[Warning: discussion of coercion, abuse, compulsory sexuality]
When an asexual person is talking about the problems they face, it is not appropriate to start whining about your own sex life.
Well, goddamn. You Tumblr people. If you like something, that shit gets around, doesn’t it! I came back to check on the blog to find that I’d had just shy of two thousand views in a single day. My previous high record, set only four days before, was a mere 700. If this trend continues for only a little while longer, that post will have become the most popular post of all time by the end of this month. And I’ve been blogging for almost four years already. It’s already #3.
Since I hate hate hate Tumblr’s format and refuse to get an account, I’m just going to respond to some of the comments from there here.
Someone commented that the title of my How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person post is “misleadingly” creepy. Yes. It’s creepy on purpose. It’s creepy because it’s based on REAL search terms I have repeatedly gotten leading to my How to Seduce An Asexual post, which was itself based on a similar query. It’s actually a toned down version of those search terms. There are enough people out there who google things like “how to convince an asexual to have sex” (that one was just yesterday) that I felt it was necessary to make a guide for it. I was consistently getting these searches, and they are different enough from my old post’s title that I’m convinced it’s not just people who read that post and wanted to find it again. There have also been more and more people searching for this lately, to the point that I was finally convinced I had to do something about it. These are people who actually want to “seduce” asexuals enough that they’ll look for ways to “get an asexual to fuck you” on the internet.
And the best way to do some damage control is to use a post title that will attract those people. Hopefully some of those people will bother to read it, at least a little. Even if they don’t read the whole thing, maybe they will at least gather that you can’t make anyone do anything, and that it’s a lot more complicated than it’s worth to try. I hope this will reduce the number of people who try to pressure asexuals into having sex or go into it thinking they can manipulate an asexual person into “becoming sexual.” Even if most of the creepers ignore it, if it manages to reach a portion of them, then I’ll count it as a success. On that note…
This is great, but I highly doubt there are many guys who would be willing to put so much thought into something like this. ^^;;; Hell, I don’t think I would want to either….it’s too complicated. >.<
Better that someone who is unwilling to put thought and effort into making sure things are okay gives up because they think it’s too complicated than be obstinately, petulantly manipulative. I HOPE my post scares some people off. It should!
The funny thing is, apparently now I’m on the 2nd page of search results for “how to have sex.” Uh… woo? I didn’t realize there were that many people searching for such things. More visibility, I guess?
Should this not be how you have sex with anyone? Unless there’s a roleplay thing going on in which case remember the safety word.
Yes, it should apply to having sex with anyone, not just asexuals. But like I said, the point of making the post is to try to get through to people who really don’t get it. People who use hostile and aggressive tactics, without realizing how wrong they are. People who are specifically targeting asexuals, with the idea that they can “fix” us. Many of the things in section 2 are concerns that apply to asexuals specifically and likely do not apply as much to people who are not asexual. It’s not a completely generalized guide. But really, the vast majority of it, it’s not “special treatment” for asexuals. It’s common courtesy.
Part of me read this and was convulsed with sick laughter, the face of my ex overlaid on the screen, like a parody of all the writer warns against.
I know that exact feeling. I had a specific person in mind when I wrote it. The date it went up is also personally significant.
There were quite a few people who had specific people in mind when they read it, and I feel for all of you. If I could, I would give each one of you a (safe) hug.
I like this; it’s a decent resource, but it definitely made me raise an eyebrow with the “You must obtain verbal consent.” Because, well, that can be problematic for those of us who lose the ability to be verbal, sometimes even before sex.
I am one such person who becomes nonverbal during sexual activity.
Yup, me too. And again, this is an excellent reason to come up with some sort of signal system and to talk about as much as possible beforehand. But I did think the rest of the article was very well-written.
Is this not in the article already? Pre-negotiation, and especially pre-negotiating signals in case you become non-verbal, I mean. I mentioned the keys as one possible signal, should I try to expand on this whenever I come back to it? Perhaps it’s unclear what I meant in some places. Clear nonverbal indicators that things are okay, like a thumbs up, are totally fine—why wouldn’t they be?—but the questions about whether or not x is okay should be explicit and verbal. Always, until it’s been firmly established by prior negotiation what things are okay and you’ve become so familiar with your partner’s nonverbal signals that you are able to tell when things aren’t okay anymore. If it’s ever in question, then you should ask.
There were also some people who commented that not all asexual people will want to take such a passive role. Of course not. But this is primarily aimed at people who are attempting to seduce asexuals, and it’s a relatively safe assumption that the people who get there by actively googling ways to convince an asexual to have sex are going to be taking the role of the initiator at the very least. And an asexual who is able to take the more dominant role isn’t going to be at quite as much risk as one who is passive, simply because it requires more confidence and know-how. For “brevity’s” sake (lol), I didn’t address it. (I considered splitting the post into a series of posts because of the length of it, actually, but decided against it because for every click you require a visitor to make to continue reading, you lose people. I’d rather have someone skim the post than miss important points that weren’t contained in whichever part they happened to read.) I may go back and add something about being dominant, or just add a link to another post about it later.
