Nothing Gray About This: Re-evaluating Attraction

Last week there was an article posted about gray asexuality which quoted my blog and an older interview I did with the writer. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been taking a blogging break over the past few months, so I’ve been ignoring my blog-related email. As such, I missed her request for a new interview, and the result was that the information is somewhat outdated. It reflects where I was perfectly fine, but not so much where I am now. I’ve been meaning to make a post about this for a while now, and it also fits nicely with this month’s blog carnival theme (attraction), so I may as well do it now even though I’m a little late for the carnival.

I do not identify as gray asexual anymore. At the time when I started my blog, I did, and there were no other blogs or forums out there focusing on gray asexuality, so I decided to start a blog where I could sort of think out loud about it. But after thinking about it for a while, and feeling like my identity was sort of in flux between sexual and asexual, I’ve started realizing some things which have led me to identify as just asexual. I’ve thought about changing the name of the blog, but I don’t know what I’d change it to and the idea of not thinking in black and white is still important to me, plus that would involve a lot of broken links at this point, so I’m leaving it like this for now.

When I started this blog, it was during a time of immense turmoil and stress, in which I had just been subject to a very heavy load of anti-asexualism and some very nasty gaslighting. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it comes from a play called Gas Light in which a man attempts to make his wife think she is going insane by subtly dimming the gas lights and then denying that anything has changed. It’s an attempt to make someone believe that their perception of reality is wrong. Or, in other words: “There are four lights!”

When I started this blog, I didn’t recognize that this was what had been going on. I didn’t know there was a word for it until someone else used it to describe my experiences (this happened more than once, and in several cases I would argue that it wasn’t whatever someone said it was, though now I think their perceptions were accurate while mine were skewed by the gaslighting). I don’t necessarily think it was entirely intentional, and it really doesn’t matter whether it was or not, but throughout the time I knew him, M was manipulating my perceptions of reality. I was already off-kilter at the time because I was in a foreign country, and just from that I was having bouts of derealization (another example of a word I didn’t know until later), but M played the game of doing things behind closed doors and then never acknowledging that anything was going on in public, with the additional standard Pick-Up Artist technique of ignoring/avoiding me and the other girls he must have been treating the same way (several other people told me about them). More importantly for the purposes of this discussion, he led a sustained campaign for nearly a year to convince me that I’m not really asexual, only ever dropping it for long enough that I would let my guard down thinking he had changed his mind.

Which brings me to discussing attraction.

I was attracted to M in various ways. I found him somewhat aesthetically attractive on a visual level (sort of a push-pull sort of thing; if I just saw him in a picture without meeting him I would have thought he was pretty average-looking, though a lot of people seemed to disagree) and considerably more so on a sonic level (he is a musician). I found him intellectually attractive in a way that I know that he understands well because he described similar feelings toward House at one point, albeit in a much more sexualized way than I would have put it. When he wasn’t being a hugely self-absorbed asshole, I enjoyed his company enough that I was willing to overlook his transgressions. I wanted to cuddle with him and kiss him, but I never wanted it to go farther than that. Later on I did sort of want to, but only in a “can I get myself to be okay with this?” sort of way and not in a genuine desire sort of way. I had a genuine desire to be able to be okay with doing sexual things with him, but in reality that wasn’t happening. That got really confusing.

There was another thing, too: I really fucking wanted to scratch him. I’ve always had kind of a thing for scratching, though it’s not something that turns me on, just something I like doing. I’m decidedly more sadistic than I am masochistic. I never asked him if that would be okay because he didn’t foster the kind of relationship where that kind of thing would be acceptable—he never made any effort to gain explicit consent himself, and consequentially he was abysmally bad at sex even when I did unambiguously consent. He made it out like he was so open and accepting of talking about things like that, but he wasn’t. He was blunt and open about talking about sex in public to the point of being considered quite rude, but as far as anything serious or important goes, any time I would try to bring up an issue I was having with him it was always “your problem, not mine.” So something like that was so far off the table I didn’t even consider it.

