Monday, December 29, 2008

Why I Can't (Online) Date

...And it might not be why you think.

So, Katie's A Year of Online Dating has gotten me thinking about-- you guessed it--online dating. Nearly every single person I know seems to do it, and I've tried it as well. While I know people who have met their current partners in the "real world", I can only think of one person (who I don't know very well) that casually dates different people in the "real world". Online dating is the rare topic that is both fun and somewhat profound. Since online dating, unlike "traditional" dating, is still at a point where it can change drastically, and since we love talking about new ways of doing these sorts of things in the ace community, it's definitely a relevant point of discussion.

I recently wrote an article for AVEN (I'll share it with you later) about how I used to blame unrelated things on my asexuality. And I realized that the reason why dating (especially online) is so difficult for me involves many other factors besides my rare orientation. So here they are: Some reasons why I have a bugger of a time doing online dating. I hope you'll find them amusing. I find it funny because I was told by my friends that because they thought I was a good writer, online dating would somehow be my "thing". Ahem, not really.
  1. I'm not photogenic. On a dating site, your photo is usually the first thing seen by the other person. But I haven't looked good in a photo since I was about six years old. One of my friends commented on a picture of me being "classic Ily", and my expression was "You're not seriously trying to take my picture, are you? Silly human." Usually, I just look stoned (I'm not).
  2. I can't sell myself. This is why I also have such a hard time getting a job. But I can't even describe myself in a way that makes sense. This is why my "About Me" section on my Facebook profile has been "I'm not an enigma, just a contradiction" since time immemorial. And I didn't even make it up, it's a quote from Croupier. I do agree with High Fidelity that "You are what you like, not what you're like" (read that statement carefully). But, just listing what I like might be a little too avante garde for most.
  3. I don't have a "scene" that is one of the "biggies" in San Francisco. A lot of people here can be categorized as geeks, hipsters, yuppies, people who go to Burning Man, etc. When you read someone's online dating profile, you're trying to figure out where they fit. But what if you, like me, don't fit into any certain group? I think that makes dating in general more difficult. If you asked me what my "type" was, I'd say "People with red hair who ride bikes in 3-piece suits". Yeah. Really not helpful.
(Also, check out Quench's awesomely accurate post on the trials of online dating while genderqueer. Online dating is supposed to give us more choices, but does having to select your gender and orientation from a drop-down box reinforce "the binary" more than traditional dating?)

So, a mere three things are big roadblocks for me in the online dating world. And is this where the future of dating is going? Don't get me wrong, I still like to meet people online, or wherever I may find them. But I doubt online dating is going to become "my thing" anytime least, beyond the theoretical.

So, have you noticed any other bugs in the online dating method?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Waiting to Be Unzipped

A while ago, randomly, I started thinking about this article, which was published on Salon ten (!) years ago. Entitled "Waiting to Be Unzipped", the piece was written by a 24-year-old heterosexual woman who also happened to be a virgin. I read this a while after it was published, but many years before finding AVEN. At the time, I'm pretty sure that 24, the age I am now, seemed fairly out of range. The author, then-grad student Mindy Hung, wrote "Those who react [with incredulity] forget that getting sex takes dedication, courage, interest and effort. It's not as if losing one's virginity is a common and unavoidable household accident. Penises do not fall from high shelves." I found I had remembered that line almost verbatim, years after last reading the article. Even though it didn't have to do with asexuality (directly), it really made me feel less alone at the time. So, I just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

When Romantic Comedies Attack

From the blog Shapely Prose, I found out about a new study about romantic comedy films and relationships. (Read the article here.) The study, done at a university in Edinburgh (I love all things Scottish, which encouraged me to read on), found that fans of romantic comedies are more likely to have unrealistic expectations about relationships: That sex should always be perfect and that partners should be able to know what the other one is thinking. I guess this isn't very surprising, but I found it interesting because I do enjoy some romantic comedies. I find that we tend to enjoy parts of media that resonate with us, and ignore parts that conflict with our values. That's why we can listen to Ghostface rap about killing people (depending on our musical tastes, of course) and not be scarred for life. One of the films included in the study was While You Were Sleeping, which I remember as a favorite movie of mine as a child. I'm not sure why, as I was a very scientific and feminist child. But that just goes to show that romantic comedies have infiltrated most of our lives, regardless of our personalities and interests.

(On a side-note, the best comment on a movie I've ever read was "Black Lizard made me gay". This was an extremely bizarre old film about a murderous drag queen. I'd like to say, following this study, that While You Were Sleeping somehow made me asexual by hopelessly warping my ideals of sex and relationships, but this makes absolutely no sense. I think I do have a relatively healthy view of sex and relationships, despite all the movies I've seen.)

[This is where I'd usually include the poster from While You Were Sleeping, but it's just way too corny to bear repeating.]

I can't deny the fact that there are some really great romantic comedies: Kissing Jessica Stein (totally asexual), When Harry Met Sally (which I think is good mostly for the strength of its writing), and Moonstruck are a few that I can think of offhand. A movie like Muriel's Wedding, which might be billed as a rom-com, is actually about the importance of friendship. The writer of the aforementioned Shapely Prose entry makes a really interesting point about our relationship to media:

Because those of us for whom these unhealthy messages are going to resonate? We seek them out, because they represent existing beliefs and desires. Regardless of your opinions on nature and nurture, by the time we’re consciously consuming non-Teletubby media, young women are not empty vessels in danger of being filled with bad ideas. We already got the bad ideas, from the input we get every day, from years of media we might not even have paid attention to, from offhand comments that seemed innocent at the time.

I know you're not supposed to end a piece with a quote, so I'll remind any local folks (and interested others) that we have a meetup coming up on January 4th! 1PM at Crossroads Cafe.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Do as I say, not as I do

A little shout out: In Ace of Hearts, the Impossible K writes: "My boyfriend has a tendency to ask if I’m still feeling asexual, like it’s some sort of cold." This got me thinking about the communication issues that asexuality has with the wider world. I realized, through K's experience compounded with my own, that it isn't at all obvious that asexuality is a sexual orientation. It's taken me awhile to figure out that just because I know something, that doesn't mean it's obvious to everyone else. This subject is no exception. An orientation is more than just a transitory feeling, and it's more than who you have sex with. It's an identity. It has weight. While sexuality is fluid, it's fairly rare for people to change their orientations. When people come out as queer in later life, it usually seems to be with the realization that they were queer all along. However, you will constantly find AVEN members in various states of worry over the status of their orientation. They ask, "Can I still be asexual if I xyz?" This is by no means an attempt to put K on the spot, because there are definitely at least 5 posts a week of this nature on AVEN. This is something I'm sure every ace has wondered at some time or another. "xyz" can be having a crush, being attracted to someone, being in love with someone, reading or writing erotica, looking at some sort of semi-pornographic anime that I'm not familiar with, having sex, being aroused, and so on ad infinitum.

In Looking Both Ways, a book about bisexuality, Jennifer Baumgardner mentions a study that found "...91 percent of lesbians who had been out for twenty years or more had been involved sexually with men during that time" (196). So almost all long-time lesbians have had sex with men, but an asexual can't read erotica? I'm tempted to advocate a change to asexuality's "official" definition: "An orientation in which a person does not experience sexual attraction". Would that clear up any of our confusion?

The unsure erotica-reading ace brings up some other issues, of course. The first is that, with some exceptions, no one is telling you that you're asexual. If a woman dates women, people will think she's a lesbian. But what can you possibly do to get people to think you're asexual? It's the old coming out and staying out problem, but it's also the fact that asexuality is primarily a self-constructed identity, and that makes it fragile. There are no social forces pressuring you to be (in the case of straight) or stay (in the case of gay) asexual.

The other issue is that in the confusion of people asking "I do xyz, am I still asexual?", I usually see an underlying idea that they kind of wish xyz made them sexual, that they don't really want to be asexual. When I first discovered the magical world of asexuality, I didn't want to be it either. But various involvements-- in AVEN, this blog, and meetups, made me more comfortable identifying as asexual. Now, I can't imagine being anything else. The advantages to being asexual-- honesty with youself, an accepting community, lack of pressure to be sexy-- are not as obvious as the percieved disadvantages. When I first discovered asexuality, the disadvantages hit me hard, as they might for many others. It was only later that I began to see the advantages. I think the advantages to our orientation is something we need to be more upfront and vocal about. Of course, we're not superior to anyone else, but we do have much to offer.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Against Love

Yes, I was able to get a lot of reading done while I was in LA. I thought this book, Against Love: A Polemic, would be amusing to read along with Dancing in the Dark, which gets a little gooey at times. A "polemic" is basically a rant. This means that the author, Laura Kipnis, doesn't need to present evidence for her case, and doesn't feel obliged to follow much of a structure. This made it difficult to really get a handle on what she's trying to prove. However, it doesn't seem to be love that Kipnis is against, but marriage and monogamy. She seems to view adultery as a metaphor for revolution, which I remain skeptical about. If you're not into monogamy, wouldn't something like polyamory, or just staying single and having sex with whomever you wanted, be a better solution than adultery?

