Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 1)

You don’t need a reason to climb up a tree at 1:00 AM. It’s simply part of being primates that we all climb up trees at 1 AM on a regular basis. It’s an expression of our monkey urges. That’s also why I’m eating an apple right now – primates eat fruit. That’s why we have color vision – to identify the ripe fruit by moonlight in those trees we climb up at 1 AM.

Oh, so you don’t climb up trees at 1 AM



WHY NOT????!!!!!

Do you have some kind of health problem which forces you to to sleep at 1 AM? Do you have a mobility impairment which stops you? Are you afraid of heights? C’mon, there has to be a ~reason~.

You mean you never THOUGHT about it before? Like, you never asked yourself even once ‘Why am I not climbing trees at 1 AM in the morning?’

***

One of the most quoted lines in this post is “under compulsory sexuality, you need a *reason* to opt out of sex rather than a reason to opt-in in the first place.” I’ve realized this line deserves its own post.

This post about compulsory sexuality is becoming really long, so I’m turning it into a series.

My default is ~not having sex~. It’s not a conscious decision I made. I never had a long hard thinking session, and concluded ‘I am not going to have sex’. Not having sex is simply the path of least resistance for me.

Deviating from that path – in other words, consenting to sex – would require changing my default setting, a conscious decision, and most importantly, I would need a reason.

I think many of you can see where I am going with this ‘What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM?’ analogy.

But first, an exploration of what it means for something to be ‘compulsory’.

*** TRUE STORY ***

A few years ago, my grandmother was in a real fix. The short version was that she was going to lose the care (medical, physical, psychological) that she needs to have a decent life, which was ultimately going to make her die sooner, and put her through lots of needless suffering before she got there.

How could my grandmother keep the care she needed? Approval from certain bureaucrats.

However, these weren’t any bureaucrats, they were Untouchable Bureaucrats. My aunt said she tried, but that nobody ever manages to even contact these bureaucrats, let alone get them to make a favorable decision within a reasonable time (and time was important – we were months away from losing the care my grandmother needs, and once gone it was not going to come back). To hear my aunt tell it, these bureaucrats were practically living on Mt. Olympus with the Greek gods, and no mere mortal could dream to ever enter their mysterious presence.

My mom had a different understanding of the sitution…

TO BE CONTINUED…


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The Asexual Community & Veg*n Communities, Conclusion

So, what does asexuality mean for veg*n communities? As I said in Part 1 Part 1, not much. However, even though compulsory sexuality / hostility towards aces doesn’t manifest too frequently in veg*n communities, some people do hold those attitudes, and a greater number do things such as, say, equate love with sex. That said, since there is a core group of people who are deeply involved in the asexual movement and veg*n movements, I expect that veg*n movements will become ace-friendly at a faster pace than society in general (or, more specifically, the vegn*n movements which have a core group of vocal aces will become ace-friendly at a faster pace).

What does veg*nism mean for asexuality. Again, not much. Both asexuality and veg*nism have been placed into the social justice view of the world (asexuals as a non-privileged group, veg*ns as allies of nonhuman animals), yet I don’t think the social justice model of the world is the best fit for understanding asexuality or veg*nism (though some asexuals and veg*ns disagree with me), and both often get attacked by social justice activists.

The fact that is such a large number of veg*ns in the asexual movement means that thoughts, ideas, and tool of the veg*n movements are no doubt making their way into the asexual movement as well. I suppose the flow of ideas could go the other way as well, but considering just how much bigger veg*n movements are than the asexual movement, I think more will flow from veg*n -> asexual.

There are also times when there is a clash between non-veg*n and veg*n asexuals. I described an example in Part 2, and Talia describes their own experience.

So When Is the Ace Vegetarian Club Going to Open?

That’s a really good question. Another good question is where will it be, since of course it has to be an offline club – how else are we going to be able to share yummy vegan food? Would anybody join a San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Ace Vegetarian Club?

