In March 2018 I hosted the Carnival of Aces here on my blog, on the topic of “Physical Health and/or Our Bodies”. This was the Call for Submissions: https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/physical-health-and-or-our-bodies-the-march-2018-carnival-of-aces-call-for-submissions/
I have a lot of thoughts on physical health and, often unrelated, on my body that don’t feel very directly connected to asexuality. I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a post for this carnival theme, even though I myself was hosting this month.
But let me try, a day late, to throw something out there nonetheless.
1) Well a big thing I’m starting to feel a little less alone with is that I have no libido/sex-drive/ability to feel arousal and orgasm, which is a topic people don’t talk about very often in asexual communities since we focus on the psychological experiences and because masturbation etc is a fairly taboo/too “persona/private” topic in many spaces. And because when does the lack of it even “come up” naturally in conversation?
I think the asexual community has more of us who have no sex drive than many of us realize, and I’m constantly desperate to not be alone in whatever I’m experiencing, including that, so I’m glad I’m in a community of people where my experience is some degree acknowledged. I especially appreciate the context of for some of us being a lifelong thing, not a lost sex drive, and that even if it was lost due to side effects of medications or due to other illness, it’s not a “problem to be solved” but rather a plus side for at least a handful of ace folks.
Narratives in society continue to not account for adult human beings to possibly not have libidos their entire lives, including medical advice and sex-ed advice websites and all sorts of places where it might “come up”. It’s never come up for me at the doctor’s office except at my one relatively bad psychologist’s appointment after I came out as asexual, and it’s also come up when people ask if I masturbate just in social situations after coming out as ace, such as at a local skeptics/atheists meetup.com group I frequent. I don’t want to say “it’s none of your business”, maybe because that implies I have something to be ashamed of and hide, or that anyone does. I’d rather say “No, I personally don’t, I don’t have a sex-drive at all, but plenty of aces, actually most aces do masturbate, and that doesn’t mean they’re not ace, because asexuality is about attraction to other people or maybe about desire for partnered sexual activity, not about if you have a sex drive”. Or something less well worded as I attempt to say that off the cuff, on the spot, in the moment, haha. (I’m a better writer, can be a fairly awkward speaker.)
Heck narratives in society of people who don’t have sex but still want to get pregnant still barely acknowledges asexual people (see how the word “asexual” isn’t mentioned at all until the final paragraph in this article: The Truth Behind “Virgin Births” — And What It Means for New Moms). And there are a surprising number of articles these past few years published on the topic, so I guess there is beginning to be a narrative there.
I actually don’t intend to ever get pregnant, but at one point my scoliosis doctor when I was a teenager suggested if I ever did that I should come back in or at least see “a” orthopedic surgeon to look at me, that this could start messing up my back. Or maybe he assumed a “when” for be getting pregnant, I do not really precisely recall. I think not being allosexual in an orientation where I am likely to be having sex with people who have sperm does affect the way all these messages about pregnancy affect people like me, but I’m not sure in what ways. I don’t know if not wanting to have biological children but instead since I was thirteen hoping to raise non-biological children has anything to do with my non-libidoist asexuality and related sex-aversion at all, but it could.
(My mother developed hypothyroidism after her second pregnancy, and I have read some posts in the past from aces with hypothyroidism. This is a treatable hormone related problem that even when treated does not stop you from being ace, despite popular misconceptions about how “hormone problems” might explain asexuality. And I have no reason to believe I should be tested to see if I have this currently, but it’s another risk I’m avoiding if I avoid pregnancy, personally.)
Vaginismus has a lot of articles about it too and as far as I can tell asexuality never comes up in those. Considering it’s considered a psychological avoidance of anything entering the vagina, you’d think people who have no desire to have sex would come up, but heteronormativity still wins out there, and the narratives are focused more on women who really want to have sex with men, but who find themselves unable.
2) The idea of getting a tattoo, a permanent change to my body (skin) like that, makes me squirm. I have no plans to ever. It’s probably just because it was not normalized to me growing up, most adults I respected and still respect in the generation above me didn’t have tattoos as far as I knew/know. But I’m somewhat jealous of people who can put ace symbols like that so permanently on themselves.
A part of me loves the idea of ace symbols being prominently attached to myself, so much so that a purse I carry around almost everywhere has 2 ace pins on it and has had at least one for over a year now, and I’ve painted my fingertails on a few occasions (and once my toenails too) with asexual flags! I’ve put purple hair chalk (very temporary coloring) in my hair for Pride. I have worn T-shirts that don’t shy away from advertising that I’m asexual for sleeping in and eating breakfast at home in even when my grandmother or aunt or cousin are sleeping in the same house. I enjoy being less invisibly ace and using my body as a way to do that.
