How I, As an Asexual, Do Not Decide to Have Sex

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

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Aro Community, Ace Community

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

Bedsharing, without Sex or Romance : Chen Changsheng and Mo Yu in Way of Choices

Mo Yu and Chen Changsheng in Fighter of the Destiny, which is the live action TV adaptation of Way of Choices

There are many things I love in the novel Way of Choices (it’s my favorite novel that I read in 2018). One of them is the relationship between Chen Changsheng and Mo Yu. And one of the things I love about the relationship is that they are a young man and a young woman who are not genetically related yet share a bed – without ever having sex or even being interested in having sex with each other.

What genre is this novel?

Xuanhuan.

Whatever the heck that is.

If you want a clue, you could watch the opening theme song to the live action adaptation (even though it’s not faithful to the novel).

Chen Changsheng is a naive, idealist, honest, wholesome, bookwormish, and gentle teenager with a terminal illness, and Mo Yu is a conniving, cynical, physically strong, and ruthless government official who is primarily concerned with maintaining her (high) level of political power. Nobody would expect these two to become friends – and this is before we get to the fact that Mo Yu wants Chen Changsheng to die (or at least be imprisoned or exiled).

And yet, in spite of the above, they come to share a bed. Continue reading

Burning Out as a Critic of Ace Fiction

This is for the December 2018 Carnival of Aces “Burnout”.

As some of you know, I went on a 6-12 month binge on ace fiction / ace fiction reviewing / commenting on ace fiction, and you can find those posts by checking out my ‘asexual fiction’ and ‘ace fiction’ tags (no, I am not good at keeping my tags consistent), and it culminated in me writing a bunch of posts for The Asexual Agenda’s Ace Tropes series.

I never expected to keep that all up indefinitely, in fact I am surprised that I kept that up for as long as I did. Before I did a lot of ace fiction criticism, Ace Reads reviewed a lot of ace fiction books, and I got started around the time Agent Aletha burned out. Now, I’m in a position where I can relate to parts of this post about not reviewing so many ace books anymore. I particular, I really relate to this part: “I haven’t even been reading many ace books because I’m not in the mood for romance stories and that is so much of what’s available”. Continue reading

November 2018 Carnival of Aces Round-up

November 2018 has come to an end, which means it is time to share with the world all of the submissions to November 2018 A Carnival of Aces: The Carnival of Aces. Here they are:

“Demisexual Goes Meta!” – demiandproud analyzes which of her posts get the most clicks, including the effect of Carnival of Aces. This is followed by the sequel: “This Demisexual Forgot to Be Proud”.

“A brief history of A Carnival of Aces” by Siggy is exactly what it says it is.

“I’m Not a Baby Ace Anymore” by Perfect Number is about how she became comfortable IDing as ace, and the role the Carnival of Aces played.

“Advice for Hosting the Carnival of Aces” was written by myself. Irony: after making a big fuss about not missing submissions, I (almost) forgot to put my own submission into this round-up.

“How the Carnival of Aces Helped Shape My Blogging Experience” by Blue Ice-Tea is also exactly what it says it is.

Thanks to all of the contributors!

Now, a few announcements:

1. I will continue to accept submissions for this Carnival until December 5th. These submissions will be added to this round-up post. Perhaps, if you come back to this post in a few days, you’ll find more submissions (or perhaps not).

2. The December 2018 Carnival of Aces will be hosted by Next Step: Cake. Here is the call for submissions.

3. There is still no host lined up for the January March 2019 Carnival of Aces. If you would like to host in January March 2019, you may volunteer here.

I know I have gotten a lot out of the Carnival of Aces over the years, and it has been my pleasure to host this month. May the Carnival of Aces continue for years to come!

Review: Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

The book cover of Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Sara, it’s been forever since you’ve written a review of an ace fiction book.

It took me a while to feel like writing one again. Also, I had to start reading ace fiction books again to write more reviews.

What is this novel about?

Alice, a nineteen year old college student, is dumped by her girlfriend/dorm-mate Margot because Margot feels that Alice does not want to have sex with her (which is true, Alice was only consenting to sex with Margot to preserve their relationship). Alice knows she is asexual, but stays in the closet, and the way Margot dumped her reinforces her conviction not to tell people she’s ace. Then she meets her new co-worker, Takumi, and Alice has very strong feelings about him as soon as he meet him. Might some of those feelings be sexual attraction? Since Alice has definitely never experienced sexual attraction before, she does not know what the hell sexual attraction is supposed to feel like, how would she know? Meanwhile, her best friends, Feenie and Ryan, are going to get married, and Alice fears that as they become more of a couple they are pushing her away. And on top of all that, Alice’s parents and sister are pressuring her to declare her major and prepare to go to law school as soon as she finishes undergrad, and Alice totally does not want to do that.

What sexual and/or violent content is there in this novel?

