Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rape Culture and Asexuality

In response to a fairly recent submission on About Male Privilege (I'm one of the moderators there) regarding Asexuality, I felt I needed to take a moment to say a few things.

One of the least talked about issues with Asexuality is the rape culture that is unearthed in people being against/disturbed by the idea of Asexuality.  

When talking about sex and relationships, there are often some blanket assumptions made about how a sexual/romantic relationship works:

  • If you are in a romantic relationship with someone, sex is expected
  • If you are dating someone, your obligation to provide them with sex increases exponentially with each date 
  • If you decide you do not want to be in a romantic/sexual relationship with someone, you are ‘friendzoning’ them
  • If you decide you do not want to be in a romantic or sexual relationship with someone after any number of dates, you are a cocktease 
  • If you flirt, you are a cocktease
  • If you do not have sex with everyone who wants to have sex with you, you are frigid, unfeeling, etc.
  • Relationships are only valid and worthwhile if consummated by penetrative intercourse
  • People who are Asexual (sex averse or not) are broken, and something is inherently wrong with them

Here is the above list, fixed:

  • Sex is something to be decided upon by involved parties and should be consensual and without coercion.  You should never feel pressured to have sex.  Being in a relationship of any kind does not mean you owe anyone sex. Ever.  If this is an expectation for anyone, you should sit down and have a talk.  If a sexual relationship is a desire/requirement, this should be expressed without trying to coerce anyone else toward a decision to have or not to have sex.
  • You never owe anyone sex.  If you have had sex for 10 years with the same person and you say no at any time, the answer is no.
  • If you decide you do not want to be in a romantic/sexual relationship with someone, they should respect your wishes and not treat the rejection as some sort of victimization. 
  • If you decide you do not want to be in a romantic or sexual relationship with someone after any number of dates, you have decided you do not want to be in a romantic or sexual relationship with that person.  The dates were there to determine that. 
  • If you flirt, you like to flirt.  
  • If you do not have sex with everyone who wants to have sex with you, it is likely that you are making your own decisions or something. What a novel concept.
  • Relationships are only valid and worthwhile if you feel they are/ they make you happy/ they feed your soul
  • People who are Asexual do not experience primary sexual attraction

Friday, August 3, 2012

"Your Standards Are Too High"

     I identify as Asexual and Aromantic.  Unlike Asexuality, when I learned about being Aromantic, I didn't have an immediate sense of relief and curiosity.  No great sigh escaped my lips, accompanied by the thought: "this all is starting to make sense now."  It was a skeptical reaction-- a wary feeling, and I didn't even want to investigate its meaning for almost a year.  
     Part of that is because of my own thoughts and feelings about the matter.  Aromantic people are, as the name would suggest, uninterested in romantic relationships.  Or, perhaps-- and this is more where I would fall-- quite uninterested in romantic relationships.  I get lonely, and I like human interaction and affection, but romantic relationships are never something I explicitly desire.  (This is probably helped enormously by my lack of primary sexual attraction to others)
     I'm not against the idea of romantic relationships, I've been in a few, I am just usually in a completely different corner of the universe, mentally speaking, when anyone is interested in me.  I am very specific about what I am looking for in a relationship, and as the years go by and I learn more about myself and what I want, I become more specific.  
     I've been told in the past that my standards are too high, but that doesn't even make logical sense.  I don't have many actual standards, and even those are negotiable upon the individual circumstances.  There isn't some sort of checklist I keep that eliminates potential candidates.  Or is there?  I don't feel right calling what I'm looking for standards-- because I feel standards are expectations applied to one's self or others-- the things that matter most and are usually not (very) negotiable are merely things I know to be important in the way I interact with others.  They aren't some sort of behavioral or aesthetic guidelines anyone has to follow. The important things/things I have in mind when evaluating the potentiality of success with a possible romantic partner would be as such:

Somewhat relatable or tolerable humor/disposition- it is important that I be able to be with this person alone or in company with some comfort.  Bonus if I find them funny or amusing, or if their personal behavior compliments my own in some way.

