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Leave the lettuce in the bag

Keep all cucumbers cool, now

Zucchini’s the desired base

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Constructive Words For “Not Having Sex”?

Continued from “Let’s Talk About ‘Not Having Sex'” and “Destructive Words For “Not Having Sex”

The words I’m considering helpful in coming out and discussing not having sex in various contexts.

Asexuality – a natural or biological inclination to rarely or never feel sexual attraction. In short, the label for people who Mother Nature or God or evolution designed to be inclined not to have sex. Not an essentialistic description of entire races or genders or other groups. Not “lacking in functional genitals” or “lacking in libido” or “unattractive”. It is instead a useful term to say “I do not actively feel lust or arousal towards a person of any gender” with several labels available to give that more nuance, such as “rarely” or “in these very specific circumstances”.

Its primary use is describing “not (being inclined to) having sex” as a state of being, an orientation.

Celibacy – the choice to temporarily or permanently disengage from sexual activity. In short, the label for people who for personal, religious or other reasons decide not to have sex. This word lacks the implication “purity” has that one is better. It describes behaviour or a decision of an individual where “chastity” is more likely to be used in a judgment call. It lacks the deterministic implication that it precedes marriage.

Its primary use is in being the best candidate for a term to describe “not having sex” as choice and conscious behaviour.

Repression (when discussing sexual behaviour) – being barred from either wishing to engage in sexual behaviour or acting upon a desire to be sexually active. Can occur for an individual or in a community. Mental conditions or subconcious choices may lead to it, such as high stress or internalised queerphobia. Social limitations may include peer pressure or a criminalisation of sexual behaviour. May have neutral but, more often, a negative connotation.

Its primary use would be in describing a state of “not having sex” that is not by choice and feels more as stemming from experience/the mind/circumstances than natural/biological.

I find this third word to be more problematic… Because for others I think it may be as toxic as abstinence is to me. Plus there’s the conflation of asexuality and sexual repression that’s used to deny asexuality as a legitimate label.

Destructive Words For “Not Having Sex”

Trigger warning: explicit discussion of Christian prejudice around sex.

Continued from “Let’s Talk About ‘Not Having Sex'” and in “Constructive Words For ‘Not Having Sex'”

I have come to find these words so poisoned by their current usage that I believe I need to give them up if I talk about not having sex.

Purity/Chastity (in English among Christians) – While these used to mean “being good and whole” and “choosing to act righteously” they are now both used foremost mean “not having sex except with your spouse”. Purity (culture) has come to describe the collective of conservative individuals and institutions that enforce this norm at the cost of personal freedom, human rights and individual welfare. I hate this perversion of two useful words, for a state of goodness and courteous behaviour. Now they’re just a verbal and mental chastity belt for the unmarried. I hate the moral stance and community associated with this word. I believe they act in direct contradiction to how Jesus would act.

Abstinence (among Christians) – If I translate it to Dutch (onthouding) and back to English I get “keeping away”. Its general use I don’t mind. In fact, I agree that it’s easier to keep away from (food, gaming, alcohol, sex) completely than to limit it, if something is harmful to you. In a religious context, I’d equate this to fasting, to abstain from something to improve your life or facilitate meditation.

I dislike abstinence when it refers to not having extramarital sex. The enforcement is always external. Parents, employers, schools, law makers and even health insurance companies are told to make younger people abstinent. They can choose their religion but not their relationships, it implies. They are helpless victims in the face of their own sex drive (boys) or predators (girls). That anything sexual is considered sinful unless “sanctified” by marriage doesn’t help with the fear-mongering.

Virginity – Virgin (maagd) meant only maiden or damsel-in-distress in old-fashioned Dutch when I grew up. When we spoke about morally correct behaviour, both in church and in school, we used the terms “sexually faithful” (to describe the ideal the church was striving for) and “sexually active” to describe someone who is having sex and a denial to describe the opposite. Emphasising it’s behaviour, not magic transformation, for good or ill.

I have found this emphasis on sex as activity and choice to be very empowering. Discussing sex as physical intimacu and what that means is a positive and constructive way to discuss biblical ideas without judging people. It’s also closer to the source material, the emphasis on well-considered and respectful behaviour in a relationship. Not an obsession with the preamble or the legal institution. It also allows for the discussion of how other people may make other choices because they follow other principles without condemning them out of hand.

