This Quiet Backwater

When I read about the constant flack that ace-spectrum people get for being open about their ace-specrumness on Tumblr or various other very public websites, I realize just how sheltered I am here on my little blog in WordPress.

When I’ve tried to discuss asexuality in very public, high traffic online spaces, I’ve gotten a taste of just how negative and ignorant netizens can be. This is one reason why this space is my primary place for sharing my thoughts on asexuality/aromanticism, and because this is my primary space, I sometimes forget just how much hostility there is online towards people who identify on the ace-spectrum.

Mind you, this is a public blog, so there aren’t any shields – it’s just that the people likely to come here are supportive or at least open-minded about asexuality.

This is one reason why I don’t do as much to publicize this blog as I could. I do want this to be public so that anyone on the internet who is interested can read this, but I do not necessarily want too much attention. I prefer having this as a quiet place to share my reflections.

But things can change. Many popular blogs started as quiet backwaters. Though this blog is still very obscure, traffic this year is much higher than last year. If this blog somehow stops being a quiet space … well, I’ll roll with it. If this blog keeps on being quiet and obscure, then it’ll be business as usual.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

Advertisements

Being Pretty and Being Ace

This is another submission for the May Carnival of Aces.

Just yesterday, on two different occasions strangers came up to me just to say that I’m beautiful.

As I’ve written before, I have had to deal with an internalized voice saying that my pretty looks are wasted on an ace like me.

Now where did that voice come from?

The tiny subset of people who both know what I look like and know that I’m asexual is a) not sexually attracted to me and c) on the other side of the Pacific ocean, so I haven’t had to deal with people saying directly ‘it’s such a shame to have a woman as pretty as you being an ace’. So that’s not where I got the internalized awful thought from.

However, while I do not go around telling people ‘hey, I’m asexual’, I don’t hide the fact that I am boyfriend-free. Many people here (both Taiwanese and foreigners) assume when they meet me that I have a boyfriend, and will even say thing like ‘oh, you can do this with your boyfriend’ at which point I point out that I don’t have a boyfriend … which they find pretty shocking. ‘But you’re so pretty!’ Yeah, all pretty women MUST have boyfriends/husbands (can’t they at least consider that I might have a girlfriend?)

I often use the way people react to my voluntary singlehood is a proxy for how they might react to my asexuality … and since most people are taken aback by my voluntary singlehood, I generally don’t come out to them about my asexuality (I have not come out as asexual to a single person I’ve met in Taiwan).

It’s not just my day-to-day interactions with people, it’s also the media. For example, in the famous novel 笑傲江湖 (Xiào Ào​ ​Jiāng​hú​), there is a very pretty young Buddhist nun. When she first appears, a bunch of men sigh and are surprised that such a pretty girl would be a nun. This scene definitely bothered me precisely because it touches on my sore spot of being a pretty young woman who has chosen celibacy. I’m not blaming the writer – I think the writer is accurately depicting the way many men react to this. And throughout the novel, a lot of characters expect her to stop being celibate because, well, she’s so pretty (and she also has a crush, but a lot of the expectation is because of her looks, not her feelings).

Because of the way people react to my singleness, I know in my guts that I would get the ‘but you’re too pretty to stay celibate’ reaction if I were more out about my asexuality offline. And it’s one thing which keeps me quiet about my asexuality. The flack I get for being single and celibate is enough.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

Scattered Thoughts on 7Seeds and Basara

This is for Movable Manga Feast: Yumi Tamura

***

I’m way behind on my 7Seeds reading! This is in spite of the fact that it’s being published in a language I can read (繁體中文) at a price of less than 4 USD per volume. How did this happen!

Well, I guess I’m saving the volumes up for a sweet, sweet 7Seeds marathon. Yeah, that’s the plan…

What’s more, I don’t have any of my 7Seeds volumes on hand … so all of this is based on my memory, and might not be completely accurate.

***

Yumi Tamura recycles the same character designs over and over again, so much that when I’m think about 7Seeds characters, I sometimes refer to their ‘Basara’ name instead of their ‘7Seeds’ name. For example, I sometimes call Hana in 7Seeds ‘Sarasa’.

Of course, Hana and Sarasa don’t just look alike, they practically have the same personality. You could say that Sarasa is the reincarnation of Hana (though Basara is older than 7Seeds, technically the events of Basara happen after 7Seeds, so Sarasa would be Hana re-incarnated, not the other way around).

Then there is Shuri/Arashi.

Arashi (7Seeds) and Shuri (Basara) also look identical. They also happen to be Hana/Sarasa’s boyfriend. Therefore, at first, I also mistook them for being the same character.

