Baseball is Creepy!

The baseball metaphor, that is.

While messing around on the intarwebs tonight, I came across this article about finding a positive sexual metaphor. I’d highly recommend that everyone go take a look! In the first part of the article, the author examines baseball as a metaphor for sex in American culture, and just how insidious this metaphor really is:

Baseball is fundamentally oppositional. Both teams can’t win. One team wins and the other loses. As sex, that’s about one partner “gaining” something, and the other partner “losing” something. In our culture, women tend to lose status when they have sex, and there’s a lot of hubbub about women “losing” their “precious virginity.” Men, on the other hand, gain status and respect from sexual experience. This aspect of the model also serves to reinforce gender stereotypes, which are rarely conducive to safe, empowered and satisfying sexual encounters.

Could this have had anything to do with my own fairly intense fear of rape? I was born into the losing team, after all. And the message that I will lose out if I have sex is everywhere, as is the message that the “opposite team” is out to get me–to force or coerce me into having sex without regard for my own feelings about it. In a lot of cases, that really does happen to people, and when it does, doesn’t the baseball metaphor for sex provide the perfect excuse for the assailant? After all, it’s just how you win the game. No wonder there are so many rape apologists!

In its literal sense, baseball can be a fun game, but unlike its literal counterpart, when we’re talking about sex as baseball, there is almost never a switch-up between which team is batting and which is on the field–there is not supposed to be; you are born as either a batter or an outfielder, and that’s where, at least in theory, you stay.  That takes all the fun out of it, doesn’t it? Because if sex happens, somebody loses, and that loser is determined before the game even starts. It’s a predictable, rigid social role. To win the game says nothing about whether the sex was enjoyable for either party. It’s just about whether or not it happens.

This underlying way of thinking has shaped my experiences with heterosexual men, and that’s not to say that they all thought that way themselves, but that this unhealthy power dynamic exists at all has made me extra wary of dealing with “the opposite team”–to the point that I, for the most part, choose to simply opt out of dealing with them entirely, and instead I generally only play with the queer team. It just removes that whole level of uncertainty, that vague sense of wondering whether this person is playing against me, that sense of always having to be vigilant, just in case. Queer people can’t play the game like everyone else anyway; they aren’t allowed to be included in it in the first place.

The article goes into a lot more detail about that, and also proposes an alternative metaphor for sexuality: eating pizza. It’s definitely a much more ace-positive model, since nobody assumes that everybody must eat pizza; while they may be rare, there are just some people who don’t, and that’s fine.

I do think, however, that the metaphor starts to break down a little here:

Eating pizza with a partner is also not a radically different experience from eating pizza alone. The pizza model deflates the myth that masturbation is a lesser sexual experience than partnered sex. Eating pizza alone encompasses the complete pizza-eating experience, just as masturbation is a complete sexual experience. When we do it it with someone else, the fullness of the experience doesn’t change, we simply add communion with our partner(s) to the experience. What’s different is the companionship, intimacy, variety, and possibly the fun of having someone feed you for a change.

I am not sure whether we should classify masturbation as a purely sexual experience. After all, there are plenty of asexuals who masturbate but do not necessarily consider the experience sexual. To some, it may be. To others… the very reason it might be considered okay is because it seems to be a lesser sexual experience (though even then, many find it bothersome). It really isn’t all that involved, when compared to partnered sex, whereas when eating pizza, aside from the initial negotiation of toppings, the actual act of eating the pizza is not different when doing it alone or with a partner. More is required of the person who is having sex with a partner, as opposed to the person who is masturbating. In many cases, a lot more is required. I just don’t think the difference translates well, when we use this metaphor as a vehicle for expression.

I guess the question is really about whether we consider something to be sexual based on sexual appetite, or whether we consider it to be sexual based on which body parts are involved. It seems that people define things as sexual using both of these determinants in different situations. For example, some people think that kissing is sexual–for them, perhaps, it arouses a sexual appetite. But then, to continue the metaphor, people can still eat something even if they have no appetite. Is it the physical act of sex that defines it? If so, which physical act(s) are we talking about, here? Or is it more about the mental aspect of it, the desire/appetite? In some cases, it’s clear how to define it, but in other cases, like this one, it really isn’t.

