asexual

Asex Ed? – Carnival of Aces Submission June 2017

[This post as a part of the Carnival of Aces, a monthly blog carnival centring around topics relating to asexuality. This month’s  carnival is hosted by Writing Ace on the topic of Asexual Education.]

For this topic, I am focusing on one of the specific suggested prompts: “How should asexuality be taught to children? Where and when should asexuality be taught to children?”

I have a lot of thoughts about the ways in which we teach (or don’t teach, as the case often is) children about sexuality. Sexuality really can be much simpler than we make it most of the time, if we manage to look past the strange moral filters and anxieties so many of us carry around these topics.

For instance, lots of parents have a dread of the day their children first ask where babies come from, because that means they need to tell their kid about the s-e-x word now. Except it doesn’t mean that at all, as it turns out!

My favourite book about baby-making for children is  Cory Silverberg’s What Makes a Baby? In the book, you learn that babies are made when you put together sperm with an ovum (some bodies make sperm, and some don’t; some bodies make ova and some don’t), and give the blastocyst this creates somewhere to live (a uterus! Some bodies have ’em, and some don’t!)

Ta-da! Simple as that, and sex doesn’t enter the conversation. I mean, for the record, it’s not that I think we need to avoid taking to kids about sex, it’s just that not all babies are made from people having sex anymore, and honestly, when children innocently ask about where babies come from, they don’t really want to know about what a man and woman do when they fall in love. In some cases, they’re probably more worried about whether their body might start growing a baby inside of it than anything else. It’s ok.

So, when do we talk to kids about sex? This is something we do need to talk to children about implicitly from a very young age – as young as possible really, simply because of the shockingly high rate of childhood sexual abuse. We need to teach children about their bodies and the ways it is and isn’t ok for other people to touch them. But the explicit conversation is less important, really.

And, if it were up to me, that standard birds-and-bees talk would be massively different as well. And yes, it would include asexuality, at least implicitly!

Something along the lines of this:

Sometimes grownups like to touch each other in special ways! [Talk about touching genitals, what genital arousal and orgrasm (generally) look like, various kinds of intercourse etc.]  We usually refer too all of these things as “having sex”. Sometimes people just touch themselves in ways that feel this way, too – we usually call that masturbation, but it’s a part of our sexuality too!

Having sex is normal, and can be really great if all the people involved want to do it, but this kind of touching can also carry some risks [talk about stis, pregnancy, and what acts do and don’t carry those risks. Note that pregnancy is only a risk for certain combinations of genitals etc].

Most people like to have sex because it feels really good to them (and some people have sex for other reasons, like if they want to get pregnant, or to make someone else feel good), but just like not everyone loves chocolate, not everyone likes sex either, and that’s ok! And some people only like certain kinds of sex, and not others, or only like to masturbate, and that’s all ok too.

Sometimes having sex can also make people feel more emotionally close to each other. In fact, lots of people have strong emotional reactions to having sex in different, but some don’t. Sometimes being in love with someone is what makes a person want to have sex with another person, but sometimes people have sex with each other just because they like how each other looks, or because they enjoy spending time together!

Not everyone falls in love or wants to have romantic relationships, but they can still have sex if they want to and if someone else wants to have it with them! And not everyone likes to have sex with anyone ever! All of these things are ok, and only you can decide how or when or who you want to have sex with, or if you even want to have sex ever at all!

If you really wanted to, you could mention that some people only ever want to have sex with people who are of a specific gender (some women only want to have sex with women, and some women only want to have sex with men, while others might want to have sex with people of different genders), but I think that if you manage to talk about sex in a gender-inclusive way and if children actually internalize the idea that it’s ok to want to have sex with people of whatever gender, no matter what gender you happen to be, then it kind of doesn’t matter if they are only attracted to one gender or another?

Anyway, yes, that’s my ideal way of framing what sex is, (with the existence of asexuality built right into the discussion!) not just to kids, but to literally anyone!

Casual physical intimacy, and “cuddle dialogue”! May 2017 Carnival of Aces submission

[This post is a part of the Carnival of Aces. This month’s carnival is hosted by From Fandom to Family on the topic of “Kissing, Hand Holding, Bed Sharing, etc.”]

I was vegging out with my nesting partner recently, cuddling on the couch and watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for umpteenth time, when my brain coined the phrase “cuddle dialogue” as I was trying to articulate something about our compatibility as cuddlers. Because the thing is, for me at least, the best cuddling very much is a non-verbal dialogue of sorts: it’s active, and responsive to each other. And this partner and I have got it down, to be honest. Our bodies comfortably communicate very well with each other, without needing to cerebralize it. And it’s a beautiful thing!

