Category Archives: What others say

The Problem With(out) Anarchy

Spoilers for BBC Sherlock, mostly. This post will make no sense if you’ve not read up on at least a basic idea of what relationship anarchy is, and also know that my understanding of it is very basic. i.e., the philosophy that you should form relationships with individuals and only allow them to be shaped by what’s inside of that relationship, no outside boxes or limits or pre-defined trajectories.

I’ve been wanting but unable to write this (late) submission for the November edition of Carnival of Aces because it’s a lot harder to put emotional experience into words than it is theory. I also thought I needed to get out several other stories first.

Then I watched BBC Sherlock‘s “The Abominable Bride” with a rather relatable conversation(1), followed by a documentary on Spock on how characters resonate not because they are perfect, but because they are relatable, first of all. Of which, in this case, Sherlock is a very good example.

The conversation, held between a nineteenth-century Watson and Holmes on their knees at midnight staking out the gothic manor of their client, consists of Watson trying to ferret out Sherlock’s type of women and past sexual experiences, and Sherlock dismissing this out of hand and admitting he doesn’t have any such experiences, he chooses not to.

Thing is, this whole episode is set inside Sherlock’s mind. And I wondered, why have this conversation with the imaginary incarnation of his friend? Answer: because I do too. We have this conversation with ourselves, as well as out loud. We affirm what we are to ourselves, verbalise what we believe ourselves to be in the face of complete disbelief and incomprehension and ignorance.

That’s not to say Sherlock’s is or isn’t asexual, what’s important here is that Sherlock’s trying to express a fundamental part of his personal life to a good friend, who just cannot accept it, even inside Sherlock’s mind. And that, right there, is what I related to. What is, I hope, is the point I’ll make.

We are utterly alien to what most people believe sexuality is, should be. What most people feel. Whether we are gray, aro or any other variation of (or close to) asexual.

(We should not exist.

Yet. We do.)

The sexual revolution took our bodies and our sexual desires, and sought to ensure everybody owned theirs, that people didn’t have their rights and freedom taken away any longer.

Our rights, duties, freedom are still in question. Whether the desire for sex exists naturally in every rational body never has been in question. As soon as people were recognised as fully independent, sentient and equal (let’s not forget that part of the revolution), they were viewed as sexual beings.

(Until now, until us.)

Into this system of parameters, this post-sixties paradigm of sexuality, we are introducing zero. We are inserting so fundamental a concept, we need to reconstruct the complete logical framework of our philosophy. A big part of our community effort has been defining new words. Recognition of our asexuality is often followed by meditation on what that means for us, for our identities, for our relationships.

No wonder, then, that relationship anarchy, completely abandoning the old confinement of relationship definitions formed in a world in which we did not yet exist, as concepts, seems, well, logical.

If we are to make a brave new world in which we exist, recognised, accepted, should we not leave the old one? Shouldn’t we try to imagine? Like Star Trek imagined a multi-species crew in a time of racism? Shouldn’t we reject (delete) what our friends and family try to push onto us? Expectations that fit as ill as a childhood christmas sweater. Paths in life that we will not ever walk, and even if we set foot on them, it’s at a completely new angle.

However, we are not islands. We live in relationship to so many people. Even if, like Sherlock, we choose to have no sex or romance at all, we have friends and family. So we have conversations in our heads. We have conversations in our homes. We have conversations in cafes and at christmas dinner.

You may have noticed that I use my words (sexuality, desire, etc.) imprecisely. That’s because I’m not done verbalising what I am, what I want, exactly. I know it, but I cannot speak it (in woorden vatten), coin the right phrases.

My problem with anarchy in general is this: we make rules about everything, even if it’s arbitrary ones, just so that we can communicate what we’re doing. And also: I want creation after destruction. If we are to live in a brave, new world, I bloody well want the brave new world, not post-apocalyptic nonsense with every man for himself and that only working if everybody is as nice as Jesus (whether you believe him to be God or good, wise teacher).

My problem with relationship anarchy is this: broken down to my essentials I am a social, territorial creature who seeks community, seeks peers, seeks belonging. Seeks security. I must have some path to walk, some dream to envision. I cannot live for a future composed of a chaotic staticy fuzz, trusting blindly that it will resolve itself into some sort of picture eventually.

