Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Personal Lives

By Jove, I think he's got it! Michael Lerner, writing in the book Surplus Powerlessness, circa 1986:

One reason why people don't get more upset about the pain of work is because they tend to accept the myth that Personal Life will make up for it all. Personal Life will be their compensation for the frustration of work, for the powerlessness they experience in their unions and in the political arena, and for the absence of any larger sense of purpose and meaning in life. "Don't worry about this area of Public Life," we are told, "because you can't expect anything in that sphere. But there will be a magical reward, a terrific Relationship that will make up for all your other deprivations.

...The locus of the fantasy that someone will come along and make everything OK changes with age...The content of the fantasy, however, remains constant. We are going to have a very deep and meaningful relationship with some person who will make the pain go away, who will make up for all the crap we have had to suffer through in the rest of our lives.

...Most people spend most of their waking hours at work and in transit to and from work. It should be no surprise, then, that the ways people come to feel about themselves at work, the sense of powerlessness, frustration and self-blame...has a deep and profound impact on how they feel about themselves in the remaining waking hours when they are not at work. The stress that they experience in the work world and the self-blaming that typically accompanies it, cannot be taken off like so many dirty clothes and thrown into the washing machine, while the real self suddenly emerges untainted and undisturbed. (pgs 73-75)

And one more good passage (among quite a few):

Moreover, the people entering these relationships are increasingly facing a world of work that is alienating and oppressive and stressful...They are encouraged by the dominant culture to expect that each individual relationship will provide a compensation for the world of work. Any given relationship must become the meaning and purpose of life-- for people who have not been able to find meaning and purpose at work and who find their larger communities of meaning appearing increasingly problematic and abandoned. (pg. 92)

Lately, I've been reading every book I can get my hands on about work (especially books that someone is calling "trenchant" on the front cover). I needed to find out why an exciting, challenging job ended up feeling like hell on earth, and I needed to find out if I had any right to be skeptical about some of our society's least-questioned norms (answer: we all do). For a long time, I had a feeling that our experience at work is intimately related to our attitudes about sex and relationships, but it's rare to see this connection made in such uncertain terms as it's made in Surplus Powerlessness. I don't accept the myth that "Personal Life", or a romantic relationship, will make it up for it all, so I DO get extremely upset about the pain of work. I've been told that I tend towards unhappiness due to my lack of myths about the world. However, it's no easier to force yourself to believe a myth than to try to be sexual as an asexual. You just know that something's not quite right.

Of course, it's worth noting that while we're pressured to find some solace in Personal Lives, our employers don't want us to have one--why would they? To quote the CEO of a large company that employs many people in my area (and whose name I am somehow wary to mention, considering I use their blogging tool...suffice it to say it rhymes with "Snoogle"):

The goal is to strip away everything that gets in our employees’ way. We provide a standard package of fringe benefits, but on top of that are first-class dining facilities, gyms, laundry rooms, massage rooms, haircuts, carwashes, dry cleaning, commuting buses – just about anything a hardworking employee might want. Let’s face it: programmers want to program, they don’t want to do their laundry. So we make it easy for them to do both.

This is supposed to sound like a good thing, a benefit. But I find the statement a little scary. Isn't a lot of what "gets in employees' way" stuff like relationships and interests outside of work? It seems like the more our Personal Lives shrink, the more they are expected to save us from the chronic stress of work (or, let's not forget, looking for work).

As a wise person once said, "The workplace is not a social service agency". It's a very rare employer who will actually care if their employees are happy. I work at a nonprofit and no one seems to care if I am so angry about being ignored and shut down that I cannot do my job properly, which just creates more stress. If this is the case at an organization that is supposed to care deeply about the human element, why would a corporation give a damn? Why don't we tend to do much to change these situations? According to Lerner, it's because we feel powerless, because we feel our workplace stress and hostility is just our own personal problem that would be fixed if we learned to "cope" better. Uh, no. Lerner wants us to be open about the issues we face, in relationships and on the job, so that people will realize that there are larger social forces at play and stop blaming themselves for everything lacking in their lives. Oddly enough, being asexual has encouraged me to do just that.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

"I always like to be someone's first time"

If you still want to share an awkward description of sex (my challenge from the last post), please do!

