This is your chance to effect what students in 4 human sexuality classes learn about #asexuality

Alright, so it’s that time of the semester again! My friend Justine is about to assign some asexuality-related work to the students in her human sexuality classes and asked me to put together some work. The work will take the place of one class period (that is cancelled) and homework for that period, as well as give them some talking points the next class. Justine is actually one of the few sexologists I know who is ace-positive and well educated on the subject so I am more than confident about her ability to discuss it with her class (as well as anyone can possibly discuss any sexuality-related subject with a group of undergrads… no offense, but there’s always a few… you know what I mean).

Last semester the work load was supposed to cover two consecutive classes which were canceled so I created Ace Curriculum 1.0 from which I got some valuable feedback about what worked and what didn’t work. Taking that feedback into consideration and adjusting for there only being one cancelled class this time I created Ace Curriculum 2.0.

The goals:

The Pre-Assignment Questions are designed to see where students are starting from and make the students put into writing what they think they already know (if a person already “knows” something that’s incorrect you have to unteach that before you can teach them new information – this is why it’s so problematic that we over-simplify concepts when we teach elementary students about historical events because then even if you teach them the real story in high school they are more likely to remember the over-simplified version they learned in elementary school. You can’t just overwrite information in the brain and it’s a hell of a hard time getting rid of bad data once it’s in there!). Unless a person realizes that what they are reading directly contradicts their preconceived notions and has to think critically about it the information goes in, realizes the place it should be filling in their brain is already taken by bad data and goes right out he other ear (no, seriously, if you passively intake data without consciously realizing you have contradictory ideas in your head you will most likely forget what you just read – it’s part of the confirmation bias effect). In an ideal world I would assign the pre-assignment questions and then get them back before the students proceeded to the rest of the curriculum so I could make adjustments accordingly but I don’t have that option here. On the plus side I do get to see some of the pre- and post- assignment assessments which helps me make adjustments for next time.

Next is the Notes about Language sheet, with this I’m hoping to preemptively  avoid some confusion (though they may actually find reading it first to be a little confusing… I’m hoping they will use it as a reference when they come across the examples in the reading assignment that made me feel the need to write it in the first place). I would be very open to suggestions about changes in phrasing etc.

Part 3 is a Crossword Puzzle which hopefully gives them a little introduction to what will be covered more thoroughly in the reading assignment and force them to at least skim some asexuality-related resources. The nice thing about assigning a crossword puzzle in place of a cancelled class is that it’s relatively self-guided. If the word doesn’t fit then they haven’t found the right answer so they can pretty well check their work as they go. Last semester I did the crossword puzzle clues in unrelated sentences but this time I decided to put them all together into paragraphs, consequently I feel some of the wording turned out a little wonky and I’d be open to suggestions for other ways of phrasing things.

The reading assignment right now is 24 pages long (mostly times new roman font, size 10-12, etc) and consists of the last 7 pages of a research paper, 6 AVEN Wiki entries, the option to read or watch Swank Ivy’s list of Top Ten misconceptions about Asexuality, an essay from an Ace-Ally in the Asexual Perspectives essay series, 2 blog posts each from different perspectives, and a 3 part article about how to be an ace-ally. My goal is to give a mix of impersonal clinical data as well as personal narratives from different perspectives from both aces and allies. I think I settled on a good mix but I’m open to concerns or suggestions.

I also included a “Suggested Resources” page since there’s no way I could assign all of my favorite essays, articles and blog posts – in fact this list will probably continue to grow throughout the week since I’m constantly realize “Oh, did I put *that one* on the list? How could I have forgotten it?!” Feel free to send messages or comments with links to other great materials.

And finally there’s a short set of reflection questions chosen to help me see changes in the way the students are thinking about their own labels as well as specifically their perspectives on asexuality.

Alright, so… if you find any problems from typos, to poor wording to something you think I should address in a different way (do I inadvertently make one opinion sound universal?do you feel I don’t represent you as part of the ace community? anything at all) please feel free to leave comments or send messages, either via the information on my contact page or via the anonymous dispute form.

-Dallas

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Posted in Asexual, Asexuality, Awareness, education, Sexologist, Sexology, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

@Kirshizzle. The short answer is Yes. The long answer is still yes, full response here:

@Kirshizzle asked on twitter “does [being ace] affect your studies at all, just out of curiosity? (:”

That’s a very interesting question… On one hand I have the same requirements as everyone else, I watch the same videos, take the same classes, read the same required material etc. It has certainly influenced what I study outside of the requirements and where I have focused my research.

