sex

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!

The “Shit Cis People Say” Alphabet: H is for “how do you have sex?”

Welcome to another episode of the Shit Cis People Say Alphabet! Today:

H is for “how do you have sex?”

This question? It’s not even just relevant to trans people – it’s a common question  directed at LGBQ+ folks as well. The clearest answer in most cases (unless you’re planning on having sex with the person asking it, I guess?) is ‘um, none of your darn business.’ It is kind of amazing how simply being trans can open a person up to the kinds of invasive questions that they would never dream of asking in any other context. Suddenly we’re not people; we’re research subjects, or more often merely objects of fleeting curiosity.

But, even setting that aside, this question? It just depresses me, on so many levels. I do want to acknowledge upfront that for some trans people (as for some cis people) the answer is always simply going to be “I don’t have sex.” Because not everyone wants to , and not everyone has sex even if they do want to. But again, even setting that aside, I don’t understand how this is even confusing to people.

Because you know how I have sex with other people? [This is not going not be explicit, it’s ok!]

Me and the people I have sex with, we touch each other in whatever ways feel good to us. Or we try to, though it doesn’t always work out that way, I guess. But really, that’s it. And I really hope that’s how most people do it.

Just, like, if you seriously can’t think of ways that people with, I guess, different genital combinations than the ones you’re used to in your own sex life might be able to touch each pleasurably? You are seriously lacking in imagination, at best.

Because the thing is, genitals are somewhat important to sex, for most people, of course. But, so are so many other body parts that people possess regardless of gender or sexual orientation or whether they are trans. Most of us have hands, with fingers on them, or other appendages that can probably be used to do things.

Like, seriously? You can’t think of *any* sex acts you might participate in that the trans person in front of you is also capable of? Really?

Or are you just actually hoping for the dirty details, because you’re just that much of a creep? Which is it?


Check out the rest of the “Shit Cis People Say” alphabet!

How do you deal with gendered things? Clothes shopping, bathrooms, forms, etc.: 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 15

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Also, this is week 15, y’all, which means I’m halfway there! This has been a productive journey for me so far, and I hope it is being interesting for you as well!

Today’s prompt: How do you deal with gendered things? Clothes shopping, bathrooms, forms, etc.

As with a few of the previous weeks, this is something I have written about some aspects of before:

  • A few years back, I wrote about navigating binary-gendered spaces as a non-binary person. I will add here that I am less willing to consider myself welcome in any women-only spaces than I used to, for a variety of reasons including the transmisogyny that is often present in spaces that would include me as an afab person.
  • More recently, I wrote about the evolution of my gender presentation as a non-binary person.
  • These days my wardrobe is an eclectic mix of “men’s” and “women’s” clothes (of course, being mine, they are really all non-binary clothes), and my presentation changes more based on the weather than anything else – I like dresses and skirts for hot weather, and love bulky sweaters layered with flannels and button-downs when it’s colder. I am more likely to bind my chest (which usually involves a simple sports bra these days) when presenting more femme, though that it is really something that is only for my own internal comfort rather than because it has any impact on the fact that everyone reads me a woman on those days.

    When I am clothes shopping, I really just look at everything and pick the things I like, without concern for their genderedness.

    I use all-gender or gender-neutral washrooms wherever possible, and pretty much exclusively use the women’s when I have to choose.

    For official forms, I am way more comfortable choosing a binary option when the form explicitly asks for my sex rather than my gender. Since I don’t have dysphoria around my genitals, it is unproblematic for me to identify which of the binary forms I have (though I would prefer for there to be more options). When the form is asking for “gender”, but pretty much actually means sex (because it is a medical form and I know they actually mean to ask a biological question but don’t know how to word it or whatever), I suck it up and pick the most useful answer to the people who need the form filled out.

    When an online form requires me to indicate a binary gender in order to sign up for an account, I almost always decide I don’t want an account on that site any more. Sometimes I send an email to them about it, letting them know they’ve made it impossible for me to sign up, but usually I don’t bother.

    I mostly make all of these sorts of calls without thinking super hard about them anymore. Navigating these things has become habitual for me, so I’m sure I’m forgetting about other places where I make judgment calls around binary gendered things that I have to participate in in various ways, but I can’t think of them right now.

    If there’s something obvious I’ve missed that you’re curious about, feel free to ask in the comments! Or, y’know, let me know how you navigate these things. Maybe you have better methods than me!


    Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!

“What’s wrong with heteronormativity anyway?”

This question recently came up in a conversation I was involved in on facebook. What’s wrong with heteronormativity anyway?