A second reason I dislike the concept of virginity is because I believe it leads to superstition and false teaching.

Superstition: ‘virginity’ is an abstract, near-magical thing you can lose, akin to holiness, which elevates you above the rest of humanity. If you have it, it makes you an object to be protected or sacrificed or violated.

False teaching: correct sexual behaviour is more important than any other choice you make. It may condemn you to hell regardless of anything else you do in life. It supersedes even your choice to become a Christian. So long as you only have heterosexual intramarital sex God will love you best.

If being an asexual Christian has taught me anything, it’s that I’m not a better person for not wishing to have sex. I’m an equal mess of good and bad to any other human, with my own unique failings.

Let’s Talk About “Not Having Sex”

For December’s Carnival of Aces, I wanted to consider the question: have I ever experienced burn-out in ace activities? And, well, there’s three false claims I’ve been beating my head against over and over again: having sex is wrong, queer people are evil and everyone wants to have sex.

It’s exhausting and self-defeating.

The most succesful strategies I have are:
a) to have a strong and clear conviction on the topic so I don’t feel overwhelmed in the face of others’ opinions and prejudice.
b) to express my views in a way others understand while still respecting their opinion, because both of those are important to me.

I need to define my position on this topic in four contexts. As family or friend, I have conversations about love, loneliness and longing. As a panromantic demisexual, I blog about my personal reflections in the online asexual community. These both feel safe and supportive.

I also live in more public domains. As a partially closeted queer Christian, I have a love-hate relationship with my congregation and the worldwide church. As an asexual-spectrum person I engage with a society where not having sex is a deeply strange. These are the two contexts where I want to choose my words with care to say exactly what I mean.

So let’s talk about good and bad words for “not having sex.” In separate posts, I will list the top 3 words that frustrate me and the top 3 words I find most helpful. Why “not having sex”? Because that’s basically the topic of any conversation I have in the public domain about asexuality.

After that, I want to be done running in circles of worry on this topic and at the very, very least move reflection and writing and discussion in a more constructive direction.

Tea, please

Warm tea, when cradled

Thaws my raw palms, while the fire

You stoke makes me flinch

Get some questions, get a book

My real-life contribution to ace awareness week… talk to my therapist.

“So… there’s this book going to come out for people who work with aces.”

“Okay. And you want me to…?”

“Read it? Professional literature?”

“Yes, oh yes, anything you have, anytime.”

“Right.”

So… this has been mentioned in various blogs you may read. The Asexual Awareness Project is writing a book. They need people answering questions to make it good. Having worked through a couple questionaires, I’m thinking they’ve got plans to follow this up with other literature for things like sexual education or material you might bring to your local LGBT centre.

So.

I wish to encourage you to do this. You’re free to do it anonymously, under a pseudonym (like me), you can do it without giving the approval for direct citation and, what I like best, at every turn they invite you to only answer those questions you’re comfortable providing information on.

But they do need people, so, if you’d like to say anything at all on the subject.

Please.

There are ace-friendly therapists and councilors and psychologists and chaplains and what-have-you out there who would benefit from a decent book aimed at them.

I’d really like to hand this one to mine.

Ambivert?

I try to write constructive posts, on this blog. Honest about my struggles but also, in the self-reflecting, seeing what is good and what might work and what gives me hope and a plan and motivation. That’s deliberate. Dutchies make a habit of complaining and it’s a good way for me to find excuses to give up and get sad.

I’m telling you this to give you some context to for the following: I’ve been telling my therapist for a year that I feel lonely. I feel that loneliness is tied to my asexuality, in part because it made me limit myself in relationships and in part because moving and joining a more conservative church served to give rise to my internalised orientation-related-phobia (Acephobia? Homophobia? Queerphobia? We need a new word here).

I’ve been telling my therapist I’m lonely… not just in the kinda-wanting-company sense. But often physically craving company and getting an itchy skin because I wasn’t getting my dose of affectionate touch that week and having a broken record in my head mournfully crooning about wanting a good conversation.

Even though I do have company and I do have a supportive family and I do have friends… It wasn’t enough, by a long stretch.

