Identity Maintenance

Time passes me by lately like water does a fish—I am always in it, it is always flowing around me, but each moment is just something I live in without really thinking about it. I pay attention only to the strong currents and my eventual destination, letting the usual ebb and tide just make its lazy circles about the unconscious.

Of course, I’m still able to focus on time and its various aspects, bring it out of the background and into the forefront as I am doing now. But that kind of focus might as well be a flash of lighting. For the most part, it passes, and I make neither an effort to live in the moment nor hold fast to hope or memory. Things happen, mostly boring and not worth reporting—or so it was for a while. Unfortunately, no news does not necessarily mean good news, even though I am significantly less likely to update without the motivation of conflict. This past summer, I’ve been beset by a number of injuries and illnesses, including a brief visit to the hospital (which fortunately turned out to mean nothing except that I should take better care not to exhaust myself). Those injuries and illnesses have continued since I started school, which means that I have missed a lot of class and my ability to keep up with assignments has suffered. My relationship with my partner suffered a lot as well—partially, indeed, as a result of my being sick so often—and now we have broken up, albeit somewhat tentatively and while keeping the possibility in mind that we may be able to resolve our differences and work back up to a romantic relationship.

With all this going on, I hadn’t really been thinking about asexuality.  Over the summer, there were still plenty of moments, from time to time, when I would see my girlfriend looking at porn and, upon hearing my comments, she would groan at me and says, “You’re so asexual.” But for the most part, it went unnoticed, and barely mattered.

I have been trying to decide what is different about the part that sex played in our relationship as compared to the part that it plays in a pairing of two sexuals, but I can’t come up with much. It’s not as if it isn’t generally enjoyable, and I can’t say that it isn’t intimate. There were periods when we go without for quite a while before either one of us would crease her brow and say, “Hm. When was the last time, anyway?” That is probably the most obvious sign of my asexuality combined with her relative lack of sexual attraction to me. The thing is, our relationship actually did seem to suffer more during the dry spells than when we were doing it relatively frequently, despite my conviction that sex should not be a necessary part of a relationship.

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On “Creepy Asexual Guys,” Porn, and Misogyny

Occasionally, people will use search terms to find this blog that pique my curiosity. I had never heard of a gray fetish until today, but apparently someone else has. I also sometimes get search terms including words that I know I’ve said before in the same post, but not together, not as the topic of the post. Today, someone viewed my blog after searching for asexual guys, and I was curious to see what else was out there about asexual guys, so I looked, too.

Of course, there were the usual posts about people seeking to date asexual guys, and those with people wondering whether some male relation of theirs is asexual or gay or just socially awkward, but then there was this strange offering by Rabbi Schmuley Boteach. Confused by the title, “Asexual men and the creeps who live on campus”–since when are asexual men associated or equated with creeps?–I clicked the link. The Rabbi’s main argument seems to be a variant on the idea that rampant sexual debauchery leads men to become desensitized to the point that they are no longer attracted to most normal women, but rather only to a very specific type of woman (presumably strippers and porn stars), and to a very specific type of violently misogynistic situation. I have a few problems with this. Number one is the way he defines asexuality:

The male overexposure to women has even led to the death of the heterosexual man as we know him. If the definition of a heterosexual man is a male who is attracted to women, then most men today are barely heterosexual. Think about it. Nearly all the men I know are only attracted to about one in 10 women, that is, the 10 percent of women they consider “hot.” The other 90 percent leave them cold. Doesn’t that mean that they are 90 percent asexual? And I’m not trying to be funny. If a man is not attracted to a woman, then he is not heterosexual. Period. And if he only attracted to a small fraction of the women he meets, then he is fractionally heterosexual.

Although I can follow his logic, I find that logic flawed on the level that this makes no distinction between a person who is asexual, a person who is just extremely picky, and a person who has a fetish. Now, that word has several different meanings, including two that are non-sexual (an asexual might have “an irrational or abnormal fixation or preoccupation” with something that does not arouse them sexually, for instance). By fetish here, I mean an extreme sexual interest in something to the point that the person cannot get off at all without the presence of that thing. I think what the Rabbi is really meaning to refer to here is the development of such a fetish for the demeaning situations (allegedly, at least–as I have limited experience, I wouldn’t know) shown in porn, and the type of woman who looks like she belongs in one.

