Friday, March 8, 2013

Best of the Beast

Out of 620 posts, how to determine "the best"?  Well, either they were popular...or unpopular, but I liked them a lot anyway, or they seemed especially educational or representative of this blog's worldview.  I've put the posts into categories, starting with:

What the heck was I trying to achieve with this blog?

The Intro Post and What Army!

On, what else, asexuality:

Could I Be Asexual?  (My most-viewed post by a long shot, due to the search terms)
Asexuals Are Awesome! *Hides*
Carnival of Aces roundup post: Race
Virginity: No Excuses
Sympathy for the Hermits: Asexuality and being 'asocial'
Ily and the Add-Ons: Dealing with negative reactions to coming out
I Love a Charade:  Party games I have hated...
Among other things, asexuals like overanalyzing and teetotaling.
In Praise of Confusion
What is Asexual Pride?
The Times of Harvey Milk: Featuring coming-out tips for the 21st century
On love (all kinds!) and romance:

Dancing to Vaguely Depressing Music: How to show love for oneself?
What is romance, anyway?
Genuis Loci: For the love of places
Ahoy, [Soul]Matey!
On community:

A few notable events: World Pride!  Our first entry in the San Francisco pride parade, one of our following years there, and the day I reached my meetup goal.

My series on community:  What it is, what gets in the way, how we're doing, and what Claude Monet has to do with it all.

On relationships of all sorts:

The Web of Mystery: Platonic Attraction
Cougars and Gift Sex
BFFs: Susan and Elizabeth (the suffragists!)
The term "in a relationship"

Or, more specifically, on the single life:

Tips for Traveling Alone
Loneliness: Alternate Narrative
How to be Alone: Reviews [of activities you can do by yourself]
Eternal Hope and the Long-Term Single Life

On various forms of media:

Like books (Intercourse, Marrying Anita, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, The Feminine Mystique), movies (Brideshead Revisited, Maurice, The Sheik, Withnail and I), TV (Entourage) and music (indiepop!).

On queerness:

Why I'm Queer
The Start of a Bicurious Friendship
Gayness Thrust Upon Them: On the book Surpassing the Love of Men

On body image:

Asexy-Ugly and the Hobbit Acceptance Project

And more generally, on our culture:

The language we use to describe sexual coming-of-age events
The "minority report" of philosophy
How I avoided peer pressure (most of the time)
Subcultures of One...thanks to the internet
I just noticed that the 4th most popular search term for this blog is "Alan Rickman Shirtless".  I don't know who you are, but I hope you find what you're looking for.

Love, *ily

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Best Friend

Since I said I'd keep you updated on my other projects, I can't resist posting this song I wrote on some asexual themes.  While some of my songs are total autobiography, this is more of a compilation of different people's stories that I've heard over the years.  I will take full ownership of "eternal bachelor problems", though.

"Best of" post is still crawling towards completion...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

To Every Blog, There is a Season

(That might be in the Gnostic Gospels somewhere.)  I didn't mysteriously die or go off the grid; I'm just terrible at goodbyes.  Yep, I'm wrapping up this blog, which is very hard for me to say, despite the ephemeral nature of online ventures.  Since 2007, Asexy Beast has been a big part of my life and my personal identity, but I think it's time to move on to some other projects now.  When I started out, this was the only asexual blog (that I knew English...) that consistently updated.  Now, you are not limited by a lack of asexual writings online, but only by your time to read them all.  The landscape has changed in my own life as well.  I want to be real about the fact that asexuality is not the same priority for me that it was in 2007.  Since I will most likely be out as asexual for the rest of my life, I suppose that my relationship with the identity will change as the years pass.  At first, I felt very uncomfortable with the fact that asexuality was not so paramount in my mind anymore, but I think it's something that happens to a lot of queer people at this stage in our journeys of self-discovery.  Do I still have more to say about asexuality?  Always...but I want to take a step back and figure out what I want to use my (sadly, limited) time to write about at this point in my life.  It might be asexuality-related, and it might not be.  I may post here about future projects.

Still, let's keep in touch.  You can always reach me at a gmail address called sanfranciscoemily.

