Friday, August 31, 2007

Stand by me, oh oh oh

(Postcard is from Postsecret)

So, I threatened you with a post about how asexual relationships could also be "more than friends". Now, let me tell you about it. What separates "friends" from "significant others" (and this is going to be a post with a lot of air quotes-- just warning you now) is not the sex, but the amount of time commitment involved. How many friends do you know that celebrate their anniversaries, buy houses together, raise children, or go to counseling to try to save their relationship? You can have sex with any number of people in your lifetime, but these rituals of commitment are usually reserved for a select one or two. And here's where the understanding starts to break down a little. I don't understand why these special committed relationships are only for sexual partners, at least in our society as it now stands. And most of that society doesn't yet understand why A-s might desire these kinds of relationships with people they're "just friends" with.

This is why A-s can sometimes feel unfulfilled when it comes to friendships. We might be looking for people we can be really committed to, but when we seek "friends", we might end up with people who just want to, say, play tennis with us on Sundays. In romantic relationships, this difference in expectations is usually discussed during "the talk". However, differing expectations in the realm of friendships is something that is rarely, if ever, discussed. I'll be a sensitive modern woman and be the first to admit: The idea of talking about my friendships scares me. It's new territory-- a topic I wouldn't know how to broach, except with "Hey, I'm reading a book about Boston Marriages... Sounds great to me!"

Why is my formatting all messed up? I'm sorry, I lose at being technological.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Boston Marriages, Part the First

(Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians, book, edited by Esther D. Rothblum & Kathleen A. Brehony, 1993

I'm only a third of the way through this book. And it is very interesting. I don't mean 'interesting' as in 'a euphemism for freaky and weird'. I mean it as in 'I kind of want to quote 90% of it to you'. But I won't. You'll have to schlep to the library for yourself.

As you can probably imagine, I was psyched as a kid on half-day to read a book with the word ASEXUAL in the (sub)title. Then, to my woe, the term was constantly misused throughout the book. What sounded like a study on asexuals in lesbian relationships was actually about sexual lesbians who happen to not be having sex. This sounds like word soup, and it's true that these two kinds of relationships might look exactly the same from an outside perspective. But the differences between people with no sex drive and people with a sex drive that they're just not using in their primary relationship are potentially immense. Take, for example, the editor's 7-point checklist for components of a Boston Marriage. (The term Boston Marriage originates from Henry James' novel The Bostonians, in which a number of female characters shared romantic but nonsexual friendships.) Points 2 and 7 in this checklist make it hard for asexuals to relate to the editors' conceptions of a Boston Marriage. 2) states:

One or both of the members are still sexually attracted to the other. In this regard, at least for one of the partners, the Boston Marriage is different from a friendship.

Why a completely asexual relationship could also be different from a friendship is probably enough to write another post on. And point 7:

The two members of the Boston Marriage usually have little or no direct communication about the lack of sexual activity in their relationship and the nature of their relationship.

Is it me, or does this sound just awful? I would hope that two asexuals would be able to talk about the relationship. That should, ideally, be one of the benefits of having a partner who has the same sexual orientation as you do. There were even more cringe-worthy moments in the book when the term "asexuality" (being without sexual attraction) was used instead of the correct term for what was being discussed: "celibacy". Celibacy is a matter of choice, whereas most asexuals will tell you that they were born this way. Mis-use of the term "asexual" takes the wind from the sails of those who would use "asexual" as the descriptor of their sexual orientation.

However, I will freely admit that having a scholarly little book confuse asexuality and celibacy is among the least of our problems. Still, people need to know this stuff.

But, since Boston Marriages is a compilation of articles and interviews by various authors, attitudes on sexuality (and lack thereof) vary widely. I did find some parallels to the asexual (as I use the term) experience. For example, here is a quote from the book which is a quote (round and round we go) from another book by Sarah Hoagland. I hope she won't mind if I substitute the word "lesbian" with "asexual"...

We need new language and new meaning to develop our [asexual] desire, especially as we explore and develop what draws us...and this is an interactive, not an introspective, matter. We need a lot more discussion and exploration among develop the meaning of [asexual] desire, and to heal our fragmentation.