But Arashi and Shuri’s personalities are totally different.

Arashi is kind, gentle, listens to others, is willing to support the underdog, and has no ambition. Shuri is selfish, arrogant, proud, and wants to take over Japan.

Arashi has little emotional fortitude, so when he faces a difficult situation, he just wants to give up. Shuri is, psychologically, much tougher.

Of course, it’s not just the character designs which are recycled. It’s also the plot.

Both stories are set in post-apocalyptic Japan.

Both stories feature a death race, though the death race is much more prominent in 7Seeds.

There are some changes. For example, whereas Shuri is the prince/king in Basara, Hana is the ‘princess’ of Japan in 7Seeds (if you know the stories of 7Seeds, you can figure out what I mean by that).

Both stories feature an isolated underground community.

The examples go on and on.

This is why I prefer to think of Yumi Tamura’s long-form manga (Basara, 7Seeds, Tomoe ga yuku!) as being variations upon each other rather than being separate works. There are just so many parallels and connections between them.

***

I think the most important issue facing humanity today is the coming ecological transformation. It might be climate change, if it’s not climate change, it might be ocean acidification, and if it’s not ocean acidification, it might be peak oil, and if it’s not peak oil, it might be the slew of various chemicals we are spreading everywhere. The era of industrialization is unsustainable, and anything which is unsustainable will not be sustained.

How humanity will deal with this is a very important question.

While I think the specific scenario presented in 7Seeds is unlikely, I don’t think that matters. It explores the question of how humanity will cope with a sudden end to the ‘modern’ world. The central conflict of the story is whether or not the human race will go extinct which is a really dramatic conflict. I know many people who think the ending of 7Seeds will be human extinction. Strangely, I actually think the human race will pull through in 7Seeds, but as I said above, I haven’t read the most recent volumes.

I really don’t know if the human race will pull through the upcoming ecological transformation.

Anyhow, props to Yumi Tamura for exploring the most important issue of our time.

***


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

As an Asexual, I Find the Idea of Grey(a)sexuality Useful

In Siggy’s piece ‘Many Ways to Be Between’, he defines gray-As and demisexuals to be people for whom ‘asexual’ is not an an accurate description, but still find asexuality a useful idea.

In the same sense, I, as someone for whom ‘asexual’ currently is an accurate description, find the idea of grey-(a)sexuality useful.

First of all, I think, from the age of 15-19, it would have been more accurate to label myself as ‘grey-asexual’, and when I first considered self-identifying on the ace-spectrum, I considered calling myself ‘gray-asexual’. However, over the past five years or so, I haven’t really experienced sexual attraction, so for my current state, ‘asexual’ seems to be the more accurate label/identity. However, having a word for my situation as a teenager makes it easier to understand my own experiences, and to see that there was a change.

However, I think the most useful thing about the concept of gray-Aness is that it frees me to be whatever I am.

I haven’t had any encounters with external asexual-police (probably because I’ve never joined AVEN or Tumblr, the two centers of online ace-spectrum communities), but I do have an internalized asexual-police officer, who sometimes questions whether I’m really asexual enough to be ‘asexual’. Did I think about sex for a minute? INFRACTION OF THE ASEXUAL CODE!!!!

Of course, any definition of heterosexual beyond ‘heterosexual unless proven otherwise [with ridiculously high standards of evidence]’ (aka heteronormativity) does not fit me either – it didn’t even fit me as a teenager. So if my internalized asexual-police officer declared me unfit to be asexual, well then, I would be erased from the map.

Ah, but I can’t be erased from the map, because of the buffer-zone of gray-Aness. If, somehow, I do get disqualified from the asexual-club, but am not still qualified to enter the heterosexual club (and I seriously doubt I will ever qualify for that membership), that’s okay, because it just means I’ve become a gray-A (again).

In short, I don’t have to worry about whether or not I’m ‘asexual’ enough or not because, no matter how my sexuality (or lack thereof) expresses itself, I know that I will always fit in somewhere. So I can just chill, and be myself.


CC0

To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

Why do I take a ‘male’ approach to dressing up? Because I’m an ace.

This is a contribution for the May 2013 Carnival of Aces: Appearances.

In both Taiwan and the United States, young women are expected to dress up and look nice and appealing, whereas young men are only expected to dress for comfort and cleanliness (and sometimes not even cleanliness).

As I’ve discussed before, I do ‘femme’ up my appearance for work, but generally participate in fashion like a young man rather than a young woman – I dress for comfort and cleanliness, not for attractiveness.

