Nuance & Complexity: May 2018 Carnival of Aces Round-Up

Well, it’s now June 1st, which means that it’s time to wrap up this round of the Carnival of Aces and start another one!

The topic I chose for this month was Nuance & Complexity, a very broad topic which had a lot of good responses on a wide range of subjects. Thank you to everyone who submitted, you’ve all made this a very interesting month!

Without further ado, here are the submissions:

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Being Bi/Ace, Part Two: Aesthetic Attraction and the Visual-Aural Gender Split

This post is for the May 2018 Carnival of Aces on “Nuance & Complexity,” which I am hosting. Please check it out and consider submitting! Cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

Last time I talked about how there’s a lot of extra scrutiny about attraction for both bi and ace people, which makes inhabiting that intersection difficult, and the misconceptions that become barriers to talking about it. Now I’m going to talk about some specific aspects of my own attraction and how it’s different enough from the norm that it usually goes unrecognized. Continue reading

Being Bi/Ace, Part One: Scrutiny About Attraction and the Kinsey Scale

This post is for the May 2018 Carnival of Aces on “Nuance & Complexity,” which I am hosting. Please check it out and consider submitting! Cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

I have some frustrations with the way that attraction is discussed in the ace community, which are related to and further amplified by biphobia/bi erasure. This will be part one of at least two parts, because this is something that’s really complicated for me, and so difficult to talk about that it’s been sitting in my drafts folder for more than two years! So strap in, because it’s finally time to do this. Continue reading

May 2018 Carnival of Aces Call for Submissions: Nuance & Complexity

Hello everyone! Welcome to the May 2018 Carnival of Aces!

What is the Carnival of Aces?

This is a monthly blogging carnival, a long-running event organized by The Asexual Agenda to spur discussion among asexual and ace-spectrum people. Each month, a volunteer host sets out a topic for discussion, collects responses, and posts links to all of the responses at the end of the month. Anyone can participate, and I’ll have further details about how to participate below. If you’d like to volunteer to host a future month, please check out the Carnival of Aces Masterpost for instructions.

Last month, the Carnival was hosted at Demisexual and Proud, and the topic was inspired by a very old Flemish-Dutch saying, “All the birds have begun nests except me and you, what are we still waiting for?” Please check out the responses at the round-up post!

This month’s theme is…

Nuance & Complexity

Asexuality is a complex topic, and often difficult for people to understand. Because of this, we sometimes have a tendency to elide nuances about our experiences in an effort to explain simply enough that others can understand. This month, I want us to focus on those things that we tend to avoid talking about, for fear of being misunderstood, or anything that we may have felt we can’t quite (openly) articulate.

Sometimes, people accuse aces of overthinking things or “making everything too complicated,” without having any understanding of why we talk about things the way that we do. I think that from the beginning, the ace blogging community has had a lot of focus on exploring complexity and nuance, and a lot of previous topics for the Carnival of Aces also apply here. But instead of focusing on complexity/nuance of just one topic, like identity or labels/models (which have been chosen multiple times), this gives people the freedom to choose whatever kind of complexities they’re interested in discussing, or zoom way out and analyze the ace community itself. So it’s kind of a meta topic.

Here are some prompts to get you started:

