Sunday, 12 December 2010

When sexuals write asexuals

I've been hearing this a lot in the last two weeks and it's only now, when I sat down to write a completely different blog post, that my brain suddenly linked it all together and said "Hey, dude, there's this whole thing going on. Forget your other plans, talk about this instead."

It came to me after reading the Feminists With Disabilities bulletin for the blog carnival. I had a load of stuff here about why FWD is an asexual-friendly space, but I cut it out because I want this post to be easy to read for its intended audience.

Suffice it to say that FWD is always very strong on the idea that if you want to know what's best for disabled people, you talk to disabled people. Maybe this is what makes them so good at representing asexuality when asexuality and disability are two groups that the kyrarchy really tries to play against each other. Because FWD lets asexuals speak about asexuality.
And the ironic thing is that I'm sure a couple of their writers could speak so much better about asexuality than everyone else does, because they spend time listening. But, where possible, they encourage asexuals to talk, rather than speaking for them.


Someone recently mentioned that they were fed up of communities saying they were respectful to asexuals and then not trying to provide any asexual materials. This applies to internet communities and also to localised LGBTQ groups. I agreed a little, but on the other hand, I cringe because I know what sexuals write about asexuals when they've had little actual exposure to asexual thought.

A lot of people, and it happened earlier this week on a blog I'm not going to name, just flick onto AVEN, read the definition, read the FAQs if you're lucky, and get this understanding of asexuality that is no better than the corny American shows that're like "What happens when people don't want to have sex?" Then they tie that understanding into whichever point they want to make, often quite clumsily, and there's your asexual dialogue.

Which, as someone who devotes an inordinate amount of resources to furthering asexual thought, kinda pisses me off. It feels like they've proudly made a volcano out of a cola bottle and some papier mache and they hold it up to me and I'm like "Your paintwork is terrible. You've left most of the top of the bottle visible." They hold up their big, inclusive asexual thought and I can see the holes.

This annoys me because I WANT sexuals to be part of our discussions. I really genuinely don't want a world in which only asexuals can talk about asex, because I think the ideas behind asexuality are relevant to a lot of people. I've talked, face-to-face, with some people who have awesome views on asexual theory. I remember on AVEN, some of the commentors I respected and admired most were sexuals. I'd love to hear the views of everyone else. Also, since typing this paragraph, I've just re-remembered that I'm not actually asexual anymore. I suppose I'm a sexual commenting on asexuality, and no-one's stopped me thus far.

But I think that this is the dividing line:
I'm fed up of hearing "So this is what I think about asexuality, ie. celebately-oriented people." It's too close to "Should we let asexuality exist?" And that's a game I really don't want to play any more. This is what I said a year ago last week:

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.


I said it about an article that was four years old. Yawn. Is bored now.

What I'd love to hear is what sexuals think about romantic attraction. What sex-positive people think about repulsed aces. What other minority groups think about detoxing. What other desexualised groups think about the way asexuals experience desexualisation. What polamorous people think about the relationship binary. What feminists think about our own brands of asexual feminism.
What we can add to the discussions on disability, virginity, polyamory, and an ongoing list. What you, dear reader, can add to us.

These are the conversations that are worth having. So when we say that we want you to take asexuality and talk about it, we really, really do. But you have to take more than one bite before you can get anything other than surface. Asexuality isn't useful to you. It isn't something you can talk about. If it was, you'd be asexual (damn, why does my existance always contradict my points nowadays?). But you'll find something will hook you, if you look hard enough. It's past the front page, I'm afraid. If you're not willing to look for it, you could always write throwaway posts. Who knows, you may be thanked by asexuals for even deigning to notice that we exist, and not being more directly condescending than you would be at a museum exibit. You won't write well. And you won't engage me.



(The guest posts idea is still a very good way to get the discussion about asexuality started among your readership. An a certain quasi-asexual blogger is always avaliable, if you want to commission one...)

(a lot of this was also inspired by the blog post by Minerva about the sexual Sherlock fandom writing asexual and ACTUALLY DOING IT RIGHT!! I've found some small scraps of the discussion since then, and there really is some incredibly in-depth, gorgeously respectful discussion going on, a lot of which is by sexuals who have very little experience of asexuality. I was going to discuss what makes this work so very well, but I had to cut that out for succinctness, and because I don't really know. I think some large proportion of it is for the reasons I've mentioned, because they're willing to go beyond 101. But it just shows that sexuals can write asexual)

1 comment:

  1. Firstly, on furthering asexual thought beyond "we exist"--SO MUCH WANT. Seriously, that's why I got into the blogosphere, that's why I write, those are the discussions I want to be having. I am bored silly by visibility. And I think that if our culture is so shallow that all our discussions are based around visibility and visibility alone, how can we ever take ourselves seriously?

    And if even we don't take ourselves seriously--and I have seen lots of asexuals tell themselves that asexuality doesn't matter, that there are so many other things that matter more, that if we speak up and say "dude, that is offensive" we'll make enemies where there are none--how can we expect anyone else to do so?

    Also, I think this is why much of the research currently being conducted with asexuality bores me. It's all about whether we exist or not. I know asexuals exist. There are way more interesting questions about asexuals to be asked than that.

    (Speaking of Sherlock fandom, I've actually heard some noises about Sherlock fandom failing in some ways--like almost always writing asexual!Sherlock compromising in a sexual relationship with Watson at the end, and not going into the issues that even indifferent aces in relationships with nonasexuals have with initiation and getting bored and frustrated with the whole focus on sex thing. In some ways, the trends I have observed often don't actually involve Watson compromising in any way--he gets sex, yay. Also I have seen some noise about Watson being the Right Person who makes Sherlock not asexual any more, but I have not seen that one personally myself.

    Which is not to say that the fandom is not trying, merely to say that it is not always succeeding. And, hell, it does do a lot better than the tiny amount of mainstream work we get, and a fair amount of that is probably down to genre tropes. But... trying doesn't necessarily get to the whole thing, you know?)

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