Month: March 2018

Guest Post: Asexuality and Poisonous Body Positivity

This is a submission for the March 2018 Carnival of Aces which I myself have been hosting this month here on my blog. The theme is “Physical Health and/or Our Bodies”

I offered to host guest submissions on my blog if anyone desired that. Here is Rachel’s essay, “Asexuality and Poisonous Body Positivity”:


Content Warnings: vague discussion of ableism and sexism, body shaming, bullying, body negativity, weight (?), industrial strength bitterness, awful metaphors including one about eating pork

*Looks at the theme for the month*

*rushes out from under my rock to write this*

I’ve been practically chomping at the bit for a theme like this for a while, having a mess of loosely connected thoughts on this topic knocking around in my head for years now. For the sake of keeping this semi-coherent, and because I have at least a semi-unifying theme that underlies all of these separate thoughts: a systematic estrangement by the rhetoric of body positivity. What initially set off this domino chain was an anonymous post on Queenie’s site:

Here: www.queenieofaces.tumblr.com/tagged/body-negativity

To my fellow aro ace, whoever and wherever you are, this is, at least in part, for you.

Confession time: I kind of loathe body positivity as a movement. Please refrain from throwing rotten tomatoes at me until the conclusion of this essay. I know how this looks: I’m nervous to even write this, let alone submit it, because I know this will attract naysayers out of the woodwork like flies. My feelings are born of a convoluted brew of bullying, sexism, asexuality, aromanticism, disability, and quite possibly gender all mixed into an obnoxious cocktail.

I am going to start with the bullying since starting at the beginning is easiest: I was bullied a lot as a child, and by a variety of people. My repertoire of elementary school bullies reads like a college diversity pamphlet. It was the body-shaming and body policing from other girls though, that I think did the most damage. My excessive body hair, acne, and, believe it or not, my thinness all made me a prime target for body shaming (the other girls kept insisting that I had an eating disorder and that I should put on weight).

It took me years to put all of these pieces together, in large part because of my then unrecognized aro aceness. My aro aceness comes into play because women’s beauty standards, as an extension of women’s gender roles, are heavily tied in with performing heterosexuality. Even as a kid, long before I knew that I was aro ace, I had an instinctive aversion to performing women’s beauty standards in part because of that non-straightness. Tie in my ADHD and the fact that women’s beauty standards tend to be taxing on executive function, and performing girl was very much a diminished reward. All of that failure to conform, born of disability and unrecognized aromanticism and asexuality (and possibly being quoigender as well) all painted a body-policing target on my back.

The weirdest part is, I actually managed to bounce back from most of this because my ability to avoid internalizing most of that filth. I always thought of myself as having good body image because, well, I didn’t have a poor body image (compare how I thought I was straight because, well, I knew I wasn’t gay). What I do have is in fact an apathetic one. My first epiphany on that was I undergrad, when my dorm had a poster on the wall allowing female students to write something that they liked about their body. At the time, I was supportive of this (and still am), but that flipped the first switch when I realized that I couldn’t think of a single thing that I actually liked about my body. I had good body image, right? So I should have been able to come up with SOMETHING, right…? Please note that while body image is a component of self image, the two are heavily conflated, which I think is shortsighted. It is possible to have an overall positive self image without having an outstanding body image. I am extraordinarily lucky to be in a position to be able to sustain a healthy self image despite my apathetic body image. It’s more than a lot of people have.

Remember what I stated before that I managed to avoid internalizing that body-shaming filth? That wasn’t entirely true. I did internalize it, just in a different way. Instead of internalizing the messages that the traits I was bullied for were flaws that diminished my worth as a person, I internalized the idea that these traits made me an easy target. It has made me acutely aware of the standards that I fail to fulfill. I don’t consider myself attractive to others because I know that my body is coded as unattractive by others. And you know what? I’m okay with not being attractive. Because when you are aro ace like me, and averse to sex and romance to boot, being attractive loses its appeal. But that has still left its scars. I have a knee-jerk mistrust of compliments concerning my appearance. After enduring so much bullying about my body, compliments on it feel insincere, not to mention also kind of sexist. If you want to pay me a compliment, couldn’t you be bothered to pay me one that is more personally and materially relevant? Apparently not, instead I have to make do with insincere sounding ones about the very thing I was mocked for, because all women prioritize beauty first and foremost, right?