My hair, however, is in the dark brown shades featured here: http://haircolorsidea.com/brown-hair-color-shades/ (or like “natural brown” ish in the second chart there) so the purple hair chalk didn’t really show up very visibly. I think my hair is medium brown but hair chalk only really works well with very light hair. If my hair was black it would be worse but it still wasn’t great.
I have chronic pain in my foot, traumatic osteoarthritis after breaking it and the surgeon failing to realign it properly half of my lifetime ago when I was 14 (I’m 28 now), which also means permanent ugly scars from subsequent surgeries trying to fix it and ultimately when I was 22 fusing the joint (so I don’t exactly still have the arthritis, but I do still have pain in my left foot, especially if I don’t wear shoes with a correction for my naturally flat feet, meaning going barefoot or wearing any open-toed footwear like sandals or flipflops, is not really something I can do without pain. So showing off toenail polish with ace flags was kind of a fail as well.
3) I’ve figured out I’m demi-sensual about touch and that my general touch aversion has largely gone away, but generally the majority of the time in my life I’m not touching other people. I also have general “sensual desire” when I’m traumatized or grieving, where I want to hug and touch people and it’s less targeted but it’s mainly I want people who I already have some degree of a trust bond with to express non-verbal and instead physical comfort, I think is what it is. I remember after my friend perpetrated a murder-suicide that I got virtual hugs from online acquaintances but I felt frustrated that I craved real ones and no people in my life who I love gave me one. If I had a partner where touch was a big part of our typical interactions like most allosexual&alloromantic partnerships tend to be, I probably would’ve gotten hugged, but I’m aro-spec and ace and therefore less likely than the average allo person to have that kind of partner at any given point when a traumatic thing happens to me. Touch is just… not often a part of my life. (I could’ve asked for a hug from my dad whom I live with but…. it feels less comforting if you ask first, I think is part of the problem lol?? I don’t know. I also was afraid of my own overwhelming emotions, and avoidance of bringing up my desperation for comfort was a coping mechanism. But again this has little to do with asexuality.
I am one of the co-organizers of my local asexual meetup, and in January I hosted a meetup where only 3 of us attended and we went square dancing. I knew multiple members had expressed interest in this as a non-sexualized type of dance (or maybe I got it confused with contradancing, I don’t really know) but most of them couldn’t end up making this event. It was… a lot more reinforcing of the gender binary and very extremely heteronormative than I predicted, which could’ve been avoided or at least warned for had I researched square dancing at all before hosting this thing, like whoops my bad. But the three of us who did attend enjoyed it a lot nonetheless. I don’t know for sure that it really felt entirely nonsexualized to me, when it was so heteronormative, needing to be a man/woman pairing whenever possible and when inevitably there are too many women, the extra woman is playing the “man” role in the dance, and the caller is telling men what to do vs women, and she follows the directions for men. But I guess it still largely, while feeling borderline charged with flirtation type vibes, felt safe as an avenue for strangers to be touching each other. It felt controlled and I noticed as my partner put his hand on the small of my back or we intertwined arms and hands in a variety of ways that I didn’t feel overly positive or negative about this touch, it felt fairly neutral, which in itself was interesting to me since it was a lot more touch than I’m used to experiencing most days of my life.
4) I’m overweight. Fat. It was hard for a while to buy clothing that fit me that didn’t show off more cleavage than I was comfortable with, because having visible cleavage is deemed “sexy” by society. I didn’t know I was asexual when this was starting and I was beginning to shop at plus-sized specific clothing stores. On the other hand, I am a cis woman who basically has never had to deal with overt unwanted attention from straight men because my body type is desexualized.
This desexualization is especially relevant when combined with my habits of not wearing makeup and often having acne. I think this matters less but also maybe related is not doing much to change my natural, and often frizzy and kinda “unkept” seeming hair, and not even showering every single morning (often closer to every other day).
I feel ashamed of my appearance even if the only people judging me would not care about my looks in a sexual context at all or even a romantic one, like even places like job interviews or ace meetups it seems to kinda matter how I look, how I’m fat, how I have acne. I feel fairly good when I take care of my appearance and shower right before an event and am at my cleanest, but still don’t really know what I’m doing with makeup and usually avoid it. I love dressing in very chaste-femme clothing and jewelry, and feeling pretty but not sexy and avoiding cleavage now that I realized that’s a thing that matters to me – wearing a sports bra even with some of my clothing that would have too much visible cleavage has been helping these past few months, as it kinda hides it and makes me feel much more comfortably chaste. You might see the bra but the part that can be seen looks like a camisole type of thing.