  • When it comes to being on the ace spectrum, what complicates things for you? Trace some of the nuances of your experience of asexuality.
  • What are some models that you have used to explain or understand asexuality or the ace spectrum? In what ways do you feel that these models exclude you or oversimplify your experiences?
  • Are you Gray-A or demisexual? Or perhaps greyromantic? What are some experiences related to grayness that you typically minimize or don’t know how to explain?
  • Do you have any thoughts about words typically used as synonyms that the ace community has differentiated? (For example, “sex averse” vs. “sex repulsed.”) Do you differentiate certain words used within the ace community in a way that most people unfamiliar with the ace community don’t recognize or understand?
  • Are there stereotypes that you’re sometimes assumed to fit that you don’t really? How do you defy them? How do these stereotypes flatten you and erase the realities of your experience?
  • What other aspects about you intersect with your asexuality? How do these things inflect and inform your experiences, viewpoints, and approach to the ace community?
  • If you sometimes find the ace community inaccessible or too exhausting to engage with, what are the reasons for that? What would make it easier for you?
  • Are there certain words or labels that you have found in the ace or aro communities that are meant to describe something close to your experience, but still don’t quite fit or feel comfortable enough for you to adopt?
  • Are there any words or labels associated with another community that you’re a part of that you feel uncomfortable with because of your asexuality or aromanticism?
  • If you are multilingual, what is it like to describe your experiences related to asexuality in one language compared to another? Do certain connotations exist in one language that aren’t there or aren’t the same in another?
  • What topic do you feel is still taboo in the ace community, that makes it difficult to discuss your experiences? What do you wish you could talk about?
  • What assumptions do others in the ace community sometimes make about you that you feel are unwarranted? Do you feel that others tend to think of you in terms of a model or framework that doesn’t really apply?
  • What is something related to asexuality that you don’t totally understand about yourself? Something that, perhaps, you haven’t really mapped yet but you’re actively working to discover? What is this process like for you?
  • What do you feel is the best way that you know of to illustrate the complexity and diversity of the ace community as a whole? How does it compare to any other ways you have tried to do so with less success?
  • How do you feel about the idea of “overthinking” or “over-complicating” things?
  • What are the benefits of closely examining and analyzing aspects of your own asexual experience? What are the drawbacks? Do you feel comfortable with the ace blogging community’s culture of exploring nuance and creating new language to describe things, or do you feel frustrated or conflicted about it?

Please feel free to submit anything else you can think of that addresses nuance or complexity and asexuality.

How to Submit

  1. Write about the topic in a blog post—or record a vlog or podcast, or draw a comic or other illustration instead if you’d rather do that—and post it to your own space. Usually this means your own blog, but of course if you made a video or something, you would host it on YouTube or wherever (please see #4 for more on that).
  2. What if I don’t have my own blog? That’s okay too! I will be happy to host a guest post for you here on my blog. Please email me your submission at prismatic.entanglements at gmail.com and I will post it here. Remember to let me know what name you want me to use, as well as what pronouns I should use to refer to you. If you want to be anonymous, that’s okay too.
  3. Once you have published your submission, post a link to it in the comments of this post. Or email it to me at the address above. I will usually see pingbacks too, but they do require moderation so they may not appear right away. I may have some days this month where I’m not able to approve comments, just so you know, and don’t worry about it if you happen to submit on one of those days.
  4. For alternate media posts: In the interest of making this as accessible as possible… Preferably, if you can, please also make a blog post with the media embedded along with a transcript of your submission, so that those who cannot watch/listen will still be able to participate in the conversation. Images should have descriptions for those who cannot see them as well. If you cannot host a transcript yourself, I can make a post here to host it. Please email me to let me know you’d like me to do that, with the transcript included. (I probably won’t have time to make a transcript myself, sorry!) If you can’t make a transcript, let me know and I can ask for a volunteer to help out with that. I know this is extra work and it’s understandable if it takes time to make a transcript, so it’s okay to submit without one and try to make one later. I just want to try to do what I can to make it easier for everyone to participate.

That’s it! Let me know if you have any questions.

Remember, the deadline for submissions is May 31st, 2018. The round-up post will be scheduled to go up on June 1st at 10 a.m. EST. Late posts will still be accepted in June, and edited into the post as they come in.

I look forward to seeing what people have to say!

Components of Resilience: Tenacity

In June 2015, for the Carnival of Aces I hosted on mental health, I wrote about resilience.  This year’s June Carnival of Aces is about Resiliency. I find it pretty awesome that discussion of mental health and wellness has not only not faded into the background, but that we’re officially returning to spotlight this topic one year later.

Note: This post briefly mentions transphobic bigotry, hate crimes, the mass murders in Orlando, using survivors as rhetorical devices, and abuse. These are mostly contained in a single paragraph (you’ll spot it), and I don’t go into detail.

Introduction

In my post last year, I gave an overview of a working concept of resiliency passed on to my by my therapist. Because, while “ability to bounce back” is a good nutshell definition, it’s not very practical when it comes to actually attempting to build up your own resilience. For that, you need to break it down into smaller components—and then from there, into concrete steps you can take to work on strengthening yourself in those areas.