There is no on-page sex. There is discussion of Alice’s sexual history, and later a bit of Takumi’s sexual history, as well as references to Feenie and Ryan’s (off-page) sex life. A stranger sexually harasses Alice. There is little in the way of physical violence, but quite a bit of emotional violence.

Tell me more about this novel.

The novel has a particular writing style/tone. I’m not sure how to describe it, so I’ll just spam you with quotes:

Alice had had her first creepy moment, crowning herself the creepiest Creepy McCreeperton in existence.

Was it really anyone’s business that Alice didn’t feel sexual attraction when the rest of the world did? It was Alice’s secret. She could guard it like Smaug hoarding gold if she wanted to.

Willy Wonka could wrap her in plastic, market her, and sell her as a limited edition fool-flavored candy.

He grinned, but was also wringing his hands. “But that’s not all it is, right? You like me as a person, too?”
It took everything Alice had not to laugh at the universe’s perverse sense of humor. Her Personal Living God of Confusing Attraction, Takumi, wanted to know if she, Asexual Alice, liked him as a person.

You might want to strap in for this ride I like to call Not Black Enough to Be the Black Sheep of Black Excellence.

I’m on that rapid weight-loss diet called Starvation Because I Spent My Last Six Dollars on Laundry.

Throughout the book, I was struck by how much Alice is unlike me. It was like being immersed in the head of someone who has a very different worldview. It meant I did not get the ‘this so represents me’ feeling, on the other hand it was interesting, and was a reminder that not everybody thinks like me. For example, Alice doesn’t like exercise and loves sitting on the couch and binge-watching TV shows. I love going on walks and hikes, and while I can enjoy watching TV for a hour to an hour-and-a-half, beyond that I will get restless (unless I am physically ill).

Sara, I think you are like Alice in that you like to write essays about TV shows.

That was years ago.

Oh really?

Okay, fine, I still write essays about TV shows once in a while.

And you also like to eat [vegan] ice cream in winter, and you also don’t like jogging.

Hey, I’m not saying I’m completely unlike Alice. After all, we’re both female aces living in California.

And the fact that I get such a clear sense of who Alice is so that it is so easy for me to compare her to myself demonstrates that she is a very vividly written character.

The main plot seemed to be about Alice’s developing relationship with Takumi. While I was interested in Alice sorting out her feelings and whether or not she was experiencing sexual attraction, that was only in focus in the first part of the novel, and I was not so terribly interested in Alice’s actual relationship with Takumi. There was a sub-plot about Alice’s relationship with Feenie and Ryan, which was potentially much more interesting to me, except it was not fully developed. I think I would have found this story much more interesting if Alice’s relationship with Feenie and Ryan had been the main plot, and her relationship with Takumi had been the sub-plot.

Asexuality?

On the asexuality content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I would rate this as an 8.

Alice’s experience with asexuality is very different from mine. That means I did not read this and think ‘aha, this is exactly how I feel as an ace!’ on the other hand it gave me a glimpse of a different way of experiencing asexuality. One obvious difference is that I’m aromantic and Alice is very biromantic. She has also previously had sex (though early in the novel she has decided to stop having sex) largely due to social pressure, whereas I have never had sex nor experienced direct pressure to have sex (I have experienced indirect pressure to have sex – such as pressure to go get a boyfriend – but I’ve never experienced a direct pressure to have sex, such as the way Margot pressured Alice).

Furthermore, though I experience aesthetic attraction, I don’t experience it nearly as strongly as Alice, or maybe it’s just not as personally important to me as it is the Alice.

Does the book make it clear that not all aces are like Alice i.e. that aromantic aces exist, that not all aces experience aesthetic attraction, some aces don’t like kissing, etc.?

The book vaguely mentions that not all aces are like Alice, and IIRC it briefly mentions that not all aces experience aesthetic attraction (or was that kissing), but nowhere does it state that aromantic aces exist.

That sucks, it’s bad ace rep if the book does not mention that some aces are not as into romance as Alice is.

You know what, I disagree with you. No, this novel does not acknowledge aromanticism, but I don’t think it’s on Alice and her story to represent all aces.

I’m not saying Alice needs to represent all aces, that’s impossible, I’m just saying it’s harmful if the book does not make it clear that not all aces want romance like Alice does. How hard would it be for the writer to add JUST A COUPLE SENTENCES which acknowledge that some aces are very different from Alice when it comes to romance and kissing and aesthetic attraction?

*sigh* I don’t think this book is obligated to do that. If this book existed in an environment where aromanticism were a widely known phenomenon, would you be complaining?

No, but that’s a hypothetical situation, this book might be the first time a reader is exposed to human asexuality, what if an aro ace who dislikes kissing who never had contact with the ace community read this book, maybe they would conclude they were not really ace because Alice is really into romance and kissing and they are not?

