Monday, April 26, 2010

About to Overuse a Term

I originally wrote this one in June of 2008. And I don't think my views on the topic have really changed much since then. I've heard about how we can have fun flirting even though we're asexual, but I just have to admit that I'm not, and probably never will be, a flirty person, especially with folks I don't know well. I'll see you all again in the second week of May!

This question has come up: Do asexuals flirt? What's it like? Well, I've found my own personal answer. I used to think that no one ever flirted with me because I'm unattractive (thanks, American culture) or because people have some kind of A-dar. But, I had a realization over the weekend: It's not that no one flirts with me; it's that I don't enjoy it when people do. Since flirting always made me feel uncomfortable and threatened, I never noticed it as the fun, lighthearted activity of myth and legend. I see flirting as being unwanted, and usually perpetrated by skeezy, awkward people. When someone does talk to me "when no talking is necessary" (apparently one definition of flirting) and I enjoy the interaction, I just consider it to be a friendly conversation. When someone I might like is flirting with me, I seem totally incapable of identifying it as such. If I start interpreting every unnecessary conversation as flirting, then that way madness lies. I know some asexuals do enjoy flirting. But it can be hard to distinguish from hitting on someone, which most of us aces would probably try to avoid. No, I don't like social exchanges with strangers. But maybe flirting is the kind of silly fun I need more of in my life.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Befriending "Bits"

I thought that before I leave on a trip next week, I'll post some old drafts that I have lying around the Blogger attic. This one was originally written in November, 2008:

I started this blog as a "response to pop culture". I didn't want to stand idly by while the forces of society just washed over me, a passive observer. I wanted to defend asexuality from those who would detract from it, and describe the gifts that we could bring to the general population. But,

[Disclaimer: This post is not in reference to any post or poster in particular, as I have seen many of the comments I am about to discuss over the years.]

On AVEN, there's usually some sort of discussion over the things people find objectionable about sex. Usually, I have no problem with this topic. I figure that if people can't talk about why they don't like sex on AVEN, where can they do it? I'd always feel fine reading these topics and even participating, until people mention how horrified they are by genitalia, usually that of the "opposite sex" (in quotes because the gender binary is lame). It's one thing if you don't want someone else's "bits" (as the Brits say) near yours, but to condemn all bits, everywhere? Anyway, extremely harsh appraisals of penises and vaginas themselves make me uncomfortable, and I thought I would investigate why that might be.

I don't know about anyone else, but I have a hard time forgetting the social and political history of our genitalia. For centuries, penises were where it's at. Freud thought all women wanted one, forgetting that what we actually wanted were the privileges that they afforded. People who I have a hard time understanding, like Judith Butler, will talk about the social implications of the "phallus", a concept that has more to do with things like power and independence than with sex. In the meantime, vaginas have come a fairly long way. Thanks in part to The Vagina Monologues, people are finally using the word "vagina" in regular conversations at a normal decibel level. I even remember seeing some sort of vulva puppet on TV. However, the reason people even make a vulva puppet is because a lot of us still have no idea what's going on "down there". Vaginas still aren't well understood by all of us. If a sexual male said that "vaginas are disgusting", I would honestly feel a bit scared. (While penises are not always safe from harm, vaginas are the victims of much more violence.) If an asexual person says the same thing, does it have a different effect just because the mindset is different? I don't think that an asexual saying "Vaginas are icky" is going to incite another asexual to rape someone, for instance. But, I do think that those comments contribute to a climate where women may not feel safe.

Even if you're asexual, you will probably have a vagina or a penis (I can't claim to know that everyone does). Hopefully, we're trying to be at peace with our bodies, and that includes our various genitalia. Even if the effect is unintended, I think that disparaging remarks about genitalia make that process harder for everyone.

This is not the only "objectionable" view that I see my fellow asexuals raise...I may describe others in future posts. Perhaps my sensibilities are just too delicate to spend time on the internet. But, to me, this brings up why meetups are so important as the future of asexual community. When we get together, we don't talk about how much we hate sexual people (for instance), we mostly talk about food. What do you want to be a part of our collective consciousness?

[Credit where 'tis due-- the happy uterus was found here.]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Asexy Youtube channel beginning

Just wanted to make sure everyone knew about this new asexual-related Youtube channel. Audutions for regular participants are being held until May 1st, if anyone wants to submit a video. I'm always saying that we should create our own media in regards to asexuality, so I'm looking forward to seeing what people come up with for this project.

Also, I really want to do a cover of this song. "I think that you're neat" is, while not the apex of my thoughts about people I've had crushes on, pretty darn close. Although I'd never actually use the word "neat" (unless we're talking about housekeeping skills), you get the idea. It'd sound good on ukulele, I think...

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Misanthrope

I went to see the play Vigil last weekend and was surprised to find that it had an asexual character. I can't say I was a huge fan of the production, but hey, at least it yielded a blog post. The character, Kemp, isn't hard to identify, since he's one of two characters and has 95% of the lines. He said something like this: "My mother wanted me to be a homosexual, but I don't have a sexuality." He went on to talk about how he found sex repulsive and how while sex distracted others, it had no such effect on him. Kemp related, in my mind, to a recent Shakesville post. The post in question asked: "What are your favorite characters from music, literature, movies, etc. who express a healthy (i.e. consensual) sexuality with which you identify? (Note from Liss: Or lack thereof. That is, if you're asexual, are there characters with whose asexuality you identify?)"

