Monday, February 28, 2011

The Date...That Wasn't

This was originally intended as a possible Spectral Amoebas contribution...that's why it's so long. Also, I was paranoid that "Sam" would somehow see it...but hey, if he does, at least it will explain my actions a lot better than I ever did at the time.

Everyone else was doing it, so I joined an online dating site.
While I was browsing, I saw the profile of a man I would want to be friends with. We sent a few e-mails and decided to meet in person. It remained clear in my mind that I wanted to be friends with this man (let's call him Sam) rather than date him. Our first meeting was decidedly un-datelike, as we were meeting on a weekday afternoon in a place that was not at all romantic. I would see Sam three or four more times. I wondered if he thought we were going on dates, but quickly put it out of my mind. If these were dates, then why weren't we doing typical "date" things like dinner and a movie? If he thought we were dating, he would flirt with me, or try to touch me in some way, and I would do the same. Neither of us did. If we were dating, surely Sam would ask some question relating to romantic relationships. He never did, nor did I ever ask him.

Then one night, I went with Sam to a performance. While we were waiting for the show to start, suddenly Sam started complimenting me and looking into my eyes. It occurred to me that whatever he'd thought in the past, Sam was now considering this a date. But I didn't know how to handle the situation, so I kept my concerns to myself. Sam drove me home and asked if he could walk me to my door. I saw no reason for him to do so, but agreed. As we stood in front of my door, Sam said that he liked me a lot, and then something strange happened to his face. His eyes started shimmering. Actually, his whole face seemed a bit wavy, but maybe that was just my panic expressing itself as it quickly became obvious that Sam wanted to kiss me. How did I extricate myself? I'm not proud to say that I chirped, "I'M ASEXUAL! I DON'T DATE! SORRY!" before running upstairs, leaving Sam extremely confused.

This is an embarrassing story, one that I don't think portrays me in a very positive light. But I bring it up because I think it addresses some larger issues about consent. Consent is usually discussed in a sexual context, so it might seem trivial to mention it here. But sex doesn't occur in a vacuum, nor do our attitudes about consent. So I decided to probe my own psychology and figure out why I didn't assert myself sooner. As a lifelong feminist, you might think I'd be comfortable speaking up about these things, but such is not always the case. I like a good numbered list, so let me outline what I now realize was my reasoning. I hope it'll be somewhat obvious that all of these points can be extrapolated out to sexual encounters as well.

1. I thought that if I'd laid out my expectations earlier, Sam would have been angry or upset, or it would have made things more awkward. (Obviously, I hadn't taken the long view.) We all know about a seemingly good guy who's gone all Mr. Hyde when "rejected" by a woman. (I don't see friendship as "rejection", but I know some people do.) I didn't know Sam well enough to anticipate his response and I feared that uncertainty. Maybe he'd say, "Pffft, don't flatter yourself." That would've been bad...but not as bad as what ended up happening.

2. I didn't know how to say "no" without literally yelling "NO!" and running away. I didn't know how to question Sam without jeopardizing our friendship (which I ended up doing anyway). I didn't realize that if Sam was someone worthy of my time, I would have been able to speak honestly with him. While I'm now 26 years old, in "dating years" I'm around 12 or 13. I've only been on 2 dates (that I knew were dates) in my life. I didn't want to embarrass myself by displaying my lack of experience (which I ended up doing anyway).

3. A friend would later tell me that because I was on a dating site, my dating consent was implied. But of course, if you have to imply consent, then there's a definite chance that you don't have it at all. When Sam switched into date mode that night, I felt affronted. It seemed like he'd decided to take the evening in a certain direction without caring whether I wanted the same thing.

4. I wanted to like Sam "that way", even though I didn't. I wanted to be "normal", which luckily I have mostly gotten over by now. At the time, I didn't know why I'd only ever liked guys who ignored me. It made me feel pathetic. But on further thought, I realized that for me, it made sense. Guys who ignored me would never make me feel uncomfortable or pressure me into sexual situations. And this was more important to me than gaining their attention. Maybe it's a healthy defense, because I know I have so much trouble saying "no". Personally, I don't think I should attempt to date sexual people unless I can say "no" with confidence.