I must be attracted to them- (the main idea is some form of romantic interest/desire of intimacy) Be it aesthetically, physically, emotionally; I must like something they do or make, the way they speak, their habits, the way they carry themselves, their hobbies, their smile, their voice-- the list could go on indefinitely.  I do not have to be attracted in all possible ways at once, and some forms of attraction are much stronger than others (for me, someone's voice and way of carrying themselves trumps their physical appearance, for example), and the more ways I'm attracted to someone, the better chance there is of me wanting a relationship of some sort with that person (not necessarily a romantic relationship, but that possibility also increases with attraction, obviously).  I feel like I would be wasting my time and someone else's time if I dated them and was not attracted enough to them to date them.  That doesn't make sense to me.  A friend a year ago was pursuing me, and we went on a few dates, but I ended it rather abruptly when I realized they weren't attracted to me as a person--they just thought I was pretty and interesting and easy to talk to.  That can foster friendship--but there was no attraction that would have fed anything else.  It was a passionless tryst, and it was extremely odd.

I must have a decent opinion of them/be able to stomach them-  I don't like sexism, racism, ableism, anything that could be taken as, is, or could become abuse, general hatred or cruelty.  I dislike, also, willful ignorance and when someone refuses to own up to their own mistakes/ cruelty/blatant horrid behavior.  I don't expect people to be perfect, and I don't expect people to be able to immediately understand or be able to accept how and when they hurt others, or that they aren't right all the time about everything-- I have my own issues with these things, I think it comes with the territory of unlearning and continuing to understand yourself and others.  If someone does or says something that is not okay in any way (not just as something I dislike, but as something harmful or potentially harmful), they lose any points they may have earned before, so to speak.  If someone is interested in me for any reason or vice versa, and they crack a sexist, ableist, or racist joke at any point, I cease any admiration/interest in the person.  
It is also possible that I just don't like someone's personality; this would be no particular fault of theirs-- I just don't like it.  I don't like small dogs.  It's kind of like that.  Not all small dogs are bad, and not all of them are loud or hyper or annoying, but I just never have and never will like them or be fond of them.  There's nothing appealing about them to me, and it's just a matter of preference and personal taste.  

They must be interesting/passionate about something- I don't care if it's something I'm completely  uninterested in, like a passion for…the art of hair removal or something (that is literally the only thing I could think of I have absolutely no significant interest in)-- if someone's passionate about something that's good.  Part of this is the ability for someone to be independent-- if someone has definite interests and goals, they might be a bit better with the ability to exist independently and therefore may be able to form healthier attachments.  Also, I have to be interested in the person in some way.  I'm horridly intellectual and need gratuitous amounts of intellectual stimulation to be happy and to function.  I can't have a relationship with someone who bores me, it feels like I'm brain dead.  It can be pleasant, but in the absence of constant mental engagement, I lost interest very, very quickly.  

They must be emotionally/mentally well enough not to cause me serious emotional/mental/physical harm- Most if not all people have some mild form of neuroses.  No big deal.  A lot of people have a lot of different things going on in their head-- that's fine, as long as I am not in danger if exposed to it.  Anyone looking to form codependent relationships, unhealthy attachments, abusive relationships, or who would otherwise cause me harm or danger in any way is not someone I will date or be close to.  I won't be happy, and I need to keep myself safe.  At this point, I'm most likely to run like all hell if a relationship begins and then starts to show signs of turning into something dangerous or threatening.  

I cannot be chemically or synesthetically repulsed by them- I have synesthesia  and I'm also really weird about particular things- like the way people smell.  I have met three people in life so far whose personal scent was so repulsive to me that I nearly threw up.  They didn't smell bad as in needing to shower, or smelling like something disgusting, it was the chemical makeup of their body that elicited such a reaction.  I have met two people in life whose smell I have been extremely attracted to, and a couple people whose smell is very pleasant and makes me feel safe.  Usually people are neutral, or smell nice, but it doesn't cause any emotional response.  As far as the synesthesia goes- and I think the synesthesia is the cause- I have met a couple people who make me violently ill if they touch me.  I don't let people touch me often because I'm weird about personal space and I'm used to being by myself more than with others, so I'm weird about the frequency of physical interaction.  A friend once offered to give me a massage because I was sore, and I accepted, butz almost threw up when they began.  This also happened with my little sister in a store when she tried to give me a shoulder massage.  That reaction is very rare, but very strong…so, in the event that someone's smell or physical touch makes me sick, I doubt any sort of intimate relationship is possible, and any sort of physically romantic relationship is impossible.  

