A recent post from Espikai got me thinking about certain party games and the asexuals who loathe them. You know the type: Truth or Dare, Spin the Bottle, I Never. If you think that everyone escapes these games in grade school, well, you'd be incorrect. I've heard tell of people playing Spin the Bottle in college, and I have personally played I Never over the age of 18. From early childhood, I would do everything in my power to not participate in these games. My MO was usually to disparage the games as stupid and immature, portraying myself as far above it all. This was a line I held from grade school until college. But, no one ever seemed to find it odd: While I would rope unsuspecting friends into Monkeys-in-a-Barrel tournaments, I was much too adult and mature to play I Never.
The game I feared most wasn't actually a game, but a sort of ritual that my sorority had. At our chapter meetings, someone would get into "the hot seat" for a few minutes and field no-holds-barred questions from the rest of the group. Of course, most of the questions involved guys and sex. Unlike some other groups, our sorority didn't really have any hazing, so maybe this event was a sort of substitute. No one ever seemed to express any disapproval of it. And even though I found the activity to be somewhat cruel, I didn't speak up against it either; I didn't want to be thought of as a spoilsport, a prude, or someone with something to hide. Even though these were people I trusted and a community I cared about greatly, at the time, I wasn't yet out as asexual. My sexual inexperience seemed so beyond the pale that I couldn't risk bringing it up. Every meeting, a different person was called on, and I would always dread the moment. However, and here's the odd part again: I was never called on. Even when there was an, "Okay, who's never been called?", it was still never me. We were a very small group and it was impossible that people would not know that I'd never been in the hot seat. And I think I might have been the only person who was spared. Whether it was an oversight or an intention, I was allowed to keep my secret.
Why are these sorts of games so popular? I think it's because we really want to know what's going on in other people's sex lives. Not necessarily because we want to gossip about it, but because we want to share experiences and see if ours are normal. However, we got the notion somewhere that it's inappropriate to have honest conversations about these topics, and so we couch them in awkward and embarrassing games. No one wants to admit that they might be seriously interested about the subject of their friends' virginity. At least, this is one theory. A more cynical theory is that having people air their sex lives semi-publicly can have the effect of fostering conformity or policing a group, and emphasizing what is "okay" to say and what should be kept secret. People with more "standard" sexual experiences might be more willing to talk about them (or be honest about them), leaving people with more "non-standard" experiences more likely to be quiet about theirs.
It's been going on 5 years since I realized I was asexual, and no one has asked me to play any of these games. As an adult, Apples to Apples seems to be the standard, rather than Truth or Dare, and thank goodness for that. However, I almost wish I could go back to the hot seat, because my reaction today would not be the same as it was then. First of all, I would speak up and say that I didn't think it was a good idea; that if we wanted to tell people our secrets, we should be encouraged to do it of our own volition. I would tell people that for me, the innocent "who do you have a crush on?" question doesn't resonate with the chummy sense of inclusion that it might for others. I would say that for me, it was a question I've always feared, and explain why that was. I would ask why we were assuming that everyone in the group was straight, and why there was an atmosphere where it would be hard to admit that you weren't. At the time, I didn't know any better than to keep my mouth shut. But now? I would still rather play Monkeys in a Barrel than I Never, but if it came, I'd try to face it stoically, and use it as a chance to get people to rethink their assumptions about sexuality. It would be worth a try, and quite possibly, this would make everyone lose interest in the game anyway. Charades, anyone?