2017: Reflecting, Revising, Restructuring, Recovering (Part 2)

I’ve been reflecting back on my hard-won personal progress of the past year and making notes about what’s working best for me now, so that I can come back to this post in the future and remind myself of these strategies when I need to. Continue reading

Advertisements

Components of Resilience: Creativity and Adaptability

This is part four of a series of posts dedicated to breaking down components of resilience. The series is an elaboration on a post I made in 2015, continued now as part of the June 2016 Carnival of Aces on Resiliency. In part one of this series, I covered tenacity. In part two, I covered affect management and positive frameworks. In part three, I covered support network and discernment.

In this final post, I will cover creativity and adaptability. Compared to most of the other items, these two are fairly self-explanatory. Since I don’t have to focus on giving an overview, I’ll be focusing more on my own experiences this time. Warning: I will discuss parental abuse, including some major privacy violations, and invalidation/gaslighting. I allude to but do not mention other kinds of abuse, but mostly it’s just general trauma/recovery talk. Continue reading

Blog Rants: The Early Ace Blogosphere

This post is part of a series and cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda; you can view the masterpost here. It also fits the theme of the July Carnival of Aces on Asexual History, although it’s slightly late!

Previously, I contextualized my personal history with both blogging and the asexual community leading up to my decision to join WordPress. Now, I want to talk about the formation and history of the Ace Blogosphere proper. Continue reading

Writing About Asexuality in a Classroom Setting

Cross-posted to the The Asexual Agenda.

Earlier this month, I wrote about some of the trouble I encountered in creative writing classes here [tw: verbal abuse by teachers, domestic violence mentions]. Consider this post a sort of follow-up to that one. It is also my official submission for the March Carnival of Aces, although I think most of what I wrote about this month is on-topic enough to include even though it wasn’t specifically for the carnival.

Last time, my focus was on trouble with teachers, and how as a survivor (and secondarily, as an ace) sometimes creative writing classes are especially difficult. This time, I want to focus on reception of different types of work about asexuality specifically, and mostly from peers rather than teachers.

Essays

I first started writing about asexuality in essays, for your basic English 101 class—the slightly advanced version, I guess. This was in 2005, which was well before our movement had gained most of the momentum we now have. It was a basic 101 class, and a basic 101 essay. Continue reading

The Trouble with Creative Writing Programs

[TW: domestic violence mentions, normalization of child abuse, marginalization of survivors.]

I’m a writer. I’ve dedicated years to learning my craft, and continue to practice daily. Eventually, I’d like to be able to subsist solely off of royalties, but I know that isn’t likely to happen in the next decade. I’ll probably linger in relative obscurity forever. I have a fairly realistic view of my situation, I’d like to think.

When I was in school, I waffled about trying to decide on a major. Computer science? Sociology? Linguistics? Women’s Studies? Japanese? I had many interests, but none of the above captured my attention quite as much as creative writing. When my school developed an undergraduate English program focused on creative writing, I switched over.

And for the most part, it was wonderful. I learned a lot about writing, especially the importance of revision. It was great to meet other writers and be part of a critique circle. Some of them in particular were so good, their work was a real joy to read. I felt honored to be able to do so. The creative writing program’s teachers were knowledgeable and quite genuinely very nice, and for the most part perfectly willing to accommodate me when I (inevitably) succumbed to symptoms of PTSD. Some of them didn’t even need to hear a reason for my absences or late assignments; they just worked with me.

Except one. Continue reading

Review: The Invisible Orientation by Julie Sondra Decker

Asexual Bingo card

Asexual Bingo card created by the author. Click for a flier with information about her book!

I’ve been waiting for this book for a long time.

Years before it was written, I remember reading a conversation on LJ in which the author, Julie Sondra Decker (also known as swankivy), talked about potentially writing a book like this. Then, when it finally came out, my copy got lost in the mail! It took months for me to get the situation sorted out and actually receive a copy, although part of that was that I was out of town and without internet access for a significant part of last fall.

But it’s finally here, and now that I’ve read it twice, I can say with complete confidence: it’s excellent!