The problem is, the way this is worded indicates to me that this has not been thought through and articulated carefully and with a clear understanding of what he is literally saying. He talks of an overexposure to women, for one–how can men be overexposed to a group of people who comprise roughly half of the population? Is he suggesting that we should all be wearing burqas, here? On the contrary, I would infer that he is talking about an overexposure to fantasy women (and any women willing to cater to male fantasy), and an underexposure to real-life women (who are not willing to cater to male fantasy). But this is not made clear in that sentence, so it makes little sense taken on its own.

I think the fallacy with regard to asexuality and heterosexuality is that he is defining them based solely on the percentage of the time that a person is attracted or not attracted, without any regard for the intensity of that attraction when it is experienced, the feelings and attitudes that a person has towards sex, or the fact that these words are labels that refer to the way a person is categorized, rather than indicators of that person’s actual levels of eroticism towards any particular group of people.

For things like this, it usually helps to have a visual model, so let’s use the Storms model. According to this, heterosexuals are people who are high in hetero-eroticism but low in homo-eroticism, homosexuals are people who are high in homo-eroticism but low in hetero-eroticism, bisexuals are high in both, and asexuals are low in both. This seems similar enough to what the Rabbi is saying, but the problem here is in defining what constitutes “high” and what constitutes “low” levels of eroticism.

According to him, if you find 90% of the people around you sexually unattractive, then you are 90% asexual.

However, the people he is talking about devote an extraordinary amount of time thinking and fantasizing about, planning, and engaging in sexual activity. According to him, they have even gone to college expressly for the purpose of indulging in sexual debauchery. You could say that (at least) 90% of their lives are devoted to the pursual of sexual activity. Perhaps they have an extremely narrow idea of what constitutes a sexually attractive woman, and are unable to explore sexuality with the vast majority of the women around them, who do not indulge them in their misogynistic fantasies, but they are still absolutely obsessed with sex. To me, that indicates high levels of eroticism. It’s only a very specific kind of eroticism–as previously stated, a fetish.

So to call them asexual, even while acknowledging that they are “10% sexual,” is highly inaccurate. They would likely not self-identify in that way, and would have very, very little in common with people who do, since usually those people do not miss the sex they are not having, and don’t feel the need to actively pursue sexual activity. Of course, there are people who identify as asexual who might experience sexual attraction a very low percentage of the time, and still consider themselves asexual. I have never heard an estimate of ten percent, and that’s probably quite high, but theoretically, such a person could exist. That’s because these words are labels that are meant to express how people are the vast majority of the time, without getting into very fine details like that one man a lesbian might fall in love with. The Storms model might more accurately look like this (image originally found in this thread)–a blur of different colors with no clear lines in between. There is no simple litmus test that people can take to determine their sexual orientation, and how much a person is attracted to x gender alone is not the only factor that goes into its determination. For those who exist in the borderlands, there may be many more things to take into consideration aside from attraction to people.  There are objectum sexuals, and people who are aroused by certain situations but not by the appearance of other people, to take into consideration as well.

In short, being a sexual person does not mean that you want to bone EVERYONE, or even everyone of a certain gender, and being asexual does not necessarily mean that you NEVER feel sexual attraction. Although the main factor for determining sexual orientation is the level of attraction one feels for other people, and which gender those other people are, it cannot be said that men who are only attracted to women 10% of the time are only 10% heterosexual, because that shows a lack of understanding of how self-identification and use of a label that describes sexual orientation works.

And, just for further clarification, I’ll repeat an example I used a long time ago about the availability of attractive women:  In a country with an extremely skewed gender ratio like China, where there are so many more boys than girls, a heterosexual male might only encounter a small percentage of women he is attracted to on a day-to-day basis, but does that mean he is not heterosexual? Not many people would answer yes to that question, but if you follow the Rabbi’s statement through to its logical conclusion, then he must.