We’ve tried different things. Finally screwing up the courage to go out and try dating. Seeing if I needed to do volunteer work or get a hobby and just have a low-key way to meet people. Journaling to dig up the details about how my brain works, especially given my orientation, and my prejudices and self-image.

It’s lead to some great stuff. I’ve gotten to know myself a lot better and figured more about how I do relate to people and what I would want out of a relationship, friendship, familial or romantic.

We didn’t get to the core problem, it seemed. It kept cropping up.

Finally, one session, after I was done laying out what I wished to dig into that time, she regarded me very seriously and asked, “Are you sure you’re an introvert?”

“Yes?” I said, because she has a habit of prodding at my beliefs until I have to re-examine them myself. “I mean… I crave time alone after a day around people and I’m good at entertaining myself.” And it made it easier to deal with not having many friends and a good excuse for sitting somewhere with a book by myself.

“But you keep telling me you need to be around people more and… well… you light up every time you tell me about a gathering or a meeting you went to that you liked. It charges you up even remembering the event.”

“Well….yeah. They are fun. But also hard.”

“Mostly when you’re not comfortable, right?”

“Right.”

“And when you are at ease…?”

“Best feeling in the world.”

“Hm-hm.”

I need people. As an instinctive, emotional social creature I need people. Far more than I was actually granting myself.

Having practiced with just being around people more in places I’m comfortable for low-key activities with few expectations doing things I find interesting… I have to say, this craving was far broader and far less discriminating than I thought. Yes, I’d like to date, but I don’t need to. Yes, I’d love to have good friends, but a mellow chat with someone I’ve just met is also great.

I was starving for company. Just because I was kinda quiet and socially awkward and also, yes, needed a measure of reflection, I thought I was a hell of an introvert. I’m really not.

I’m not sure whether I’m an ambivert or just a very quiet extrovert…

Just, I want to encourage you, if you’re asexual and you’ve been feeling lonely and you think it’s because you don’t have a ‘love life’… I encourage you to try other things too, you may be surprised by how many things can be satisfying and stimulating.

List of stuff I tried to start:

  • Do some work in a local cafe a couple of times a week, instead of at home.
  • A few free or low-cost events (lectures, plays, workshops) on topics I liked.
  • Take a little more initiative in meeting up with friends.
  • Take the bike more and say hello to every single person I make eye contact with (and get either responses or hilarious faces).

Featured image from:

https://keydifferences.com/difference-between-introvert-and-extrovert.html

 

 

 

An Ace Anthem

A Carnival of Aces contribution for October, theme “Asexuality and Poetry”.

PLEASE volunteer to be a host for the Carnival, if you’ve got the time! They need people!

Grace –

  1. a source of good things
  2. having a pleasing quality
  3. mercy, respite

 

An Ace Anthem

Hold fast to blessings, being ace
Thinking, without sex, what love is there?
Each one we claim grants our hearts grace

Loneliness? We’re not doomed to face
Going alone we don’t know yet where
Hold fast to blessings, being ace

Think of affections you can trace
The friends, all people for whom we care
Each one we claim grants our hearts grace

Each passion in our lives we chased
When we brightened our lives with some flare
Hold fast to blessings, being ace

Yes, we must custom design our place
In the lives of loves we wish to share
Each one we claim grants our hearts grace

Fills life to bursting, stand amazed
If courage fails you, you I dare
Hold fast to blessings, being ace
Each one we claim grants our hearts grace

The Doctor Is Gynesexual

I’ve come across lists of labels for (a)sexual orientations and gender identities several times. I took note of the terms ‘gynesexual’ (attracted to femininity) and ‘androsexual’ (attracted to masculinity) as a nice pair of terms to use as an alternative to heterosexual and homosexual.

I like learning words that strike me as useful. Especially because I believe one of the chief contributions the ace community makes to mainstream society is new vocabulary. It deconstructs orientations, attractions and relationships and then offers new words for the components people don’t normally distinguish from each other.

Then I watched So… is the Doctor Gay Now? A Doctor Who Ramble  by the genderfluid Council of Geeks. I’m going to go with ‘they’ for a pronoun since they present as “inbetween” (their word) for most of the vid.

