Orientation Insecurity; Comments on Heterosexual Jill

Before reading this post, I suggest watching the trailer for the movie Heterosexual Jill (note: trailer depicts a few seconds of non-consexual making out, and contains some mildly sexual content).

Heterosexual Jill Official Trailer

As the trailer suggests, the movie is about how the protagonist, Jill, asserts her heterosexuality in face her sexual attraction to women and desire to have sex with them. It’s a comedy.

This film helped me appreciate just how insecure some lesbians feel in their sexual orientations, and how much they are compelled, both by others and themselves, to perform as heterosexuals. It was something I hadn’t really thought about before.

Jill sometimes punishes other people for her own insecurity. For example, she polices Jamie’s sexual identity, claiming that Jamie isn’t acting like a ‘real lesbian’, to which Jamie’s response can be summarized as ‘I am a lesbian, therefore anything I do is a real way to be lesbian by default’. Jill needs Jamie to be the stereotypical lesbian in her head because, since Jill is definitely not like the sterotypical lesbian in her head, she’s not really a lesbian, right? Jamie’s insistence that there isn’t one particular way to be a lesbian means that *gasp* Jill might be a lesbian after all, and that is something that Jill does not want to accept. Jill abuses Jamie ultimately because Jamie is *supposed* to confirm that Jill is really heterosexual, and Jamie isn’t doing what she’s supposed to do.

Though the focus is on Jill, who is apparently sexually attracted only to women, the movie makes clear that the issue of being insecure about one’s sexual identity is broader than that. For example, there is a minor character who describes finding both women and men to be hot, but she really does not want to be a bisexual because ‘everybody hates bisexuals’, so she is trying ‘to be just a lesbian’.

For that matter, Jamie herself makes some bi-hating comments to her bisexual ex-girlfriend.

Furthermore, there is a character who has a specific sexual repulsion. She’s not repulsed by sex in general, but she reacts negatively to … well, I won’t spoil it. It does undermine her confidence in her sexual identity, and since she presents herself outwardly as being Very Confidently Non-Heterosexual, she tries to cover up this insecurity.

Even though this movie is not about aces, considering how many submissions the Carnival of Aces about the ‘unassailable asexual’ received, it’s obvious that insecurity about sexual identity is a big issue among aces. I think aces in general, particularly aces who struggle with being (or not being) the “unassailable asexual” would benefit from seeing this movie. Besides, it’s hilarious.

Does asexuality come up in the movie? Actually, the word ‘asexual’ (clearly describing the sexual orientation) is used exactly once in the movie. I feel that that angle is not nearly as interesting as the overall theme of how insecurity hurts people, so if someone wants a blog post about it, somebody else is going to have to write it.


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Touch Is a Touchy Topic: Hugging Is … Good? Maybe I don’t want a hug?

You can read the introduction here.

*An evil fairy approaches*

Evil Fairy: I curse you that you will never hug or be hugged again for the rest of your life.
Sara: Really?
Evil Fairy: Yes, you will never hug again, MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
Sara: *shrugs*
Evil Fairy: But you will never hug again!
Sara: And?
Evil Fairy: You may be cocky now, but without hugs, you will turn into a lonely sad shadow of a person!
Sara: I’ve gone long periods of time without hugs while being pretty happy…
Evil Fairy: You’re deluding yourself!
Sara: Whatever, bye.

*Sara leaves*

I had a teacher in elementary school who told us, according to An Expert (who possibly was Virginia Satir), we all needed x number of hugs per day to be healthy. And then the teacher asked us how many of us were getting the minimum quota of hugs. None of us were. So the teacher told us that, to meet our quota, we had to hug ourselves many times per day.

I didn’t like this. We already had to do our homework and brush our teeth, now we had to hug many times every single day too?

We all had to hug each other during this lesson, and some bullies in the class make a point of how disgusting it would be to hug me. I definitely did not want to hug them either, but they turned it into an opportunity to bully me some more. The teacher was well aware that these students were in the habit of bullying me yet it didn’t occur to her that they would exploit this mandatory hug session.

While trying to find out who was behind this assignment of daily hugs, I came across the article “10 Reasons Why We Need at Least 8 Hugs a Day”. Here are my reactions:

1. The nurturing touch of a hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication.

Sometimes I’ve hugged people because I didn’t trust them and didn’t feel safe, and I felt that I would be more threatened if I didn’t hug them. Strangely, I didn’t start trusting them or feeling safe after the hugs. Futhermore, it sure did not feel like open and honest communication to me. If I were being open and honest, I probably would not have included the hug.

2. Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.

Sex can also boost oxytocin levels. If this is a reason why people should hug, it’s also a reason why people should have sex. And as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, I am against compulsory sexuality.