I have many more thoughts about this, but I’ll have to cut it short for now. I may return to this topic in a future post, though.

Edited to add: I’ve made a second post about this: Dismantling Emotional Flatulence.

Coming Out Again (and again… or not)

Real life has been eating up my time pretty heavily as of late–school has been incredibly stressful this semester due to the higher level of the courses I’m taking, and the fact that they all involve a ton of reading and writing. On top of that, I’ll have to move in a month, so I’m pressed to find a place. Of course, I’ll be moving in with my girlfriend. Whom my parents know absolutely nothing about.

I’ve come out to my parents before, as asexual. I was met with little success; my parents are still firmly convinced that I must be a lesbian. This time, oddly enough, I’ll be coming out to them as… not lesbian, which of course they will probably expect a firm statement of how “this is who I am” or something like that, but as just simply being in a relationship with a girl. Again, from their perspective, since they thought my pre-transition FTM ex-boyfriend was a girl. Except, of course, what I don’t plan to tell them is that my current partner is still legally male. Oy.

I’m not even sure whether I want to tell my mother or not–okay, no, I DEFINITELY don’t want to tell her, but what I meant to say is, I’m not even sure it’s wise to tell her, given that I am still financially dependent on her for my schooling (and since I am working a student job, I would lose that too if I had to drop out of university). But, at the same time, I’m not sure how I’m going to hide it from her given the fact that we plan on getting a one-bedroom apartment and sharing a bed (which, actually, we’ve already bought and use regularly). My parents are pretty horrible about all this stuff–absolutely convinced (my father to an absolutely pathological degree) that God says homosexuality is wrong. My mother, there might be hope for, maaaaybe, but my father unfortunately is the one who lives (most of the time) close by, and whom I might have to rely on to move my stuff–at least from his house back into my car. But on the upside, I don’t have to rely on him financially.

Of course, the irony in this is that I’m not actually homosexual, or even homo-anything. I’m asexual, but if they don’t believe me about this now, how on earth will they believe me after they see that I have now been involved in a “second” so-called “lesbian” relationship (to their eyes–of course, there is no reason to tell them anything whatsoever about M, and I don’t plan to. The less they know about my private life, the better!) I’d be two for two. Personally, I find it extremely difficult to come out to someone without using a commonly accepted, easily identifiable label. There are some asexuals who recommend avoiding labels in favor of explanations, but in my experience, I receive skepticism either way, and all the more so because the people I’m talking to are totally unwilling to sit down and listen to a long, drawn-out explanation, which I am loathe to give them anyway. The less time I can possibly spend around these people, the better. I don’t really care if they believe that I am asexual; I just want them to drop the conversation, and I don’t want to have to deal with the shit they’ll inevitably give me for something that isn’t even true.

But it seems doubtful that they will simply leave it at that. This is pretty much a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation. There is probably nothing that I can possibly do to make them leave me alone about it, except not to tell them, but even then, that can only be a temporary solution. They’ll eventually get suspicious, especially since my girlfriend and I are very, very bad at hiding the fact that we’re together–and in most situations, we don’t want to.

And if you take all that and then factor in the trans stuff, it gets even MORE complicated. My parents certainly haven’t reacted well to any mention of trans people before–in fact, my mother seemed to think I was a pervert when she found out (by my sister’s spying on our conversations and subsequent tattling) about my ex. Another piece of ironic contradiction to my asexuality. Of course, I’m not too worried about that, since my girlfriend passes pretty darn well. Still, it just adds another layer of difficulty to the already precarious situation (like, what if our parents meet? Her parents don’t use the right pronouns), so we will need to be that much more careful when dealing with it.