Anyway, there were two parts of the book I really liked. One was a long, very funny list of things you're not allowed to do when you're married, such as wearing cowboy hats and playing computer solitaire. The other was a comparison between our culture's capitalist work ethic and our relationship ethic. Kipnis talks about love as a social management tool: "If without love we're losers and our lives bereft, how susceptible we'll also be to any social program promoted in its name" (26). She quotes Marx to show the similarities between "working at relationships" when all the joy is gone from them, and working hard for little reward in corporate America. Maybe it's because I can't seem to talk about work without thinking to myself, "Oh God, I totally sound like Karl Marx right now", but I think there's some truth to this. (Perhaps it's also my love of comparing disparate concepts.) Our work life can't be separated from the rest of our lives, try as we might. And is capitalism really the greatest set-up for healthy relationships? Kipnis and I would say no. But what is? The problems presented in Against Love are obvious, but the solutions remain evasive.

Even I can relate to the interplay of unsatisfying work and unsatisfied desires. When I was 16, I worked a boring, thankless, minimum-wage job at a bookstore that was close to going out of business. I developed a not-too-small crush on a co-worker, a 20-year-old man we'll call Tony. I remember standing at the cash registers and watching Tony walk by. Suddenly, all was silent and I could only hear the beating of my heart. That sounds cheesy, but it's exactly as I remember it. Also, it bears mentioning that I hadn't "liked someone this way" since the 5th grade. Looking back, I can't remember any desirable attributes that Tony had. I remember what he looked like, but it wasn't anything that impressive. At the time, I remember wondering what I would think if Tony, for example, asked me out. My honest answer to myself? "I would be horrified." Maybe the age difference was a little sketchy. But it was probably because I was asexual and had no real interest in the guy beyond a desperate need to pass the hours.

I also found one footnote in Against Love that sort of relates to asexuality. Kipnis writes: "...a 1999 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that more that [sic] 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men regularly have no interest in sex, can't have orgasms, or have some other sexual impediment (80)." To be clear, there's no evidence that asexual people can't have orgasms. It's the lack of interest that, well, interests me. Kipnis is obviously using these numbers to show how dysfunctional we are today. But to me, it proves that a lack of interest in sex is, for lack of a better word, normal. It makes sense that peoples' sex drives would go through phases of high and low. Kipnis implies that without monogamy and marriage restraining our desires, that we would all want to have tons of sex all the time. But somehow, I doubt that.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dancing in the Dark

"A light rain helps"
--Harrison Ford on romance, from Dancing in the Dark

No, not Bruce Springsteen (although I love that song, I have to say…) This
Dancing in the Dark refers to the book that E. Kay Trimberger calls Isn’t It Romantic in The New Single Woman. The title is different, which I don’t understand, but it’s the same book. At any rate, I read it. It’s sometimes corny, at times enjoyable, at times a little embarrassing, and very, very asexual. It discusses, in hyperbole that even I envy, the romance that its author, Barbara Lazear Ascher, finds in bird-watching, architecture, pastries, paintings, typewriters, a singing class, and so on. Romance isn’t sexual for Ascher—it’s exhausting. For example, Ascher takes four days off to fly to Madrid, go to the Prado, and burst into tears upon seeing a Van der Weyden painting. She then stands in front of a Velasquez for hours. Oddly, this just made me wish I lived in New York, as Ascher does. My own beloved museum, London's Tate Modern, would only be a (tolerable) 7 hour flight away, instead of an excessive 12 hour one. However, with the Met in my own backyard, what need would I have of any other museum? As much as I love the Met, though, I can't imagine there's anything in there that would make me cry.

But, like I said before, Ascher's definition of romance is my favorite so far. For better or for worse, romance is a prominent theme in our culture. So it's heartening to know you can find it with an owl or a typewriter. If it's romance you want, you don't need to wait for a partner-- you can go out and find it by yourself, which I think is a nice idea. It's an unusual book, but a sort that I value. It gives a minority report, so to speak, of desires and longings that aren't often described.

When I went to Madrid, the Prado was closed. Maybe I should have waited around.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dear Lucilius...

I wrote here about the philosopher Epicurus and how his ideas on living situations could be useful to asexuals. I want to talk about philosophy again. Even though it has almost no overlap with pop culture, the supposed theme of this blog, it's something I've been very interested in for a long time.

When epicureanism was at its height, its major "rival school" was stoicism. Oddly, I find as much to like in stoicism as I do in epicureanism-- if I had been a Roman, I'm sure my compatriots would have been annoyed by this, but it's the modern era, so we can choose what we like. Letters from a Stoic, by Seneca (mentioned briefly in that last post as well) happens to be my all-time favorite book, probably because it changed my life more than any other. While I would have liked to have a conversation with Epicurus, Seneca is another story. Pompous, pretentious, and patronizing, he was probably difficult to talk to. He taught that poverty was edifying, but was a multi-millionare, and has been called "history's most notable example of a man who failed to live up to his principles." But I like Seneca more for this. He's human, and that really comes through in Letters from a Stoic. One place I disagree with him is in his zest for suicide. ("Wouldn't you be proud of your son if he was enslaved and then dashed his head against a wall?" No, I would be very sad.) However, he met his end with (supposed) equanimity when Nero ordered him to kill himself, and he did (pictured below).

But it wasn't Seneca's personality that drew me in, it was (most of) his ideas. As you know, I have trouble dealing with the ignorant masses, and Seneca helps me with this. He tells Lucilius, the guy he writes his letters to: "The many may speak highly of you, but have you really any grounds for satisfaction with yourself if you are the kind of person the many understand? Your merits should not be outward facing." And many more times, Seneca tells Lucilius (and us) to ignore the doings of "the crowd" at all costs. He castigates group-think, whether it relates to getting wasted or watching gladiators. I found those points especially relevant to my life as an asexual.

Also relevant is Seneca's insistence that philosophy is the best possible use of your time. Whether you agree with that or not (and I don't know if I do), it provided an alternate narrative for me. People will tell asexuals that sex is God's gift to us, and that the height of life is romantic love, marriage, and children. Seneca would probably smack these people upside the head and tell them God's gift is reason. To the stoics, the goal of life was virtus, a sort of multi-pronged virtue that involved wisdom, courage, self-control, and justice. And you didn't need money to achieve that (although Seneca had tons), you didn't need a high position, you didn't need to be attractive or well-liked, you didn't need your health, and you didn't need sex, love or romance. All you needed was an observant and independent mind.

I think part of my attraction to this alternate "story" comes from being a woman trying to posses the best of both "feminine" and "masculine" attributes. Even though this is the enlightened year 2008, I still think that while men are primarily defined by their accomplishments, women are defined by their relationships. Of course, I have to tie back into pop culture somehow-- whenever I watch an action movie where a male lead is having adventures, I always feel like he can take or leave sex-- if it wasn't for women throwing themselves at him, he would probably just go on exploring. But women in films are usually portrayed as "needing a man". You don't "need a man" to do philosophy. And since I can't exactly go around the world fighting crime, philosophy will have to suffice.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I saw Milk this weekend. It was good, although it didn't contain much information I hadn't heard before. (I guess that's proof of how good The Times of Harvey Milk was.) But I enjoyed it, and it made me proud to consider Milk one of my heroes. It really reinforced how politically savvy and strategic he was, even though his political career only lasted a few years. A large part of the film centered around Proposition 6, which would have made it legal to fire gay teachers and teachers that supported them. Although 6 failed, it started out looking like it would pass by a large margin. Milk made the point that if people knew just one gay person, they would probably vote no, and encouraged everyone around him to come out.

Of course, I compared this to asexuals...although no one is trying to fire us simply because we're ace, I think coming out is just as important for us. At only 1% of the population (perhaps), it's less likely that someone will know at least one asexual. But if someone does, are they going to say that asexuals aren't human? Or are they going to think before saying something like that? Being gay and coming out in the '70s, you risked everything, perhaps even your life. So we can at least endure some rude comments and incredulity, can't we? That's not necessarily an easy question for me to answer. I don't want to see the world as it is, as an ignorant place, and I don't want to assume that people are going to be stupid and mean. When you come out, you see the best and worst in other people. It can be a lot to handle, and it's not something any of us asked for. But without coming out, where can we get as a movement?

