The Supremacy of Romantic/Sexual/Biological/Escalator Relationships Runs Deep

(Warning: this post spoils the ending of 大唐雙龍傳/Datang Shuanglong Zhuan)

Ace Admiral’s recent discussion about the ‘nakama’ spirit, and how it’s different from the kind of close relationship he’s looking for right now, made me think about the relationship between Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling in Datang Shuanglong Zhuan.

For those who don’t know the story, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were two orphans who grew up on the street, and as children could only count on each other. Thus they developed a relationship closer than brothers. As adults, their personal relationship with each other is still the most intense, most psychologically intimate, and most important in both of their lives. There is a rather lonely prince who says that he wishes that he had not been born into such privilege and wealth and instead had spent his childhood as a lowly orphan on the street, because then he would have been able to have a relationship like the one between Kou Zhong and Xu Zilu.

They do engage in romantic or sexual relationships – indeed, many of the subplots in the story revolve around this. But they repeatedly say that their relationship to each other always comes first.

And in some ways, their relationship is extremely volatile. At times, Kou Zhong wonders if Xu Zilu would kill him. Though Xu Zilu never has any intention of directly killing Kou Zhong, he is at one point willing to stand by and let a third party kill Kou Zhong. Their greatest fear is that they will lose each other, and that their relationship will be severed, since they’ve never survived without each other.

This is a relationship complex and passionate enough to sustain a seven-thousand page novel.

And then at the end … they just go their separate ways to ‘make a family’ with their respective romantic/sexual partners.

Huh?

I would have understood if, after deliberate consideration, they decided it was best to separate. There were certainly grounds for them to do so. Yet this happens a) with almost no discussion and b) after Kou Zhong sacrifices his dream to take over the world in order to save his relationship with Xu Ziling (okay, he had a few other reasons too). I suppose you could say that they know each other so well that they can practically read each other’s minds and don’t need much discussion … but I think that’s stretching it.

I admit, as an asexual aromantic, I like it when fiction features close, intense, yet non-sexual/romantic personal relationships. I may have been projecting my preferences a bit onto the story. Yet the ending still throws me off. It only make sense to me if there is an unspoken assumption that everybody will go off and ‘make a family’ once they are in established romantic-sexual relationships.

In other words, even though the story repeatedly makes the case that non-romantic/sexual/biological relationships can top someone’s relationship hierarchy, at the end, it falls back on romantic-sexual supremacy without even feeling a need to explain.


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The Right to Control Access to Self

‘Self’ includes one’s body, one’s personal space, one’s personal possessions, and one’s communications, and almost everybody would be better off if we all recognized that we have a right to control access to self.

There are lots of things which are wrong with global society. One of the top problems, in my opinion, is that most of the dominant cultures around the world do not recognize a universal right to control access to self.

One (though just one) manifestation of the denial of this right is rape culture. Rape is a violation of one’s control over sexual access to oneself.

Another manifestation of the denial of this right is the way white people in the United States (and other societies?) regard access to black women’s hair.

Yet another manifestation is the US government and other governments) deciding that they have the right to record, read/listen to, and collect metadata on all ‘private’ electronic communications in the world. If you have been living under a rock during the past few months, you may consult Glenn Greenwald’s reporting on NSA surveillance for The Guardian.

I think that all of these issues are related. Because most people accept rape culture (in fact, some parts of rape culture are still internalized in me), it makes it easier for them to accept a surveillance state. If we lived in a culture which recognized a universal right to control access to self a) it would be harder for those who control the government and corporations to conceive of violating that right in the first place and b) if/when government/corporate leaders do violate the right, the outry would be way, way, way bigger. Likewise, because our own leaders do not respect the right to control access to self, ordinary people are more inclined to violate each other’s right to this control.

Of course, this is such a big problem that most of the time it has to be tackled in pieces. Sometimes, one must focus on corrective rape of asexuals. Sometimes, one must focus on the common tendency to pry into the details trans*people’s genitals. Sometimes, one must focus on police officers who break into homes with neither permission nor warrant. Sometimes, one must focus on a senator who thinks it’s okay for government and corporate insiders to have access to detailed personal information of massive numbers of ordinary citizens, but not okay for said citizens to know that the information is being collected, let alone how the information is being used (I am thinking of Dianne Feinstein, who I deeply regret voting for, and should be taken out of office ASAP).

However, even when taking on the smaller pieces, I think one must be aware that this is part of a greater evil, and that the ultimate solution is to create a consensus among humanity that everyone had a right to control access to self.


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My Experience as a Teenage Ace

This is for the August 2013 Carnival of Aces.

I first encountered the idea of human asexuality as a teenager, and even considered that it might apply to me, but I still thought I was probably allosexual (not that I knew that term at the time!)

At the same time, I was aware that I was different from my peers. I knew I was not like the sex/romance-obsessed teenagers depicted in mainstream enterntainment – and I knew my peers weren’t like them either. At the same time, I also could tell that I did not have the same interest in sex or romance as my peers.

One of the reasons I thought I was allosexual was that I felt, for lack of better terms, proto-sexual feelings and proto-romantic feelings. This is why I think I was a grey-asexual when I was teenager, though since then I flowed so far over to asexual side of the spectrum that ‘grey’ no longer describes my orientation.

I assumed these proto-feelings were exactly what everyone was talking about, and that I was simply less interested in them, or that I was too busy, or something. But all three of those points are false.

