Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Etsy Shop For Zines Is Open! AF#2 is OUT!

Good news!

I have just opened a shop on Etsy for my zines: Asexual Feminism, and my perzine Asexy.

and by the way, Asexual Feminism Issue #2 is now in print and for sale!

Check it out!

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. I have been working on my zine, adopted a kitten, and have been indecisive about writing topics.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thoughts about Social Cues and Sexual Assault

I was inspired by Lock's blog post, Social Cues I Just Keep Missing, to write this response. My intended response seemed too long for a comment.

Lock discusses how those of us who are asexual, and especially if we are neuro-atypical or have mental illnesses or disorders, can have some difficulty interpreting sexual social cues or can be surprised at finding that we give off cues by accident. Lock also writes about how there are those who take advantage of cues, though they may be unaware of the miscommunication in some cases.

It reminded me of how, during my freshman year of college, I found myself in a situation that I'd been completely unaware of stepping into. Late one evening a male acquaintance invited me to his dorm to hang out with him and his girlfriend and have some drinks. They were both already drunk, and his girlfriend was on the verge of passing out. We conversed for a while, and I don't remember too much of the evening. I do remember that just as I was leaving he said (with disappointment and frustration), "I invited you over because I thought you were going to have sex with me and my girlfriend. Why did you come over?" To this day I am totally baffled at the possibility I gave off some cue or failed to pick up on his cues. I have no idea how this happened.

It's also possible though that there were no cues, and his statement was a last desperate attempt to guilt me into having sex with him and his (by then unconscious) girlfriend. As a side note, this person also claimed to be a feminist, which is horrifying in a very special way.

I think that people who rely on sexual cues and nonverbal communication are treading dangerous waters, particularly when approaching new potential sex partners. If they're trying to get someone to have sex without asking for consent, they risk sexually assaulting someone.

Also, the tendency to ignore rejection I think not only has to do with wanting sex desperately, as Lock suggests, but also with masculine imperialism or something of that nature. I'm not suggesting that people go around thinking, "I'm going to ignore this rejection because I want to bolster my confidence and sense of power by conquering this person sexually," but I think that kind of attitude is subliminal culturally.

The more I think about social cues, and how confusing they are and how they vary geographically and culturally, the more I am convinced that they actually hinder intimacy rather than promote it when we rely on them. The cues that we each learn vary so widely that it's unlikely that any two people will use and understand the same set of nonverbal cues. While the cues themselves do not hinder intimacy or cause sexual assault, the cultural attitude that there is a universal code which we can learn and interpret rather than communicate verbally is a serious problem. We can't help it that we send nonverbal signals. But it is problematic that we sell books and magazines and have television programs that claim to instruct on social cues so one can get intimate without asking, taking short cuts to avoid being uncomfortable.

If you have to seriously question whether someone's facial expression or way of looking at you is sending a message about wanting to perform a particular act, it's probably time to start asking questions. And if you can't ask questions because you won't accept rejection, then you shouldn't try to engage at all. If all you have to go on when you advance sexually is social cues which you've interpreted in your own favor, and you haven't asked for consent, then you could be sexually assaulting that person. It doesn't matter if you feel like your intentions are harmless when you touch someone without asking first, not asking is a way of dominating even if all you are doing is giving a hug.

I'm not suggesting that you should ignore nonverbal cues if you think that someone is hinting something to you strongly, whether it is "come closer," or "get away," but that you should also check in and verbally confirm your suspicions. While those of us who have more difficulty than others noticing social cues may have heightened awareness of how confusing they are, I think that this confusion only confirms the necessity to not rely solely on nonverbal communication, because social cues are different for everyone.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

I have been told many things since I started coming out as asexual. I have been told not to label myself. I have been told not to restrict myself. I have been told that I don't know who I am. I have been told that I try too hard to figure myself out. I have been told that I will change my mind, and I have been told that I am wrong. I have been told that it is oppressive for me to call myself anything other than queer. It is this idea I want to address, that using a word other than queer to define yourself as a queer person is both too limiting and somehow problematic.

I am aware that the words homosexual and heterosexual are medical terms which basically serve the purpose of delineating normal bodies from abnormal bodies. I am also aware that there are many queers (among them some of my friends), who believe that words other than queer--words like lesbian, gay, bisexual, etc--are oppressive to queer people because they reinforce difference and heteronormativity. Some people think that even using the word queer is playing the heteronormativity game.

When you tell a queer person that they are being oppressive by defining themselves, you are participating in a patriarchal practice as old as patriarchy itself. You are dominating and controlling a person by silencing them, taking their voice away. The worst part is that if you are queer and you tell other queers that their identities are wrong, you are oppressing your own allies who are already oppressed all the time.

Who is winning? When you tell a lesbian that her label is old-fashioned or that it is too narrow (too narrow for whom?), who benefits from this? When you tell a heterosexual queer person that they can never be queer if they continue to call themselves heterosexual, and that they can only be an ally, who benefits? When you tell an asexual person that they are limiting themselves, that they are confused, or repressed, who benefits from this?

To use the words of Audre Lorde, "if I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive." We need our words to understand ourselves, to find each other, to figure out our boundaries and our needs. If you don't need words that is your business, but it is hurtful to tell others to abandon their chosen identities when they may need them for their own survival.

On the flipside, I would like to extend my gratitude to my friends and allies who have nurtured me and taken the time to explore new possibilities for sexualities. I am thankful for your continued support and your enthusiasm, which never ceases to uplift my spirit. I only hope that I can be as nurturing to you as you have been to me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sensual Celibacy

Has anyone read Sensual Celibacy by Donna Marie Williams? I would like to hear some opinions of this book from asexuals and gray-asexuals. I am considering reading it, although I'm certain that her book is directed toward non-asexuals. Also I don't know that I am personally interested in choosing celibacy, although not engaging in sex (due to asexuality) has been my lifestyle for a long time now. However, I have to wonder if there are things in this book that could be relevant to asexuals or that would validate not engaging in sex while being sex-positive. Thoughts?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Talk It Out.