The Asexual Community & Veg*n Communities, Part 4

Swankivy has noticed that “people react to my asexuality the same as they react to my vegetarianism sometimes. (Vegetarianism comes up more often because I eat with people I don’t know well more often than I talk Sex Things with people I don’t know well, but asexuality is more commonly reacted to with bullshit in my experience.)”

I only reveal my asexual identity to a few people (well, except in ace spaces), whereas I simply can’t be as careful with revealing my veg*nism (nor would I want to). The result is that, actually, I get a lot more flak for being veg*n (particularly vegan, but I also got these kinds of reactions as a semi-vegetarian) than I ever do for being asexual. This may be different if a wider range of people knew I were asexual.

I haven’t encountered all of the reactions which Swankivy has encountered, but I definitely have encountered some of them, and I have also noticed the similarity to the bullshit arguments people use justify compulsory sexuality and, for lack of a better term, compulsory carnism. I coin the phrase ‘compulsory carnism’ because there is a distinction between supporting animal abuse oneself, but being okay with others not supporting it, and feeling that everyone should support animal abuse.

Yes, I am bringing atheism into the fray, because many of these bullshit arguments are also directed at atheists. Compare this list of bullshit ‘arguments’ against asexuality compiled by Swankivy to this list of bullshit arguments against atheism compiled by Greta Christina. A lot of the ‘arguments’ in both lists are very similar, such as ‘you asexuals/atheists think you are so superior’. Do veg*ns get this type of bullshit argument. Why yes – in fact, I have gotten that specific argument far more often as a vegan than as an asexual and atheist combined.

This is a cartoon by Vegan Sidekick, and I've had a conversation very much like this (well, someone said something very similar to the person on the right, I admit my reaction was a little different from the figure on the left).

This is a cartoon by Vegan Sidekick, and I’ve had a conversation very much like this (well, someone said something very similar to the person on the right, I admit my reaction was a little different from the figure on the left).

And then there is the argument about how ‘you asexuals/atheists/veg*ns are so close-minded’, which is utterly ridiculous if you have experience being asexual/atheist/veg*n. Most asexual-spectrum people once thought they were something other than asexual-spectrum, often straight, but sometimes gay or bisexual. And we tend to continually question our orientation, as discused in the Carnival of Aces about ‘Doubt’. Likewise, most atheists did not grow up as atheist, and later changed their minds and became atheists (once again, Greta Christina addresses the question ‘Are Atheists open-minded’. There are many people who grow up as veg*n and never question it – for example, many Hindus and Jains in India, but in first world societies, very few people grow up as vegans, and most vegans transitioned as adults, and were previously non-veg*n. Yet non-veg*n people who have never been veg*n tell us that we don’t understand them, and that we are close-minded.

vegansidekick4

You know, when I first started this series, I was planning to write about how the bullshit ‘arguments’ used against asexuality and veg*nism are related to how asexuality and veg*nism both challenge the ‘right’ of ‘dominant’ people to take the meat/sex they want, and draw on the ‘sexual politics of meat’ (I’ve never read the book, but I can guess what it’s about), and tied this all to a cultural sense opposed to straight-edgeness. I still think there is something to that, but I dragged atheism into this, and the fact that such similar bullshit arguments are used against atheism, which has nothing to do with straight-edgeness or the sexual politics of meat, really throws a wrench in the work. Curse you atheists for collapsing my hypothesis!

So, my new thesis is this – when people cannot think up a rational argument to invalidate asexuality, or to challenge atheism, or to justify animal abuse, they have to resort to knee-jerk bullshit. Or simply ignore us.

In the last part of this series, I will finally evict atheism from this discussion, and discuss what implications there may be for having so many veg*ns in the asexual community.

The Asexual Community & Veg*n Communities, Part 3

This is a submission to the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections, and a continuation of Part 1 and Part 2.

