These Labels Describe a Relationship with People

The May 2015 Carnival of Aces is about labels.

Which prompted me to ask the question … what is the point of labelling myself aromantic and asexual?

After all, I don’t label myself based on every feature which distinguishes me from others. For example, I have an appendix, but I don’t recall ever saying ‘I am [word describing those who have an appendix]’.

I think my use of the labels ‘asexual’ and ‘aromantic’ come from my relationships with people in general.

If I lived in a society where most people experienced weak, infrequent, and/or no sexual attraction, and where not having sex as an adult was considered to be about as interesting as not playing tennis, and where romantic relationships (and expression of romantic feelings) was a bit uncommon, I don’t think I’d bother with labels like ‘asexual’ and ‘aromantic’ (at least, not unless a minority of people who experienced intense sexual attraction/desire/feelings and/or intense romantic feelings brought attention to the matter).

There are some labels which I sometimes use, but don’t mean much to me. For example, I have hazel eyes, a fact which is noted on my California driver’s license, and occasionally is noted in other documents, so ‘hazel-eyes’ is a label I sometimes use for myself. But it has very little impact on me.

However, the fact that I am someone who isn’t into sex (on multiple levels … lack of sexual attraction, lack of sexual desire, lack of sexual activity) AND who isn’t into romance in a society where healthy, abled adults are assumed to totally be into sex, and where young, abled women like myself are expected to be totally into romance creates a certain … dissonance.

Some asexuals/aromantics interpret the dissonance as meaning that they themselves are flawed. Some people interpret the dissonance as other people being weird (for example, the common assumption among some asexuals that people only talk about / pursue sex because of ‘peer pressure’). Some asexuals/aromantics blend perceiving themselves as flawed AND perceiving other people as being weird. I was in the ‘perceiving other people as being weird’ category, but I could feel that it didn’t really explain why my peers were way more into sex and romance than I was. I also thought I was a late bloomer, until I was about 20 years old, when the ‘late bloomer’ hypothesis no longer seemed to be a good explanation.

Discovering about asexuality and humans, and later aromanticism? That resolved the dissonance between the way I am and the way most people are way better than anything else.

These labels help me find other people like myself in these specific regards, which has been helpful, and I expect will be even more helpful in the future. However, the main reason I use these labels is that they are a way to tell other people and remind myself ‘Allosexuals and romantics are like that. I am like this, and asexuals and aromantics are like this too.’ It makes sense. The dissonance is dissipated.


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Talking about ‘humanizing/dehumanizing’ is ineffective

In the previous post (which you should read before this one), I promised I would talk about the problem with talking about things in terms of ‘recognize as fully human’ and so forth. Since then, I’ve realized that I want to discuss TWO sets of problems with this use of language, so in this post, I will only address one problem.

Talking about ‘humanizing/dehumanizing’ isn’t effective communication.

Okay, there must be a situation somewhere where using ‘humanizing/dehumanizing’ language is effective. But I think this type of language is often used in ways which don’t help anybody, and in the context of ace/aro discussions, I think it’s almost never effective.

A self-defense instructor I knew said that he used to teach his students to yell ‘Fire’ if they got into a physically dangerous emergency, even if it wasn’t literally a fire. Then he became aware of research that indicates that yelling ‘Fire’ doesn’t do much good. When people hear ‘Fire’ they tend to just come and watch, and do nothing to save the person in danger.

My own experience is consistent with this research. I have witnessed a number of uncontrolled fires in my life, and in each instance my behavior – I came to watch, and didn’t lift a finger to help. Granted, by the time I noticed that there was a fire in downtown Hsinchu (a city in Taiwan) there were already firefighters on the scene, so there wasn’t anything I could do to help. Likewise, when I noticed that a hill right above the town of Santa Clarita was on fire, half of the people in the town had already noticed it, since it was really, really obvious (Santa Clarita is possibly the wildfire capital of the USA). And when there was a fire at my middle school, the best thing I could do was follow the teachers’ instructions, which I did (by the way, fire drills do work – since we at first assumed that the fire alarm went off because of an unscheduled fire drill, we stayed calm, and even when we could smell the smoke and realized that it wasn’t a drill, we still didn’t panic, and nobody was injured in the fire). But when a building in the middle of San Francisco is on fire, what is my reaction? To go tell other people – ‘hey, check it out, there’s this building on fire, you want to come and watch?’