I had peers who were busier than me, yet still had time for sex and/or romance, because it was a high priority for them.

And it’s not true that I wasn’t interested. I was fascinated by my own proto sexuality/romanticism. I loved analyzing my own feelings. It was like an aquarium inside my psyche that I could study for hours.

Of course, a love for analyzing the fine gradations of one’s own feelings is one of the signature hallmarks of asexual culture. But I didn’t know that when I was a teenager (in fact, I didn’t realize until The Asexual Agenda pointed it out).

And finally, those proto-sexual/proto-romantic feelings *are not the same* as full-blown sexual or romantic feelings. My teenage peers were not quietly navel-gazing – their sexual and romantic feelings swept them up. What I felt was related to what they were feeling, but it wasn’t the same thing at all.

I think that if someone with a deep understanding of asexuality and aromanticism had interviewed me as a teenager, they would have been able to tell that I was on the ace-spectrum. In retrospect, it’s obvious. Only ignorance obscured my true orientation.


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Adventures in Alcohol

This week, I did something for the first time in my life: I bought a bottle of an alcholic beverage with the intent to drink it.

I’d bought cooking wine before, and even got carded for it, but I have generally avoided drinking alchohol. As a teenager, I’d only sipped tiny amounts of wine at family events.

Well, in Taiwan, I’ve done quite a bit more sampling of alcohol that I ever did in the states. I’ve developed two standard scripts:

If offered Taiwan beer:
Someone: Have some beer.
Me: No thanks.
Someone: Come on, have some.
Me: Sorry, I can’t handle alcohol very well.

If offered something other than Taiwan beer:
Someone: Have some [alcoholic beverage]
Me: Okay. *samples alcoholic beverage* It’s good.
Someone: Have some more.
Me: Even though it’s good stuff, I shouldn’t drink more, because I don’t handle alcohol very well.

Since I’ve never gotten tipsy, let alone drunk, I actually didn’t know how I would handle alcohol – but I didn’t want to find out in an unplanned situation.

I remember one time it came out that I had never gotten drunk. A bunch of people then decided that they simply HAD to get me drunk. I kept on politely refusing. And I also decided that I was not going to say a word to those people about my asexuality/celibacy (if that’s how they react to my lack of drinking experience, imagine how they would react to the fact that I’ve never had sex).

However, while my personal barriers to drinking tea were removed long ago (Taiwanese people are much more interested in tea than alcohol, and it’s hard to function socially without drinking tea), it’s taken much longer for me to lower my guard about alcohol. But over time, having sampled alcohol in so many situations, I gradually got used to the idea of drinking alcohol.

I bought a bottle of millet wine.

I wanted to drink it alone so that I could do it at my own pace, without pressure from other people. I only drank it on days when I didn’t have anything of crucial importance to do. Since it had relatively low alcohol content, and I drank it really, really slowly, I didn’t get tipsy from it.

The biggest surprise to myself, however, was that I enjoyed drinking it.

I don’t think I’m going to do this very often … but maybe, just maybe, I’ll buy a bottle of wine every few months. Perhaps I’ll experiment with getting tipsy, though I would want to do it under safe, controlled circumstances.

Another step would be to experiment with drinking in the company of other people – I mean really drinking, not just sampling. However, I would want to do it with people I trust, and the people I trust don’t drink much. Hmmm.


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Mutual Aid and Committment

After I wrote last week’s post, it occurred to me: my relatives committment with each other is to provid mutual aid.

That’s not to say that there is no love and affection, but the committment to mutual aid comes first. That actually makes me feel more secure – I know that even if one of my relatives doesn’t particularly like me, they may still help me when I need it.

Research, such as the work of Dan Buettner, indicates that the happiest and longest-lived people in the world have solid mutual aid networks – people who they can count on when they are in a pinch. It’s not just about having help when you are in the pinch – though that is important – it’s also the relief of not having to worry as much about pinches on a day-to-day basis.

The problem with contemporary U.S. society is that monogamous/sexual/romantic marriage is the primary way people are encouraged to form mutual aid pacts (I say ‘marriage’ rather than ‘nuclear family’ because children are not expected to contribute). And, while such marriages can certainly be part of a solid mutual aid network, in isolation, they are a terrible mutual aid network. Two people is simply not enough.

I think part of the question of how to get committment without a sexual and/or romantic component is how to form a mutual aid pact without being obliged to have sexual/romantic activities. Well, I got lucky – I was born into a mutual aid pact, but it would be more stable if I got into a mutual aid pact with more people, and my family is shrinking. I think that, without luck, one has to specifically articulate that one wants to form a mutual aid pact. There are many ways to do this:

– join together with other people on the ace-spectrum who also want mutual aid (hey, why not?)
– join an anarchist group of some kind (anarchists are very pro-mutual-aid)
– join a tight-knit club where the members seem to have good personal relationships with each other (martial arts club, board game geek club, wine-tasting club, native plants gardening club, etc.). That’s not to say all clubs of this type foster mutual-aid pacts, but some do. I have observed in certain clubs, when a member has an emergency (i.e. sudden illness), other members pitch in to help. It may be best to a) find out if this club has a history of sticking up for its own and b) if you feel like you have become a member, to ask the other members if they would help you out in a pinch – and tell them whether or not you would help them in a pinch.

While I think mutual aid is important, it’s just one facet of ‘committment’. There is also the question of committment to love and affection.


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