Personally, I like to think of it in terms of video games, but that can potentially be confusing because some games use “resilience” as a simple, single stat. It’s actually more like a meta-stat, like how in Diablo III, Toughness is a calculation of your combined Vitality & Life (HP), Armor, Resistances, and any passive damage reduction you have to estimate the average amount of damage the player would have to take in one hit to go from full health to zero. There are lots of variables that this doesn’t take into account, but it’s just there to give players a basic idea of where they’re at. Continue reading

June 2015 Carnival of Aces Round-Up: Mental Health

This past month we’ve had a lot of really important conversations about mental health. It is my hope that these will serve as a point to ground future attempts to educate therapists in the actual lived experiences of the aces who most desperately need their care. Too often, in their haste to de-pathologize asexuality, asexual activists say “We’re not broken!” and forget about those of us who really might be. No effort to educate health care professionals will be acceptable if in doing so we continue to minimize and stigmatize aces who do face mental illness.

We should neither have to pretend to feel happy and never distressed or confused about asexuality in order to convince the world it’s okay to be ace, nor play up our problems or say they are all because of asexuality in order to gain “oppressed enough” status.

So please read these entries with that in mind. I’ve organized them into three categories based on theme. Personal narratives and discussion of the asexual community were so often paired that I found it easier to combine them. The second most frequent theme was about therapy and barriers to treatment. Finally, we had some discussion of how we can cope and support one another.

Personal Narratives and Asexual Community Discourse

Laura (hella-non-mono edit: now [Purr]ple [L]ace, link updatedwrote about having Binge Eating Disorder. This post spawned a lot of good conversations (check out the notes), and then an entirely new blog specifically for the intersection of asexuality and eating disorders (as well as other body image-related issues).

Thicketofcomplication shared her story [tw: sexual assault mention, hypersexuality, mention of sex, self-harm, dissociation, drinking].

Laura P. wrote about how isolation, erasure, and invalidation have affected her mental health.

Jon wrote about the complicated tangle of asexuality, neurodivergence, and bipolar illness. [tw: abuse, suicide ideation, compulsory sexuality]

Aqua wrote about asexuality and codependency. [tw: sexual coercion, emotional abuse, invalidation]

Queenie wrote about what having PTSD is like. [tw: sexual assault mention]

Sara at Flying While Falling Down wrote about deciding not to talk about sexual assault anymore. [strong TW for rape, abuse, not being believed, self-harm, eating disorder, suicide attempts, pregnancy]

The Anonymous Asexual wrote about how assertions that “asexuals aren’t broken” hurt. [tw: gaslighting, ableism related to mental illness, brief mentions of trauma]

Tristefere wrote about the way that the asexual community’s respectability politics harm, and how the simplistic narrative around mental illness needs to change. [tw: depression, anxiety, suicide ideation, Oppression Olympics]

Soodalgwayeou wrote about identity crisis, self-questioning, and invalidation. [tw: brief mention of childhood abuse, corrective therapy]

Kria wrote about sexual self-harm, and a delayed realization of asexuality because of it. [tw: self-harm, sex discussion, depression, some abuse mentions—nothing graphic, however]

Maris wrote about neurodivergence, anxiety, and doubting their asexuality. [tw: mentions of abuse, sexual trauma, homophobia, suicidal implications]

Demisexual and Proud hosted a series of responses: 1, 23, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 [tw: Number 8 mentions sexual assault and victim-blaming.]

Morgaine has won wrote about how difficult it is to figure out whether or not identities were caused by trauma. [tw: emotional abuse mention, sexual abuse mention, grooming mention, emotional numbness, dissociation]

 

Therapy and Barriers to Treatment

An anonymous person offered a South Korean perspective on asexuality and mental health. [tw: erasure, invalidation, abuse, suicidal ideation]

Laura P.’s second submission dealt with obstacles to therapy as an asexual Muslim convert.

Stormy wrote about why it’s okay to refuse therapy. [tw: medical abuse, therapist abuse, rape mention]

Epochryphal wrote about CBT and the sneakiness of therapeutic abuse. [tw: gaslighting, abuse, self-blame, invalidation]

Alice wrote about relationship status and sexual orientation as gatekeeping for transition, and the importance of ace affirmative therapy.