Milk also got me thinking about movements in the pre-internet and internet-centric worlds. No matter where asexuality goes, it will always be a movement that started on the internet. And that will make it easier to (unfairly) discount. People will say things on the internet ("you're the only asexual in the world") that they probably wouldn't say to your face, and that they definitely wouldn't say to a group of people. What's more powerful: A group of 10 people hanging out in the Castro or a group of 1,000 on AVEN? And if gay rights hadn't been a matter of life and death at the time, would anyone, including the gay folks themselves, have cared? I guess you could call asexuality a matter of life and death, if you look at our elevated levels of depression, an illness that can be fatal. Maybe we should spin it that way, instead of being the happy asexuals who are fine with everything. To give people hope (one of Milk's big themes), you first have to aknowledge that some are hopeless, don't you?

Friday, December 5, 2008

To Hell With Poverty

So, I didn't mention why I was stuck at LAX this week-- I was doing my training for Americorps Vista. (It's like the Girl Scouts meets the US Army.) Apparently, my main goal will be to alleviate poverty here in San Francisco. Good luck, Ily...but, even though my task is gargantuan, I have to give props to Vista for seeing my AVEN experience as an asset. I took it off my resume for awhile, but put it back on for Vista because it was just too relevant. At my interview, I was told: "When you talk about AVEN, your eyes light up." This was a little embarrassing, and, all told, this job will not help me with my own poverty. However, I got what I wanted-- an employer that likes me for who I am.

Of course, being my liberal-artsy self, I was thinking about asexuality and poverty. During the training, I was not surprised to find that I live in "relative poverty" (as opposed to "absolute poverty, i.e. living in a box). Bogaert's study found that asexuals are poorer than the rest of the population. But unlike our supposed religion (more) and education (less), our poverty does make sense to me. Look at all the asexuals who are in other groups that are more likely to be poor, such as people on the autistic spectrum, people with mental illnesses, and transpeople. I've learned that when you're weird (and let's embrace it, people) it doesn't rain, it pours. Even if aces don't have an "official" oddity, we may have different values or beliefs than the world at large, which may make work more difficult. (For example, I refused to work at a company that "made the world worse", which, honestly, seems to cut out most of them.) We're also less likely to have partners to support us, whether that means cutting costs by living together, marrying rich, or being able to use someone else's health insurance. Marriage did, after all, begin as an economic benefit, and it still is. Like the contributors to That's Revolting!, I support a broadening of what are "queer issues" and "asexual issues", and poverty is at the top of my list. I leave you with this timeless advice from Gang of Four: "To hell with poverty, we'll get drunk on cheap wine!" I wish you all prosperity, whatever that means to you.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Los Angeles is What's Happening (Sort of)

So, I'm leaving for LA tomorrow-- I'd be excited if I got to leave the airport hotel at any time during this sojourn, however, there is no evidence of this. So, I leave reluctantly. I'll be back and posting on Friday. Also, more exciting news in the life of Ily: My full-time job starts next Monday. So, I'll finally be posting every 3 days. I've thought for awhile that posting every other day was too much asexiness for people to handle, but hell, I had nothing else to do with my time. I leave you with Jude Law as Watson, with highly amusing commentary at Go Fug Yourself.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thank You Very Much

Today is a special's Thanksgiving (at least here in America) and my Aveniversary. I think it's somewhat poetic that these two days happen to be the same this year. Three years ago, I joined AVEN, and I'm thankful that I did. After I made my intro post, I was thrilled to get welcoming responses from people all over the world, and I immedeately felt less alone in the 1% club. I've come a long way since then, from planning meetups (and not giving up on them) to writing this blog, which has almost 300 posts now. I've met some really cool asexuals in 3 states now-- 3 years ago, I hadn't (knowingly) been acquainted with any.

I like the concept of an Aveniversary because I look to any excuse to celebrate. Although your birthday is technically an anniversary, usually it takes marriage or couplehood (or lots of creativity) to get another. So, I'm thankful for emerging asexual traditions. I'm also thankful (you are sensing a theme) for my family, because I can actually talk about asexual stuff with them, without them trying to change me. They've been really supportive, like my writing, and even seem to enjoy my experimental ukulele songs. They also make it easy to be vegetarian around the holidays, which is awesome (Tofurky!). I'm very lucky to have them. I'm also lucky (and thankful!) to have friends who appreciate me for who I am, and who never, ever tell me I need to get laid. Hee, hee...You guys are great. I'm also thankful to you readers, of course. The fact that you're here encourages me to keep on with this project (especially when you leave comments). Now go enjoy your food, and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shudder to Think

Recently, I was talking with a friend (hi!) about peer pressure and sex. She asked how I avoided the peer pressure to be sexual (or at least, that's what I think she asked). I don't think I've ever written about peer pressure directly, so I thought it would be fun to write about.

One of my best-remembered experiences with peer pressure was around seventh grade, when I had recently moved across the country. I bought Chumbawamba's Tubthumping album because everyone else was into it, even though it had no relation to any of my own musical tastes at the time. Later, this seemed so stupid to me that I vowed never to be moved by peer pressure again. I did lapse a few times, most notably when I wrote an angry letter to a teacher because the other kids asked me to. That was really a terrible idea, and, before high school even started, turned me off to peer pressure even further.

I don't think anyone "avoids" peer pressure, although that's mainly an issue of semantics. Unless you're a wolf-child, you'll have peers that will pressure you. But, I always felt a disconnect with the other kids in school. I couldn't relate to most of my peers at all-- when most of the girls were talking about things like Jonathan Taylor Thomas (remember him?), I was most interested in environmentalism and science. Whenever I went to school, I felt like a tourist visiting another culture. Finally, in high school, others began to share my interests-- my favorite part of school was working in the organic garden with about 3 other "alternative" kids.

Later on, I think having an asexual identity is precisely what helped me most to avoid the peer pressure to be sexual. If I hadn't discovered asexuality, and still identified as heterosexual, I shudder to think about the unwanted sexual contact I might have had by now, trying to prove to myself that I was "normal" (operative word being "unwanted"--scary thought!). I got new peers in terms of sexuality, which enabled me to withstand the pressure. Instead of coming from my own group, like it did when I identified as straight, the pressure now comes from "outside", making it easier to ignore.

Little did I know that peer pressure would persist into adulthood, and it would be the same as childhood peer pressure. The pressure as a kid is to be a "grown up", and apparently, this is the pressure that we'll still face, apparently until we're around 50. How many times have you heard someone's marriage announcement, and someone else invariably comments about how "grown up" we're getting? As if a marriage is some kind of timewarp that ages you beyond the rest of us! Perhaps Michael J. Fox should look into that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Links! For You!

Now, some linkage for your hopefully-lazy Sunday evening (or Monday morning):

Glad to see someone is mocking the ridiculousness that is Cosmo, here.

Also, I found this podcast, FemmeCast, through Fatshionista, a cool LiveJournal community. It's billed as "an audio newsmagazine for Queer Fat Femmes, Fatshionistas of all sexualities and Queers of all genders". Okay, so that's pretty specific, but I thought they talked about some pretty universal relationship issues in their latest episode (ep 6), here. Even though I'm not particularly avant-garde in terms of my relationships, they're still one of my favorite things to write about here. The femmes talk about "settling", singlehood, community, and the idea of "scarcity", which I think is particularly relevant to the asexual community. There's a round-table discussion on "lesbian footwarming syndrome" (which relates to settling) in the beginning and middle of the show, and another discussion of singlehood towards the end.

The Transgender Law Center here in SF did a survey in 2006 to collect data about the employment status of transpeople in the area. You can check it out here. "Conservatively, over 35% of survey respondents are unemployed. In January 2006, the official unemployment rate for San Francisco was 4.7%." An issue we need to draw attention to. I know that it seems nearly impossible to get a job in SF...and I don't even have people asking me if I've had gender reassignment surgery. Srsly.

Does anyone have reccommendations for an asexually-related movie? (As you know, I define this very loosely.) I've been way too heavy on the books here. Also, does anyone have ideas for Things Asexuals Like? I've already done teetotaling, cats, and tweed. People seemed to like them, but I'm not sure what else to include...