I think, in order to clarify the differences and similarities of the asexual community and veg*n communities, I think it would help to throw in a third group: New/Angry Atheists (henceforth referred to as ‘New Atheists’). I myself am an atheist, though I do not call myself a ‘New Atheist’ – if I misrepresent their position, please correct me.

The asexual community/movement bends itself backwards to point out that it is not trying to ‘recruit’ people or convince anyone to become ‘asexual’. Sometimes, ace-spectrum folk bend so far backwards that they fall down – which is too say, we sometimes expend much effort making ourselves seem ‘acceptable’ to non-asexuals than making ourselves, the ace-spectrum folk, comfortable. Examine how sex-repulsed aces sometimes feel, or this recent post about the lack of sexual content warnings.

Also, the asexual movement’s primary mission is to make things better for asexual-spectrum folk.

The New Atheists, however, are trying to persuade non-atheists to become atheists. They think theism is mistaken. Yet I, as an atheist, do not think theism is unethical, and I think the vast majority of New Atheists agree with me that theism is not unethical.

The mission of the New Atheists is two-fold – first, it is to make things better for atheists, such as atheists who get death threats (an in some societies, killed) because they publicly say they are atheists, and second, to improve the world by persuading more people to stop being mistaken and become atheist. The ‘make things better for atheists’ part itself is two-fold – first, it is to help each other, and second, the easier it is to be openly atheist, the more people will be willing to be openly atheist, which furthers the ‘improve the world by persuading more to become atheist’ part of the mission.

The organized veg*n movements are generally based on ethical positions and/or religion. I don’t want to go into the religiously based movements, but people in the movements based on ethical positions think that killing animals because ‘it tastes good’, torturing animals, sexually abusing animals, and otherwise abusing animals is unethical. This is very different from the asexual movement, which considers being non-asexual to be okay, and even the New Atheist movement, which generally does not consider theism to be unethical.

Veganism (as well as some other veg*n movements, but this is particularly true of veganism) are primarily focused on reducing harm to nonhuman animals. Given that all veg*ns are human (yes, many nonhuman animals are herbivores, but that’s not the same), veganism (and some other veg*n movements) are not about making better for people inside the movement. There is an element of ‘making things easier for vegans’ but the purpose behind that is to encourage more people to go vegan, and thus reduce the harm being done to animals. If it weren’t about reducing harm to animals, there wouldn’t be much point in being vegan, and thus there wouldn’t be much reason to make things easier for vegans.

However, that said, there are definitely things in common in these three movements beyond the fact that the membership of these movements overlap to some degree. Ironically, even though the positions of these three different (sets of) movements are so different, both in content and stance (not being asexual is OK, being a theist is mistaken but not unethical, abusing/harming nonhuman animals or paying others to abuse/harm nonhuman animals when there are alternatives is unethical), many of the ‘arguments’ used against them look a lot alike. And that will be the topic of Part 4.

The Asexual Community & Veg*n Communities, Part 2

This is a submission to the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections, and a continuation of Part 1.

As I said in the previous part, a critical difference between the asexual movement and the vegan movement (though not all veg*n movements) is that asexuals are not trying to make other people asexual, or think it is unethical to be non-asexual, whereas vegans do think non-veganism is unethical and try to persuade others to transition.

This post, which compares asexual experience to veg*n experience made me angry, and I even wrote a long reply before I thought better of it. Because it is a good illustration of a) how asexual activists and ethics-based veg*ns are different and b) is an example of fail within the asexual community which others should try not to repeat, I will address it.