My problem without anarchy is this: I cannot keep living in the old paradigm. Living in an openly sexual society in which I, by necessity, must also, naturally have desires in that direction, that suits me ill. Would make my collection of desires (demisexuality) at best what it is now, a topic uninteresting, unexamined in social situations, a taboo that hangs over conversations when everybody else compares what they have or what they want and I dig into my piece of pie at birthdays or flee to the bathroom. Since I am more polite and less outspoken than Sherlock.

A few Sundays ago it was brought home very vividly that the church, as such, offers only temporary refuge as a place where I don’t need to be sexual. I’ve moved, and my current church is more conservative. Since I wanted to be active in ministry, I reached out two of the staff members, because I wanted to be clear on what I could and could not say on the subject of relationships, LGBT issues (since I veer off rather sharply from them there) and sexual morality. I had two lovely, understanding, sympathetic personal conversations about how everybody’s different and how enriching that is with them both, which satisfied me for the next several months. Then… well. The church does not preach any particular behaviour, but rather vocally supports a charity that brought this home…

The dominant Christian (Protestant? Conservative?) consensus about “chastity” (what is correct in regards to sex and decent public behaviour, more or less) is: “Preferably, have no sex before or outside of a heterosexual marriage, don’t even think about it”. Mine is: “Practice responsible and informed sexual behaviour according to your desires and ideals, the general cultural norm of decency and respect others’ human rights.” I cannot reconcile one with the other. Rather, they seem to be growing further apart as time goes on.

“Sexual purity” is the church’s security blanket against a society perceived to grow more sexual, entitled, degenerate and lawless. It’s a blanket that I fear will smother me if I do not step out from under it now.

So. I will be demisexual and Christian and at peace within myself but probably at odds with my brothers and sisters in faith at some point in the future, but that’s a post for another time.

My problem without relationship anarchy would be this: I will very rarely desire to seek out a relationship expected to include sex. I’m demisexual. If my experience holds true, I will be fleetingly sexually attracted to about half a dozen people in the next decade, and one, maybe two, more deeply. I feel sensual, emotional, romantic desire, yes, that well suit the intimacy of sex. Strictly sexual? Nothing. At all.

In the old world, I can only ever be a friend, a relation, an acquintance to people. I would fear to seek out a partner because it’d be unfair, because I might raise expectations I cannot (will not) fulfill.

(I am weird.)

(I shouldn’t be like this.)

(I am. Accept it. Move on.)

Yet, shedding preconceived notions, I gain so much. Because, you see, the repetoire for experiences to satisfy sensual or emotional or romantic desires is far, far wide than only those acts that would also satisfy sexual desire. A body thoroughly warmed and relaxed by the sun on a walk accompanied by a friend could already satisfy the first two, for an easy example.

Familiarity and trust are for me prerequisites to feel even an inkling of a full-on crush that isn’t platonic. By default, I will only grow a romantic relationship out of another, already existing relationship. The current split between platonic and sexual-romantic relationships is, to me, deeply unnatural. Runs counter to my nature.

Relationship anarchy is the only way I can have deeper relationships outside of my family. Accepting that the current system is useless is the only way not to panic. To accept I am not normal is the only way to discover what my norm is.

In other words, in convictions I run counter to my society. In my behaviour I am inoffensive, even rather… chaste.

Does relationship anarchy make sense, then, problematic as it is? Yes, yes it does, because of a humongous potential pay-off, relationships without limits to intimacy, to expression, to levels, to their growth. Wow, what a dream that is.

We’ve truly landed ourselves in a jungle, on a strange, new planet.

We have (given ourselves) such power.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