They cannot have other romantic involvements- I'm not morally opposed to the idea of polyamory, but I've also never seen if I could do it.  I do know that if anyone is involved in any capacity with someone else (even if the other person/people don't return their feelings), I will not pursue them in any way.  I consider people recently single or still in the stages of recovering from a relationship as romantically involved in some capacity.  There is a difference, to me, between liking someone/being attracted to them, and having an emotional attachment to them, and it is the latter that stops me from any pursuit, were I at all interested in pursuing someone.  This I've only learned in the last year, and it has been further proven twice since I came to realize it.

And that's it.  Those are all the requirements I have.  Not high standards, I would say-- just definite, consciously present understandings of my needs.  These are the absolute minimum of what would be necessary for me to even entertain the idea of a romantic partner.  I don't have a drive or need to be in a romantic relationship, and it is very rare that I find these requirements in someone at the same time, and that they are enduring.  Which is a large part of why I don't date.  If asked on a date, I usually say yes if I am comfortable with the idea, because I figure if a person is brave enough to ask, I could at least spend an hour or something with them to be certain the requirements aren't fulfilled.  But I don't think the requirements are unreasonable or standards that are set too high-- do you?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Having Sexual Friends

Though I've used this term in the past to refer to a specific type of relationship, I am thinking now of what it is like to have sexual and/or romantic friends.
It's a pretty common statistic that 1% of the population is Asexual.  While that does end up being a lot of people, the majority of people I will interact with in my life will be sexual, and it is likely that they will also be romantic.

These may not be the best friends to have for me.
I am Asexual and Aromantic.
I have thought about this for a while, and I believe that while it truly depends on the individual person, the likelihood of someone being an intimate friend of mine is significantly diminished if they are sexual and/or romantic (especially both).

I need to be able to have conversations with people that deal with things other than sexual relationships, sex, gossip about relationships, gossip about sex, etc.  A separate issue is that I often do not know how to engage others- I tend to ask about relationships and/or sex, because it's something others usually respond well to, or it's all I have in my memory-bank of previous conversation history with said person- I simply don't know what interests them other than other people + sex/romance.

I like being able to be around someone and not have to constantly analyze the situation and my actions, to make sure I'm not accidentally displaying anything that could be taken as sexual or romantic interest in my behavior.  This is because, to many, friendship, politeness, or closeness of some sort is interpreted as romantic and/or sexual interest.
I like being able to spend time with people whose company I enjoy and not worrying about whether or not they have feelings for me, or want to sleep with me.

A lot of the time, becoming friends with someone who is sexual and romantic, I feel like I am constantly lying.  While friendly behavior and/or treating someone else kindly because you are a kind person should not be considered a giant waving flag of consent/ sexual/romantic interest/advances, my behavior is often misunderstood as thus.

As a precaution, I started telling people when they first meet me that I can be a wonderful friend, but that they should never date me.   This initially scared people off of the love-boat, so to speak, but it wasn't completely effective- many thought I was merely playing hard-to-get or that I was some sort of kind but heartless, loveless monster.  In one case, someone who I may have had a wtfromantic relationship with considered me completely unavailable.

Throughout life, I have tended to make friends with intellectual interests or pursuits, categorizing myself as a bibliophile and nerd, and I have made a lot of friends that fit somewhere underneath the LGBT+/Queer umbrella-- usually, these people understand that, regardless of sexual or romantic inclination, others aren't automatically going to like them or want to date them.

I haven't sworn off becoming friends with others who are not queer or creative or intellectual- but it's becoming increasingly clear that I don't have lasting, close friendships with them.  I simply cannot handle being around someone whose values I just don't relate to enough to care about.  If someone focuses on romantic/sexual relationships and is constantly talking about them and working towards them, there's just not much there to engage me.  When I get along very well with the individual person, our contact is usually sparse- while they are imbetween relationships, or on the rare occasions they are comfortable tearing themselves away from their significant other.