That post describes various forms of veg*ism as “affinity for certain foods”, and says things like “a person who despises or is indifferent to fish is still capable of eating it, and may, to please someone they care about” suggesting that it a matter of personal preference rather than an ethical stance, and “She wants companionship, but won’t cook with meat, eggs or dairy, as her personal principles are too high a price to pay for it. She yearns for a culinary companion who would be able to satisfy this need, but is far too afraid of depriving someone of an important part of their diet to pursue such a thing” (the bold is mine). The problem is that is not what any form of veg*ism I am familiar with is like. For example, if I can temporarily forget about the ethical problems, I think fish is delicious, but that does not justify eating it, and I wouldn’t eat it just to ‘please someone I care about’, just as I wouldn’t slam a kitten against a concrete wall just to ‘please someone I care about’. Likewise, I have no problems with ‘depriving of someone of an important part of their diet’ if that ‘part of their diet’ requires abusing animals, since humans can live without eating animals vegans are proof of that. To me, suggesting that veg*ns are ‘far too afraid of depriving someone of an important part of their diet’ is like suggesting than people who are opposed to animal cruelty wouldn’t want to get into close relationships with someone who slams kittens into concrete walls because they would be ‘far too afraid of depriving someone of an important part of their pleasures’.

There are people who strongly dislike eating animals or animal secretions – for example, my mother hates eating eggs, hates it so strongly that even being in the presence of being in the presence of someone cooking or eat eggs makes her uncomfortable. This is not based on an ethical stance or an attempt to be ‘healthy’ – it’s a gut reaction. My mom, however, has never identified as a veg*n based on this.

To be honest, when people asked me when I was a semi-vegetarian ‘Why don’t you eat meat?’ I sometimes did say ‘I don’t like the way meat tastes’. But that was not an entirely sincere response. The main reason I chose a response like that is that, if I answered that it was because of ethical concerns (whether due to animal welfare or the environment), I could get a very hostile reaction, and when I was relatively new to veg*ism I wanted to avoid the hostility. Based on the people I’ve talked to, the people who don’t eat animals or animal secretions simply because of an ‘affinity’ don’t identify as veg*n, and that many people who are veg*n (including myself) love the way some animal-based foods taste and would start eating them again if we stopped thinking it was unethical.

Panel 1 - A: 'I'm concerned with the environment, so I recycle and use public transport' B: That's nice / Panel 2: I'm concerned with human rights. So I don't buy clothing made in sweat shops.  B: That's nice / Panel 3 - A: I'm concerned with animal testing, so I don't buy products which are tested on animals B: That's nice / Panel 4 A: I'm concerned with animal slaughter so I went vegan B: Oh, so you're saying that I'm not concerned about animals? And anyway, you need to check your privilege not everyone is rich enough to afford vegetables and rice.

A cartoon by Vegan Sidekick

Now the writer does acknowledge that analogies are never perfect, and went to mention what they consider to be flaws in the analogy – ‘I didn’t mention the carnivores who didn’t like eggs and dairy, representing aromantic non-asexuals’. Not, you know, the glaring problem that being asexual is not an ethical stance, but that for many committed veg*ns, it is.

Okay, so the person who wrote “Analogy to an Asexual Experience” doesn’t actually understand the experiences of veg*ns, but so what? Why would that make me angry? After all, I don’t get angry every time I’m misunderstood.

I think it made me so angry because, first of all, they were claiming to speak for me, as someone who is asexual and vegan, while clearly not understanding my position. The writer says “This is quite close to what being asexual sometimes feels like, for me” and I agree, being asexual is sometimes like that for me too, but being semi-vegetarian or vegan is not.

Second, as a semi-vegetarian, and 100x more as a vegan, no matter how much I try to explain what I mean when I say I am a veg*n, what veganism means, even if they asked me to talk about it in the first place, they refuse to listen to what I say. Therefore, I get very, very frustrated when non-vegans talk about what vegans think when it’s clear that they don’t actually know what vegans think. Ironically, it’s a bit like when non-asexuals talk about what asexuals think when it’s clear they don’t actually know. However, I can say from personal experience, that the difficulties of being vegan are very different from the difficulties of being asexual.

I guess I really needed to get this off my chest, because I didn’t plan to make this entire post about that. Oh well. In the next part, I will discuss not only asexuality and veg*nism, but also atheism, because for once I actually have something to say about atheism and asexuality.

