Saturday, February 28, 2009

Married...With Towers

Thanks to an AVENite, I found a program called “Married to the Eiffel Tower”. It's about two women, Amy and Erika, who identify as objectum sexuals (OS). Instead of being sexually attracted to men, women, or no one, they're sexually attracted to objects. Funny, I just remembered this blog's tagline: "Of course, there's always something to fall in love with." In the case of OS people, that's literal. When Amy and Erika visit New York City, they're overwhelmed by the number of really sexy buildings. You can see the video for free, in two installments, on Google Videos. The first part is here.

I’m not going to talk about OS in general, because I already did that at some length here. But, I do want to talk about how this particular media outlet (I believe it's the BBC) dealt with a sexuality that is much rarer than our own. You do expect the worst—that it is sensationalized (Batboy lives!) and that the people involved are dehumanized. You expect a bunch of “experts” trying to get to the root of the “problem” and telling the OS people how messed up they are. But I was actually pleasantly surprised. While the narrator would occasionally say things like, “But WHY are they this way?”, that question was never really answered. Experts, doctors, or psychologists were never seen. What we do see is Amy reading aloud from her own evaluation that she received at a psychiatric hospital. We also see Erika’s discharge papers from the Air Force, which were on psychological grounds. Amy has Asperger’s and Erika suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But these diagnoses aren’t used to discount the womens’ experiences. Instead, it’s shown how their love of objects actually has helped them cope with difficult lives. For example, we're shown how Erika's love for a bow enabled her to become a world-class archer.

A friend of Erika's, and Amy’s mother were also shown in the film. While they expressed some initial confusion, they said that they cared for the OS people and were open to learning more about them. Viewers may have been shocked, but no one in the program really was. Another thing was that the women profiled in the program were very…exposed. When we saw Amy on the ground, caressing her beloved object (a carnival ride called 1001 Nacht), I felt that it was too intimate; that I shouldn’t be watching. But it seems like these women would rather be seen, in the hopes of being better understood. That exposure may have been a small price to pay for the chance to tell their stories in their own words. “Let them watch!” they seem to be saying. “Our love is for real.”

Conclusion: People who aren’t attracted to anyone can’t seem to get a word in edgewise without being barraged by naysayers, but a woman who has sex with the Eiffel Tower on camera gets to present her whole story without question? Clearly, we need to raise our expectations here. I also realized one big hurdle in terms of asexuals in media: We have nothing in the physical world to show we're ace. OS people have the opposite of this problem. If asexuals appear with a partner, then we're seen as gay or straight, and if we appear alone, we're just waiting to meet the right person. If you were trying to educate someone who had never heard of bisexuality, you would encounter a similar problem. So if we want better media coverage, we can't just be, my rosebuds, we must act. I think the future for asexual media will be, hopefully, the cool things we do as a community.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic

So, how about that Slumdog Millionaire? about Confessions of a Shopaholic? Yep, you've been're about to encounter some froth. Believe it or not, a few years ago I read the novel on which the movie is based and enjoyed it. Like I've said before, chick lit really is my sci-fi. In most chick lit stories, romance is the central theme. However, Shopaholic dealt with a major issue I could really relate to: Financial problems. I loved reading a book that dealt with financial problems in a funny way. And so, I was looking forward to seeing the movie. And even though it's totally predictable-- it's sort of like Sex and the City meets The Devil Wears Prada meets Legally Blonde-- that's not the point. I enjoyed it because not only is it pure escapism, but I found it oddly relatable.

As we've explored, asexuals are poor people, and I'm no different. Like Shopaholic's New York (and the book's London), living in San Francisco can be torturous when you don't have much money. You're constantly surrounded by "the trappings of wealth". Even my co-workers at Goodwill that make minimum wage have iPhones. The fact that your own wants are modest (I would kill to have a working clothes dryer) makes it all seem even worse. Some writers said the film was in poor taste, coming out during an economic crisis. But visit any of San Francisco's most affluent 'hoods and you'll see a lot more shopping than this one movie can convey. We all cope with these desire/lifestyle discrepancies in different ways. I pretty much became a socialist, and Becky, heroine of Shopaholic, shops. But it's all, perhaps, asexier than just the poverty connection.

In the first few minutes of the film, Becky says:

"You know when a cute guy smiles at you, and your heart goes all warm butter sliding down toast? That's how I feel when I see a store."