So, what does the self-defence instructor teach now? He tells his students (who live in urbanized parts of the USA) to yell ‘Call 911′. This gives bystanders a specific action they can do which might save your life (if you’re in an urbanized part of the USA).

As I explained in the previous post, when we talk about ‘being recognized as fully human’ and such things, we are actually talking about something else. Many people can probably deduce from context what we actually mean, but the extra mental steps it takes to deduce what we are trying to say means 1) they are more likely to misinterpret and 2) they are less likely to respond in the way we hope for. Likewise, someone who hears ‘Fire’ can probably deduce there is some kind of emergency, and if they come to look, they might figure out what kind of emergency it is, but they are unlikely to respond in a way which helps you. People who are already in the asexual and/or aromantic community don’t need to be convinced of the validity of asexuality/aromanticism, and telling people outside the community ‘aces/aros are fully human’ is unlikely to make them change their behavior.

Of course, in this regard, saying ‘aromantics/asexuals belong in your in-group’ is probably even worse.

Sometimes, we want to say ‘Stop saying that all people are sexual, because that excludes me and when I hear that I feel like you think I don’t matter’. Sometimes we want to say ‘I want more aromantic characters in fiction who are passionate about life, because I am an aromantic who is passionate about life and I want to see more people like me in fiction’. Sometimes we want to say something else. I think our communication is more effective when we go past the generalized vagueness of ‘humanizing/dehumanizing’ and express more fully what we actually mean.

So that’s one problem. What’s the other problem? You might have noticed that I put this series of posts in the ‘Veganism’ category, which is a bit of a hint. If we all aspire to be recognized as fully human, what does that say about how we treat those who are not human? That’s going to be the topic of the next post.

What Do We Mean When We Talk about ‘Humanizing’ and ‘Dehumanizing’?

A drawing showing a male mikado pheasant (top, mostly dark blue, with a red face, and long, black & white tail feathers) and a female mikado pheasant below (brown, shorter tail feathers).

In the discussion of many topics using the English language, it is common for people to say thinks like ‘we want to be seen as fully human’ or ‘these stereotypes dehumanize this group of people. One set of topics – though certainly not the only set of topics – where I see these kinds of language frequently is asexuality and/or aromanticism.

So what do we mean when we say things like ‘aces/aros want to be seen as fully human’?

Is there somebody who sincerely doubts that we are homo sapiens? Sure, there are boatloads of people who think that homo sapiens cannot be asexual and/or aromantic, but their logic is that we’re not really asexual and/or aromantic, not that we’re something other than homo sapiens.

There are a few cases where the issue really is determining whether somebody is, in fact, a homo sapiens, but I would guess that in 99% of the conversations which talk about humanizing/dehumanizing/being recognized as fully human/etc. are not actually about whether or not a set of people are biologically homo sapiens.

Discussions of sexism are another place where the ‘humanizing/dehumanizing’ language is used a lot – as in ‘misogynists don’t regard women as fully human’. As a female, I will say this – if I could choose between the status quo, and an alternate universe where most non-female people mistakenly thought that women were Syrmaticus mikado rather than homo sapiens AND there was no sexism or misogyny, I would choose the alternate universe. Yeah, it’d be annoying if lots of people mistakenly thought I was a mikado pheasant, but (assuming that there is no prejudice against mikado pheasants, and people still correctly discerned my abilities – i.e. they knew I could use human languages, and did not expect me to fly, I could still receive medical treatment appropriate for humans, etc.) I think it would not be nearly as bad as sexism and misogyny. I think most female people would agree with me on this. Therefore, the issue isn’t really whether or not others recognize us as ‘human’.

So if we are not talking about whether somebody should be classified as a specimen of the species homo sapiens … what are we talking about?

I think, most of the time, what we’re really talking about is that a set of people are worthy (or not) of empathy, that their needs are valid (or not), that they are a member of the tribe (or not), that they are part of us … or part of the other.

So why do we describe this sense of belonging/respect/fairness/in-groupness as ‘human’ (or more accurately ‘being recognized as being human’)? Should, say, dogs be excluded simply because they are not homo sapiens?