  1. WATSON (equally precisely): Why do you need to be alone?
    HOLMES: If you are referring to romantic entanglement, Watson – which I rather fear you are – as I have often explained before, all emotion is abhorrent to me. It is the grit in a sensitive instrument …
    (Watson joins in with what he says next.)
    HOLMES and WATSON (almost simultaneously): … the crack in the lens.
    WATSON: Yes.
    HOLMES: Well, there you are, you see? I’ve said it all before.
    WATSON: No, I wrote all that. You’re quoting yourself from The Strand Magazine.
    HOLMES: Well, exactly.
    WATSON: No, those are my words, not yours! That is the version of you that I present to the public: the brain without a heart; the calculating machine. I write all of that, Holmes, and the readers lap it up, but I do not believe it.
    HOLMES: Well, I’ve a good mind to write to your editor.
    WATSON: You are a living, breathing man. You’ve lived a life; you have a past.
    HOLMES: A what?!
    WATSON: Well, you must have had …
    HOLMES: Had what?
    (Watson pauses a little awkwardly, then points at his friend.)
    WATSON: You know.
    HOLMES: No.
    (Watson swallows.)
    WATSON: Experiences.
    HOLMES (angrily): Pass me your revolver. I have a sudden need to use it.
    WATSON: Damn it, Holmes, you are flesh and blood. You have feelings. You have … you must have … impulses.
    (Holmes closes his eyes in exasperation.)
    HOLMES (through his teeth): Dear Lord. I have never been so impatient to be attacked by a murderous ghost.
    WATSON: As your friend – as someone who … worries about you – what made you like this?
    (Holmes has opened his eyes and looks at his friend almost sympathetically.)
    HOLMES: Oh, Watson. Nothing made me.
    (From somewhere to his left, scrabbling claws can be heard together with a sound of a dog whimpering anxiously, or as if it is in pain. Holmes turns his head in the direction of the sound.)
    HOLMES: I made me.

Outtake from the script of “The Abominable Bride”, found here: http://arianedevere.livejournal.com/81409.html. Copyright owned by the BBC, props to the writer for the transcription.

God Curse Judgmental Gentlemen

For December’s Carnival of Aces, about staying in the closet, I’d like to write about my own struggles with my fellow Christians. Thinking I should tell them about asexuality, feeling I can’t.

Yes.

I am a practicing Christian who identifies as neither hetero nor gay, but as demisexual. I’ve explored my sexuality in my mid-twenties. I’m from an open culture and a liberal church and a loving family.

Aside from a few private conversations, I am in the closet. This blog has a pseudonym. Acquintances don’t know and, mostly, don’t ask.

Part of me just doesn’t want it. Sexuality is mine, not for others to know or judge. As a woman, you’re too quickly an object anyway. I honestly love being a sexual subject, undisturbed, not much noticed because of beauty or age or behaviour. Unshamed and as such, unashamed. Not harrassed so far and yes, I’ve been lucky but I can say this for my country: people can just be people.

One drop of acid in all the honey…

I dread to speak of asexuality to my brothers and sisters in faith. At the same time, how the hell are they going to get informed, given a fair chance to be a constructive part of the discussion, if someone doesn’t speak up?

After several hours’ bible study and arguing in prayer, I can only conclude the following: the core of the Christian gospel holds for sexual natures and behaviour as it does for any part of us. In other words, being Christian, you believe you are forgiven any wrongdoing, you believe you are loved. You believe this is a base to build an awesome, joyful life and be a good part of humanity. More to the point, you believe all people are loved, equally, by a God whose say-so you’ve accorded the absolute and ultimate authority.

I felt confirmed in my own faith and practice. I felt the more puzzled by why sexuality, any (a)sexuality should be a problem. I felt the most surprised by my own troubled and continued silence.

Why can’t I come out to fellow Christians, if I believe God Himself is alright with my demisexuality?

Truth is: I’m scared.

I don’t believe most of my fellow Christians obey God. I have seen them exclude, discriminate and commit violence on people with other sexualities. It does not inspire confidence. I have found some of them to be as proud as the Israel chastised by old-testament prophets. I think them to be so far from the truth, sometimes… will I be accepted in my lifetime?

Yes, by some. Not by others. But fear speaks in black and white, not shades of grey.

I have trouble quantifying exactly what my concerns are. I can’t say what would be the correct course, for one community to engage the other. On a personal level, it’s silenced me. It may do for a while yet.

Read your Bible (but I didn’t read that)

Advent.

Lighting four candles, one more each week. Reading the story of the immaculate conception… Mary, visited by the angel Gabriel. Mary, the archetype virgin who dared to have a kid. Mary, mother of the gently smiling face of women’s split sexuality. (The other face smirks)

Refreshingly, the pastor remarked that we spent too much time focusing on the virgin bit. It was cool, what she did, but let’s not get obsessed, shall we? I settled in for some original food for thought.

Let’s focus on Gabriel, he said. And then proceeded to sexualise Gabriel’s visiting Mary. Proceeded to call his speech “courting her” to have God’s child and “seducing her” with the image of what she’d do. It got a bit suggestive.