I had all of these different sorts of attractions to him at varying levels of intensity, and I was being constantly told that I was not really asexual to the point that I began to question whether all of those things added up to what people call sexual attraction after all. The kinky attraction was particularly confusing to me because of how intense (and intensely physical) it was. But the thing is, I still did not want to have sex with M. In an ideal situation, yes, I think I would have wanted to eventually, and had he been the kind of person who would ask me what I wanted and listen to me instead of telling me I was wrong, I probably would have found it enjoyable. But had he been that kind of person, he would have accepted that I’m asexual, if not from the beginning then at least after a certain point. Not having such intense pressure to think I’m “not asexual enough” would have made me considerably less likely to identify as gray in the first place.

At the time when I first started this blog, there had been a lot of arguing around AVEN about who counts as asexual and who doesn’t, with I think some members accusing moderators of not being “real” asexuals. Maybe it’s just that I stopped going to the AVEN forums, but in the three and a half years since I started this blog, I’ve seen a lot less of that kind of elitism. I’ve also, through blogging and also from conversations with my partner (who still needs to make a guest post here about it), come to the realization that desire and attraction are quite separate things, and wanting to have sex does not make you not asexual. I did sort of recognize that before, because obviously you can have sex with people you’re not attracted to, but I didn’t live it until after I met C. Since I saw so many more comments judging other asexuals for being sexually active and (gasp!) enjoying/desiring it back then, and since I was already inclined to doubt my own perspective due to the gaslighting, I internalized those stereotypes too much and thought I was further in the gray area than I actually was.

There’s still room for me to change my mind, of course. The nice thing about the asexual community is that we don’t deny that phases of sexuality exist, and we don’t consider it less valid to identify a certain way for a period of time and another way later. But for the past… mm, roughly two years, the “gray” part of my identity has become less important and fallen away. I’ve stopped hedging and doubting myself.

Now, I’m just asexual. And there really are four lights.

Support Male Survivors of Sexual Assault: Donate to RAINN

[Trigger warning for mild discussion of rape.]

There’s a new community blog that’s started up to discuss men’s rights issues from a pro-feminist perspective, called No Seriously, What About Teh Menz? Yesterday, they started a campaign to get RAINN to change the wording of their website to more accurately reflect the reality that many male victims’ experiences are not counted as rape in the study from which they get their statistics. Particularly in cases where the victim isn’t penetrated, but rather enveloped, it’s assumed that it’s physically impossible for men to be raped because “if he didn’t want it, he wouldn’t be hard.” Around here, we know that’s not true. Arousal is independent of desire, and the assumption that desire is necessary for arousal is particularly bad for asexual people. Most often this idea comes to us in the form of the “if you masturbate, then you’re not really asexual” type of idea, or the idea that you can measure how attracted to a person someone is by their level of arousal (penile plethysmography and such). But coupled with the idea that men always want sex, this becomes a very toxic idea, which leads to things like men actually being congratulated on their rapes. So whatever we can do to call attention to this, we should.

If you can spare a buck or two, please donate! And be sure to leave a comment here to let them know about it once you have.

Also, I’d be remiss not to remind everyone that the survey is still open. I’m still looking for more people willing to share their experiences of rape/sexual assault with me for this massive awareness project. It’s been on the back burner, but I’m still doing it. And since I’ve had three or four male survivors ask me about this now, I’ll clarify up front: yes, this includes CSA.

Beauty Conscious

So, for reasons you can probably guess, I’ve been seeing a lot of a certain plastic surgeon this past week (since I’m making a vague attempt at anonymity and want to avoid affecting his google search results, I’ll leave out his name, though if you really want to know about it, you can email me—you FTM types in particular might want to). And just about as soon as I walked into his office for my partner’s pre-surgery consult, right after he found out who I was, he goes, “Wow, you have a pretty partner!” And continued to talk about my looks for a little bit. He commented on my skin, the balance of my face, and so on. But not my eyes, which is a little odd (though understandable given his profession), since that’s what people usually comment on. I very rarely get comments on my skin or face shape. And… I think there has yet to be a single time when I’ve seen him that he doesn’t make some kind of comment about my appearance, at least once. Well, other than yesterday, when he came in wearing an expensive suit and was like, “Hey, how ya doin? Looking good! Okay, bye!” We’re staying right near his office and he comes to check in every day, so that’s saying a lot. He took me to the grocery store the other day and couldn’t resist commenting to a friend he was on the phone with, “You wouldn’t believe the pretty girl I have here pushing my cart right now. One of my patient’s friends.”

