Asexuality and Mandarin

I have never tried to have a conversation about asexuality in Mandarin.

I would like to. But I don’t know how to.

The English-language asexuality community is still developing the language needed to describe our experiences in English … and most of that language is still not understood by fluent English speakers outside of the community.

I once tried to discuss asexuality in English with Taiwanese people who spoke English at a high level. They had a lot of trouble getting what I was talking about. It wasn’t because their English was lacking – it was because they simply had never encountered some of the concepts I was trying to describe.

I would currently rate my Mandarin speaking skills to be at B2. If I have trouble getting Taiwanese people who speak English at a C1 level to understand asexuality when speaking in English, I think it would be nearly impossible for me to try to communicate it with my B2 Mandarin. Especially since I don’t have the vocabulary to have a thorough discussion of sexuality in Mandarin. I can understand the basic words used to describe queerness in Mandarin (such as the word tóngxìngliàn which literally means ‘same-sex (romantic) love’ and is close to the English word ‘homosexual’), but I wouldn’t be able to follow an in-depth discussion on queer theory.

I do, however, understand a lot of the vocabulary related to romance, love, marriage, and so forth, even if I don’t always usan’t always usee it correctly (thank you, my dear Mandarin-language melodramas). And I know that these words often don’t have direct translations to English.

For example, I once asked about same-sex marriage in Mandarin. Mandarin has a number of words for ‘marry’, two of them being (娶) and jià (嫁). is generally used as ‘he her’ and jià is generally used as ‘she jià him’. So I ask how would these words be used in same sex marriage. Some people answered that the more masculine party would the more feminine party. Some people answered that the true meaning of is the stronger party marrying a weaker party, and that the true meaning of jià is the weaker party marrying a stronger party. Thus, in situations where the woman is the stronger party she actually her husband; same-sex marriages can also have stronger and weaker parties. My favorite response, however, is that and jià are very patriarchal concepts, and that only more egalitarian words for marriage (such as hé…jiéhūn) should be used, regardless of whether or not it’s a same sex marriage.

See why I can’t really figure out how to discuss asexuality in Mandarin?

It would really help if I had contact with a Mandarin-speaking asexuality community. They could teach me how to describe asexuality in Mandarin, and would probably understand even my broken Mandarin. But I don’t know how to look for such a community.

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No Such Thing as a ‘Guilty’ Pleasure

I was talking with my uncle. We were walking to the train station, and we passed by a cotton candy seller. I spontaneously decided to buy some cotton candy. My uncle was a little surprised.

As I made the purchase, we were chatting a little, and my uncle said something about cotton candy being a ‘guilty pleasure’, and I instantly replied ‘no, it’s a sweet pleasure. I feel no guilt’. I then said a few words about how I reject the notion of the ‘guilty pleasure’.

Now I feel like giving a full treatment to this topic.

The whole notion of a ‘guilty’ pleasure is that society at large has the right and power to arbitrarily judge people based on their feelings, as well private, harmless behavior. An example of the former is the way society judges people who don’t follow ‘healthy habits’; an example of the latter is the way (queerphobic) society judges people who have queer sex.

I want to deny society that power.

In my view, a pleasure is either ethical, or it is not, If it is an unethical pleasure, I should not feel guilty about it; instead, I should STOP. If a pleasure is ethical, then … why should I feel guilty about it? What, exactly, is wrong with eating cotton candy, or a chocolate bar (okay, I know there are issues around chocolate, but when most people describe feeling ‘guilty’ about eating chocolate, they’re usually not thinking about child slavery or any of the other serious problems in chocolate production).

There are some other dimensions. For example, I might need to do [task], but I instead watch Youtube videos. Failing at time management is not intrinsically unethical, but it’s still a reason I might feel down about myself. Yet even in this kind of situation, I think it’s better to step back and look at the situation rationally. Maybe I was too tired to do anything harder than watch YouTube videos. Maybe I hate doing [task] more than I realized. Maybe [task] is simply less important than YouTube videos after all (this is possible).