5) Related to #4… I was in a queerplatonic partnership, with a (probably aro-spec?) gay-gray-ace cis guy who was very skinny. For part of our relationship, we were in a long distance QPR for 5 months while he was on a civilian contractor deployment to Afghanistan and at one point he got a new superior who made a (very offensive) joke about him looking so skinny he could have been in Auschwitz. (My former qpr is not Jewish, the guy who made the joke justified his antisemitism because his own grandfather died in the Holocaust, regardless this whole thing was BAD.) At being told about this, I replied with horror and assuring him he didn’t deserve such rude comments toward his body and to be the subject of jokes that of course no one knows how to reply to.
But at the same time I felt extra awkward in the moment because it was a reminder (and not the only reminder, although maybe it was the starkest reminder) of how even in a relationship like ours where we weren’t attracted to each other based on looks, the fact that I am fat and he is skinny is still this awkward, noticable thing, this thing that makes parts of our experiences not as relatable to each other, this thing I never brought up, not once, to him while we were together, but that crossed my mind – that he was “healthy” and I was “unhealthy”, that moral significance given to an instantly noticeable aspect of our appearances that added to me feeling insecure and like in some ways I was lesser than him. He “had his life together” while I was unemployed the first stretch of us dating, and “just starting to get used to the working world” for the second stretch of it, he was independent while I was and still am living with my dad, and my fat body felt like a part of this whole equation, some kind of uneven power imbalance by default, a thing I wouldn’t really want to talk about with him the vast majority of the time, because if the fact of me being fat crossed my mind, I kinda felt ashamed and also like it would be awkward to bring up. And it crossed my mind when sending selfie photos of myself to him and trying to find the one in a series taken in succession where my face looks least fat, or all sorts of times. Like every time we ate meals together or I was snacking on candy while we watched a movie together – either just the two of us, or at an ace meetup.
Honestly I often forget how fat I am, until I see a certain photo, and then I often do feel ugly and that includes in borderline-asexual contexts where I am like, standing beside my other panelists while presenting at Creating Change. I find it to be an issue in buying T-shirts with ace colors and ace phrasings on them that don’t make me feel embarrassed about how much they are unflattering on me and not designed as plus-sized clothing.
6) I am so desperate for more asexual representation in fiction, especially television and yet also places like books, and then also places like fanfiction where you can change anything you want about the universe the characters exist in or the characters themselves even if they aren’t ___ in canon. But I usually forget to think about fat representation, and I’m not sure why, because all the aces and ace-interpretations being skinny and attractive people is not really relatable to me either, and it is extremely rare in most of the fiction I fall in love with for any of the characters, especially the female ones, to be big enough that they’d need to shop in a plus-sized store or at least “Woman” section rather than the “Misses”, it is unheard of for them to be desexualized by default by anyone around them, etc etc.
Even characters with glasses is fairly rare in the experiences I see represented even though it’s a physical thing I live with every single day of my life, there are so many facets of representation that get overlooked, and sometimes seeing glasses-wearer’s experiences represented gives me a rush of excitement and surprise at how validating and resonating it can be. I am beginning to want a character who is less fat than some of the examples I can most easily think of, like Marley’s mother and Beiste on Glee, Kate on This Is Us. I want a female character who is more of the level of overweight I can relate to, but whose story doesn’t revolve around how hard being fat or even just “chubby” makes romance/dating life/sex, because that I won’t be able to relate to. It’s an intersectional complicated thing I would need in representation, essentially a sex-avoidant/averse/etc asexual character who is also fat, and who isn’t the only fat person in the universe because that would imply bad associations about “ugliness” and “naturally they are desexualized so I made them asexual too”.
I don’t know; there is just a lot to unpack here. But I think it would be nice if the variety of experience and the fact that you can be 5’4”/5’5” in height, almost 220 lbs, and this affects the experience of your life even when you are asexual, was represented.
Okay so these are 6 pretty random thoughts that fulfill the prompt for the carnival that I came up with. I don’t have a nice bow for wrapping this up. Please comment and let me know your thoughts, if any of this resonated, etc! Thanks.
I’ll post the round-up post later today.