And I said to myself, as I am wont to do, "I am SO blogging about this!" Now, I don't love shopping any more than the average stylista, but that statement resonated with me. It was refreshing to see that something was more important than cute guys, even if it's something as dumb as shopping. But alongside with shopping, Becky is also passionate about her career in journalism. Her biggest dream is to get a job at a top fashion magazine. At the beginning of the movie, it was a job that Becky was seeking, not a boyfriend. When Becky does get her man in the end (which is so obvious I can't even call it a spoiler), I was pleased, because I felt like Becky had more going for her than just one guy. And even though Becky netted her ideal partner, her most enduring romance seems to be with a scarf.

At the conclusion of the film, when Becky is making out with Luke, the man in question, she's still distracted by shoes in a store window. That's either sad, or the expansion of romantic ideals that I've been pushing for. It's hard to really tell.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Apologetics II

In a previous post back in December, I covered some of the reasons why I have a hard time doing online dating. But I missed a huge one: My own fear. While some people might be afraid of meeting strangers from the internet, or of their co-workers seeing their profile, I fear my old nemesis: The ignorant masses. The history books seem like one long story of different ignorant masses doing different stupid things. We’ve always encountered them. However, before the internet, we’ve never encountered them during dating. If I say on an online dating profile that I’m ace, I’m setting myself up to receive every stupid message from the front lines of the ignorant. However, if I don’t, when and how am I supposed to bring it up? On the first date, between conversation about siblings and our favorite colors?

I think that in the world of online dating, most people are looking for someone that they’ll click with right off the bat. But what if you’re unclickable? I think the best people for asexuals to date are people we already know. People who are already somewhat invested in us would be more willing to take on an unconventional relationship. Another reason I can’t date online is because I’m not all in. And it seems like there's little room for the unsure. I oscillate between wanting to date and not wanting to. For me, dating seems unnatural, like a formal banquet. Like the etiquette dinner I attended in college ("like a ship goes out to sea, I spoon my soup away from me"), I'll try anything once. I wish I could go on one date (which I've already done-- two in fact!) and say that I'd had the experience, but dating isn't like bungee jumping (or maybe it is for other reasons). But my reason is that dating isn't a one-time event, it's a mission. One that I'm not sure I want to undertake. I expect I'll be ambivalent about it for a long time to come.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

War is Over (If You Want It)

Shades of Gray recently wrote a really insightful post about the "GLBT" movment, its adherence to its acronym, and its lack of inclusiveness to bi and trans people, let alone more obscurely-oriented folks. It got me thinking, yet again, about how crucial it is that minorities stick together. Much better to all be queer together than to be separate, adversarial groups. I know that, for example, to be a gay person rejecting trans people in your movement is epically stupid in terms of not only human decency, but overall strategy. If it was just about rights alone (which some would argue), there would be no qualms about actively including queer groups who aren't fighting for their own legislation. Apparently, asexuals have tons of free time to devote to causes, what with all the sex we're not having. However, this idea of inclusion, which to me is intuitive, is Martian to some other folks. I realized today how exactly this idea got drummed into my head.

In the 7th and 8th grades, I attended the world's most grueling middle school. Every class (or year, or grade, for those in other countries) had only 20 kids. This created a perpetual hothouse of drama. There was a group of "popular kids", a group of female outcasts (including myself), and a group of male outcasts. The dominion of the popular kids was maintained by one thing: The fact that both groups of outcasts thought the other group was untouchable. If we girls had collaborated with the male outcasts instead of making fun of them, we would have had the numbers to achieve equality with the popular kids. Combined, we could have had the strength to fight back-- or to just ignore them. My one regret from that time in my life is not trying to make friends with those boys. Looking back, I'm sure they would have been truer friends to me than the girls were in the end. But of course, I didn't realize this until years later. I can only imagine how much better my 7th and 8th grade years would have been, had I known all this at the time.

This is a true story. But it's also an allegory. The stautus quo depends on the infighting of minorities. And queer people who reject other queer people are playing right into the staus quo's hands. They're doing the very thing their oppressors want them to do. I guess their middle school experiences were better than mine, and that must be nice for them. They might have better memories, but I think I got a better lesson. Although I wouldn't wish my experience on any child, I did learn something valuable.