And it made me think...while I can identify a bunch of characters I think are asexual, can I really identify with any of them? Do any of them engage in a "healthy" asexuality? And by this I don't mean lacking in illness, disability, or emotional issues (Good God, no). I mean, do they act in ways that, in real life, would better their situations as asexuals? Usually, the answer seems to be no, if not hell nooo.

In Vigil, I could only guess that Kemp's asexuality was intended to spring from his general unlikeability. He's so rude and unpleasant that it isn't surprising to learn that he has no friends whatsoever. In short, he's a total misanthrope, as are many asexual characters. Part of Vigil, I think, was to break down Kemp's wall and show that he can share non-sexual intimacy with another person. However, this prevailing trope seems totally contrary to most (of course, not all) real asexuals' experiences. It seems like a lot of asexuals really want to be close to other people. What we lack is not the initial desire, like Kemp, but the means to connect in a culture that may not favor the kind of relationships we want to have.

So I was trying to answer the Shakesville question, but I couldn't. I guess I would say my favorite asexual character is Withnail (yeah, him again), but I couldn't say I closely relate to him, and he definitely isn't healthy, what with his constant drinking and drug use. But unlike Kemp, he does care a lot about his friend "I" from the start. And the story seems to be more about trying to keep a friend than learning to experience platonic bonds in the first place. But it was almost like Withnail and "I" were a couple, and Withnail wouldn't be able to function by himself. And a similar thing happened in Vigil. Sure, Kemp learned to love, but it was unclear what would happen to him after he lost the one person he ever connected to. It's like the story was trying to solve an nonromantic problem through the model of "the couple". If I mention "community" will you feel like you've been hit over the head?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Aces in Fiction: Animythical Tales

This is an exciting post, but first, a little background: Last year, I wrote about "unnamed" asexuals in fiction. The basic idea was that "... it's still realistic for an asexual person to have never met another ace, and to not know that there is a word describing their sexuality that is in use for other people. If writers want to be realistic, the unnamed asexual is much closer to the truth than the 'out' asexual." However, that's not always an easy description to write. I didn't expect to get an e-mail from a reader saying, "I wrote a book like that, and it just got published"! Would I want to read it? Uh, hells yeah!

Animythical Tales is the book, which is a collection of 10 short stories in the fantasy or speculative fiction genre. Its writer, Sarah Totton, who is ace, told me that "...most (but not all) of [the stories] deal with asexual characters or themes. I'm thinking that other asexuals would 'get' what I was talking about when I wrote those stories in ways that a sexual reader might not..." I actually don't think I've ever read a short story in fantasy before, and I was impressed by the amount of invention that had to be condensed into a few pages.

So speculative fiction I am far from familiar with, but asexual characters...yeah, I'm a nerd. There were two stories that had obviously asexual characters, Henry in "Bluecoat Jack" and Bellan in "The Bone Fisher's Apprentice". How is this described, you may ask? In the latter story, the Bone Fisher is able to glance into Bellan's dreams and see that "there was simply no desire of that type for men or women in this man at all. And yet he was neither innocent nor damaged (93)." I liked the Bone Fisher's response to this "unusual" man: "He did not understand Bellan, but he was intrigued enough to let him sleep, at least another night, perhaps longer, so that he could study him". Henry seemed more distressed about his asexuality: "You don't know what you are. If it even has a name" (55), he says, after recounting his frustrating experiences with both women and men. Usually, real-life asexuals tend to shout about how passionately we nonsexually love things, just so people don't get the wrong idea. These characters are a lot more enigmatic than that.

Up until now, I've read a few vaguely asexy novels-- what asexual hasn't? But now that I have 10 self-contained, ostensibly asexual stories in my hands, I notice patterns emerging. I'd had no idea how much, as a reader, I'd relied upon, and expected, sex and sexualized romance to move a story along. The first time I ever noticed this was while watching the HBO series "In Treatment". It was very slow and plotless at times (yeah, yeah, my kinda thing), so when I saw that two characters had a growing attraction to each other, I was practically yelling at the screen, "Just hook up already!".

Because as we've explored, sex and romance serve as shorthands. No matter how random a story is, sex acts as an anchor of sorts and makes you think something meaningful is occurring. Whoever made "In Treatment" knew that holding off on what we expected to see would keep us interested (okay, that and Gabriel Byrne's voice). Animythical Tales is similarly challenging. The characters don't act how you might expect them to, which I think is a good thing. Without some of the typical signposts, I never quite knew where the stories were headed, so I wanted to keep reading to find out.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"No Sexual Attraction" must have been too long

Well, it's high time for me to post something, so I might as well share a photo of the most epic socks ever. I shared them on AVEN, but in case you have yet to experience their glory:

They hail from Sock Dreams in Portland, and also come in orange if pink is not your thing. Obviously, they're pretty silly, but I think one reason I liked them so much is because when I'm out and about in my daily life, I rarely see anything that relates to asexuality (or my experience of it). When I do, it's usually something I have to interpret to death before it starts relating to me. Except, of course, for the moment when I found these socks, proudly exclaiming, for some unknown reason, "NO SEX"!