This series is designed to give me things about the small world of asexuality to talk about, other than the slightly insular view of things running round other blogs, and the very insular view of things running round my head. Each time I update it, I'll pull another question/answer from this article, and analyse them. I'll try to be relatively fair about it, giving an asexual perspective, but also considering Joy's perspective.
I have no idea what the copyright situation is with quoting things. I'd like to point out that the copyright on this article belongs entirely to ABC News, and I'm quoting directly from it for the purpose of analysis.
I am 19 years old, and I've been having a lot of trouble convincing my parents that I do not experience sexual attraction. After watching the asexuality story on "20/20," my father looked at me during your comments and gave me a very snide "See?" as if he feels that I should force myself to do something that I have absolutely no interest in. Is there anything I can say to my parents that will make them understand that sex just is not for me?
This seems to be the relatively confident asexual to start off, so no-one can accuse the article of bias. However, notice that they don't use the term asexual in relation to themselves. Also notice that (if these letters are indeed genuine), Davidson's own comments have caused increased friction in at least one family with an asexual in, and are used by the father as an authoritative justification of his doubts.
This is also the comment that should be easiest enough to answer. Even someone who doesn't believe in asexuality should see that someone who doesn't want sex at the moment should be given space by their parents, and just needs to adress how to get everyone communicating properly.
I hope you can see the weird humor in having a dad who says, "Be more sexual!" while most of your friends' folks are probably saying, "Wait!"
A humor that a lot of asexuals have pointed out. Some have said there's a magic age of about 16, after which they suddenly get a bit more involved in Project Grandchild.
But I would hate to think you're rebelling against your father's pressure. Rebellion may be part of growing up, but knowing when someone has a good point, (even if it IS your dad!) is part of being a grown-up. In this instance, your dad is picking up on the idea that lack of interest in sex can be based on something other than an irreversible condition called asexuality.
I suppose the crucial difference here between Joy and I is what we've read into the letter. She says 'picking up on', while I think 'refusing to let go of' is probably more accurate.
I don't feel it's worth mentioning that the unsubtle way in which she immediately says "You're rebelling" is quite insulting. It seems people often use whatever's there to justify it not being proper asexuality. In this case, the girl may very well be rebelling. However, the only information in the letter is that she has a dad who's annoyed with her. QED- she must be in a rebellious phase!
Also- irreversible condition. Why don't we have more asexuals who ponder language bias? It's struck me that it's an interesting aspect of the asexual movement.
I totally believe that you're not inclined toward having sex right now. But do I know for sure that you will never be interested? Not without a crystal ball. We all develop sexually at different paces. Some of us are sexually precocious, and some of us are late bloomers. Just because someone is in her late teens or early 20s doesn't mean she is necessarily in full bloom. What you feel now may not be who you are so much as where you are in your own unique cycle of development. By labeling yourself too soon, you run a serious risk of mislabeling yourself, then feeling duty-bound to live up to it.
"I believe you. But I don't." At this point, she's stopped answering the question and just started listing her own views. I hope she gets back to the problem with the father soon, because it seems to me that the girl is pretty mature about knowing what she wants and turning her identity into the problem is just going to make her relationship with her dad, and those of thousands like her, more difficult.
There's no doubt that when you feel like an outsider, when all your friends seem boy crazy or girl crazy and you're not, you'll want to gravitate to a group that better reflects where you stand. I'd be down with that 100 percent if the group in question stood for accepting how you feel right now but also supported the possibilities for change. I'd be more comfortable, too, if the group offered education instead of an "if you think you are, you are" approach to the matter of asexuality. Lay psychology is sometimes intuitive and smart, and sometimes more about inclusion than pure wisdom.
Now, these are interesting criticisms of the asexual movement, and I'm not just going to brush them aside (although it's obvious at this point that the original letter mentioned asexuality, and that it's been whitewashed out).
