Sunday, October 31, 2010

November NaNo Hiatus

Asexual characters in fiction. I've pondered them at length, but now it's time for me to try my hand at creating one (or two). Tomorrow, I'm starting National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo to its friends. The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month, so I think it might be wise for me to cut down on my other writing. (I'm hoping to post a few short things anyway, but novel-based insanity might make this impossible. Aiee!) So...overt statement about my character's asexuality, or implication? I'm excited to figure it out. I also haven't written any fiction in at least 4 years, and the last work of fiction I wrote took me 2 years to finish and was 55 pages (ie, definitely not 50,000 words). So, this will be an interesting task. It's Halloween tonight, but for me, the really scary stuff is starting tomorrow!

(If you're doing NaNo too, and want to be my "writing buddy" on the site, go ahead and add me! My name over there is "ukulele hero".)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Giving Up, Letting Go

A post that's way too short for its complicated topic:

"Giving up" on marriage or romantic relationships is often seen as the most pathetic, rock-bottom thing that someone could do in our culture. Depending on the circles in which you socialize, it could be much worse than giving up on your education, career, religion, the pursuit you are most talented at, or pretty much anything else. Isn't that odd? But although it might sound even odder, I think my problem is that I haven't given up enough. Let me explain. I don't think there's anything wrong with giving up on marriage etc., as long as you can feel like this was your choice. But I think it can cause a lot of psychological turmoil when you try to move on, but have nothing to move on to. I learned this very clearly when my term at a certain job ended. I had lofty ideas about "moving on" and going on to better things, but since I actually had no idea what those things were, I ended up extremely frustrated. Actually, the whole concept seems to be a theme in my life. And it's the same thing with marriage etc. When there's no clear alternative to it, it can be hard to give up completely. So you're left in this weird mental netherworld.

As we've seen, I haven't exactly been adept at creating, or even defining, the "alternative relationships" I talk about. But does the alternative need to be a relationship at all? Marriage etc is such a huge pressure that a shadowy, inarticulate goal can't go up against it. I think this is true, but I don't know how to visualize it. At least I know there are others muddling through the same thing with me. I'll muse some more on this, and see if I can come up with anything more useful.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Web of Mystery: Platonic Attraction

Sometimes asexuals will say, "We talk too much about what we don't do and what we don't experience. What about what we do experience?" I agree, and you could consider this a response.

But first, check out this diagram, which has been spotted in the asexosphere:

It's supposed to describe attraction, and it makes my head hurt. But something on it really gave me pause, and that is "platonic attraction". I experience no sexual attraction, very little romantic attraction, and I rarely go, "Wow, s/he is cute!" (which I think some people consider "aesthetic attraction".) But I realized that what the web of mystery calls "platonic attraction" is a whole 'nother story. In the web, my platonic attraction would probably be rated somewhere around "high" whereas everything else would be low or nonexistent. I have a high "friendship drive", if such a thing even exists. I know that after sex drives and romance drives, another long drive seems excessive. But this is the thing I do experience, and I venture the same is true for many other aces. There also must be non-asexual people who experience more platonic attraction than either romantic or sexual attraction.

(And let's pause for a minute to acknowledge that "attraction" is so tied up with something sexual that it sounds vaguely creepy to be attracted to friends in any way, even if it's entirely nonsexual. But moving on...)

For me, I was in my mid-20's before I realized that no, I could not be everyone's best buddy if I only put in enough effort and was flawless in all my social interactions. I actually didn't know that some people will always be casual friends or acquaintances, and will never become your best friends, for whatever reason. I can attribute part of this to a lack of social knowledge. But maybe the other part comes from a desire that things would be otherwise. I don't just desire human companionship, but very close friendships. I would be happy to have a "partner"-type relationship that was with a friend, for instance.

Especially in the years before I learned I was asexual, I always wanted a boyfriend. However, I did zero work to make this happen. On the other hand, I was very committed to friendship, and had no problem putting in the hours it took. Surely, that means something. While I wanted a boyfriend, I could live without him. But I knew I'd be miserable without friends.