Otherwise...we had a meetup today! In my time, I can remember only having 2 meetups that weren't in San Francisco. I moved this one out to the 'burbs because I live there now and I'm tired of 96% of the cool things taking place in SF. I was actually surprised when 8 other people showed up, some from faraway places like Sacramento and Vallejo. For some of the new people, it was their first time ever meeting another asexual, which is always a wonderful thing. The location was pretty good-- it was at a place called Jigsaw Java where the main attraction is doing puzzles. I like that it was an activity, but a relatively low-key one. I'd like to do bowling at some point...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Awkward Descriptions of Sex

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last post-- I always like to get a good conversation going. I guess a kid could do worse than identify as asexual, like get an enormous tattoo of Robert Pattinson. But all joking aside, young asexuals have probably given as much thought to their asexuality as older people have-- probably more thought that whoever got that Twilight tattoo. If asexuals really are people who overanalyze, then maybe it's unlikely that they'll stick with a label just because. Although people will probably give you a hard time for changing it, questioning your sexuality is one of those "character building" experiences that your elders always tell you about. (Yeah-- I hate them, too--right along with "learning experiences".)

Now, here's a fun and unrelated game: Who can dig up the most awkward fictional description of sex? This idea came to me while reading a mystery called Mistress of the Art of Death. Its protagonist tells us: "...and this was sex, was it, this throbbing, slippery ride to the stars and back" (347). So I have that, and I have On Chesil Beach. Other than that, I'm more of a nonfiction fan so I don't have much. What makes a description of sex awkward? I think it's when an author thinks that you'll be too distracted by the sex to notice that they are dispensing with "Show, don't tell", especially when it comes to the emotional aspect of sex. For me, awkward descriptions jump off the page, and not in a good way. Another novel I read recently was Stone Butch Blues, which is about a butch woman who decides to pass as a man in the 1960s and 70s. There's a memorable scene in the book when the protagonist, Jess, is having sex with a woman who thinks she's actually a man. It's a great because it actually is awkward, as I would imagine sex can be (especially when your partner thinks you're a different gender than you really are).

However, I'm usually struck by the sameness in fictional depictions of sex. You'd think writers would get really creative, since they don't have to wrangle for a "R" rating like film-makers do--I would imagine this is why most sex scenes in movies look the same also. (If you're interested in movies at all, you've GOT to see This Film is Not Yet Rated. It explains why we see the sex we see in films.)

Anyway, this is your chance to share your favorite awkward depictions of sex, so drag out those novels...yes, I will declare a winner, and bragging rights (not much else, sorry) will be yours!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Young Folks

I'm aware that I'm about to ask a question that is emotionally fraught for most of us. Even asking it might offend someone, although that's not my intention. Might as well get to the crux of it:

Can you be too young to identify as asexual?

I'll let you know right now that I can't answer this. It's difficult because, I would hope, we all have the interests of the youth at heart, especially kids going through similar things to what we went through. But our advice to people who seem like younger versions of ourselves is going to hinge on the things we experienced or wished we experienced at that age. That said, this question is often met with, "Would you tell a gay kid they were too young to know?" But the fact is that the experience of being gay is still extremely different from being asexual. As a gay teen, you can go to support groups, LGBT centers, or organizations like GSAs at your school (depending on where you live). There are a variety of good books for and about gay teens. There's a good chance you'll know someone else who is gay, and you can see out gay people in the media. None of this exists for asexual kids. They can identify as queer and join a LGBT group with the rest of them, but that doesn't guarantee anyone will know what asexuality is or how to support them in it.