The thing is, there are an awful lot of people who don’t consider a wide segment of the homo sapiens population to be worthy of respect, fairness, support, empathy, etc. I’m no psychologist/sociologist/anthropologist, but it seems to be that it’s part of ‘human’ nature to divide beings into in-groups and out-groups, and that one generally doesn’t need to respect members of the out-group the same way one needs to respect members of the in-group. And membership in the in-groups and out-groups rarely cuts strictly along species lines – for example, a lot of people would put dogs they have a personal relationship with in their in-group. It’s not even limited to animals (yes, homo sapiens are animals) – some people put, for example, trees in their in-group.

I think that what asexuals and aromantics are asking for is that we will not be pushed out of the in-group into the out-group (a.k.a. ‘the Other’) just because we are on the asexual and/or aromantic spectrum.

But language is never perfect, and I think most people understand that ‘humanizing/dehumanizing’ rarely refers to a literal debate about whether a set of people are homo sapiens. Is there a problem with framing things in ‘humanizing/dehumanizing’ language? I think there is, and I’ll discuss that in the next post.

Characters with Disabilities in the Condor Trilogy

This is my submission to Blogging against Disablism Day (BADD) 2015

The Condor Trilogy (also known as the Eagle Shooting Trilogy, which is a more accurate translation of the Chinese title) is one of the most popular works of Chinese-language fiction of the 20th century, if not the most popular. The three novels are The Eagle-Shooting Heroes, The Giant Eagle and Its Companion, and The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre. It is difficult to overstate this trilogy’s popularity in the Chinese-speaking world.

They are martial arts novels, set during the period just before the Mongol invasion of China up until the Chinese manage to drive the Mongols out (the time span is over a hundred years). Even the shortest novel in the trilogy (The Eagle-Shooting Heroes) is longer than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, which means this trilogy is more than three times the length of Lord of the Rings.

In those thousands of pages of fictions, there are a lot of characters with disabilities. In fact, there are so many of them, and there is so much to analyze from the perspective of disability studies, that I’m not going to try to write an exhaustive post. Instead, I’m only going to discuss a few of the more significant characters with disabilities within the trilogy.

One of the main protagonists, Yang Guo, becomes disabled midway through the second novel, The Giant Eagle and Its Companion. I’ve already discussed him and his disability, as well another character with a disability, Lu Wushuang, so I won’t discuss them in this post.

So, which characters will I discuss?

Ke Zhen’e

Ke Zhen’e is the leader of the Seven Freaks of Jiangnan, a group of wandering martial artists. It is said that Ke Zhen’e became blind during a fight years before the novel, but I don’t think the novel ever says whether or not he was already the leader of the Seven Freaks at that time.

He is a capable martial artist who uses sound and the flow of air to track his opponents movements. However, he is not a superhuman martial artist – many characters in this trilogy who would beat him in a fair fight (these ARE martial arts novels), and nobody is surprised that a blind person can fight so well. Thus, he is not a supercrip.

There is one scene where the fact that he is blind leads to a different result than if he had been sighted, but other than that one scene, his blindness … doesn’t make a difference. He generally has good intentions, but sometimes his judgement is flawed. He is at times angry, happy, sad, etc. and for pretty much the same reasons as people in general. In short, his character is mostly written as someone who, by the way, is blind, rather than being written as a BLIND!person.

Miss Qu (a.k.a. Shagu)

Shǎgū litterally means ‘foolish girl’ in Mandarin. This character hears other people call her ‘shǎgū‘, so when someone asks what her name is, she says that she is ‘Shǎgū‘. Her father is Qu Lingfeng, so she can also be referred to as ‘Miss Qu’, but none of the characters know what name her parents gave her, if any.

Obviously, there was no DSM in 13th century China, so there is no ‘modern’ diagnosis of Miss Qu’s condition. As the characters in the novel say, it is not known whether she was born ‘that way’ or whether she became ‘that way’ later after an injury. So what is ‘that way’?

Miss Qu can understand spoken Chinese and speak Chinese, she has learned some martial arts (though she is not as skilled as most of the characters in the trilogy), and she lives alone at the time she makes her first appearance in the trilogy, which implies that she can take care of herself.

