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.


  1. Please forgive my propensity to over-comment. :-)

    I tend to dislike clubs for the same reasons, people trying to dance sexually with me (and okay, I'm not a fan of either Top 40 or most electronic/house music, which tends to be what gets played). Even if men are leaving me alone (which actually, they tend to do, since I don't have an especially "sexy" appearance), there's always the fear of someone approaching me, which pretty much puts a damper on the whole thing. I've been to a gay club once, and it didn't seem markedly different from a straight club.

    My best experiences have been at clubs playing "indie" music. I've only been to these a couple of times, but I found the atmosphere to be a lot less sexual. The least sexual of all was this "indiepop dance night" that maybe had, at the max, 10 people there. But it was pretty awesome because we were all just dancing in a circle and singing along to the music. That was the only time I ever felt the sense of community that people say they feel on dance floors, even though there were so few people.

  2. Ily, where I'm living queer events are super extreme compared to other places I've been... But I've definitely been to straight clubs that were highly sexualized. Even the most sexual straight clubs I've been to haven't compared at all to a night at Blow Pony, or sometimes CC Slaughters in Portland.

    I think maybe this extremeness at queer spaces has something to do with being proud and reveling in having spaces where these kind of things can happen without serious judgement. I think it's fine, but at the same time I tend to feel that there aren't any other options for those of us who aren't particularly interested in engaging in that kind of dancing.

    I like your idea for going to an indie show, or maybe any kind of low attendance show. This reminds me that when I went to see Umphrey's McGee play, even though the crowd was quite large, everyone was dancing and none of it was sexual. I'm not even really into that scene, but I love dancing so much that it was great not to feel like I could get groped at any minute or be forced to watch my friends participate in something that I couldn't.

    I've heard about the feeling of community when dancing, too, especially in reference to rave culture. I think the Umphreys show is the only place I've experienced it. I'm not really sure how people can feel that sense of community if they're all facing partners and grinding on em... Unless that's a communal experience in itself? Huh...

  3. I've always wondered what Blow Pony was/was like, and now I know.

    I don't have any experience going to clubs at all, but a lot of that is because I *don't* want to be in a sexualized situation. Um, and because I can't dance. (If there was a club for wallflowers, I'd be in it.)

    I really like the idea of dancing in a circle or dancing because it's a communal experience, though - taking the focus off of it being a partner-based,semi-sexual act.

  4. Oh Mary, knowing "how to dance" isn't necessary for dancing at clubs, or anywhere for that matter. Just gotta move your body!

  5. "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..."

    This resonated with me really deeply. I don't like straight clubs at all, but even at queer dance spaces, I feel so horribly lonely. I went to a queer contra dance with a friend once and mid way through I felt so awash with sadness that I had to go to the bathroom and just cry. It wasn't a loneliness for a partner, it was a loneliness born out of the realization that, even in the queerest of queer spaces, there's almost no one like me and that my behavior will be read as sexual, no matter how I feel I am carrying myself. One of the dances called for looking the partner in the eye and I didn't know what people could see when they looked into mine, but I don't think they could see me because everything we could be is overdetermined...