It’s a little annoying, as a side note, that he keeps referring to me as my partner’s “friend” in public, though I guess he’s trying to be careful not to out us as a lesbian couple if we don’t want to be out. Not that it matters around here, anyway. It’s a big city, nobody knows us, and we barely received a second glance (if we did at that, I’m not sure) from anyone while we were walking down the street holding hands. It’s a nice change; too bad we won’t get too many chances to do it for this trip.

Anyway, that aside, I’m a bit annoyed by all the compliments. I mean, I understand that it’s his business to notice a lot about people’s appearance—he can tell with just a glance when there’s a very slight asymmetry that most people never notice, it’s pretty impressive—but it’s just kind of like… Okay, I’m pretty, can we move on now? Maybe? No?

Well, I guess the doctor is making the assumption that the people who come here like to be complimented on their looks. To be fair, it’s probably pretty accurate. But I’m not here for me. And maybe it’s just paranoia, but I tend to feel like putting so much focus on me might be detrimental to the self-image of any other patient who might overhear.

I don’t really know how to act when people compliment me on my looks, never even mind when they do it this often. Smile awkwardly, mutter a “thank you,” I guess. Culturally, I suppose it’s expected that girls and women should say something disparaging about some part of their bodies, and then praise another woman’s looks instead, though that’s a little bit of a different situation than this. “Oh, but I hate my thighs, and you have such nice ones,” that sort of thing. I won’t do that, because I think it plays into bad body image for one thing, and why can’t women be allowed to just accept compliments, like men can? I don’t like that kind of culturally enforced modesty and derision towards oneself. It’s annoying to go around boasting and being smug, and that goes for both men (especially men) and women, but do we really need to go to such extremes to avoid seeming arrogant or competitive? It’s considered unfeminine to have some self-confidence, I guess.

Honestly, I’d like to just say, “I know”—meaning, “Yeah, I know you think I’m attractive, let’s move on”—but people read that as narcissistic or otherwise rude. I’m not staring at myself in the mirror a lot or anything, I’m just sick of hearing about it. I just want to brush those compliments aside, because they bug me. It’s not like I’m trying to look pretty. It isn’t an accomplishment, it’s nothing I’ve worked at. I don’t wear make-up, I don’t pluck my eyebrows, I hardly do anything to enhance my appearance beyond basic hygiene. I don’t even wear my contacts anymore, and I have very thick glasses that will always distort the line of my cheekbones, no matter what style frames I wear. When people compliment me on my writing, or something else I’ve done, I feel good about it. But when people compliment me on my appearance it makes me feel awkward and bad, because there’s so much focus on women’s appearance in general, and because it makes me the object of a lot of other people’s envy. Also, because I’m naturally thin and petite, I used to regularly get a lot of snide comments about how I “must” have anorexia, and lots of people pushing me to eat more than was comfortable. It was a repeated exchange that went kind of like this: “Ugh, you’re so thin, you must be anorexic. You should eat.” “But I’m no—” “EAT!” I rarely had any outright harassment about how “disgusting” I am, except from my sister (who is mean to everybody), but there was still a sense that I shouldn’t look the way I do, because it’s other people’s ideal. I realize I’m privileged because my body happens to match the current social ideal. I wish it didn’t have such a drastic effect in the way people treat me.

Not to mention, there’s the sexual element of it, which I’m rather uncomfortable with. I’m not about to say everyone should stop being sexually attracted to me, of course not. Everyone is entitled to their own sexual feelings. But when they’re directed at me, I just don’t know what to do with them. I’m not even talking about when people are being creepy, just when they’re politely telling me I’m attractive, in a reasonable way. So again, I just kind of shrug it off and thank them awkwardly. Sometimes I will tell them I’m asexual, if it’s a situation where that’s appropriate. The doctor certainly doesn’t need to know, nor do I usually decide to say anything about it to people I’ve only recently met, unless I’ve spent a lot of time with them since then. But if I do mention that I’m asexual, usually that commits me to a long discussion about it in which I am asked obnoxious questions. That can be just as uncomfortable as having a lot of comments about how sexually attractive I am directed at me, sometimes more.

