which he was “right” for me outnumber the ways in which he was “wrong” for me, and I would never have arrived at this level of personal growth had I not met him. I think the issue is way, way too complex to characterize him as “right” or “wrong” for me.

M ultimately arrived at the conclusion that asexuality is not a sexual orientation but rather a disability, and told me that he had to give me “special treatment” in order to properly deal with the situation. I disagree with this notion. I don’t think that asexual people deserve “special treatment” but rather, the same kind of consideration that you would (or should) give to anyone. I have no sexual disabilities or dysfunctions of any kind. Regular old patience, kindness, and respect go a long way.

I really don’t think that asexual people are necessarily all that different from non-asexual people. I think that EVERYONE should have their boundaries respected, wherever those boundaries may be. Of course, in a romantic relationship, compatibility becomes an issue, and some asexuals may not be compatible with some sexuals. But it depends on the people in question. My girlfriend thought that compatibility would be a huge issue between us when we first started dating, but as it turns out we have more problems deciding when to watch a movie than when (or how) we have sex. And for us, the relationship really isn’t based on sex at all. We work it in, but we could probably stop having sex completely and still be okay romantically… and in fact we do do that, on occasion.

I don’t really see how romantic relationships are supposed to be meant solely to provide a space for legitimate sex. (In fact, I’m rather confused about what counts as “illegitimate” sex as I don’t see how such a judgment can be legitimately made. Sex is sex. You don’t have to be in a romantic relationship to have sex, and I think it’s fairly common and reasonably acceptable to have a fuck-buddy these days. Plus, I think most people will tend to say that “love” is the primary reason why they get into romantic relationships, not sex.) I don’t see how emotional bonding is intrinsically connected with sex. I don’t think it is, and for me, it’s even somewhat counter-intuitive to suggest that sex creates emotional bonds. Sex really doesn’t do that for me. It took me a couple of years to finally see how sex can even be considered intimate on more than just a physical level, but I don’t so much think it’s the sex itself that is intimate, but rather that intimacy already created through other (non-sexual) means is being expressed through sex.

What really bugs me about the idea that romantic relationships are all about sex is that… it seems so… shallow. Do people really see romantic relationships that way? How could that be fulfilling? It seems like the relationship is just an excuse, just a structure that you use to make it socially acceptable to have sex. It doesn’t seem like a deep connection with another person is necessary or even desired… and in that case, why get into a relationship? You could just have sex without worrying about it, and it would be a lot less trouble. Who cares about the stigma? That will probably go away gradually as more people actually do it… and you don’t really have to let people know that you’re having sex with someone you’re not in a relationship with, do you?

I see romantic relationships as enjoyable and desirable because of love, not sex. Forming a deep emotional connection is what matters to me. Economic connections follow because on a practical level, it makes sense to facilitate the emotional connection. Sex can be part of forming a deep emotional connection… or not. It doesn’t have to be. I do it because I’m okay with it and it’s enjoyable on some level, but it’s not something I crave or something that makes me feel particularly connected to my partner, any more so than just talking and laughing and sharing my life with her does. I don’t see how my relationship with her would be any less of a romantic relationship if we stopped having sex, and it bothers me that most people wouldn’t consider it a “real” or “full blown” romantic relationship. Actually, a lot of people think for some reason that I must be incapable of experiencing love after I come out to them as asexual… including M, up until almost a year after I met him. I don’t want to go on too long about this, but I think that point is important to consider, and I hope that people will keep it in mind.

Radicalizing the Children

I’m going to take a quick break from (procrastinating on) writing final essays to pass on a link I just stumbled: Feminist books for five-year-olds.

I found this interesting particularly because of its mention of a book about a princess who doesn’t want to get married, and even intentionally turns one of her suitors into a toad in order to discourage them all from trying to woo her. There are precious few stories out there for children about people who don’t want to get married, so it’s no wonder that the kids had so much trouble accepting the idea that there are people out there who would make that choice. They really are just culturally indoctrinated to believe that getting married is wonderful, to the extent that it is the only possible option.

