Saturday, 13 March 2010

Walking the Line

As promised here, I’m going to jot down a few thoughts about the Line between asexual and sexual. I’m interested, as I mentioned in that post, in times when asexuals draw the line differently to sexuals. This is more initial thoughts and outlines than conclusions, and is intended to mildly enrich the ‘definitions of asexuality’ debate. I’m going to use myself as a case-study, and pretend to be analytical and scientific, when I’m actually probably being closer to navel-gazingly introspective and live-journally. Oh well. That’s the way I roll.

There are two variations of Line-discrepancy. Times when asexuals draw the line lower than sexuals, and times when they draw it higher. One results in perilous no-man’s land, the other in overlapping yet contradictory labels. Fortunately, I believe my scientifically-chosen study-subject (ie. me), is subject to both these conditions.

In the first example, we see asexuals sticking to a very reductive, prescribed definition of asexuality- ‘lack of sexual attraction’, while sexuals go for a more nuanced definition, one which reflects the realities of their lives more. So, for example, I almost definitely have some form of sexual attraction. This sexual attraction is very abstract, I’d describe it as being more likely to be physically attracted to someone who’s in a sexual situation to someone who isn’t. Asexuality is very much about what is or isn’t going on in your head. I have a theoretical form of sexual attraction, therefore, from an asexual point of view, I’m above the line. However, a lot of sexuals bind their sexuality around more practical ideas- who do you fancy? Who are you in a relationship with? Who are you screwing? Were I to call myself gay, I’d instantly draw to myself a whole host of untrue assumptions about how pronounced my sexuality is, what my relationship to my sexuality is. In fact, my relationship to my sexuality is far, far closer to a physically-attracted asexual than to a sexual person. I can imagine myself saying ‘Well, I’m not asexual, because my physical attraction to people is often enhanced by sexualisation, even though I don’t want to act on it,” to even the most understanding sexual, and they’d look completely blank.

In the second example, we have the asexual bending the definition of asexuality while the sexual holds to it. This can be seen in the example I linked to above- Joy thinks that not experiencing sexual attraction the vast majority of the time and then coming to it occasionally is just part of the range of experiences of a sexual person. A lot of demisexuals would be confused if you told them their experiences were in the normal range of sexuality, because the reason they identify as demisexual is because they don’t feel any space in a sexual label for them. For example, I think that, were I to have a romantic attraction which pointed in the same way as my aesthetic/sexual attraction, the issue of asexuality would never come up for me. I would assume that my sexual attraction was complete and normal, I would pursue relationships, feel attracted to the people I was having relationships with, and enjoy sex. Any energy I was lacking from sexual attraction could be drawn from other aspects of my sexuality. I reckon there are a lot of people like me out there, who have less-than-complete (whatever that means) sexual attraction, but just assume that they’re normal, because they function perfectly well. In my case, only my hetero- or a- romanticism and my over analysis have jarred with the ‘normal’ life. Then how can I really claim to be asexual, when there are sexuals somewhere out there existing quite happily as straight or gay or bisexual, who have less sexual attraction than me?

Running long on words and short on time now, and this was just meant to be something for you all to ponder. Do any of you have any idea how these could be reconciled? Personally, I think the key is in shared experiences. Demisexuals and grey-a’s share all their experiences of living without instant, obvious and actionable sexual attraction with asexuals, which makes them closer, gives the asexual label a relevance to them that their corresponding sexual label wouldn’t. Which is why we live by it- because it describes us, in the spirit, but not in the word.

Which begs an awful lot of questions about how seriously we want to take the prescriptive definition of asexuality.

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