How to Positively Represent Asexuality within Humorous Fiction: Part 1, “What to Avoid”

The following is part 1 of my  two part submission for the July 2016 Carnival of Aces which is 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.

  1. 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.

Continue reading “How to Positively Represent Asexuality within Humorous Fiction: Part 1, “What to Avoid””

Risk & Courage, Disappointment & Resilience, Everything Changing & Me Catching Up (Part 3 of 3)

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.

Continue reading “Risk & Courage, Disappointment & Resilience, Everything Changing & Me Catching Up (Part 3 of 3)”

Risk & Courage, Disappointment & Resilience, Everything Changing & Me Catching Up (Part 2 of 3)

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.

Continue reading “Risk & Courage, Disappointment & Resilience, Everything Changing & Me Catching Up (Part 2 of 3)”

Risk & Courage, Disappointment & Resilience, Everything Changing & Me Catching Up (Part 1 of 3)

This is a post written for the June 2016 Carnival of Aces, which was themed around “Resiliency”.  

I split this post up into 3 parts to make for better ease of reading, and also because I wrote them pretty far apart lol. I wrote in separate chunks. Part 2 is here, and part 3 here.


This long, 3-part post itself involves me taking some pretty big risks, putting myself out there in multiple ways I haven’t yet on this blog.

But a huge theme of this post will be risks I’ve taken especially in the past year or so, and the risks I continue to take, how my life has in the past year been much more categorized than in years prior by… purposefully making myself vulnerable, because hopefully, in the end, the rewards would be worth the risks I was taking. Because, as I remember Coyote spelling out in a blog post back in April,

When you take an emotional risk and aren’t punished for it — when your trust is validated, instead of your vulnerability exploited — that can make for a very rewarding experience.

That resonated SO powerfully with me.

 And if you’ve ever had a vulnerable experience that ended positively, I think it’s fairly easy to understand.  Sometimes you have to take a risk in order to see your judgement validated.

I have taken more risks recently. And a lot of them have to do with my asexuality in  some way or another. It felt like the only alternative options were to be almost completely closed off from true friendship with new people. It has felt like it would be so positive to take the risk that to not take it would leave me festering in negative feelings like regret, and like no one understands me, and…

Well first, a note: I haven’t entered a post in the Carnival of Aces since March, meaning I skipped two months worth of the carnival. I also haven’t blogged about asexuality or related issues at ALL since that post of mine in March.😄 I have left lengthy comments on other people’s posts since then, but… my own blog here? It’s been quiet over in this neck of the virtual woods.

I almost entered a blog post in the carnival for April though; the beginning of my post today is going to be what was saved in my drafts from my unfinished entry for that, because while it would fit April’s theme, it also fits June’s theme of Resiliency.

Continue reading “Risk & Courage, Disappointment & Resilience, Everything Changing & Me Catching Up (Part 1 of 3)”

Gaslighting & Love

 

This is part 3 of a series of posts I’m going to be writing on the topic of gaslighting (& my personal experiences with it).

[Content Notes: Discussion of my mother and her abuse, mainly her emotional/verbal/psychological abuse. Use of a NSFW curse word and discussion of a NSFW body part.]

Part 1 talked more about her abuse, specifically, and that post can be found here: Gaslighting & Crocodile Tears

Part 2 focused more abstractly on society with some undercurrents of my mother. Gaslighting & Santa Claus


I cut off all contact with my mother when I was 18 years old, but for another year-and-a-half or so my brother still was visiting with her, and he also was forced to endure something which I never had to, since it started after I was legally an adult: reunification therapy where he, our mother, and a psychologist would sit in a room together.

My brother didn’t like to talk much about his unpleasant experiences at those sessions, but when he did, he recounted my mother being a woman who would complain about our father the entire time, despite the therapist’s best efforts to get the conversation to be focused on something beside our dad. My mother felt the first two therapists were biased against her, so they switched to different psychologists for continued reunification counseling. My mother would insist my father was relevant because supposedly he had “brainwashed” me and my brother into thinking anything negative about her. Supposedly my father was evil. Supposedly there was no way my brother (or I) could have valid reasons of his (/our) own for having the strained-at-best relationship he (/we) did with her.