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Praises, and Fears

If this blog convinces you of one thing, hopefully it will be that meetups are truly important. Maybe my endless rhapsodies over meetups will get you out to one, if you haven't been, or get you to start your own. I'm realizing that asexual discourse taking place over the internet will not be the same as discourse taking place in person. Under the cloak of anonymity that the internet provides, people can spout truly ridiculous ideas. Even though AVEN is very well-moderated, it's hard to regulate the constant anti-sexualism and asexual fear-mongering that I see. But at meetups, people aren't talking about whether asexuals are the peak of human evolution. We're talking about visibility, education, and food. (We definitely love to talk about food.) While there are many logical, moderate, and sensitive people on AVEN, when it comes to the internet, it's the sort of doomsday stuff that feeds into itself and grows, and I find that the more seasonsed members tend to get lost in the fray of people shouting "SEX IS GROSS!" and other things that aren't constructive. Complaning about sex and sexual people will not get asexuals anywhere. I don't love AVEN because some people are desperate to tell you how much they hate genitals, I love AVEN for the theoretical and helpful discussions about how to find our place in this world. And I fear that AVEN will devolve as "people like me" (sex-positive asexuals, I suppose we're called) get frustrated and leave. Just like it's hard to count on a soulmate for all your emotional needs, it's hard to count on AVEN for all your asexual needs.

Sure, you can think "Asexuals are smarter!" in your head. I'm not Catholic and I don't believe in the sin of your thoughts. But when asexuals communicate these things to one another in a public forum, they're creating a discourse and a shared experience. And what do we really want to be fostering? I guess it's too much to ask that AVEN participants keep a vision of our potential community in their minds. But when you're at a meetup, I think that vision becomes clearer. Meetups are not conducive to being prejudiced or pissed off at the world. I always leave happy (except when no one else shows up). I know that it's impossible to have a completely common vision. But if you're interested in building asexual community, I think it's necessary to think about what you want it to look like. For me, it involves getting offline and into the "real world", and I think I've made a pretty good case for the benefits of that. (Says the blogger...)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ahoy Matey!

"I like the word 'soul'. I like the word 'mate'. Beyond that, you got me."
--Big, Sex and the City

"For some women, at certain stages in their lives, the search for a soul mate-- and refusing to settle for less--provides a rationale for their current singleness. But such a justification does not help them envision or find support for the long-term single life."
--The New Single Woman

I hope this New Single Woman-themed series has been relatively any rate, Trimberger has some interesting things to say about soulmates, which is always a juicy topic. I was thinking about the concept most recently while watching the really quite bad show Valentine, which airs on the CW. In it, Aphrodite is transported to the modern-day world in which she runs a matchmaking service with various other gods. At one point, one of the characters looks into an oracle at the future of a woman who married a man who wasn't her designated soulmate. She's so miserable that she kills herself.
Yeah. Seriously.

In Valentine, Aphrodite laments internet dating, saying that she preferred the old ways, in which people would marry whoever in their village "had the fewest pox". In this picture, I doubt that being soulmates entered into it. Apparently, even the gods changed their ways based on popular opinion. And indeed, "soulmates" is a fairly modern concept-- Trimberger claimed that it really gained momentum around the time of women's liberation. One utility of the soulmate idea was that it freed women to be single under the guise of "waiting for a soulmate". The pressure to marry literally whoever was available diminished. Even self-help books coming from a totally different direction agree. In Love Will Find You: 9 Magnets to Bring You and Your Soulmate Together, Kathryn Alice writes, "I believe that we are entering the era of the soulmate. Why? Because as we progress as a society, there is no reason for people to pair up and be together other than that they are soulmates" (1).

But Trimberger isn't sure how positive our facination with soulmates really is. In a note to her text, she writes: "Robert Wuthnow writes that the loose connections in modern society lead people to seek the more intense relationship of soul mates (1998, 52-53). I go even further: Focusing on a soul mate, I believe, undermines these connections. British social theorist Mary Evans also stresses that romantic love is based on and promotes individualism (Evans 2003)". While friendship networks build valuable community, says Trimberger, the search for a soulmate diminishes it. And furthermore, may leave us with few resources for life on our own. In Kathryn Alice's book, quoted above (thanks Amazon!), she talks about a man who moved across the country to be with his soulmate. But after reading Trimberger, I wonder what happened to his community, if he had one. Sure, he gained a soulmate, but he lost his friends, family, and pastimes. He went from having a network, presumably, to relying on one person for all his emotional support. Sure, it's a good story, but how healthy is it?

Asexuality lends an interesting twist to the soulmate concept: When sex isn't necessary for you to have a satisfying relationship, why couldn't your soulmate be a friend, family member, or mentor?
Indeed, it's pretty corny to call someone your "soulmate" unless you're taking marriage vows. Like "virgin", though, "soulmate" is a fine word that is overtaken by implications: Your one chance at happiness, your other half, etc. Kinda scary! Hopefully, one of asexuality's legacies to the wider world will be to take some of the pressure off-- the pressure to date, have sex, and find your soulmate. Of course, asexuals still face many pressures that depend on the person, but I think it would be nice to at least have some options as to which pressures we undertake.

Personally, I think soulmates are like affordable apartments in San Francisco. I know they're out there, and I even know a few people who have found one. But, while I maintain some hope of finding one for myself, I remain open to other options, and try not to let the search consume my life (although it can be tempting to obsess over it). If you do find your soulmate, remember to keep maintaining all the support systems you were hopefully developing before you met them. And invite us all over for a party at your incredibly cheap apartment.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Our Icon Returns

So, this is relevant: A new film of the Sherlock Holmes story (called, according to IMDB, Sherlock Holmes) is currently in production and is set to be released a year from now. Robert Downey Jr. is playing Holmes and Jude Law is playing Watson. Without having seen any of the movie, these seem like pretty bizarre casting choices...although I suppose both Downey Jr. and Holmes had drug problems? Anyway, I don't have high hopes for the potential asexuality of this film...unless Jude Law is sick of being typecast...
Thanks to Andy's Chinese Restaurant for providing me with the People Magazine necessary to glean this information.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Objects of Desire

So, no one wants to argue for the aromantic/romantic divide? I'm surprised by that...

And I don't even know where to begin with this post, but thanks to someone's link to this Wikipedia article from AVEN, I was introduced to Objectum sexuality (or, object sexuality). These are people who are sexually attracted to objects. Based on most definitions of asexuality, these people might be seen as asexual. However, I don't know if they'd view themselves that way. As you might imagine, it's a very small group. The most well-known objectum sexuals are Erika La Tour Eiffel, a San Franciscan who married the Eiffel Tower, and Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer, a Swedish woman who married the Berlin Wall (and has a website on the topic). As you can see, both women took on the names of their beloved structures.

Although one article called objectum sexuality a "bizarre fetish", I tried to see where these objectum sexuals were coming from. When I thought about it, I realized that many of us have inanimate objects that set our hearts aflutter in some way. If you love San Francisco, for example, you'll probably have a stronger romantic reaction to the Golden Gate Bridge than you do to a randomly selected human. Look at all the people who drool over assorted cars. And "mountainsexuals" too, which I wrote about previously. As far as I'm concerned, the London Underground is what really lights my fire (I wrote about that here). While I do love scooters as well, they pale in comparison to the tube. One editorial goes further and states that "The thing is, we're all objectum sexuals, really. We might not go as far as promising to love, honour and obey the Thames barrier, but we're all still in love with things: we just lack the carefree confidence and, frankly, the balls, to admit it." (Full article here.) I can't disagree that humans love objects. But most of us, outside of a very small group, don't have sexual feelings for them. Berliner-Mauer says that she actually has sex with the Berlin Wall. Honestly, I'm curious as to how this is physically possible, although I wouldn't press the matter too far.

Objectum sexuality can be related to animism. Wikipedia says: "Animism commonly refers to a religious belief that souls or spirits exist in animals, plants, and other entities, in addition to humans. Animism may also attribute souls to natural phenomena, geographic features, and even manufactured objects. Religions which emphasize animism in this sense include Shinto, Hinduism, and pagain faiths such as folk religions and Neopaganism." On her website, Berliner-Mauer says that her love for the wall does arise from her animist views.

Interestingly, some articles state that a large number of objectum sexuals have Asperger's. Now, I'm aware that this is usually stated in a "they're just crazy" brush-off. However, if you're familiar with the autistic spectrum, it does make sense. I don't know why this is, but a common trait among people on the spectrum is a sense of a life force within inanimate objects. While I'm sure most people wouldn't refer to it as animism per se, autistic people often feel a sympathy and emotional connection towards objects that other people may not. Granted, for the vast majority, this does not lead to a sexual connection with those objects.