I mainly wanted to post this so that I could get some of my concerns articulated before Wednesday. My gf and I are scheduled to go and have a talk with someone who might be able to give us some advice about it, and then we’ll decide from there. If anyone else has any suggestions, feel free to throw them out there. I might not have the time to make a long post to update about the situation, so I’ve decided to try something different. I was a little wary of trying this service at first, since I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about how spammy and annoying it is, but… I now have a twitter account integrated into my blog, so you can read my tweets on the sidebar on here, or follow me as you like. I probably won’t be making super-frequent updates, and I’ll always post something at least tangentally relevant to this blog, which is interesting or amusing–i.e., I won’t be posting about what I’m having for dinner! Hopefully, the focus will keep it from getting too irritating. Anyway, it’s bedtime now, so until next time!

Less Relevant

Lately, I’ve encountered an odd problem. Every time I open up a new post and attempt to write, I find myself stumped on what to write about. Where once I had tons of things to say, now they all escape me.

In the past few months, a lot of things have happened. That’s such a bland statement, but I don’t really know where to start if I were to talk about everything, nor do I even really want to publicly catalog all the events that have occurred since October. Still, I feel an obligation to keep this blog going, if only at a very much stunted pace.

The truth is, asexuality no longer seems very relevant to my everyday life.

This is not to say that I no longer identify as asexual, just that my asexuality has faded into the background in such a way that I don’t really have much motivation to post about it—not to mention the lack of time! I am hardly ever even on my computer anymore, except on those rare occasions (like now) when Cupcake decides she would rather bond with her video games (which, if it gives any indication of how often this is, she complains that she’s been taking such long breaks from them to play with me that when she returns to them, she has to relearn how to play the games).

One of the things I was frustrated about with the dissolution of my relationship (non-specific to romance) with M was that, although I felt that, given the time and understanding, I could have gotten over my discomfort with sex and learned to enjoy it despite my lack of interest. Because he wouldn’t listen to me and try to work with me (nor could he even apparently understand what I was asking), I couldn’t. Either way, I viewed him as a “practice run” of sorts, which allowed me to get past a hurdle which otherwise most certainly would have impeded my current relationship.

I most certainly did not expect this relationship to start as soon as it did, or progress as quickly as it has, but nevertheless, I’m in a good position now to try the things I couldn’t with M. Every obstacle I encountered with him is gone. Asexuality was something that Cupcake and I dealt with early on in the relationship, and with her understading, I have gradually become more and more comfortable with sexual activity, to the point that it’s no longer an issue.

I’ve found—contrary, perhaps, to popular opinion of asexual women—that it’s pretty easy for me to have a orgasm. I can (and generally do) enjoy myself when having sex, but when I’m not having it, I don’t really crave it. I can take it or leave it. And I still don’t understand what sexual attraction is.

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would say that, because I enjoy sex, I must not be asexual, but really? The key to my enjoyment is in the approach my partner takes towards asexuality. If they try to convince me I’m not asexual, I won’t be comfortable with it. If they try to understand asexuality, accept it and work around it, then it won’t be an issue. Of course, it helps that my partner’s attitude towards sex is similar to mine in various ways, and if it weren’t, she and I would probably have more difficulties, but I think they would still be resolvable, as long as she accepted my orientation.

All things considered, I don’t see myself as being limited by my orientation in any real way. Outside of the bedroom, it doesn’t affect my life, and even its effect on my sex life is negligible, now that I have found someone willing to work with me rather than against me. For being such a weird couple, Cupcake and I have a surprisingly “normal” sex life, to whatever extent at least that a cis/trans lesbian couple can have. I might as well be sexual, for all the effect that has on the way we interact sexually. In the long run, though, it will likely make things easier for us that I am asexual. I realize this probably isn’t something that most asexual people in relationships with sexual people can say—there certainly is a lot of angst among the romantic asexuals about the possiblity that they might never find a comfortable relationship. Some might not be able to handle sexual activity at all, and so I don’t expect my own “solution” to be workable for everyone. Still, I think it’s important for me to make my story available to the rest of the community, so that it may provide some hope, and perhaps even help to disspell some myths about asexual people.

Open Question: Let’s Discuss!

I want to know what you all think, A-migos.