3. Holding a hug for an extended time lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

I think it’s obvious by now that I don’t associate hugging with happiness.

4. Hugs strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge this creates activates the Solar Plexus Chakra. This stimulates the thymus gland, which regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells, which keep you healthy and disease free.

I don’t know about the science behind this, but I have observed pleasant effects from gentle pressure on the sternum. Hugging is not necessary for this effect.

5. Hugging boosts self-esteem. From the time we’re born our family’s touch shows us that we’re loved and special. The associations of self-worth and tactile sensations from our early years are still imbedded in our nervous system as adults. The cuddles we received from our Mom and Dad while growing up remain imprinted at a cellular level, and hugs remind us at a somatic level of that. Hugs, therefore, connect us to our ability to self love.

Here we get to the heart of the matter! A lot of my feelings about touching people comes from childhood experiences with my parents, and self-love is an important part of this as well. This is going to be the topic of my next post!

I don’t think I need to continue responding to this article. I think you all get the idea.


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Touch Is a Touchy Topic: Introduction

I’m hosting the December 2014 Carnival of Aces; the theme is ‘Touch, Sensuality, and Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy’ – learn more here. This is my submission.

I’ve only hung out in corners of the asexual community where it is okay to not be having sex, and not having romance is mostly okay in these corners as well. However, there are some people who are very vocal about how much they love cuddling and touch and all that, and though I know there are at least a few people who actually don’t like touching other people very much, they tend to be so discreet about their non-enthusiasm that I had to pay attention to notice them.

I think this emphasis on sensual activity partially comes from a desire to validate our intimate relationships. If sex is not happening, how can we *prove* that these are important relationships? CUDDLING, of course!

It’s not just the asexual community which heavily emphasizes hugging, cuddling, and other forms of non-sexual sensual interaction – in fact, I have felt this emphasis far stronger in the schools I have attended (except middle school) and in my family than I ever have in ace spaces.

The result of having a set of people being very vocal about how much they are into touching people, with much less discussion of *not* wanting that kind of activity, has given me the impression that ace/aro-spectrum people are very cuddly, even though I know that is sometimes not true. And I have found very little discussion of bad experiences with touch or not wanting touch.

Speaking of bad experiences, I recently travelled in South Korea, and many Koreans who I didn’t know touched me without warning, let alone with my permission. All of this felt non-sexual to me. But being non-sexual did not make this touch okay. I did not have these kinds of experiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Japan, so I conclude that Korean culture has something to do with this. All of the Koreans who touched me without permission were middle-aged and older, so this might be a generational thing. None of them seemed to understand why I objected to what I did, and sometimes they would touch me again even after I had expressed my displeasure.

It got to the point that I became very guarded around Koreans over the age of 35.

I’m fine with the vocal people being vocal – if they love hugging, cuddling, caressing, and so forth, why not talk about it? I don’t want them to be less vocal. I do want to open a discussion about non-sexual touch which is not entirely good, so that people who have negative feelings about touch know they are not alone. In particular, I want to affirm that physical intimacy is no more required than sexual or romantic intimacy.

An evil fairy will make a guest appearance in the next post.


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December 2014 Carnival of Aces “Touch, Sensuality, and Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy”: Call for Submissions

I am hosting the Carnival of Aces again!

This month the theme is ‘Touch, Sensuality, and Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy’. You can submit anything which is related to this theme and being on the ace-spectrum. If you submit something non-textual (such as a picture, a video, etc.) please provide a text description and/or a transcript.

If you want some inspiration, here are a few prompts:

- As someone on the ace-spectrum, what kinds of experiences with touch have you had?
– Do you want your closest relationships to include touch? Do they already include touch, and what kind?
– What attitudes towards touch does society have? How does this impact ace-spectrum folk?
– What is the difference between sexual and non-sexual touch?
– Do you even feel pressured to engage in non-sexual touch / physical intimacy / sensuality, either within or outside of ace spaces?

If that’s not enough inspiration, here are some things which have already been written about asexuality and touch:

Things That Bother Me by Nathaniel
Differentiating sensual touch from sexual touch by Hezekiah the (meta)pianycyst
Graphing Physical and Emotional Closeness by Jo
The Physical Touch Escalator, Asexual Intimacy Is Good, and The Shifting Meanings of Physical Intimacy and Touch by the Thinking Asexual
Touch, by David Jay
Wordsmithing for Nonsexual Touch by Spade

Your submission can be like the above, or it can be completely different as long as it still fits the theme.

How to Submit

You can submit by:

1) commenting on this post
2) sending an email to … [I AM WORKING ON THIS, CHECK BACK LATER FOR EMAIL ADDRESS]

I can host guest posts, and I can make guest posts anonymous if requested.