It’s certainly something that can still be improved. Other suggestions are welcome.
In two words: GIVE UP.
That probably sounds counter-intuitive. Here’s the thing: asexual people who might be interested in having sex really need to know you are okay with not having sex in order to feel okay having it.
So give up. Genuinely give up trying to get them to have sex. And then you might have it.
Or you might not. But if you’ve genuinely given up on the idea, that won’t be a problem for you.
If you’re trying to “seduce” an asexual person, that won’t work. Seduction is a violent framework for asexual people, NOT a sexy one. It inherently invalidates our identities. So you need to completely forget about that approach and use something different. In this article, I will attempt to present you with a framework that works for us. It’s called affirmative consent.
Contrary to what you may have heard, asexual people can consent to sex. Of course, just because we can consent doesn’t mean we should. If you’re in a relationship with an asexual person, they do not owe you sex. Period. Many of us have had our choices taken away, often by erosion of boundaries. Compromising on boundaries is never okay, and you should never expect the person you’re with to do that. You are not allowed to call it a “compromise” if the only person giving something up is your asexual partner. That’s called capitulation, not compromise. And it invalidates consent.
But sometimes, some of us do want to have sex. Sometimes, we can even enthusiastically want it. Having a mutually satisfying sexual experience is perfectly well within the range of most asexual people’s capabilities. But most of us (~80%) aren’t interested. And even when we are, you should realize that we won’t always be up for it. Still, it’s possible that you might actually find—like my partner did—that you are more sexually compatible with an asexual person than anyone else you’ve ever been with.
Here is how to figure out whether or not you’ve found an asexual person who is interested, and negotiate the possibilities with them.
This guide does not assume you are in a romantic relationship—you very well may not be, and that might be an arrangement that works for both of you. Coming to an agreement on relationship type and style is outside the scope of this particular guide.
[Content Note: This post mentions non-consensual situations mostly in a theoretical way, without going into detail. It is frank, but not very graphic. However, there are links to posts that are more graphic, so click through with caution.]
Please note: above this point, I have made revisions to the original article. Below this point, I have only made minor edits. More revision is necessary but I think new articles need to be written from scratch first. If you are interested in helping out, please click here to find out more.
For those of you wondering why I chose this title, it’s the exact text of a search term that led someone to this blog, and it was the people coming here via such a search that I intended to address. Prior to this article’s publication in 2012, there was nothing like this available to people searching for it.
I don’t mean the “well, they didn’t stop me” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they didn’t say no” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they said ‘I don’t know’ or they kind of sort of wanted to” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they said they wanted to at some point a while ago, so I assume that means they want to right now” kind of permission. I mean the “I explicitly asked them if they want to have sex right now, and received an unambiguously affirmative response” kind of permission. (That doesn’t mean you have to say it exactly in that way, of course, but there does need to be at least some communication in a language you both understand in the moment about whether it’s (still) okay or not.)
Author’s note, August 2015: This is an old blog post that no longer reflects my current views. I no longer find it useful to identify as sex-positive, especially in asexual spaces, although many of my political views still align with the goals of sex-positive feminism.
I regularly see asexuals saying that they don’t identify as sex-positive because they don’t see sex as an inherently positive thing. They often feel alienated and attacked by people who identify as sex-positive, because sex is good and people who aren’t interested in having sex therefore must have something wrong with them. But while I know that people who say this do exist, I think they’re wrong about what being sex positive actually means.
Sex is not inherently positive. It CAN be positive. It CAN be a fantastic, mutually enjoyable experience. It can even be something that inspires feelings of transcendence in people. But it isn’t always. A lot of sex is painful, coerced, deeply terrifying and traumatic. And sometimes sex that feels good at the time can bring all kinds of awful consequences.
The point of sex positivity is acknowledging that sex isn’t inherently negative. It’s not saying that ALL sex is positive. It’s saying that it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how Carol Queen, one of the leaders of the movement*, defines it:
It’s the cultural philosophy that understands sexuality as a potentially positive force in one’s life, and it can, of course, be contrasted with sex-negativity, which sees sex as problematic, disruptive, dangerous. Sex-positivity allows for and in fact celebrates sexual diversity, differing desires and relationships structures, and individual choices based on consent.
Emphasis in original. This quote is from wikipedia, as access to the original interview is restricted.
