So I’ve had some huge life events lately. It’s been a bit overwhelming and I don’t even know what to tell you guys first. [content note on this post for… heavy talk about all sorts of things that are personal to me, like my grandmother’s death and my mother being abusive so read at your own risk.]
Sometimes, I am reminded that I really don’t understand what is typical for allosexual people to experience. Sometimes I’m reminded that maybe I think of allosexual people’s experiences in ways that aren’t accurate or fair to how they, in truth, typically experience their drives or attractions?
I feel like I don’t have enough in-depth discussions with my heterosexual and bisexual offline friends about these things to really get what it is they desire, what their thoughts in regards to sex are, what their experiences that make them sure they are not ace are.
I am reminded of this post from Sara K.: In Spite of Growing Up in a Society Full of Allosexuals, The Allosexual Experience Still Doesn’t Make Sense and also this older post of Siggy’s here: A jaded look at sexual attraction.
Now that it’s coming up on my 3 year anniversary of officially coming out as ace to some folks, I realize I’ve talked in fairly great depth with a variety of people about these topics. It’s not like I’ve never engaged in the conversation at all.
[Content note: discussion of multiple forms of abuse including physical, emotional, child, spousal, etc]
Back in January, I shared my first My Abusive Mother Won’t Leave Me Alone post, complete with a transcription of a voicemail message I received from her.
Allow me to transcribe a couple other messages she’s left more recently, like in August 2016, just for your benefit.
Starting off in a kind of bored tone of voice, her typical “I’m calling because it’s a thing i do but I know you never will reply” thing she does… Also for what it’s worth my dad’s first name has been changed and is listed here as “Joe”, and I’m not sure if she is just a substitute teacher at an elementary school or if she has a different school teacher related job or what, because honestly it’s been almost 7 years since I really knew anything at all concrete about her life and back then she wasn’t working.
So yeah she said:
Hi Emily, it’s me. Look um… Tuesday… (Extra long pause) They were- At work, they were talking about um… how parents don’t read to their children anymore, and… I got a little choked up. ‘Cause I remember… I remember reading to you, in bed, all those times. And then, um, today… Uh… My neighbor – he helps me out all the time – he did this stuff with my dryer and… there’s… Something. I don’t even know what it is but it had ‘Emily’ on it, it’s a metal thing, slowing?(I’m not sure what word she said) it down, and I just… started crying. And just cried, and cried, and cried. And um… you were a really nice kid. You really were. You were a really nice child, when you were young, you were so sweet, and… If there’s any of that left in you… (Her teariness sort of fades off here ish) look me in the eye. Look me in the eye, and tell me it’s okay that- that Joe beat me. And then we can say goodbye! How’s that? Ok. I love you. Bye.
This is my second submission for the August 2016 Carnival of Aces, which was themed around Naming It. And yes, it’s September 1st now, so I’m late. I apologize. Please enjoy the post below!
Sure, people don’t have to apply* the split-attraction model to themselves if they don’t want to. That’s what the vast majority of supporters of this model say – only use it if you want to. If it feels right.
And if I’m having a lot of trouble coming up with any identity label that feels right to me other than just “asexual”, then maybe I should consider myself to simply be asexual, end of story. Maybe I should not apply the split attraction model to myself. Maybe that’d be the easiest, simplest solution. Maybe that’s all I need to do.
But there are a lot of reasons that it makes sense for me to want to apply it to myself.
One of the main reasons is that I am a member of a group (the online ace blogging community, specifically) where most people seem to apply a romantic orientation to themselves, and if they don’t actively claim one, with time they tend to eventually accept that they are aromantic – by default, by nature of not dating, etc.
Another reason I feel like I need a romantic orientation is because, while I know I am cisgender (female), I need to clarify exactly why I’m not “het” in the way the “aces aren’t LGBT” discourse on tumblr lately has been going, talking about “cishet aces” to… at their most generous, only mean the heteroromantic aces. Because at this point in my introspection, one thing I do know deep down is that I’m not heteroromantic.
Now “not wanting to be marked as cishet” is not just me trying to be “a special snowflake”, although I’ve let that cross my mind. No. That’s unfair to me and so so many other aces.
This was my first submission for the August 2016 Carnival of Aces, which was themed around “Naming It”.
Sometimes you have this nebulous concept in your life, and yet you don’t have any word or phrase to describe it. Learning at age 17 that my mom likely had Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and reading a list of the symptoms online was certainly like that for me. I had always kind of known my mom frustratingly saw no gray areas, but seeing it spelled out with concepts like “Splitting”/”black and white thinking”/”idealization and devaluation”/”perfect or horrible, with nothing in between” felt amazing & validating, realizing experts at studying ways human people could behave (psychologists) actually knew this kind of person might exist. And that’s just one symptom of the personality disorder – just one example of the many ways BPD described the way the person I was living with 6 days a week for 7 years (and every day prior to that) behaved. One way that validated that what I was both witnessing and experiencing really was unusual.