A lot of our childhoods and teen years were not that easy, sometimes downright difficult. It's understandable that we'd want the next generation to have an easier time than we did. And being asexual isn't easy, especially since, like I mentioned in my last post, real-life support is lacking. So like any older sibling or parent would, we worry. Personally, I worry that many asexuals' only outlet for community, AVEN, may not be the best influence on the youngest of asexuals. I know that the impressionability of young people varies widely. However, AVEN can be full of bizarre ideas about sex and sexual people that a young person without a lot of experience in the world might take too closely to heart. If you look at people on AVEN that espouse, for example, extreme anti-sexual ideals, most of them are young. I've been on AVEN for almost four years now, and it seems like people are getting younger and younger. In most circles, I'm young at 25. On AVEN, I feel like a parent.

Of course, my concern about very young asexuals comes from my own experience. I realized I was asexual at 20, which I think was good for my own circumstances. Any later would have been problematic. But I think any earlier, and I would have been too self-conscious about being asexual. For me, it wasn't until college that I realized most other people were interested in sex. Maybe it's better to realize this at 13 or 14, especially if it helps you to avoid having sex just to fit in. But the idea of a 14-year old feeling excluded while their friends talk about sex just makes me sad. I'm glad that I got to be more innocent of all that for so long.

So, what if that 13-year-old is really a "late bloomer", and will start experiencing sexual attraction a year later? We don't want to call them "late bloomers", because the same thing was said disparagingly to us, whether we were 13 or 30. But we wonder how to convey the main concern that I believe people have about very young asexuals: If they do indeed start to experience sexual attraction later, will they be willing to admit that they're not really asexual, or will they hold on to the identity beyond reason? I know that some might, and some might not. Maybe the better question is not "what is too young?", but "how can we best support these young people?" It pains me that I can't protect a child from the confusions of this world, but since when did young folks listen to their elders, anyway?

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Think We're Alone Now

One thing I learned from being asexual is that you're not the only one. No matter what it is, you're not alone in it. Since I realized this, I've been able to be more open (for better or worse) about how I feel and what I experience, because I know that someone, somewhere (if not the person I'm directly talking to) is just waiting for that subject to be shared.

But I also learned that you can still feel isolated even while you know you're not alone. After I realized I was asexual, I found many other groups of people that showed me I wasn't the only one. I found everyone from people who share my obscure learning disability to volunteer coordinators just as frustrated and neglected as I am. I found all these people through the internet, books, and in one case, a story from a third person: "Yeah, this guy I lived with graduated from your school, and sold used cars but hated it, so he quit and now he's been unemployed for a year...". It's interesting how at least in my experience, discovering these "people like me" is a big comfort in the beginning. But over time, as I rarely or never actually meet these people, it fades. Unless I do real-world, concrete stuff with them, their impact on my life (and presumably, mine on theirs) will become negligible with the passage of time.

It's easy to find people just like you online, sometimes in great numbers. But at least for me, these people have the least presence where I need them most-- in (what Douglas Rushkoff calls) "the former real world". As far as asexuality goes, I'm sure that comparatively, I see more asexuals in FRL than most. But am I committing some cardinal sin (like a sort of relationship-based gluttony) by saying, it's not enough? To me, seeing other asexuals is still a special, out of the ordinary experience. Can my asexuality ever seem totally normal and everyday as long as that remains the case?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Intercourse, Last Part

Whenever I read a nonfiction book about some problem, I always want it to end with solutions. Perferably in a list with bullet points and at least a few items that I can really go and do after I put the book down. But no matter how brilliant the author is, solutions remain scarce. In college, I was lucky to be able to attend a lot of lectures by people like bell hooks and Cornel West. As impressed as I was by their insights on important issues, I always felt some frustration towards the lack of solutions offered. Maybe it's just my personal obsession-- I'm focused on solutions and problem-solving to a fault (a quality which an employer has yet to take advantage of). The fault is that such a mindset is a recipe for frustration, since most problems are multi-pronged and overwhelming, leaving me with no idea where to start. (Global warming? Yeah...not there yet.)