And I just. No.

I could not conceive of an angel being sexual, here. This story, out of all stories, is supposed to be non-sexy. That’s the point. Wasn’t no sex. Why read into it? Why pretend there was some sort of spiritual version of attraction?

And then realised that was the whole point: if you’re sexual you can and do read that sort of thing into it. You can read attraction or sexual tension into any story. Into almost any situation, in fact. That’s how powerful our imagination can be. Whether it’s there or not… ‘s mostly in our mind.

Conversely, we can happily go through life without reading a sexual layer into anything. Nothing need be sexual if it isn’t explicit. Not flirting. Not a romantic movie. Not a gaze aimed at us.

So yeah, even the story of the immaculate conception can have a sexual charge to some readers. And in other cases, what might be sexually charged to one person, is not to the other. At all.

I know that what I find to be sexually charged is far more limited than it is for most people. ‘s why I consider myself to be on the asexual spectrum.

And… it’s alright. It’s all in our minds anyway. Like a lusty angel Gabriel is now in mine.

No, not the one from Supernatural. Unfortunately.

What sexiness is

So after reading up on sexiness… This post and all those it links: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/an-exploration-of-not-wanting-to-be-sexy-and-of-never-feeling-sexy/

I realised, I’m unaccustomed to thinking of myself as sexy, and as nice as it is to be appreciated that way… it’s made me rather self-consciousness. Especially since I rarely consider anything visual sexy myself, as in causing the buzz in my mind and lower body that’s a precursor to desire or causing attraction.

So,  as celebration and affirmation, here’s a list of what I find sexy.

Minds. Interesting bubbles of humanity. I could be delighted by them and revel in them all the livelong day.

Acts-ideas-agents. The trifecta of the body’s input, the mind’s input and the heart’s input. Done right, any input that works on all three levels and is contextualised as “sexy” can get really intense. Charged.

Sensation. Touch. Just. Works.

So, considering all that, am I sexy? All of the sexiness I perceive is based in interaction, preferably the reciprocal kind. It’s rather hard for me to consider it a personal quality.

Although… If a person is the source of much of it… It does tend to get associated with him. So, perhaps, after being sexy with a person for a while they become it, by association.

Adrenarche

*prods the pretty article on sexual development possibly being more gradual than a simple teenage sexual awakening, and starting earlier*

I like this word.

It says that realisation of attraction and orientation, including asexuality, starts at, like, 10. A very, very good reason to be open-minded about it and talk to kids.

I remember there being a lot of ado about boybands in primary school, even before the boyfriends thing started.

Go read: http://homepage.univie.ac.at/Michael.Berger/lit/McClintock.pdf 

Followed link from: http://asexandthecity.tumblr.com/post/134290479956/submitted-by-so-much-depends-upon-a-for

http://homepage.univie.ac.at/Michael.Berger/lit/McClintock.pdf

Unstraightening My Facts: Intersectionality

I look at a concept I’ve encountered in the asexual community, and try to understand it, from this post onward with a new plan of action:

  1. tackle just one concept,
  2. find an accessible resource that explains the concept,
  3. try to see if I can now define the concept in my own words
  4. and find some more interesting sources on the concept if time allows.

With that said, on to intersectionality.

Concept: Intersectionality

See how two aspects of identity influence each other and may cause unique communities, experiences or problems. The implications are less than clear to me, though I understand it to be a popular and useful concept to others.

Resource: video on intersectional feminism

What I’ve learned…

What I especially appreciated was the section comparing regular feminism to intersectional feminism. The latter paints issues such as the wage gap more starkly because it takes into account how women from different backgrounds may have to deal with a different wage gap.

And though I know I have privileges, sometimes I scarcely realise what impact they have.

On an interrelated note, they mention asexual women!

After diving into a few more resources, I realise intersectionality’s also a concept created to tackle not just normativities and prejudices as singular concepts, but also to study the impact certain attitudes and discourses have as the big interwoven Gordian knots that they are. Intersectionality crosses e.g. class, gender, race and sees what happen when they, well, intersect.