Now, what does all of this have to do with my distrust of body positivity? One, body positivity at its most insipid is all about vague and platitude-laden validations of ~you’re beautiful~. Uh, no I’m not, and stop insisting that I am (remember the insincerity hang-up). Women of the world: you do not get to specifically and deliberately target me with ableist, sexist, and aphobic body shaming and otherwise ingrain the message that I am ~not beautiful~ and then pull a complete 180 on me with impersonal and clichéd validations that don’t mean a thing now that it’s easy and convenient. I am not buying it.

Two, related to point one, body positivity is heavily tied up with sex, romance, and sensuality. Messages about ~celebrating~ and ~enjoying~ your body abound, all tied up with eroticism. I’ve written before about how I am averse to sex, romance, and touch. As a result, a lot of body positivity is actively anathematic. I live effectively severed from eroticism and limerence, so what is a heady perfume to most is a noxious sewage to me. Being aro ace with a triple helping of aversions and absolutely no libido means that I don’t have a body that I can enjoy, and certainly not one I can celebrate. To risk misquoting Coyote of The Ace Theist: “I don’t want to celebrate my body. Go jump in a lake.”

Three—and this is a damning thing to proclaim—I don’t think it’s possible to build authentic body positivity for someone like me. Body positivity that encompasses me is self-defeating: it’s great and wonderful that you do not enjoy your body and are indeed stuck in a body that is incapable of being enjoyable. See, aren’t those empowering vibes just overwhelming? Even if I’m wrong and it is possible, I don’t like the idea of creating a permanent underclass of second best in which I can only get the ham hocks and pig ears while everyone else gets the juicy, juicy bacon. (Incidentally, I’d sooner go without pork than eat ham hocks or pig ears thank you very much). Or to use a punny metaphor: a system where everyone else gets to fly first class while I’m confined to flying economy. But I should totally be grateful of the fact that I am at least allowed part of the pig or am allowed to fly at all, right?

Look, I get why these points take center stage in body positivity. I know that these are uplifting messages that a lot of people need. But… I’m sick and tired of being cast aside because I don’t fit trendy rhetoric. I’m sick and tired of being expected to applaud things that benefit OTHER PEOPLE when it comes at my own expense. Because we aces and aros are constantly expected to sacrifice and de-prioritize our own needs for the sake of People Who Matter More. It’s alienating. It’s embittering. It’s isolating. And I really don’t want to be bitter. Despite bitterness being the cool thing to be online these days, I don’t recommend it. I’m not the first one to point out that body positivity is a mess of well-meaning but contradictory sentiments and competing access needs, but I wish that I wouldn’t get branded as regressive for the crime of pointing that out. I wish that body positivity would be honest about being inherently built for some people but not for others. I’d still hate it, but at least I’d respect it.

 

Guest Post: PCOS & Pap Smears

This is a submission for the March 2018 Carnival of Aces which I myself am hosting this month here on my blog. The theme is “Physical Health and/or Our Bodies”

I offered to host guest submissions on my blog if anyone desired that. Here is an anonymous person’s short submission. (They asked for this to please be posted anonymously.):

I have an endocrine disorder, called PCOS. Basically, my body doesn’t know how to regulate some hormones. It isn’t something I share with a lot of people, like my asexuality, but I can’t share both. Because I know what will happen next: they will think the asexuality is just a result of my hormones being off, and that if I treated the PCOS the “right way”, then my asexuality would be cured. But the thing is, I’m already treating the PCOS with the recommended treatments. And I didn’t suddenly become attracted to people once I started treatment. I’m just as asexual now as I was before I started treatment. I hate hiding this part of me, but what I would hate even more is feeling like a “bad” asexual because of my hormonal condition providing ammo for those who refuse to accept asexuality. Both things still make me feel broken, and it is hard to get past this.
I am also a sex repulsed asexual (first time I’ve even typed those words) and I know part of it is tied to my pain (related to PCOS, and other diagnoses that are suspected but not yet confirmed, because the exams are horribly invasive and painful). Any gynecological exams I’ve had were extremely painful, and I can’t bring myself to do anymore (panic attacks), so I’m not up to date on my reproductive health (pap smear isn’t going to happen anytime soon) and I hate the constant nibbling of anxiety in my mind about it. But I also find the medical requirements idiotic. The guidelines in place for these exams all assume sexual activity. I have no idea what my risks (cancer) really are, because there is no information about people like me, who aren’t sexually active.