Before we continue, please note: Although I’ve been part of the ace community for a long time, and spent a bit of that time talking to the author several years ago, I was not in any way involved with the creation of this book. I didn’t provide any quotes, nor did I do any beta-reading. Because I took a long hiatus from the community starting in 2012, I didn’t even know that it was finally being written until after a release date had been announced!

So when I read this, I came into it with, perhaps, fewer expectations for exactly what was going to make it into the book than those who contributed to it… and also more criticisms, because one can generally expect most of the contributors’ criticisms to have been addressed before release.

What/Who is this book for?

As stated in the introduction, the book “should function as a starting point for people interested in asexuality.” It’s “for the layperson, written in everyday language” because “everyone will benefit from knowing that asexuality exists, that it isn’t a disorder, and that asexual people can be trusted to describe their own feelings.”

Fair enough! So I’m judging this based on those stated goals. This isn’t supposed to be the be-all and end-all of any writing on asexuality—it’s just a beginning.

And does it succeed at being a good beginning? Yes!

This is the Asexuality 101 book. It’s for laypersons, but I think it should also be required reading for professionals looking to better serve their asexual clients. It’s a starting point for real understanding, and one that outsiders looking in just can’t provide.

Books are prone to becoming quickly outdated as societal understanding deepens, and even less than a year after its release, there are already some passages beginning to show their age. But that’s more about how fast our high-level community discourse moves! On that level, it makes sense to forgive the subtle nuances rooted in older discussions. Here, we find the community’s foundation, preserved by someone who has been part of it much longer than most of us.

On such solid ground, we can now take steps toward further progress.

What Works

First, let’s talk about the best parts.

  • The writing is clear, concise, and casual. It’s easy to follow for a layperson, so it definitely achieves the right level of accessibility for its intended audience—and, crucially, it does so without feeling like it’s talking down to anyone.
  • It has a great hook for anyone starting the book right from the beginning. The author’s personal experiences and history of involvement with the community (pre-dating the establishment of AVEN) contextualize the book, and quickly dispel any notions that asexuality is “what the kids on Tumblr are making up these days” without having to directly address that charge. I particularly appreciate the acknowledgment that she’s been fairly lucky in terms of having “supportive family, unshakable confidence, no serious problems or issues in [her] life, and a thick skin,” because it’s important for readers to know that others haven’t been so lucky.
  • The structure of the book is very well thought out. It is divided into five parts: 1) Asexuality 101, 2) Asexual Experiences, 3) The Many Myths of Asexuality, 4) If You’re Asexual (Or Think You Might Be), and 5) If Someone You Know is Asexual (Or Might Be). This allows a person searching for specific information to pick up the book and flip to the most relevant section. The author also makes very good use of headers, sub-headers, lists, and bold text so that skimming readers will still pick up on the most important points.
  • I love the quotes from other community members highlighted in gray boxes throughout the book. They tie in others’ experiences, clarify concepts, provide illustrations of things described in the main text, visually break things up so that the reader will tend to feel less overwhelmed by walls of text, and serve as extra hooks to draw readers (back) in.
  • My personal favorite highlighted quote is at the top of page 38: It’s an anonymous person’s illustration of their experience with grayness through the metaphor of soda vs. water vs. water-with-a-bit-of-soda-in-it. I think that’s a brilliant analogy to explain experiences of graysexuality not defined by rarity, and I think it will be clarifying for a lot of people. It resists the most common way of explaining grayness, and I think that’s exactly the sort of thing that’s needed in visibility efforts to allow others to really understand these concepts.
  • Many points are supported by footnotes leading to more information, with a great bibliography in the back so that readers can look up the relevant studies for themselves. There is also a large list of other resources in the back—although books can’t keep up with the constant change of the internet, so a few of them have already disappeared.

If you’re a writer, all of the above are great lessons.

Cover of The Invisible Orientation

Cover of The Invisible Orientation

I also appreciate the minimalist cover, because it really mirrors how minimized and, indeed, invisible asexuality tends to be. Technically, that’s not part of the writing, and probably not something the author could control. Many people will tell you “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But I think that people also tend to greatly underestimate how important packaging really is in whether or not a book will sell. And considering that this is supposed to intrigue people enough to introduce them to asexuality for the first time and legitimize the orientation in their minds, in this case a professional look is especially important.

