Being an Only Child, and Being Aromantic

I recently ran a thought experiment: is being aromantic like being an only child? Since I am an only child and aromantic, I think I’m qualified to answer the question.

As an only child, I do not have any biological siblings, and while I might conceivably form sibling-like adult relationships, the boat of having a childhood history attached to such relationships has already sailed. While it is conceivable that I could still form a deep romantic bond with somebody, at this point, I consider that to be quite unlikely. Therefore, I consider both ‘sisterhood’ and ‘romantic bond’ long gone from my deck of cards.

Obviously, I didn’t control how many siblings I had, whereas I at least have influence over whether or not I have romantic partners. But do I really control it? I cannot control whether or not I fall in romantic love with someone, and if I’m not romantically in love with someone, is it a true romantic bond?

What do I wish for more, a sibling or a romantic partner?

I’ve made my peace with both my lack of siblings and lack of romantic partners, but if a genie could grant me one – and only one – I would pick a sibling. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t choose to be siblingless, and maybe if I really *did* have a sibling, I would wish that sibling away.

What do I get more flack for?

Being aromantic. Definitely.

That’s not to say that I get zero flack for being an only child. There are people who pity me because I don’t have any siblings, and I hear about people saying that all only children are spoiled brats, and so on. But I get less as an adult than I did as a kid, and there are enough well-known only children in the world that it’s not considered particularly strange.

The flack I feel for being aromantic is exponentially greater.

It is almost certainly partially due to aromanticism being much, much, much less understood than only-childhood. However, at least in American society, much less importance is attached to sibling-sibling relationships than romantic relationships, so by lacking romantic relationships, I am breaking the social norms much harder than by lacking sibling relationships.

A lot more people think my life must be empty and meaningless because I lack romantic relationships than because I lack sibling relationships, even though I see no objective reason for romantic relationships to be more important for sibling relationships.

Is it a useful example?

Most people in American society understand that life can be full, interesting, and meaningful without siblings. Does substituting ‘siblings’ with ‘romantic partners’ help people understand how being aromantic can be okay too?


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On the Student Debt Crisis

I’ve been watching some of the ‘major in debt’ stories on Youtube.

One of my reactions to the stories is what did you expect?

Even when I was in high school, the idea of taking on $30,000 or more in debt to pay for an undergraduate degree seemed risky. I knew that the ‘magic of compound interest’ works against debtors, and even though the economy was doing better then than now, I was skeptical that someone straight out of college could make enough money to really support those kinds of debts.

Take this video for example.

That is an extreme example … but even in high school, I thought that almost all for-profit colleges were sleazy, and I find it incredible that he belived the 90% placement rate without asking basic questions which would have revealed those were unpaid internships before enrolling.

So, part of me thinks that it’s these students’ fault for being innumerate, finanncially illiterate, and plain naive.

But whose fault is it that they are innumerate and financially illiterate? If it were just a small group of people, I would say it’s the individuals’ fault. But this is millions of people, which means that there is something wrong with our society.

And why are we making it so easy for innumerate and financially illiterate people to take on so much debt? Well, it benefits the financial predators … which I suppose is the point.

Then there is peer pressure.

Aside from my parents, I felt very much alone in my stance that student loans were bad, that it would be better to not go to college if loans were the only alternative, and that going to community/state college was way, way, way better than going to a private school with student loans. Nobody else really thought that taking on student loans to pay for college was a big deal. I even remember a conversation like this:

Person: Why not go to [expensive college]?
Me: It’s really expensive!
Person: You can get loans.
Me: Loans have to be paid back with interest.
Person: You can get the loans deferred if you go to graduate school.
Me: That doesn’t solve the problem.
Person: Debt doesn’t matter, everybody owes everybody else money nowadays.

And even in high school, I did not fully appreciate:

* how much fraud and lies there are in student loans
* that students loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy

… so they are more evil than I had thought they were.

I support student debt jubilees because, while I find the naivete of many of these students incredible, young people ARE naive, and we had not created the environment to make them sufficiently numerate and financially literate to repsonsibly take on such debts … not to mention the fraud. Student debt jubiliee is good for the economy, and it is the humanitarian thing to do.