To be fair, the reason it felt so nice to learn there was a word for “it” was because I’d been living with “it” for my entire freaking life. Because I definitely had the concept and had experiences which had been crying out desperately to be framed with a “name”.
People often describe finding out about asexuality in a similar way. Most readers of this blog or readers of Carnival of Aces entries probably already know the stories.
“I never wanted to date anyone yet I never knew why and then, after years of wondering, I found out that people could be asexual & aromantic!”
or: “I tried dating a few people/getting married/I was in love… but sex never felt right and I wondered what was wrong with me”.
Getting a name for your experience meant you weren’t the only person to ever experience it. It means you know what to do next – in the case of realizing your experience can actually be considered a sexual orientation, it can mean you can stop trying to fix yourself, as long as you already accept that non-heterosexual orientations are innate parts of people not to be fixed. Often realizing this kind of thing is very powerful. You can feel a lot of relief, feel the satisfaction of finding an answer, feel the comfort of finding where you belong in the categories set out for human beings and also where you belong in terms of a new community of other people.
Sometimes, especially if you’re currently in a marriage, or in a romantic relationship of some kind, when you find out about asexuality, you experience mixed feelings and not only the happy, positive ones of relief and validation. Sometimes it’s sad to learn you can’t just “become straight” if you do the right things, if you recover from your mental illness(es), etc – sad to realize this is a permanent state of your being. Sad to come to accept that you’ll never enjoy this thing you were hoping to enjoy someday. Losing what you expected for your future can actually be experienced like grief for a lot of people. Sometimes it means your romantic relationship is going to end, which is (of course) painful for so many of the reasons that break-ups usually are.
Figuring out you don’t fit into the typical heteronormative, amatonormative script for life leads to a combination of relief and grief for a ton of folks.
The problem isn’t that you found a word for what you already knew – the problem is that you only knew some of the truth – for instance, you only knew that “so far” you had never really desired sex, for example, or that you desired sex without finding people attractive in the conventional ways…
The problem, in actuality, is that you didn’t have the concept that a person – that you – could potentially be asexual. You didn’t realize that sometimes people just don’t ever find people sexy, or that sometimes people never want sex. You didn’t realize there would be no way you’d ever be the person your significant other wants/wanted you to be when it came to sex. You didn’t realize that society had been gaslighting you in its own way, convincing you everyone who is an adult wants sex, the compulsory sexuality so strong that you convinced yourself you’re repressed or that aesthetic attraction must be sexual.
And you see… That’s what happened to me.
On an even more extreme scale, when I first learned about asexuality, I felt zero recognition that this was me, even though I could not be more asexual as a sex-averse, non-libidioist, probably aromantic or at least aromantic spectrum asexual person. I’ve always been sex-averse and always had no libido, and never once experienced anything closer to sexual attraction than a general thinking a friendship with “the opposite gender” might be just as nice as it’d be for a friendship with people who are the same gender as me (having no concept for nonbinary genders at the time), and maybe also at times not really being attracted to but being able to appreciate certain people’s appearances, appreciate certain conventionally attractive people especially as “pretty” in my opinion…
And I certainly, therefore, felt no relief to find a name for what I’d been experiencing my whole life. No, I started to learn about asexuality out of curiosity, but it did not click that I needed to use the word to apply to myself until years after first coming across it.
This old post from The Thinking Aro (formerly The Thinking Asexual) is something I mainly agree with so I’m going to reblog it. Generally please remember to read everything this person writes with a grain of salt – read critically and acknowledge that sometimes they are wrong. In fact sometimes VERY wrong. They are elitist in many of their writings and make a lot of generalizations about all romantic-sexual people, and they don’t allow any comments on their posts these days and haven’t for quite a while. That all being said, sometimes they’re the only person to have written on some… really interesting topics, especially concerning aromanticism. It certainly frustrates ME that a few of these words are assumed to have a romantic or sexual meaning in contexts where it’s intuitive to me to use them in non-sexual, non-romantic ways.
The following is part 2 and the conclusion of my two part submission for the July 2016 Carnival of Aces which was titled “Make ’em Laugh” (and which is more broadly themed around humor). Check out the Carnival of Aces Masterpost here for more information on what The Carnival of Aces is.
As I said in part 1, there are many ways, both positive and negative, that humor can be utilized in ways that directly affect your asexual characters and how your readers/audience members are likely to perceive them.
Part 1 was about what to avoid.
The good news: there are other options for how to use humor around asexual characters in fiction. Ways that I believe are less harmful, possibly not harmful at all! Even better yet: Ways that in the long run could be helpful to everyone for expanding our understanding of the world, and all the variation of human experience. A way that lets aces feel represented… without also hurting them at the same time.