Further reading

  1. Sheer awesomeness: intersectionality explained through pizzas (video)
  2. Intersectionality in sociological research (article)
  3. TED talk about modern (intersectional) feminism

“They” as a Singular Pronoun, a Cisgender Perspective

bridge at sunset

Bit of a disclaimer: in this post I discuss two different uses of the pronouns. The re-introduction of “they” as gender-neutral pronoun for general use and the use of different pronouns by people with non-binary gender identities. These are NOT the same, but I hope to show that the former can serve as a stepping stone for understanding the latter for cisgender people who’ve never thought about pronouns before. Later in this post, I reject “zie/hir” as viable gender-neutral pronoun for general use. It is my personal opinion that “they” fits this role better. On the other hand, it and other lesser-used pronouns can be very useful tools for expressing that you gender identity does not match that of other people, I think. I do not want to dive too much into that side however, because I know too little. That said, enjoy (hopefully)!

Imagine a bridge, silhouetted against the sun. From either end, two indistinct shadows approach. That they raise their arms and embrace in the middle, you can just about make out. After a few moments, they walk on. One turns back, raises their arm again and waves. The other never notices, their head bowed and deep in thought.

Later you’ll recount this story to a friend, how happy and fleeting a moment it seemed. Since you never saw the figures’ features due to how the light fell and the distance, you use “their” as a gender-neutral possessive pronoun. You scarcely give it a thought, seeing how often it’s used these days. It’s simply useful that you don’t have to guess whether to call them “he” or “she”.

Even less on your mind is how crucial pronouns are for people not strictly male or female, or how, when you read Shakespeare in high-school, you never stumbled over the gender-neutral pronoun either. It’s so normal. Grammar’s just boring facts. Right?

Preferred pronoun?

When I first registered on the asexual and demisexual forums I was puzzled by the need to specify a preferred pronoun. Other languages have two second person singular pronouns, formal and informal. Dutch has “u”, German has “Sie”, French has “vous”… In addressing “you” in English politely, I have to bust out the modal verbs and the honorifics. I filled out what I’d say in my own language when asked what my preferred pronoun is. “Zeg maar jij.” You’re allowed to use my first name and address me informally. In one latinate word, to tutoyate, use “tu” and “toi”.

In English it’s about gender identity, probably the most quantifiable characteristic of it to show up in the asexual community. Your preferred third person singular pronoun. He, she, they, or something else. “They” in particular interests me, because it’s making a come-back as a gender-neutral pronoun in general.

pronouns including they singular

The reader, they…

Gender’s pervasiveness can be a bother when I’m speaking or writing. I may want to address a reader neutrally. It’s easier, in a Germanic language such as English, but I can’t avoid pronouns forever.

These days, business letters often leave off honorifics. Readers are as likely to be men as women, and both are to be respected equally. In speaking or speculating about a hypothetical person it’s good to be able to leave gender open to the imagination…

I’ve seen “zie” and “hir” proposed for use in these contexts, but they feel a little like Esperanto. Good in theory, not viable in practice. Traditionally, “he” is used when a person’s gender is unclear, and “she” in a feminist response to that, to even the playing field.

I’m glad I’m now able to speak of “them” instead being forced to pick  “he” or “she” when addressing an unfamiliar person in the third person. A few years ago, it still felt ungrammatical, but now it’s almost natural.

So even in a cisgender world, a gender-neutral pronoun is a wonderful thing. Let’s hope the Powers Who Guard The English Language will allow it to dwell once again within their hallowed halls and grammar books in the future.

See, the use of “they” is a revival of sixteenth-century practice according to the Oxford Dictionary’s website that debates the use of “they” as third person singular. It got changed to “he” in cases where people spoke of a person with an unclear gender around 1850.

Yes, when people complain about using “they” for a gender-neutral pronoun, you can legitimately say “but Shakespeare could do it. Why can’t you?” and be speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you Shakespeare. So did Jane Austen, Louis Carroll, Walt Whitman and the King James Bible.

The boxes they cannot tick…

male female boxes on forms

I cannot imagine how crucial the choice of pronouns is when your gender isn’t simply masculine or feminine… Then it’s less the polite “Stranger, I respect I do not know your gender” and more the humane “I recognise this basic fact about your identity.” I get that much, but I think that scarcely covers how much of an impact it has.

Language, naming what we are and where we’ve been, is powerful. Being able to name what I am has helped me immensely in my sexuality. If gender identity, how it really works, not just male-or-female, can be expressed more accurately in language, in pronouns, it goes a small way towards being accepted.