5. And here's where the autism comes in, although it was in the background all along. In familiar social situations, I can do decently, and probably not be differentiated from an eccentric neurotypical (NT). But in unfamiliar situations, my social skills fall apart. In those situations, I look to NTs for cues, and if no cues are forthcoming, then I'm much less likely to take action. Whether diagnosed or not, I'd wager that most people on the spectrum have been told over and over (explicitly or implicitly) that we're doing something "the wrong way". The implication always seemed to be that this was a terrible thing. My experience was no different, and so I tend not to trust my own judgment.

I suppose there are a lot of reasons why someone would be distrustful of their judgment. But for me, it seems like a sad casualty of the way that social norms are strictly enforced, especially in school settings. Lucky for me, my distrust of my judgment has led to so many awkward situations that it's something I'm sincerely working on now. I'm trying to identify "red flags" and avoid them, whether that means yelling "NO!" and sprinting away, or engaging in some calmer behavior. Now, if "the date that wasn't" started to happen again, would I be able to plunge through the awkwardness and make my feelings known? I'd like to think so, but in the moment, I get so nervous that I suppose anything could happen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Quick Notes on "Glee"

Anyone out there

a) bisexual and
b) a watcher of Glee?

Did you find tonight's show to be...troublesome? I did. Of course, non-bisexual viewers are welcome to share their thoughts, too. (Spoilers --->) In this episode, Blaine, who was portrayed as gay up until this point, kisses Rachael, a straight girl, while playing drunk spin-the-bottle. Sparks fly, leading Blaine to wonder if he might actually be bi. Kurt, a gay boy who's in love with Blaine, tells him that bisexuality isn't real. Blaine, understandably, gets offended. Later, Blaine kisses Rachael while sober, and decides that he's definitely gay. While Blaine emphatically states that he wants to explore his sexuality, all his questioning seems to take place over the course of a day or two.

(To those unaware, asexuals and bisexuals get similar negative responses. Had Blaine said that he thought he might be asexual, the exact same conversation could have transpired.)

While Blaine defends bisexuality to Kurt, in the end it's confirmed that being bi is just a state of momentary confusion. I can understand why Kurt holds his views, especially given his feelings for Blaine. His prejudice might make sense within the story, but that doesn't mean that bisexuality should begin and end in a 45-minute period. Glee sees itself as a "progressive" show, and it covered Kurt's experience as an out gay student over the arc of many episodes. But bisexuality gets brushed off, even though there are other potentially bi characters, like Brittany and Santana. It pains me when a show gets close to doing something long-overdue, like actually having a bisexual character, and then pulls back.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Blogging for Choice...Belatedly

I totally missed the boat on Blogging for Choice Day, which took place last month (?). But, it's been a bad news week for the topic, so I was inspired to do it...belatedly. First, South Dakota may make it legal to kill abortion providers. According to this article, the proposed law would "expand the definition of "justifiable homicide" to include killings that are intended to prevent harm to a fetus—a move that could make it legal to kill doctors who perform abortions." But what bothered me more was information about just how hard it is to get an abortion in South Dakota right now:

Since 1994, there have been no [abortion] providers in the state. Planned Parenthood flies a doctor in from out-of-state once a week to see patients at a Sioux Falls clinic. Women from the more remote parts of the large, rural state drive up to six hours to reach this lone clinic. And under state law women are then required to receive counseling and wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure.

Before performing an abortion, a South Dakota doctor must offer the woman the opportunity to view a sonogram. And under a law passed in 2005, doctors are required to read a script meant to discourage women from proceeding with the abortion: "The abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." Until recently, doctors also had to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she had "an existing relationship with that unborn human being" that was protected under the Constitution and state law and that abortion poses a "known medical risk" and "increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide." In August 2009, a US District Court Judge threw out those portions of the script, finding them "untruthful and misleading." The state has appealed the decision.

So abortion is legal, but so inaccessible that it might be impossible for some. I hadn't realized that could be the case, so I found the report very disturbing.