The irony, of course, is that one burgeoning stereotype (born from the misconception that we “just can’t get any” most likely) about asexuals seems to be that we’re all ugly and unattractive anyway. For evidence, this year my blog has received hits from the following search terms:

why are asexuals ugly
can you find asexualness attractive?

And there were several other variants more than a month old that I’m not going to bother to go hunting for. To answer those questions, I’ve also received hits from these terms:

i find asexual people sexy
asexual charm
how does one attract an asexual
how to get an asexual to want you
how to convert an asexual person
what kind of sex are asexuals into?

So apparently there are people who are attracted to and really want to attract asexuals out there. Imagine that. That last one is particularly funny to me. I’ll have to make a post to answer those later.

You know the funny thing? My partner isn’t even sexually attracted to me, or at least is only barely, most of the time. She’s sexual, but doesn’t really get sexual attraction to people very much. At least not for their looks. Mostly she seems to like certain body parts and situations, or people taking a dominant attitude towards her. Only rarely does she say my appearance itself turns her on. (I wish I could get her to do a guest post on this. Maybe someday.) I think in part this is why I’m much more comfortable with her, although sometimes it also worries me, since I’m not on edge from her being super attracted to me all the time. I would probably be very used to it by now if she was very sexually attracted to me. Overall, I can sort of deal with regular sexual attraction; I’ve gotten better at it. It tends to creep me out when people find me attractive specifically because I’m asexual, especially because the last person who told me that kept calling me a “sexless creature” (like I’m not even human!) and was very coercive. I guess that’s similar to the descriptions I’ve read from racial minorities who are creeped out when people are attracted to them primarily because of their race.

Am I bothered by being sexually attractive? I guess not really, I don’t really have major issues with my body. I don’t even know what my weight is most of the time, or at least I didn’t until I started having to go see doctors regularly. I don’t particularly care to know, so all I’ve got is an idea of a general range in the low 100’s. I’m not actively trying to look unattractive or anything, not like one survivor who tearfully confessed to me that the reason she has an eating disorder is not because she wants to match an unrealistic beauty ideal, but because she wants to look as ugly as possible so nobody would ever want to touch her again. The most I’ll usually do is wear a baggy t-shirt with a sports bra to cover up or at least minimize my breasts, so that I’ll get at least less attention from my appearance. I’m bothered more by the way that people handle their sexual attraction to me than by the fact that I’m attractive to a lot of people.

It’s just… kinda weird to regularly hear/know/contemplate all this stuff about unrealistic beauty standards, and then be told that you basically are the standard, or at least the more realistic version of it. I mean, I’d still be photoshopped if I appeared in a magazine or something, I’m sure. But something similar to my face is what this plastic surgeon aims to create. To me, that’s just… weird.

This post has been brought to you by Compliments, Introspective Tendencies, and Too Much Time On My Hands.

Willing Consent

[Potential trigger warning for extended but non-explicit discussion of consent.]

Enthusiastic consent is probably a concept you’ve heard about if you’ve been hanging around here for a while. It’s a term that was coined in an attempt to raise the standard of consent, in order to avoid allowing rapists to defend their actions by claiming that they were simply a “misunderstanding” as well as to remove any form of coercion as socially acceptable to use when pursuing sex. The idea is that all sex should be wanted sex, that a “yes” can never be assumed unless explicitly stated (unless perhaps you know your partner VERY well and have already discussed where each of your boundaries are), and that if anyone is being pressured to have sex, then the deal’s off. I think it’s a very good idea, and if it was expected that everyone follow this protocol when seeking consent, we’d all be much better off.

However, I realize that a lot of asexual people have a problem with the way that enthusiastic consent is framed. There seems to be an expectation of a certain level of desire there, and the word “enthusiasm” throws people off. It seems to be interpreted as pressure to “be sexual” if you will, or in other words to not be asexual (and indeed some people probably do intentionally mean to pressure others to reject asexuality because they view it as some kind of unhealthy “repression” but many who embrace the concept have explicitly clarified that they are not), though personally I don’t interpret it that way because I think desire and sexual attraction are independent of one another. Tons of people, including my own partner, have sex with people they are not sexually attracted to, but desire nevertheless. You can be asexual (and for the inevitable confused googler who will eventually arrive here, I’ll say that asexuality only means not experiencing sexual attraction, not to be confused with anything else) and still have some desire for sex. So I think that yes, asexuals can very well enthusiastically consent.