It’s already a smaller mental step, I think, to go from “use they for strangers” to “use they for people who prefer it” than from “third person singular is he or she” to “we need to add a new pronoun (e.g. zie/hir)”.

Conceptions of gender trickle down to institutions, such as in countries with forms with more than two options for gender, “male” and “female”. Or like social media sites who have more than two radio buttons (sometimes after a big kick in the butt). Or like Amsterdam, who’s done away with the need for gender registration at a local level altogether as of last week. Thus declaring gender less of a clear-cut and crucial fact of identity, and allowing for a shades-of-grey type situation that’s closer to reality, much like a gender-neutral pronoun does.

New-old language

I was at first confused, and still strangely tickled by the question “what’s your preferred pronoun?” (and yes, I’m keeping “Zeg maar jij” because I hope someday someone will ask and we get to be dorky about language together). Now, I like the concept’s logic, how it fits in with a bigger change in language, the revival of the gender-neutral pronoun “they”. I like how a little bit of useful pre-Victorian grammar is returning in our Internet-era English. I also like how it offers some openness in the language, a measure of politeness, when gender identity matters. That even in English, I can offer respect by way of pronoun choice, even if it’s in third person instead of second.

So, what’s your preferred pronoun?

Further Reading

Images

http://cdn.c.photoshelter.com/img-get2/I00007GiP8L.KqVY/fit=1000×750/pont-du-change-bridge-seine-river-sunset-paris-france-084.jpg
http://images.watoday.com.au/2013/02/10/4020850/men-women-form-620×349.jpg
http://classroomsze.wikispaces.com/file/view/PERSPRONS.jpg/145946741/674×701/PERSPRONS.jpg

Want to Start an Asexuality Community Library?

My thoughts continue to rattle on… Because possibilities! Ideas! Let’s see what we have, shall we?

  • Several books published on asexuality, available online and offline
  • Many, many articles written over the past decades, on paper, by magazines and newspapers, on people’s websites, in blogs, in events…
  • A very active AVEN world watch forum where links and/or posts are published several times a day.
  • Video and audio media in goodly amounts, as well as multimedia projects.
  • Dedicated archives for media and zines.
  • Several people dedicated to writing quality reviews and offering information.
  • Media starting to appear in several languages that would be good to offer, and possibly offer translations or sub/dub versions…
  • Probably a whole lot more.

Collecting either references or the media themselves in one place might help visibility immensely. So I figure, let’s think about this as a group, shall we? Hypothetically or realistically, what would be desirable to have?

  • An online catalogue or database of existing media, with the emphasis on searchability and possibly reviews. Parallel: a library catalogue, for on- and offline media.
  • An online archive with copies or reviews (depending) of existing media, with the emphasis on preservation and offering a wide collection of literature to those interested in a variety of topics concerning asexuality. Parallel: World Watch, but then a website.
  • An online library with both existing media and new, where people can post, tag and review anything of interest, with an emphasis on offering a long-term place of publication and inclusive archive that worked to preserve as much of the media available on asexuality as possible, in several languages. Parallel: AO3/OTW, but way smaller.

Please tell me what would have your preference and advice you might have.

The third option is my personal preference, but it’d be the most ambitious project.

P.S. please do tell me if something similar is already in the works and I’m trying to reinvent the wheel.

P.P.S. I’m not trying to replace the World Watch forum, I think they’re a great help in signal-boosting newsworthy content, and I don’t believe in competition. I do believe that there’s room for a more flexible platform than a forum that would add to the pool of knowledge. I’m trying to see if that’s actually something other people want too. Keep in mind this’d be a long-term project that would take time to set up and grow, which’d fit in with the general growth of the asexual community, especially internationally.

(Crossposted to my wordpress and tumblr blogs and the AVEN Visibility forum. Please respond on your preferred platform.)

Absence and substance

If being on the asexual spectrum means never or rarely feeling sexual attraction, then what is there? I’ve had my first conversations with strangers about asexuality. I was delighted with their honest curiosity, and puzzled by their bafflement, because they kept coming back to that question.

I don’t understand, how does that work? Then what do you feel? What is there, then, for you? What do you have, if not sex or sexual attraction? But that’s not fair, where does that leave you? I can’t even imagine… What do you do? How do you date? Can you have relationships?