They considered whether the Doctor’s gender switch between their twelfth and thirteenth regeneration (Peter Capaldi to Jodie Whittaker) made them gay. The Doctor, after all, has (mostly) been attracted to women (Rose, River Song). They say that, yes, technically, she is now, since gay, homosexual, means “attracted to people of the same gender” and the Doctor’s attractions don’t change along with her gender identity. So, while The Doctor’s a woman, and has been portrayed as being attracted to women, she would now fall under that header.

However, that’s mostly because of the limits of our language. Council discussed how they themselves usually decline to answer yes or no to the same question. Days they’re a man, they’d be a heterosexual man, days they present as feminine, they’d be a gay woman. Instead, they answer “I am attracted to women.” Not quite the same. They wondered whether there was a label for that. Which set my mind to shouting “ooh, ooh, gynesexual” and prompted me to start writing about it.

Because useful words deserve a spotlight.

I’ll be curious to see if the BBC dare let the Doctor be attracted to women on screen while she is a woman herself. I think I agree with Council. They’ll most likely skip over it entirely during this regeneration and keep her relationships platonic, like in the classic Doctor Who series.

I found it interesting too that at this point they called the classic Doctor “asexual.” It’s the context in which I’ve seen asexual used most often while I was searching for material for my Carnival of Aces contribution, something on asexuality in Holland before 2010. Prior to that year most people spoke of asexuality as the opposite of sexualised, sexually attractive or sexually active.

Marga Klompé was the best example I came across. She became the first female minister in the Netherlands in 1956. In an interview, Mieke Aerts described her as deliberately having an asexual persona and that she never leveraged being a woman in power. Aerts wistfully reflects that a more sexualised society makes that almost impossible. This was the most common use of asexual in Dutch until 2010. Then articles started appearing by people identifying themselves as asexual in the sense of not feeling sexual attraction towards others and, in most cases, happily not having sex.

Let’s dig a little more into the Doctor as member of a race of Timelords. It’s an alien race who have multiple bodies of any gender over the course of their lives. In the video, Council questions whether that would make labeling attraction to any gender meaningless. Presumably, they’d only identify as sexual or asexual, romantic or aromantic.

But even inside the narrative there’s hints of more. Though the ninth Doctor disparages labels, he does say Jack is omnisexual. Assuming that’s the equivalent of pansexual, I’m going with gender mattering at least somewhat in attraction and that labels still function, even if they’re more fluid in who is what.

I do think that if all members of a species can switch genders several times, it makes ‘heterosexual’ and ‘homosexual’ problematic as words. You’d have to switch labels to describe your preferences every time you regenerated. So words that only take the gender to which a person’s attracted into account seems ideal. It would make sense, if linguistically Timelords also identified primarily as male or female, that they could adopt gynesexual and androsexual as labels for being attracted to either gender. Gyneromantic and androromantic for the other level of orientation and ace, aro and bi and other words already in use would nicely round out the list.

What I also like about these words is that there’d be no majority. Yes, most women’d be androsexual and most men would be gynesexual, for the sake of procreation, but there’s no single label for the majority like there is when you use heterosexual and homosexual.

Other sources

“Interview: Marga Klompé kon nog aseksueel zijn” Koos Neuvel. Vrij Nederland. 18 februari 1995. p 76.

https://c.slashgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/dr_who_main.jpg

Ace History in Haiku

My contribution for the Carnival of Aces September edition, Asexuality before Aven. I may do another one if I can make heads or tails from my research…

I

Keyword not found, then
a black screen stares back at my face
dissatisfied, first

II

Scattershot outliers
stitched together with wishing
we weren’t pioneers

III

Among a handful
celibate, spinster, virgin
I find few like minds

IV

Questing for treasure
aerates the ground we stand on
Let’s plant our pride flags

V

The blank page awaits
Pen crowned with its cap, unsheathed
for ace history

 

Queering Closeness

Thoughts on the intersection of aromantic and polyamorous experiences

The Dancing Trans

A nonbinary dancer navigating the complexities of dance and society

A Space For Me

Sometimes, I have a lot to say

God Be With Us, Asexuals

Through the bible in 3 years as queer.

The Realm of Asexual Possibility

Ace reviews of five seasons of The X-Files

DemiConsensual: Gender, Sexuality, and Feminism in the Modern World

Making sense of all things gender, sexuality, identity, and feminist in our current culture.

Asexuality New Zealand Trust

Educating New Zealanders about asexuality.