Again, I don’t think it’s fair to put that type of educational burden on a single book. The solution is to get more aromanticism in fiction, not to force every novel with an ace protagonist to do a full Asexuality 101. Especially since that gets tiresome for ace readers who have been through a lot of Asexuality 101.

I don’t think we’re going to come to an agreement on this. Let’s move on.

I really liked the part where Alice was processing and analyzing and hair-splitting her feelings towards Takumi to figure out if maybe it was sexual attraction. That was a very ace experience. Here’s a little tidbit of that:

“So when I saw Tak- I mean, the person, I thought [it was sexual attraction] at first. They were just exceptionally cute, but then I got really hot and was having trouble thinking and there was action happening down there and I’m confused about stuff now.”

“Did you want to have sex with this person?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.” She sighed. No point in holding back now. “I’m still figuring out how that’s supposed to feel.”

“Allow me to rephrase: Did you explicitly think of sexual activity in response to seeing this person?”

“No. I mean, it wasn’t like I wanted to take him to the supply closet for quickie or something.”

“What about now? Would you like to have sex with them?”

“I haven’t thought about it,” she said.

This story is definitely an example of the “When Do I Tell Them I’m Ace” trope, since much of the tension in Alice and Takumi’s relationship is driven by Alice’s hesitation to tell Takumi that she is ace. I this this bit sums up her attitude:

“Last we spoke,” he began, “you were experiencing some anxiety and uncertainty regarding your sexuality.”

“Yeah, that’s still happening. Sort of. But not really … It’s like, my problem is everyone else. I’m not ashamed or uncertain or whatever. I’m ace. It’s cool. I just don’t want to be anybody’s poster child. I’m not made for the front lines. I’ll wither and cry under pressure, so it’s better if I keep it to myself for now.”

There is so much ace content in this novel that I cannot address all of it in this review, but I think I have succeeded in giving a general sense of how asexuality is depicted in this story.

Was this written by an ace?

I don’t know.

Sara, do you like this novel?

I guess? I enjoyed reading it. I appreciate that it explores some ace experiences, and it was good for me in the sense that it is not the kind of thing I would choose to read often, so it breaks up my reading habits. However, if it were not for my interest is seeing how asexuality is presented in fiction, this would not have been my cup of tea.

LOL, Sara, we all know that your cup of tea is a really long sword opera written in Chinese, like that one you mentioned in last week’s post.

Hey, I don’t like all long sword operas written in Chinese, and there are other types of novels which are my cup of tea, such as Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. And that novel was not just about swords, in fact swords didn’t become a major element in the story until more than a thousand pages into the book.

*rolls eyes* Sure, Sara.

A Carnival of Aces November 2018: the Carnival of Aces; Call for Submissions

This month I am hosting A Carnival of Aces, the monthly asexuality blog festival.

So, what’s the theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces?

The Carnival of Aces.

I know that this is a Carnival of Aces thing, but what’s the theme?

The Carnival of Aces.

Wait, the Carnival of Aces itself is the theme? Seriously?

Yep.

That is so meta.

It is very meta.

A Carnival of Aces has been running, with one hiatus, since May 2011. That’s quite a bit of history, and A Carnival of Aces has evolved over that time. This seems like a good time to look back, reflect, and then look forward.

Here are some prompts for inspiration:

– How has Carnival of Aces affected your writing?
– How has Carnival of Aces influenced the way you think about asexuality?
– How have the themes changed over time?
– What are other ways Carnival of Aces has changed over time?
– What types of themes do you think work better? What types of themes do you think work less well?
– Is it good to choose themes that (theoretically) any ace could respond to? Is it good to sometimes choose themes which focus on a specific group of aces, even if that means some aces will not be able to respond, in order to give that specific group more space?
– What ways has the Carnival of Aces ever disappointed you?
– What role does the Carnival of Aces play in the ace blogging community? In the online ace community? In the entire ace community?
– What is the experience of hosting Carnival of Aces like?
– What advice would you give prospective hosts of Carnival of Aces?
– Are there any changes you think may improve Carnival of Aces?
– What is it like to binge-read previous Carnival of Aces?

It is okay to submit something which is not a specific response to the above prompts, as long as it is about A Carnival of Aces.

You keep on switching between ‘A Carnival of Aces’, ‘The Carnival of Aces’, and ‘Carnival of Aces’. What’s up with that?

Maybe I don’t feel like being consistent.

How can we submit?

– Leave a comment here with a link
– I do not want to make my personal email public, but since I am now a contributor to the Asexual Agenda, submissions sent to the Asexual Agenda email address will reach me.
– I can host guest submissions on this blog.
– If I do not respond within 3 days, assume I did not get the submission, and re-submit.
– I will put out the round-up post on December 1st. I will continue to accept submissions until December 5th, and add them to the round-up post retroactively.

I look forward to your submissions!

UPDATE: Here is the round-up post.