There are cultural forces out there that are strongly anti-sex. To people who buy into them, sex is seen as inherently bad, dirty, and shameful. It is only acceptable within a very narrow set of circumstances. That set of circumstances is seen as being narrower or wider according to different people, but it’s all relatively narrow. Primarily, the people who see it this way are religious. It makes sense, right? They want to make you feel guilty for sex you will still be having anyway**, so that then you’ll feel the need to keep coming back to confess your sins to them.
Sex positivity is a response to that. It’s a philosophy that says that, hey, there’s nothing wrong with having sex before marriage, or sex with someone of the same sex, or a million other kinds of sex, as long as that’s what you both want. Consent is key. And so is the idea that everyone is different, and it’s totally okay for different people to want different things.
If you don’t want to have sex, then don’t have sex, because having sex that you don’t want is bad for you. That is what a sex-positive person should be saying.
So those nominally sex-positive people who say that everyone should want sex, because sex is good? They’re doing sex positivity wrong, because they’re forgetting about both consent, and the tenet of individual preference.
I see these people as a breed of Disingenuous Liberal, essentially. These are people who have thought about sex positivity just enough to start labeling themselves as such, but not enough to have actually thought through their positions and arrived at a reasonable, logically consistent conclusion. These are people who are still having knee-jerk reactions against religious conservatives saying that sex is inherently negative, and as such, their reactions lack nuance. They are basically saying, “NUH UH, SEX IS GREAT!” without considering how it isn’t always the best thing for everyone. They have challenged whatever sex-negative attitudes they previously held enough to start identifying as sex-positive, but not enough to actually stop telling other people how they should feel about sex.
These are the people who tend to assume that asexuality is the same as being anti-sex. These are the people who are likely to equate asexuality with a “purer than thou” religious attitude towards sex, and attack it on that basis. They are still fighting their own battle with sex-negative conditioning, so they assume we are saying that we’re somehow “better than” them, for not feeling sexual attraction.
These are the people who are most likely to say we’re “just repressed” and push concern-trolling ideas like how we should go get our hormones checked.
But, as Natalie Reed said yesterday, people who see themselves as liberated and enlightened can easily fall into the trap of thinking that they are much more so than they actually are, and stop actually examining their words and actions, because of course they are so enlightened that nothing they say can actually still be enforcing sex-negativity. They have fallen for the Dunning-Kruger effect, and they genuinely think they know our feelings about sex better than we do.
But sex positivity is about cultivating positive sexual experiences, and reducing harmful ones. Pushing asexual people to have sex that they don’t want is pushing them to have harmful, deeply negative sexual experiences. Telling us that we’re “just repressed” is an aggressive attempt to frame any conversation about asexuality through a lens in which we don’t actually exist. It’s an attempt to marginalize us based on our different sexual preferences. It is not an act that is in any way sex positive.
Then there are other disingenuous liberals, like this recent commenter, who insist that they think that asexuality exists, but that our definition of asexuality is wrong, because it’s “too broad.” This is still an attempt to marginalize. It’s still a direct attack on someone’s identity, despite her attempt to cloak it in the abstractions of semantics. When you’re the signified, discussing how the signifier is wrong to include you is still pretty personal. And, unsurprisingly, she replied once and then after that didn’t bother to come back to see what else I said. This isn’t someone who is actually interested in interrogating her own biases. This is someone who is only interested in telling me how I’m wrong.
Like I said to her, it doesn’t matter whether you see a need for someone to identify as asexual or not. What matters is that THEY see that need. And asexuality is not only entirely compatible with sex positivity, but sometimes understanding yourself as asexual is what it takes to be able to have positive sexual experiences.
Before I realized I was asexual, I was celibate, and completely closed off to the idea of having sex until such time as I started spontaneously wanting to have sex (which has still never come even though I’m in my mid-twenties, because I’m not a “late bloomer”). Realizing that I’m just not attracted to people in that way has allowed me to think about whether or not I wanted to have sex anyway, and under what circumstances. When I had a partner who didn’t accept me as asexual, the sex was bad. Like, the stuff of nightmares bad. But when I met C, she actually listened to me and tried to understand what my experience was like. She didn’t pressure me. At times I still felt like our relationship was moving too fast, but we always negotiated what was and wasn’t okay sexually, and we’ve been able to have some very positive, mutually enjoyable sex.
Sex isn’t for everyone, though. Some people just don’t want it. And that’s okay.
Sex positivity is all about recognizing that different people have different preferences, and that’s okay. It’s about recognizing that sex isn’t always bad, but not all sex is good sex, either. Sex has to be entirely consensual, or it won’t be any good, and people also need to understand and have access to ways to prevent negative consequences of sex like STIs and pregnancy. Sex positivity is about recognizing that when those criteria are met, sex has the potential to be very positive. Living a sex-positive life means finding ways to have a positive relationship with sexuality in your personal life, even if that means saying, “Hey, it can be great for other people, but it’s not for me.”