What Doesn’t Work

Now, I was all set to rate this five stars… but upon rereading the first half of the book and counting up the places where there are serious issues, I have to take it down to four. These are issues that (mostly) seemed very minor to me… until I really started thinking about the implications of them. I summarized these in my Goodreads review, but here I will fully explain them.

If these points seem to take up too much space, that’s only because they are such subtle points that I have to use a lot more space to explain! I’m citing specific examples with page numbers so that everyone can see what I’m talking about for themselves and come to their own conclusions. I think we can apply the lessons we learn from these examples to other visibility efforts. Continue reading

Trigger warnings: when to use them and why they help

The following is a comment I posted here about trigger warnings—proceed with caution, the link includes some pointed barbs and many commenters who really miss the point.  The post was specifically about whether or not authors should use trigger/content warnings for books.

Here are my thoughts:

As a person with PTSD, I think that generally, people really, really don’t understand why trigger warnings are important, and in what situations they are helpful.

A trigger warning is there for those of us with such psychological disabilities (and yes, it is that severe that many of us have to go get declared as having a disability in order to participate in things like university classes—especially when sometimes, being enrolled at a university is the only way to get access to treatment). It’s there because CONTROLLED EXPOSURE to triggering material is important in mitigating the impact that PTSD has on one’s life. That’s not to say that we don’t ever read triggering materials. We do, and sometimes it’s actually *helpful* to read them. Engaging with triggering materials can sometimes be GOOD—but only when we’re in the frame of mind to be able to do that. Only when it’s NOT likely to completely take over and make it so that we can’t complete the other tasks that we are supposed to do. If I had adequate warnings, I wouldn’t engage with triggering materials right before I have some sort of deadline, for example.

But most of the time, you don’t get any sort of warning. And saying “oh, well you have a responsibility to research it beforehand” isn’t really helpful, because while I do try to do that, it’s not always something that’s actually possible. For example, say I watch a TV show regularly, and in general I’ve found it to be completely fine, with no triggers. But suddenly, there’s a plot twist which now DOES involve a triggering subject. This is the first time the episode has aired, so I wouldn’t be able to rely on other people to tell me before that comes up. So the plot twist happens and now I’m already triggered, but I have a choice: keep watching, or stop? If this is a show I’m watching as it airs, then I’m pretty invested in the show, so most likely I’ll keep going unless it’s really, really bad. But I’ll start to get more wary of the show, and treat it with greater caution in the future.

And there are of course triggers which are personal, and it’s totally unreasonable for me to expect anyone to know about, or warn me of. I would suggest that the only triggers we should reasonably expect others to care about enough to warn people about are the ones that are very common—especially various types of violence and abuse.

But all of those unexpected triggers ADD UP. And they’re pretty frequent, even if they’re minor. It’s a death-by-a-thousand-cuts type of scenario.

So while you’re not *required* to use trigger warnings, you really should be advertising what sort of content your book includes in SOME way (good blurbs don’t require trigger warnings, because they’re descriptive enough that it becomes redundant information). If you don’t, I’m gonna think you’re either bad at blurbs or kind of a dick (being too scared of “spoiling” your work to adequately advertise what kind of content it contains is kind of narcissistic, in a way—it assumes that everyone reads books for the same reasons, or the same reasons every time), or possibly both. (And btw, I should note that I’m using a general “you,” not talking about you specifically—the blurb for Atlanta Burns was fine as far as I could tell without reading it.)

The situation is different when it comes to blogging and assigning books in a classroom setting.

People blog because they are having discussions within their communities. Not using trigger warnings–or making fun of them–is a passive-aggressive way to marginalize people with PTSD, and edge them out of their own communities. It reduces trust, and makes talking about trauma with the community harder.