Still, for those who don’t particularly desire sex, it may seem like too high a standard. Ironically, a standard designed to remove pressure may actually be causing some people to feel pressured, so it may be a good idea to start using a new term in addition to enthusiastic consent. A couple weeks ago, Emily Nagoski made a post on different types of consent, proposing a new category of willing consent:

Enthusiastic consent:
When I want you
When I don’t fear the consequences of saying yes OR saying no.
When saying no means missing out on something I want.

Willing consent:
When I care about you though I don’t desire you (right now).
When I’m pretty sure saying yes will have an okay result and I think maybe that I’d regret saying no. (edited from the OP, see comments)
When I believe that desire may begin after I say yes.

Unwilling consent:
When I fear the consequences of saying no more than I fear the consequences of saying yes
When I feel not just an absence of desire but an absence of desire for desire.
When I hope that by saying yes, you will stop bothering me, or think that if I say no you’ll only keep on trying to persuade me.

Coerced consent:
When you threaten me with harmful consequences if I say no.
When I feel I’ll be hurt if I say yes, but I’ll be hurt more if I say no.
When saying yes means experiencing something I actively dread.

I think this idea works pretty well. I wouldn’t classify my own consent as willing consent personally, even though I only have responsive desire, because I think it pretty much always meets the qualifications for enthusiastic consent. But if it works for anyone else? Sure, it’s a fine term, although I feel it’s a little redundant because consent means willingness in the first place. But since that has gotten muddied up by people not understanding what consent actually means, the redundancy is okay. I want to put quotes around “consent” for those last two though, because I think they describe compliance, not consent. Calling those things “consent” is harmful, in my opinion, because it may give people the wrong idea of what consent means, and make them think any of those behaviors are morally acceptable just because they think it still constitutes consent, and therefore “it’s not rape so it’s okay.”

I want to point out something else, though: sometimes people both desire and feel repulsed by the idea of having sex, at the same time. Sometimes people are not completely sure if they want to have sex, but do still make an unpressured decision to go ahead with it and see how it goes. I’d call that cautious consent. In that situation, as long as there is no pressure to have sex, no fear of what your partner would do if you said no, and as long as the initiating partner asks for consent explicitly and gives you time to decide, I’d say it still constitutes consent. But if the initiator doesn’t ask for permission and just starts touching before giving you time to make up your mind, if they try to persuade you into having sex, or if they do gain permission but ignore your reservations or limits, I wouldn’t call it consent. In that sort of situation I think it’s best to proceed slowly and carefully, like you’re at a yellow light. It may turn green or it may turn red, so you have to keep checking in to see if it’s still okay.

So, what do you all think? Do you like these terms? Can you think of any better ones?

[By the way, please be patient with me this time, because I’m not at home right now so it may take comments a while to go through.]

“False” Memories, “False” Reports

[Trigger warning for sexual assault, discussion of false memory syndrome, victims being fined/jailed for “false” reporting that later is proven to be true.]

Well, it’s still Sexual Assault Awareness Month for the rest of today, and I’ve been meaning to post something about this since March, so I’ve decided to just make myself write it today. This post contains SPOILERS for Star Trek Voyager, season four episode seventeen, “Retrospect.”

Continue reading

Project Update: The Sexual Assault Survey 11.4

Last April, I was assigned a free choice project for my creative writing class, which was a form and technique class on the lyric essay. For those of you unfamiliar with the form, this is a sort of experimental fusion of poetry and prose, typically non-fiction, where the writer is given a much freer reign with regard to form and content than is allowed in a regular essay. It’s difficult to describe/define if you haven’t seen any examples, so for the curious, just google it.

Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I decided to make my work related to that. My idea was to create a piece where there were two interwoven voices: one a sort of collective of experience, focusing on the sensations, impressions, and resulting feelings of people who have experienced rape, something in the “gray area” of non-consent, or another form of sexual assault; the other my own individual voice, presenting a critique of societal attitudes towards rape. In order to collect material to create the collective voice, I created a survey asking survivors to describe their experiences in their own words, from which I will take anonymous excerpts. I expected to get maybe ten or twenty respondents, but instead I’ve had over a hundred… 130 so far, to be precise. I quickly realized that this would end up being a much, much bigger project than I had originally intended. To everyone who has responded or linked this, thank you!!

So instead of closing the survey, I’ve decided to leave it up, and continue to collect responses as I conduct further research. As April rolls around again, I am asking for more responses. My goal with this project is to represent many different kinds of experiences, and looking at the data, I’ve noticed that there are certain demographics that I missed the first time around. I hope to expand to include those voices, as well as those of anyone else who wishes to participate.

I am looking for more responses from:

  • Gender-variant and intersex people. I have had two responses from FTM-spectrum trans people, nine from people identifying themselves as genderqueer (some of whom did not indicate their physical sex; the ones who did were all female-born), and zero from both MTF-spectrum trans people and intersex people. Any and all contributions from people in these groups would be welcome!
  • People who have been married to their abusers. So far I have received zero responses from this demographic, which is a curious absence to me considering that I have specifically talked about this here on the blog before. I think this is a very important dynamic to represent, so I’d greatly appreciate any responses. I’m not sure where exactly to look for them, so if anyone has any suggestions, do let me know.
  • Male survivors. So far, I’ve had eight responses from men. I’m grateful that I’ve had any at all, but given how underrepresented they tend to be, I’d love to have a larger response from them.
  • People whose perpetrators were female. So far I have had eight people who have had female perpetrators answer the survey. From these people, I’d like to hear if this fact has caused any particular difficulties regarding receiving support from others, accepting that it was really sexual assault, etc.
  • Anyone who has experienced sexual assault motivated by or with particular complications due to demographic factors or other special circumstances. This is something that I didn’t ask about originally, because I didn’t think I’d have enough respondents that it’d be likely to come up. However, I’ve had respondents who felt their asexuality was related to or caused their assault, people with disabilities that they felt made them more vulnerable, people who were raped while visiting a foreign country, etc. I think these are important factors to consider, so I added a question to the end of the demographics page asking if there was anything like that involved. I didn’t add any questions about racial background originally either, so this is a way for people to note that as well, if they feel it is relevant. For those people who have already taken the survey, if you would like to add any explanation of these factors, you can fill out the first part of the survey again (link below). You don’t have to fill out anything other than the demographics page, since it is at the bottom of the first page, unless you want to.

Although I’ve listed people I would especially encourage to participate, everyone who feels their story is relevant is welcome to complete the survey. Even if you’re not really sure how to classify what happened, or you’re not sure if it was intended to be an assault, if it felt non-consensual to you, please feel welcome to take the survey. There’s no reason to worry that you’ll be messing up the results. You won’t be. In fact, that kind of uncertainty is of particular interest to me, and I intend to explore it in the essay.

Clarifications:

Now, before I post the link, I want to address some confusion that people had regarding a certain portion of the survey which asks open-ended questions like “What did you see?” and “Where did you/your mind go?” etc. A lot of people seemed frustrated by these questions, and not sure how to answer them because of their vagueness. The reason that I ask is because I want to keep a strong connection to lyricism, and ground the collective voice in concrete sensory details, so that a reader who has not experienced anything similar might be more enlightened about what survivors’ experiences are actually like. It is often the little details which tend to really capture a reader’s attention and empathy, rather than just the bare facts, so I ask these questions as an attempt to incorporate them, although you don’t have to go into details if you don’t want to. I don’t ask where or when you saw or heard what you describe because I want it to be anything that stands out to you connected to the event. It doesn’t have to be a memory of what happened, it could be something like, “I feel the sharp sensation of the pencil against my skin,” describing what you feel/see/hear/think during attempts to cope or come to terms with what happened. It could be parts of dreams you’ve had related to the incident. It could be something metaphorical that represents where you were or where you are now. Think about moments of triumph as well as the pain. It can be about whatever you feel is relevant, anything at all. Give weird answers, if you want. Feel free to reflect. There is no one way to interpret the questions, so feel free to elaborate on whatever you want. Express whatever you’re thinking about, as much or as little as you want to. If this (or any other question) makes you feel too uncomfortable, there is no pressure to answer any of the questions in this section. I hope this helps to clarify.

