|[Image: The cover of the book]|
The first essay is about a cruising website called Dads and Lads. Now that, I cannot relate to, but it did have some things to say that mirrored my own experience with online dating:
Worse yet, [the dropdown menu] suggests there's something wrong with anyone or anything that doesn't fit into those clear-cut, self-explanatory, "natural" options. Sure, you can express in your profile's personal statements the scope of your sexual tastes and practices as fully and with as much imagination as the text field's character limit will accommodate. But when you first encounter that dropdown, when you first look at the choices available and note that there are none with which you cleanly correspond, there is a moment of creeping doubt, of uncertainty, of a nagging sense that there is something wrong with you. You should be one or the other. (D. Travers Scott, "Imagining a Faggoty Web", 6)
The example of this humble and by now much-maligned dropdown menu is an illustration of how the web is not neutral. The technologies that constitute the online experience did not appear out of thin air or descend from Olympus as gifts from the gods. They are not separate from culture, somehow innocent and pure, but as deeply intertwined with culture as an episode of The Hills. The design and functioning of online technologies is far from immune to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other social ills. (7)
It hadn't really occurred to me that people with more well-known orientations might have the same dropdown menu problem that I do (apparently I haven't been spending enough time on Dads and Lads). But dropdown menus seem to function similarly to those pants you try on in the dressing room. They don't fit, so you must be too fat. We seem to have this habit of blaming ourselves first, and once we've done that, it can be hard to see other options. If you want to be pissed off about dropdown menus, I'll stand behind you. It might seem "small", but you have a right to be frustrated about people who will sacrifice human diversity for some dating algorithm.
Although they may be different from my own life experience, reading these sorts of anti-assimilationist queer accounts often feels very refreshing to me. I feel like asexuals, myself included, are often hesitant to take up space. Like the "flaming faggots" in this anthology, we're often told that no one wants to hear about our sexuality. With gay men, the perception is that there's too much to tell, and with asexuals, there is presumably not enough. I would like to be flamboyantly asexual, although I'm still trying to figure out what that is. Books like this remind me that there's value in that attempt. As the introduction states, "Existing simultaneously outside queer and straight norms is liberating and constantly exciting in ways I had never anticipated". This sense of liberation and excitement is what I wish for us.
Expect a part 2 to this post!