The Asexual Community & Veg*n Communities, Part 1

This is for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections. Also, veg*n stands for ‘vegan and/or vegetarian’, and, when I use the term ‘veg*n’, I also include semi-vegetarians.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem like asexuality and veg*nism have much to do with each other at all, and in a way, they shouldn’t have anything to do with each other.

The End.

Okay, you know that’s not really the end, especially since this is a multi-part post.

The most obvious connection between the asexuality community and veg*n communities is, there are an awful lot of veg*ns (particularly vegans) in the asexuality community, in much higher proportions than you would find in mainstream society.

Okay, back that up. There is a much higher proportion of veg*ns in the English-language asexuality community than in English-language societies in general (excluding India). In a Hokkien-language or Hindi-language asexuality community, encountering so many veg*ns would not be strange at all.

Are there a disproportionate number of ace-spectrum folk in veg*n communities? I don’t know the answer, but my guess is ‘no’.

So … why does the asexual community have a disproportionate number of veg*ns? Again, I don’t know the answer, but I can speculate…

1) First of all, anyone who has spare time and energy to interact extensively with the asexual community has a degree of privilege. Now, many of the world’s poorest people eat an almost entirely plants-based diet because it requires less resources, but they don’t identify as veg*n, and among the subset of people who have regular internet access, veg*nism is somewhat correlated with privilege. I’m not talking about privilege on the scale of multi-billionaire vs. someone who makes 120,000 USD per year and has less than 1 million USD of wealth, more on the scale of those people who make 120,000 USD per year vs. someone who works at McDonald’s because it’s their least bad economic option and, since they aren’t paid a living wage, they have to take advantage of free McDonald’s meals to fill their stomach.

2) Second, the asexual community is a nascent community. In particular, I mostly interact with other ace bloggers, who are particularly likely to be activists and/or intellectuals. Guess what is somewhat correlated with being veg*n? Being an activist and/or intellectual.

3) Third – I think this is the really interesting one – is straight-edgeness. I wasn’t even aware of the term ‘straight-edge’ until this thread at the Asexual Agenda, but I’ve been subconsciously aware of the idea for a long, long time.

I used to be the bleeding edge of straightness (not to be confused with hetero orientations). I wasn’t having any kind of sex, I had never had more than a sip of alcohol, I was a semi-vegetarian who then became a vegan, and I totally abstained from anything with more caffeine than chocolate. I’m still very straight-edge – it’s been months since I’ve drunk anything alcoholic, I am still not having any kind of sex, I am still vegan, and I still don’t drink coffee – I’m just not quite on the bleeding edge anymore.

Vegans often get very annoyed with the concept of ‘straight-edge’ (even if they don’t name it that). Veganism is about ethics first, and vegans don’t have any ethical objection to drinking alcohol. In fact, I’ve met vegans who are *very fond* of drinking alcohol, and proud of it. Sex does not come up so much … well, except maybe for the times when vegans try to make veganism seem ‘sexy’ in order to persuade more people to go vegan, or when trying to get vegan condoms. But even so, alcohol consumption (or lack thereof) and sexual activity (or lack thereof) doesn’t have much to do with the question of whether it is right or wrong to skin, debeak, cage, force-feed, steal milk from, sexually assault, boil alive, grind up alive, slaughter, or otherwise torture/enslave nonhuman animals. Vegans (including myself) are irritated when people associate veganism with straight-edgeness because we consider an evasion of important ethical questions. In other words, if someone brings up straight-edgeness in connection with veganism, it’s probably because they don’t understand veganism.

And that is a key difference between asexuality and veganism (and many other kinds of veg*nism, though veg*nism is so broad it’s hard to generalize) – asexuals are generally only trying to become comfortable themselves, not to persuade others to become asexual, or to claim that it’s unethical to be non-asexual. Vegans, on the other hand, often try to persuade others to become vegan, and do consider being non-vegan to be unethical. Understanding this key difference is so important that I will dedicate the next part of this series to it.