I am capable of spending time with couples, but I usually hate it.  Most couples disgust me.  Not because of anything in their relationship, but because of the dynamic they have concerning others while in that relationship.  If  I cannot enjoy my time with people because they are simply horrible to be around while near each other because they ignore everything else around them...well...I probably won't desire to be around them more than once.  If you can treat others the way you normally treat them (alone/one on one) while around your significant other/partner/whatever, that's fine.  And romantic affection around others is fine, to a degree.  The main problem I have with couples is that they tend to act exclusively and treat others like shit simply because they are reveling in their own filth/lovemaking. Maybe it's just the peers I've encountered in most recent years, but perhaps not.  

For the particular friendships/relationships I want, I usually have the best luck with people whose lives aren't dictated or strongly influenced by romantic or sexual pursuits.

I also hate the feeling of being deserted because of a romantic or sexual relationship or opportunity.  I've done something like that to someone in the past and it is one of my greatest regrets.  I also consider it one of the worst things I have ever done, especially because it went against my nature.  I suppose that particular time of life was an opportunity to solidify my preexisting feelings and beliefs and to learn not to do something like that again.
I personally cannot handle being treated lightly.  If I value someone very closely and I feel those feelings are reciprocated, I rely on the friendship for my emotional and psychological needs.  Those are the people I feel have my back, and I theirs.  They are the people I am closest to and who I trust most.  And if one of those people were to suddenly devalue me (or treat me so that I felt devalued), the hurt associated with that is much greater than it would be for someone I was not as close to.

If I am becoming close to someone and beginning to let myself care a lot for someone and they begin to show signs that they are romantic and sexual to the point of letting that destroy or greatly interfere with their existing friendships, I retreat.  I hate it, but I know I don't want to stick around in a relationship in which I feel neglected or unimportant.  Simple as that.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Frequently Blurted Statements

"You can't be Asexual, you're too sexual."

Talking about sex, having sex, enjoying sex, and possessing an urge to have sex are totally different things.  And if you do not have sexual attraction, you are Asexual.  That is the base definition.  It's pretty simple, however, it seems difficult for many to grasp.

"That's so sad!"

There's nothing sad about it.  It's simply a difference.  Really, this attitude is ableist(/sexist?).  If I had been born blind, I would not consider it sad, because I would know nothing else.  I might, however, find it disheartening if the people around me treated me as if I were broken or faulty. If I was born with sight and then lost my vision, I might consider it sad, but I wouldn't try to wallow in my own piteous filth.  It'd be a loss to me because of my perspective, but it wouldn't be the end of the world.  
So, if I was born Asexual, or came to realize I was, or felt most comfortable identifying as such, and I do not feel as though I am missing anything, why should others tell me I am? I am not upset by my sexuality in the least.  
What I do get upset about is people trying to pity me for something that isn't sad at all and trying to 'fix' me when there's nothing wrong. 

"So you never like anyone?"

I like people.  I experience many types of attraction, just not sexual attraction.  I am fully capable of love and affection.  Some Asexuals do not want to have sex at all, since they have no initial desire for it, and some are repulsed by the idea of intercourse.  Some Asexuals masturbate, some have sex, and some enjoy sex.  This is true of people who aren't Asexuals-- so it shouldn't be that hard to imagine.  Those who are celibate choose not to have sex.  The difference between celibacy and Asexuality is that Asexuality is not having sexual attraction, while celibacy is the choice to abstain from sex regardless of sexual attraction.  An Asexual may choose to be celibate.  Get it?  
Now, when you are not interested in romantic relationships whatsoever, you are Aromantic.  But that requires a post of its own.

"Oh, it'll be all right, you'll meet someone."

While well-intended, this is one the most underhanded and disgusting forms of invalidation out there.  I understand that the speaker is merely expressing a wish that I find happiness, and expressing it in a way that they can relate to.  But in doing so, they assume that I do not want to be Asexual.  And they assume also that sexuality is a choice or a temporary state of being.  I think that sexuality is fluid and can change as you change, and that there are always exceptions to the rule, so to speak.  But my being Asexual has nothing to do with the person I am or am not currently dating.  There isn't a cure-all romantic partner or sex position that can 'save me' from the imaginary depths of Asexual despair.  
I like being Asexual.  And if I didn't like it, I wouldn't be able to change it.  I would have to learn to like what I could of it and appreciate it for what it was. 
Also, what are people trying to say exactly here?  It always astounded me.  Do they mean that in the relationships they are in (or, even, all the relationships they have ever had), they are with their soul-mate?  Because that's what many make it sound like.  Like I just haven't met my soul-mate.  And when I do, everything will change and I'll have sexual attraction all of a sudden.  Like 'that person' is out there.  Which would also have to mean that most people in romantic relationships had met their soul mate. Or something.  Anyway, the statement doesn't make logical sense.
It'd be nice to meet someone I liked.  That's always nice.  But I'm still not going to be sexually attracted to them because I just don't do that.  