Aside from that one editorial in their defense (quoted/linked above), and well, this, objectum sexuality seems to be viewed as absurd. But I disagree with that. When one psychoanalyst called it a "condition", I rankled-- most asexuals have heard that one too many times. Yes, it's unusual, but objectum sexuality doesn't harm anyone, as far as I can see. No, I don't approve of every kind of sexual behavior (I could never condone sex with animals, for example). We try to create objects that are worthy of passion-- at least, I feel that as creative beings, we should. And if, by a small tweak somewhere in the brain, perhaps, some people take that passion a bit further? Is it really that surprising?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Romance Made Easy

Asexuals are constantly talking about romance. However, it has long been my bugaboo that I've never actually seen a definition of "romance" that makes sense to me. When people talk about it, they're almost certainly not talking about the same thing. But thanks to E. Kay Trimberger's The New Single Woman, I've finally found a definition that I can embrace. She writes:

Nor do I deny the attraction of romance, but let's expand our conceptions of it. I like what Barbara Lazear Ascher writes in Isn't It Romantic? Finding the Magic in Everyday Life. "Romance is structured yearning," she writes. "In the romantic moment, we gather and focus that yearning in order to connect with something outside ourselves, believing against all odds that such connection is possible." But Ascher has an expansive notion of romantic connection. "The romantic quest can be embarked upon solo," she writes. "It doesn't call for a significant other, great beauty, pulsating sexuality, a new dress, or complex planning. Its only requirements are the courage of an available heart and freedom of imagination." Ascher gives a wonderful description of the romance involved in bird-watching. (258)

Okay, that was long, but I think it was worth it. I don't know who Barbara Ascher is, but she's said exactly what I'd thought about romance but somehow couldn't put the words together to say. Most of this blog probably preaches to the choir, but I do have at least one controversial opinion: My great dislike of the romantic/aromantic distinction that many aces seem hellbent on figuring out. Especially when you use a definition like Ascher's, the distinction makes even less sense. I worry that when people usually discuss aromanticism, they're talking about romance in a very limited sense. Maybe you're not interested in romantic relationships, but if bird-watching sets your soul afire, are you really aromantic? Maybe I just take things too literally, but shouldn't personal labels be somewhat literal? The label "aromantic", I think, just privileges certain kinds of romance over others.

I think part of my perspective comes from writing poetry. When you write a poem, you have to develop some romantic feelings for whatever you're writing about, whether it's a human relationship or a train station. While Donald Hall's eulogies to Jane Kenyon are supremely romantic, so are David McFadden's odes to Canada. If you have a great passion for something non-human, I wouldn't sell it short. How else would we invent anything, discover anything? I remember reading an astronomy book that quoted a scientist that couldn't get to sleep because he was so thrilled that a comet was passing. Romance is, truly, wherever you find it. I'm not trying to replace "all people are sexual" (shudder) with "all people are romantic". But I do believe that redefining these sorts of concepts is "the asexual way". Rather than just responding to our culture's ideals of traditional "romance", we need to go beyond them.

Next time: An expanded idea of romance taken to the extreme? I try to understand a sexuality even rarer than ours.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Rasputin was the first thing I thought of"

My attempt at London-style meetup reports continues!
So, if you weren't lucky enough to be among the four at our meetup today, here's what happened:

We met at Crossroads at 1, where we had some tasty food and drinks and introduced ourselves. I think four people is a nice number to be non-intimidating, yet keep a good conversation going. Also, our mascot (a giant microbe toy) worked to help identify the group. That was a good idea...
Then, it was a lovely day, so we adjourned to the outdoor garden for a rousing game of Apples to Apples. We pondered deep questions: What could be pathetic and asexy at the same time? (An injured puppy, perhaps?) After that, we took a stroll down the Embarcadero. We looked at interesting boat names: "Understanding God" was deemed to be one of the most interesting. At around 4, we parted ways, confident that a good time was had.

If you missed out this time, join us in January...

Friday, November 7, 2008

The New Single Woman

I've been procrastinating on this post, a book review, because I just have way too damn much to say about the book. I'll probably have to do a short series (please don't be afraid). I recently found the book in question, The New Single Woman (E. Kay Trimberger), while browsing in a Goodwill. I thought it might be good to blog about, so I bought it. Although the title somehow makes it seem like it's from the '60s and is extremely cheesy, it's actually from 2005 and is a fairly serious sociological survey (although it is an easy read). It's not a perfect book-- for example, it bothered me how people's races were only mentioned if they weren't Caucasian. I also have the annoying habit of getting bored when these kinds of books include too many personal interviews. However, it's rare to find a book that not only critiques aspects of society, but actually tells you what you can do to improve your own life (Trimberger focuses on a list of circumstances that she feels women need for a fulfilling single life). Even though the focus is on women over 35, Single Woman probably validates my life more than anything else I've read in recent memory. It's also probably the most ace-friendly book I've ever read. Trimberger emphasizes "destigmatizing celibacy", "redefining romance", and separating intimacy from sex; things that have long been of concern to the asexual community.

That said, the definitions Trimberger uses aren't that clear-cut. She uses "celibate" a lot, which could encompass both sexual and asexual people who aren't currently engaged in a sexual relationship. "Asexual" is used twice, although it doesn't seem to refer to the orientation. However, I have no idea what Trimberger actually does mean by "asexuality" in those references, as it obviously doesn't mean celibacy, either. Example: "Until very recently, neither feminists or sexual libertarians viewed celibacy as part of the sexual spectrum, leaving it to mean only intentional, moral, or religious asexuality (21)."

Trimberger also talks about "sensual celibacy", in which people get their kicks from non-sexual activities (flamenco dancing is an example). At any rate, Trimberger finds a variety of single women that are satisfied with their sex lives, whether they're very sexual or celibate. Oh, by the way, this is apparently what you need for the single life: "...a home, meaningful work that is not one's whole life, a satisfactory sex life or a level of comfort with celibacy, a connection to the next generation, a network of friends and/or extended family, and a community... (87)". Well, I won't inundate you with too many quotes from a book you haven't read. I'm going to go off now and lament the state of the San Francisco rental market; check back Sunday to see how our meetup went.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

People Can Be Pretty Dumb

With my socialistic leanings, I'm used to losing when it comes to politics. I'm aware that most of America is much more conservative than myself. However, I am still shocked and extremely saddened to lean that Prop 8 will, barring some kind of absentee-voter deus ex machina, pass. Although the No on 8 campaign is keeping mum until every vote is tallied, I figure that if The Bilerico Project is admitting that we lost, then we lost. After 8 years of Bush, I'm no stranger to disappointment with my fellow Americans. But I didn't think I'd feel this way about my fellow Californians. I thought we were just a bunch of inocuous hippies and showbiz types! Live and let live, eh? Well, apparently not. In situations like these, I think of:

What use are these people's wits,
who let themselves be led
by speechmakers, in crowds,
without considering
how many fools and thieves
they are among, and how few
choose the good?

--Heraclitus, Fragment 111, 500 BC

People also voted down affordable housing and clean energy in San Francisco. What use, indeed.

I wonder where the gay rights movement is going to go from here. Should they keep focusing so strongly on marriage, or branch out for awhile? I think that working to bring trans rights up to speed would be ideal at this point. What do you all think?

Something joyfully asexual coming at you next time.

Midnight Election Confessions

As you probably know by now, Obama won. Kick some ass, sir. Everyone's talking about Obama, so I'll talk about something that almost everyone is talking about, instead (at least here in California). I like to be different like that. While Obama's win was surprisingly (and mercifully) fast, we're still waiting for the results to come on for Prop 8. As of now-- a bit past midnight-- 63% of precincts are reporting, with 52% voting "yes" (to ban same sex-marriage) and 48% voting "no". WTF, amiright? Gay marriage bans already passed in Florida and Arizona...can't someone throw us one state here?

One thing I love about San Francisco is that people of all sexualities can and do really get behind something like defeating Prop 8 (even though 23% of San Franciscans voted yes-- who ARE these people?). No, I'm not a particularly marriage-minded individual, but it's just like...I see the gay rights movement as a really cool older brother or sister who I think can do anything. I'm impressed with it. I want to see it succeed, and I want to be like it someday. Whatever anyone thinks, I believe the fact is that we do connect. Their loss is my loss.
But hopefully it doesn't come to that.