And I find feeling ‘guilty’ inhibits this kind of rational analysis.

I find myself being a little happier after having tried to discard the notion of the ‘guilty pleasure’. And this mental shift has even helped me in some of my friendships. People seem to be more comfortable with me once they realize I’m not going to judge them for doing harmless fun activities.

On Weight Loss or (more accurately) Weight Control

When people are asked why they want to or are trying to lose weight, these are the two most common reasons:

1) They want to improve their health.
2) They want to improve their looks.

Now, there are some health issues (knee problems, for example) for which weight loss can really help, and many (though not all) habits which lead to long-term weight loss also improve health. But there are far easier ways to address most health issues than weight loss, and I think the rational approach would be to try those things before trying weight loss.

As far as improving looks … judgement of looks is more subjective than judgement of health, and we live in a society which says thin people look better. Nonetheless, I think even in a fat-phobic society there are far easier ways to ‘improve’ one’s looks than weight-loss (learning how to pick out good clothes, learning how to use make-up well, etc).

I think, however, that these are the REAL reasons most people want to lose weight:

1) Social compliance
2) Bodily control

In a fat-phobic society – and I would say both the United States and Taiwan are fat-phobic – people are pressured into losing weight in order to conform to social norms. I don’t think there is any rational reason for a society to impose this on people, and I am fat-positive in the sense that I don’t think people should be judged based on their weight.

But I think the deeper reason is a wish to have control over one’s bodies. For example, it is noted that rape victims often get eating disorders, and most analyses I’ve read say this is a way for them to reassert control over their bodies. Those are extreme cases, but I think even a simple wish to lose weight is often a wish to have more control over one’s body.

Of course, weight loss does not always demonstrate control over one’s body. Sometimes, it demonstrates the opposite. As I’ve experienced.

After moving to Taiwan, I started losing a significant amount of weight. It did not happen too quickly, but over the months it added up. Many people might think that was wonderful … but it scared me. I was not trying to lose weight. I was worried that maybe I got a parasite, or there was something wrong with the food, or that there was some lurking health problem.

Since then, my weight has stabilized, and doctors haven’t noted anything unusual about my body. So now, I think it was just the effect of a lifestyle change (and hey, maybe I’ll get the weight back when I return to the United States). But the experience did help me appreciate how much of the psychology of weight change is motivated by a desire for bodily control … and how unintentionally changing weight makes me feel that I can’t control my body.

Mornings and Evenings

I am most relaxed early in the morning, when I wake up.

At that time, I believe I have all day to do all the things I ‘need’ to do that day, so I can lie back and let my thoughts float wherever they want.

But eventually, I come to the conclusion that I have to start doing things.

Then it’s one thing after another. Sometimes they are tasks imposed on my by other people (my job, for example), sometimes they are tasks imposed on me by biology (going to the bathroom), but much of my time is taken up by tasks I impose on myself.

I could simply choose to put less tasks on myself … yet there is SO MUCH I WANT TO DO!!!!! For example, keep this blog updated regularly every Friday. If I choose to discard some tasks, there are tasks that I would like to do which would take their place.

So then it comes to the evening. In the evening I have to weigh whether a) I can complete all my tasks b) if I can’t, which tasks should I do and c) when should I quit and just go to sleep. On many days, I can’t complete the tasks I had hoped to complete. Like today, I think it’s not going to happen, at least not without compromising my bedtime. And compromising my bedtime will make tomorrow very unpleasant.

However, I’ll be darned if I break my perfect record of having a blog post up every single Friday in 2012. And I don’t want to have to worry about writing a post tomorrow
morning. So I’m writing it right now, and scheduling it for tomorrow.

Actually, it’s impressive that I impose so many tasks on myself. I guess there is a lot I want to do in life … but do I really need to do these things with such impatience?