Intriguing, no? I think I'll leave off here. I won't be posting tomorrow-- it's my birthday-- and believe me, the best gift you can give this soon-to-be-23-year-old blogger is comments :-) This is an interactive matter, remember? But I know you're all holding your breath to find out more about Boston Marriages, so I will be back soon...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Have we earned it yet, baby?

The task of uncovering famous Aces tends to yield more questions than answers. Take Morrissey, for example:

Is he A, or does he just harbor a vague disgust towards everyone?
In his case, it's a little hard to tell.
The two of us do have some things in common-- we're vegetarians and like to write about Manchester. However, Johnny Marr was always my favorite member of The Smiths, and I think Morrissey would probably--over our veggie buffalo wings-- politely disagree.
But whether Morrissey is "one of us" or not, William, It Was Really Nothing will always be my asexual anthem. It really doesn't get a whole lot better than that-- no matter how many solo albums (about 56,000 at last count) you make. Hey Moz, join us!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A-s through the ages, Episode 1

The man who is probably the most well-known asexual in history-- a real pop culture and literary icon in every possible sense-- never really existed.
Go figure.

Apparently though, he was so beloved by his fans that when he died, they were so upset that his author had to bring him back. Of course, I'm talking about none other than Sherlock Holmes,

portrayed here by actor Vasily Livanov. The font of knowledge that is Wikipedia (and yes, I do believe everything I read on Wikipedia, despite warnings that I shouldn't) claims that The Guinness Book of World Records has listed Sherlock Holmes as the world's most portrayed character, with over 70 actors playing him in over 200 films. There have been speculations that Holmes and his best buddy Watson might have been homosexual, however, homosexuals already have enough famous people. So I am claiming Sherlock for the A-Team, okay? Not to mention that Watson apparently did show an interest in women, and even married, while Holmes' interest was always perfunctory at most...if it appeared at all.
We could also please all the people all the time and say Holmes was a gay asexual. I could live with that.
Wikipedia also says of Holmes,
"Holmes does have capacities for human emotion and friendship". And really now, thank goodness for that. So we're human after all. Hah.
The moral of our story today: A-teamers, get famous! We'll need some real people for the next age.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

In Praise of Sex & the City

My all-time favorite show on television has definitely been Sex and the City. This might sound a little odd. Let me explain why it isn't.
If you were watching the show to see good television instead of, well, breasts (although it's certainly possible to see good TV and breasts at the same time) you would soon find that the show is actually about friendship, not sex. Sex and the City was so popular for one of the same reasons Friends was-- it presents an idealized and 'fantasy' view of friend relationships that many urban women would like to have. If you look on Craigslist, sort of a community bulletin board for the Universe, you will see women looking for "Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda!" You will not see women looking for "Steve, Big, and Harry!" (Well, maybe Harry.) While I would probably feel quite left out at a brunch with the SATC girls (not to mention under-dressed), I will admit that having such a familial group of friends would be a dream come true to me. And I think many asexuals-- and human beings in general-- could kind of get down with that. These are, after all, women that no one could threaten with scary images of 'dying alone'.
But these aren't just speculations on my part. There was the episode in which Carrie, the show's narrator, asked something like, "What if these women are my soul mates, and men are just nice guys to have fun with?" There was also my favorite episode, in which Carrie is frustrated with the way our society fails to acknowledge the choices of single people. She decides to marry herself, forcing an acquaintance to buy her $400 shoes as a wedding present. Indeed, a woman after my own heart.
Of all the strange ideas people hold about sex, one that is most damaging to A-s is the notion that sex and love are somehow inseparable. But if we can have sex without love (gasp!) then we can also have love without sex. From Episode 1 of SATC, one of the show's premises was "women having sex like men", ie, without emotional attachments. And if sex isn't where our characters are always finding love, then they're free to place that love into the realm of the asexy-- into Manhattan, into strangely matched clothing ensembles, and of course, into friends.

Friday, August 24, 2007

In Case You Haven't Heard...

Bitch, a magazine about feminism and pop culture (does that sound a bit familiar?) is publishing an article on asexuality in its September issue. The writer of the article made several appearances on AVEN, and I was impressed by how open she was to our comments. I'll definitely be getting a copy-- there's a link here telling you where you can find Bitch in your area. I dunno about you, but I always relish the opportunity to read something glossy.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Human Traffic

Film, dir. Justin Kerrigan, 1999

This film about nineties Welsh ravers (thought you'd ever hear that?) is not a bad movie. However, it really can't be applied to my life. I think anyone living in 2007 might have an equally hard time trying to do this. But, there is one theme I couldn't possibly relate to more:

Crazy Raver Boy: I'm making love to the music, man! And believe me, I can go all night!

