Notes on Language in this Material

“Sexual” – This is often used as a slang term in the asexual community (and likewise by researchers who are studying the asexual community). In many instances where you will see this word used in this material the meaning is not “sexual in nature” so much as “sexual as the opposite of asexual” as in “a person who experiences sexual attraction.”

“Sexuality” – You will see what seem to be contradicting uses of this word in this material – in some cases asexuality will be presented as a part of a person’s sexuality (in which case the term asexual is being used strictly to mean a person’s orientation while sexuality is being used very broadly, including sex, gender, orientation, masturbation habits, etc) and in other cases asexuality will be presented as an absences of sexuality (in which cases the term asexual is being used broadly to describe a lack of any sexual qualities while sexuality is used narrowly and is considered synonymous with “sexual orientation”). This is a result of the spectrum of perspectives on how both “asexuality” and “sexuality” are used.

Alexithymia – (this word shows up in the research paper.) a term used to describe a state of deficiency in understanding, processing, or describing emotions (this overlaps with Asperger syndrome). [Wikipedia]

Adrenarche – sexual maturation stage which typically occurs at around 6 to 8 years of age. [Wikipedia]

Primary Attraction- This is attraction you experience that is not dependent on anything else. It is what attracts you to a person when you first meet them. For instance, when you see a stranger across the room, if you say they are “attractive” what do you mean? Are they sexually attractive? Aesthetically attractive (pretty to look at in a way that’s not strictly sexual)? If you just had a conversation with someone new and feel an attraction to them is it because you had a great intellectual conversation (even if you don’t find them sexually or aesthetically attractive)? There are many different types of primary attraction and they can exist together or independently of each other.

Secondary Attraction – This is attraction that you develop for someone over time and which is dependent on primary attractions – ie once you no longer experience the primary attractions that drew you to the person the secondary attraction goes away as well. As an example, have you ever known anyone that you didn’t think was particularly aesthetically appealing but after getting to know them better you saw them as more physically attractive than you first did? But then they did something mean to you that changed how you thought about them and suddenly you didn’t know how you’d ever found them attractive in any way? Then, in this case, your primary attraction was personality-based and your aesthetic attraction was a secondary attraction.

Drawbacks to the Storms’ model – [You’ll see this model in the reading assignment] This model has “homoeroticism” (same sex sexual attraction) along one axis and “heteroeroticism” (different sex sexual attraction) along the other axis (instead of Kinsey’s scale with one axis which has homoeroticism at one end and heteroeroticism at the other end as if to have more of one you have to have less of the other) which works fine if you’re a cisgender man or woman who is attracted to other binary-gender people but if you identify as or are attracted to people who are non-binary there isn’t really a way to demonstrate that on this chart.

Drawbacks to the modified Storms’ model – Changing the axises to “attraction to men” and “attraction to women” broadens the types of attraction which can be represented on the chart and also resolves the problem of a person who has a non-binary gender who is filling out the chart as long as they are attracted only to people who have binary gender presentations but it still does not allow for representing attraction to people who have non-binary identities. I fully recognize that this is a fault of the modified Storms’ Model used in this assignment and I apologize to anyone that is marginalized by this. If you know of a more inclusive model (and new ones are being created all the time) I would be more than thrilled to see it!

Play – This term is used in one of the blog posts in the reading assignment, it is slang for engaging in some form of consensual BDSM activities (which includes but is not limited to being tied up, tying someone up, flogging, spanking, etc.).

YKINMK – Your Kink Is Not My Kink – this is a term used in the BDSM community as a reminder that not everyone enjoys the same activities (One person might love having their hair pulled or being spanked and another can’t stand it, one person might like being humiliated and another would be genuinely insulted or upset, etc). Generally it is a reminder that “it’s okay for you to like what you like as long as you don’t expect me to like it, too, because I don’t expect you to like everything I like, either.”

FetLife – A social networking site for people who are kinky

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3 Responses to Notes on Language in this Material

  1. Z says:

    About using “sexual”… it’s been the source of a number of problems (on tumblr and the like) where people feel that they’re being sexualized by being referred to as sexual (which causes extra problems if you’re talking to women or poc or other minority sexual orientations), so there has been an effort to find a different word. The few front runners seem to be *sexual (I think pronounced yadda sexual), zedsexual (as an ‘opposite of the alphabet’ to asexual), and appetent (to mean a natural attraction or tendency towards sexual attraction). It’s sort of a good faith thing. Acknowledging that it could be viewed in a problematic way and taking steps to make it less problematic. I don’t know if you’d be interested in including any discussion/notes about that.

    • Oohh I am aware of that whole disaster specifically and of the language problem more generally (watching aces venture into other spaces using language that is much more readily understood in ace forums/circles and getting viciously attacked for using that same language in other contexts has been, frankly, painful).

      I have my own problems with “sexual” as the opposite of “asexual” because “sexual” by itself (as opposed to “heterosexual” or “bisexual” for instance) is a term that – outside of ace dialog- I identify with. I’d consider myself a rather sexual asexual, but that’s in part because I have such a broad definition of “sexuality” that many of my behaviors would be considered “sexual” but still no sexual attraction (even though those behaviors aren’t about sex for me, they may still be about orgasms, for instance, which personally I have no problem considering “sexual” when it comes to myself though I know others don’t feel the same way). Language is imperfect.

      I like both *sexual and zedsexual and would have used those if I had written more about “people who do not identify as asexual” but I don’t think any portion that I wrote really talked about them (and I don’t think I’ve seen appetent – not to say I don’t believe you, I know this is a language issue that gets a lot of discussion and I really haven’t kept up with it as much as I should, probably. Thank you for mentioning it here so I can look into it!). BUT the research paper I included uses “sexuals” as the opposite of “asexuals” (Brotto also uses “sexuals” as the opposite of “asexuals” in her next paper where she’s discussing masturbation and sexual activity engaged in by asexuals so it’s evident that she’s not dividing people in to “asexual beings” and “sexual beings” but is instead using it in the way that the ace community generally uses the term). Also, I wanted to include a lot of personal narratives (last year I found a list of 10 or so that I felt were from different perspectives and people could choose which ones they thought they’d like to read the most, this year I think there were just 2 or 3 that everyone had to read) because the community is so diverse and since I pulled a lot of those narratives from people’s blogs (with their permission), I can’t control whether or not they use “sexuals” (or how they describe “sexuality” or “asexuality” – there’s some big differences, which is good, I wanted to represent that).

      And also, the students are supposed to be learning about asexuality and part of that is learning about ace culture and language and if I can help one person understand what they’re reading when an ace says “sexuals” in another context, that would be awesome.

      • Z says:

        I totally get all of that. ^_^ I wasn’t sure how worthwhile it was to mention that the term might be heading for a change, since there’s such a kneejerk opposition to it when we move outside ace-to-ace discussions.

        (I’m not too fond of appetent… too much like appetite to me. but it has been gaining some traction on tumblr.)

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