That clashes, hard, with the affirmation and enrichment I feel having adopted a demisexual identity and participating in the asexual community. But… it’s a difficult question to answer.

A great question to consider too: what is there? Specifically, what is there for you?

For each member of the asexual community, that answer will be different. If you do not feel sexual attraction, you map out what attraction you feel on other levels. If you desire sex, you explore exactly what you will and won’t want to do. If you don’t desire sex, you explore where your limits lie. If you wish for a relationship, you need to define exactly what options are open for you. If you have a partner, it’s good to look together what you wish to do together, based on both your desires.

What does the community offer?

Articulation, first of all, with its greater lexicon of -sexualities and -romanticities it’s made far easier to explore what exactly is true for each of us concerning sex, love, sexuality and relationships. Belonging, from basic affirmation, “others like me are out there” to platforms for expression, information, communication, commiseration, activism, research, activities, socialisation… community is such a huge boon. Diversity, the asexual community is rife with people with different gender identities, ethnicities, sexual and romantic orientations, ages, experiences… and that’s a breath of fresh air if your sexual identity makes you feel otherwise invisible or excluded.

What does the orientation offer?

A space where sex nor romance is compulsory and it exists in various shapes. Common landmarks, such as not comprehending sexual advertising, sex scenes, etc. Such as not feeling attracted to strangers, not talking about sex with friends or family, being bothered by dating or people harassing you for not wishing to have sex, no really, not at all. The option to have a sex drive, or not. To have sexual fantasies, or not. To perform sexual acts, or not. To appreciate beauty, without feeling desire. To wish to cuddle and touch and kiss, without ever going beyond first base. To have a significant other, a serious relationship, a marriage, without ever consummating it and being perfectly happy with that. To have only platonic relationships or friendships, and being perfectly happy with that.

In short, the asexual community and asexual spectrum and demisexual identity are to me a cornucopia of options for being not/partially “sexual” from which I choose what I actually am without having to conform to any expectations. And then being able to talk about it and act on it without censure or erasure.

Sexual freedom, freedom of choice, speech and action concerning sex and sexuality.

Asexuality in a History’s Afterword

I’ve been browsing for some published works on asexuality. Demisexuality usually leads to “0 results”. The sparse information disappoints, but I’ve found a few treasures I’ll be reading.

One find I wished to share with you in time for the Carnival of Aces on History. I was overjoyed to see asexuality in the glossary of The Routledge History of Sex and the Body: 1500 to the Present. Granted, it led to the “Afterword”, but Lisa Downing used it to share a few good thoughts about asexuality from an academic and historical perspective.

“Bisexuality and asexuality are particularly significant modalities of identity that have arisen in counter- or reverse-discursive forms in recent years, as mode of resistance to dominant narratives of both sexual orientation organized on the principles of binary sexed and gendered attraction and to compulsory sexuality.

“Histories of sexuality have been rather silent on the subject of asexuality, understood in the current sense of an identity or ‘orientation’, rather than historically as a projection onto certain groups and classes of an ‘innate nature’ (such as women in the eighteenth century, following discourses of domesticity, as Kathryn Na[?]burg shows).

“A genealogy of asexuality might show that its discursive progressors are celibacy, a disciplinary practice of clerics, and the medicalized diagnoses of frigidity and impotence. Such a genealogy would offer a unique insight into the ways in which identity formation can issue from the silences, stigmas and stereotypes and would demonstrate an unusual temporal drag.” (‘drag’ as in lapse in time and ‘drag’ as in performance of gender or sex, coined by Elizabeth Freeman, an in-text footnote explains.)

“In parallel cases (e.g. homosexuality and fetish/BDSM), the historical gap between pathologization and the establishment of subcultures is much shorter, making asexuality a unique test case. [… I]t will be important for future scholarship to incorporate these emergent voices, identities and practices into an account of the past and contemporary landscapes of sexuality. It is also instructive to note how those subjects embodying less discursively well-established identity positions can find themselves marginalized even within putatively non-normative spaces such as queer and feminist communities.”

  • “Afterword” by Lisa Downing. The Routledge History of Sex and the Body: 1500 to the Present. Ed. Sarah Toulalan and Kate Fisher. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon, 2014. p. 530.
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