Comments on survey design

Because this survey (on “sexual and asexual relationship dynamics” from Ball State University) did not have any option to leave comments on the design of the survey and what the questions were supposed to mean at the end, I’m going to just leave my comments here. I started copying and pasting questions into Notepad somewhere in the middle of the survey, so these are only some of the issues I had with this survey. I surely have forgotten others. At the end, I will mention the way the survey handled consent, but I’m mostly not focusing on that.

I want to preface this by saying that I am really annoyed by MOST surveys, I just don’t typically have the time to comment on them like this, and when there is an option to share comments about the survey within the survey itself, there is usually no need to share those comments publicly. This survey is not even remotely exceptional or surprising. More discussion of asexuals’ responses to academic surveys can be found in a fairly recent Asexual Agenda question of the week. I hope that people who research asexuality consider these problems when designing surveys in the future. Honestly, these are mostly problems that testing with a focus group could have helped iron out. It is very frustrating that these issues don’t ever seem to be corrected before the surveys are sent out.

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Guest Post: I was curious, so I chose to have sex! Then, my curiosity was satiated. I decided never to have sex again.

This is a guest post by luvtheheaven, for my project expanding on and then revising my consent guide, How to Have Sex with an Asexual Person. I am collecting a bunch of posts to link to in my revision, since so many readers have come to me looking for more on the subject, and some ace people felt their experiences weren’t represented well enough. There’s a lot more that could be said, but I’m not the best person to write all of it! So if you have anything that you think would be useful for non-asexual-identifying people who are or might want to become sexual partners of ace-spectrum people to read, please submit! Ideally, I’d like to cross-post these as guest posts here, as a safety net in case the original posters’ blogs eventually move or get taken down, but that’s not required. You can also submit anonymously. Please email me at prismatic.entanglements [at] gmail.com or comment to submit.

Someone has also kindly offered to translate the article into Spanish (!), so I’m going to open my call for supplemental posts to Spanish-speakers, too. Gracias!

Below you’ll find luvtheheaven’s notes about the post, and then the post itself, which was originally posted here.


 

[Content Note: the following blog post is NSFW and contains very explicit descriptions of sexual situations. I also discuss menstruation/ovulation briefly.]

Elizabeth over at Prismatic Entanglements is collecting as many different articles related to the topic of respectfully approaching sex with asexual people as people are willing to write. In order to do my own small part to help, I’m sharing my experiences below. It is a response to this Tentative Revisions post she put up, and I definitely recommend you read onlyfragmentspost which was also written for this purpose as well. She discusses her journey toward where she is now: enjoying a sexual relationship with her girlfriend. It’s a very different post than what I am writing, below.


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On post titles, re: tumblr comments

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.

How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person

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.


Step One: DO YOU HAVE PERMISSION?

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.)

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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.]

Seduction and Its Nasty Implications

[Trigger warning for sexual assault.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuing a Discussion on Asexuality and Rape Culture

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

So here’s my comment:

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

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

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

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

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

What constitutes a “real” rape?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asexuality vs. Rape Culture

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

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

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

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

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

And in our culture, that happens A LOT!!

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

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

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

Thoughts?

Asexuality and Rape

I’ve been reading a couple of other asexy blogs, and one thing struck very close to home, for me. Venus of Willendork had this to say in her about section:

“Let me put it this way: It’s only in terms of other people that I am able to distinguish between consensual sex and rape. Obviously I understand that there’s a difference, and I recognize the importance of that difference, but in terms of myself, I literally cannot conceive of consensual sex. It’s not that I can’t conceive of having it, I can’t conceive of *wanting* to have it, and so – given that we live in a culture that teaches girls and women not to walk alone at night, not to dress provocatively for fear of asking for it, etc – my concept of having sex (myself) blurs into my concept of being raped.”

This was certainly very true for me, for a long time. It makes sense, doesn’t it? For a woman who has never wanted to have sex, who cannot even imagine herself ever wanting to have it, the idea of having it at all would become difficult to bear. And in this society, a very real fear of being raped is instilled in women’s minds, because it is up to women to be on the defensive. If she doesn’t take the proper precautions, if she is not constantly vigilant in case the vague specter of the invisible predator shapes itself into a flesh-and-blood man who thinks she is there for the taking, then she deserved it. It is her burden to carry, not his; men are often excused for their behavior because they “couldn’t help it.” And strangers are not the only ones women are taught to fear, either. Date rape is another possibility, so if she doesn’t want to have sex with the person she’s dating, she must keep questioning in the back her mind whether or not he’s trustworthy. Continue reading