This attitude mirrors the beliefs of older people that there couldn’t possibly be anyone who doesn’t want to have sex. Children of this age have no idea what sexuality is in the first place, so of course we can’t really introduce them to asexuality (not that we should need to anyway, right? Aren’t children already pretty much asexual?), but to introduce them to the idea that some people don’t want to marry would provide a precedent for the idea that some people don’t want to have sex. Maybe kids who come to understand that as a possibility will, when they are introduced to the idea of asexuality later on, be more inclined to say, “Oh, of course! That makes sense, why didn’t I think of it before?”

Asexuality vs. Rape Culture

Some of you may have heard my comments read on A Life’s most recent episode. I was responding to some of what was said in episode 4. I said:

You talk about how asexuals don’t really have a human rights issue to organize about, that all we want is visibility. You point out–and rightly so–that asexuals can get married, and marriage isn’t all about sex. Now, you mentioned that there is an expectation there that the marriage isn’t consummated until the couple has had sex. You say that of course nobody is enforcing how often a couple has sex, and sure, that’s true… but the real problem is that nobody is enforcing the right of the uninterested party to NOT have sex. Marital rape is very real, but often goes unrecognized as a real rape because there is this idea that if people get married to one another, they automatically grant consent to have sex with that partner in the future, therefore, they believe those people cannot be raped.

The panelists read some of my email and then summarily dismissed my argument… without actually having heard all of it. I did not write it all out in the email, because I had gone on to suggest that if they were interested, perhaps it might make an interesting topic for a whole show. I thought it would have been interesting to discuss my views with them on the air, but since they seemed not to have been interested in the topic, I guess I will go on the explain them here on the blog.

Henrik misinterpreted what I was saying, and argued that asexuals may actually be less likely to get married, and therefore less likely to be raped. Sure, that’s true. And yes, it is also true that asexuals aren’t the only people who can be raped, so it’s not an issue that is unique to asexuals. But that wasn’t the point.

The point was, since asexuals can never be assumed to give consent, asexuality inherently challenges the assumption that consent is automatically given under certain circumstances. To accept that asexuality exists means to accept that marital rape is a possibility. And not just marital rape. It works for any circumstance in which rape is excused or denied.

And in our culture, that happens A LOT!!

Go to that link. Read it, ALL of it, and then see what you think about dismissing the issue by saying, “But rape is a crime anyway.”

Sure it’s a crime. But it’s extremely hard to prosecute someone for rape, and very often is much more trouble than it’s worth to try. Much, MUCH more trouble. People just don’t take rape seriously, and that often includes judges, doctors, and police. And sadly, maybe some asexuals, too.

I think asexuals bring a unique perspective on rape which would go a long way towards challenging the way it is thought of in our culture.  Our very existence gives us the opportunity to do some good in the world, just by making ourselves visible. Since feminists are very anti-rape, maybe we should focus more on forging an alliance with feminists, instead of the GLBT community.

Thoughts?

Baseball is Creepy!

The baseball metaphor, that is.

While messing around on the intarwebs tonight, I came across this article about finding a positive sexual metaphor. I’d highly recommend that everyone go take a look! In the first part of the article, the author examines baseball as a metaphor for sex in American culture, and just how insidious this metaphor really is:

Baseball is fundamentally oppositional. Both teams can’t win. One team wins and the other loses. As sex, that’s about one partner “gaining” something, and the other partner “losing” something. In our culture, women tend to lose status when they have sex, and there’s a lot of hubbub about women “losing” their “precious virginity.” Men, on the other hand, gain status and respect from sexual experience. This aspect of the model also serves to reinforce gender stereotypes, which are rarely conducive to safe, empowered and satisfying sexual encounters.