Something I express strong opinions about is setting up and negotiating boundaries within your relationships, especially if they have romantic and/or sexual components, in order to avoid dysfunction, pain, cheating, etc. This boundary setting can happen with friends, family, romantic partners, your friend's romantic partners, your romantic partner's other partners, your study buddies, etc. Stating how you feel about a relationship and checking in regularly is a good way to maintain your own health as well as the health of your relationships.

However, I have to admit that this doesn't always play out well in my own life. Today I had a conversation with a friend on the subject of communicating about the direction or shape a relationship takes while within it. Personally, I tend not to communicate beyond "I want to be your friend," "I enjoy your company," and "let's hang out." I do not usually bring up behaviors that I expect to be reciprocal and tend to let my friendships develop as they do. I don't enjoy setting up boundaries or giving names to my relationships. If I express discontent or try to set up boundaries and expectations, it's usually because I have been hiding my feelings.

This has posed a huge problem when it comes to romantic relationships for me, and I wonder if this is similar for other asexuals who have difficulty forming romantic relationships. I have very little practice at making my intentions clear and asking for what I want, and so what happens is that I either treat the situation as if it were a typical friendship, or I end up putting a lot of emotional pressure on the person I'm interested in without fully explaining what's happening for me and what I want. I need to work on this more seriously and hope that this post will help motivate me.

In my ideal world, however, communicating about relationships would happen all the time. I feel almost silly bringing up this topic because I think most people would agree that communication is important. Yet, so many of us (asexual or not) are desperate for love and/or cynical about it, not knowing how to obtain it or how to share it. I also think that this trouble is related to difficulty with communication. I don't mean to suggest that one has to communicate their feelings face-to-face all the time--I tend to express myself best in writing and know that many people have a similar communication style. What really matters, in my mind, is taking the time to express yourself and being willing to step back and listen with an open mind. How long this takes would vary each time that it happens and with each person. Like all good things, healthy communication takes patience.

People express their feelings of love in many different ways. Someone told me a couple months ago that they considered sex to be the highest expression of love. In some families, offering care is a way of expressing love. Sometimes giving gifts or doing favors is a way of expressing love. These are all expressions which are valuable, but in and of themselves none of these is love and none can take the place of communication. One can have sex without communicating and without loving; one can care for another without communicating and without loving; one can give a gift without communicating and without loving. Communication itself is not love either, but I believe it is the only method that is guaranteed to express your feelings about a person and about a relationship as accurately as possible.

Note: I was inspired to write this post after a community discussion on consent and intoxication that my friends and I put together. I believe that obtaining consent before engaging in any activity with someone, sexual or otherwise, is of utmost important. This post arose out of the realization that before we can even talk about obtaining consent, we have to acknowledge the importance of communication, period. If consent is an ongoing process, then so is communication. And if communication is blocked, difficult, or avoided, how can one even begin to practice consent?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What did we learn from our first gathering?

In the spirit of second-wave feminist consciousness raising stories, I'm going to share a couple stories with you today. If you don't like personal experience stories, go read about worm therapy or something. A few days ago I read "Poets Live The Questions: Jewell Gomez & Minnie Bruce Pratt" from This Is What A Lesbian Looks Like. My mind travelled off in remembrance when I read the question:

What did we learn about living from our first lesbian and gay gathering, event, dance, night at the bar?

I'm going to answer this by going into the first queer gathering I can remember, and then the first asexual gathering.

I must have been about 11 years old the first time I went to a queer gathering. I had no idea where I was going or who would be there, but one day my older brother C invited me to a party that his co-workers were having. C was working at booth that sold used books at the local street fair at the time, and he was roughly 16 years old. He rarely wanted to spend time with me, and had since my early childhood been verbally abusive to me. At that age I still wanted to be his friend and to have a good relationship with him, so although I was struck by the randomness of his invitation, I was grateful for the chance to spend time with him.

I didn't know anyone at the party other than my brother. If I had to guess I would put the average age of the attendees at 35, and most of them appeared to be woman-identified and were in lesbian relationships. I'm not just guessing that they were in lesbian relationships based on haircuts or clothes, rather they were paired off and sitting on each other's laps, holding hands, kissing each other, etc.

I remember sitting in a plastic lawn chair eating potato chips, watching my brother talk to people at the party, and shyly glancing at the other attendees out of the corner of my eye. I didn't stare at anybody because that would be rude. I was silent the whole time because I didn't know what to talk about and the attendees were absorbed in their own conversations. Why should they care about their teenage co-worker's kid sister? It wasn't an unpleasant or hostile environment, just kind of boring and awkward because I didn't know anybody, there were no other children present, and my brother was being social with other people. In retrospect, I think he only invited me because he felt that he needed a buffer, some kind of "feminine" presence to offset his hetero masculinity. I can only assume this based on what I know about my brother.

At the time this gathering was no big deal to me, even though to my knowledge I'd never seen a lesbian couple displaying affection before. I didn't know the word lesbian at the time, but it was obvious to me that they were couples similar to the way that I'd seen men and women together. It wasn't a big deal, but the memory has remained with me a decade after it happened although I was only at the party for perhaps a half an hour. Regardless of the short amount of time that I was there and my feelings about what I saw, I do believe that being present at this gathering impacted my feelings about homosexuality and queerness in general.

Shortly after the gathering I learned the words gay and lesbian, though I don't recall how. Probably through the internet. I do know that I was immediately accepting of homosexuality and that I recognized my own affectionate feelings towards both men and women (I came out in certain circles as bisexual at the age of 12). It is doubtful that I could have felt supportive of homosexuality at that age just out of the goodness of my heart, considering how heteronormative the culture I grew up in was. So in some respects I attribute my automatic positive feelings about homosexuality to my experience at that gathering, where people were just being themselves and having a good time. How could I have thought there was something wrong about that?