The context was a straight cis dude expressing some typical straight cis dude sexual fantasies, and some people being eyeroll-y about it, thus prompting his question.

At the time, and given the context, I simply pointed out that no one was saying anything was wrong with heteronormative desires, just that, well, we are all inundated with them all day long, and for those of us who aren’t into those particular fantasies, it can be a bit much, y’know?

But then I thought about it some more. And the thing is, while there really was nothing inherently wrong with this particular dude’s particular desire on this given day, (or more generally, there is nothing inherently wrong with many fantasies that happen to be heteronormative), there’s hella problems with heteronormativity.

[Edited to add: For starters, (and as genderroling pointed out in the comments) pretty much all hetero norms are actually cis hetero norms – heteronormativity is almost always part and parcel of cisheteronormativity.]

And the thing is, most normative models of [cis] hetero sex are incredibly misogynistic. It is, very often, entirely focused on men’s pleasure, often to the point of forgetting that women have sexual desires and drives of their own. [Cis]heteronormative sex is so focused on penile-vaginal penetration that it is still common to have people genuinely confused about how it is possible for two people who don’t have penises to even have sex at all.

Heteronormativity as we know it today grew out of a culture where men literally owned their wives, where being married to a man was considered legal consent to sex whenever he wanted, where any kind of non-penetrative sexual contact is considered foreplay and not really sex at all, where having sex reduces a woman’s value to other men, etc etc etc. It has a lot of cultural baggage, is what I’m saying, and all of these values have contributed to hetero norms of sex today.

So while specific instances of heteronormative desires and behaviours could very well be benign, heteronormativity [and especially cisheteronormativity] itself is fucked, mmkay?

Sexual agency and bafflement

I had some weird, not-really-the-point reactions to a recent Captain Awkward letter (TL;DR is that the letter writer is in a romantic and sexual relationship with a woman who does not engage in any kind of penetrative sex, and is averse to semen generally. Their sex life involves him getting her off usually without reciprocation.) The actual advice and comments provided to the letter writer are great (she gets to have her boundaries, but you also get to leave if you’re not happy and that’s ok) and I have nothing to add.

But.

But the thing that really strikes me, hard, when reading this letter (and I have read things like this before and had a similar reaction) is how completely impossible it seems to me that anyone could ever possibly have the wherewithal to express the kinds of preferences and boundaries this person’s girlfriend has put in place. If it was me, I would have never felt like I had the right to expect these kinds of needs or preferences to be respected. I would have assumed that I was the problem and compromised the shit out of my boundaries and suffered quietly and tried to suck it up.

Because I was raised to believe that there are certain things you just have to do if you are going to date a man. Because I was raised to believe that if you dared to ask for a compromise or to slow down on those things, and if the man involved was gracious enough to grant you their patience, they were going above and beyond the call of duty, and you probably owed them one to be honest.

This is a key part of rape culture, for the record, and it is something I was very clearly and explicitly indoctrinated into.

I was fortunate, therefore, that my first sexual relationship was with a woman, because that messaging didn’t come into play for me there. I am sure that foundation is part of what prevented me from being sexually traumatized by my relationship with my first boyfriend, to be honest.

Because that, as I have written about before, was something else. With him, it was all about the explicit pressure. But to be honest, he didn’t need to work all that hard – a little hinting was all it took for me feel like I was being unfair or unreasonable or that I was over-stepping my rights to agency. So when we made out for the first time, and didn’t go an further, and he said “You can’t keep doing this to me” (the *first time* we made out!), I didn’t run away or tell him off or anything. I just let him go further than I was ready to next time.

And thus was our pattern established.

It’s been a long time since then, of course, and it’s been a *very* long time since I had a partner who had also internalized these toxic ideas about what is simply required in a sexual relationship. It is intuitively obvious to me now that people get to have and express whatever boundaries they want. And I’ve learned to set my own boundaries somewhat, though I’ve also just had partners who are caring and attentive and able to read me well enough that those things haven’t always needed to be explicit.

I do still sometimes have to fight an uphill battle against myself, and the fact that I still instinctively respond to my own awareness of my partners’ desires with an internal pressure to perform. It is sometimes difficult to pull apart my genuine drive and desire to please other people because I enjoy it a fuck of a lot from the more damaging drive to self-obliterate against other people’s desires. I have to remember to stay in tune with myself, and that is easier some days than others, but I am honestly really good at it now.

But still, reading something like this letter, from a person whose attitude is so naturally “well, is the person I’m with doesn’t want the thing, then we don’t do the thing” that it doesn’t even need to be explicitly stated, when that attitude is just the way he seems to live and breathe his approach to relating sexually to other people, it actually kind of blows my mind a little.