It’s also a significant thing, because when it comes to romantic relationships, casual physical intimacy is honestly one of the most important things in the world to me!

This can seem a little strange, because I am not a particularly touchy-feely person in general. Although this has softened somewhat as I’ve become (marginally) less socially awkward in transitioning from young adulthood to regular adulthood, I am still reticent to initiate physical contact with people in general.

Once I’ve established a level of physical intimacy with someone though, all bets are off (within the boundaries of what the other person is comfortable with, of course!) Basically, if a romantic partner is within reach of me, I’m going to want to be touching them, even if it’s just putting my hand on their arm while passing by them at home.

This all seems clearly related to my demisexuality, since I basically work on an all-or-nothing basis in terms of how I feel about physical intimacy with people – cuddle-attraction definitely goes hand-in-hand with sexual attraction for me. Which is to say, such desire doesn’t exist at all for me with most people, most of the time, until suddenly it does – and then, boy howdy does it!

However, this doesn’t mean that sensual and sexual touching are the same for me! Cuddling, in and of itself, is incredibly important to me, and in particular it is absolutely necessary for me to experience non-sexual physical intimacy in my romantic relationships. Touch that isn’t fraught by my partner’s desire to have sex with me is a must-have.

The paradox with that, though, is that this kind of unfraught touch will inevitably lead to me wanting more sexualized touch as well. Or at least, it does provide a necessary framework of safety and comfort for me to be open to that kind of desire.

My relationship with physical intimacy seems very simple in some ways – my internal experience of my bodily and emotional responses are largely unambiguous (though I still sometimes struggle to trust them), but becomes a complicated mess when I try to put words on it. So this post has been a struggle for me to write, and hasn’t wound up looking like what I thought it would, but here I am at the end of the month and I want to get something out, so yes. Those are some thoughts I had in response to this month’s prompt!

The best parts of ace communities, or: how my connection to ace communities converted me into a Hufflepuff

[This post is part of the January 2017 Carnival of Aces, hosted by Ace Advice on the theme of “Many ways to be ace“.]

Cross-stitch by me! Photo by John D. Botelho

Cross-stitch by me! Photo by John D. Botelho

I’m really happy about this month’s prompt, because it helped me realize that a bunch of thoughts I’ve been having lately are worth writing down. As I mentioned in a past Carnival post, I have a strange sense of identity with respect to asexual community/ies, in that even though I am comfortable with my a-spec, demisexual identity, I feel like my role with respect to asexuality is more akin to allyship than anything else.

To a great extent, this comes from my allosexual-passing privilege, but it also relates to the fact that I am always extremely cognizant of how non-typical my flavour of asexuality is. But then, the more deeply I delve into ace communities, the clearer it is becoming to me that there isn’t really a ‘typical’ when it comes to ace-ness. Better yet, ace communities – possibly more than any other marginal-identity-oriented communities I’ve witnessed or participated in – often actively embrace and even centre the true breadth of diversity of ace experiences across multiple spectra.

The way that ace communities – at least in my experience – go well beyond acceptance and often outright celebrate our diversity is just so utterly squee-worthy. I just love it, and it’s the reason ace-focused spaces are some the safest and most pleasant spaces I’ve ever encountered.

And one of the sillier and more unexpected consequences of all of these experiences is that I’ve rethought my Hogwarts House! I have always been a pretty clear Ravenclaw by all accounts (I am a librarian, after all…), including Pottermore’s Sorting Hat. But, that is no longer where my allegiance lies! I am, in fact, quite certain I’m a Hufflepuff.

The thing about Hufflepuff you see, is that it’s the house for everyone, or at least anyone. Hufflepuff sometimes gets a bad rap or simply goes unnoticed, because it’s hard to apply a clear strength or trait to it (like Gryffindors courage or Slytherin’s ambition), not because Hufflepuffs are inherently unremarkable, but because Helga Hufflepuff believed that everyone had value and was happy to have anyone in her house.

Hufflepuff is the kind of club I want to be in, is what I’m saying. And, given Helga’s attitude about it, I’m quite certain that wanting to be in Hufflepuff is more than sufficient qualification to get sorted into Hufflepuff (we know the Sorting Hat takes that sort of thing into consideration, even!).