This is the long way of saying that I finished Intercourse and it offers a depressing lack of solutions to all the problems it discusses. As much as I'd like solutions fed to me, I guess I'm going to have to dig them out myself. As far as I can tell, here are two of Dworkin's solutions to the invasion of sex by male dominance:

One: Have sex in ways that don't conform to gender roles.

When I wrote this, I was all, "Goodness gracious! Finally a concrete solution to a social problem and I can't do it!" Well, I guess I could, technically, and it does sound better than "regular" sex, but there is the whole asexuality thing...

Two: End rape, prostitution, and pornography.

This solution could definitely make you run off screaming into the sunset to have gender-nonconforming sex rather than deal with this stuff. And I totally get that. As far as rape is concerned, we all agree that people jumping out of hedges to rape strangers is bad. However, a lot of us still seem to be confused over whether various types of acquaintance or spousal rape are really rape (ie, if a woman was too drunk to consent, was it rape? Durrr...), and I don't know how it can end if this remains the case. It seems like the more rape happens, the more resigned to it people get. I can't remember the last time someone in the public eye aside from Eve Ensler even identified rape as a problem. If you want some harrowing information, check out these statistics from RAINN. No, I don't even pretend to know how to stop rape.

For Dworkin, rape seems connected to her arch-nemesis, pornography. Dworkin spent most of her career fighting porn and co-wrote legislation to get porn recognized as sexual discrimination. But as Ariel Levy writes in the foreword to Intercourse:

With the possible exception of the Shakers, it is difficult to think of an American movement that has failed more spectacularly than antipornography feminism. In the late 1970s [when feminists started to fight porn] was still something marginalized, as opposed to what it is now: a source of inspiration to all of popular culture. (Consider Jenna Jameson, implants, almost any reality television show, Brazilian bikini waxes, thong underwear, and go from there.) (xx)

I found this really interesting because this blog is supposed to be about pop culture. I never actually thought about pop culture being influenced by porn, but I guess it's been that way for most, if not all, of my life. I think ALL pop culture might be an overstatement, but I would definitely give Levy "a great deal". I don't know much about porn from experience, so it's hard for me to tell what's based on it or not. However, it seems to me like many advertisements are based on it, and we see 3,000 ads a day. Honestly, I find that fact 100% more disturbing than real porn, which I can easily ignore. (If you have any question about this, check out the "50 Sluttiest American Apparel Ads of All Time"). To me, it's the fact that you're forced to see ads involuntarily that makes them worse than porn. I don't care if they're for cars or crotches...oh wait, did I say crotches? I meant neon shiny leggings...hee hee...

Saturday, September 12, 2009


It's been too long since I've opened a book about sexuality, so I'm getting back to it with a bang-- Andrea Dworkin's Intercourse (1987). I'm about 3/4 of the way through it. Based on what I'd heard about the book, I'd braced myself for a tirade by an anti-sexual sexual. However, no matter what criticisms people have of Dworkin, she could never be accused of fitting easily into a label. In the book, she mocks anyone who would call her views "sex-negative". In fact, for someone so widely accused of being "sex-negative", Dworkin writes about sex with a reverence that I find hard to comprehend. In her lengthy literary analyses (which I also find hard to comprehend), Dworkin writes about sex as a grounds for self-knowledge and true communion. She expresses some frustration about the way "pop-culture magazines" portray sex as "intrinsically banal" (25). For Dworkin, sex is not to be taken lightly-- a view that was probably as unhip in 1987 as it is today.