The issues one may face experiencing high platonic attraction in our society are various. But the main one is that I often feel I can't tell my friends how important they are to me, because they might consider it weird or out of place. Maybe I just suck at expressing my feelings, but I'm pretty sure that can't be all of it. Often I shy away from even writing about friendship here, because I know some of my friends read this blog. I don't want them to think, "Well, she says friendship is important to her, but that's not clear from her actions!" Maybe my feelings and actions aren't always aligned very well. But anyway, this is getting slightly embarrassing, so I'll be moving on again...

Anyway, I'm realizing that platonic attraction is one more reason why I don't like the romantic/aromantic binary. For aromantic and barely-romantic people who still want friends, wouldn't a more accurate name be "platonic asexuals"?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I'm Queer-- More Thoughts

All your fabulous comments on my last post got me thinking: Why is it important to me to identify as queer? As some of you mentioned, of course, we can identify as whatever we want, no matter what other people say about it. But it's something I wanted to explore further.

I know some people identify as queer before identifying as asexual. However, I wasn't one of them. I identified as asexual first, and I don't even remember where I first heard the term "queer", or when I started thinking of myself this way. Maybe it was when I started reading about other peoples' queer experiences, and saw the parallels to my own. The "queer" label is something that hasn't been forced on me. As someone that tends to pass for straight whether I like it or not, I haven't had to reclaim "queer" after it was used on me as an insult. If I really wanted to, I could easily pass for straight for the rest of my life. I have many chances to opt out of being queer. Maybe that's why some people say I shouldn't be able to identify myself in this way. Maybe they think it has to be something forced upon you. Obviously, I disagree.

One reason I disagree is because I see "queer" as being a very political identity, and while we might not be able to escape our sexual orientations, our political identities are our choice. To be queer means that we're not going to be silent in order to make other people more comfortable. It means that we're actively going to work, in some way, to break down the rules and barriers that I mentioned in the last post. For me, the main political aspect of being queer is being anti-assimilation. My political beliefs are such that I don't believe we all need to be integrated into mainstream society. In fact, I think the ideals of "mainstream society" have been damaging to too many people. I believe that acceptance should not hinge on conformity. Rather than trying to be like everyone else, my version of "queer" is the project of finding ways to radically be ourselves. (Of course, I acknowledge that other people may define "queer" in very different ways than I do.)

As a further example of what I mean, I want to talk about the term "neuroqueer". This is a little-used term to refer to people whose brains function outside of "normal" ways, most commonly people on the autistic spectrum. I've heard some politically correct folks refer to such people as "neurodiverse". To me, this term implies a passive acceptance. Sure, it's better than something derogatory. But I much prefer "neuroqueer" because it's active and political. It implies to me that we're going to come together as a group to change something about our situation and about society. It implies that not only can we be okay without magically becoming "normal", but that we're going to make sure you know it.

There are various theories about what causes the learning disability that I have. Maybe I don't have enough white matter in my brain. I can't control that, and I can't control the fact that in many situations, I think differently from how a "normal" person might. What I can control is how I view my experience of being different, and how I might use it for the better. That's why I choose to identify as both neuroqueer and "regular" queer.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who's Queer?

Recently, there was an extremely hostile brouhaha on a feminism-related Livejournal community about whether asexuals were "allowed" to identify as queer. I briefly skimmed the arguments for about three minutes, before my eyes wanted to bleed with all the ignorance and, oddly, hatred. One of the more benign comments was "Only queers should be able to decide who is queer". Wow...circular logic, much? Two main arguments seemed to be that only homosexuals can be queer, and that only people who have been violently discriminated against can be queer. While some people were willing to magnanimously grant that maybe homo-, bi-, or panromantic asexuals could identify as queer, others seemed absolutely irate that heteroromantic or aromantic asexuals might identify as such. A lot of people on that thread also seemed to view asexuality as just one more annoying internet meme, which is sad.

I'm just left thinking that such ardent policing of whatever people consider their one true definition of "queer" defeats the purpose of the identification. I thought being queer was about breaking rules and boundaries when it comes to sexuality, not adhering to rigid definitions. And if asexuals didn't break rules and boundaries, people wouldn't react to us in such defensive ways.