I intend to publish the round-up post on January 2nd, but since this call for submissions came a little late, I will accept submissions until January 10th and update the round-up post accordingly.

I look forward to your submissions!


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What’s so bad about being sexually repressed?

One of the most common ace-hate comments is:

“You’re not asexual, you’re just sexually repressed.”

And the typical reply of vocal asexuals is:

“No, we’re not sexually repressed, we’re asexual.”

It is true that many asexual people are not sexually repressed, and that asexuality exists in humans regardless of the presence of sexual repression.

But why insist so much that asexuals aren’t sexually repressed? Is sexual repression such a bad thing that we need to distance ourselves so much from it.

I think that when sexual repression is not causing distress, it’s fine to be sexually repressed. In some situations, it might be a good thing. Let me give you an example:

[Content note: reference to child sexual abuse]

Let’s say someone is sexuallty attracted to children. They understand that sexually abusing children is wrong, so they never want to interact sexually with a child, but the very fact that they know it’s wrong makes them very uncomfortable with the sexual attraction they are experiencing. So they decide to repress their sexual attraction – and succeed! They can now go on about their life without being constantly bothered by their sexual attraction to children, and even better, no children are hurt. Even though there are other ways to handle this problem (such as ‘ageplay’ – having a consenting adult pretend to be a child during sexual activity) I fail to see anything wrong with this type of sexual repression.

That particular example is extreme, but I think sexual repression might be helpful in many situations where someone is experiencing unwanted sexual attraction.

When most people talk about how bad sexual repression is, it’s implied the sexual repression is applied externally by society, not a tool being willfully used by an individual. However, even when sexual oppression is being imposed by social pressure, it is bad … because of what?

Here’s the answer: sexual repression is bad when it causes distress/unhappiness. Then the distressed/unhappy person is entitled to addressing the problem. However, when sexual repression is not causing distress/unhappiness – even if the sexual repression is caused by external social forces – there is no need to “stop” the sexual repression.

Hey, I sound just like the people who say that sexual repulsion/aversion is okay as long as it does not cause distress. That’s probably because my mind absorbed their rhetoric and substituted ‘sexual repulsion/aversion’ with ‘sexual repression’. In my opinion, the arguments for accepting sexual repulsion/aversion work just as well as for accepting sexual repression.

Saying that all sexual repression is bad and need to be released is an expression of compulsory sexuality. If someone didn’t think that all people ARE REQUIRED engage in sexual behavior (i.e. compulsory sexuality), I can’t imagine why they would insist that all sexual repression is bad.

And it is because of the compulsory sexuality behind “sexual repression is bad” arguments that I think maybe, instead of saying ‘asexuals are not sexually repressed’ we should say ‘sexual repression is irrelevant to the validity of asexuality’.


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Am I Resistant to Umami Cravings?

I have been aware of umami (the ‘fifth taste’) for a long time, and always assumed that umami appeals to me like it does everyone else, and sometimes intentionally put umami in my cooking. After all, many of the ‘umami rich’ foods happen to be foods I like.

But I was struck by this section of “Is Umami a Secret Ingredient of Vegan Activism”:

Interestingly, some research suggests that a subset of the population may be impervious to umami. Rice and beans versus grilled chicken? It’s all the same to them. And maybe these people have an easier time going vegan (which could also mean that they have less patience with those who struggle with giving up animal foods).

Even before I was a semi-vegetarian, I would have taken the rice and beans over grilled chicken. In fact, I never felt like I wanted more grilled chicken.

Might it be simply a conincidence that I happen to like some umami-rich foods? I’ve used nutrional yeast, but I never felt like it did anything special for the flavor. And I never felt like konbu dashi (stock made from a kind of seaweed) made a dish any better than if I had used plain water.

Heck, when I transitioned to being vegan, cheese was a lot easier to give up than I expected.

When people make statements like ‘I could never give up [non-vegan] food!’ and don’t refer to a particular health or socio-economic concern, I don’t take them seriously. If they haven’t even tried, how do they know? And managed to transition both to vegetarianism and later veganism on the first attempt, so I tend to assume that everybody exaggerates the difficulty.

But, if I am umami-resistant, and umami is why so many people crave meat/cheese/etc., it really is harder for other people to make the transition to veganism if they don’t eat a lot of vegan umami.

Heck, not having umami cravings might be like not feeling sexual urges or sexual attraction. You assume you are just like everyone else, until you think about it, and realize you might not actually experience the same feelings as most people after all!