The most obvious option:
- Instead of making asexuality part of the joke, just let the asexual character be in jokes that are not at all related to asexuality.
The following is part 1 of my two part submission for the July 2016 Carnival of Aces which was titled “Make ’em Laugh” (and which is more broadly themed around humor). Check out the Carnival of Aces Masterpost here for more information on what The Carnival of Aces is.
There are many ways, both positive and negative, that humor can be utilized in ways that directly affect your asexual characters and how your readers/audience members are likely to perceive them.
Here in part 1, I will list examples of things to avoid when using humor in relation to an ace-spectrum character.
- There is a character who is asexual and the other characters make fun of him (or her, or them).
This is not ideal representation because it implies that “someone being asexual” is, in and of itself, a funny thing. It shows no respect for asexuality, nor respect for all of the people in real life who happen to actually be asexual. Perhaps to many people reading this blog post of mine right now it is fairly obvious that this can be one of the worst types of asexual representation, but unfortunately I think it does need to be spelled out because it’s clearly not obvious to some creators.
As someone who is speaking from a United States perspective and who has consumed mainly American fiction, with a side of some stuff from the UK and some television from Canada too… and then has engaged with the social justice communities online… I’ve noticed that most minorities (specifically meaning minorities-in-the-USA) have to face a particular issue when it comes to representation.
Even when a creator thinks “hey, I’m (finally) representing your group; you should be grateful”, the audience members/readers/content consumers who belong to that-particular-marginalized group realize that the character who represents them is being laughed at for being in a minority or marginalized group. It is a common issue for characters who belong to minority religions and/or characters who are ethnically Jewish, for characters who are members of certain (most non-white) races, sometimes for disabled characters, and yes, for all types of Queer characters. See the TV Tropes article on the “Queer People Are Funny” trope. (That site includes instances of the tropes in multiple fictional mediums by the way – not just television.) There is also a whole “Queer as Tropes” page for more options, such as overly exaggerated flamboyance in gay male characters.
When asexuality becomes another type of queerness that is deemed inherently funny, this can be harmful to asexual people in real life. Asexual people who have not yet heard of asexuality might never even think to consider that they might be ace, because it’s not being presented as a valid orientation for a person to be. It can make a viewer who does realize they are asexual feel attacked. It makes the asexual character the one you’re not supposed to relate to, and encourages the general (non-ace) audience to not even sympathize with their pain at being bullied or treated unfairly. The asexual character’s asexuality is exaggerated or stereotyped too because the writer didn’t respect the need for careful/realistic portrayals and spent no time on research.
This is the third and final part of a series of blog posts I’ve written (mainly belatedly) for the June 2016 Carnival of Aces on the topic “Resiliency”. Please check out part 1 here, and part 2 here.
My queerplatonic partner broke up with me in June, a little over a month ago now, and I really thought I’d be able to write this post while it was still June. But for this post in particular, (part 3 of my mini-series…) I think the delay was partially because I needed more time to get over all my disappointment and sadness, to “grieve” if you want to call it that, and settle into being… Not “just” friends with him, but… Well I guess “friends-who-aren’t-partners”.
I just so happened to be an ace going through a break up during the course of the same month when the Carnival of Aces was themed around Resiliency. Of course. That would just be my luck, right?
I don’t know when the last time something brought me to tears to quite this degree was, and in some ways I’m really surprised by my own emotions. I actually cried on a few different occasions over this break up! I didn’t cry when I broke up with my only ever other boyfriend. In fact, it’s almost like what I experienced as a child here… I have at times over the course of letting this break up sink in for me felt a disconnect between what I actually “think” versus what I (subconsciously?) am/was feeling. But with time and more self-reflection, what I feel makes more sense, and it’s all very tied to my asexuality.
This is part 2 of a three-part series of blog posts I have been writing for the June 2016 Carnival of Aces. Please check out part 1 here, first. Sorry parts 2 & 3 came late, once it was (is) already July. I expected to be able to finish in June but… ended up not.
So you know that feeling, when you look at the Carnival of Aces being about Resiliency, and all you can think about is about how the biggest things where you’ve needed strength, and to be able to “bounce back”, in your life, have had nothing at all to do with your asexuality?
Like just how little your mother being abusive intersects with the fact that she isn’t aro nor ace and you always were those things but didn’t know it back when she was in your life? And you’ve had to become someone who simply doesn’t care about not having a mother in your life, despite other people’s attempts to make you care, and how resilient you had to be to shield yourself from how that would’ve made you feel.
Or how the days, when you think back on your life, that were the worst days of your life, the most painful, the most stressful, had literally nothing to do with asexuality? Most of those days happened years before I’d learn that asexuality was a thing, let alone fully come to accept that it was who I was.
Well, I certainly know that feeling.
But you know… I gave it some time, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how resilient I’ve had to be in some ways that are directly related to my asexuality.
And how complicated and confusing it all can be at times.