As far as my first asexual gathering, that happened this year. I can't remember if it was in February or March, but it was a lecture at Portland State University given by the Portland Aces meetup group. Most of the information wasn't new to me because I'd already been doing my own research, but I wanted to hear what they had to say, and honestly I wanted to look at and be in the presence of people who identified as asexual. The number of people there filled a small classroom. I think there were roughly 30 people in attendance, with multiple genders and ages represented. The lecture was fine, accurate, but like I said it wasn't anything new. What was really cool was after the lecture, during the questions, about half of the attendees came out as asexual or questioning. Some of these people admitted that this was the first time they'd heard about asexuality, yet they felt it described them. I didn't come out, but I did put myself on the mailing list. I haven't heard from the meetup group since then, though.

The more I think about it, the more I think that this was totally awesome. A mass coming-out of sorts!  I've never witnessed anything like that, really. This affirms for me something that I've questioned as I've come out (again and again), which is that asexuality is probably more common than it would seem from statistics (1%, anyone?). People tell me that they relate to asexuality quite often now, whether they feel fully asexual or think they might be demi, or just experience sexual attraction in a way that isn't represented by the dominant paradigm. So I suppose what I learned from this gathering is that aces are everywhere, just waiting to pop up and surprise you.

Monday, November 8, 2010

You Have A Sexuality

Besides being confused about what the definition of asexual means, many people are also confused about it being a sexuality. I've read on AVEN and heard people describe to me in person that they feel that they "don't have a sexuality," and are therefore asexual. Moreover, this is often followed with "I'm nothing."

This is both inherently contradictory and a reflection of the way that sexuality is linked with personhood.

This should be straightforward. Asexuality = sexual orientation = sexuality. If you are asexual, your sexuality is defined by not being sexually attracted to anyone. It is a state of being. Your asexuality also shapes your interactions with other people as much as any sexuality does for anyone. You create relationships with people the way that you do because of your sexuality. You may do this differently than people with other kinds of sexualities, but your difference doesn't mean you don't have a sexuality.

Next, I should add that if you are asexual and describe yourself as "nothing," you're doing an injustice to yourself and are basically stating that you're not a person (whether this was your intention or not). A person is so much more than who they want to have sex with and how much sex they're having. Are people who aren't asexual "something," just because they feel sexual attraction? Perhaps you've been conditioned to believe that sexual attraction and being sexual are the most important parts of being human. Well, people who are not asexual are something, and you're something, too. You're an asexual, and you're many other things as well. You have hobbies, you have people in your life, you're talented at some things and not at others, you have likes and dislikes. I'm not trying to go on a "you're a special starfish" rant here, but basically everyone is "something" regardless of the kinds of relationships they want to form.

There may indeed be something inherently sexist about the assumption that all people are sexual, and therefore if you're not sexual you're not a person. Until a few decades a go it was accepted by Western medical practitioners (and in Western culture generally) that women could not have sex with each other, and that sex was something that only a man could have. It was also believed (again until recently, due to scientific inquiry) that women were not actually human, or if they were, they were subhuman men who didn't have enough heat in their bodies to create an external penis (the vagina was believed to be a penis that the body was too weak to push out, so to speak). Although in many cultures it is now accepted that women are human and can have sex without a penis, the notion that sex = male, only males = human and sex = human still has a lingering affect on how people are treated for being queer, not just asexual.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

DeviantArt...not so deviant.

This is off the ace theme, but I figure since many of us (myself included) do not fit into the gender binary that there should be some interest amongst my readers.

So in May DeviantArt changed their design so that users no longer have the option of declaring a gender outside of the binary.

Check out this blog post. It chronicles the complaints of one user and the bigotry and sexism of DevArt staff.

I stopped using DevArt a few years ago, but I was thinking recently about joining again because I need a place to stash my art online for free. Absolutely not happening now, though. I am sending in a complaint, and a friend of mine informed me that she sent in one and apparently they are logging all the complaints in order to make a decision.

Please spread the word!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friendship As Polyamory

Some of my friends have already read this because I posted it on my Tumblr (no longer in use). I feel that this information is worth repeating, though.

I tend to think that if you have more than one friend you are polyamorous.  So ultimately, probably most people are polyamorous but many may refuse to call themselves that because of taboos or misconceptions and fear.
Here’s one example of a situation, to demonstrate: the best friend and the romantic partner. You have a best friend, whose opinions you take seriously, and who you make compromises with, maybe you see them on a regular basis and have emotional intimacy with. You would consider not dating someone if they said that you and the romantic date/partner were completely wrong for each other and the partner gives them super bad vibes, right?
If you call your relationship monogamous, how do you justify having some of your emotional/intellectual/spiritual/other needs met by someone outside of the monogamous relationship? Why should friendship get to be a special exception to the monogamous rule? Is it because your friendships are assumed to be non-sexual and non-romantic? Why is one kind of emotional intimacy acceptable but not another kind of intimacy? What if your friend is romantically interested in you (but you do or don’t reciprocate), or there’s sexual tension or flirting but neither of you takes it further than that? What if your best friend’s needs are sometimes more important than your romantic partner’s needs? Is it still an OK exception to a monogamous relationship? I think the above situations all represent types of polyamory, but probably most people who call themselves monogamous will go through or have gone through these things and may have struggled as a result of being monogamous.
So I guess that’s why I think monogamy as an institution is harmful, like my friend E talks about. Because where do you draw the line between friendship and something else, and how can anyone have all of their needs met by one person? Monogamy is all about solid lines and inflexibility, which probably more often than not leads to one partner becoming jealous of someone else in the other partner’s life eventually (a close friend, a family member, even a pet could become a source of jealousy). So why not just decide to be polyamorous and be open to negotiating all of your relationships with honest communication? Or, if romance and sex with other people would be bad for your relationship, why not negotiate what is acceptable for the relationship? I guess this might be what I’ve heard E say is “monoamory.” With monogamy there are no negotiations, you’re just supposed to assume that any kind of intimacy outside of your relationship will destroy the relationship—that’s the nature of the beast.
By the way, I have decided that I’m not going to judge other the dynamics of other people’s relationships as long as they have decided on the dynamic together and believe it will be mutually beneficial.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ace in SpAce/ or, I Won't Be Blowing Ponies Anytime Soon

Forgive the title. Warning: the sexually squeamish might not want to read some of this.