I also usually have a problem with food-based metaphors for sex because of the idea that having sex is a need, in the same sense that it is a need for humans to eat. I will admit that there is a need for people to procreate, but it is not an individual need, it is only a collective need. Every individual member of a species does not need to procreate in order for the species to survive. However, every individual must eat in order for the individual to survive. So you really have to be careful not to take a comparison of sexual desire with hunger too far. In this case, though, I think the metaphor of sex as eating pizza works okay, on that level, because it refers only to a specific kind of food, and not to food in general. People who don’t eat pizza can thoroughly enjoy other foods, and that’s not weird at all. Likewise, people who don’t enjoy or engage in sexual activities can get plenty of fulfillment from other activities in life!

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Edit from the future: For further reading, check out this post by figleaf.

Special Treatment?

As a follow-up post to yesterday’s post about asexuality as a disability, I wanted to talk about the idea that apparently, asexuals must be given “special treatment.”

I think this idea stems mainly from the idea that asexuality affects sexual relationships in a way that sexuals are not accustomed to, rather than from any difficulty getting along with everyday life. But even so… what the hell?

Why is it that “special treatment” is required in order to deal with asexuality, whereas homosexuality is dealt with without any such treatment? Certainly, there are differences between the way one would treat a gay man as opposed to a straight one. One wouldn’t walk up to a straight guy and try to set him up on a date with another guy, unless one is looking for a punch in the face. Likewise, a tolerant person would never walk up to a non-closeted gay man and try to set him up with a woman. These are just differences based on different people’s personal preferences. Failing to appropriately modify one’s behavior based on the known sexual orientation of the person one is interacting with would essentially be the same as serving meat to a vegan, or strawberries to a person who is known to be allergic to strawberries. Just a little more insulting.

The essential difference here is that when one makes these kinds of changes to one’s behavior in order to deal with different types of people, it is not demeaning to those people. Their basic humanity and maturity is not in question. But when dealing with asexuals, most sexual people either do not make these adjustments to their behavior, or make negative adjustments to their behavior, believing that asexuality is not real, or if it is, it must be a disorder or in this case, a disability. It is not seen as a natural and healthy pattern of sexual attraction (or lack thereof), but rather as a flaw that prevents us from living a fulfilling life.

Because of course, having sex is the only possible way an adult can find fulfillment.

And so, in order to uphold their own ideology, sexuals must find some way to discount asexuals as fully developed human beings. There is no room for us in their picture of the world, just as there is no room for any evidence backing evolutionary theory in a young Earth creationist’s picture of the world. Accepting us would be inconsistent; therefore we must not count as real human beings. We must be underdeveloped, we must be lacking basic emotions, we must be delusional, we must have some kind of disorder or disability. Thus the idea of “special treatment” which, in any other circumstance, would not be considered special treatment but just regular old consideration for people who are different from you–in other words, tolerance.

This is basically the same attitude that people who think asexuality is a phase have–“Oh, we’ll humor her because she’s going through this phase, just let it be and she’ll come out of it by herself.” Just dressed up in a different mindset. “Oh, I’ll have to humor her because she is disabled.” Instead of being treated as an adult human being whose way of thinking just happens to be different, I am being compared to (direct quote!) “a 5 year old, cross-eyed child.” Yeah, thanks.

Asexuality as a Disability?

Okay, so anyone who’s not a total newbie to the asexual community has heard of the idea that asexuality is a disorder. Right? Well, M had a different idea. A couple of months ago, he told me this:

“Parade your asexual banner around as much as you would like, but in my eyes, you are handicapped; and if you could see yourself with my perspective and understanding of sexuality, I am certain you would understand that conclusion.”

Wow. Never mind the frightening similarity to homophobia–that’s actually an intriguing idea, if only because it’s something I’ve never heard before. It got me thinking. What would happen if, once the ignorant masses finally become aware of asexuality, they all eventually adopted this way of thinking? How would the asexual community react, and what about the disabled community? Is it actually justifiable? Continue reading