"How do you know you're Asexual if you've never had sex?"

While some "how do you know if you've never tried it?" scenarios work (I'm thinking of trying new foods), it isn't a blanket statement that always applies.  First of all, Asexuals can and do have sex when they want to.  There are some things that people simply don't want to try.  And that is fine.  If someone hates the idea of dessert and doesn't want to have any, well, hell, more for me.  And I understand wanting to share something you enjoy with others, so that they may also derive pleasure from it.  But if the person just doesn't want to do it, they don't have to.  
And it isn't the job of the rest of the world to tell Asexuals they must have sex to know if they like it or not.  Asexuality defines sexuality- a lack of sexual attraction, not whether or not you find pleasure in having sex.  To say you can't know your sexuality unless you've had intercourse would be the same as saying no one who is a virgin can know who they are attracted to until they've had sex to figure that out.  
You can know something or know about something without directly experiencing it.  

"I thought only plants were Asexual.  Do you asexually reproduce or something?"

I am not aware of plants having a sexuality.  The human body, while containing all the ingredients necessary, is not capable of asexual reproduction.  
Asexual means without sexual attraction, as Heterosexual means sexual attraction to the opposite sex, Homosexual means sexual attraction to the same sex, and Pansexual means sexual attraction to any/all genders.  Asexual reproduction is a phrase that means able to reproduce without fertilization. 

"So you never want to have sex."

I'm not opposed to the idea, just more or less completely disinterested in it.  If I cared for someone and they were interested in sex, I would consider it and evaluate my feelings on the subject.  If I was comfortable with having sex, found the idea agreeable, and desired it in some way, I'd have sex.  
If I did not want to I would not.

"You just haven't had good sex."

I imagine this statement is meant to imply that I have not yet experienced the wondrous throngs of a really good orgasm and that once I do I will no longer be Asexual.  Well, I have.  And I am.  So, no, sexual pleasure has nothing to do with sexuality.  
On a related note, Asexuality has begun to be studied, and Asexuals have the same biological responses to sexual stimuli as those of other sexualities.  So nothing's biologically different with someone who is Asexual.   

"I'm tired of relationships!  I'm just going to be Asexual!"

Sorry, that's not what the word means.  
Asexuality:sexual attraction::Aromantic:romantic interest
Sexual attraction=/=sex
Seuxal attraction=/=romantic interest
Either you are Asexual or you aren't.  It isn't some sort of we're-not-letting-you-in-our-club thing, that's simply not the word to describe what you are trying to say.  And when you say things like that, you perpetuate the idea that sexuality is a phase and a choice of convenience.  So don't do that.  Those are bad things.  
I don't know of a word that would describe the idea of "I want to take a break from relationships for a while." 
"I'm going to take a break from sex for a while" would be abstinent or celibate.
But there isn't a "I'm going to take a break from sexuality for a while" option of any sort.  

"So what do you call yourself?  Straight?  Queer?  Asexual?"

To each their own.  Some people take queer to mean any sort of sexuality deviating from the perpetuated idea of the norm, in which case, it would apply here.  An Asexual person attracted to the same sex might call themselves gay or queer.  An Asexual person attracted to the opposite sex might call themselves straight or queer.  An Asexual person attracted to any gender, all genders, or people rather than gender may call themselves queer, or pansromantic.  The words change specifically to the person-- whatever they feel best describes their sexual identity.  Asexuals are sometimes called Aces or A, and one may call themselves an Ace, or Asexy.  
There's also Grey-A and Demisexuals, but I won't get into that now.  
I will occasionally have intense bouts of Asexy-awareness-mode where I talk about it a lot and explain it to people.  Usually, though, I don't mention it unless it comes up in conversation or someone asks me, and then I say "I'm Asexual-- (that) I don't experience primary sexual attraction.  I still like people sometimes, I'm just not sexually interested in them."