I'm working on collecting posts for a "best of Asexy Beast", so if you have a favorite post, let me know!  Thank you for being such kind, civil, and intelligent readers.  You will always be the frosting on my glittery purple cake.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Karen, actually preferring to be single on a bus.

If it's been a while since I've posted, it was probably sometime in the late Cretaceous period that I last posted about movies.  I used to consider myself a movie buff and would watch movies multiple times a week; now I rarely watch them.  I'm not entirely sure why this is.  While most of my all-time favorite movies revolve around straight white men, part of me was getting tired of this narrow range of stories.  Even when I attempted to watch films that centered on women, too often they involved the woman in question giving up everything for a man.  When I was challenged to come up with "feminist films" for a recent screening, I couldn't think of any at all.

However.  Of the movies I do watch, many of them are Spanish-language.  Since I'm always trying to improve my Spanish, I will watch any Spanish film that seems remotely interesting.  This led to me watching Karen Cries on the Bus, which is Colombian, and compared to other movies I've seen lately, refreshingly feminist.  I say this because it diverges from the narratives of "woman seeking man" and "woman doesn't think she needs a man, but she really does".  While it's not anti-feminist to seek men, I think the near-total ubiquity of these tropes means that showing other woman-centered stories can be a feminist act.

Karen Cries on the Bus lacks plot (it's like they know me), but shows the day-to-day life of Karen as she tries to cultivate an identity for herself after leaving a loveless marriage. At first, she doesn't really know how to do anything independently, and the film charts her successes and failures in building a new life.  There have been other movies on the same topic, but the ending was a total departure from anything Hollywood would have done.  **Major spoilers**  Instead of moving to Argentina with a new man she starts dating, Karen decides to stay in Colombia by herself.  While I can see how this might seem depressing to some viewers, personally I was thinking, "you go, Karen".  She had learned enough about herself to know that she was still susceptible to getting lost in her relationships with men, and she didn't want to go down that road again.  I don't know any other films where someone chooses to be single in a situation like Karen's.  **End spoilers for "Karen"**

I recommend it.  

[Haircuts always represent new beginnings--we get it!]

The other movie I've seen most recently was Albert Nobbs, which garnered some discussion on AVEN.  **Minor spoilers will follow**  Albert is a woman (or perhaps a genderqueer or trans person) who began presenting as male in order to get employment in 19th century Ireland.  What I found somewhat unique about the film was that there was another character, Hubert, who was also a woman presenting as male.  She "finds out" Albert, and then confides to him that she is also female (pronouns are tough here).  Albert seems to really admire Hubert, because he has a wife and just generally seems a lot happier and freer than Albert does.  While Albert's gender status seems to get in the way of relationships, Hubert doesn't seem to have a problem with his.  Albert does seem asexual in some ways, but I am not convinced that he is.  I think he just feels a much greater anxiety over his "secret" than Hubert does.  It also seems like years of isolation have greatly impaired his social functioning.

**Major spoilers will follow**

What's cliche about the movie is that Albert dies in the end.  This always seems to be a statement that gender-nonconforming people have no future and no place in this world (which, of course, makes me cringe).  However, Hubert lives, and seems to be thriving even after the death of his wife.  It seems like he'll be successful at wooing the woman who rejected Albert for being too stiff and unemotional.  Are we supposed to think that Hubert is somehow ambushing heterosexual women?  I don't know.  I wouldn't blame him, given his social climate, for staying in the closet.

**End spoilers**

To finally conclude, I think that Albert Nobbs, while it got mixed reviews, is a great film to discuss with folks who are interested in gender issues.  Make it a double-feature with Tomboy, which would also have some good discussion fodder.  Someone's going to fall asleep, though.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Remote Intimacy

In Relocations, an awesome book, Karen Tongson writes about "remote intimacy", a term she credits to Jennifer Terry.  (Terry defined it as the "transmission of sentiments through designed uses and creative appropriations of telemediating devices".)  Wish I had page numbers, but I read it as an ebook and every page was Page 1.  Ain't technology grand?  You've probably experienced remote intimacy, even if you don't know the term.  The classic example is listening to a favorite song and feeling like somewhere out there, another person is listening to the same song and loving it, too.  It can also be experienced in groups, as in that scene from The Perks of Being a Wallflower that launched 10,000 "infinite" tattoos. The kids in that book, who presumably live in some uncool suburb, listen to the Smiths together and "feel infinite".  (The Smiths seem to have launched a disproportionately high number of remote intimacy moments.)  Tongson writes:

"...Listening as remote intimacy brings people, things, and concepts together, even if suburban space and time dictates their dispersal and isolation."

and in greater detail:

"In a pre-digital age, remote intimacies were practiced through the shared consumption (or some would say overconsumption) of broadcast television and popular music, as well as by "hanging out" live, at differently situated chains or even at amusement venues like Knott's [Berry Farm, a southern California theme park].  Sometimes the resonance of these activities and of these shared popular objects is only discovered belatedly, thus recreating intimacies in the present based on the shared, remote gestures--some experienced in isolation--in the past.  I would venture to describe such asynchronous echoes as remote intimacies across time."

Remote intimacy is especially important to the suburbs, because it can take away the inferiority of being in "a suburb of [some larger city]", allowing people to connect with faraway places that might have more in common with their own.  For instance, Tongson describes how music connects Birmingham, England with Riveside, California.  By identifying with a place like Birmingham, you can escape the feeling of living in a "lesser version" of LA.

But remote intimacy is older than this implies; predating recorded film and sound.  In her notes to the book, Tongson uses a quote about how morning prayers connect people with millions of unseen others doing the same thing.  It's one reason why these rituals are so powerful.  You feel remote intimacy with people across time (because your ancestors did the same thing) and in the present time, with people across the world.

Of course, the internet has caused remote intimacy to take up a much more prominent place in many of our lives.  The interesting thing is, Tongson never says that remote intimacy is an inferior copy of other intimacies, or that it is unhealthy in some way.  (This is how people alone in their rooms with music or the internet tend to be perceived.)  To Tongson, it is a way through which people fight isolation, rather than a way to become more isolated.  When talking about intimacy, relationships are always privileged, but they are not the only place to find intimacy.  I think it would be hard for most people to get by on remote intimacy alone.  But these little moments of connection?  They matter.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The most amazing event in history!

While riding the London tube, I saw this advertisement for an online dating site:

It reads: "The most amazing event in the history of the world will happen in London this summer.  Plus there's that Stratford thing too.  Falling in love.  Nothing on earth can match the feeling."

I saw the ad multiple times during my stay in London, and had some time to think about it during long tube journeys.  It plays on a common trope in American (and obviously, British) culture--that falling in love is a completely unique and rarefied experience.  There is nothing else like it.  I've always felt compelled to say that I "fell in love" with music, maybe to show that I do experience a full range of emotion.  Although, maybe I don't, and maybe that's fine.  I can find people attractive, have crushes and romantic feelings, and love people, but I have never in my life felt obsessed with another person.

But we all have certain things we can't experience.   For instance, I don't have synesthesia.  Since I first heard of synesthesia, I've thought that having it would be very interesting (although I know it can be problematic for people who have it).  However, no one places value judgements on people without synesthesia.  People who don't fall in love, though...that's another story.  Most people seem to accept the fact that some asexuals don't fall in love, but non-asexuals who don't fall in love tend to be portrayed as either callous manipulators or immature people who are scared of commitment.  In asexual visibility literature, it is often emphasized that asexuals can fall in love "just like anyone else".  I think this just perpetuates the idea that "falling in love", out of all other emotions, is put on a pedestal, and that people who aren't ace all fall in love (which is untrue).  No one ever says that "asexuals can make friends just like anyone else".  (And this might actually be relevant as well, since on coming out I've been asked if I prefer to be alone in all cases.)

While I don't have the authority to talk about falling in love with someone from personal experience, I can speak to the messages that I hear about it.  Whether or not they're true, we all hear them, sometimes every day or more, and repeated exposure to ideas affects us.