At one point, my mom started going too far with the third therapist, and he flat-out said to her, in the reunification session between her and my brother, “You’ve already lost your daughter. Do you really want to lose your son too?”

Continue reading “Gaslighting & Love”

Update/Deadline on asking me about my queerplatonic partnership!

Hey everyone. So yes, even though Robert agreed to answer questions with me, and this plan to do this on my blog did happen quite recently… we actually ended up dissolving our queerplatonic partnership this past Thursday.

We’re still friends and I hope he will still be willing to answer questions with me for the blog, though. If not, I’ll still answer all of them.

I’ll stop taking questions around Monday, July 4th. Please get your questions in by then! I’ve only received 2 questions so far. Thank you to the tumblr Shades of Grayro for this post: http://shades-of-grayro.tumblr.com/post/146106897800/ever-had-a-question-for-a-queerplatonic-pair which eventually prompted both questions.😉

The questions I’ve been asked:

1. I am a cis male in my early 30‘s who identifies as straight, demiromantic and quoiromantic.  Since I am quoiromantic, I am confused about what is romantic and what is platonic.  In dating, you hear a lot of words like “spark”,  “completing each other,” and “opposites attract” whereas words like, “comfortable around them,” “common interests,” and “easy to talk to” can apply to either romantic or platonic relationships.  My observation is that maybe you need that “spark” to jump from a friendship to romantic relationship.  In queerplatonic relationships, would you *need* some sort of spark or is that exclusively for a romantic relationship?            

2. “I think my question would be about how it started; what was that conversation like and how did you bring it up? Granted, the fact that you are both ace and probably knew what a QPP was already probably helped but I am still curious how one moves from ‘really good friends bordering on something else’ to actually having the conversation. “

Remember anonymously sending me an ask on my tumblr (luvtheheaven) with your question, or sending me an email at pemk7@aol.com is totally fine. Your name doesn’t have to be publicly associated with your question anywhere.

I’d be happy to talk about my friendship with Robert before the queerplatonic partnership, about the queerplatonic relationship, about the break up, or even about our friendship since then. We’re actually going to spend Independence Day weekend together with a couple of other friends of ours, as well, so answering questions AFTER July 4th should be pretty good timing.

I just wanted to update all of you.

My Queerplatonic Relationship: Ask us anything!

So coming up in about a week will be the four month “anniversary” (4th monthiversary) of me and Robert* deciding to officially become queerplatonic partners!

I asked him if he’d be interested in doing a thing for my blog where we interview each other and post some answers for my readers. He said he would be up for that!

And then I suggested that maybe my followers would have some questions for both of us (or in a few cases, for one or the other person). Robert thought that was a good idea, asking you guys to help us.

That means you guys, my readers, coming up with questions that the two of us in this relationship will answer (unless for whatever reason we decide we don’t want to answer – no promises on answering every question we get.).

You may pose questions just for him, especially if it’s a question where you already know how I’d answer because of my previous blogging, you can ask a question just for me, or you can ask a question that both of us will try to answer.

For basic information, I identify as both wtfromantic & aromantic, and I am asexual. I’m 26 years old, cis-female.

Robert is aromantic and gray-asexual, 27-years-old, and cis-male.

I look forward to seeing what questions you might pose for us to potentially answer in the comments below!

Alternatively, if you wish to ask a question more anonymously than in the comments, feel free to email me the question(s) at pemk7@aol.com and I will keep your identity private, no one besides you and me has to know you asked.

 


* Robert is not his actual name. He chose this name, when I asked him to provide an alias for my blog.😉

Re: *chokes on water*

I have a lot I want to say in reply to this post:

https://theacetheist.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/chokes-on-water/

which, to try to clarify, is Coyote blogging about their reaction to a certain tumblr post, and more specifically I want to reply to epochryphal’s comments too (and Coyote’s replies to co as well).