I've been asked if I'm turned on by good conversation. I know this is true for some asexual and sexual people alike. But as sophisticated as I would feel if this was the isn't. Conversation isn't really my thing. But music has always been another story...
And I should really start posting pictures, for all you visual learners out there.

Queen Christina

Film, dir. Rouben Mamoulian, 1933

Remember those interviewees in The Celluloid Closet waiting for Joan Crawford's cowboy shirt? Well, I was waiting (a whole 20 minutes) for this:

Old Palace Dude: But Your Majesty, you cannot die an old maid!
Christina (the amazing Greta Garbo): I have no intention to, chancellor. I shall die a bachelor!

While Christina, bless her, does not seem to be asexual, A's do share one thing with rebellious 17th century queens: a tendency to be told that we are going to die alone. While I haven't gotten "old maid", I have been told, in hushed tones, that I might become a cat lady. Which is, really, the same thing. As Queen Christina knew, the double standard needs to change: While women are saddled with images of cats eating our dead bodies, men get to drink martinis in smoking jackets.
Here's what the greeting card industry/Swedish monarchy doesn't want you to know: being single is supposed to be fun! So brush that dirt off your shoulders, bachelors of all genders-- we'll meet for martinis later in the A-bar.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

For better brand recognition... need a logo. If the asexual logo was the ace (like the gay "logo" is the rainbow pattern, or the purple triangle), I would be cool with that. The more I think about it, the more I can see that working for us. Apparently, there are enough compulsive gamblers out there that there's already a lot of ace-related paraphernalia that we can re-appropriate. For example, look-- it's the official navel barbell of asexuality:

Ah, to have foreign objects flapping around inside your belly button...I may have to get myself one of these.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Withnail and I

Film, dir. Bruce Robinson, 1987

I wasn't really sure why this very odd, very random movie-- a British cult classic that never really caught on over here-- is one of my very favorite all-time films. But then I realized, hey: this is probably the most asexual (and okay, also the funniest) movie I've ever seen.
I mean, here are two friends that live together, everyone thinks they're gay, but they seem to have no romantic interest in each other, or women, or sex at all. I mean, how is it possible that two straight guys could go on a road trip and never once talk about girls? Answer: It's probably not possible, and Withnail, and I, are so totally A. The film also ends with that great monologue from Hamlet: "man delights not me, no, nor women neither".
I kind of like that their sexuality is never really explained. It points to a more perfect world where we can just be what we are without judgment, where we have uncles with strange country cottages and where any amount of drugs won't kill us. The best movies about gay life are just about gay people living, not constant conversations and explanations about their gayness. Comparatively, the best movies about A life (okay, maybe the only movie) is just about...well, life.
And whenever my sink looks really's never as bad as Withnail and I's sink.
See this movie. Just trust me on this one. It grows on you.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Bars?

I love Andrea Nemerson's Alt-Sex column. Archives are here: She's able to write about sensitive topics in a way that's funny, gentle, and informed. She's also written one or two good columns on asexuality. In 2004 (yes, I'm aware that was a long time ago...but then again, if you're young enough to think 2004 is pre-history, you should probably stop reading and get back to your times tables, young man), Andrea writes:

After all, despite the ubiquitous comparisons to the early days of gay rights, there are comparatively few asexuals and they have far less motivation to gather in bars to... what? Not go home with each other? Nope, this is a movement destined to be born online and nowhere else. Connection without physical contact, how much more A could you get?

And that makes me...sad. I've been able to get together a few in-the-flesh meetups of San Francisco's A community, the biggest of which was 6 people. Usually we get 3 or 4. We drink milkshakes a lot, we kvetch; it's fun. I think there is an interest among some-- although, not all-- asexuals to meet outside the internet. I've met at least six of them. But six people (and my current mind-bender is how to increase this number) does not a bar scene make. If there was an asexual bar (and I would be their most regular regular if there was), I think it would come to be populated by non-A people looking to avoid sketchy members of the opposite (or same) sex. The sketchy people would find out about this, and probably follow them there. We'd need bouncers to be on the watch for people in iridescent button-up "going out" shirts. Or maybe we could just play Belle & Sebastian, decorate with pictures of kittens, and have good lighting.
I'm starting to feel at home already.
And 5, 10, 20 years from now...who knows?