Lately I've been thinking about what it would mean to have asexual-friendly spaces.

This has been in the back of my mind, but last night I was really triggered into thinking about it more seriously. Last night I went to Blow Pony, which is a huge monthly queer dance party in Portland, OR. I've been to several of these parties, and last night I realized that it's unhealthy for me to go and that I'm never going again. Something I have discussed in passing is that in my experience, "queerness" is associated with lasciviousness, to the point that not being lustful is considered both not queer and repressed. Blow Pony is pretty much bordering on a sexual orgy, if you can imagine what I mean by that. BP is an extreme example of queer dances, but I think that's mostly because of the sheer size of the party. All queer dance parties I've been to have been similar in that they are highly sexual and frequently involve (also highly sexual) performances.

I'm sex-positive, do not mistake that, and when I distance myself enough (say, by being a wallflower or pretending I'm invisible), I can feel entertained by watching the energy and interactions. I feel like an absolute outsider, though. I love dancing, but at dance parties (that are specifically queer) I tend to feel scrutinized, or worse, extremely lonely. Because my friends will pair off with each other and dance, leaving me dancing awkwardly alone beside them. I don't know how to dance with a partner, especially not the way that my peers dance. I've tried to on many occasions, but it quickly becomes obvious that I have no clue what's expected of me. It's nothing against my peers; they aren't doing anything wrong. I'm happy for them. But I can't relate to their experiences. I don't fit in at these events...

...Which leads me to wonder, where the hell do I fit?

I'm too queer for dance parties at "straight" clubs, but I'm not lusty enough for "queer" dance parties. So I pretty much have to go to these events and either fend off straight dudes who want to rub their junk all over me, dance awkwardly by myself at queer parties, or dance alone at home. I could enjoy dancing at parties if my friends wanted to dance in a circle, maybe, rather than grinding by default. Sometimes at "straight" clubs I can dance in a circle with women folk, but this usually attracts dudes who want to do the fore-mentioned thing. I just want to dance, dammit!

I think this problem is bigger than just places to dance. The problem is the lack of asexual knowledge in general making it so that every space is sexualized in some manner. Since most people are not aware that this orientation is an option, sexuality is constantly imposed on each and every one of us, everywhere we go. The only ace-friendly places, right now, are ones established by aces themselves. These are online and at meetups. I think if knowledge of asexuality were common, then there would be more ace-friendly spaces because people wouldn't have those sexual proverbs embedded in their minds. You know the ones: everyone is sexual, everyone has sexual needs. I don't want people to stop enjoying each others sexualities, I just don't want people to assume that sexual attraction is universal.

I'm queer, I'm ace, and I'm not repressed. Can you hold all of those ideas in your mind simultaneously? If so, we'll be able to create positive spAces together. All that's required of you is consciousness and a sharing of consciousness.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It Might Not Get Better

Many people I'm friends with on Facebook and in meatspace are enamored with and supportive of the It Gets Better project started by Dan Savage. I am not a supporter of this project.

While for certain queer people life after high school may get better, for many others "it" won't get better. Dan Savage pointed out in his video that after high school he didn't have to see the people who bullied him or the uncaring administrators. Many people don't have the privilege, for example, to move away from the town where their high school is located and may end up working with and possibly working "underneath" the people who bullied them after high school. Not every queer person's family is going to learn to love and respect them and their partners. Some people might be ostracized from their families even before completing high school and end up living on the streets, homeless.

Savage's story about how his life got better after high school was also basically homonormative. He found a partner, got married, adopted a child, he became a published author of notoriety, his parents accepted him and his partner, and they lived happily ever after (and you can, too!). Not everyone is going to find a partner or will want to get married (or be able to if they do want to!) and adopt a child--not everyone has the privileges Savage has. Many of us may live in various levels of poverty for most or all of our lives, not find a "life partner" and be discriminated against for our lifestyles--we may even face serious violence for not conforming.

When you insist that "it gets better," you're also saying that the oppression we face as queer adults is tolerable. That when we are no longer minors and are legally responsible for ourselves, that maybe the oppression we face is our own fault or that we can just ignore the discrimination and violence if we choose to. Some of us are privileged enough to be able to ignore the discrimination, but for other people ignoring it isn't even an option.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about teen suicide. I just want you to check your privilege when you support the "it gets better" campaign.

What if instead of just saying "it gets better," we work on actually making our world a better place to live in and teaching young people to respect and support each other? How about we build loving communities instead of spreading around empty slogans that don't reflect reality?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Choosing An Identity

Much of this may sound like old news to you. This post is the culmination of conversations I've had recently.

You may be aware that the argument has been made, and in some cases is still made, that homosexuals "chose" to experience same-sex attraction and to engage in same-sex sexual relationships, and that they could (and should) choose to become heterosexual. Part of the task of the queer movement is to assert that sexual orientation is not a choice. 
I can't prove anything, but I generally agree that we have little to no control over how our sexual orientations develop, and that we can't train ourselves into another orientation.

We can, however, choose our identities. Our identities change as we learn about ourselves or as our life circumstances change, and this is true not just of sexual orientation but in every facet of life. For example, if you lived in Arizona for ten years and then moved to Ohio and resided there full time, you'd become an Ohio resident and no longer be an Arizona resident, though you could still identify as someone who used to live in Arizona, if that was meaningful to you. In terms of the identity you choose for your sexual orientation, that may change as you discover parts of yourself you hadn't explored before for whatever reason. A lesbian identified person could change their identity to bisexual, for example, upon discovering that they are capable of being sexually attracted to a male. This person's orientation didn't necessarily change --they were always bisexual but weren't aware of it, what changed was a new experience and the decision to incorporate new knowledge into an identity.