She does have trouble understanding abstractions, doesn’t understand complex abstractions at all, and often responds to other people’s questions with giggling, and often interprets what others say too literally. For example, when a character asks “How far away is Niujia Village from here” she replies “Here is Niujia Village, I don’t know ‘how far away'”. She does not understand social protocol, such as who is higher status and who is lower status. She also has trouble putting two and two together – for example, when Huang Rong asks Miss Qu not to say to anyone that Huang Rong is hiding, Miss Qu agrees, but later loudly asks ‘the girls who eats watermelons’ (Huang Rong) to help her. In other words, Miss Qu doesn’t figure out that Huang Rong is asking for her presence not to be revealed at all, all Miss Qu understands that she shoudn’t *say* that Huang Rong is present.

She also obsesses on things which many people would not – for example, when Huang Rong hits her in the stomach, Miss Qu is far more interested in the fact that she (Miss Qu) is NOT crying, and that Huang Rong IS crying, and is very proud of not crying when Huang Rong is crying. She is obsessed with playing and eating, which is actually pretty ordinary, but she only tries to get playtime and food by simple straightforward means, and doesn’t think through the consequences of pursuing these things.

It is so easy to take a mental shortcut and simply say “Miss Qu is very stupid”, and nearly all readers (including myself, I admit) take that shortcut since our culture has trained us to think about people that way. Actually breaking down what Miss Qu can, cannot, and does do takes much more effort.

What I find most interesting is the way that Huang Yaoshi reacts to her. Most characters treat Miss Qu like a piece of furniture – possibly useful, possibly useless, something which can be destroyed (or killed) without feeling guilt, and most of all, as something without agency. Huang Yaoshi is the exception. When he realizes that Miss Qu is the daughter of his former student, Qu Lingfeng, he immediately accepts Miss Qu as a member of his family, and treats her accordingly. If I recall correctly, he is the only character who makes a point of calling her ‘Miss Qu’ instead of ‘Shǎgū’. He also endeavours to teach her more martial arts, and even though she learns very, very slowly, he does not give up on her, or stop treating her like a family member. Most of all, he treats Miss Qu as someone who has inherent worth.

Huang Yaoshi is not a ‘nice’ guy. In fact, his nickname can be translated into English as ‘the Eastern Evil’ (though it’s more like ‘the Eastern Heretic’). He is proud of the fact that he ignores social conventions, and he sometimes uses this as a justification for doing things which most people would consider to be unethical. However, I think this is an instance where ignoring social conventions – in this case, ignoring ableism – actually leads him to behave in a more ethical manner than anyone else.

Yu Daiyan

Yu Daiyan is the most minor character I’m going to discuss here. In fact, I’m skipping some characters with disabilities who are more important than Yu Daiyan. However, I think the relationship between Yu Daiyan and his brothers (as in, students of the same teacher, not biological brothers) in the Wudang sect reflects concerns common among people with disabilities.

In The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre, all of Yu Daiyan’s limbs are paralyzed. He is very much alive, in fact, he is alive at the end of the story. He is one of the seven apprentices of Zhang Sanfeng, and it’s often noted, both within the novel itself and by readers, how close the apprentices are to each other, and how much they care about each other.

And yet … when one of the apprentices, or maybe Zhang Sanfeng himself (I don’t remember) talks about those who have been lost/died, Yu Daiyan is included, even though he is living with the other members of the Wudang sect. Saying that Zhang Cuishan is gone/lost is fair enough since he disappeared without a trace for ten years. Yu Daiyan? Not so much. I give the people of Wudang credit for taking care of Yu Daiyan, but it’s pretty clear that they think that having all of one’s limbs paralyzed is equivalent, or almost equivalent, to being dead.

Later in The Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre, one character discovers a possible ‘cure’ for Yu Daiyan’s condition. The people of Wudang are all very excited about the possibly of a cure except … wait for it … Yu Daiyan himself. Yu Daiyan himself thinks that his limbs have been paralyzed for twenty years, and that his life has been okay, and that he doesn’t have much to gain by being ‘cured’. I find it interesting that the people of Wudang, who supposedly have such great camaraderie, have so little insight into Yu Daiyan’s thoughts and feelings.

Ouyang Feng

Near the end of The Eagle-Shooting Heroes, one of the major characters, Ouyang Feng, loses the ability to distinguish reality and what is happening in his own imagination. He also loses the ability to understand many of his own memories. He is convinced that his own shadow is ‘Ouyang Feng’ and wants to hurt him, thus he runs from his own shadow.

