Meaning I’ve been blogging about asexuality on my From Fandom to Family WordPress blog here for about 1 year now! March 2014 was when I wrote my first post on these topics.
However, it has been about 1 decade since I became a fangirl. Yes, 2005, and in some ways 2004, was when I, as a young teenager beginning high school, began to become involved in online activities that some could classify as fandom.
I hesitated to write this post for this particular carnival topic, because it is less serious than most of the wonderful other posts I’ve seen written for it. It is not about “intersectionality” in terms of “the study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.”
I’m simply discussing the fact that I am someone who is both asexual and has been in the fandom community for a long time now.
I could’ve also discussed what it’s like to be a person invested in fandom in the asexual community. But that’s… harder to put any words around, and isn’t as big of a deal.
So let me proceed, in Part 1 of my two posts on this topic, to discuss my experience as a person who didn’t know she was aromantic-spectrum, kissing- & sex-averse, and asexual while being in fandom communities. (The fact that I am maybe aromantic, and do not enjoy kissing/sex cannot be separated, for me, from my personal experience with asexuality. I know not all asexuals have the same experiences.) Part 2 will explore being in the fandom communities once I did call myself asexual. Once I had figured out the label applied to me.
(I had written about 1,000 words, and then deleted them all, and then I rewrote this entire post coming at it from a vastly different direction. Hopefully what I’m choosing to say now will make sense to people.)
I began editing fanvideos for canon heterosexual romance stories in some of my favorite television shows about 4 years before I would have first heard of the word “asexual” as a potential sexual orientation. And roughly 7 years before I would adopt the label as yes, definitely applying to me.
This meant I’d often take a song that conveyed a message of romantic and/or sexual attraction from the singer toward the object of their affections… or a song that told, in third person, such a love tale, with passion and lots of emotion. I’d then spend hours listening to the song over and over, completely annoying anyone within earshot of my computer’s speakers, as I carefully tried to match each lyric in the song with the exactly appropriate moment within a particular TV show couple’s story. I’d also try to change scenes exactly on drum beats, or use internal movement to match the flow of the piano notes, or add effects, and in the process I’d spend so much time invested in the idea of romance, and lust, and all of the ideals of amatonormativity, which had compulsory sexuality tied into it.
I’d memorize the love song before even deciding to start vidding it, and then I’d continue to empathize with the emotions conveyed in the song, incorrectly assuming that one day, I’d stop being such an inexperienced straight girl, and I too would share these passionate feelings of romantic and sexual attraction toward a boy or man, and I would be grateful to have such a person look at me in that way too. One day.
I just… assumed it would happen.
I knew the love stories told in fictional TV series were likely somewhat unrealistic, but I figured the songs were fairly real, especially since so many of the lyrics discuss “me”, and “I”, the singer. And if the TV show couples could match up, in so many cases, so perfectly to the lyrics, then they must not be that unrealistic either.
Not all of my videos were capturing love stories (or love triangles, or break-ups). Some also focused on everything about a show, on character studies, on family dynamics, on friendships, etc. But plenty of my vids did focus on love and sex in their own ways.
When I first learned of the existence of slash fanvideos, I mainly ignored them. With some curiosity, I watched, and found myself quite uncomfortable for reasons that were difficult to pinpoint. I was not homophobic, and I already really enjoyed the few canonically gay or lesbian characters I’d come across in a very tiny percentage of the television series I’d seen.
My reason for feeling a visceral negative reaction to the slash fanvideos was a combination of many factors, likely. But the main reason, in retrospect, was probably that even if I hadn’t learned the words yet, I was already a sex-averse asexual person. And I was just as uncomfortable with some fanvids of AU heterosexual couples for exactly the same reasons. Allow me to elaborate:
In the fandom Heroes, some people liked to ship Peter/Claire before it was revealed they were biologically uncle & niece. Some people continued to ship them anyway afterwards, many of whom pretending, for the sake of the ship, that they weren’t related.
In order to make a compelling Peter/Claire aka “Paire” fanvideo, because Peter and Claire shared very few scenes on the show, at least when seasons 1 and 2 were airing… one needed to “manip” (manipulate) various scenes of the characters. One maybe would take a scene of Claire’s father dropping her off at school, wait for the part of the scene where her father was not in view at all, and use the scene of Claire smiling back at him as her goodbye, and then edit the clips to make it look like she was actually smiling at Peter.