It's also perfectly legitimate, in my opinion, for the person in this example to maintain their lesbian identity even if they have and recognize this new experience. There are many reasons why someone might choose to identify a certain way regardless of how well they "conform" to the assumptions of that label. What matters when choosing an identity for yourself is how well that identity serves your needs.

I talked about this today with a friend who was questioning asexuality. When deciding if it's OK or right for you to call yourself an asexual, what you should really be asking yourself is how identifying that way will enhance your life. If calling yourself asexual makes your life easier to understand, if it helps you think about the boundaries you need to lay out in relationships, or to clarify your emotional and other needs, then use it! It doesn't matter so much whether you conform to a particular definition of asexuality. Deviating is OK, you don't have to force yourself to live any particular way or judge yourself if the way you experience your sexuality changes. You can choose to call yourself asexual if that identity will serve your needs, and if someday you find another identity serves your needs better, you can change it! 

Identities do not describe a person in their entirety, they just help us to establish some basic things so we don't have to keep coming up with new words for what we are every time we speak. Everyone has multiple identities, and every person has different attitudes about those identities, needing them for different reasons. Let's say someone tells you that they are a Christian. You can assume that they believe in God and believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, but just hearing that a person identifies as Christian doesn't mean you know what parts of the religion they follow or how they worship. Another example, if someone tells you that they are French, that doesn't tell you where in France they are from or how they feel about French politics or anything really except perhaps their citizenship or residential location. Identities simply form places for us to compartmentalize our lives and make it easier to converse and get to know each other. Of course, identities are also frequently misunderstood and used against people to oppress them, but having an identity in and of itself shouldn't be oppressive. If your identity doesn't describe you in any way and you can and want to change identities, do it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Giving my first lecture!

Looks like I'll be giving my first official lecture on asexuality on October 28th, in my lesbian literature class. The first time I spoke to a class about asexuality was in March of this year, but it was only a five minute presentation given in refutation of the scientific literature we were reading which proclaimed that all people experience sexual attraction, during the class Science of Women's Bodies. The lecture I'm giving on the 28th will be about 45 minutes long.

I'm in the process of deciding what to discuss. I'll give the basics, of course, but I want to relate this to the subject of lesbianism, so I'll probably talk about romantic friendships, as well as identity politics and the potential problems of conformity (or what conformity even means). I'm hoping that after hearing my lecture my peers will come away with an understanding that there are alternative ways of "reading" relationships and constructing sexualities, ways which are not part of the dominant paradigm. If you, my readers, think there is anything in particular that I should touch on in my lecture, I am open to suggestions!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

People Who Are Not Asexual

I struggle with finding the right word, or the right set of words, to describe people who define their orientations as something other than asexual. Yes, I could just say the latter half of the previous sentence, but it's a mouthful.

Many people say "sexuals," but I feel that this is too broad and that it might actually encompass asexuals. If you say "sexuals," do you mean people who experience sexual attraction, people who identify as an orientation other than asexual, people who have sex or do things that are sexual, or something else? Whenever I read or hear the word "sexuals," I think about how anything could be considered sexual. Whether or not one chooses to think of any behavior as sexual is pretty much subjective, and this is probably part of the reason why so many people object to the word asexual. "You can't be asexual, because you do x, y, z" or even, "I think of you sexually, so you're not asexual," are examples of reactions which indicate how subjective the idea of what is sexual actually is.

I usually say "nonasexual," but even then I feel that I'm splitting sexuality into this horrible binary of asexuals and nonasexuals which fails to encompass the diversity of sexualities and narrows the focus down to identity, rather than orientation.

I'd like to hear more ideas about how to handle this situation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reconsidering Sexual Attraction

Yes, I'm still asexual. "Reconsidering" in this case doesn't mean that I suddenly stopped being asexual. I didn't magically become the pansexual I assume I would've been in a world where asexuality isn't real, rather than panromantic asexual. If I'd been a pansexual instead of an asexual, I wouldn't even be me--so there! Let's not even roleplay that asexuality isn't real, it's giving me the creeps.

If anything, I now feel considerable doubt that I've ever experienced sexual attraction. This has been going through my head for awhile, so I thought I'd drag it out into the light. If you've read my zine Asexy, or if you've heard me talk about my particular brand of asexuality, you know that I've claimed to have experienced sexual attraction to three different people. Now I am fairly certain that I've never experienced sexual attraction. What I have felt was something far more complicated. Part of the reason I believe the feeling is not sexual attraction is because it can be rationalized into many components.

The components, which I previously thought of as sexual attraction, are:

1) A feeling of being comfortable, and therefore open to exploration
2) Strong aesthetic admiration
3) Anxiety produced by romantic feelings
4) Feeling flattered by the person's overtures
5) Having an endorphin rush when touching the person
6) Being able to imagine myself doing sexual things with the person,
without forcing myself to think that way
7) Having obsessive thoughts about the person (which also happen with people I haven't felt "sexually attracted" to).

Moreover, I don't think my experiences were sexual attraction because I don't have the overwhelming urge that I've witnessed in nonasexual people which makes them act spontaneously. Nor do I have the intuitive sense of being sexually attracted. This intuition makes it impossible (or at least highly difficult) for nonasexual people to describe what sexual attraction is. My understanding is that sexual attraction isn't something that can be rationalized when it happens.

Granted, I think that what I experience is akin to sexual attraction even if it's not the same. The combination of feelings is still strong enough to create an impetus in me to pursue sex (however weakly I may do so).

I think I'm still in a gray area because I have the above feelings which lead me to desire sex. While asexuals can desire sex for a variety of reasons, a lot of what drives (many) people to define themselves as asexual is their sexual behaviors/lack of any desire for sex. Also, I have had fantasies (which I did not force myself to have) about the three people I thought I was "sexually attracted" to, and apparently most asexuals don't have sexual fantasies. So if I say I'm a gray-A, it's kind of more excusable to say I'm an asexual who wants to have sex sometimes.

Monday, October 11, 2010

An Update on Zines

I'm working on two different zines right now.