Teachers at universities have a responsibility to keep in mind the needs of disabled students, including those with PTSD (who again, may only be still enrolled because they need to stay there in order to get treated at all). That means being flexible enough to have alternative assignments available, allowing students with issues like PTSD to turn in assignments late, having ground rules about content warnings in creative writing workshops, and yes, providing warnings when the assigned material is especially likely to be triggering to students with histories of trauma. I’ve had many teachers not only fail at accommodation in that way, but also create a hostile environment by perpetuating rape myths and making other very inappropriate comments (these not just from literature teachers but also from things like Human Sexuality 101 teachers, who should *really* know better). Being in a hostile environment that you really can’t escape like that REALLY marginalizes people who have ALREADY been victimized. Many bright students just have to drop out because of this.

So… yeah. Trigger warnings are most appropriate for discussion settings like blogs, and especially important for classroom settings. Smart writers can certainly get by without resorting to using them if they’re good enough at blurbs, but the content SHOULD be advertised in some way—or else you’ll just marginalize readers who shouldn’t have been your target audience anyway, and probably get some bad reviews.

Some further thoughts:

  • Trigger warnings have nothing to do with censorship, and they shouldn’t be used to censor.
  • They aren’t about things that people merely find uncomfortable. They are about showing care and concern for those with serious mental illnesses—trauma, eating disorders, things like that. It’s about actively including instead of marginalizing those readers/community members.
  • And it’s SUCH bullshit to call someone “weak” for having any mental illness, and make fun of them for wanting to manage it better, and have the support of their communities in doing so. Also bullshit: centering an author’s goal to “challenge” readers at the expense of those who would re-experience their trauma by reading the material. Challenging material is not automatically better than other material. That’s just elitism. Personally, I like to have a variety of material available.
  • Again, this is especially important in communities and discussion settings, like blogs and panels. And we’re aware that you may not know all of our personal triggers—we don’t expect you to. But there are some things that are pretty widely known to be triggering, and that’s what we want others to try their best to warn us about.
  • It is worth being more specific than just whether or not sexual violence is discussed. That is a broad topic, and can contain many different triggers of varying degrees. Is it just a discussion, or is there actually a rape scene? It can be hard to tell.
  • It’s worth mentioning things that could be triggering to some readers in book reviews—or if you are the author, making spoiler-tagged statements about what sort of triggering material readers might come across.

So what are your thoughts? Are there any specific trigger warnings that would be helpful, but you find often go unmentioned? I’d like to compile a list of trigger warnings for others to consult before publishing blog posts, to make it easier for those with no experience with trauma or other mental illnesses to actively include and show support for us.

Shutting Up: On writing, audience, and representation

Every writer has a pile of drafts that have never been published. Some of it just doesn’t deserve to see the light of day, but other drafts? Some of them are held back because we as writers just aren’t ready for the sort of attention that it would inevitably bring. Some of them are about topics we aren’t quite able to focus on long enough to bring to completion, because they are topics that sap so much mental and emotional energy that they would leave little room for the rest of… well, life, and especially enjoyment of it. Sometimes it’s a topic that has to be thought through very carefully in order to reach any sort of clarity about it, and that thinking-through period can last months or even years, well before the actual process of writing things down begins. Some writers like to go on about how nothing except the part where you actually sit down and do the writing counts as writing, but I disagree. I think the part where you do research and careful critical thinking about the subject you’re planning to write about is just that—critical to the process of writing. Writing without the benefit of reflection results in very shallow words that don’t offer anything truly insightful. Writing without being (or while trying not to be) vulnerable results in similar shallowness, and when your writing is very personal, you can end up with layers of dishonesty—unintentional, probably, but nevertheless real.

I’m going through a weird transitional phase right now as a writer. I’m not a student anymore, but I’m also not quite at the stage of publishing anything that will give me any sort of royalties, although I’m certainly working on it. At the moment, I’m trying to figure out how to support myself while working on it, which projects to work on, and how to find the support and self-care methods I will need to get through it.

This post is partly for the August 2014 Carnival of Aces (this month’s theme was the Unassailable Asexual), and partly something I would have eventually written anyway.