And We're Back!

With internet!
But I came out of the struggle left only with basic cable.
(Have you ever noticed how much home shopping there is on basic cable?)
Don't they know I was watching VH1 for the greater good?

Friday, August 17, 2007

In case you were waiting...

Because Comcast is being an asshat...I have no internet or TV at home.
What am I supposed to do with my time now!? And I can't watch Confessions of a Matchmaker! Which is kind of creepy because here's a woman who has to tell people that they'll be alone forever in order to put food on the table, but still, if I ignore that part...I like the show. And I was learning things, not to talk about your cats on a date. Which seems like a no-brainer, but really, my cats are interesting. But I guess that's what everyone thinks about their own cats.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Celluloid Closet

Film, dir. Epstein & Friedman, 1995

Ever since I saw The Fight, a truly exciting documentary about those Schmeling/Louis fights, I've not feared the doc. And The Celluloid Closet is an equally good choice to dispel any of that docphobia, if you have it. It's an extremely interesting account of gay and lesbian images in film, from the first recorded images up until the early 1990's. Although it's hard to find one idea that's most intriguing, one for me was the belabored interpretation gay and lesbian viewers would do to films in order to be able to relate to them. Sort of similar to what I tried to do with My Best Friend, reviewed below. One woman interviewed in Celluloid said something like, "We waited the whole movie just to see Joan Crawford come down the stairs in that black cowboy shirt." And I totally get that. So yes. I was interpreting their interpretations. Yikes!
But whether you're gay or A, this film is highly watchable and, yes, relatable. And no matter what your orientation, you'll learn a lot about movies and find a whole host of new candidates for your Netflix queue.

My Best Friend

Film, dir. Patrice Leconte, 2006

I love a good romantic movie ('good' being the operative word), but my heart really belongs to films about friendship. Especially, films that remind us how important friendship can be. My Best Friend works in that general vein. It involves a crotchety antiques dealer, Francois, who has, literally, no friends. He bets a priceless Greek vase to a colleague that he can't produce his best friend in 10 days. Indeed, he can't. So realizing that he's in deep doo-doo, he enlists a cheerful, sociable cabbie to help him learn the ways of friendship. As you might expect, hilarity and a bit of poignancy ensue. And it's in French, which really helps too. Francios has a daughter, and has a woman that he's in some kind of undefined sexual relationship with, but he can't commit fully to either of them until he learns how to make a friend. Even though this film really has nothing to do with sexuality, the idea that platonic love matters, and also that you can lead a potentially full life without sex, endears it to this A-teamer.
Walking out of the theater, all I could really say was "hmm, that was adorable." But that about captures it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Scott Baio is 45...and Single

Tv, VH1, 2007

VH1 again. I watched the first episode of "Scott Baio" when I had the flu...and to my surprise, when I regained my mental faculties...I kept watching.
This one's about Scott Baio, ex-TV star of "Charles in Charge". Now he's 45 and apparently has cheated on all of the innumerable women he's been with. He's finally found one woman he wants to spend his life with, but his personality seems to be getting in the way. So he hires a life coach to help him change his outlook on relationships. The life coach prescribes 8 weeks with no contact with his girlfriend and-- gasp-- celibacy.
And it's kind of funny. There's something awkwardly sweet in Scott's complete cluelessness and frequent embarrassments. Scott's therapy for commitment-phobia is to stop substituting sex for intimacy-- in other words, to get in touch with his asexual side. The fact that for once, a professional isn't advocating more (or to a larger degree, different) sex is refreshing. Hey Scott; you could learn from us!

The Pickup Artist

TV, VH1, 2007

The concept of this show is simple: An expert "pickup artist" named Mystery aims to turn a bunch of average schmoes into the kind of uber-persistant Casanovas I dread running into at clubs. Usually, I really enjoy dating shows. I like to live vicariously while at the same time feeling happy that it's not me out there. But The Pickup Artist disturbs me on so many levels. In the interest of time, here are three of them:

1) Viewing women as conquests, not individuals = not cool.