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‘Sex-Positivity’ for the June Carnival of Aces

This is for the June carnival of Aces

I do not think there is a standard definition of ‘sex-positivity’, since even supporters of sex-positivity do not seem to have a unified definition. It seems the most common meaning is ‘sex-positivity’ are ‘removing social stigma from sex and sexual beavhior/things’, though even that comes in different variants. For example, what counts as ‘social stigma’? Though most ‘sex-positive’ people are strongly in favor of promoting and encouraging safer sex practices to prevent STIs, I’ve seen one person claim that emphasizing STI-prevention feels ‘sex-negative’.

There also seems to be another brand of ‘sex-positivity’ which is focused on increasing sexual activity/expression among people in general … and that if people do not *secretly* want it, there is something wrong with them.

A lot of how I identify depends on where I feel welcome. Some self-proclaimed ‘sex-positive’ people are supportive of asexuality, or at least aware and open-minded about it. Some self-proclaimed ‘sex-positive’ people have also shown themselves to be very prejudiced towards asexuals (Dan Savage is a well-known example). In my experience, the vast majority of ‘sex-positive’ people are simply very ignorant of asexuality – which often leads them to saying exclusionary and thoughtlessly hurtful remarks.

Even though I think most of the hurtful actions of the sex-positive community towards ace-spectrum people is unintentional, it’s enough for me not to want to be in their club.

That’s not to say I support sex-negativity, since ‘sex-negativity’ it at least as harmful to people on the ace-spectrum (and much more harmful to humanity as a whole), as demonstrated in (TW: rape) this story.

Currently, I consider myself ‘sex-neutral’. I support removing the social stigmas attached to sex, but just because I do not want it to be stigmatized does not mean I want to put it on a pedestal. I think the best thing to do is to strip sex of as much default/automatic meaning as possible. This gives people the most freedom to define their individual (a)sexuality, and I think it makes it easier to be honest.

I think the particular ace-commutities I interact with generally are ‘sex-neutral’ like myself, neither ‘sex-positive’ nor ‘sex-negative’. I do not, however, think this is true of every ace-community.


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Castration for Pets, Castration for People

People who have cats and dogs are urged to get their pets spayed/neutered (i.e. castrated), not only for birth control, but to modify their behavior and improve their health. If it were just for birth control, there are less invasive procedures, such as vasectomies and tying up fallopian tubes, which also render cats and dogs unable to reproduce. It is true that castrated cats and dogs tend to live significantly longer.

For humans, on the other hand, many people have trouble convincing medical systems to take away their ability to reproduce permanently even by the less invasive procedures of interuterine devices and vasectomies. And unless one belongs to a majorly oppressed group, is convicted of a crime, or has compelling medical reasons, I imagine getting a surgical castration would be even harder.

While I don’t know about the data for people who have their ovaries removed, there is lots of evidence that people who have their testes removed live significantly longer. Just like cats and dogs.

This strikes me as a double standard. People who claim to ‘love’ cats and dogs advocate for using the most extreme means to control their reproduction, yet hardly anyone advocates the same for humans (aside from humans on the lower end of the social order).

Many people claim that castration is inhumane. But, if castration is inhumane for people, why is it ‘humane’ to do it to cats and dogs? If population control is the issue, wouldn’t tube-tying and vasectomies be more ‘humane’?

And if castration is done to improve the health of cats and dogs … why not let humans improve their health too? Heck, potentially adding 10 years to one’s life seems to be pretty tempting to me. If I were not interested in having a biological child, I would seriously consider having my ovaries removed just for that.

As far as the behavior … aside from very specific things (such as sex drive), it’s very difficult to discern the effect castration has on people’s behavior because it’s hard to filter out cultural and social factors. And my sex drive is already so low that I don’t think having my ovaries removed could make that much of a difference.

I think the thought experiment of comparing the way people treat pets’ reproductive organs and each others’ reproductive organs reflects a few things:

1) Many people treat pets as toys rather than as fellow beings. If one truly respects one’s cat or dog, wouldn’t one want to use the least invasive birth control method feasible?

2) Having the possibility of reproducing (even if it is being temporarily negated by the pill), and especially acting sexually (including having a sex drive) is a major social marker in contemporary Anglophone culture. This is why castration is only suggested for people with low social status, and why almost nobody suggests castration as a means to extend one’s lifespan.


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