Of course, some queer people want to be the status quo, just like some outcast kids want to be popular. Maybe that's one reason why straight people are usually the only group courted as gay allies. If it's because they're numerous, well, so are all the other miscellaneus queers, when taken as a group. As a kid, I didn't want to be popular-- I just wanted to be myself and be left alone. The idea that even as adults, so many people just want to be popular and well-liked at the expense of others? It makes me feel queasy. But I guess that even by middle school, my destiny in radical queerness was already confirmed. Just like the status-seeking of some of my classmates remains the same to this day. But I still believe, despite all evidence to the contrary, that maybe...if they really want it...people can change.

(Also, meetup on March 1st, which is fast approaching! But I'm not quite sure what to do with you guys...)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Don't laugh at me-- I kind of wanted to see "Zack and Miri Make a Porno" (2008). What can I say, it sounded like it could be a funny concept. In this movie, two roommates who are broke try to make a porn movie to raise enough money to pay their rent. I think that in the right hands, it could be hilarious. You would think that Kevin Smith (of "Clerks") would have those hands, but alas, no. Not only was "Zack and Miri" not all that funny, but it had a lot of strange ideas about sex and love that you wouldn't expect from a movie about a porno.

Spoilers ahead!

Zack and Miri make a big deal about being "just friends" and never having slept together. However, they do have sex as part of their porn movie, and find that "it's actually making love" (When Seth Rogan said these lines, I thought he must have been being sarcastic...but he
wasn't). From the moment they have sex, they suddenly see each other in a new way, fall in love, and get married. For a movie that claimed that it had to advertise in stick figures, and that was banned from some theaters, it's ridiculously unsubversive. I've talked before about the media's inability to separate sex and love. But this movie ratchets that idea up to 11. Not only does sex magically create love, but sex IN A PORNO creates love. The weird thing was, Zack and Miri were already living together and for all intents and purposes, were spending their lives together. Even though they'd known each other since kindergarten, it had to take having sex in
front of cameras for them to realize they cared about each other? How dense could two people be?!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Things Asexuals Like: Atheism

I miss the “Things Asexuals Like” series…so I’m going to revive it with atheism!

In a poll on AVEN that 104 people took, 52% said they didn't believe in God, as compared to about 12% of the general population. When Anthony Bogaert studied asexuals, he found we were more religious than the general population. But, AVEN tells a different story. Maybe that's yet another thing that people on internet forums tend to share, like youth or an enjoyment of anime. Or not? I'm not sure. It's worth exploring.

It might be relevant to say I'm not an atheist. However, I do understand atheism and find it logical. As a kid, I didn’t really believe in God, but at some point during my teenage years, I started to think that the existence of a higher power made sense. I’m Jewish, and we probably have the vaguest idea of God imaginable. 2,000 years ago, it was avant-garde to say “There is one God” and leave it at that, but that does leave my beliefs about God relatively unformed. I’m a big religion nerd and love to study all types of religions. My favorites are probably “indigenous” or “folk” religions, like the kind Native Americans or Africans practiced before monotheism was foisted upon them. Apparently, I really do think the spirits of the dead exist and grow stronger, since I’ve found myself asking them to make the bus come faster. But I have to say, like my interests in sex, my interests in religion are mostly in my head. I think Reform Jews are way too subdued, and I admire other groups that perform epic dances, wear snakes on their heads, and bob around in muddy rivers. While I find such practices fascinating, I can’t imagine myself getting swept up in them. I may believe in God, but I don’t love God, and while I’m passionate about the study of religion, I don’t think I’m passionate about God hirself. Then again, how many Jews are? That's not part of our religion like it is in Christianity.

Like I mentioned, I can’t say with any certainty why asexuals seem more likely to be atheist. Maybe it’s because a belief in God is just as illogical as romantic love is. However, I do think God is somewhat logical. I mean, there’s so many things in the universe that we don’t understand and never will—what’s one more? Or maybe it’s just because, as I’ve said before, people who are “alternative” in some way tend to be alternative in other ways, as well. I'm not sure what else to say except for hey, we kinda like atheism.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

On My List

Recently, a loyal reader suggested that I make a page of every cultural thing I reference, with descriptions of what they are. This was more than I wanted to take on right now, so I said, "How about I just make a list of required reading/viewing?" And that seemed to be okay with him. So I thought about it. I've talked about a lot of movies, tv, music, books, and articles here. But when it came to those that I thought were truly essential-- that I thought you had to read or watch, few were left standing. For example, even though I like to write about music, that's so open to taste and interpretation that I can't think of anything (besides Fabuloid's one hit, that is) that you absolutely must hear. And there were very few things you must watch. For once, in order of importance, they are:

1) Shortland Street, a soap opera from New Zealand, which you can watch parts of here. Gerald is the first (and only) out asexual character in film or TV.
2) Withnail and I, a British cult classic film from the '80s, is, if I had to choose, the film where asexuality is the most implied.
3) Season One of Dexter, a series on Showtime. This is just because it seems to garner a lot of discussion among asexuals. Dexter may be a serial killer, but he is also not interested in sex in the first season. He is also a character that you greatly sympathize with. However, if you don't like to see blood and guts, don't watch this.

Links are to posts where I previously wrote about the item.
And here's what you have to read, not really in order:

1) The New Single Woman. Let's face it, whether it's intentional or not, most asexual people will probably be single. And finally, here's a book that actually treats singlehood as a viable life choice.
2) Surpassing the Love of Men, because I think it's important for aces to know about the history of different sorts of relationships. If we want to try new things, it's good to know what came before.
3) On Chesil Beach, a very short novel with very asexual subject matter.
4) Bitch Magazine's article "Do Not Want". A model for media.
5) "Asexual and Autoerotic Women", from a compliation called The Sexually Opressed. If you'll pardon me quoting myself: "Well, I have a 30-year-old article in my life, and it has finally given me ancestors of experience. Knowing that people like me were previously identified, albeit briefly, feels like I've gotten a message of encouragement. And that gives me strength."
6) That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. Yes, this is a very sexual book, but I have to keep up my "radical asexual blogger" reputation, ha ha. I think that as asexuals, the sooner we reject "normal" and "being like everyone else", the better. Unfortunately, the current mainstream gay movement isn't a very good role model for this. But the people in That's Revolting are.

Bonus: The Bone People. This book has an ace main character and author! I reccommend it, but the subject matter isn't directly asexual.

Hopefully I'll find a way to link to this post on the side somewhere, and update it as I discover more things that you must read and watch. Feel free to debate away! And remind me of anything I've missed.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Strangers in the Night

A new label has been added: Living situations. I think that where you live and with whom is important in terms of relationships, but unless those relationships are romantic (ie, how to combine your home decor with that of your spouse), living situations are rarely talked about past college roommate issues. So guess what I'm going to do? Yep, that's right, talk about them.

Up until last month, I lived with my 2 cats in a large (although decrepit and overpriced) studio apartment here in San Francisco. Then, the cats and I moved to a house on the other side of town. We now live with two people, a dog, and another cat. The reason for this move was mostly financial-- my rent is now a little more than half of what it was before. But I was also often lonely living by myself, and I thought living with other folks would be a nice change. It turns out that may or may not be true. Like many people in San Francisco, my housemates are from Craigslist, people who were complete strangers before I answered their ad seeking a housemate. I don't know if this is a common thing in your area, but here, it's not relegated to just the young and poor (although I happen to be both). Some of these random people do become good friends. But I think most people who meet in this way continue to lead very separate lives. And somehow, that's even lonelier than living by yourself.

I was surprised at the generally positive publicity that living with total strangers seems to get. I'm always told that living with friends destroys friendships, and that when you live with strangers, you're "on your best behavior". Well, I can finally compare the two situations from my own experience. In my senior year of college, I lived in a house with 3 good friends and one stranger. There was drama sometimes, and lots of it. But at the end of the year, I emerged still friends with my friends. If I wanted to be alone, I could go to my room or the usually-empty running track near the house. But if I wanted to see my friends, all I had to do was walk upstairs to the living room. Now, I have to take a bus to see them-- any of them. For me, living with people who were already friends is the clear win. But, awkwardly enough, I'm not sure how to go about achieving that. It's not like college where everyone changes their housing at the end of the year.

Also, totally unrelated: Per one of your suggestions, I watched A Home at the End of the World. You're right, I really liked the unconventional family in the movie. And parts of it ("Come on, we're all beautiful and lonely here") were really funny, although others were quite sad. But I totally didn't read Bobby as asexual. I can see why someone might, although if I had to choose, I would definitely call him bisexual.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Fear a Parade! Tra La La!

Last year, I wanted to plan on having a booth at the San Francisco Pride parade n' celebration. But, seeing as this would cost something like $500, I had to give up on those plans. This year, I want to plan on us marching in the parade. But this idea isn't without its issues...