One is Asexual Feminism, the second issue. I might change the name to Asexual Feminisms (plural), because precise language is important to me. The second issue is coming out probably in mid-December. I'm accepting submissions until the end of November. The theme I want to address is medicalization of asexuality, but I'll take anything! I'm doing this out of love for asexuality and feminism, not to be all dictatorial and exclusive.

The other is my personal zine, Asexy, also the second issue. It's proving rather difficult for me to write about myself and my asexuality, so the second issue is taking a long time to create. I've been rereading the first issue and I feel dissatisfied with the way I portrayed my sexuality. Was it really a good idea for me to begin describing my experiences by talking about fantasies and how I wanted to be a slut? I think that maybe this confuses things, because I also had no idea what people were on about when they said they had crushes and I had to force myself to fantasize about people sexually (I mentioned neither of these things in the first issue). I feel like most of the things I wrote about in the first issue are things that I did and felt about myself when I was trying desperately to be "normal." So hell, perhaps the second issue will be a critical examination of the first!

At the Gray Lady's request, I'm posting a link to the .pdf of the first issue of Asexual Feminism here, and am attempting a tutorial on putting it all together.
Warning: putting this zine together through the .pdf may be frustrating!

There are two ways you can make the zine from the .pdf.
1) print out the entire zine on single-sided pages and manually place them front-to-back, perhaps taping them or gluing them together, then order them folio style (check out this tutorial for folio style folding). Take this to a copy machine, and make double-sided copies (2 --> 2), collated.

That might sound complicated, but personally I feel more confident doing it that way.

2) print them out double sided and then place them folio style.

One potential problem with option 2 is print rotation. You might end up with pages that are upside-down. This happened to me when I tried to print it out (hey, gotta test your own work right?), but the printer I was using was stubborn and not exactly user friendly.

The way I ordered the pages into the .pdf is set so that the first page which prints is the front and back cover, and the final page that prints is in the center of the zine. Theoretically, if you print double-sided and the rotation is accurate, you should be able to just take your stack and fold it. Then, ta-da! Read on.

If you're still confused as hell and would prefer for me to just send you a copy, email me at
Note on ordering a copy:
I'd appreciate a zine trade or a donation of approx $2 for each copy (well concealed cash is OK by me for now) if you would be so kind, to help me print out more copies. By no means is the $2 mandatory at this point in time if you only want one copy. We'll swap info over email...

I'm planning to have an etsy store up as soon as I come out with the second issue of my perzine. Then it'll be possible to do this through paypal. For complicated reasons, paypal doesn't work for me right now.

Why I Came Out

In honor of Coming Out Day, I'm blogging about why I came out as an asexual.

Asexual: one who does not experience sexual attraction.
Demisexual: one who is an asexual, but can become sexually attracted to a romantic/other kind of emotional partner (much to their surprise in some cases, I should add)
Grasexual: one who falls somewhere in the gray area between asexual and nonasexual.

Those are some pretty "standard" definitions, but people will define these things in ways that they need to, and that's perfect too.

I'd love to say that I came out after serious processing on the necessity of being "out," but I didn't. Not originally. I came out on accident, on the day of the Women's Studies Colloquium at PSU. K and I were talking about gender variation and their presentation on the lesbian "bro." I had asked them during this presentation about androgyny, and since they admitted to knowing nothing about that, we ended up chatting briefly after the presentation. I mentioned that most of what I knew about androgynous people came from my conversations with asexuals on the internet. "Are you asexual?" they asked me. I sighed, and said, "Not exactly. I'm demisexual," and went on to grudgingly explain what that was. I didn't want to come out, I wasn't ready to, but the question came up and I would rather not lie to anyone, ever.

After that I came out alternately as demisexual or asexual. It's harder to come out as demisexual, because although people have a hard time seeing asexuality as an orientation, it's pretty much impossible to convince people that demisexuality is an orientation and not a choice one makes about the conditions they've set in place for having sex with someone.  Eventually I stopped identifying as demisexual because it wasn't a good fit. Asexual is a better fit for me. Grasexual is even more precise, but asexual is a good umbrella term for what my orientation is.

Anyway, after I came out to K I started coming out to a lot of people by choice. I decided that asexual visibility and education was important to me. I have felt a kind of loneliness and despair for most of my life which is in great part related to my sexual orienation, and the only way I can see to relieve the pain is by sharing openly and honestly who I am. Until recently, I never knew anyone had experiences like mine and I believed there was something terribly, horribly wrong with me. Depression is prevalent among asexuals (from what I've heard), and I experienced it for over a decade. If I can reach even one other person who knows that they are like me and thought they were alone, I'll feel like coming out was worth it.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I love being what I am. I've gone through some stress for sure, and lately it seems that I cogitate almost constantly on asexuality. But I'm coming to a place where I feel that knowing what my orientation is only makes my life experiences that much richer.

I worry a lot about "proving" my asexuality to others. The truth is that there's no possible way to prove what I feel and know about myself. There's no way I can demonstrate to the world that I don't feel sexual attraction. I can only state my truth, and live my life the way I have to. And in doing so, I'll be living proof of what an asexual is. A dynamic person with many different needs, desires, and experiences.

I'm also super lucky that my online asexual acquaintances put up with my questionings, although some of the theoretical thinking that I'm doing has already been done. I really dig the support.

Attraction versus Desire, Why It Matters For YOU

The idea that sexual attraction and sexual desire are completely different types of emotions is something that asexuals have hashed and rehashed over and over again. Seemingly, one of the big difficulties in coming out/having any discussion about asexuality with nonasexuals, is bumping into the association that sexual attraction has with sexual desire.

Certainly they can intersect. If you are nonasexual or in a gray area (like I am), you may want (desire) to have sex with someone because you are attracted to them. But maybe there have been situations where you have not been attracted to someone and still wanted to have sex with them anyway. Maybe you were experimenting, maybe you enjoyed being desired, maybe you needed comfort, maybe you were having a night on the town and wanted to have some fun with a stranger, maybe you thought that sex would be physically plesaurable, but you weren't attracted to the person you had sex with.