Again, there is no DSM in the story, so there is no ‘modern’ diagnosis for Ouyang Feng’s condition.

This is an example of the trope of ‘mentally ill = evil’ being subverted.

In The Eagle-Shooting Heroes, Ouyang Feng is one of the main villains, at least before his mental breakdown. However, in The Giant Eagle and His Companion, he is actually … well, based on his behavior at least, he’s one of the good guys. He takes in an orphaned boy and teaches him some martial arts, which save that boy’s life at a latter time. Granted, he did this because he thought the boy was his own son, but there was still kindness in the act, and the boy is grateful for this adoption. Some of the ‘good’ characters end up abandoning this same vulnerable orphaned boy. Besides this, Ouyang Feng stops scheming to hurt people after his mental breakdown. It’s a rare fictional example of a mentally-ill person behaving in a more ethical manner than they did before they became mentally ill.

General Remarks

First of all, I do not want to suggest that this trilogy is 0% ableist. There is some ableism in the trilogy, though I do not think it is ableist on the level of, say, The Secret Garden.

Second, other novels by the same writer (Jin Yong) also have quite a few characters with disabilities. However, even though you would think that martial arts novels would be full of characters who became disabled through all of the violence which happens in martial arts fiction, Jin Yong is actually unique among martial arts writers in this respect. Martial arts novels by other writers tend to feature fewer significant characters with disabilities, and when they do, they are much more inclined to invoke ableist stereotypes, such as ‘disabled = evil’, or to simply make the characters with disabilities mere caricatures.

(Sadly, Chinese culture can be very ableist)

However, I want to see the cup as half full, at least for now. This trilogy offers a lot for people who examine disability in fiction to analyze – I just scratched the surface. And, though I admit I’m not an expert on ‘Jinology’ (the study and analysis of Jin Yong novels), I have done some Jinology reading, and have yet to find any analysis which focuses on disability in Jin Yong novels. If you know of any such analysis (it’s okay if it’s in Chinese) please let me know!

San Francisco Native Plants Spring Salad

So this week, I decided to make a salad only using plants native to San Francisco. And this is what it looks like:

In a bowl, there is a pile of dark green leaves with three, large circular leaves on the outside, covering half of the salad.  The large circular leaves each have a flower stem in the center, with tiny white flowers at the top.  Between the large circular leaves are lines formed by small strawberries

The ingredients are:

– Quailbush (Atriplex breweri)
– Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)
– Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)
– Yerba Buena (Clinopodium douglasii, AKA Satureja douglasii, Micromeria douglasii)

All of these plants are native to San Francisco. If you were in what is now San Francisco in the spring of 1000 AD, you would have been able to have found all of these plants growing. I’ve heard that strawberries were particularly common in what is now the Outer Richmond.

RECIPE:

1. First, I got an entire bag full of quailbush leaves. Then I boiled them for about 1-2 minutes (quailbush is edible raw, but I prefer lightly cooked) and then I put them into cold water to cool them quickly, After that, I squeezed water out from the leaves.

2. I took the leaves from an entire bunch of miner’s lettuce, washed them, and mixed them with the cooked quailbush leaves. I set aside three particularly large leaves for decoration.

A bunch of Miner's lettuce

A bunch of Miner’s lettuce

3. I took two sprigs of yerba buena, stripped off the leaves, and mixed with the salad. Yerba buena is often compared to mint, and functions as an herb adding flavor to the salad.

4. I put on the three decorative miner’s lettuce leaves, and put the woodland strawberries on top.

DSCF9095

HOW MAKING A NATIVE PLANT SALAD IS DIFFERENT

None of these ingredients are available in supermarkets, though I occasionally see miner’s lettuce in farmer’s markets. Therefore, I can’t just go to the store and buy some. I had to harvest all of these ingredients myself. All of these plants grow in my backyard, but when I made the salad, I could only harvest the yerba buena in my yard, so I had to harvest the other ingredients elsewhere.

This is a ‘spring’ salad because this is the only time of year you can use all of these ingredients. Sure, it’s trendy to eat ‘foods in season’, but when dealing with ingredients which aren’t for sale using plants in season is your only choice. Quailbush and yerba buena are evergreen, and thus can be eaten at any time of year, but miner’s lettuce is only in season for a few months, and woodland strawberry is also only in season for a few months, and the overlap between the two seasons is not long.