I can't sit here refreshing the CNN website all night...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cupid's Footsoldiers

I wrote about the book Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and then I saw the movie, which is in theaters now. One of my problems with the book was that it seemed too unrealistic, and this was actually improved upon in the movie, at least to my own eyes and ears. But what I really wanted to talk about was the phenomenon of queer characters acting as "cupid" figures for straight characters. In Nick and Norah, Nick plays in a "queercore" band in which he is the only straight member. In the book, the gay band members are fairly sexual and seem to have their own romantic agendas (however, there's a drag queen character that does seem to have a "cupid-style" role). In the movie, the gay characters' only purpose seems to be to bring Nick and Norah together. In a scene not appearing in the book, the gay guys give Norah a pep talk in their band's van and make her put on a push-up bra. While most of the secondary characters in the book have had their roles reduced in the film, the gay characters seemed to change most fundamentally. Instead of being rowdy kids in a rock band, they became Queer Eye-esque, in fact, one (rowdy) teenage boy in the theater yelled, "Are they going to give [Norah] a new wardrobe now?" Obviously, there are all sorts of fears, prejudices, and curiosities about homosexuality tied up in this sort of portrayal. I won't write a dissertation here...

But, if you look at presumably asexual characters, they never play this role, even though I would sort of expect them to. It would be hard for me to imagine any of them, even the always-perky Gerald, bringing two sexual people together in a romantic way. You could come up with theories as to why this is, but I haven't found an explanation that makes sense to me yet. For example, you could say it's because homosexuality is somehow scarier or more threatening to people than asexuality. However, in Shortland Street, Hunter is very threatened by Gerald. And people who are unaccapting of any sexuality tend to be motivated by their own fears. Perhaps there just aren't enough asexual characters to say, although goodness knows I try.

What's strange is that I saw myself as a "cupid" figure, even before I identified as asexual with certainty. I remember having an acquaintance who, infamously, had never been kissed*. However, after knowing me a short time, she did manage to kiss someone. At the time, I was wondering why everyone was having all these experiences that I wasn't-- while I didn't want to have the actual experiences, I wanted to be "like everyone else". So I reflected on this, and came to the conclusion that I must somehow be causing the romantic exploits of others. Perhaps I had some sort of...powers. This seemed to be the only fitting explanation as to why these experiences eluded me. No, it wasn't just a fact that as people got older, most tended to gain sexual experience. Nope, I can (unconsciously!) control what happens to other people. I know that's probably not the case, but still...I can't find much evidence that that's definitely not the case. Okay, we're traveling a little too far into the bizarre recesses of my mind now. I suppose I was just wondering if "asexual as cupid figure" would be our pop-culture future. I can only guess that it probably won't be. As we all know, our culture doesn't always see us as we may see ourselves...and our questionable magic powers. Bullseye!

*The passive language with which most sexual/romantic rites of passage are discussed merit further exploration.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Virgin in a Black Leather Jacket

While in NYC, I saw something that I've never seen before-- the New York-centric portions of the Sunday New York Times. I found this article, called "Big Smirk on Campus", about a college that was considering starting a club for virgins. Yeah. Club for virgins.

As you may know, I'm not crazy about the word "virgin". Even if we tried, I doubt we could ever divorce it from its strong connotations of religiosity and morality. Even though (I would like to think) I possess these things, they have nothing to do with my lack of sexual experience. I'm sure the same is true for many sexual people of a certain age who haven't had sex as well. In my ideal world, virginity would not be so important that it would necessitate its own label. Even so, it bothered me that this article didn't take the proposed virginity club seriously, even though the school paper's editor called it “the biggest story we broke all semester,”. But what bothered me much more than that was the implication (at least, in my reading) that a guy with a leather jacket and a cigarette, obvious signifiers of "cool" for the author, couldn't possibly be a virgin. He couldn't even be virgin-friendly. It begs the questions: How are the college-aged virgins styling themselves these days? Sweater sets? White robes? Well, there's always that asexual guy from Shortland Street who rocked the "Extra Virgin" t-shirt. ("It's not what you think it is!" Smirk! Wink!)

Anyway, the idea that virgins are somehow identifiable isn't unique. I can't find it anymore, but OkCupid once had a "Virgin Game" where you were shown pictures of different users and had to guess who was a virgin. For the record, I tried it and got a fairly low score. Maybe if there was a different word for "virgin", one that had less baggage, the idea that people could somehow "tell" would be less scary. (Right up there with actually being one.) Last night, thinking of this topic, I tried to spot out virgins on the train I was riding. As you might expect, it was an impossible task. Virgins are among us, and they look just like you and me! The horror!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not to Embarrass Anyone...

...But, dude, NYC aces are cool. I can say this from experience now, as I met two of them. I went to a show at the Ace of Clubs (poetic, eh?) with the writer of Edge of Everywhere, and ate dim sum with another AVENite whose website I would promote if I knew she had one. Anyway, I'm glad they decided to meet up with this west coast yokel (me: "the subway runs ALL NIGHT!?!?!?!"); I had a really fun time with both of them.
I also got to (re)meet the folks involved with the upcoming asexuality documentary. I didn't realize how many different topics they were going to be covering, and it was interesting to hear about, and to discover we shared a love of the movie King of Kong. I hope they find success soon in their funding quest.

And next time we talk statements for virgins!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Don't burn down the blogosphere while I'm gone!

Almost time for me to head off to my native soil (err...concrete)...I'll be back to bloggin' on October 30th! And, relevantly, our next SF AVEN meetup is November 9th. We have a new thread about SF meets on AVEN here. After this meet, I will, indeed, not be using the list-serv for that purpose anymore. So I'm a little concerned that no one's commented in the thread...but, hopefully the LAST MEETUP OF 2008! will be a draw. Maybe meeting asexuals was some peoples' long-delayed New Year's resolution. Well, thought it couldn't hurt to mention it...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Can we move our bunkbeds? We'd have more space to do activities!

I have meetup guilt, but it isn't about AVEN. I've been a member of another group (let's call it the Popcorn Society) for about a year now, and I don't want to go to their meetups. I'm not even Catholic, but I thought I could absolve myself by figuring out what was keeping me away, and using that information for my AVEN purposes. To start out, I greatly admire the Popcorn Society, its founder/leader and its (loyal) members. Since I first discovered it, I've viewed it as a role model for AVEN meetups. It's been around for at least 7 years, is on a steady schedule, and usually attracts about 10 people to its meetups. The leader of the Popcorn Society is extremely consciencious. Before the meetups, he calls every member on the phone to remind them (Although lately, he hasn't sounded very happy with my lack of attendance). However, if I don't have plans, I'm usually very easily pursuaded, and this is a strategy I've thought about using for our AVEN meetups.

What I don't like about the Popcorn Society is that it's pretty much just sitting around and talking in a boring environment. It's been said that men prefer to talk over activities, but I think that's just a personality style, as I much prefer talking during activities as well. The Popcorn Society members tend to talk about the same issues over and over, and a few people dominate the discussion. I'm also the only member in my 20's; the youngest person aside from me is in his late 30's. I know we're adults, and can associate with each other regardless of age. But, I start feeling like some sort of mascot. I'm not sure why this bothers me; at sixteen, I was in a choir in which all the other members were in their 60's or older, and I loved that choir. The location is also not convenient to anyone (If it was convenient to some people but not everyone, I would understand that better).

I wrote some of this post and then came back to it later. Apparently, lentil soup is a brain enhancer, because halfway through the bowl, I realized why I'm not thrilled with the Popcorn Society's meetups. It actually doesn't have to do with being youngest, being bored or being in a lame location. It's because the meetings seem to exist in a gray area between fun and productive. While I usually find the meetings interesting, they're not exactly "fun" and while they might expand our conciousness, that's not enough to keep me coming back. Apparently, I want to either have a lot of social fun, or achieve something tangible from our meetings. And it seems easier for me to plan something productive than something fun, since people's ideas of fun seem to vary more. Maybe just one of those easy, cheap visibility ideas I'm always talking about. Late night graffiti! (Just kidding...but only because I don't think people would come to a meetup involving illegal activities.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

To the 5 Boroughs

I haven't been anywhere in forever, and suddenly, in this month only, I get to go to a few places. Like next week, I'm going to New York City. I was born there, but I haven't been there in years. I thought it would be cool to meet up with some A-teamers-- I know the group there isn't as organized as they once were, but it still seemed that there were a lot of people. (And if there's someone in NYC who wants to organize meetups, maybe I could help with that?) I posted on AVEN, and haven't gotten any for-sure responses (which surprised me somehow), so I'm expanding my search radius. Uhh...want to meet up?

Also, I have no idea what the cool things to do in New York are. A guy I used to work with said that NYC had more creative energy than anywhere he'd ever been, and when I heard this, it made me want to go back and see for myself. Any tips on things to see and do?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Mix Tape = Love

Well, I lose at this whole "post less often" thing...what else am I supposed to do with my time? I finally found something to do with my time, but it doesn't start until December. Maybe I'll post less then. Anyway, I made a mixtape with many songs that I've written about here, and others that seemed to have a relevant theme. It's mostly pop/rock, with some hip-hop in the middle. Anyway, if you have something you need to accomplish today, don't go to the Mixwit site. Trust me, just don't. And don't have this be one of those things where you get so curious that you do it anyway. Really.