Nicola wrote about difficulties finding competent treatmenttherapy that works and doesn’t work [tw: invalidation, ableism]

Writer Ace wrote about the need for therapists and schools to make spaces explicitly safe for asexuals.

Coping and Support

Elaine wrote about her mental health leaving her with few options other than marriage for financial security, and the bind that would put her in due to asexuality and Islam. [tw: compulsory sexuality, some discussion of marriage as prostitution]

I wrote an overview of components of resilience, which helps me to identify how I can fortify my own ability to cope. (Cross-posted to RFAS, where I will likely write a further breakdown in the future.)

Nicola’s third and fourth submissions were about community and coping, and support.

Hope for Aces, a “dedicated space for asexual spectrum, aromantic spectrum, and sex-/romance-repulsed people to discuss eating disorders, body dysmorphia, or other body-image or food-related issues,” was created. There have been a lot of good posts geared towards coping and supporting one another there!

 

July 2015

The next carnival will be held at Next Step: Cake, and the topic is “Asexual History.” If you’d like to volunteer to host a future carnival, please do so at the Carnival of Aces Masterpost.

You can still submit late entries until the end of July, and I will edit this post to add them in. After that, please continue discussing! You can send in links from before or after the carnival to Resources for Ace Survivors, and we will feature them on our Asexuality and Mental Health page. This blog and RFAS are both still open to hosting guest posts.

Please let me know if I’ve missed anything! Thank you all so much for participating. :)

March Carnival of Aces Roundup: Sexual Exploration

This month’s Carnival of Aces has been a blast, thanks everyone for participating! If you have a post that didn’t quite make the deadline, you can still post it here in the comments, and I’ll edit it into this post. I’m pretty sure I got everyone who commented or emailed me added in, but if I’ve somehow missed your post, I’m sorry! If you commented later than a certain point, it may be that I just didn’t get a chance to edit the post again between when you commented and when the post was scheduled to go up.

Also, if I got your pronouns wrong, please let me know. I did my best to check which pronouns people use, but sometimes that information is not obvious/clearly marked in a location that’s easy to find.

The topic was Sexual Exploration, which I chose intentionally to be a “double entendre” of sorts, so that we could have posts from both asexuals exploring sexuality (directly or intellectually), and posts from *sexual partners of asexuals exploring their relationships with their partners.

I think the topic was a big success—we’ve had many excellent posts on a wide variety of subjects. Here’s the full list:

From Ace-spectrum folk:

  • From VanillaAbsolute, a discussion of sexual attraction and sexual desire.
  • Isaac discusses one reason he was hesitant to identify as asexual, and learning about sexuality.
  • From henshin, a guest post on her process of self-discovery through sexual exploration.
  • Idealistic Ironist talks about the difficulties of navigating issues of sex as an asexual person.
  • Charles (from Sex, Drugs, and Dr. Who) talks about how sex ed is important for asexuals, too.
  • I wrote about “friends with benefits” and how even though asexuals might want to explore casual sex, the language typically used to describe such relationships is very exclusionary towards asexuals.
  • This post from sidneyia describes her frustrated attempts to explore sexuality in a way that didn’t come naturally to her, before she realized that she is asexual.
  • Norah talks about exploring sexuality before and after realizing that she is asexual, and a little bit about mixed relationships.

From *sexual partners of aces:

  • My own partner, C (she comments here as Cat Pajamas), kicked off the month with her post on Why Date an Asexual? Technically she posted this before I even knew I’d be doing the carnival this month, and then she helped me to hastily solidify my idea for a topic into a single phrase. When I put the call for submissions post up, she was a little upset that the post she’d worked on for the better part of a year fell so quickly from the top of the page, so I backdated the call post to bump it back up. Her post had a record-breaking number of views, with 676 people viewing my blog on Feb 4th, the day after it was added. For context, the previous high record was when the House post went up, at 403 views. Given that her post was so topical and popular, I felt like I couldn’t not include it, even though it wasn’t technically written for the carnival.
  • Laura brings the perspective of a sexual woman married to Tom, an asexual man, for 25 years. The story of how they make it work despite their conflicting orientations, and how they finally are able to move forward after Tom realizes that he is asexual is very powerful.
  • I’m excited to host a guest post by Olivier about how he and his wife explored sexuality before ultimately realizing that she is asexual. As usual, he expresses how they journeyed together with an excellent extended metaphor.