Here's a scenario. A woman has multiple sexual relationships with men, and then one day she realizes that she is a homosexual. Homosexual lesbians experience sexual attraction to women, and they lack sexual attraction towards men (I'm talking cissexual men here especially). So what are some possible reasons that the woman in this scenario could have wanted to be sexual with men? Experimentation, physical release, assumptions about attraction, to be more connected to her partner, because she thought it would be the thing to do, opportunity, etc.

It's important to understand what motivates someone to have sex, rather than assuming that all sex is based on sexual attraction. The above scenario can also illustrate another common issue faced by LGBTQA persons, which is the "I cured you!" dilemma. It doesn't matter if you are asexual or not, if you don't understand the difference between attraction and desire, then anyone can claim that your sexual orientation is false and you will not be able to defend yourself.

If the woman in the above scenario were a so-called gold star lesbian and had never had sex with a man, she might be able to say that she knows she's a lesbian because she's never had sex with a man. One problem with this argument is that it equates a lack of sexual experience with a lack of sexual attraction. Therefore, a counter argument could by someone who is ignorant of the difference between attraction and desire. "You just haven't had me yet," or "if you tried it you'd change your mind," are both instances of assumption that experiencing sex and being sexually attracted to someone are the same thing. It's also typical to argue that if a heterosexual man is experimenting sexually with another man then he must experience homosexual attraction that he is hiding from himself/others. What if the opportunity arose and he was just horny, or he was curious, and doesn't feel sexually attracted to men at all? If he's a queer ally, is it really fair to say that he's in denial if he still identifies as heterosexual? Are we so insecure with our own sexualities that we have to accuse him of being gay or bisexual, hypocritically using the same arguments made by homophobic people?

Thus, even experiencing sex (nevermind wanting to have sex for any reason) gets confused with sexual attraction because people have not learned the importance of differentiation. If you think that experiencing sex and sexual attraction are the same thing, then you must also think that a victim of rape was sexually attracted to their rapist. Totally ludicrous. Even if a rape victim is in a relationship with their rapist and is sexually attracted to them, that doesn't mean that they will always desire sex because of this attraction/that rape is excusable. This conflation also lends credence to the argument that rapists always commit rape because they are "overwhelmingly sexually attracted" to someone. Again, totally inaccurate. Rapists desire sex because they want to control/express violence, and whether or not they are sexually attracted to the victim is irrelevant.

I bring this subject up because I am an asexual-identified person who sometimes desires sex, even though I either do not experience sexual attraction or experience low-intensity sexual attraction. In any case, I think it should be clear that sexual attraction and sexual desire are incredibly important concepts to  differentiate in coming to understand sexuality. Sexual behavior is not an indicator of sexual attraction, even if one often follows the other.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why Zines Are Important For Asexual Education and Visibility

While I realize that blogging and forums are the main sources of communication between asexuals right now, I feel that zines have a unique power and usefulness to asexuals which has been largely untapped.

Blogging has some advantages, certainly. Obtaining and writing a blog can be done without having to spend any money, especially if one uses public internet connections. Blogs are easy to direct people to and can reach a mass audience, with the right marketing and networking techniques.

However, blogs are not always the best way to convey information in face-to-face meetings. Here's a scenario: you come out as an asexual, and your acquaintance has questions about what asexuality is. You give a brief explanation. Not wanting to tire yourself out with the more complex questions which usually follow, you offer to email them a link to some blogs or other articles on the internet, or you write down the names of some blogs on a scrap of paper. This is all well and good, but there's no guarantee that this acquaintance will take the time to follow up and go read those blogs, or perhaps you'll forget to email them or be too busy to concern yourself at the time with that.

This is where a zine is useful. If you have a little booklet with information about asexuality already printed out, you can distribute this as freely as you want to. You can hand it out to passerby on the street, you can sell it at music festivals, you can share it with your friends so they'll get to know you better, you can take it with you to parties or always have a couple on hand to give out to new acquaintances.

Perhaps the greatest facet of zines is that they can be about absolutely anything, and they can be constructed however you wish. Zine writing can be academically rigorous or written in klingon if you want. Therefore, if you want your audience to learn about asexuality and how it relates to your own personal experiences, you can write about that. If you don't feel comfortable sharing your personal stories with strangers, you could also print out various materials from the internet that you think are relevant and make your zine from other people's writings (be nice and credit the authors, perhaps offer to mail them a copy!). If you still want to refer your readers to blogs, go ahead and put the URLs in the zine! There's nothing wrong with that. Anything goes!

Another great thing about zines is that it helps ground our communities in the real world. I so often feel that asexuality is an internet phenomenon, even with meetups most of the information that we share about ourselves with the world is online. What if at your next meet up you proposed to put a zine together sharing the stories of your local aces?

This is also a way to create a literary culture of asexuality, where one has never existed before! So maybe you don't write in a way that's publishable or the politics of mainstream publishing don't appeal to you. You can write and sell your story through zines at coffee shops, music shops, zine shops, through public libraries, anywhere in the world. Hell, put it on etsy! How widely your story is read all depends on how much effort you put into it. You can put your story out there, you can decide who read it. Who knows? Maybe it'll reach someone who needs to hear your story because it resembles their own. If people of other sexual orientations get to connect through personal stories, why shouldn't we do the same thing and boost our collective self-esteem?

If the cost of printing seems daunting to you, consider creating one page zines to cut down on the price. These zines are usually folded into 8 sides (therefore have 8 pages), and are rather small, but can be a rich source of information if utilized well.
Here is a great page with tutorials on folding. 

I recommend creating the template first, and then cutting and pasting your info onto the template, or handwriting onto the template if that's your style.

Do you make zines? What would your zine on asexuality touch on? Do you wanna do a zine trade with me?

Thoughts on the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory Study

This morning I woke up earlier than expected and decided to take the study which was linked from:

Asexual Explorations Blog: Recruiting participants for a study: "Here's the description for a study being done by the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory that is wanting asexual participants..."