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Yours in Horror

Anyone will tell you, I'm a paranoid person. But the election season makes it much, much worse. I've ended up on the list of every organization, and I get alarmist e-mails every day. What worries me most are the missives from No on 8. As you may know, 8 is the proposition that, if passed, would eliminate gay marriage in California. The fact that it might actually pass (and current polls support this) horrifies me. "Focus on the Family"-types from all over the country are mobilizing to donate money to Prop 8. Yesterday, I heard one of the Pro-8 ads, and was horrified all over again by the lies it contained-- stuff about churches and schools that aren't mentioned anywhere in the proposition. No on 8, a grassroots effort, doesn't have the money to compete (well, unless you donate, especially important if you don't live in CA). But since I have no money and no canvassing skills whatsoever, I feel completely helpless. Funny that I have a vote and still feel this way.

But it pisses me off to no end that elections are all about how much money you have. If I had my way, all campaign spending would be eliminated. Just let people read those booklets that come in their mailboxes and let that be the end of it. The truth gets lost under the fancy ad campaigns, and that saddens me immensely.

And, dude. As an asexual, it's hard enough to find a partner. We should at least be able to marry whatever gender of person we want. "Gay marriage" is for bisexual and asexual folk, too, but of course, you don't need to be queer to support it.

I thought that if Obama is elected, he might turn this all around and make the whole country have gay marriage! But as it turns out, Obama doesn't support gay marriage at all. He says "I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment." Obama supports the status of marriage/unions being left up to the states, which is the same thing that McCain supports. What a cop-out. You could say that the difference between unions and marriage is just semantic, but asexuals know better. We're constantly told that marriage is the best thing ever (because tales or marital woe will probably turn us more asexual), and so we know that it holds a rarefied position that "unions" don't compete with. Besides, we really like the cake.

I think I need some consolation, a cupcake and probably a hug. If this "marriage is between a man and a woman" stuff gets written into our state constitution, it can be changed again, can't it?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We Remember Moments

Today is National Coming Out Day, which has a very cute logo:

Even though I haven't written about it for awhile, I still think coming out is crucial for asexuals. (And here's why I think so.) I realized about two minutes ago that there are two ways to come out, "active" and "passive". Coming out actively is sitting people down for "the talk" or otherwise working a variation of "I'm asexual" into a conversation. This type of coming out unfairly gets all the glory. There is also a passive form of coming out, which basically involves putting information out there and waiting for people to find it. When I first started identifying as asexual, I tried to come out actively. But now, I've switched entirely to the passive method, which pretty much involves giving people the link to this blog. There's always the risk that people won't look or be interested, but if they're a friend, they'll probably put two and two together. So if you haven't already, try the passive method. Make a blog post, send people a link to a website, write a note. There's nothing shameful about using the passive method-- that's why I'm trying to promote it. It all depends on your personal style. This poll on AVEN showed that the vast majority of respondents were introverts, for which the passive method might work better.
And, in case you missed it, here was my list of ways to come out in the 21st century.

If Coming Out Day isn't enough for you, tomorrow is the Asexuality Visibility and Education Day (AVED). Apparently, the official Asexuality Day is May 29th (who knew? I didn't). But, AVED is designed specifically for students to spread awareness at their school (Although it's a Sunday...but I guess that doesn't matter so much at colleges. Seriously, I wish I was still at school just so I could spread my asexual missives to a captive audience.). Trust me folks, special days are good. They're what press releases are made on. So know and keep these holidays...hopefully, we'll soon figure out how to celebrate them.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Other in Da Hizzouse

A housekeeping thing: I'm thinking of posting less often-- every 3 days rather than every 2 days probably wouldn't tear apart our worlds too much. I want to make sure that people have time to read all the posts if they want to, but I also want to make sure that posts are appearing on some kind of schedule. Anyone have a strong opinion on the matter?

Also, a short story: Since I started ID'ing as asexual, I've learned many things about a lot of other under-the-radar ways of being. 5 years ago, I had no idea what transpeople were, for example. In the spring, when I was in school, I received a survey about the school with the gender choices "male" and "female". I checked "female", but wrote next to it: "You should include 'other' as a gender option". And today, I received a new school survey with "other" as a gender option. I thought that was vindicated me for never getting OKCupid to add "asexual". (Unlike a lot of dating sites that just have you specify what gender you're seeking, OkC made you specify orientation. The most annoying thing was that the site purported to be "hip and new" blah blah blah.) I guess the moral of the story is that if it's a fairly small-scale organization, they'll probably be open to a simple request. Actually improving the school? Eeeh, not so much...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Eat the Cats First

I'm sorry to return to you with a sad topic. But you can see this as a sequel to "Things about the asexual community that we shouldn't be ashamed of, but that we should intelligently address amongst ourselves". Amongst ourselves, we shouldn't have to put on a happy, well-adjusted face if that isn't how we're really feeling. The topic of today is depression. Dun dun dun...

Depression can be thorny because the language we use to describe it is inadequate. The way we feel when Cafe Kaleo isn't serving pecan brownies is also the same word we use to describe a mental illness that kills people every year. Depression as an illness, not just a momentary state of sadness, is a very serious thing. Most studies seem to agree that about 8-10% of the US population suffers from it. But according to an unsientific survey on AVEN, 23% of AVENites are currently depressed. And when you're talking about a mental illness, 23% is a very large number (hell, even 10% is too large). But, this isn't surprising. Rates of depression are heightened in every queer group (The statistics on transgender depression and suicide are especially harrowing). While asexuality doesn't cause depression, feeling alone and misunderstood can, if not cause it, certainly worsen a pre-existing predilection towards it. Add to this the fact that many asexuals are also part of other marginalized groups, such as autistic and trans folks, and the asexual depression rates make sense.

As usual, our cultural views are extremely decisive on some topics and unsure on others. Under-30 dot-com millionaire? You're happy, live with it. But on the topic of asexuals, our culture can't seem to decide whether we're very sad or incredibly happy. There seem to be two basic views of asexuals. Here's the first:

Having missed out on love (of course, love and sex can't be separated), our poor asexual becomes a bitter misanthrope. They are constantly frustrated by their lot in life, and die alone. Their body is eaten by cats.

As I understand it, the depressed brain becomes wired to relate to worst-case scenarios, and it's no surprise that this story can seem prophetic to a depressed ace. But it also seems true that in humanity as a whole, tragedy seems to stick out in our minds above a lot of other stuff. It's striking. (For an example of this, see the fact that many people think planes are more dangerous than cars. Even though more people die in car crashes, plane crashes are more tragic/dramatic/reported.) And so this first trope is what we tend to remember. However, there is another, just as stereotyped, but also prevalent:

The asexual leads an innocent life filled with a childlike wonder. Their life is easier without the complexities of sexual relationships. Unswayed by the sex-sells dictums of advertising, the asexual leads a simple life that is in tune with nature. They are valued for being a loyal friend and family member, and they are likely to be talented in science, mathematics, the arts, or education. Without the distractions of sex, they have more time to spend on these pursuits, and their sucess makes them a role model for others.

Our lives will take unique paths. But most people seem to think of life in some sort ofnarrative that is usually socially condoned. If you have to choose one about asexuals, choose the latter one. But when you're depressed, that can be impossible. Believing the worst that is said about you is a symptom of depression. And when you're asexual, those statements can be bizarre and disturbing. Being depressed is nothing to be ashamed of. But it deserves to be talked about in a senstive and productive way.

If we had enough people that wanted to be involved, I'd want to create some sort of asexual mental health taskforce. That would be rad...

