A few days ago Prism & Pen published my essay, “Are Aces Doomed to Just Be Tokens in LGBTQ+ Spaces?” (That’s the anti-paywall link; it will give you access to the story even if you aren’t a paying Medium member.)
Submitting this essay left me feel nervous beyond the typical nerves of submitting to a publication for the first time. First, entering an unfamiliar LGBTQ+ space as anything other than a mere ally gives me trepidation. My personal experience is that most LGBT spaces aren’t intended for aces or aros. Some of this is based on experiences over a decade ago, when LGBT organizers were far more unaware of asexuality. On the other hand, the small minority of LGBT people who are hostile towards aces and aros are more vocal today than ten years ago. If an LGBT space doesn’t clearly accept aces and aros in a way that’s easy for outsiders to see, my assumption is that it’s not a space intended to include aces or aros.
On top of all that, my piece included some criticism of something a Prism & Pen editor said. Criticizing the editor who chooses whether your essay gets published is a risky move. However, James Finn has shown before that he cares about showcasing a variety of views and not just works which confirm his own opinions, which is why I thought my piece still had a chance of getting accepted. And he accepted it for publication. This increases my trust in him as someone who values discussion among multiple viewpoints.
I’ve debated with myself writing about this for over a year.
Finally, I’m doing it. Maybe this post is terrible, but at this point writing something bad is better than asking myself month after month whether or not to write about this. That I can’t get the idea of writing this out of my mind is a strong hint that I need to write this.
I considered keeping this private and only writing to certain people (I have already discussed this privately in a very limited way). But then I’d have to choose who to contact and who not to contact. What if someone would benefit from this and not be one of my contacts? So this is public.
This post is for Ace Week.
Grey-A (greysexual, greyasexual, etc.) characters are under-represented in ace fiction. I am not just saying they are under-represented in fiction in general, I am saying that, even among the fictional works which do have at least one ace character, grey-a characters are under-represented.
According to the Asexual Community Survey’s 2017-18 summary report, about 12% of aces who responded to the survey identify as ‘grey-A’. I can tell you that a lot less than 12% of canon ace characters I’ve encountered in fiction were grey-A. Granted, some of them could be interpreted as grey-A, but it’s also possible to interpret them as not-grey-A without going against canon. Whenever I’ve checked other lists of ace characters in fiction that list grey-A as a separate category from demisexual, I’ve always seen that grey-A characters are under-represented relative to asexual and demisexual characters. And there is one case where I thought that a particular character was grey-A based on how he was written, but the writer claims that he was demisexual.
I cannot know for sure why there are so few grey-A characters relative to asexual and demisexual characters since I am not a mind reader, but I think the reason is the greyness of being grey-A. With asexual and demisexual characters, it is relatively easy to contrast them with allosexual characters to show that they really are not allosexual. But grey-asexuality is too grey for sharp contrasts. It’s harder to demonstrate that a grey-A character is not ‘just’ allosexual or ‘just’ asexual. Continue reading
Content Warning: F-bombs
A few days ago, Blue Ice-Tea left this comment:
What’s needed is more resources that will give allosexuals a better understanding of asexuality and introduce them to ace 201 issues – but how do you get allosexuals to read them? Do you have any thoughts on how the book could have been made to appeal more to non-ace readers?
I gave a quick answer, but after thinking about it for a while, my answer has changed.
To get allosexuals to read about asexuality and ace 201 issues, we need to poke their pain points. We have to (non-sexually) sleep with them, know what keeps them awake at night, hit them there, and offer a salve (or at least hint at it).
I’ve been avoiding reading reviews/commentary on Ace by Angela Chen so that I could write this post with minimal influence by others.
First of all, as someone who has been reading ace blogs for more than ten years (wow, has it been that long?), none of the broad themes in this book are new to me. I did not know most of the specific stories profiled in this book, and it has some angles/nuances which are new to me, but no brand new high-level concepts.
I think, at this point in time, it would be difficult to publish a book about asexuality for a general audience without including a lot of asexuality 101. I appreciate that this book managed to include any asexuality 201, but only the most familiar (to ace bloggers) 201 material. For example, the book references the classic ace blog post “Hermeneutical Injustice in Consent and Asexuality”. That is Asexuality 201, but it’s 201 that is so thoroughly established in the ace blogging canon that it’s not news to anyone who has been around ace blogging for a while.
I recently read Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights by Juno Mac and Molly Smith. First of all, I’d like to say that is a thought-provoking book that I would recommend to anyone who has any interest in feminism and/or workers’ rights, even if they have no particular interest in sex work. Obviously, the book discusses sex and violence, so reader discretion is advised, but it always discusses sex and violence in a very practical way – nothing in the book is meant to titillate.
I’m going to examine the book from an ace perspective, not because that’s the most important perspective (the most important perspective is ‘what is the best policy for society as a whole and vulnerable people in particular?’), but because it is a perspective on the book’s content which a) I can provide and b) is relatively hard to find.