Because, of course, that should be obvious. But to so many people, it really, really isn’t.

The real reason I love gender fuckery

Well, the 30-week genderqueer challenge is working for me! This post is inspired by last week’s prompt/post!

Really, the reason I love gender fuckery (and especially the reason why it’s so important to me sexually, sometimes) is as a means to an end.

I want for my body to just be my body, as it is. I want to be able to just be, without the pressure of all of the meanings and value that other people insist on putting on it, and on forcibly making me acknowledge those meanings and values (this is what sexual harassment usually is – not just objectifying a person, but actively making sure they know you are doing it, and trying to elicit a response from them, thus forcing them to participate. It’s disgusting.)

I hate that because I live in a world where this shit is so pervasive that it is is sometimes hard for me to see my own body without seeing it through the lens of cisheteropatriarchy. I hate how hard it is for me to be free of that.

What I really want it to see myself and my body on my own terms. But before I can do that, I need to fuck up the existing scripts I have for understanding my own body.

I need to take what I have been taught – both explicitly and implicitly – about my value and about what having certain body parts (or not) means about who I am as a person and how I am valued by others, and I need to twist it around, and shake it up and tear it to pieces and put it back together again, in every way I can think to. I need to pull the pieces apart and put them back together in impossible, unrecognizable configurations. I need to make new shapes out of the old meanings, over and over and over, until it all stops meaning anything at all, like a word repeated until it is nothing but a series of arbitrary sounds.

I need to fuck with gender, so that gender will stop fucking with me.

What’s your favorite ways of upsetting gender roles / genderbending / genderfucking? 30-Week Genderqueer Challenge part 3

This post is part of my participation in the 30-day genderqueer challenge, which I have modified to a weekly exercise.

Today’s question: What’s your favorite ways of upsetting gender roles / genderbending / genderfucking?

The short answer to this is probably “ALL OF THE WAYS!”

I honestly do get a kick out of fucking with people’s ideas of gender and what it means and what gender I am, and what that means, and everything else. But that’s not much of an answer, I guess. So I’ll just give you what jumps to mind immediately:

First, I know that my favourite public moments of gender fuckery are usually the ones when I notice children trying to figure out my gender. For some reason, I put a lot of stock in the fact that children often find me impossible to place within their own sense of the gender binary – I’ve even overheard young siblings disagreeing with each other about my gender. There is something endlessly fascinating about watching them watch me and try to pick up something sort of information that will solve the dilemma for them. But I like it even more when they actually ask. I only wish I could actually engage with them on the question more often, but the adults they are with usually get overly embarrassed on my behalf and try to tell them they’re rude.

I get something kinda similar from moments when adults do something along the lines of calling me “sir… I mean ma’am, sorry” or vice versa. It suggests to me that my efforts to signal my gender effectively are actually working, though I understand that most people don’t know how to read the messages I’m sending, so I take confusion as the best possible evidence that I’m doing it right (in the sense of “how I want to do it”, not in the sense of “this is the sort of response all non-binary people should aim for in their gender presentation” – I see you, femme enbies, masc enbies, and those of you whose bodies get you misgendered against your will no matter what you do, and I love you all!)

The second that that this prompt brings up for me is the way gender (and gender fuckery, specifically) plays a role for me in sex. It’s a thing I’ve never been able to articulate properly, even though I have directly written about it before, but there is a thing where it seems like I can tell when someone who is having sex with me is just interacting with my body as an archetypically “female” one, rather than as my particular, individual, agender/genderqueer body. Even setting aside the cissexism of categorizing bodies this way, if I feel like someone’s interest in my body is directly linked to its “femaleness”, I just can’t.

Maybe it’s that, at some point, if that’s someone’s understanding of my body, then they’ve forgotten about the person inhabiting that body, and are interacting with my parts but not with me (which is just the easiest route to triggering a dissociative episode I can think of!) But also, I do get a kick out of the idea of having kinds of sex that are incomprehensible to hetero-normo folks. Like, my partner(s) and I will fuck however we like, and we will use whatever words to describe the things we are doing that we like, and we will decide what it all means, thank-you-very-much.

…I realize this is part 3 of 30 on this challenge, and I’ve already had two responses that have been semi-coherent at best. This is proving more of a challenge that I thought it would be, and I am hoping that when I am done, I will find that many of these things have percolated themselves into more cogent shapes and I will have more regular-type posts for you on these issues! Onward!

Also, though, seriously, I’d love it if all of y’all told me about your favourite ways of fucking with gender – you don’t have to be genderqueer to answer this question!


Catch the rest of my 30-week genderqueer challenge here!