Saturday, November 5, 2011

Asexuals are awesome! *hides*

How many posts have I read from asexuals seeking advice? Probably not a million, but definitely more than a thousand. A lot of answers to these advice-seekers repeat themselves, understandably. The most common might be, "We can't tell you if you're asexual or not". But I also frequently hear, "That person is not your friend". You know, the friend who keeps saying you're not really asexual and then tries to get you to have sex with them. There are plenty of others where friends are just rude about asexuality, not listening, and not appearing to care about that fact.

Are these people really terrible friends? I don't know...even in a friendship that's good overall, people can make some pretty big mistakes. But I'm guessing that with some of these asexuals, their interactions follow a pattern that I've identified in some of my own interactions. Someone says something hurtful about asexuality. You, the asexual, tell them how it ain't so. The person doesn't apologize or seem to understand why they were wrong. You feel bad. Yes...YOU feel bad. Because maybe it was your own fault for bringing asexuality up in the first place. Maybe you didn't express yourself well, or do a good enough job at educating. Maybe it's understandable that they wouldn't believe you, seeing as you've had sex, or were assaulted, or you write erotic stories.

I don't think this is just a self-esteem issue, but internalized asexohating. We have no official word for this, but I think it's one of the bigger issues that asexuals face. Even if we feel positive about our asexuality, the onus is always on the asexual to prove ourselves. It sort of reminds me of my experience being bullied in school. Although I wasn't directly blamed, the onus was always entirely on me to resolve the bullying. That I was incapable of doing this only made me feel worse, and more like I deserved the abuse I was getting. People tell us our orientation is too confusing or unusual to bother with understanding. It's not hard to start believing that they may be right, and that there is some inherent problem with the "difficulty" of asexuality and therefore, with us. I maintain that even if you can't prove yourself, that's no reason to beat yourself up.

The thing is, most of us have been receiving negative messages about asexuality our entire lives. I still receive them daily from our culture...and this is on top of all the other negative messages I receive for other "undesirable" aspects of my identity. I don't think that neutral statements, like the fact that we exist, can overcome the barrage of negative statements that we face. But, a lot of asexuals feel vaguely embarrassed and awkward about pride. Why should we be proud of something we can't control? As a group, we're terrified as appearing "superior". But if someone truly understood asexuality, could they honestly say that asexuals feel superior to the rest of the population? Without understanding, "you think you're so superior!" becomes a meaningless insult, like "repressed" or "frigid". And with understanding, I don't think anyone could make that claim. (This is basically what happened with the "demisexuals are slut-shamers!" thing. Most of the people saying that seemed to have little understanding of either demisexuality or slut-shaming.)

In writing this post, I read a bunch of information about internalized homophobia. As a means of coping with it, I heard two pieces of advice repeated: Acknowledge that internalized homophobia exists, and be as out as possible. The gay community is well aware that coming out can be fraught with danger, but still encourages its members to be out. They also seem to talk much more about the benefits of coming out, especially the benefits to the individual. On the other hand, in the asexual community, I get the feeling that there's no pressure to be out...it's something that's seen as a completely personal choice. I don't know if this is good or bad, since there seem to be benefits and drawbacks to each way of thinking. But it's interesting.

10 comments:

Sciatrix said...

Oh my god, this post is brilliant. And yeah, I know *exactly* what you mean about internalizing the negative messages I get all the damn time. About internalizing this belief that asexuality isn't as "important" as other sexualities; that our issues don't deserve to be discussed, that we're so rare and unusual that we should never, ever expect to be included. I internalize that a lot, and I spend a lot of time trying to catch that conditioning and fixing it.

I also think that a lot of people don't get the difference between pride in the "better than you" sense and pride in the "you say I'm not good enough, world? FUCK YOU I'M AWESOME" sense. I was talking to at friend some time ago about how sometimes I really wish I could fit into normal narratives for once, and she gave me a really weird look and told me "but you seem to really love being weird!" And I had to tell her that it was take pride in who I am, to actively love who I am, or else to hate myself, because that's what the world tells me to do on several axes. You know? There's always an element of "fuck you" in my pride, because there's always the knowledge that someone--many someones--have told me that who I am is not something to be proud of.

Thank you for writing this post. I think it was something that was very, very important to say.

SlightlyMetaphysical said...

Great post.

I actually really dislike the LGBTQA tendency to hear a story about a phobic friend and just be like 'They're a terrible person! They're bad for you! Cut them loose!', because they're only responding to the worst points. I have quite a few phobic friends who I still like because their good qualities make up for it.

And re. coming out, I'd always seen it the other way round, that the asexual community makes it seem like there's a duty to come out because we're smaller and need the publicity. Perhaps its because asexuality is invisible- you can be asexual and pretend you're just unenthused, while to be successfully homoromantic must be really difficult while closeted.

Ily said...

Thank you both for the thoughtful comments!

@Sciatrix:

And I had to tell her that it was take pride in who I am, to actively love who I am, or else to hate myself, because that's what the world tells me to do on several axes. You know?

Oh, do I ever! I was wondering if my semi-recent posts on self love were really relevant to asexuality...but to me as an asexual, at least at this point in my life, there are few things more relevant.

I'm glad you found it important! Made me happy to hear that :)

@SM: Yeah...it can be hard to tell other people when to ditch a friend, since everyone has different deal breakers. Although, I think people need to know that they can "allow" asexuality to be the same as any other status. Like, if you wouldn't accept homophobia or biphobia from a friend, it's okay not to accept willful ignorance or maliciousness about your asexuality. Like, you don't have to sit through it for the sake of educating someone, unless that's what you genuinely want to do.