I'm always in conflict as to how I talk about meetups and real-life asexual community. On the one hand, I don't want to show weakness, and I don't want people to think that community organizing is prohibitively hard. It's not that hard, although I sure don't make it look easy. But on the other hand, I do want to show weakness, because then people will know that anyone can organize community, even if they, like me, cannot plan their way out of a paper bag.

This post might fall into the second category. Often, I seem to have ideas that sound amazing at the time, but later, I wonder what I was thinking. This is definitely where I am when it comes to marching at SF pride. I know that a major point of our march will be to show how many asexuals and allies there really are. (That is, if it even registers with most people seeing our group go by who we are and what we're about.) I also know that getting a critical mass of participants will be a very difficult push up until the end. The result will be a really glorious meetup. But if the point is education and visibility, I think we could do that more efficiently through other channels. (Totally unsexy channels, to be sure.) Marching would be a historic moment that would definitely stand out in the events of my life, and maybe all of our lives. I'm ready, but does that matter?

Currently, my job (the thing I get sort of paid to do) revolves around planning a volunteer program. I was warned that if my first volunteers aren't wonderful and do a great job, the program will be set back and no one will want to cooperate with me in the future. I feel like our first really big activity will have to be wonderful and do a great job, too. But that's a lot of pressure!

My fear is that people will plan on coming, but then we'll realize we only have something like 15 people participating. I don't want to cancel the effort, because then I'll feel like an idiot. But I'll feel like an even bigger idiot if only a handful of people show up on the day of. The idea of telling interested parties that we wouldn't actually be marching makes my pulse speed up in a bad way. But if people don't come out of the woodwork to drink excellent chai in a cafe, will they come out to march in a parade? Somehow, I doubt it. And I don't think people understand that we need solid RSVPs now in order to go forward with this project. Now that I've achieved my goal of 10 people at a meetup, I want to escalate my efforts. Is marching the best way to do that? Or should it be more like getting 12 people at a meetup?

I await your comments, enlightened ones...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Erasing Desire

"Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionary's life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime."
--Angela Davis

Many thanks to Kim-- I was despairing of having something to post about tonight. Anyway, in a comment to my last post, she shared a link to this article about political lesbians, specifically a group called Revolutionary Feminists that formed in the UK in the '70s. These are women who are active feminists and may or may not have an attraction to women, but decide that they can get more done in their movement by eschewing men. While "men as the enemy" isn't something I agree with, there were parts of the piece I could definitely relate to. The author, Julie Bindel, writes about viewing traditional heterosexual life as a child and doing the whole "Is this all there is?" thing. Like me, Bindel started questioning social norms at a young age. Also, a lot of statements in the article had an asexual vibe. One critic says that political lesbianism is crazy because "it erased desire". And in their manifesto, "Love Your Enemy", the political lesbians in question wrote: "Our definition of a political lesbian is a woman-identified woman who does not fuck men. It does not mean compulsory sexual activity with women." I can't help but think that such a group could have been a haven for feminist asexuals.

Surpassing the Love of Men
talks about lesbian feminists choosing their orientation. It was the first time I'd really heard this concept. I'd always been told "we were born this way!", but when I considered it further, certain aspects of choosing your orientation make sense. Most aces know that you can't really choose who you're sexually attracted to, because we've tried and failed to manufacture desire. But, you can choose who you hang out with, what activities you participate in, who you have relationships with, who you have sex with, and how you identify your sexuality. I think political asexuals are a definite posibility, although I'm not sure what their politics would be. I wonder how such people would coexist with "choiceless" asexuals like myself. The reaction of "choiceless" lesbians to political lesbians was definitely mixed-- many thought the idea of choosing your orientation set back their cause. While I don't think I chose my asexuality, I also think it encompasses more than just a lack of sexual desire. Even if I met someone whose clothes I wanted to rip off everyday*, I'd still want to identify as asexual. I just believe strongly in what we're trying to accomplish here. It's more than sex, or lack thereof.

*(And why, when talking to aces, is this situation usually called "When you find the right person?" It's very possible that any number of us would be sexually attracted to people who are total assholes. Don't plenty of folks want to have sex with people who are wrong for them? Whoever's spinning this "right person" stuff either can't separate sex and love, or is high on Windex and cheese puffs.)