The question of whether asexuals are 'allowed' by the movement to change their ways is a long one. In my recent change from asexual to who-knows (which is now approximately back to demisexual), I found that asexuals were all entirely enthusiastic about me questioning myself, but I did feel constrained by the asexual label, and there is a certain fear of leaving it that has to be adressed, if we're sure that eager asexuals aren't just denying their partly sexual natures. I'm aware that both Joy and I are rambling horribly, so for now, I'll just ask that you read this post by the formerly asexual-identifying Venus of Willendork, written with Joy's objections in mind.
I personally love the self-definition of asexuality. I'm not sure Joy quite grasps the consequences of denying people the right to define themselves. One reason asexuals don't offer an education is because there is none to offer. Not just asexuality, but sexuality too, is indefinable. There is very little concrete knowledge out there about sexuality, and only the possession of concrete knowledge that someone else doesn't have can possibly raise someone to the level of a Teacher, rather than a Wise Friend.
There is also absolutely no way of deciding any sexuality other than self-identification. Without self-identification, there would be no sexual orientation in the world.
However, the idea of the asexual community offering an education is an interesting one. Maybe, rather than leaving the vulnerable minds of new asexuals in the care of whoever stays in AVEN (and that place, especially the repeated threads, does get a bit too dull after a while), and the occasional awesome but jokey flow chart, it would be better if some form of asexual authority eventually arises to put together some sort of e-guidebook for those questioning if they're asexual. A serious flowchart, perhaps. The FAQ of AVEN is a good example of one or a few asexuals committing what's often thought of as the horrific crime of speaking for all, and maybe it's something that has to be done occasionally, as little as possible, to gain respect. Maybe there should be some sort of protocol for 'am I asexual' and 'I am (or varient). What next?'. Maybe Joy's right, and it's too important a thing to leave to chance, as the term becomes better known, and we get more and more asexuals who aren't neccesarily keenly introspective and able to navigate their own way round finding out if they're asexual.
In addition to the timing of sexual development, there are plenty of other legitimate reasons that someone could feel asexual without being in a permanent or irreversible state. The short list includes endocrine imbalances, history of trauma or abuse, subconscious negative attitudes about sex, fear of being swept up or losing control, depression, anxiety, and the effects of undiagnosed medical conditions. Some people might even just like feeling "special" or "unusual." In fact, there are so many convoluted possibilities that only a trained person can help you sort them out.
More of the same.
Is it scary to dig around in your emotional and physical recesses? Good grief, yes! But when you have another 70 or 80 years of life ahead of you, don't you owe it to yourself to spend a few of them doing that kind of excavating?
I completely agree with her here. And we do need to encourage this kind of thought. But, at the same time, it's already being encouraged more than she realises, and there's no need to police the first few years of everyone's asexuality to make sure they doubt themself all the time.
Also, I did spend years and years not just questioning, but actively trying to invent sexual attraction. And a lot of questioning, of course. This girl's older than me, and Joy's completely dismissed the idea that she could have already spent years trying to figure things out.
Even if, in the end, you are more convinced than ever that you're incapable of being attracted to anyone, male or female, at least you will have come to that conclusion after educated and responsible consideration. I'd really like to see you give yourself the advantage of time, and, ideally, have at least a few sessions with a qualified sex therapist so that you can talk about all your feelings beyond the pressure imposed by either your family or your peer group.
*goes back and looks at the question*
*looks back through the answer again*
*looks at the question again*
You know what, this is what really harms asexuality. Joy Davidson here admits that not wanting to have sex, not feeling sexual attraction, can be a valid way to live your life. However, when an asexual reaches out to her for help, trying to find out how to live this life, all Joy does is melt into a flurry of reasons she might not be asexual. Yes, doubting yourself is important. But I would love, just for once, to see some professional advice about asexuality from the other side of the coming out line. It's like the only asexual issue is whether we exist or not, and we're too busy with that issue that we have no time to actually exist.