This made me uncomfortable, because I knew the show too well. I already was a vidder in the Heroes fandom. Even when we didn’t see her dad in the vid, I recognized that this particular scene was from episode 2×01 when she was being dropped off at school. And this other vidder whose Paire vid I was watching was taking a moment that was 100% not romantic, a girl smiling at her dad, and this vidder was implying that these types of platonic shows of affection could just as easily be romantic. That they look identical to how it looks when someone smiles romantically at someone.
Back to the slash stuff… I did not know that asexuality existed yet, but I think on some level, I must have already known that I didn’t want other people finding me sexy. I already knew it was inevitable that people of the “opposite” sex would find me sexy, unless they were gay… but at least I could count on those girls who were straight and guys who were gay to NOT be sexually attracted to me. It made me feel more unsafe to imagine a world where even straight people are attracted in “that way” to the same gender, where even family members (Like the famous Winchester brothers on Supernatural, or like Paire) actually wish they were having sex with each other, where…
…Where the world was this sex crazed, and where fellow fangirls like me who could be vidding the sweet canon relationship between brothers or a set of friends with not-even-compatible sexual orientations or whatever instead purposely chose to make a fanvid where it was all about the sexual feelings – feelings which, I’d later realize, I had never experienced, and never would, and could not fully understand or relate to, which also most likely made the videos slightly more difficult to appreciate.
I was in other aspects of fandom before vidding became my main hook – I had been involved in some more obscure aspects, and in reading fan theories/predictions… but as time went on I became hooked on some podcasts, I started following fans on twitter, and then tumblr… I also, in 2010, finally explored fanfiction for the first time. I slowly also expanded to more and more (mainly TV show) fandoms, and slowly got a wider view of the fandom world. I also got older, and as I went through college with no real, close friends other than my online fandom ones, I became more and more exposed to their views on how sexy certain actors were, how much they wish they were sleeping with that actor, and I became more and more cognizant of how I didn’t relate. Since I still had never been on a date or shared a kiss with anyone, I assumed it was my inexperience’s fault. Even when I first heard the word asexual as a type of person thanks to someone I followed on twitter, and was curious enough to check out the definition on AVEN… I still assumed that couldn’t be me. I was just inexperienced.
I read my first M-rated fanfiction stories around the age of 21, maybe 20… and was fascinated, confused, a little uncomfortable – and on some level aware that this wouldn’t be something I’d enjoy, perhaps – but mainly this was a way for me to learn about sex in a way I hadn’t yet, and I was very interested.
I became more and more aware of LGBT issues as I became involved in the New Atheist movement and I heard more and more awful stories of discrimination against people for being gay from their Christian or otherwise religious communities. I slowly got exposed to some of the awful stuff trans people often went through. But also the fandom communities I was in played a part, because in 2009 I’d joined the Glee fandom as that show began to air, because many fans I knew were vidding Naomi/Emily’s lesbian romance on Skins and making me decide to check out the show too, because LGBT issues became relevant to my fandom life too in many small but sure ways.
I began to be exposed to these types of things from all sides, as I joined tumblr for fandom related reasons, but feminism and LGBT equality and all sorts of social justice issues were prevalent there.
I still didn’t hear of asexuality’s existence from anyone in fandom, though. The only person on twitter who introduced me to the concept was a person I knew thanks to the fact that I’d begun to follow a lot of atheist tweeters.
But fandom exposed me to a lot of LGBT acceptance, with only maybe two fandom people I knew well being openly homophobic. Fandom exposed me to a ridiculous amount of compulsory sexuality and amatonormativity… but it also exposed me to a ton of people who were introverted and inexperienced in romance & sex like me.
I don’t remember when it was that I became obsessed with reading every Santana/Karofsky (Glee) fanfic I could find, but it was definitely before I really considered the fact that I might be asexual. Santana is a lesbian on the show, Karofsky is a gay guy, and all of the fics I’ve ever seen about them explore the canon fact that they chose to pretend to date each other, and be each other’s beards, because of internalized homophobia. I began to write my own fic about them as well, and I think something I really needed, and got plenty of from this small corner of one fandom, was validation of the experience of trying to be sexually attracted to someone whom you weren’t, or wishing with all of your heart that you were able to experience sexual attraction for them. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think it was an important part of my journey.
When I began to date, and realize how much I didn’t enjoy kissing, or even hand-holding or cuddling… when I began to question if I might be asexual, fandom provided me with things my “real life” didn’t – fellow female people around my age who I felt comfortable privately emailing and discussing complicated, personal feelings with. Fellow fans shared their experiences with me, their experiences in enjoying vs. not enjoying kissing and other specific things like that. Fandom provided me allies and friends and people to practice coming out to and all of it.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
Update: Part 2 is complete and can now be read here: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/being-an-asexual-fangirl-part-2/