** Researchers have found that religious people have sex at the same rates as non-religious people. Abstinence-only sex education is ineffective. There are plenty of studies about this, but one particularly interesting one compares the sex lives of secular people with those of religious people.
The nearest Planned Parenthood facility to me closed in 2009.
It was already about an hour’s drive away from where I live, when it was open. Now, the nearest Planned Parenthood is about a five hour drive from my house, 191.02 miles from my zip code, according to the Planned Parenthood website. It’s in a city that I’m only vaguely familiar with, so once I got there I’d probably get lost trying to find it.
Fortunately, I haven’t needed it. I have health insurance for at least the next two years, and considering my partner is now sterile, there’s no reason for me to be on birth control. Even STDs aren’t a worry at the moment, considering we’ve been functionally “monogamous” as far as sex goes for quite a while, even though my partner has been dating other people online. Before her surgery, my partner and I primarily used condoms, although there were occasions where we decided to forego them because I’d been tracking my fertility through the Fertility Awareness Method (not the same as the rhythm method), and I was reasonably certain I wasn’t fertile at the time, and planned on getting my period within the week. Still, it was never a totally sure thing. Even on months that we hadn’t had that kind of sex, both of us (particularly her, because she is very strongly childfree) would get a bit nervous if my period was late. I had a stack of cheap pregnancy tests that I used on those occasions. Never once did I get a positive reading.
Now I have a bunch of unused pregnancy tests and condoms that I don’t know what to do with. I’d give them to a friend or my sister, but then I’d have to explain why I had them in the first place, which would involve outing my partner as trans. And in some cases, it would take explaining that just because I’m asexual, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a sex life, and it doesn’t mean that I’m not “really” asexual. Those are conversations I really don’t want to get into. I’d bring them to my local Planned Parenthood for them to distribute… except, oh wait. I don’t have one.
Unless my circumstances change dramatically—and I’m very keenly aware that they could, because I’ve been doing an ongoing survey about sexual assault for an awareness project (TW at link for non-explicit mentions of rape; this project is still open so please participate and pass on the link if you want)—I’m not going to need to go to Planned Parenthood myself. But what about the people in my area who do? They’re just completely out of luck.
That’s why I think people should donate to Planned Parenthood and support it in any other way they can.
And since contraception doesn’t get talked about very often in the asexual community, consider this an open thread to talk about it. What methods do you use? Where do you go for STD testing? Even if you’re not sexually active, are you aware of places you can go for testing etc. in your area? Do you have a Planned Parenthood nearby?
Read the rest of the MyPP stories here.
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.
This is going to be a somewhat short post, because I don’t have much time to elaborate, but I really wanted to pass along some links. First, Trashing Teens, a Psychology Today article about how childhood is being extended later and later. I could certainly relate to this, because as a teen I was restricted in far too many ways, and what “responsibility” my parents did offer me was a joke, because it only meant chores. I didn’t get any extra freedoms to go along with it, and in fact more than once my parents even removed my bedroom door because I had been demanding some privacy (and more importantly, attempting to protect myself from my abusive alcoholic father by locking my bedroom door). My concerns were never taken seriously, and to some degree they still aren’t. Fortunately I live on my own now, but I still have to rely on my parents for a lot of things.
And if I say I’m asexual? Never mind my parents, the world at large doesn’t really believe me. I’m STILL too young to get it, apparently. How long do I have to wait before people will say, “Oh, okay. You’ve waited long enough. There probably is no right person.” 30? 40? 50?
It is ridiculous that people in their twenties are not considered old enough to have figured this out yet. And I’m of a mind to say that teenagers should also be taken seriously when they figure it out, although because asexuality is based on not feeling something, it is reasonable to keep an open mind about it for a bit longer than it would be for other orientations. But to outright deny it, to say “Oh, you will someday,” as if you know the future? No way.
But back to the article. I’ll admit I was a little torn on this at first because I really don’t tend to get along with most teenagers, in general. I really disliked my peers when I was a teenager, and I don’t like spending time with the majority of the younger crowd now. But then I realized that in large part, it is because of the culture that has come out of teens being so infantilized. I like a significantly greater portion of my peers now, but a lot of college kids act like just that—children. They are perfectly capable of acting like adults, but they don’t, because they have been taught not to.
My distaste for this kind of infantilization extends to my fashion statements, as well. I wear gothic lolita clothing when I can get away with it, which is meant to point out the irony of being an adult and choosing to look like a child. There’s a certain dark humor to it, and certainly a commentary on contemporary society.
I’ll leave off by passing along this, which comments specifically on the sexual aspects of teenage oppression. It’s completely ridiculous what can get you on the list of sex offenders. People think “sex offender” means rapist or child pornographer, but really you might be on there for having consensual sex with someone of your own age group. It’s really gotta change.
Edited to add: Here’s another link that goes really well with these—Ken Robinson on creativity in schools.