This is not actually a real blog post. This is basically a mess of jumbled thoughts type way-too-long comment on someone else’s blog post, a way-too-long comment from luvtheheaven. (Whoops that didn’t make sense, did it?)

(To clarify:) This is basically something that started as a comment on someone else’s blog post and still basically is a REALLY long version of yes, a comment on someone else’s blog post.

And then because I was turning it into its own separate blog post, yeah, I made it way longer and just kept writing. Feel free to move along as if there is nothing to see here.


 

Wow. This is a lot to take in, you guys. Side note for Coyote: Because you linked it, I’ve just now (re?) read your “Models of Conceptualizing Morality” post and even if I did read the post itself before (and I do think I probably did?), well, for probably the first time I have now read the comments there too.

When you first posted this Coyote, epochryphal hadn’t commented yet. And I read just the post and tried to appreciate what you were saying. I went back and forth between the linked tumblr post and your blog post reaction to it here until I got through the whole thing, but of course I first looked at #12.

[Content Note for mentions of publicized news stories about gang rape:]

Continue reading “Re: *chokes on water*”

By nature of being asexual, I’m defying gender norms

[Content Note: Brief discussion of biphobia/inaccurate stereotypes about bisexual people which my dad apparently believes/believed, mentions of conservative Judaism and Christianity, and general discussion of heteronormativity, the gender binarist world we live in, etc. I am a 26-year-old cis female, non-libidoist, aromantic/wtfromantic asexual from the USA.]

This post was written for the March 2016 Carnival of Aces, which is themed around Gender Norms and Asexuality.


Last night, a discussion about how it feels like most of the aces I meet in the local meetup group are either non-religious, or Jewish, transformed into me mentioning to my dad that one of my friends (friendly acquaintances?) whom I met last year at an ace meetup was raised in a conservatively Jewish home. This meant, actually, that when she came out to her parents as bisexual, it didn’t go well, and that’s why she still hasn’t felt like coming out to them as ace.

I was explaining that she thought she was bisexual before she realized she was asexual, and my dad was really surprised.

That concept was difficult to wrap his mind around, because “it was like she went from hypersexual to non-sexual”. It seemed my dad was wondering how anyone could be so confused?! How could they jump around so much with their thoughts on their sexuality?

And I cocked my head at him. I shot him a look, surprised by his reaction for multiple reasons. Yes, I was surprised by his unchecked belief that bisexual people are all hypersexual. (Hadn’t he watched that ABC Family TV show Chasing Life with me? If that kind of bisexual representation didn’t help him imagine a world where some bisexual people have a pretty average-seeming sex drive, I’m not sure anything would’ve.) And the first thing I said was that that was not an accurate idea of what bisexuality really is. But the other thing that jumped to my mind was… Oh. For all that we talk about, for all that I try to discuss with my family, when it comes to nuanced issues it takes me a long time sometimes to really get around to bringing them up. I only recently tried to explain queerplatonic relationships to them, right around when I started to consider entering into one, really!!

And even now, I don’t think I’ve told anyone other than the people at the ace meetup group and also everyone who reads my posts on the internet that I had multiple fleeting instances of questioning if I might be bi. I explained to my dad something broader, but my own personal experience with it didn’t make it into the conversation. Maybe I’ll find a way to bring it up soon.

What I said to my dad was that actually, it was a pretty common narrative in the ace community for people to think they were bi before coming to the conclusion that they were ace. That I might’ve thought I was straight-by-default, but some people kind of think they’re bi-by-default, because if they really aren’t attracted to either gender, equally, then they feel the same way toward both genders, and that can be easily interpreted by someone who doesn’t know asexuality is a possibility as “I must be bi”.

Continue reading “By nature of being asexual, I’m defying gender norms”

I was not a mirror

I was just recently revisiting Siggy’s “You don’t need to be a mirror” post on The Asexual Agenda.

