Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 3)

Most people would have just figured I was stuck with the bad math teacher and the bad French teacher. My mother did not make this assumption, and she thought I had no business being a class which was neither useful nor enjoyable.

Given that switching to another teacher was not an option because a) no other math teacher taught a class which fit my schedule and b) there was only one French teacher in the school, my mother asked the question: do I really need to take these classes?

It turns out I could test out of these classes. I took the final exam for the math class, got a C, and thus got into the next level of math class … which landed me with the same bad math teacher again. However, it was an improvement, since I was with a different student group who managed to make the class mildly entertaining with their sense of humor.

I actually didn’t mind the first year of French so much, since I started not knowing French at all, and through my own efforts to study on my own (at first with the textbook, and later with resources such as French in Action. The teacher mostly let me ignore the class and do my own studying in a corner, as long as was studying French. However, by the second year, I was tired of this.

Well, it turns out that I only needed to take 1 year of a foreign language to get a high school diploma, and I already had that. The school only told us we should study a foreign language for 2-3 years because universities required that for admission (at my high school it was assumed most students would go to university after high school graduation). But there was a way around this – I could take the SAT Subject Test in a language such as French instead, and if I got a high score, the universities wouldn’t mind that I only took one year of French in high school. And the SAT French test I took only tests reading – and it’s multiple choice.

Thus I got out of second year French, and since I didn’t put any other class in that slot in the schedule, I got to come to school at 9:20 AM instead of 8 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sleeping in for the win!

All of these experiences no doubt contributed to my cynicism towards formal education. At the same time, I also appreciate that my high school was set up in such as way – partially by accident, partially by design – to push students to shape their own education to some degree, rather than acting like passive receptacles of knowledge.

Storytime is over. In the next post, I’ll get back to the topic of compulsory sexuality.

What Surprised Me about Blogging about Asexuality

This is for the March Carnival of Aces, which is themed as ‘Writing About Asexuality’.

I decided to name this blog ‘the notes which do not fit’ so it could be a place where I could put writing which I want to be public, but which I can’t place somewhere else. At the time I started this blog, asexuality was the topic which I most wanted to write about publicly for which I didn’t have some other forum, but this blog is first a Whatever Sara Wants to Write About Blog, and only an ‘asexuality’ blog in a secondary sense. That is why there is no ‘aseuxality’ or ‘ace’ or any reference to such in the title.

One reason there is such a high concentration of writing about asexuality (and aromanticism) on this blog is that, when I want to write a lot about something else, I tend to find another place to do it. For example, I wrote the ‘It Came from the Sinosphere’ column at Manga Bookshelf, and right now I have my own blog about travelling in South Korea (and if I ever decide to do a significant bit of writing about my travels elsewhere in East Asia I will probably not do it here at ‘the notes which do not fit’).

All of this implies that asexuality/aromanticism is something I care about which is harder to fit in elsewhere.

Now, once I started blogging on a regular basis, I assumed that the ‘notes’ I wrote would only get a few readers, but I still wanted to write it. For example, I expected ‘”Going to College” and the Old Neighborhood’ to get very few readers – a prediction which so far is totally true, by the way. And I assumed that asexuality-themed posts would be likewise not-very-much-read.

Probably my most-read blog post ever “A language learner’s guide to reading comics in Chinese”, and my other guest posts at Hacking Chinese are pretty widely read relative to most things I’ve written. This is partially because Hacking Chinese is an excellent blog which has a large readership, and deserves even more.

My second-most read blog posts on the internet? My asexuality/aromanticism blogging, particularly if I am also talking about fiction, though “Why Are Sex-Indifferent Aces Assumed to be Open to Sex” also seems to have touched a nerve.

I’m surprised by this result. Something which I expected to be read by about, say, three strangers on the internet, is being read by a lot more than three people. And it’s asexuality of all things.

I think it’s because there is a rather large group of people who really really want to read about asexuality and easiest place to find in-depth writing about asexuality is ace blogs. I remember back in late 2009/early 2010 reading and reading and reading ace blogs (and you can probably guess which blogs those were, since there weren’t so many ace blogs back then). Even though only a small fraction of those people on ace-blog reading binges ever find their way here, apparently some of them do.

All of this means I’m doing the right thing by writing about asexuality and aromanticism. We need more of it.


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Hey! What reason do you have to NOT climb up a tree at 1 AM? (Part 2)

I started telling this story in Part 1.

My mother reasoned that these Untouchable Bureaucrats are in fact mortal, and that they have offices somewhere which she can physically visit. Having once worked as a journalist, she has practical experience with getting interviews with people who are hard to find.

She did in fact find these bureaucrats, and she even got them to make a decision favorable to my grandmother, which everyone told her would be impossible. It was a horrible process – I think my mother said she broke down in tears once (note: I have never, ever seen my mother break down in tears, which demonstrates just how rare that is) but she did it.

So what does this story have to do with the concept of ‘compulsory’? Mainly, I needed to establish my mother as a character for my next story…

***

ANOTHER TRUE STORY

High schools, in California and much of the world, have ‘compulsory subjects’ – classes you must pass in order to get a high school diploma.

I went to a small high school. This could cause scheduling problems. For example, when I took Physics in my junior year, that was the only physics class offered the entire year. Yep, just one physics class. The class had sophomores, juniors, and seniors because … well, to make a long story short, this was practically the last chance we had to take a high school physics class, even for the sophomores.

Of course, that was nothing compared to the drama around Physical Education (P.E.) credits. I think, starting my sophomore or junior year, my high school actually started offering two P.E. classes for 30 students each. Considering that California law requires 2 years of P.E. for a high school diploma, this was a bit of a problem. About 30% of the students (myself included) didn’t need to worry about P.E. credits (we were automatically enrolled in dance classes which counted as P.E. classes), but the rest of the students were scrambling to get recognized P.E. credits.

The advantage of this system is that, because the school administrators knew this was a problem, they were much more open input and creative solutions offered by students, which encouraged us to actively shape our education rather than be passive recipients. One student (who, like myself, didn’t need to worry about P.E. credit, but I think he just loved bikes) started a bike-to-school club and made arrangements with the school administration to allow students to get P.E. credit for bicycling to/from school.

One of the biggest disadvantages was, if you got a bad teacher … you could get pretty stuck, since that might be the only teacher teaching that particular class, and even if there was a second teacher, you might not be able to arrange your schedule to get that teacher (especially since everyone else probably wants that better teacher too).

This is how I ended up with a terrible math teacher and a terrible French teacher. Which forced me and my mother to explore just how ‘compulsory’ these classes actually are…

TO BE CONTINUED


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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 situation…

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.