The idea that people in love recede from the larger world is problematic.  It relates to the idea that we are all broken up into completely independent nuclear family units, and this kind of thinking has really had a negative impact on social policy in America.  I don't think it's a good thing that people in love are expected to completely withdraw from their friends, communities, and families of origin.  It's not good for the people in the couple either, as their support networks may no longer be there once the honeymoon period is over.  Being in love may feel like being on drugs, but people are also encouraged to act like that's the case.  Back when marriage was largely a financial arrangement, did people fall in love like they do today?  Did they experience the feelings but just ignore them?  Maybe they had "falling in love" feelings towards friends, as described in Surpassing the Love of Men.

Right now I'm listening to a totally unrelated book called The Lost City of Z, which is about explorers in the Amazon (spoiler: they're racist).  Some indigenous people were described as being so far from civilization that they "didn't even have a concept of romantic love!"  It was like that fact was the ultimate exoticism.  But to me it makes no less sense than our society does.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Oh, To Be Queer in the Suburbs

I've lived in the suburbs for most of my life.  Often, people have asked me "Which do you like better--the East or West Coast?"  But between the suburban towns that I lived in on both coasts, the main difference is probably the climate.  Until a certain book made me question it, I took this view of suburbia, which is shared by many both inside and outside it:  That the suburbs are a tragic, boring, isolating place where creative people experience "aesthetic peril*".  At the same time, I accepted the view of cities as superior and unique.  I never thought about the fact that "great world cities" are grouped together based on many similarities.  And a lot of what makes cities "great" tends to be based on Eurocentric standards.

Enter the book Relocations.  It might actually make me feel slightly better about living in the suburbs, which is no small feat.  The author, Karen Tongson, writes that for too long, studies of queer life have privileged the city, even though many queer people (especially women and people of color) live in the suburbs.  The prevailing idea is that after coming out, queer people need to migrate to the city or risk the sad and irrelevant life described earlier.  That queer people might choose to stay in the suburbs, or actually migrate from cities to suburbs, is rarely examined.  

While there is no city with an asexual community on par with San Francisco or New York's gay communities, I accepted the same narrative of suburban to urban migration.  I always pictured myself living in a city, since it was what seemed "normal" for a young, single person from the suburbs.  It's true that the suburban demographics are changing.  They're no longer places that are solely composed of heterosexual couples with kids.  However, while there may be a certain number of people "like me" in the suburbs, the difference is that they're less visible than they might be in the city.  When I visit a vegan anarchist cafe (as I did in London), I can assume that many of the people present share some of my interests, whatever their age or appearance.  At a Starbucks in the suburbs, there is no way to guess about the interests of anyone present.  While in my personal experience it's harder to meet new people in the suburbs, its lack of niche activity might actually yield a more diverse group of friends for the suburban person, which is something that I value.

Tongson writes that there is something fundamentally queer about the suburbs' odd juxtapositions of time periods, architectures, forgotten histories, and groups of people.  While the suburbs are usually seen as boring, in many ways they're also very strange, surreal places.  One of my biggest problems with the suburbs is being seen as culturally irrelevant.  After all, cities are promoted as the site of alternative culture, and suburbs the place where people escape from it.  And this is why, according to Tongson, suburban queers of color love the Smiths (I could not believe that this was A Thing, but apparently it is).  While I am white, I could relate to this British pop admiration, although maybe for slightly different reasons than the ones Tongson posits.  We love bands from unlikely places, such as Manchester, because they show that you don't have to come from new York or LA to be relevant.  (I have always loved the fact that Yo La Tengo is from Hoboken, New Jersey.)  While some bands could be from anywhere, the Smiths are very grounded in what Tongson would call "the imaginary" of Manchester.  To suburban Americans, a place like Manchester is exotic, but at the same time, we can relate to it in a way that we can't relate to, say, London or Paris.  We do have suburban culture, although it is so overlooked and devalued (by residents and city folk alike), that it has a hard time thriving.  In some ways, the cultural wasteland of the suburbs is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"Driving in your car through lonely stretches of Southern California or elsewhere.  Driving in your car with someone else, with significant others (not necessarily lovers--or are they?).  Rollin' deep with your homies, sisters or bros, real or conjured, desperately seeking excitement elsewhere, somewhere, but realizing that it might just be all about the ride, the inevitably aimless transport of accidental reverie--and all about who you're riding with."  --last page of Relocations

(*this term is from Relocations.)