And I’d like to think that many of the lovely aces of all kinds would be right there with me :)

Joining the Asexual Community: October 2016 Carnival of Aces submission

[This post is a part of the October 2016 Carnival of Aces, on the topic of “Joining the Asexual Community“]

I very much feel like I fell into contact with asexual communities by accident. I can’t remember when I first learned about asexuality – probably it came up in connection to the LGBTQIA+ acronym at some point (though asexuals sometimes get erased in order to include allies in the alphabet soup (*eyerolls forever*), I’m sure I saw it done right in my teenage years some of the time.

I didn’t realize that asexuality was relevant to me until my mid-20s though, when I (again mysteriously; I have no idea what lead me to this, really) discovered demisexuality. I took some time between learning that demisexuality exists and actively identifying myself as demisexual (and I wrote about that process at various points along the way).

During this time, I also started noticing the significant overlap between trans communities and asexual communities, and particularly the fairly common co-existence asexual and non-binary identities. That is, I noticed a lot of non-binary people are also on the asexual spectrum, and vice versa.

This lead me to my first go-round of hosting the Carnival of Aces earlier this year, on the topic of gender norms and asexuality.

I still don’t know how strongly I feel like a part of asexual community, weirdly, although ace-oriented spaces have always felt very welcoming and comfortable to me – there are many things about ace communities that inspire me to be a better version of myself, and I am glad to participate in things like the carnival. There are many things about my life, and the way demisexuality works for me, that make me pass pretty easily as allosexual, and to some extent this means that I feel my role around asexuality and asexual issues to be more that of an ally than a part of the community.

I love reading about all of your lives, is basically what I’m saying, and though I have been making a conscious effort to contribute to conversation in various ways, I still see myself in a weird position that is both within and outside of ace community at large (if that even makes any sense). I have come to be familiar with ace communities mostly by accident, and the process by which I have built up my participation seems in retrospect like the metaphorical frog in the pot of boiling water – so slow that I didn’t realize it was happening until I already found myself there.

“Naming it”: August 2016 Carnival of Aces Round-up

This is the round-up of posts for the August 2016 Carnival of Aces, hosted by yours truly, on the topic of “Naming it”. Posts are listed in order of submission. Thank you so much to all the contributors; I’ve really enjoyed reading all of your posts!

Naming it – How identifying as asexual changed my life | Ace Advice

Does what it says on the tin: the author of ace advice talks about the importance of discovering and coming to identify with asexuality.

Carnival of Aces August 2016: “Naming It” | A3

The author of A3 describes the process by which they discovered asexuality, and the moment they first saw the phrase “straight by default”.

Names Acknowledge Existence | the notes which do not fit

A personal reflection on the importance of naming things in order to acknowledge and validate their existence, especially with respect to asexual identities and realities.

The importance of labels in the asexual community (if you want to use them), and my story | Spacey Acey

Emilia tells the story of her discovery of asexuality and her first forays into asexual online communities, complete with all the new words and concepts she had never encountered before, and her thoughts and feeling about those experiences.

#1805 | Only Fragments

The fabulous poet of Only Fragments has written a lovely meditation on names and diversity.

Naming It | quizzicalsloth

Jay writes about the comfort he finds in having a name for his experiences of asexuality, and further explores some thoughts about the variety of words and identities that there are to be found within asexual communities.

Putting Words to feelings: August 2016 Carnival of Aces Submission | Valprehension

I wrote about the concepts of primary and secondary attraction, the split attraction model (and particularly aesthetic attraction), and squishes!

[CN: rape] How Words Can Heal: Why I Needed Asexuality Awareness | yoonede
Yoonede writes about going through more than three decades without knowing that asexuality is a thing, and all of the feelings of confusion and brokenness, and the almost inevitable trauma, that came with that.

Naming feelings | (Purr)ple (L)ace
Laura talks about the general importance of finding words for her feelings, and describes a relationship for which words continue to fail her.

When Someone Learns a Word, But It Will Take a Lot for Them to Grasp the Concept it Describes | From Fandom to Family

This post explores both the power of finding a name for something you already experience (such as asexuality), and the ways in which simply being able to name something is not enough.

Naming and discovering new categories | mundo heterogéneo

Isaac explains some of his varied reactions to new words and concepts from asexual communities, the reasons why he more easily recognized himself withint he definition of aromanticism than asexuality, and discusses some of difficulty in bringing these ideas back into his native language of Spanish.

Why “Romantic Orientation Does Not Apply” Does Not Cut It (For Me) | From Fandom to Family
luvtheheaven sneaks in a technically late addition (:P), exploring the grey spaces where she is still struggling to find words for herself.

Putting words to feelings: August 2016 Carnival of Aces submission

Despite the fact that I set this month’s theme myself, I’ve been a little at a loss about what I wanted to contribute to the Carnival of Aces this time around.