2) Mystery exhibits his game while wearing a beanie with goggles over it. I can tell you one thing about wearing goggles over a beanie: the wearer thinks the rules of fashion do not apply to them. And when the rules of fashion go, so do the rules of civilized social discourse. After that, everything starts to go downhill. And before you know it, you're at the edge of a roof, pulling your goggles over your face and screaming, "THE LAWS OF GRAVITY DON'T APPLY TO ME!"
Do you really want to emulate this man?

3) The existence of asexuals: ie, people who will probably not sleep with you, no matter how much hair product you use, means that there are no iron-clad rules for picking up all women. Part of Mystery's shtick is that there are a certain number of "attraction triggers" that will make any woman go crazy! Just crazy! Obviously, the attempted pickups of asexual women (if there were any) did not make Vh1's final cut.
Until next time, keep those crazy blue hair streaks away from any white upholstery.

And the worst thing? I'm so watching it tomorrow (well, unless I get a better offer). So if I change my mind...I'll let you know.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Oh, so...

I never did an intro post. Well...
This is an asexual perspective on pop culture (and maybe even some "cultured" culture, who knows?). While our gay and lesbian homies have whole sections in bookstores dedicated to literature about their experience...we have about 3 short scientific studies and a website (AVEN-- check it out-- they're nice folks). So while I've thought about creating a blog about other things...such as poetry or meals for under $5, this one seemed like it was the most needed. I hope you agree. (And if you comment, I'll tell you about the meals under $5's a win-win.)
I'll probably also talk about music that's only peripherally related to my's kind of a compulsion. Sorry.
Only about 1% of the population is asexual, but in our information-overload society, there's no reason for it to be poorly understood. There are so many blogs out there, but I decided to add my voice to the throng to provide a fun way to learn about and talk about asexuality-- to say that we are out here. And we watch television.
I really hope you enjoy it!


You Can Keep Your Love

Song, by Loveninjas, 2007 (I think)

Oh God, I love Swedish pop music. It must be something in the water that makes Swedish people create such infectious little songs. And if "You Can Keep Your Love" doesn't make you tap your foot, you may want to see a doctor. I like deep and sophisticated lyrics as much as the next person, but there are some days when this just seems like poetry:
"You can keep your love.
You can keep your love.
You can keep your love away from me.
You can keep your love."

Yep. Been there.

Download the song here:
Labrador Records
(Oh, and the Mary Onettes rock too. And Airliner. Oh heck, I like everything on this label...just download all of it.)

Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromomising Romantics

Book, By Sasha Cagen, 2004.

The premise of this book-- that women don't have to be in romantic relationships in order to be happy and complete-- is one that I wholeheartedly agree with. It's progressive, definitely feminist, and much-needed. And although Cagen is keen to point out that Quirkyalones VERY MUCH DO enjoy sex with the right people, asexuals can potentially find much to relate to. Indeed, the stigma our society tends to place on single people-- especially women-- transcends sexual orientation. And for fighting back against those who would tether us to relationships we don't want, we need all the help we can get. Thanks, quirkyalones.
But it's easy to fall into quirkyalone envy. They have their own manifesto, online quiz, parties, and even a international quirkyalone day. Unlike asexuals, I doubt that quirkyalones get asked: "Oh, so you're quirkyalone? Were you raped as a child?" And somehow, having to "come out" as quirkyalone just sounds ridiculous.
Which is its other problem. Although QA (as Cagen abbreviates it) is talked about as a community and a lifestyle, I'm not jumping at the chance to label myself as a quirkyalone (and not only because I only scored as "somewhat quirkyalone" on the quiz). It just sounds...odd. A little too cute, a bit eldrich. "Quirkyalone Pride" has no ring to it. But dedicated QAs (and there are quite a few profiled in the book) might say this is just sour grapes. After all, their estimated 5% of the population could beat up my one percent.
Which brings me to a tiny, but very interesting parts of the book: a little pie chart dividing the ages of a sample of QAs. The headline is "it's not just a phase", and the most represented age group is 26-47. And intriguingly enough, when Anthony Bogaert studied asexuals, he also found them to be older than the general population, squashing the notion that we'd somehow 'grow out of it'. I don't know what this means, except for the fact that people like to tell other people that they'll grow out of things. This phenomenon probably also merits a study. I'm only kind of kidding.
But until then, keep those standards high, ladies.