I had always figured that people (with sufficient agency) eat animals and animal secretions anyway, in spite of the unethical nature of consuming animals, because of cultural conditioning, social pressure, and ignorance of just how much harm they are doing, or misinformation about health effects (in very rare cases, they might be genuine unethical sadists or sociopaths). I myself was not raised vegan, and I can affirm that cultural conditioning, social pressure, and ignorance – particularly ignorance – were why I ate animals. But perhaps ‘umami’ is a physical factor.

When I try to persuade people to go vegan, I should keep umami in mind, and bring it into the conversation when somebody claims that they will always crave eating animals.


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Expectations in Parent-Child Relationships

This is for the November 2014 “Expectations in Friendships/Relationships Carnival of Aces.

***

I returned to North America a few days ago. I had expected my parents to pamper me a little, at least until I got over jetlag. After all, they had been asking for years when I would come back, and were always disappointed when I said ‘not this year’.

Well, that didn’t happen. Maybe it would have happened had I arrived at a different time, but right now my parents are dealing with multiple major problems, and I brought a new one – one of my fillings fell out and I don’t have dental insurance or a regular dentist. They are helping me arrange dental treatment, but that leaves them little time/energy to spoil me.

So, that was an expectation I had … but I understand why the expectation was not met, and I don’t blame them. And it was always a hope rather than something I felt that they owed me.

The word ‘expectation’ in relationships can mean a hope, a condition, or an obligation. And something which is presented as a hope but treated like an obligation is a tool for abuse.

My relationship with my parents was unchosen. They chose to have a child, but they did not choose me specifically. And I had zero choice in the matter.

My mother really, really wanted to have a child. My father could have gone either way – he agreed to be a parent, but he would have been OK with staying childfree.

Guess who placed greater ‘expectations’ on me.

As someone who really wanted to be a parent, my mother had a lot of ideas about it, including how she would relate with her child. To sum it up, she was expecting me to be a bundle of love, who would always be available to offer affection, to always be grateful for what a wonderful mother she is, who would always understand her, to have her as my confidante, etc. I was to insure that she never felt lonely or unloved ever again.

It didn’t work out that way.

One time, when my aunt and cousin were visiting, she told me I should observe their relationship, how close and loving they were, and that I should more like my cousin. Because the burden for making our relationship ‘closer’ and ‘move loving’ fell entirely on me, and I was a Bad Daughter for not always offering the affection my mother wanted. Nevermind that said cousin does not have such a great relationship with my mother (i.e. I don’t think my mother would have been any more satisfied if that cousin has been her child) and nevermind that my aunt does not have such a close and loving relationship with her other daughter (i.e. there is no guarantee that mother-daugther relationships are going to be Bundles of Endless Love).

My dad, however, had much less in the way of expecations of how things would turn out with me, and to the extent that he had expectations, they were clearly hopes, not obligations. He never made me feel like I was being a Bad Daughter just because something didn’t happen the way he had hoped for.

Ironically, it’s always been much easier to show affection to my father, and it’s always genuine because he doesn’t treat it like an obligation – I don’t have to give him affection when I don’t want to. When I show affection to my mother, it’s often a) something I feel like I have to use to appease her rather than something entirely sincere or b) even when it is sincere, it’s not the kind of affection she wants, so she doesn’t accept it. My mother is envious of how well my father and I get along, and I suspect she feels like he has something which was owed to her.

What does this have to do with asexuality? I can think of two things, but one belongs in a separate post, so I will only address the other – how being asexual fits into parents expectations of their children.

My mother never expected me to be any particular sexual orientation – i.e. she did not assume I would be heterosexual. She also does not expect me to have kids – she is OK with me having kids, but she is also OK with me not having kids.

My father, suffice to say, didn’t place these kinds of expectations on me either. He sometimes finds indirect, subconscious ways to say that he would like grandkids, but I think he does not want to *burden* me with that, and if I ever brought up the topic he would insist that I am under no obligation to have kids.

All that said, my mother most certainly did not expect me to be asexual – in fact, she expected me to eventually start experiencing sexual attraction and pursuing sex. It is because she has more expectations of my behavior that I thought it was important to come out to her. It worked out well – we haven’t talked about it since, but she no longer acts like I’m going to emerge from some cocoon as a sexual butterfly: mission accomplished. If anything, I think she’s satisfied that I confided something personal in her.

I haven’t felt the need to come out to my dad.

However, many parents do expect their children to be/do any or all of the following:

-allosexual
-heterosexual
-to have a boyfriend/girlfriend
-to marry
-to make grandkids

… and this can cause problems for ace-spectrum kids.

Again, parent-child relationships are unchosen, and thus I think this makes many kinds of expectations/obligations unfair. I think it is fair to expect/require children to care for parents who are sick/weak/disabled if they can. But I think expectations/obligations regarding sexual orientation, dating (beyond minimal ethical standards), having kids, etc. are unfair.


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