Further Thoughts on Drinking and (A)Sexuality, Part 3

In Part 1 I focused on alcohol, and Part 2 I focused on tea. In this final part, I am going to focus on where (USA) asexual culture fits into this.

I feel that, to the extent that there is a (USA) asexual culture, abstaining from alcohol for whatever reason is fine, without being hostile to those who choose to drink alcohol. I think this is how it should be.

Ily noticed way back in 2008 that a disproportionate number of aces are teetotalers, and based on my anecdotal observations, it’s still that way now. I halfway fit into that since a) I was a teetotaling ace who knew she was ace for years and b) ever since I’ve returned to the United States (almost a year ago), I have had exactly one alcoholic drink. I don’t know why so many online aces are teetotalers, though I can speculate.

In the same series of posts (“Things Asexuals Like”), Ily also noted that a lot of people who identify as asexual also identify as introverts, and that asexuals like tea.

About a month ago, I hosted an ace meetup called “Tea and Cookies”. I offered both caffeinated and caffeine-free tea just in case there was someone who abstains from caffeine (everyone who showed up was fine with the caffeine tea). Someone at the meetup commented that drinking tea seemed very appropriate for asexuals, since it goes well with introversion.

Okay, I’m the person who had the brilliant idea of having an ace meetup centered around tea, and then actually made it happen, so I wasn’t in a position to argue against the asexual-tea connection.

I did respond that I am not an introvert. I know that introverts feel ‘drained’ after having to socialize with a lot of people, particularly strangers, for an extended period of time, but I don’t relate to the experience (also, I don’t identify as an extrovert – the last time I took any kind of Myers-Briggs test, the results said that I was 1% more extroverted than introverted, which was its way of saying that my personality doesn’t have a place on the introvert-extrovert spectrum).

On top of that, the tea culture which imprinted itself on me is Taiwanese tea culture, and in a Taiwanese context, associating tea drinking with asexuality doesn’t make much sense since “everybody” in the upper or middle class drinks tea and a lot of people who aren’t also drink tea. Heck, in certain contexts in Taiwan, ‘teahouse’ has been used as a euphemism for ‘brothel’, and ‘serving tea’ has been used as a euphemism for … I think you can figure it out.

When I was offering that caffeine-free tea at the meetup, I was really offering it to my past self. At the time I started identifying with asexuality I was still avoiding caffeine, and encountering memes which suggested that drinking (caffeinated) tea and being asexual went together … it wasn’t a big deal, but it did make me feel a teensy bit alienated from asexual culture.

Even though I am now a tea-drinker myself – and even though I organized that meetup – I still feel uncomfortable with tea becoming part of a stereotype of how asexuals are. I am totally cool with a group of asexuals who all like tea getting together to drink tea – especially the tea is good and I am invited. What I don’t want it to become is ‘oh, you’re asexual, of course you like tea.’

I was more comfortable in ace spaces as the asexual who drank a little alcohol than as the asexual who never drank (caffeinated) tea. I understand the urge to establish an asexual culture around something we do rather than something we do not do, but as Siggy has said, negative may be better than the alternative.

Further Thoughts on Drinking and (A)Sexuality (Part 1)

Note: This post contains a brief discussion of sexual assault and rape culture.

I recently read Part 1 and Part 2 of (A)Sex and the City’s piece comparing the pressure to drink to the pressure to engage with sex. I have written about this before, and luvtheheaven has too, and (A)Sex and the City’s posts are a reminder that there is more to be said on the subject.

First of all, based on my interactions with Australians in Asia … I am totally unsurprised that that Australia has a major drinking culture. In my experience, Australians and Europeans are more inclined to pressure people who have chosen to abstain from alcohol into drinking than North Americans. My experience in the San Francisco Bay Area has generally been that, when I say I don’t want alcohol at some event where alcohol is offered, I only need to say it once, and it’s not a big deal (to be specific, ‘no, not now’ is generally taken well – ‘no, never’ can elicit a different reaction). In my social circles, having designated drivers is taken seriously, and considering how dependent California society is on cars, that means all social gatherings are going to have some people who aren’t drinking alcohol.

Heck, I was at a bar last night, and nobody remarked on the fact that I wasn’t drinking a single drop of alcohol.

Second, the (A)Sex and the City posts bring up the idea that people ‘should’ drink alcohol to ‘relax’ and ‘loosen up’. I’ve never become fully drunk, but I have become tipsy, and I can tell you this:

Alcohol does not ‘loosen me up’.
Alcohol does not relax me.
Alcohol does not make me more outgoing, sociable, etc. than I am when I am sober.

If anything, I become more distrustful of people when I’ve been drinking, though I don’t know whether it’s the alcohol itself, or merely the thought that people are more likely to take advantage me when I’m under the influence, a thought I would have even if I had drunk a placebo. Drinking alcohol only helps me with social bonding to the extent that I am not ‘left out’, and on the whole, I think it makes me more antisocial, not social.

As any regular reader of this blog would expect, alcohol also doesn’t make be any more sexual (in terms of behavior or feelings) than when I am sober. If anything, I think I think even less about sex when I am under the influence.

I had wanted to bring it up in my posts about Husband Factor but ultimately didn’t because those posts were already really long, so I’ll say it here: there is a common notion that alcohol will make people more sexually available. In my case, this is totally not true, at least with regards to consensual sex. Alcohol was one of the many tools used to turn the protagonist from someone who was going her own path into someone who was conforming with what her society told her she should be doing. To be more specific, alcohol was a tool to ‘loosen her up’ so that she would behave in a more sexual way AND end up in sexual situations she did not intend to be in.

When someone (always male, for some reason) is refusing to accept my ‘no’ to alcohol, I wonder if they intend to sexually assault me. There is that aspect of rape culture which equates drinking alcohol to consenting to any sexual things people might do to you while you’re under the influence.

While reading the posts by (A)Sex and the City, I thought of one possible reason why peers put so much pressure on the ‘one’ person who isn’t drinking alcohol. Alcohol makes people more vulnerable in multiple ways (for example, making them more inclined to embarrass themselves), and people are comfortable doing this because everyone is doing this. But what if not everybody is doing this? What if somebody is not taking the plunge with everyone else? They can take advantage of all of the vulnerable people without becoming vulnerable themselves.

In my social circles, people don’t expect every single person present to drink alcohol, so if they take the plunge, it’s with the understanding that some people are not going to go down with them. But perhaps, in some circumstances, there is the expectation that everyone is taking the plunge together. Hence the hostility to the ‘coward’ who doesn’t have ‘team spirit’.

In Part 2, I am going to take this discussion in a very different direction.

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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