 

Me & Squishes (a Lack of Experiencing Crushes)

The question of the week this week, Question of the Week: March 20th, 2018, over on The Asexual Agenda, is:

How do you tell the difference between a friend and a crush?

I once saw a post on facebook saying ‘that tingly feeling you get when you like someone is common sense leaving your body’.   I really like this definition because the only way I can really tell that I have a crush on someone is that I notice myself being kinda stupid around them.  Even then though, I don’t really think I treat crushes much differently to how I treat new friends. Either way, what I want is to get to hang out and talk and do fun things with them, so it all ends the same.

Can you describe what it feels like to have a crush?  Or a squish or other types of attraction? Are these things easy for you to differentiate?  How do you decide what to do about your shiny new feelings?

I have a whole blog post worth of an answer. Please check out the other comments there for other people’s answers! There are plenty of good ones.


Continue reading “Me & Squishes (a Lack of Experiencing Crushes)”

Physical Health and/or Our Bodies—the March 2018 Carnival of Aces—Call for Submissions

The “Carnival of Aces” is a blogging carnival where each month people are invited to write on a specific topic that is related to asexuality/the ace spectrum in some way.

(Also, vloggers are invited to speak on the topic in videos, artists/poets invited to be inspired by the topic, etc — whatever format you wish to participate with, please, use that format.)
Check out the masterpost of all of the other amazing topics previous carnivals have been on: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/a-carnival-of-aces-masterpost/
February 2018’s was the second time we’ve had a theme on “Mental Health” and this time the theme received 7 submissions – it was hosted by Sophia over at hurricane sophia. The previous time that same topic (mental health) was covered as a Carnival of Aces theme was by Elizabeth over at Prismatic Entanglements in June 2015. That time spawned many responses. It was an extremely successful month for the carnival.

For this current month, March 2018, this is the fifth time that I am hosting the carnival. Before, I hosted select months in 2014, 2015, and 2017. This time, since we’ve done mental health twice but never physical health, I decided to make the topic Physical Health and/or Our Bodies.

The topic is meant to be broad.

It may have plenty of overlap with the time all the way back in 2013 the Carnival of Aces was themed around Disability.

It may also have overlap with plenty of the things people ended up writing about when the theme was gender or about being nonbinary.

It probably has overlap with plenty of other topics the Carnival has been themed around in the past, the one on Touch, that one time about Kink, heck even my own theme of Sex-Aversion and Sex-Repulsion

So maybe me listing all that is already giving you ideas for what you could now write. You may have not been able to submit for one of those old carnivals, but you can submit something now that ties into the current theme!

The point is literally anything having to do with physical health or our physical bodies and how it intersects with asexuality.

A bunch of ideas on what people might write about:

  • Hormone-related stuff, like hypothyroidism, HRT (Hormone replacement therapy) as an option for trans folks, and more in this regard
  • Masturbation or Sex-Drive/Libido, including if you wish to write about a non-existent Sex-Drive
  • Kink, quite possibly non-sexual kink, of the varieties that have to do with your body
  • Your relationship to sexual actions with other people
  • Your relationship to “sensual” actions with other people, and I’m using that word in the ace way to mean things that are non-sexual but still physically intimate
  • Gynecologist related thoughts
  • Or thoughts related to asexuality & your primary care physician
  • Body-image could probably be a big part of this theme
  • Drugs like Viagra or even Addyi (Flibanserin) could be discussed, or other drugs that feel relevant
  • Physical Trauma-related topics
  • Any physical disability you want to write about including chronic illness and how this intersects or doesn’t with asexuality
  • etc! If I didn’t list something and you’re not sure if it’s close enough to the topic, go for it! We want the only tangentially related stuff too, truly. We want the stuff I didn’t think of. More posts is always good!
  • For more ideas, check out The Asexual, a literary journal, the issue that was released on “Asexuality and Body” as a theme: http://theasexual.com/journal/#vol-1-issue-3

Let me know in the comments (or by email, etc) if you have any questions or concerns.

To submit your entry, either leave a comment below or send an email to me at pemk7@aol.com . The deadline is the end of the day Saturday, March 31st! If you would like to post anonymously, I can copy and paste text from an email into a Guest post on this blog of mine, just let me know that this is your wish. You can also contact me via my tumblr, which is luvtheheaven.tumblr.com – links don’t send in “Asks” though, so I’ll never get your post if you try to send a link that way. I do receive submissions and messages but in my opinion, email is easier, and comments here are easiest.

Thanks!