Someone says they don’t (know if they) experience sexual attraction. They have a sex drive as well as a general interest in sex, and really enjoy it a lot. However, they just like (and get aroused by) the act, rather than the people involved. Even the people they consider attractive, they don’t look at and “think sex,” so to speak. So, they are quite comfortable having sex with people they don’t consider attractive.

Would you consider this person to be asexual?

Passing

Apositive member Heligan wrote something interesting on there the other day:

I think for lots of people all they really want is for how they feel to be seen as a legitimate way to feel, certainly the ‘no sex asexuals’, have a harder time trying to fit into society; so maybe we should start with them. Lets face it Grey-As can ‘pass’ as sexual in most cases.

She had lots of other good points to make (you can view the full post here), but it’s the part about grays passing that really got me thinking.

Could I pass as sexual? I can’t say the thought has never occurred to me to try it before, but I have always dismissed the idea because in the first place I don’t want to, and in the second, I see it as unethical to try. I still think it’s unethical, at least in a romantic setting, and not only that but it probably wouldn’t be the best thing to pursue for my own personal well-being, but for now I want to put those considerations aside, and try to follow the idea through to a conclusion about whether it’s even possible.

I think, first of all, we have to consider what is meant by “passing.” Usually this is used in the context of transsexuals presenting themselves in such a way that they convince others that they are the sex that they weren’t born into, and thus assuming that social role. How well one “passes” refers to how easy it is to get other people to confer that social role based on the appearance and behaviors one presents to them. I think central to the concept of “passing” is the idea that it is intentionally sought, rather than something that is conferred by default.

Therefore, even though most people assume I am sexual, I am not really passing because that is the default assumption. In order to pass, I would have to intentionally do things to support that assumption, even well past the point at which most people would start to question my orientation. That means we’re talking about convincing people with whom I’m in fairly intimate relationships, here, certainly lovers and in some cases (depending on what type of subject comes up), close friendships as well. Continue reading

In Flux: A Gray Manifesto

It occurs to me that although I started this blog specifically to talk about issues that affect gray-asexuals, I haven’t actually addressed the issue directly, except on my about page.

So to rectify this, I want to go into more detail about my personal identity, my political identity, and my reasons for choosing to present myself to the public the way I do, even though that public identity is too stark to match up with my true identity.

I am out as an asexual to everybody I associate with for long enough that the subject comes up (which is usually fairly quickly, though not in the case of professional associates and extended family members). I am out as gray-asexual to only a select few. This is because most people do not have enough of a conceptual background in asexual discourse to understand what I’m talking about, and do not care to acquire it. Which is just as well, because most of the time I am not willing to spend so much time educating others on the particulars of my existence, especially when they would like as not reject it anyway. I only trust those details to those few who are either asexual themselves, show a keen interest in asexuality, or those I would be intimate with. In that latter case, I will quite patiently and persistently attempt to build understanding, but it’s an absolute deal-breaker if I ever determine that it’s impossible to create. No exceptions.
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Doesn’t vs. Hasn’t

I was reading a thread on Apositive a while ago about “romantic”/affectional orientation, and it reminded me why I don’t like defining asexuality as “a person who DOESN’T experience sexual attraction.”

I’ve gone through a lot of different identities, with regard to my affectional orientation. I started out assuming I was bisexual, because at the time I thought that most people are actually bi but due to societal pressure never realize it. Later I changed the label to pansexual/omnisexual to reflect my interest in androgynous, and possibly differently-gendered people. Eventually I realized I was equally uninterested in everyone, and began calling myself asexual, pan-romantic.

A little further down the road, as I finally became interested in pursuing romantic relationships, I noticed a definite tendency to be attracted to women more often than men. For a while, I thought I was just pickier about men, or that there simply weren’t enough pretty specimens in my area. But after the pattern persisted for a couple years, I started seriously questioning whether I would ever be comfortable being with a cisgendered man, due to the power imbalance and lack of understanding of queer issues that I perceived such men to have. I wondered if I shouldn’t just start calling myself a functional lesbian.