I prefer a more...charitable definition of "queer". I think that deciding to identify this way is completely up to the individual. I know that in response to this, someone is going to think, "But Ily! What if a straight, totally "vanilla" person wanted to call themselves queer?" Well, first of all, I hate to break it to you, but straight people are not exactly lining up to identify as queer, which makes some peoples' extreme defense of the word a little absurd. What realistic threat are they defending it against? And second, if a few straight people did identify as queer, it wouldn't be the end of the world. If you insisted on seeing it as "a price to pay" at all, it would be a small one, for greater inclusiveness.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Little Coming-Out Brainstorm

So, have I talked about coming out enough yet? I know Coming Out Day might be almost over (or over, depending on your time zone), but I have just one more thought about coming least in the near future. I've already tried to establish that most people don't have a clue how to react when an asexual comes out to them. That's one reason folks can get so rude and hostile. So why don't we tell people how we want them to react, when we come out? Is this crazy enough to work? I mean something like, "I'm asexual. And by the way, the appropriate response is 'Thanks for telling me'". Maybe it's slightly passive-aggressive and even annoying. But it's better than getting into a conflict about asexuality. Depending on the person, they could be quite relieved.

To me, the main reason coming out as asexual is so scary is because you have no idea how anyone will react. Liberal, conservative, radical, straight, queer, can never know how anyone stands. So I'm all about reducing the element of chance as much as possible. When you come out, you're already educating them about your sexuality. Educating them a little further about how to be come out to won't hurt them...much.

Such a tactic might also lend itself well to the written word. In the AVEN thread about Coming Out Day, a large number of people mentioned coming out on Facebook. You pretty much have a captive audience, and you can say whatever you want. So if you're already doing it, why not mention the response you want?

But related to that...The problem with coming out on Facebook is that you have no idea who actually read and/or understood the message. I already need a spreadsheet to keep track of the people I'm out to. So, to mention it there or not? Sadly, I'm just sitting here, trying to figure that out.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I keep forgetting this blog is supposed to be about pop bad. So am I the only person in the world who watched Hung (crappy title for a few reasons) on HBO or what? The second season ended recently. In an art class once, I painted a beautiful watercolor of a kangaroo, and my professor called it a "bizarre choice of subject matter". I guess the same could be said of Hung. It's about a divorced father, teacher, and baseball coach in Detroit, basically a regular guy facing financial problems. His house burns down and he loses custody of his kids. So to get some extra income, he turns to prostitution.

Bizarre show for an asexual to enjoy? Eh, I don't think so. I really liked the first season for the humor and the great acting of the two main characters: Ray, the prostitute, and Tanya, a poet by day, his pimp by night. They're very likable. Most of the characters on the show experience some kind of growth, and not just the major characters. The second season, while it had good moments, became increasingly odd and disjointed. Considering that, I'm actually kind of surprised that it got picked up for a third season.

As you might imagine, Hung contained a fair amount of sex. But it was usually depicted in a humorous way that didn't bother me. What tends to bother me about depictions of sex is a total irrelevance to the plot, and that definitely can't be said of Hung. Also, as someone who doesn't connect love and sex, casual sex (as long as it isn't abusive) is no more distasteful to me than sex in a relationship. Since Ray has veto power over his clients, there isn't really any coercion involved. But like Sex and the City, the main focus of the show isn't actually sex. It's more about the non-sexual tribulations of setting up this business, and its ramifications on the rest of Ray's life.

Two interesting things from the second season: Ray had a client who saw him because sex was always boring to her. And in the end...she was still bored. So, hey. Also, at the end of the second season (s p o i l e r !), when Ray and his ex-wife, Jessica, are realizing they still love each other, Jessica says that rather than just going from man to man, she wants to take some time for herself to figure out her own needs. I thought that was cool, and an extremely rare outcome for film/TV. I also like how Ray's daughter is shown as being into the Fat Acceptance movement, although it's randomly thrown in and not explored. Maybe next season?

If you like any other comedies from HBO, you'll probably like Hung as well...the first season is out on DVD, if anyone wants to check it out.