I even approach the special occasions when I do want to increase my visual appeal more like a man than a woman. Women are allowed to look like they are trying to look more attractive, while men have to look more attractive WITHOUT looking like they are trying.

Take make-up for example. It’s OK if a woman looks like she’s using make-up to improve her appearance, but it’s not OK for a man to look like he’s using make-up to improve his appearance. Therefore, a man has to be much more careful and subtle in his use of make-up.

When I wear make-up, I approach it like a man, even though I know that, as a woman, I am socially allowed to apply make-up more bluntly. I used to say that it was because I enjoyed the challenge of improving my appearance without the make-up being obvious … but that’s not the truth. The truth is that I don’t want people to think that I am using make-up to improve my appearance. Just like a man.

I think this because I am asexual.

In both Taiwanese and US society, it’s men’s job to initiate sexual encounters, and it’s women’s job to be as sexually appealing as possible so they can attract as wide a set of men as possible. I, however, don’t want to get sexual offers from anybody. Therefore, I do not want people to think I am putting effort into increasing my visual appeal, even when that is exactly what I’m doing.

Even when I deliberately make my appearance more feminine for work, my target is to look more feminine, not more attractive. Unfortunately, that’s considered a bit of a contradiction since part of being feminine in the mainstream sense is trying to look attractive, so I often just happen to be more ‘attractive’ just by looking more feminine, but that’s not intentional.

This, by the way, is mostly subconscious for me. I don’t go out thinking ‘I am going to approach fashion more like a young man than a young woman’. It just comes naturally to me. Actually making my appearance look feminine, or deliberately trying to increase my visual appeal, is what requires a deliberate choice on my part. And I think it comes naturally because that is how my asexuality expresses itself.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

The Lack of *Public* Sexual Harassment in Taiwan…

Trigger Warning: sexual harassment and rape culture

A few weeks ago, I read “Being in Public While Female, and though Jo says that she doesn’t face nearly as much street harassment as some other women, when she described the harassment she has faced, my reaction was ‘whoa, that’s a lot’ (as well as ‘that’s incredibly messed up’).

During my time in Taiwan, I haven’t seen a single instance of sexual harassment in public, and the only sexually intimidating behavior I’ve observed was committed by foreign men, not local men.

While I have read a lot of stories about women being sexually harassed in public in South Korea and Japan, I have not read such stories about Taiwan.

Does that mean that Taiwanese men are totally respectful of women and their bodily boundaries?

Unfortunately, the short answer is ‘no’.

I think there’s a lack of public sexual harassment because expressing oneself sexually in public is taboo in Taiwan.

Based on my observation, holding hands is the limit to how much physical affection people can display in public places.

One time, I went through ‘breast rubbing alley’ while some young men were inside. I timed my entry into the alley deliberately so that I would encounter them inside the alley, because I was curious as to whether they would actually rub my breasts. What happened? They contorted their bodies so they kept the greatest distance from me possible, and when I pointed out we were in ‘breast-rubbing alley’, one guy replied that he didn’t dare touch my breasts.

In the United States, I think that the young men would have, at the minimum, made lewd comments.

It’s worth noting that most of the ways to say that a man is sexually promiscuous in Mandarin are insulting (though not as insulting as the ways to say that a woman is promiscuous). In Chinese-speaking cultures, it’s something which should be kept private, not flaunted in public. This is quite different from American culture, where bragging about one’s ‘sexual conquests’ is a way for men to show off their status.

I know that, unfortunately, rape culture is alive and ‘well’ in Taiwan. It’s merely less obvious from the outside because of the taboos on displaying sexuality in public. While that spares me harassment in the street, it’s no help to the people suffering sexual abuse behind closed doors.


CC0


To the extent possible under law,
the person who associated CC0
with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring
rights to this work.

April 2013 Carnival of Aces ‘The Next Generation’: Round-Up

April is over, and quite a few people shared their thoughts on ‘the next generation’ for the Carnival of Aces.

In chronological order:

Amy Pond has a hope for the future.

I rambled.

Carmilla DeWinter writes about her legacy.

Warren has something to say about education.

Victrix reflects on what increased visibility might do for asexuals.

Barnacle Strumpet has a different take on what increased visibility might do for asexuals.

Ace of Liminal Space discusses what ace activists should do to change the media and education.

Hezekiah the (meta)pianycist comments on how to treat young teens who adopt an ace-spectrum identity.

A big thank you to everybody who contributed!

If there are any mistakes, please leave a comment on this post or email AprilCarnivalOfAces@thenotes.e4ward.com (temporary address).

In the mean time, watch out for the May 2013 Carnival of Aces.