Then M fell into my lap, and I realized that I was right the first time, I am just pickier about men. Still wondering if that imbalance and the lack of understanding are surmountable obstacles, though.

So, defining orientation based on not having a certain kind of attraction can be really tricky, as the only time it can be fully determined that one doesn’t experience that attraction or whether one simply hasn’t yet, is on one’s deathbed. It’s understandable, then, though still annoying, when people spout that tired old “right person” rhetoric when we tell them we’re asexual.

And then there are asexuals like me, who aren’t sure whether they’ve ever experienced it because they don’t know how to define it, or know that they have but only ever feel it once or twice in so many years, or even if they feel it, still haven’t felt any desire to act on it, ever, and don’t value sexuality enough that they think it probable that they will in the future. I think determining asexuality is a little more complicated than just “Sexual attraction: ON/OFF.” It’s about the interplay of frequency and level of attraction/desire, value placed on sexual activity, societal influence/politics, identification/disidentification, and probably other factors that I’m not thinking of right now (feel free to throw out suggestions, guys). Lack of sexual attraction is widely touted as the single factor uniting all asexuals, but that’s not really true. The real factor that unites asexuals is identification, which is the result of all these other factors working together.

But I have problems with that idea, too, because it implies that if you don’t identify as asexual at any point in you’re life, then you’re not asexual at that point. I’ve always been asexual. We have to keep in mind that these are terms used to describe ourselves, not terms that necessarily define ourselves. I’ve always known I wasn’t interested in sex, but at different points in my life, my interpretation of that lack of interest has changed. In my youth, I didn’t consider it a significant factor in determining my orientation, but as I got older it became more and more a point of difference between myself and my peers, and as my mindset “solidified,” less and less likely that I would suddenly become interested.

Now, actually, I am interested, but not because I feel any desire to get jiggy with it myself. I just like finding out what it means to other people, because I’m fascinated by personal differences, and want to learn to relate to other people in a way that can include sex. I know I can do it, and I know I can even enjoy it. I want to find out where my limits are, and push my boundaries a little. I want to figure out ways that I can comfortably compromise, and explore different forms of intimacy.

Ultimately, I think it’s all about mindset. That’s not to say that all asexuals have the same mindset, because of course it varies wildly, but there are a lot of similarities with the ultimate result that we all identify as asexual. I could possibly identify as either asexual or hyposexual, but I make the choice to identify as asexual. There are also a lot of potentially asexual people who don’t realize that they have that option, probably because they haven’t heard of it or thought about it much.

An Ace Moment

Watching the most recent episode of Project Runway, discovering the incredibly hot Apolo Ohno (why don’t I ever watch the Olympics!?!?), googling him, and then, upon finding a picture of him with his shirt off, thinking, “Okay, honey, you can put it back on now.”

As if I needed any more proof that I’m asexual! *lol*

As a sidenote… why am I only ever attracted to asian men? And why are they always more attractive on video than in pictures?

(P.S. See, I am capable of making short posts!)

Almost-Sexual Frustration

Excerpt: As the title suggests, I have been feeling increasingly frustrated for the lack of physical contact with any other human being. Not sexual contact, but intimate contact: kissing, spooning, hearing someone else’s heart beat, feeling their skin beneath my nails, and pretty much anything that, according to popular ideas, is supposed to lead up to sex. Hell, I wouldn’t even really mind having sex, though it’s the part that comes before that I truly enjoy. Among asexuals, I seem to have a pretty broad view of what borderline acts are acceptable and enjoyable. This is why I sometimes call myself and almost-sexual, because if the definition of sexuality were broadened enough to include them, I might be able to identify as a sexual person. Although I still doubt whether even under the ideal circumstances, it would ever occur to me to initiate sex as it’s usually defined (i.e. intercourse, oral, manual). Point is, I still have a drive to be physically intimate with people even if I couldn’t care less about actually having sex with them. The only word I have to describe my feelings when that drive is frustrated is “sexual frustration” but it’s not quite that.
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