One question in this section in particular seems to have been interpreted in only one way, with several people answering something to the effect of, “I don’t like to think like that.” I want to clarify that there’s more than one way to interpret that question. When I ask, “What might have been?” I designed the question specifically not to include any particular if-then scenario, which is why it’s phrased a little strangely. Nearly everyone seems to be interpreting this question as if it includes “if that never happened to you” at the end (I’m curious to know why so many people make that assumption). It’s fine if you want to answer the question like that, of course, but I’d like people to think of this in a different way as well. Think about it like this: what has helped you get through this, to the extent that without it you’re not sure if you would have been able to? Music, supportive friends, hobbies/activities, any particular mindset? If you hadn’t had that, how do you think you would have dealt with it instead? What negative things have you been able to stop yourself from doing? How have you reacted differently than you thought you might have before anything like this occurred? What could have been different about your situation that would have significantly impacted (either positively or negatively) your ability to cope? These are just some of the possibilities. Answer the question in whatever way feels most appropriate to you.

On Anonymity and Excerpts:

I will be taking some direct excerpts from the open-ended responses I receive, and some will be used indirectly. If you are uncomfortable with being directly quoted, please let me know. I can also just use your response for my own informational purposes without sharing it in the essay either directly or indirectly, if that is what you would prefer. In the survey, I ask if there is any particular name you would prefer to be used in the survey; you can choose to provide a pseudonym (which I recommend) or your real name if you are comfortable with that. If you do not provide any specific name, I will choose a random pseudonym to use with your response. You can choose to be listed as “anonymous” instead, or you can specify a name that you do NOT want me to use, and I will pick a different pseudonym. I also plan to specify your age if you are directly quoted, partially because some people have chosen the same pseudonym, and partially to give readers an idea of the range of respondents’ ages. If you are uncomfortable with your age being specified, I won’t list it. Please let me know of any other privacy concerns you might have. You can always change your mind later about whether you want to be quoted, etc. Please contact me to let me know, and I can identify your response based on the pseudonym you provided, IP address, or something else, and make a note of your changed preferences.

I also plan to publish this piece under a pseudonym myself (this blog is also published under a partial pseudonym), so if any of you are worried that you might be identified because you know me, please rest assured that I will take every precaution to avoid that.

Survey Links:

If you would like to complete the survey, and you have not done so before, please use this link. If you happen to start taking the survey and then remember that you have filled it out before, please note that so that your second response can be deleted, and then follow the link below instead, if you want to fill it out again.

Since I have redesigned and clarified several of the questions, and since it has been a year since I first asked for responses and people have had more time to reflect, I have decided to create a separate copy of the survey in case anyone would like to take it again, so that the demographics will not be distorted. If you didn’t finish the first time around and feel you can write more this time, if you weren’t satisfied with your original responses, or if you just want to see how far you’ve come, by all means use this link if you have already completed the first page of this survey once before. It’s not necessary for you to fill out the entire survey unless you want to; for any questions you don’t want to answer, just put an asterisk in the comment box to indicate that you feel satisfied enough with your original answer. It may be an interesting exercise to see if and how your retelling of your story has changed, however, so do feel free to answer again even if you were satisfied with what you wrote before. That may lead to some insightful points for the piece.

Feel free to link this around, by all means. My only request is that you ONLY LINK TO THIS BLOG POST, instead of the survey itself, so that my statistical information won’t get messed up from people who have already taken the survey taking it again.

And finally, a great big THANK YOU to everyone who takes this or links it around!

Do you want to?

[Trigger warning for discussion of rape and violence, including a non-explicit excerpt from a survivor’s story. Please note that any hateful or otherwise inappropriate comments will not make it through moderation.]

Via Sciatrix’s Monday Linkspam, I’ve come across a couple of good posts on asexuality and oppression, which I highly recommend: first one from Kaz refuting the infuriating claim that asexuals “aren’t really oppressed.” Then this one on victim-blaming, which references something which apparently happened on the AVEN forums. I think it’s good to read them both together. Kaz writes:

But what I really want to address is the bit about violence.