I am very big on finding words that capture my experience of the world. It’s why I love to read so much, all of the time, and my favourite books are the ones in which the authors have found a perfect way of describing an experience that had been so inarticulable to me that I’d barely been consciously aware that I experienced that same thing as well. And I’ve felt this way about a lot of concepts and terms in ace blogosphere/thoughtspaces, so that’s why this month’s theme is “naming it”; it’s all about that experience of finding words for things you already felt.

But at the same time, I’ve already written about the generalities of how finding ace-generated models of attraction(s) was valuable to me, and how I wished they could gain traction in the broader world, not to mention how demisexuality itself has been a game-changer for me (and both for previous carnivals no less!) For today, I’m just going to talk a little more directly about some more particular concepts that have captured my experience in wonderfully validating ways:

Primary and Secondary Attractions

Really, it was the concept of primary and secondary sexual attractions that helped me find comfort in a demisexual identity – I used to struggle against the definition of demisexuality that depends on “strong emotional bonds” because I was worried that the speediness with which I can form strong emotional bonds somehow disqualified me (because of course, because self-doubt, because anxiety, because jerkbrain). But somewhere along the way I saw a definition of demisexuality as experiening secondary sexual attraction, but not primary sexual attraction, and this immediately clicked with me. It felt right. It felt like me.

Mostly, anyway.

But I still had some doubts.

You’ll find in those links, though, the evidence of some other concepts that have een instrumental to me, namely:

The Split Attraction Model (and specifically Aesthetic Attraction)

One of the things that made me feel uncertain whether demisexual was a reasonable label for me was the fact that, sometimes, I do feel an instant attraction to someone based on how they look. For a while, I felt weird even admitting this myself, because I didn’t want to have to go back to the confusion and sense of brokenness I had had before discovering demisexuality.

But then, these instantaneous attractions have never been sexual for me. They are about, like “I would love to have this person around so I could look at them all the time and watch them move and stuff.” And so, the first time I saw someone mention aesthetic attraction was a real lightbulb moment for me, that allowed me to continue to embrace the demisexual label without denying parts of my experience. Yay!

I think those were the most important concepts for me in coming into my own as a comfortably ace-identified human. But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention one last term that I just love with all the fuzziness my heart possesses:

Squishes

I’ve addressed this term directly before, but yeah, discovering the word squish helped me retroactively recontextualize all those confusingly strong but totally non-sexual feelings I used to call crushes in my youth!

Call for Submissions! August 2016 Carnival of Aces: “Naming it”

Hello all! I enjoyed hosting the March 2016 Carnival of Aces so much that I decided to do it again!

For those that don’t know, a blogging carnival is an online event where a host blog suggests a theme, and people submit pieces based around that theme.

The Carnival of Aces is a monthly blogging carnival that was started all the way back in 2011, and is currently run by the awesome ace resource The Asexual Agenda. For more information check out the Carnival of Aces Masterpost.

Last month’s Carnival was hosted by This Too Shall Eventually Pass / a little careless with her words, with the theme “Make ’em laugh”. Go read the post round-up!

For this month, I’ve chosen the theme of “naming it”. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about the importance of having words to describe our experiences and feelings and selves, and for me they are particularly applicable to asexual communities and asexuality generally. We have collectively come up with and honed so many new words for concepts that often simply aren’t considered or discussed outside of asexual circles (from the incredibly list of orientations that exist under the ace umbrella, to recognizing and naming the different kinds of attraction,, and I wanted to take a moment to celebrate that work.

Some potential post ideas around this theme:

  • What did it feel like when you first found a word that helped you name your experience as an asexual (or wherever you fall on the ace spectrum)? What was the word? Do you remember when you first encountered it?
  • What concepts have you been surprised to see named in asexual communities? What concepts have challenged you personally, and what concepts have helped you grow?
  • Are there any words, models, or concepts you’ve seen in ace communities that are problematic or that you think are simply useless? What concepts or words do you struggle to understand?
  • Alternatively, are there any experiences/ideas/concepts you have trouble talking about or naming, that you feel like there aren’t any words for yet? Try and give these ideas a name if you feel up to it, or just describe them if you don’t.
  • Or, as always, please feel free to write about anything else that this theme inspires you to think about

I’m excited to see what you all have to say!

Ways you can submit:

  • Post a comment here with a link to your submission
  • Email me: valprehension@gmail.com – either send a link to the post on your blog, or if you prefer not to post on your own blog, you can send me a guest post to go up on Valprehension.