Intercourse is notorious for allegedly stating that all sex is rape. As the forward by Ariel Levy states, many of the people making this accusation haven't actually read the book. If they had, they might have noticed that a statement like "all sex is rape" (which has not appeared in the book so far) is much too simplistic for a work that deals more in questions than answers. It's also easy to confuse the fact that Dworkin sees "sex" and "intercourse" as two different things, and this distinction undergirds her theories. Dworkin views intercourse as PiV (as I have oddly heard it called) penetration, " sex act among many..." (175). These other sex acts, divorced from intercourse (where most women do not orgasm anyway), could be "...part of other deeper, longer, perhaps more sensual lovemaking..." (175). To Dworkin, sex is not intercourse is not fucking is not lovemaking, a distinction that would certainly be lost on those who would critique the book without reading it.

Another of Dworkin's assumptions is that sexuality is not private, but social in nature. She rips apart everything asexuals (and everyone else) have been told about intercourse: That it's fun, healthy, natural, that it makes you a "woman" or "man", that it somehow leads to a greater maturity and therfore autonomy. She writes, "It is a tragedy beyond the power of language to convey when what has been imposed on women by force becomes a standard of freedom for women: and all the women say it is so"(181). Dworkin doesn't seem to care if you agree with her, she wants to make you confused and perhaps angry enough to start asking questions for yourself.

My favorite chapter so far was called "Virginity". In it, Dworkin compares the stories of Joan of Arc with that of Madame Bovary's Emma Bovary to examine how social attitudes around virginity have changed. To Dworkin, virginity is another part of sexuality that is social, not private. She writes:

The old virginity-- with its real potential for freedom and self-determination-- is transformed into the new virginity-- listless, dissatisfied ennui until awakened by the adventure of male sexual domination: combat on the world's tiniest battlefield. It took Freud to call refusal to fight on that little battlefield "repression" and to name the ambition to fight on the large one "penis envy". The cell door closed behind us, and the key turned in the lock. (135)

This chapter was powerful to me because it provides one of the "alternate narratives" that I treasure. It seems like this is all we hear about virginity: If you're very religious, that it is highly important to maintain it until marriage, and if you're not religious, that the very religious people are kind of creepy and that it's shameful to hold on to your virginity for too long. This chapter is one of the few things I've read that greatly diverges from either of those viewpoints. Here, virginity in the sense of Joan of Arc is described as " existential indepence, affirmed in choice and faith from minute to minute; not a retreat from life but an active engagement with it..." (120). It's not cool to be a virgin, or somehow superior. It's totally different from those ideas-- it's a social choice that has power, just like the decision to have sex has power. Last year, I wrote that " Even if we tried, I doubt we could ever divorce [the word "virgin"] from its strong connotations of religiosity and morality". The difficulty of that task doesn't faze Dworkin-- she plows through and does it anyway.

Even though Intercourse comes with enough baggage to sink a ship, I tried not to judge it because, simply enough, Dworkin does not judge me, or people like me. She doesn't think, as some feminists do, that women who don't have sex are failing to claim their rightful freedoms as liberated women. True, she would probably ascribe a significance to asexuals not having sex that many of us would not agree with. However, for me, beyond having no sex drive and little attraction, the spectre of sex with a straight man always came with a spectre of inequality that I could not shake. I've had this gut feeling for a long time. Could I have what I desire-- a truly equal relationship on all levels-- with someone who, unlike me, has a socially privledged sexuality? I really don't know the answer. As an asexual who has always been a strong feminist, the disturbing history of sexual relations between men and women is more real to me than sexual desire. What is really interesting is that Dworkin, who is sexual, seems to feel the same way.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lovemarks: Chomp Chomp!