“Asexuals don’t experience violent oppression!”

I would like it if people stopped saying this.

First of all, I honestly don’t think we KNOW. I know of no wide-scale surveys or other information-gathering measures on this front. It is possible there genuinely isn’t much in the way of violence against asexual people. But it’s possible that we don’t see it because we aren’t looking, because we’re just assuming there is no such thing as anti-asexual violence or specifically hate crimes.

Or—I must interject—is it because we don’t WANT to know? And actually, I created an information-gathering measure about that, but more on that later. Continuing (more behind the cut): Continue reading

Guest Blogging on Feminists with FSD

Continuing a project to create understanding and awareness within the asexual community and the community of women with female sexual dysfuntion, I now have a guest post up on Feminists with FSD answering K’s questions about asexuality and the problems the asexual community faces due to the wording of the HSDD diagnosis, and my thoughts on how we might address them without hurting anyone who would seek treatment for HSDD or the wider community of women with FSD.

Requisite background info:
This discussion is predominantly focused on women largely because it grew out of the Great Flibanserin Debacle of June 2010, which concerned a drug that was being developed for women with HSDD, and was popularly (though misleadingly) called a “female viagra.” I won’t recap the entire discussion for you all as I trust that if you missed it and you really want to know what happened, you can use your google-fu to find out. But it resulted in exposing an undercurrent within the asexual community which I hadn’t really been aware of before, of patronizing hostility towards people who have or support HSDD as a diagnosis and on a broader level, of being dismissive towards anyone with sexual dysfunction. In the interest of rectifying this, I offered my blog as a place to host a guest post to K so that we might spread some awareness and understanding to the asexual community, and with the help of some other asexuals (thanks again, guys!), we came up with some interview questions for her. The resulting interview is here, and I highly recommend that you read that first! We also had some discussion in the comments that I think was very important to have, so be sure to check those out too.

We’re not really talking about Flibanserin anymore, but I do mention some of the concerns that I saw feminists raising about the legitimacy of treating what they prefer to call sexual “problems” with a drug as well as the legitimacy of the diagnosis itself. I realize that not all my readers may be familiar with this context, so for more background info I’d suggest you check out the rest of K’s posts, as she has several excellent posts that address these issues.

Comments to this post are disabled; please direct all comments to K’s blog so that we may have a more streamlined discussion.

And now… it’s time for me to get off the computer and go vote! Bye!

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!

National Coming Out Day

“It’s like Valentine’s Day for queer people,” C joked. In that the people who are already out shout about it from the rooftops, and the people who aren’t already out usually feel kinda bad about it and wish they were.

This post doesn’t have much more of a point than to make that joke, really. But I guess to give it some more substance, I’ll say this: sometimes, people have really horrible, awful, terrible reactions when you come out. Yes, as asexual, too. It’s really, really NOT just “annoying at best” as so many would like to think that it is. I never talk about what my father said when I came out to him as asexual. You know why?

Because he said, “You’ll change your mind the first time you get raped.” Direct quote.

Isn’t that delightful?

Anyway, I guess the point of this post is, while I suppose it’s nice to have a day for coming out and spreading awareness and all, let’s just try not to pressure the people who aren’t totally out, all right? Because some people have a very good reason not to bother, and we ought to remember it’s perfectly understandable to make that choice, too. Just like there’s nothing wrong with being single on Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing wrong with being closeted on Coming Out Day, either. It’s totally awesome if you choose to come out today, and I hope things go well! But if not, don’t feel bad about it or pressured to do it anyway. Do it on your own terms, but only if you want to.

And because I realize this is kind of a depressing and cynical post, here. Watch sneaky kitty!

The internet, as it turns out, isn’t actually for porn. It’s for posting cats.

(By the way, I suppose I should say that I’m way over this reaction by now. I think it’s been five years, or something like that. I mostly don’t talk about it because other people are shocked and find it depressing. It’s a mood killer, nobody wants to hear it, and because of that I suppose it’s somewhat taboo. But to me, it’s just a fact of life.)