Speaking of Planned Parenthood, the House of Representatives wants to block their federal aid. It will probably fail in the Senate, so "thanks" for wasting everyone's time. This bill is absurd to me, because Planned Parenthood doesn't just provide abortions (which, as we've noted, are not illegal). They provide birth control, STD/HIV testing, and perhaps most importantly, information. While I may be indifferent about sex, I am NOT indifferent about reproductive rights and sex education. If that education is withheld, people won't suddenly become celibate, which seems to be a common misconception held by Republican politicians. While I'm asexual, I feel like I understand the nature of sexuality better than these presumably sexual politicians do. People will still have sex, they'll always have sex. Without good information, they'll just be less likely to make safe choices.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Singled Out (it's a book review, yo)

Some people call Valentine's Day "Singles Awareness Day". I prefer to view it as a day to worship almighty Chocolate. However you celebrate (or don't), you should read this awesome post that Lanafactrix showed me. I love the title: Living Single, and was glad to see that the writer doesn't like the term "single", either.

And now, a related book review where I'll be forced to use the word many times.

I'll be honest...I picked up Singled Out due to a sense of obligation. I was expecting it to be full of "well, DUH" information, and to therefore be boring. Luckily, I was wrong on both counts. It ended up being a fairly absorbing read, and author Bella De Paulo has a sense of humor. For example: "Still, compared with women, men get a break. They can turn on Monday Night Football in full confidence that the game will not end with a wedding (16)". (I'm sure plenty of women watch football, and maybe that's exactly one of the reasons.)

In terms of new information, I was glad to learn more about the experiences of single men. Apparently, they get paid less than married men for doing the same work. The "breadwinner bonus" still applies, even though so many women work. Common stereotypes were also explored. To me, one of the more interesting ones is the idea that men need to be "civilized" by marriage. This manages to be insulting to men and women alike: To men, because it assumes that if they're single, they're just sitting around eating pizza all day. And to women, because it assumes that rather than partners, we're just looking for DIY projects.

Additionally, I'd always assumed that most single people were "looking", and I was an exception. Not so. According to a 2005 survey, 55% of single people were not looking. Another good point from the book: Why aren't single parents just called "parents"? Married parents aren't referred to as "married parents". If the name is a holdover from days when single parents were unusual, then it's definitely out of date now.

Unless you're Betty Friedan, it's hard to talk about a problem that has no name. One helpful thing about Singled Out is that it introduces the term "singlism". While not as dangerous as sexism or racism, De Paulo still shows how single people can face discrimination in terms of health care, wages, and obtaining housing. After reading this book, I immediately identified some singlism on a TV show I watched that night, which I doubt I would have recognized before. It is indeed insidious. And, finally, I would call the book ace-friendly: "Apparently, there is little room in the mythology of singlehood for women who are getting exactly the amount and kind of sex they desire-- including, for some single women, no sex at all (147)".

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Things Asexuals Like: Long-Distance Relationships

Damn flu season, messing with my blogging. The viruses have whisked away my inhibitions, leading me to admit that I've read both of the "Stuff White People Like" books. I thought the second one, Whiter Shades of Pale, was funnier. At any rate, in that book, Christian Lander writes that white people like long-distance relationships. He calls LDRs "extremely slow breakups" and writes that "an incredible 1oo percent" of LDRs have failed. This, of course, is not the case for asexuals.

The main reason why asexuals like LDRs is a practical one-- if you're asexual and want to date another ace, finding such a person in your general vicinity is very difficult. So, why not expand your search criteria to include "the world"? Last time I was on Acebook, I believe there were only one or two people in my entire state who were interested in women. And we're not talking Rhode Island here. Once the LDR has begun, it's probably easier for two asexuals to maintain it, since there is less concern about cheating and with people getting their sexual needs met.

Apparently, the viruses also cause me to state the obvious.

While I've never been in a romantic LDR, I have many long-distance friends. I value and care about these friends, and don't want our relationship to die just because of distance. But, there are some particular issues to the long-distance friendship. Like with friends, there's no standard for frequency of communication. While I don't want to impose on people by talking to them too frequently, I also don't want people to think I've forgotten them. And, unlike romantic LDRs, where you are probably planning to live in the same place at some point, you may never live in the same place as your platonic LDRs. In these days of increased mobility, most people seem to have long-distance family as well. But for some, of course, that might be exactly how they like it.