Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The A is never the problem

Ok, so I’ll succumb to the pressure and have a little rant about those darned asexohaters. Just one. Just to get it out of my system.

A couple of months back, there was a thread on a sex-positive forum, which I think has now been blocked, in which the members of this forum discussed the validity of asexuality, quickly joined by AVENites, anxious to set them right. There was only one poster who seemed to directly disagree with the idea, once we’d explained what asexuality was not.
For three or four pages, the battle raged on between this poster and a handful of determined AVENites. It was only a short time before the thread was finally blocked by the moderators (not for the constant flaming on all sides, but for various weird reasons) when we figured out she didn’t disapprove of asexuality. What she disapproved of was the labelling of sexualities, believing people should be free to experience whatever they experience without it being tied down in a label.

The view has been echoed by the arch-asexohater Joy Davidson (who, to be fair, has probably been cast in that role more by chance, from Montel and such, than by an especially sustained malevolence to the community), who says that asexuals are “closing themselves off” (paraphrased from Montel show) to possibilities.

For the moment, I’m going to lay my cynicism aside and pretend that this isn’t hypocrisy. I’ll pretend that they’d react exactly the same if a straight or gay person came out. I won’t mention that only asexuals (and possibly other minorities the speaker is uncomfortable with) get this reaction. I’ll take them at face value and assume that many asexohaters really do just want all sexual labels to be weakened, and just happen to be taking them on alphabetically.

Arguments about the validity of sexuality still have no place amongst arguments about the validity of asexuality.

The two are completely different issues. In a world where everyone believes in straight and, often, gay, the idea of sexual orientation, however flawed, is an assumption that we’re perfectly aware we’re making when we talk about asexuality.
The phrase ‘asexuality is a sexual orientation’ wouldn’t make much sense if there was no such thing as a sexual orientation. But the arguments over whether sexual orientation makes sense are so massive that they eclipse the whole point of the debate if brought in to argue against asexuality.
Our hypothesis should be “Asexuality is a sexual orientation, given that sexual orientations are valid.” We don’t bother with the last bit because, to those of us who identify as asexual, it often seems self-evident. But it annoys me when any passer-by with an axe to grind about conventional sexuality then has to do it on asexuality, because it’s weaker.

I doubt this is how many asexohaters think about it. Joy Davidson may not think she’s attacking sexuality when she criticises asexuality. But so many of the arguments against the validity of asexuality don’t actually make any sense until you consider them as criticisms of sexuality as a whole.

Here’s where I borrow from some really good recent articles on the rest of the asexual blogosphere, which argue that criticisms of asexuality can be equally applied to any other sexuality, a thought which was the main inspiration for this post.
The argument that ‘asexuals haven’t met the right person’ is based on the idea that sexuality can change, and sexual identity is often too rigid to allow this change. There’s just as much chance of someone of a more conventional sexuality falling for someone outside their presumed parameters as there is an asexual.
The argument that ‘you’re all repressed’ is based on the idea of denial. Sexual identity is a confusing place, and the identity you choose affects far more than how you think about your feelings- sometimes, it can be life or death. So there’s a lot of denial going on around sexuality. The traditional asexual answer to this, as shown on Montel, has been in explaining that the asexual community is very hard to find, and still full of questions about your sexuality even once you’ve identified, so not likely to provide any space for denial. It’s a good response, but I rather like the Venus of Willendork’s new angle. Of course asexuality can serve as denial. So can all sexualities.
I expect the largest proportion of people denying their true sexuality (even if it’s just a Kinsey-esque ‘a little bit bi’) can be found in heterosexuality. It’s an argument against sexuality, sure, but not really one against, or even about, asexuality.

I’ve run out of claims that are made about asexuals. I think those are the main two, but said in slightly different ways. They’re arguments that sexual identity is too constricting, too obstructing a thing to be placed on anyone. Except they focus on asexual identity specifically, for unexplained reasons. Tell me if there’s more I’ve missed.

So I’m finally brought, in a round-about way, to the title of this post. The A is never what people have the problem with. People have a problem with the sexuality. It’s only when a startlingly new concept, like asexuality, comes up, that people start to see the problems engrained in sexuality, which they hadn’t allowed themselves to see before.
Actually, no. Scratch that, it’s a load of rubbish. People use arguments against sexual identities as a whole to argue against asexuality because they’ve decided asexuality is unnatural, and they need to find reasons why they think that retroactively. It makes a pretty depressing end to this post, though.

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