We must all have a profound capacity for nonsexual, nonromantic love. I'm assuming this is true because if we didn't, corporations wouldn't be wasting time and money trying to exploit it. But let me back up for a minute. I recently finished the new book Life, Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back by Douglas Rushkoff. I'm always on the lookout for strange new ideas about love (Japanese men + jailbait pillows, check!), and the following passage speaks to this. In it, Rushkoff describes a project brought to you by Kevin Roberts, the former CEO of big deal advertisers Saatchi & Saatchi:

"There are many kinds of love and love takes many shapes and forms," [Roberts] explains. His crowning achievement at Saatchi...was a selling system he calls Lovemarks. A Lovemark, as Roberts defines it, is "a brand that has created loyalty beyond reason. A brand you recognize immediately because it has some iconic place in your heart." He doesn't mean this in the self-conscious, ironic sense of being cheekily enamored of a certain candy bar or soap. He means really in love. "Tide is not a laundry soap. It's an enabler. It's moved from the heart of the laundry to the heart of the family."

In developing Lovemark campaigns for his clients, Roberts and those of his ilk invest their brands with the emotionality and meaning they understand to be missing from daily life. "So we have to create for these great Lovemarks wonderful stories that connect past, present, and future, that involve you, that you can participate in, that make you smile, or they make you cry, but what they do is they make you feel." The inference, of course, is that nothing or no one else has that capability anymore. (121)

And someone could pay me an exorbitant fee to tell them that the name "Lovemarks" is kind of gross. It sounds like a euphemism for a passionate makeout session with a vampire. But even more gross, verging on frightening, is this explanation from the Lovemarks website:

Lovemarks reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can’t live without. Ever.

Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a Lovemark away and people will protest its absence. Lovemarks are a relationship, not a mere transaction. You don’t just buy Lovemarks, you embrace them passionately. That’s why you never want to let go.

It's funny how Lovemarks takes "there are many kinds of love", something I have always been strongly behind, and totally corrupts it until you absolutely can't live without Tide. I knew that people looked for love in all the wrong places, but I never thought that it could be with a laundry detergent. There are some brands I passionately hate, and we've all heard that hate is closer to love than indifference. I guess I'm just ClearChannel's jilted lover.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Things Asexuals Like: Doubts

This post is going to be a strange amalgamation of "Things Asexuals Like: Overanalyzing" and the last post, in which this one was promised. Anyway, I hope to make something more than no sense whatsoever.

Asexuals like to doubt asexuality, either their own, or in general. Is asexuality really so awesome that we have to constantly wonder if it, or us, are "real"? (Okay, maybe it is.) As weird as it is to quote myself, here's something I wrote on Apositive:

Did anyone here ever NOT wonder if they were a "real" asexual? I ask because it seems so pervasive, and yet I can't remember ever doing this...Maybe this is just my personality, because I tend to get VERY into things and I've always been pretty insusceptible to "peer pressure". It's very hard to just BE asexual. But since asexuality is an orientation, presumably like any other, it would then follow that most of us will, indeed, be asexual forever and no matter what. If this isn't the case, then there is some fundamental difference about asexuality. We're always like, "yes, but what if we find that we're not asexual in the future?" No other orientation that I know of thinks like this-- it's exhausting, really.

Granted, I see the doubting because I have access to places where asexuals are doing it. Outside of the asexual community, it is fairly taboo to talk about questioning your sexual orientation unless it's with someone you know and trust very well. In our culture, indecision or anything resembling it is seriously frowned upon. For instance, I never told anyone that I "might not be straight"-- I went directly from identifying as totally straight to identifying as totally asexual. Maybe everyone doubts. But there is just something about asexuality that makes it seem more ephemeral than other orientations. Why does it sound so strange (at least to me) to say with certainty that I'll be asexual forever and no matter what and until the edge of doom, when I blindly assumed as much about my former heterosexuality?

As the great Josef K would say, It's Kinda Funny. Even at times when I really wished that I wasn't asexual, I knew somewhere in my heart that it wasn't a throwback to heterosexuality I was after, it was an ability to find love as an asexual person. It was always the world I really wanted to change, but that's such a monumental task that of course, at times I get gripped by a desire to be someone else. My heterosexuality largely existed in the background, like a program you're not aware is running. But my asexuality has totally taken over my consciousness and has changed my life in multiple ways. So maybe it's not that asexuality is more ephemeral, it's that it's actually more in-your-face. Of course you'll entertain doubts about something in the process of constantly analyzing it-- as, like I've said, we are wont to do.