He posted it in January 2015, so about 1 year & 2 months ago. It has had a pretty significant impact on my thoughts ever since he first wrote it, and it took me 4 more months before I’d write this and I still wish more people talked about these issues.

epochryphal’s thoughts on paper/stone dynamics have always fascinated me; cos writing had been my introduction to the entire concept and if I’m being honest, really whenever co brings it up is still my only time reading anything about stone/paper stuff, but especially cos comment on this post is important to me, because it helps conceptualize what I went through with my boyfriend at the time when I was experimenting sexually with him, and even at the time prior to that when I was considering it.

I was, at the time, inexplicably less comfortable with touching my boyfriend in sexual ways than I was with being touched by him, although it ALL made me uncomfortable, and it was confounded by the fact that he explicitly had told me his strongest desires and fantasies consisted mainly of what I guess are called “stone” tendencies.

I thought I’d be “indifferent” to sex until I tried it. When I tried it, almost instantly I realized I was “sex-averse”. I had, prior to giving it a try, thought that “of course,” since I wanted to make my boyfriend happy, I would enjoy the experience of being able to be the person to make him happy. (I also hoped maybe, just maybe, I might finally experience arousal, that what had never happened before would happen and I’d actually physically react to a sexual situation.) But I should’ve trusted my own instinctual negative reaction as soon as my boyfriend had admitted he found me sexy weeks prior. (I instead felt confused and torn by my own emotions, and tried to talk myself into feeling flattered.)

Sex is so different than anything else, and analogies only go so far lol. I can be a good person who cares about my boyfriend’s happiness, while still having these kinds of personal boundaries and aversions to sex.

Just like “An asexual’s body is perfectly functional. It reacts to touch just like anyone else’s…” isn’t actually something that helps someone like ME at all when I see it in visibility/education/ace 101 materials, the phrasing Siggy captured in this blog post, “Why would asexuals ever want to have sex?  Well, some people like pleasing their partners.” is just as harmful to someone like me. Because no one had ever pointed out, explicitly, to me the logical next step of “More importantly, what does it mean to not like pleasing your partner?”, and I was left with just this confused mess of feelings, of learning that sometimes aces “compromise” and/or “enjoy” sex even when that sex only makes their partner and not themselves happy. But as soon as I tried to do that, fully intending to make my partner happy through sex, the moment it was happening all I could think was “ah I actively dislike this experience, I don’t enjoy making my partner happy in this kind of way at all, I’m not feeling any kind of pleasure from making my partner happy. I really wish I was, but I’m not.”

I do know what it’s like to feel a rush of excitement from, as cinderace mentioned in their comment, giving someone a gift that they really enjoy. I know what it feels like to see someone else be happy and to just be happy FOR them, no real reason other than empathy kind of. There’s a reason why people talk about “infectious” laughter or happiness.

But it’s just not true that sex is that simple. It’s just not true that “Some people enjoy pleasing their partner” (while all the other people, the aces who don’t have sex, just don’t enjoy making their partner happy). And I’m really happy that Siggy brought this up a little over a year ago – that he brought it to the forefront of my mind – because it is so relevant to my life. Because yeah, I wish I could’ve enjoyed pleasing my partner in that way, but it’s really a lot more complicated than that. I ultimately broke up with my boyfriend because I really wanted him to be happy, and I knew, given his stone tendencies, how the only way for him to truly be fully happy was to be in a sexual relationship with a woman who really, intrinsically had those kinds of sexual desires. Someone who wouldn’t be doing stuff just for his sexual benefit, because the only real thing he wanted to be doing was something for my (or her) sexual benefit! Ah what an obstacle course we were having trouble navigating.

I wish I had known what I know now back when I was going through all that.

I wish I’d had more of a road-map.

But even if it was a bit late, it is nice to finally have a way to conceptualize the confusing territory I had navigated without-any-guide before. I love being able to look back on my life and finally have just the right lens to look through. To finally be able to really see it clearly – or at least, more clearly, than I could before.