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.
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.
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.
I think this series was a very interesting read! Especially from my own perspective: I’m involved in the ace community, but I’m not involved in atheist or veg*n movements. Even though I’m all three. I don’t see my vegetarian lifestyle or my atheist beliefs as activist identities, so I very much feel like an outsider looking in on these groups.
Your remarks about how people in the atheism and in the veg*n movements generally came to their identities later on in life got me thinking about why it is that both my vegatarianism and my atheism are not activist identities for me, and why I don’t feel the need to get involved in communities around those identities. I didn’t come to those identities as an adult.
I grew up atheist, in an atheist/non-religious family, in one of the most secular countries in the world. So, in my bubble, atheism is the norm. I became vegetarian at the age of 10. Even though I was the only one in my family, the entire family adapted to a system in which everybody ate considerably less meat because cooking family dinner had to be adapted to a new system of efficiently cooking a meal for everyone.
So both atheism and vegetarianism came very easy/natural to me as I grew up with both. I’ve also experienced very little backlash from the outside world about either of them. But coming towards an asexual identity has been a struggle, and the identity, the community and the discussions provide me with the support I need and am unable to get anywhere else.
I’m wondering how universal this is, but it certainly rings true for me that because I grew up in a supportive and inclusive environment for atheism and vegetarianism, I don’t feel the need for activism. Conversely, I do feel the need for ace activism and community involvement, because that identity is something I have come to as an adult, with considerable struggle. So I want to help build a community not just for myself, but also for others (a goal which I guess all three movements have in common: building a place to be with like-minded people).
I delayed replying to this comment because I wanted to think about it.
I’ve always been in places where being atheist is OK, and I have never felt particularly drawn to atheist activism, though I’ve paid some attention to it.
I’ve never been a Vegan Activist with Capital Letters, but my previous year of travel, much of it in Japan and South Korea (two societies which are notorious for not being vegan-friendly, though the reality is much more complicated than that), has inspired me to do more informal vegan activism.
I don’t have much to say, except I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this series so far, as well as comments like Ace in Translation’s above… and um… I can’t believe people call vegans “closed minded”, ever. Like this really surprises me. I kind of understand where people go wrong when they call atheists that… but with asexuals or vegans, I’m just left scratching my head.
People can make up all kinds of nonsense arguments when they can’t (or don’t want to put effort into) making a valid argument. I have done that myself, so it’s not surprising that other people do it too.
It’s true. Emotions go a long way in how we react to things, especially if it challenges our deeply held beliefs.
Asexuality’s existence challenges that all people are sexual beings, or to compulsory sexuality, and sometimes a single asexual’s existence changes what a family member or friend can expect from that asexual person’s future (potentially marriage and kids, or the specific-type-of-happiness derived from sex, or something).
Veganism challenges that eating meat/animal products is an okay and acceptable thing to do on a daily basis.
Atheism challenges the idea that one’s god exists and all that goes with that for so many theists, such as an afterlife or that things always happen for a reason, or that prayers can be answered, or whatever.
I’m not a vegan because I see humans as just another kind of animal, and animals eat other animals. I do try to find meat from ethical sources when I can, but I don’t think it’s wrong for me to eat meat any more than it’s wrong for a bear to eat meat.
Some animals also murder other animals of their own species, and do other things which are considered criminal in most human societies. By your logic, if other animals do something, then it’s okay if other humans do it too.
And by your comment that you ‘try to find meat from ethical sources when you can’, I gather that you sometimes obtain meat from unethical sources. If that is necessary because the alternative for you would be malnutrition, that is one thing, but it is not necessary to maintain your health, why?
And aside from the killing part, I suspect that I also disagree with your ‘ethics’ on other grounds. Do you buy eggs from chickens which have been debeaked? Do you obtain milk from dairy cows which have been subjected to forced artificial insemination (a very painful procedure – so painful they have to restrain the cows to stop them from running away)?
As a Vegan and Asexual, I can tell you from experience that the vegan part is a lot harder to hide because everything in human society revolves around food for some reason.