Also, you are limited by whether you can actually find the plants (or get them to grow in a garden). This is particularly a problem for woodland strawberry – I am very lucky to know of a very productive strawberry patch which everybody else ignores.

DSCF9096

HOW I REALLY EAT

This salad is a stunt, just to prove I could make a salad just with plants native to San Francisco.

I like quailbush, and that’s one reason why it’s a main ingredient.

Some people really like miner’s lettuce. I don’t. I think it’s one of the blandest vegetables ever, and I do not care for the texture. I only put it in the salad because it is one of the easiest ingredients for a ‘native plant’ salad. If I weren’t pulling off a stunt, I’d leave it out.

I do like woodland strawberries, and I did like them mixed with the salad. However, I will probably just eat them separately in the future.

I did like the yerba buena in the salad. Perhaps I should put yerba buena in my salads more often.

And finally, I think most salads are improved by adding vinegar, and even though I tried to eat this salad without vinegar, I eventually lost my resolve and added a bit of vinegar anyway.

Sometime, I’d like to fix a ‘San Francisco forager’s salad’ – a salad made of non-native plants which often grow wild in San Francisco…

Guo Jing as Demisexual

Huang Rong (left) and Guo Jing (right), as depicted in the 1994 television adaptation of The Eagle-Shooting Heroes

Huang Rong (left) and Guo Jing (right), as depicted in the 1994 television adaptation of The Eagle-Shooting Heroes

For those of you who are unaware of Chinese popular literature / culture, Guo Jing is the protagonist of The Eagle-Shooting Heroes (Shè​ Diāo​ Yīng​xióng​ Zhuàn​), which is one of the most popular Chinese novels ever, and thus one of the most widely read novels of the 20th century. It is more popular in the Chinese-speaking world than Harry Potter is in the English-speaking world, and it has been that way since it was first published in the 1950s.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that Guo Jing may be demisexual. Now, I headcanon him as being demisexual.

And … it’s pretty darn close to being canon that he is demisexual. The novel is very specific about him not being sexually attracted to Huang Rong until they’ve become emotionally close to each other, and it is heavily implied that he is never sexually attracted to anybody else for his entire life. After thinking it through, it’s hard for me to think of him as ~not~ being demisexual.

In the Asexual Agenda’s interview with Robin from Taiwan, Robin says “Also, the Chinese culture considers everyone to be demisexual, so it is supposed to be normal not to have sexual desires outside of marriage.” On the one hand, I disagree with his assessment of ‘Chinese’ culture – I have encountered many examples in Chinese-language media of people expressing sexual interest in strangers. On the other hand, I see his point. I have noticed way more characters who could be interpreted as demisexual in Chinese popular literature than in English popular literature. Furthermore, being plausibly-demisexual is idealized, and showing too much sexual interest in strangers is considered a character flaw.

I do not want this to be construed as meaning that being allosexual (as opposed to demisexual) is stigmatized in Chinese culture. I am really not a good person to judge this for quite a few reasons, but my (possibly incorrect) understanding is that, in real life as opposed to fictional dramas, Chinese cultures regard being sexually attracted to strangers as annoying/unfortunate, but it can’t be helped and doesn’t reflect badly on one’s character.

As that post in the Asexual Agenda brought up, “Chinese culture doesn’t like to talk about sex”, which is my experience is very true. It took me years to even learn what the Mandarin word for ‘sex’ is since it’s hardly ever used, and even now I have difficulty using the word correctly because I almost never encounter native speakers using it, and thus can’t get an intuitive sense of it. English speakers have a tendency to use the word ‘sexy’ to mean ‘good’ or ‘appealing’ even in non-sexual contexts … suffice to say, Chinese speakers do NOT have that tendency.

This is no doubt a relief for people who prefer not to have sex constantly brought up in conversation. The flipside is that it is harder to know how other Chinese speakers experience their sexuality. Even in the English speaking world, plenty of asexuals assume everyone is asexual until they one day realize that other people really do experience sexual attraction/feelings. I imagine this is even more intense in the Chinese-speaking world, possibly to the point that even allosexuals may think that many people are really like demisexual Guo Jing.