[Content Note: The rest of this post discusses sexual violence, minimization and victim-blaming, and vulnerability to abusers, as well as exploitation and privileging of certain narratives over others for the purpose of pushing compulsory sexuality. All links in this post also come with a huge warning. Please be mindful of your triggers and practice self-care. Please let me know if you think anything else needs to be included here.]

Continue reading

Achieving a Wide Variety of Representations

Well, now that I’ve discussed how I DON’T want asexuals/asexuality to be represented in the media, it’s time to talk about how I DO want us to be represented. This is the post that I originally intended to make for this month’s Carnival of Aces,  the topic of which is Re/presentation, and which I’d encourage you to submit a post for if you haven’t done so yet. The deadline is the 31st (tomorrow) but they can be submitted a day or two late.

First, though, a couple of updates.

The Asexual Awareness Week group has started a petition to get the executive producer’s attention about the damaging portrayal of asexuality on House. Please sign it and pass it on!

If you scroll down you’ll see that the Twitter feed is back on my blog with a new account linked, so if you were following my old one you’ll want to switch to following @Lunacinzenta. I am also going to start using Publicize to automatically post links to new blog posts on Twitter, so if you prefer to follow me that way you can. I’m going to make an effort to actually continue using Twitter this time, as well.

About the ongoing House Saga: I tweeted a link to my post to Kath Lingenfelter, the writer of the episode, asking her to read it so she might better understand what’s wrong with the portrayal of asexuality in the episode. She tweeted back:

@Lunacinzenta V. well written & clearly stated. Personal anecdote about M especially upsetting. Appreciate your continuing the conversation.

I am glad that she read the post and replied. Given the limited format of this medium, it’s difficult to know exactly what she’s thinking, and I know that many people are very skeptical that she’s genuinely apologetic. I agree that she has made several troublesome statements since the whole thing started blowing up in her face. However, for a person who has never actually given much thought to the rhetoric of apologizing, on the surface of it, “I’m sorry if I offended you,” and the like seem like perfectly fine ways to apologize. That’s kind of the whole point, isn’t it? They’re crafted to seem like an apology, so that some people will accept them as one. If someone has never had much experience with weaselly abusive people, maybe doesn’t follow politics all that closely, doesn’t read a lot of social justice blogs and so on, it’s possible that they’ve just never encountered analysis of what statements like that are actually saying, so they take not-pologies at face value and even use them themselves. It’s a lack of critical thinking about that topic, certainly, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t have genuine intentions. So I’ll cut her some slack. I’m not saying that I’ve decided for sure one way or another on whether her apologies are genuine, but I don’t have enough evidence to conclusively rule out the possibility that she is sincere, so she gets the benefit of the doubt for now.

The reason I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt is because a large part of what it means to be an ally is learning from your mistakes. The damage has already been done, and because it’s a popular show on international television, it is very widespread. It can’t be reversed, but maybe it can be mitigated somewhat. The asexual community by itself is marginalized enough that we don’t have the power to do that alone. Hence the petition. I don’t want to write off potential allies for making mistakes, but rather I want to provide them with an opportunity to learn how to do better. I’m offering myself up as a consultant, for Lingenfelter or anyone else who wants to write about asexuality—if you do, get in touch! I’m trying to provide resources here on this blog by answering questions that people may have through my series of Q&A posts; if anyone has questions, you can ask them completely anonymously on Formspring.

Dealing with stereotypes

With that out of the way, I want to talk about the problematic notion of a stereotype-free portrayal of asexuality.

I think at this point we’ve reached the stage where there is a certain “stereotypical asexual” that a lot of sexual people have in mind when they think of asexuals. I don’t think they imagine that all of these traits apply to all of us. There’s room for people to break stereotypes, but there are certain things that people just automatically assume about asexuals unless they have evidence to contradict their assumptions. Like:

  1. Asexuals are unattractive.
  2. Asexuals are socially awkward and/or are on the autistic spectrum.
  3. Asexuals spend too much time on the Internet. Make up too many new words.
  4. Asexuals are cold, analytical, robot-like. Not passionate.
  5. Asexuals are either very sexually inexperienced, or have experienced sexual trauma. This causes us to have a lot of anxiety about sex.
  6. Asexuals are all celibate or would all rather be celibate.
  7. Asexuals are white. Maybe sometimes Asian.
  8. Asexuals are gender non-conforming.
  9. Asexuals are isolated, alone.
  10. Asexuals are deceptive, hide their asexuality to get dates. Or are hiding that they are NOT asexual, delusional/self-deceptive.
  11. Asexuals are aspiring cat ladies.
  12. Asexuals are all huge nerds.
  13. Asexuals have something physically wrong with them (e.g. hormone problems, hypothyroidism, brain tumors, erectile dysfunction, etc.)
  14. Asexuals think they are better than people who have sex.

This may not be a complete list of stereotypes, but it’s what I can think of off the top of my head. I fit into maybe about half of these stereotypes, and break the rest. The tricky thing is that stereotypes don’t come from nowhere. A lot of us DO fit many of them. There’s a little grain of truth hidden behind most of them, although it’s distorted because people don’t understand what’s really going on and therefore interpret what they see in a much more negative way.

Take number ten. Asexual people who are married to non-asexual people get a LOT of flack, with many people just automatically assuming that they must have led their spouse on before the marriage (I’d provide links to back this up, but mostly I see this going on in comments sections of various articles dealing with asexuality, and I forget where exactly I’ve seen it, so if anyone has any examples, feel free to provide them in the comments). They take for granted that asexuals know their orientation before getting married, which in a lot of cases is not true. A lot of asexuals spend years not understanding what’s wrong with them, and only start coming to the realization that they are asexual after they’re in a marriage that isn’t working out well for them because of the issue of sex. This is only aggravated in religious circles where abstinence before marriage is considered the only moral alternative. So the little grain of truth to the stereotype is that sometimes people find out their partners are asexual after they’re already invested in a relationship. The problem is that then they assume more understanding and control over the situation than the asexual person actually had in reality, and from that assumption they conclude that the asexual person intentionally deceived them… because they’re evil or something, I guess. The second part of this stereotype of the “deceptive asexual” was reinforced during the recent episode of House. It’s true that sometimes people identify as asexual and then later realize that they are sexual after all, but people tend to look for any instance of that happening and then interpret that as evidence that all of us are lying, or lying to ourselves. Either way, it’s hugely exaggerated and distorted from what’s really going on.

At least a third of these stereotypes, if not more, are connected to stereotypes about other groups of people, like nerds and non-NT people, which are themselves interconnected. And the asexual community does appear to have a higher-than-average proportion of nerdy people and people on the autistic spectrum. Most likely this has to do with the visible community being based on the internet—there are local meet-up groups but they aren’t seen as much as AVEN, and due to the rarity and invisibility of asexuality they’re hard to plan without the aid of the internet. Nerds tend to be more likely to actually post and stay connected to the internet communities. I’m sure there are asexuals out there who aren’t terribly well-connected to asexual communities because they aren’t online that often.

Obviously, some of these stereotypes, like 10, are so damaging that they should never be reinforced. It’d be fine to explore a character who discovers that they’re asexual after being married, but not one who lies about being asexual in order to get married, because that wouldn’t be a fair representation of reality. But when it comes to stereotypes like “asexuals have Asperger’s” and the like, there’s a point where refusing to portray an asexual with Asperger’s becomes an act of erasure. It is even more an act of erasure when it comes to non-fictional media representations. Are asexuals with Asperger’s unfit to represent the rest of us in news pieces and documentaries because they aren’t NT, because they don’t “prove” that asexuals are perfectly normal? Of course not.

But if the ONLY representations of asexuals out there are asexuals who have Asperger’s, then we have a problem. Because there are a lot of asexuals who don’t fit that stereotype, and then they are erased.