"This study will help researchers understand the potential biological underpinnings of sexuality in individuals of different sexual orientations. In this study, we will employ a series of questionnaires asking about physical and mental health, sexuality, and biological markers of sexual orientation.

We hope that the data from this study will help to further our understanding of the health correlates and biological features of sexual orientation, and impact on the greater community to decrease stigma associated with individuals of all sexual orientations."

I'm not sure which biological markers they were looking for. The only portion of the survey that was obviously based on previous scientific research into the biological underpinnings of sexual orientation (namely homosexuality), was the part in which participants are asked to measure the lengths of their ring and index fingers.

The study asks a ton of questions about overall physical health as well as mental health, as well as (seemingly) asking the same question over and over about how satisfied you are with the level of sexual attraction you experience.

It was hard for me to gauge how satisfied I feel with my sexuality and level of experience of sexual attraction. Personally, I sometimes feel angry about my orientation, but this is not because I especially want to have sex (I don't), it's because of the way that one is treated for not being interested in sex. I feel angry about my orientation sometimes because it's difficult to deal with the pressure to pretend I'm interested like nonasexual people are. I think I'm more angry at the culture I live in than at my ability to be sexual... This is not something that one can clarify through the survey, though. 

I can't comment on the results yet because the study isn't finished. I will say that I hope it reveals a variety of experiences in terms of mental and physical health, as well as subjective feelings about sex and sexuality. What would make me sad is if asexuality were linked (through this survey) to certain physical or psychological disorders. I tried hard to make it clear that I'm in what is generally considered excellent health.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Throwing In The Towel

(Reblogged from my Tumblr and expanded).
I’m done with dating. Dating has never done anything positive for me. Dating is awkward and usually expensive. Dating comes with rules and expectations, and is essentially a game. A confining game. Dating, in my experience, rarely fosters intimacy. I think the game is embarrassing and dishonest, and I don’t want to play it anymore.      
Sure, I have felt that tingle of specialness in telling people “I’m going on a DATE!” But that feeling for me was mostly based on the comfort of doing something that is regarded as a common ritual of pursuing intimate relationships. When I date I feel more accepted by society (no matter whom I am on a date with), but I don’t feel relaxed, confident, and open as one should while getting to know a new (or old!) person of interest.                   
I don’t want to date. I just want to hang out and let my relationships develop as they will. Maybe that means you or I will have to take a chance and divulge our feelings for each other, whatever they may be. It’s not like the word “date” has ever truly clarified anyone’s feelings, needs or desires.
The problem is one of language. As I've stated, the word date implies that a kind of game will take place, and the pressure will be on to win the game, whether that means ending the night with something physical, planning the next date, making a formal commitment, etc. All of these things can happen when you're just hanging out with someone, but when one is on a date it seems that something momentous has to happen in the relationship or you've lost the game. So I feel that if we instead choose to say that we're going to hang out, then that really opens up the meeting for infinite possibilities. You can hang out with a romantic crush and end up kissing and cuddling, you can hang out with a new acquaintance and explore a new side of town, you can hang out with a long-time partner and reconfirm your promises to each other, you can hang out with yourself and fall in-love.

The Asexual Shane

If you're not familiar with the television series The L Word, then you might not be able to relate to this post. If you have seen the series or have some kind of familiarity with it, then you know about Shane.
Shane, the hypersexual womanizer.

In some respects, I used to be a bit like Shane. I was great at getting women I'd just met to open up to me fast, on a deeply emotional level. I loved it. I thrived on connecting to women emotionally. Shane, of course, gets women to open up fast, but in her case it is sexually.

A few years ago, when I decided that the label lesbian fit me (a label I recently dropped), I lost this ability. I had been going through this thing where I thought maybe I was sexually attracted to women, because I was both so emotionally drawn to them and found them aesthetically appealing in ways I never felt about cismen. I became very self-conscious in my interactions with women and stopped pulling on heartstrings and connecting the way I had before, because I believed that I was "supposed" to be making sexual overtones and guiding women into bed if I was going to be a for real lezzie.

I didn't really guide any women into bed. How could I? I'm ace. I just don't really get sex, and I don't understand seduction. Even when I feel like, might be an interesting thing to try I'm just missing something that nonasexual people seem to have which causes them to get together sexually. I'm not driven to sex the way most people report that they are.

So I could never be the kind of Shane who gets women to open sexually really fast. But I have been an asexual Shane, in that I could seemingly get just about any woman to be intimate with me emotionally if I wanted to.

I lost this skill, and I want it back! Where's my mojo?!

Have you ever felt like you were similar to a hypersexual character, or perhaps another kind of character who has a completely different lifestyle from yours?

Why Blogger?!

I decided to get my fanny over to Blogger and, for the meanwhile, ditch the Tumblr I've been using, because this is a better forum for the type of blog posts I want to create. Tumblr doesn't really lend itself to long-winded psuedointellectual rants on a/sexuality in patriarchal society. Nobody is gonna read that when they come to Tumblr to look at pretty pictures and read short quotes and other recycled web materials. Tumblr isn't a bad thing, it's just not what I'm after right now.

So this new blog, Another Asexual Radical, will contain all my ramblings about life as an asexual-identified person in a society which believes that a lack of sexual interest and sexual attraction is not only a sign of mental illness, but is an illness in itself. I will theorize about asexuality in various contexts, and, like many asexuals, write about radical new ways of conceptualizing relationships. I can't promise doctoral thesis quality writings, but I'll do my best to be honest, critical, and maybe provide unusual insights.

If this is to your liking, stick around I guess.

By the way, my name is Mage and I am the editor of a zine called Asexual Feminism. Really, it should be Asexuals Feminisms (plural!) because it is a compilation of writings from asexual feminists of a variety of theoretical and practical standpoints. Get in touch if you're interested in writing for the next issue, I'm pretty open to new submissions.

I also have a new perzine (personal zine) called Asexy, which is a bit like a reflective diary on how I came to my identity as an asexual person, what it means for me, why, and other things...

Moi moi,