Could this have had anything to do with my own fairly intense fear of rape? I was born into the losing team, after all. And the message that I will lose out if I have sex is everywhere, as is the message that the “opposite team” is out to get me–to force or coerce me into having sex without regard for my own feelings about it. In a lot of cases, that really does happen to people, and when it does, doesn’t the baseball metaphor for sex provide the perfect excuse for the assailant? After all, it’s just how you win the game. No wonder there are so many rape apologists!

In its literal sense, baseball can be a fun game, but unlike its literal counterpart, when we’re talking about sex as baseball, there is almost never a switch-up between which team is batting and which is on the field–there is not supposed to be; you are born as either a batter or an outfielder, and that’s where, at least in theory, you stay.  That takes all the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Because if sex happens, somebody loses, and that loser is determined before the game even starts. It’s a predictable, rigid social role. To win the game says nothing about whether the sex was enjoyable for either party. It’s just about whether or not it happens.

This underlying way of thinking has shaped my experiences with heterosexual men, and that’s not to say that they all thought that way themselves, but that this unhealthy power dynamic exists at all has made me extra wary of dealing with “the opposite team”–to the point that I, for the most part, choose to simply opt out of dealing with them entirely, and instead I generally only play with the queer team. It just removes that whole level of uncertainty, that vague sense of wondering whether this person is playing against me, that sense of always having to be vigilant, just in case. Queer people can’t play the game like everyone else anyway; they aren’t allowed to be included in it in the first place.

The article goes into a lot more detail about that, and also proposes an alternative metaphor for sexuality: eating pizza. It’s definitely a much more ace-positive model, since nobody assumes that everybody must eat pizza; while they may be rare, there are just some people who don’t, and that’s fine.

I do think, however, that the metaphor starts to break down a little here:

Eating pizza with a partner is also not a radically different experience from eating pizza alone. The pizza model deflates the myth that masturbation is a lesser sexual experience than partnered sex. Eating pizza alone encompasses the complete pizza-eating experience, just as masturbation is a complete sexual experience. When we do it it with someone else, the fullness of the experience doesn’t change, we simply add communion with our partner(s) to the experience. What’s different is the companionship, intimacy, variety, and possibly the fun of having someone feed you for a change.

I am not sure whether we should classify masturbation as a purely sexual experience. After all, there are plenty of asexuals who masturbate but do not necessarily consider the experience sexual. To some, it may be. To others… the very reason it might be considered okay is because it seems to be a lesser sexual experience (though even then, many find it bothersome). It really isn’t all that involved, when compared to partnered sex, whereas when eating pizza, aside from the initial negotiation of toppings, the actual act of eating the pizza is not different when doing it alone or with a partner. More is required of the person who is having sex with a partner, as opposed to the person who is masturbating. In many cases, a lot more is required. I just don’t think the difference translates well, when we use this metaphor as a vehicle for expression.

I guess the question is really about whether we consider something to be sexual based on sexual appetite, or whether we consider it to be sexual based on which body parts are involved. It seems that people define things as sexual using both of these determinants in different situations. For example, some people think that kissing is sexual–for them, perhaps, it arouses a sexual appetite. But then, to continue the metaphor, people can still eat something even if they have no appetite. Is it the physical act of sex that defines it? If so, which physical act(s) are we talking about, here? Or is it more about the mental aspect of it, the desire/appetite? In some cases, it’s clear how to define it, but in other cases, like this one, it really isn’t.

I also usually have a problem with food-based metaphors for sex because of the idea that having sex is a need, in the same sense that it is a need for humans to eat. I will admit that there is a need for people to procreate, but it is not an individual need, it is only a collective need. Every individual member of a species does not need to procreate in order for the species to survive. However, every individual must eat in order for the individual to survive. So you really have to be careful not to take a comparison of sexual desire with hunger too far. In this case, though, I think the metaphor of sex as eating pizza works okay, on that level, because it refers only to a specific kind of food, and not to food in general. People who don’t eat pizza can thoroughly enjoy other foods, and that’s not weird at all. Likewise, people who don’t enjoy or engage in sexual activities can get plenty of fulfillment from other activities in life!

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Edit from the future: For further reading, check out this post by figleaf.