It's funny, in this post, I thought about writing "asexuals are encouraged to come out *for the benefit of other people*", but for some reason I wasn't sure I could make that claim. So, I'm glad you're making it. I think the contradiction is real...What I hear is something like: "you don't have to come out, but if you do, do it to educate people". I'm not sure that duty is the best motivator. And it's true, it's relatively easy to stay closeted as an asexual.

asexualspace said...

This reminds me -- during the blog carnival I hosted, my immediate reaction to learning that it might be trolled (which it wasn't, to my knowledge) was, "What did I do to attract these people?" I didn't consider that they just wanted to go out and find anyplace they could cause trouble. It had to have been something I did. (Sciatrix talked me out of that headspace, though.)

I still also feel guilty when I get really hopeful about someone possibly including asexuality in something (I've yet to run across a situation where I suspect someone's about to include demi- or gray-) and then it turns out they didn't. I feel guilty for getting my hopes up because who's really heard of us and why should I expect anyone who isn't involved in an ace community to think about us, ever? This goes a lot for feminist spaces. Also, the new comic QUILTBAG (which is still at Penny & Aggie's website right now). I'm keeping myself from daring to hope that the A will at any point, even briefly, stand for asexual and not ally. (I'm also wondering whether the T will actually show up, but I don't feel guilty about hoping for that.)

And I'm still bad about offering my opinions on ace things. I think, well, do I really need to comment? Does this really need someone else saying something? Even though it's the ace spaces I'm in where I feel the most comfortable speaking up.

Ily said...

@asexualspace: Thanks for commenting, and I hear ya. I tend to ask "why me?" when something bad happens, although often, it's true, there's no real reason. As for feeling guilty, I wish I had something helpful to say...it's true, a lot of people haven't heard of us, but more people are learning everyday. In a few years, people may have no excuse. And I'd like to think that representations of asexuals could be interesting to everybody. I think most everyone wants to see representations of people like themselves; it's nothing to be ashamed of at all. If you're ever seen the movie "The Celluloid Closet", it talks about that...people who were searching for gay film representations before they really existed. I need to re-watch that one.

litatrix said...

-note this is realated to your blog as a whole and my need for someone who may or may not understand how im feeling)
So, I have read your last several blog posts and I have found you to be very insightful and it has actually helped me quite a bit. For awhile I have been struggling with my sexuality (or lack thereof). I one day stumbled across asexuality and I snapped up all of the information I could find. I admit that this seems pretty straightforward, but this it where it gets complicated. I am a freshman in highschool and male. I have been in love/really liked one girl for the past several years, but I have occasionally found people of my own gender to be attractive I have never had a desire to do anything with that attraction.
I am friends with all girls, and I have never mentioned this attraction to any of them because as a general assumption I hate the mentality/mannerisms of men. All of my friends have began to enter into relationships and I am alone, and I have never kissed anyone, as a result of a lack of desire on my part (I have had two past realtionships each lasting a year) I have really begun to stick out among my friends as our earlier indiffence to sexual orientations has begun to form me as the outcast who doesn't have the experiences that they have, and this has begun to make me feel inferior.
Then I discovered asexuality, and you. I believe I have finally found my answer in someone whom I believe feels the same way I do.

P.S. if you are wondering which I woundnt I have not heterosexual guy friends because they are all sex crazed and I am most definitely not
P.P.S I have not read this over for fear I will lose my nerve and sit in misery awhile longer, so please forgive any errors in flow and or grammar.
P.P.P.S. I feel like I am taking a huge step forward by actually opening up to someone, even though I don't know them personally, please at least respect that.

I really appreciate it.

Ily said...

@litatrix: Hey, I'm glad you commented! It's definitely not something that's easy to talk about...but you never know, once you start, you might find it hard to stop (like me!) When I was in high school, I just assumed everyone else was asexual (...yeah...) and "focused on their work" which was how I understood my lack of sexual interest at the time.

But yeah, there's nothing at all unusual in what you're saying--hopefully that's somewhat of a relief? I can definitely relate to feeling left out; I think most asexuals can. Nor is there anything so strange about not wanting to hang out with straight dudes...or being nonsexually attracted to people. It's hard to be a teen who isn't into sex, because there are all these stereotypes and expectations. But, you're not the only one. In fact, if you go to a school with 1000 people, there should be 10 asexuals (although...it might be hard to find them).

Have you been on AVEN at all? There are a lot of really welcoming people there. It can be nice to just do an intro post, hear from a bunch of other asexuals in one place, and see that no one will judge you harshly about your sexuality. There are also a lot of cool asexuals on Tumblr, if you're into that. So, if you want to seek out more support, there are some resources.

And of course, you're welcome to drop by here whenever you'd like :)

litatrix said...

@Ily
Thank you so very very much. It is such a huge relief to know that I am not in fact alone. I started to realize what was going on last year, and since that time all of my inner conflicts have left me feeling broken. You comment, which I have read probably 10 times has made me feel real relief and wholeness for the first time in awhile. For this, I sincerely thank you.

Ily said...

@litatrix: That means a lot to me, thanks for letting me know :)

Frances Roth said...

It's a great post and I can understand the hatred towards asexuals. However, I'm grateful to be able to surround myself with such wonderful and open friends who help me realize that being ace is OK.