Yes, lets get back to fictional wuxia characters.

Even though there are plenty of wuxia characters who might be demisexual, I think Guo Jing is the only one I can think of (I might think of others if I really prodded my memory) who fits ‘demisexual’ much better than ‘allosexual’. Characters who have as much evidence of being demisexual as Guo Jing are actually not that common at all, if only because the kind of details which would really shift the odds from ‘allosexual’ to ‘demisexual’ are often not included because of a generally tendency not to talk so much about sex.

Just to do a quick comparison with other Jin Yong protagonists (because they are easy for me to review in my mind quickly)…

Chen Jialuo – probably heterosexual
Yuan Chengzhi – probably heterosexual
Yang Guo – I’ve discussed this plenty already
Zhang Wuji – almost certainly heterosexual
Hu Fei – almost certainly heterosexual
Di Yun – possibly heterosexual, possibly demisexual
Duan Yu – almost certainly heterosexual
Qiao Feng – not much evidence in any direction
Xu Zhu – probably heterosexual
Shi Potian – I don’t remember
Linghu Chong – definitely heterosexual
Wei Xiaobao – definitely heterosexual

Not many characters who I can headcanon as demisexual. Jin Yong characters tend to notice pretty quickly when a certain person is really pretty and special, and it’s plausible (and in some cases, confirmed) that this interest has a sexual component from the start. It’s only in Guo Jing’s case that it’s spelled out that the sexual component to his feelings for Huang Rong doesn’t come until he’s been close to her for months. Of course, it’s obvious that Yang Guo was close to Xiaolongnü for years without any sexual feelings for her, but since it’s never demonstrated ever that he has sexual (as opposed to romantic) feelings for her, I interpret it as those sexual feelings never existing.

Finally, I personally like to headcanon Guo Jing as demisexual, Yang Guo as monoamorous asexual, and Zhang Wuji as polyamorous heterosexual because they are each protagonists of a single part of the Shooting Eagles trilogy. I like how they complement each other in quite a few ways – for example, their approaches to vengeance – and show different faces of the human experience. Think of them as demisexual – asexual – heterosexual adds yet another layer of contrast.


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To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
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rights to this work.

The Emergence of Asexual Culture

This is for the April 2015 Canival of Aces: An Asexual Culture?

I think asexual culture is still very amorphous, and it will take more time for it to emerge into a distinctive form.

I presume that AVEN has its own culture, but I don’t think AVEN culture = asexual culture, since as an asexual who has never been a member of AVEN, I am one of the last people who would assume that anything representative of AVEN is representative of aces in general.

Ditto for Tumblr.

If aces hardly ever interacted with other aces, would it be possible for an asexual culture to emerge. I’m not an anthropologist, but my guess is no.

I think what it will really take to further the development of an asexual culture is for … aces to spend more time with each other. That could be online – aces devoting hours every day interacting with each other, or it could be offline. I don’t think it would require a majority of aces – just enough to establish a critical mass.

There are the little in-jokes about cake, and the black rings, and Sherlock (none of which I participate in, by the way) but I think these are only the most superficial signs of a culture.

The one thing I can point to which I think reveals something deeper about asexual culture, or rather what it might become, is in this post by Stormy O’Brink

So entering an asexual space for the first time was a refreshing kind of subculture shock. I didn’t have to worry about gay boys touching my chest, or women trying to cop a feel, or being expected to hug a stranger who smells bad. I could just exist and actually own my body. I heard stories from other people who felt the same way. One man in the group told me that aces in Chicago have cuddle parties so people can embrace touch without the threat of it turning into sex. Others told me stories of relationships in which all touch was subjected to affirmative consent. I felt euphoria when I heard these stories- it meant there was hope for my life. I wanted a place where I didn’t have to worry about the hypersexualized and unwanted touching I’d grown so used to.

I think requiring consent for touch – and openness about touch aversions – may become part of asexual culture, especially as more and more ace activities happen offline. And this is / will be a good thing.

I could make some other guesses, but I think they would be too much of a long-shot. I don’t think the queer people in San Francisco in the 1920s would have been able to imagine what queer culture in San Francisco would be like in the 1970s, but they also probably already had tendencies which latter got embedded in 1970s queer culture. So I’m going to sit back, and hope that I enjoy this ride into the future.