Ah, but if I am so irritated by veganism being linked to straight-edgeness, why did I put that on my list of why there may be a disproportionate number of veg*ns in the asexual community? Simple – if you’re already openly straight-edge on one axis, it may be easier to be openly straight-edge on a another axis. I sure know that it’s much easier to openly talk about how I don’t drink (much) alcohol in the asexual community than in a lot of other places. That said, it is no easier to talk about abstaining from caffeine among Taiwanese veg*ns than other Taiwanese people, which implies that this hypothesis has its limitations.

The Hardest Thing about Being Vegan

Panel 1 - A: I agree that animal abuse is wrong.  But veganism is too hard. B: Have you ever tried going vegan? / Panel 2 - A: No B: Do you want me to give you some recipes and examples of cruelty-free toiletries? / Panel 3 - A: No. B: So you just want to complain about how hard veganism is without trying it or even learning about it? / Panel 4 - A: Now you're talking my language, high-five.

Cartoon by Vegan Sidekick

When (non-vegan) people say ‘It must be hard to be a vegan’ and ‘Isn’t it hard to be a vegan’, I don’t know how to respond. The part that they think is hard – giving up on torturing, killing and eating animals with central nervous systems – was actually much easier for me than I expected. Thus I am tempted to say ‘It’s easy’. However, there is another aspect to being vegan which is hard – living in a society which encourages practices which you feel are ethically wrong. However, very few non-vegans understand this, because they are either don’t know how much harm they do to beings with free will capable of pain, or they are in deep denial. That is why I will almost never say ‘it is hard’, because most will assume that it means something other than what I actually mean, and if you think it’s easy to explain it to them, you’re clearly don’t have much experience telling people that things they do habitually are unethical.

There are many facets to ‘living in a society which encourages practices which you feel are ethically wrong’. For vegans, this sometimes means ‘lack of convenient/suitable vegan food/clothes/toiletries/etc.’ However, I have worked out most of the practical problems, so I now feel that being vegan is only slightly less convenient than being non-vegan.

The facet which is hard for me is … other people. Specifically, non-vegan people. Sometimes, when a person I respect or admire suddenly makes a reference to their support for the torture and killing of animals for pleasure, it makes my heart sink a little. That does not mean that I necessarily stop respecting or admiring them – I used to support the torture and killing of animals myself – but it is disappointing.

And that’s people who I don’t interact with personally. When it is someone who I have a close personal relationship with, often a relationship which existed before I became a vegan – it’s even harder. You can try to explain, you can try to persuade … but if they still don’t get it? Do you continue a personal relationship with someone with such ethical values? Even if cutting off all such personal ties means that your close personal relationships can only be with other vegans? Might such social isolation be harmful in the long run to non-human animals, since if we vegans cut ourselves off too much from non-vegans, how can we hope to create meaningful change?

Furthermore, how much persuasion is not enough, how much is too much? Too much means that people won’t listen, won’t change, and ultimately will torture and kill more animals. Not enough also means people won’t listen, won’t change, and ultimately will torture and kill more animals. Is it better to show righteous anger, or to show calmness and patience?

And it’s also very tempting to turn an attempt to ‘persuade’ someone into an attack. The vast majority of vegans have thought about these issues much more than most non-vegans, and are much better informed about the facts, and for those reasons alone have the upper hand in many debates (I think vegans also have an upper hand because we are right, but just having spent more time thinking and researching about these issues by itself is an advantage). It is much easier to ‘win’ by making the other person feel bad than to ‘win’ by actually getting them to choose a better path. I think this might be why there are so many ‘vegan police’ – there is an emotional satisfaction to picking all of the faults with other people’s ‘veganess’, whereas the slow work of changing hearts and minds does not offer such instant gratification.

Aside from staying within ethical limits, when I face these dilemmas, I try to think of what would ultimately be of greatest benefit to the animals who are suffering, whether in factory farms or degrading wild habitats, and use that to point the way. But that is often not obvious.


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