I have one theory as to why we tend to doubt our asexuality. I think, among other reasons, it could be because at this point in time, there are no people who have identified as asexual for their whole lives. Either we came out rather young and have most of our asexual lives ahead of us, or we came out later in life after identifying as something else. Sure, there are probably a few older people who found the word "asexual"despite the odds and went with it, but it's hardly an entire generation of asexuals. Out of everyone currently identifying as asexual, there are probably only a small handful of people who have been out for, say, over 10 years (which is not very long anyway). Maybe we doubt because, simply enough, seeing is believing. I can only wonder what the next generation of asexuals will think about all our doubts.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ideal Asexuals

Apparently, there's an ideal asexual. It's not me, and no offense, but it probably isn't you either. Who is it, you ask? Well...

On Apositive, there's been a bit of discussion about the temptation to try to fit your asexuality into some sort of pre-approved version, rather than just being as you are and calling it asexual. So, since I try to read and respond to every thread on Apositive (not even kidding), I'd heard about this potential problem, but I didn't really believe it. There are no pronouncements about asexuality from on high...are there? How can you try to "be asexual" when there are so few ideas out there of what that means? I didn't realize that "trying to be asexual" can actually mean "trying to be an ideal asexual", and that it could be a problem, until I read this post/manifesto, also on Apositive. Its author talks about how our increased visibility in the media has also led to the rise of an "ideal" or "good" asexual. Of course, this person doesn't actually exist, because asexuals appearing in the media no doubt conceal aspects of their asexuality that might be seen as contradictory or confusing. I know I would be tempted to do the same. Here are some traits of "ideal asexuals" that people might potentially feel pressure to measure up to. Feel free to add any that I missed. Ideal asexuals:
  • Do not have any kind of disability or mental illness
  • Are physically attractive and have good social skills
  • Have dramatic stories to tell regarding their asexuality
  • Are not genderqueer or transgender
  • Are old enough to not be late bloomers
  • Are part of a racially diverse group
  • Are happy and "well-adjusted" (whatever that means this week), fitting seamlessly into mainstream society
  • Tried sexual activity in order to decide they didn't like it
  • Have an interest in dating or romantic relationships
  • Would not want to magically become sexual if given the chance
  • Have never experienced sexual feelings of any kind
  • Are not in any state of confusion about their asexuality
  • Are out to the people in their lives
  • Have not been abused, sexually or otherwise
  • Welcome non-sexual intimacy
  • Do not have anything negative to say about sex
I expect the average asexual to be somewhat taken aback by this list, because we tend to be non-conformist (go us), and because the vast majority of us probably don't actually fit this ideal. This list, perhaps, should not exist, but it does. However, talking about it diminishes its power. It emphasizes something that I've been saying since the infancy of this blog: We want to tell people about asexuality, but we also need to have control over how the message is communicated. If given the chance, mass media will sell us back an image of ourselves that may not look much like us at all. We have to make sure, consciously, that no asexual is left behind, no matter how abused, unhappy, and conflicted they may be. Mainstream media isn't primarily concerned with educating people, so it sure as hell isn't going to care if autistic transgendered teenage asexuals are fairly represented. Therefore, we have to care. However, DIY media tactics will not reach as many isolated asexuals as quickly as a TV spot will. If we're a niche, then we'll always have people wandering around wondering why everyone is interested in sex besides them. That's not good. But if we become a household name, will we be able to maintain our say over what asexuality means?

This is the conundrum that has baffled me for some time, and will no doubt continue to do so.

However. Even if we can embrace the fact that we're not ideal asexuals, we still seem to be in a constant state of confusion over whether we're asexual at all. Can we really blame the media for our constant investigations into whether we are "real" asexuals or not? Join me next time to puzzle this out with yet another thing that asexuals like.