So the key thing is not to try to avoid all the stereotypes, but rather to portray a wide variety of asexual characters who are fully developed, and break stereotypes in different ways. Pay attention to the balance of how asexual characters are being portrayed, and if there are already too many portrayals of one type and not enough of others, don’t contribute to it by making yet another character fit stereotype x. At the same time, we have to be mindful that we don’t slip into tokenism, including an asexual character who ___ just because we want to fill a quota, without being mindful of whether we can write that character well or not. Certain things, like characters with traumatic pasts, are sometimes used as a cheap way to give depth to a character without fully exploring their trauma in a thoughtful way. Asexual characters with trauma, especially sexual trauma, need to be extra-thoughtfully explored because there’s a lot of room for unintended “debunking” of their asexuality. Perhaps until we are more well established as a legitimate sexual orientation, it’s best to only explore asexual characters whose sexual traumas happened because of and were not the cause of, their asexuality. I’d trust an asexual writer infinitely more than I would a non-asexual writer trying to tackle topics like this. At this stage in our visibility efforts, though, fictional characters who are asexual are quite likely to be regarded as unreliable even when they aren’t meant to be read as such at all.

But as far as non-fictional media representation goes, we should all feel free to tell our own stories, whether they make asexuality’s legitimacy seem “unassailable” or not. We do have to be careful about where and to whom we try to tell our stories, because some journalists will be unscrupulous about attacking asexuality if they can find a “flaw” that they think they can use to “disprove” asexuality. I think a lot of journalists take the idea of being “fair and balanced” too far, and insist on providing a dissenting point of view even when the dissenter is clearly making things up. And some people, like Tyra Banks, who canceled her planned segment on asexuality because she couldn’t find an asexual married couple in the United States who were willing to volunteer, are only looking for one specific kind of asexual story to tell. So there’s a lot of erasure coming from both outsiders and people within the community who are so anxious about presenting an image of asexuality that can’t be attacked that they reflexively erase people who have aspects of their past or personality that people typically latch on to in order to claim that asexuality can’t be real. Those people often have a lot of anxiety about talking about those aspects of their stories, because they are so frequently attacked or erased. It’s very understandable that someone wouldn’t want to come forward and open themselves up to that kind of hostility. It’s much easier to just omit those parts of the story. But because these parts of our stories get omitted so frequently, they’re extremely difficult for non-asexual writers to research, and since the issues aren’t well understood, asexual writers are likely to find their fiction attacked as “unrealistic.” Thus, I tend to feel quite strongly that we need to explore these trickier topics in works of non-fiction first.

Good portrayals of asexual characters and good, balanced representations of asexuality in media require a lot of research and careful thought. Many non-asexual people who have not been involved with the community really underestimate the amount of research that they need to do in order to create a fair and thoughtful representation of asexuality. Above all else, we need stories about asexuals where those characters are NOT “debunked” by the facts presented in the story. My hope is that we can get people who want to write about asexual characters to actually run their stories by real-life asexuals for critique BEFORE they are published. Maybe we need to create some sort of organized group of asexual beta readers for that purpose. I would join that group in a heartbeat if it existed.

On “Better Half” – Gregory House Is Not Infallible

…Or at least, that’s how it should be written.

I’ve been watching House for years now. When I first started watching, it was sometime between the end of season two and the beginning of season three, and I burned through the first two seasons very quickly and then showed it to my best friend and then-roommate, K, who eagerly awaited season 3 with me. We would stop all our other activities and watch it together when it came on. Sometimes other people would come over to watch it with us, and we’d have little “House parties” but more often, we’d just shut the door and get quite annoyed when other people would disturb us in the middle of the show. As the seasons have worn on the show has held my interest, but it’s been waning more and more. I no longer eagerly await each episode and watch it as soon as I am able. Now weeks or months will pass before I think about getting caught up again. But I’m still watching, even though I am losing confidence in the writers.

Last week, I happened to check the AVEN home page as I (too infrequently) do, and saw that an upcoming episode of House would feature an asexual couple. I watched the preview clip with a mix of hope and deep, cynical dread. I wasn’t surprised at all to see House opposing the existence of asexuality. I was glad that Wilson said it was a “valid sexual orientation,” although the preview (terrible as usual) proved to be misleading, because he was quoting a magazine article when he said that. The show’s formula includes House being nearly always right—could the writers really take the risk of showing House being wrong about this? (Spoilers below the cut.) Continue reading