Thanks again for your participation, everyone! I hope those of you who didn’t submit have enjoyed reading along. The next Carnival will be hosted by Pip over at Hobbit Activism.

Sex With Friends: An Asexual Perspective

I planned to write my post for the Carnival of Aces quite a while ago, but something came up this month that made me reconsider what I had planned to write about. I’ve decided to go with the original idea, but make it more generalized than I had originally planned. My blog is receiving a lot more attention lately (by several orders of magnitude!) than it normally does, so I’m being more cautious about what I talk about here.

Today, I want to talk about having sex with friends, and how while it may not seem intuitive, it might be a choice that some asexual people do want to make, and they can come out of it just fine. But the language we use to describe relationships like that tends to exclude asexuals, so it can be an even more difficult minefield to navigate than engaging in sexual activity while in a romantic relationship.

Back when this blog post by Snowdrop Explodes* about the phrases “friends with benefits” vs. “fuck buddies” was written, I stuck a link to it in a draft and decided to come back to it later, but then forgot about it until now. In it, Snowdrop says that he prefers the term “fuck buddies” because it is more honest than the euphemistically named “benefits” that also imply that friendships don’t normally come with benefits. In his words:

So how come the only “benefits” that are worth mentioning, or making special mention of, are sexual favours? Why is the rest of it considered not to be benefits of friendship, such that the only friends who come with benefits are the ones who’ll let you fuck them? Do you think that it is too literal-minded of me to suggest that “friends with benefits” means that all other friends are “friends without benefits”?

I don’t think it’s too literal-minded at all. At the very least, it shows that everything else in a friendship is being taken for granted. I think it’s very much worth considering the implications of the language we use to describe relationships like this on a literal level, because it says something about how we value certain things and devalue others. If on a cultural level we truly valued friendships as highly as sexual relationships, the phrase “friends with benefits” wouldn’t sit right with most people, and it would fall out of use.

I disagree with Snowdrop’s use of the term “fuck buddies” as basically a synonym for FWB, since I think (and he does note that this is how he sees others using the terms) they do indeed refer to different kinds of relationships, or at least, the same relationship viewed with very different emphases. If you say you have a “fuck buddy,” then you are saying that the primary activity that you do with that person is fuck them, just like if you say you have a “drinking buddy” or a “knitting buddy,” you’re saying you primarily drink or knit with that person, respectively. The activity is the focus, not the friendship itself. If anyone describes a friend as a “_____ buddy” to me, I will assume that they do hardly anything else but [fill in the blank] together. With the phrase “friend with benefits,” however, you indicate that the friendship comes first, and the “benefits” are an added bonus, although the fact that this particular thing is the only thing that gets to be called a “benefit” still devalues friendship.

The other term that I think really needs mentioning is “casual sex,” which wikipedia informs me has no set, commonly agreed-upon meaning. The way I tend to view it is as a wide umbrella term for different kinds of sex outside the context of a romantic relationship, including both one-time encounters with strangers and, on the other side of the spectrum, habitual encounters with friends. So both fuck buddies and FWBs are engaging in a type of casual sex, and while the relationships may be similar, the two phrases have a different emotional tenor.

To demonstrate… if I were in a relationship that I considered basically a FWB-type arrangement (for lack of a better term), I would be hurt if I found out I was being described as a “fuck buddy” to others by my FWB. Because to me, that means they consider the rest of our friendship to be shallow, nearly meaningless. It strongly implies to me that should the sex ever stop, so would our friendship.

I personally can’t imagine a situation in which I would be okay with having a relationship that focuses solely on sex. I always want to be friends first and foremost, and that includes in romantic relationships. I’m not the type of person who would be comfortable having sex with strangers, since there are so many considerations that I need my sexual partners to keep in mind about me in order to have a truly positive sexual encounter.

But with a friend? Maybe that’s possible.

Continue reading