The book never explicitly mentions asexuality, but while reading the book, I realized that sex workers and aces have more in common that I knew before (of course, some sex workers are aces). Sex workers often have sex with people they aren’t sexually attracted to. Saying that aces have sex ‘often’ is misleading, but by definition, when aces do have sex, it is often with someone they aren’t sexually attracted to. Thus, when sex workers and aces have sex, it is often with someone they aren’t sexually attracted to. When I write it out here, this seems so bloody obvious, but so many people (including myself) have missed this obvious insight because our culture tells us that sex workers are extreme sluts, and aces are extreme prudes, and the only thing extreme sluts and extreme prudes could have in common is that they are extremists who aren’t ‘normal’. Continue reading
This is for the March 2020 Carnival of Aces “Leaving”
When I first saw the theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces, I wondered whether I had anything to say about the theme of ‘Leaving’.
Well, now I do, because I am no longer a contributer to The Asexual Agenda. Since I want to keep the reason I chose to leave private, I’m not going to discuss that specifically. But it did focus my mind on what it means to leave an ace community.
There are now so many online communities that, if someone wants to leave one online ace community and join another, it is often possible. For example, if someone wants to leave the ace community on Tumblr or Twitter because they want to get away from the ace flame wars (a.k.a. “The Discourse”), they might be able to join Pillowfort, or Dreamwidth, or somewhere else online with other aces and better moderation. If they are able and willing to put in the effort, they can even try to create a new online ace community.
And the reason one might leave an ace community may not be negative. Someone could be so excited about a new online ace community that they may leave an old one so that they may more fully throw themselves into the new community.
Then some people choose to leave an ace community without joining another. It happens all the time, and for many reasons. If you’ve spent much time in any ace community, you’re probably aware of people who have dropped out of the ace scene altogether (as far as we know).
Not all people have the same range of options. Someone who is not comfortable with using English on the internet, or at least in an online ace community, has fewer options than someone who is. Someone who needs specific accommodations to use a website may find that some online ace communities do not offer those accommodations. Et cetera, et cetera.
What is this novel about?
Prince Gerald wants to live without marriage and sex. Yet he was born as one of the princes of the Thousand Kingdoms, where all princes, princesses, and princexes must begin participating in a royal rescue at the age of eighteen and be married by their early twenties. Gerald’s mother will only let him choose whether he wants to be a rescuer or a rescuee. After he refuses both roles, he wakes up to find that he has been magically transported to a tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon in the middle of an inhospitable desert so that he can be ‘rescued’ by his future spouse.
He needs to rescue himself to avoid being ‘rescued’. But that might not be enough. In order to secure his freedom, Gerald might have to dismantle the entire system of young royals rescuing other young royals. If the royal rescues keep on happening, not only will Gerald be trapped, but many others will continue to be trapped in a much crueller manner.
What sexual and/or violent content does this novel contain?
There is discussion of sex, including references to characters having sex off-page, but there is no on-page sex (not even fade to black). There is violence, including putting collars on the necks of children, which cause wounds, infections, and pain as they grow older yet the collar doesn’t grow bigger with them. And a character badly burns another character, causing severe injuries (and detailed descriptions of the burn injuries). Weapons with blades also are used to injure others.
In May I read a fantastic book called Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. It is about how and why some people survive extreme situations. The book describes a lot of the psychology of decision-making. It says that linear/logical thinking (associated with the neocortex of the brain) is terrible for making decisions. Instead, people rely on ‘emotional bookmarks’ to make decisions. ‘Emotional bookmarks’ are not just the brain, they involve much of the body. It turns out that ‘my gut tells me to do this’ and ‘my heart tells me to do this’ are not just figurative speech; the digestive organs and/or heart might be literally involved in the decision-making process. Animals with relatively few neurons in their brains can make decisions because it is not just the brain.
There are people with neurological damage who cannot use ‘emotional bookmarks’ or feel ‘gut feelings’ or their ‘heart’. They can still use logical/linear thought processes just fine, yet their ability to make decisions is severely impaired which means, for example, that they cannot schedule appointments.
I’ll give you an example of how I use emotional bookmarks vs. linear thinking. Right now, it is May 22 and I am aboard the M/V Kennicott (yeah, this post is going to be posted way after this is written). I told myself that I was going to start writing this post hours ago, but instead, I ended up working on a jigsaw puzzle. I did not think to myself ‘I am going to play with the jigsaw puzzle instead of turning on my computer and writing a blog post’. I just … played with the jigsaw puzzle. That is because I have an emotional bookmark which says ‘jigsaw puzzle are fun’ and so, when I pass by the area with the jigsaw puzzles, I end up playing with them instead of writing this blog post (though I eventually managed to pull myself away from the jigsaw puzzle and start writing this). Continue reading
This is a submission to the February 2019 joint Carnival of Aros & Carnival of Aces
Like many (most?) aro aces, I found the ‘ace community’ first, and I discovered the idea of ‘aromanticism’ via the ‘ace community’.
If you want to know what I thought about being aromantic vs. being asexual in the year 2012, I have an old blog post for you. And, aside from being more certain that I am aromantic, my thoughts on this have not changed much since I wrote that post in 2012. In particular, I still think that being aromantic has a greater impact on my personal life than being asexual. Continue reading