Thursday, October 2, 2008


I'll be in Texas until Tuesday, and will say hi to an armadillo for you. (Going to Texas reminds me of one of my favorite children's books-- Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport.) Anyway, I'm reading The Bone People right now, which is the only novel known to me that has an intentionally asexual character. (Although the story has nothing to do with asexuality, as far as I understand it.) I always have trouble commenting on a book before I'm done with it, but I can say that it's extremely well written, and the sort of story that you keep thinking about after you put the book down. I don't mean to be a total sell-out here (I did go to school in a mall for two years, afterall), but why hasn't this book been made into a movie? I think it would definitely be one of those sweep-the-Oscars type films if it had skilled people working on it. At least I would vote for it. That academian who really loves abstract crime dramas and is apparently a swing voter? I would hope so.
Oh, and find my asexual city poll here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Island Style

I hear this frequently: "I wish we had an asexual utopia."
Presumably, this means a place where aces can congregate and easily identify others of our kind.
When I think of an "asexual utopia", the first thing that pops into my mind is some kind of Jurassic Park-style island where a mythical group of asexuals will be lost to the mists of time.
I really need to stop that, because the asexual utopia can actually happen-- there will just not be any dinosaurs involved.
Look at San Francisco-- historically, this is the gay city. Gay folks flock here as tourists and residents alike, since this is a place where they can be accepted in a largely unaccepting world. I don't know why San Francisco came to be so gay, but I'm glad it is, and there isn't any other city quite like this. What we need is the asexual city. But we need to decide a few things first:

Do we pick a city decisively, all move there, and start inundating it with asexual community? Or do we wait for such a place to develop organically?

Who is actually making these decisions, and how will they get made?

If it's the latter, will we know it when we see it? How?

And most importantly, is there actually an interest in this beyond the theoretical? For example, if it was decided that Omaha (for example) was going to become the asexual city, would enough people move there to actually enable things to happen? Maybe saying "I wish there was an asexual utopia" is for most like my statement "I wish I could marry a billionare who was near death"-- something that might have interesting results, but a course I would never actually pursue. As usual, "mind-blindess", perhaps, trips me up. What in the world are other people thinking?

To get the pulse of the people on this issue, I made an unscientific poll on AVEN. I wrote in my post:

I think it would actually be somewhat realistic to designate a city as being a place for asexuals to congregate, much like San Francisco is "the gay city". While people seem to be into this idea in theory, I'm wondering if people would actually move to such a place, since it seems like that would need to happen if we were ever going to achieve a critical mass anywhere. I have no idea how we'd choose the place-- right now I'm just wondering if people would actually be interested in going there, if it did exist...

I asked, "Would you move to it?"

So far, 21 people responded.
5 said "Yes, wherever it was".
2 said "Yes, within my country".
2 said "Yes, hinging on another factor".
11 said "No"
1 said "Other"

For the record, the vision I was proposing wasn't exactly clear. From people's responses, it seemed like most were still envisioning a secret asexual society where no sexual people were allowed. The strange thing was this: while the secret asexual island wasn't, to my knowledge, implied in my post, people seemed to imply it on their own. (Like most aces, I'm close to many people who aren't asexual. I'd never propose an asexual-only society, even if it could actually happen.) What I was thinking was to have as many community-minded asexuals as possible congregate in the same city, which seems like it could be completely realistic...if there's an interest. I wonder how the poll will go with some more time.

I guess I just have a hankering for adventure...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

"I Need to Find Some Pleather"

A rather long time ago, I wrote about BDSM here. Today, I actually got to experience it-- well, vicariously, that is. Yes, an asexual person survived the Folsom Street Fair, which is "the largest leather/fetish event in the world" and a classic San Francisco event. There were many, many people showing off a wide array of bondage fashion...or lack thereof. I had to admire people's utilikilts and elaborate fake police uniforms. I saw a few of these too, which I found interesting:

Another interesting thing was a group of people standing around a booth where an organization was performing floggings as a fundraiser. There was an announcer standing up, and he's trying to get the crowd involved. He yells,
"So, who's had sex in the last week?"
I was expecting cheers from most, but the group was pretty much silent.
"Come on, who's had sex in the last week?"
Still...mostly silence. But amusement from my direction.
The announcer, obviously having a hard time energizing people at the beginning of the event, starts targeting one woman who's dressed in regular clothes at the front of the crowd. He says, "You look like you want to be flogged! Don't deny your sexuality?"
I was like, "Uh...what sexuality?"
I know, most people see something like flogging as sexual, perhaps overly so. But what's really intrinsically sexual about it? I know there are asexual people who are into S&M. I was also talking to my fair-going buddy about people who get a rush from the pain of piercings and tattoos. It seems to be an adrenaline thing, not sexual pleasure. I've heard this from multiple people, although I've never experienced it myself. To me, feeling needles in my body isn't "cool", as I've heard it described, just painful. But it seems meditative for some. Apparently, people's bodies work in very different ways. Which is strange, because I thought we all just had slight surface variations on the same thing.

Another thing that might not be intuitive: Although being elaboretely tied up before noon on a Sunday morning isn't quite my idea of fun, I understand this kind of "alternative" sexuality more than I do "vanilla" sexuality. Is that true for other aces? Sex by itself doesn't seem exciting or interesting to me (except on a theoretical level), so it makes total sense that people would want to add some more adventurous elements. Leather dog masks? Well, life is short...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

This book might sound very familiar to you-- it's coming out in movie form October 5th.
It's written by two authors, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (the latter who wrote the awesome Boy Meets Boy, which is, sadly, unlikely to appear in a theater near you anytime soon).
So, because teenaged boys don't usually find love (with each other) on the big screen, we'll have to make do with Nick and Norah. I was very attracted to the premise of the book, which was about people coming together through music in one crazy NYC night. But Playlist gave me an odd feeling of strong discomfort. I'll try to examine why this might be...

  1. My visualization of the Nick character as Michael Cera, who plays him in the film. I get that Michael Cera is riding the tiger right now, but I wouldn't have cast him as the smokin' hot bassist of an underground queercore band. It was just confusing.
  2. The book's status as "young adult" fiction, paired with stuff that I thought was really too sexual and "inappropriate" for young teens. Now, don't get me wrong, I know that many teens are having sex. But while Nick and Norah don't actually get jiggy with it in the book, it somehow manages to be extremely explicit, which weirded me out. That might seem like a "duh" statement from an asexual, but descriptions of sex usually never faze me. However, a large part of the book dealt with feelings surrounding sexual attraction, and I had a hard time relating to all that, especially since the characters are "kids" in my mind.
  3. On that note, the characters seemed to have concerns that didn't match up with their youth. Norah was extremely worried about the idea that she might be "frigid"-- I just wanted to shake her shoulders and say "Girl! You are 18! EIGHTEEN!" But, just because she didn't want to have sex with every guy, she started to believe this whole story about her fundamental "frigidity". I just felt sooo bad for her. Always awkward. I mentored some young kids when I was in college, and I learned that they take everything way too seriously. So I know that it's a kid thing, but that doesn't mean it's not frustrating to read about.
  4. I enjoy stories about young love as much as the next person, but on some level, they always make me feel strange. This is probably because that most-exulted experience, "young love", has never happened to me and never will. I have no way to say this without making it sound extremely sad, and that's part of its mystique. I'm not sad about it, actually. There has been no time in my life when I've had the racing hormones/lack of rationality that makes this kind of love possible, and I can't change that. But, when put to music, as Playlist tries to do, love suddenly makes perfect sense to me. Because music is love. But amid all the sexual stuff, I was sad to see that the musical aspect got a little lost. (Cheesy Godpseed! You Black Emperor references do not count.)
Playlist consists of a basic story that I've come to see is very common in literature, film, and our imaginations: The "magical night". Somehow, under the cover of darkness, people can explore the more adventurous facets of their personalities. At a club, bar, or party, under the influence of your favorite music, you will meet a mysterious stranger who you will fall madly in love with. I'm sure this actually happens to a few people about 3 or 4 times a year, which keeps this story very much alive in all of our minds. I'm not sure who's immune to it. In college, I remember many weekend nights walking/running around with my friends, looking for a "better" party than the one we had been attending. I'm not sure who we thought we'd meet, since we went to a school of 1,400 people in a rural town, but the possibilities of this "magical night" were always before us. And one time, I was even that person of the 3-4 cases a year fame. Standing around, bored, in a frat house, I absent-mindedly fiddled with a boombox. The CD inside happened to be Outkast's Aquemini, and I was lucky enough to fall in love that night. [Aww.]

But I want books like Playlist to have a disclaimer: "This may not happen to you. You don't have to haunt clubs and stand by the jukebox playing "Spottieottiedopalicious" 500 times in order to find someone to fall in love with. Maybe you'll meet them in a Scrabble group or a Weight Watchers meeting. Maybe you'll meet them at noon, totally sober. As Josef K said [and I think Cohn and Levithan would appreciate this], 'There are so many pathways that lead to the heart.'"

At least, I'd like to think so; falling into romantic love with other humans is something I know nothing about. And as the Smiths said [again, possible appreciation by C & L]:

"There's a club if you'd like to go, you could meet someone who really loves you. So you go, and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry, and you want to die."

A little extreme, sure, but I don't want anyone to have to go through that. Can we expand what a fulfilling evening could be? So, how about y'all? Any "magical night" stories?