I admit to being totally naive when I started the sexology program. I was going to research sex education programs and probably never bother coming out as ace because it’s not a big deal, right? …. and then I attended my first class… The class was a SAR (Sexual Attitude Readjustment) program designed to be total immersion in being exposed to a variety of different expressions of sexuality. Except, in the entire all-day-every-day-for-7-days program I was never represented in anything they showed. I heard professors make misinformed comments about asexuality (which they only made in response to me bringing it up because asexuality wasn’t actually covered in the program at all) and I realized that many of my classmates weren’t familiar with the concept at all. This was pretty terrifying because these people are all going to go out and be sexologists, someone that people will come to for help relating to sexual health, sexuality, and relationships and they aren’t going to learn a damn thing about asexuality? Seriously? (The basic requirements for a certificate in sexology are two workbooks, some videos, and attending a SAR, the workbooks and the videos do not cover asexuality at all anywhere).

So being ace definitely effected where I felt I needed to focus my attention. Sex Education is a huge problem in this country and I have always been interested in ways to make it better (there are some really great programs out there I’d love to study and see about adapting to wider markets)… but realizing that the people who are teaching the next generation of sexologists are way behind in their understanding of asexuality is terrifying to me. The stories I hear from aces who went with a partner to see a helping professional to deal with relationship issues who had terrible experiences because the professional didn’t know anything about asexuality are heart breaking. Reading advise columns where an ace wrote in and got a flippant and misinformed response back are incredibly frustrating. Thinking about all of the kids who will grow up feeling broken because they won’t find out about asexuality because sex education materials for both kids and adults almost never cover asexuality maybe until they’re 21 (like I was) or older is depressing.

So while I look forward to broadening my understanding about the whole field of human sexuality for right now almost all of my non-required reading is research, blog posts, essays, articles and forums about asexuality (oh, and videos, too) so that I can try my best to figure out what is most important for ensuring people in the helping professions know about asexuality. I’m doing my best to answer questions (I get a lot, which is great!) or know where people can find the answers they’re looking for.

Other than that, as far as I know I’m the only ace in a sexology program (though I know there are aces studying asexuality in psychology and sociology fields, probably others as well) and I think it gives me a unique perspective on a lot of what we cover in class. I bring with me new ideas from the ace community like the concept of different types of orientations (or even just that it’s possible to be ace!).

If I wasn’t ace I probably wouldn’t have ever noticed what a huge problem it was that asexuality isn’t talked about (let alone taught) to most sexology students and I’d probably be studying sex education programs… so yes, I suppose being ace has effected my studies in that way.

Posted in Asexual, Asexuality, Awareness, sex school, Sexologist, Sexology, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What will @retlefnegniL write for the next @HOUSEonFOX Episode?

My Prediction:

It’s about a gay couple trying to adopt when suddenly one of them has a terrible cold! Of course poor sweet tolerant Wilson wants believe they are actually happily homosexual men but House won’t let him wear his Rose colored glasses for long! Through some series of surely hilarious events House proves that one of the men is actually only “gay” because his uncle molested him and his mother beat him causing him to be unable to have healthy relationships with women and so he turns instead to men while his partner is actually a pedophile who only partnered up with an adult so he could get his hands on some unsuspecting foster children! And this will be what Kath writes after doing “a lot of research” about homosexuals, of course, research that showed her that sometimes when people come out as homosexual, in stead of getting support or encouragement are accused of having been molest, are accused of being sick, disgusting and a pedophile and naturally she’ll want to encourage that by ensuring that all the portrayals of gay people on the show demonstrate how right that response is.

You can watch a video of Kath Lingenfelter talking about this episode of House here (or below if the embedding works properly…). She discussing the asexual-subplot from 2:17 until 4:15.

What do you think she’ll write next?

Posted in Asexual, Asexuality, Awareness, Coming Out, Pride | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

My Initial Reaction to tonight’s (er.. last night’s) episode of #House … #spoilers

Tonight’s Last night’s The latest episode of House was damaging for many, many reasons.

Certainly I’m disappointed that 2 asexual-identifying characters on a major television show ultimately are supposedly “proven” to not be asexual but that is by far not my biggest complaint (though I’ll address it later in this post). My biggest concern is not the terrible publicity this causes for the asexual community because of more misinformation being spread but rather the negative impact it will have on aces seeking (or not seeking) medical  attention when there are things that are actually wrong with them.

Problem 1) It reinforces the idea that asexuals can and should be “cured” of their asexuality

Aces already have a hard enough time being able to be out to their Doctor because a reaction like Wilson had to his patient coming out as asexual is nearly “best case scenario” already. Instead we already expect to be put through a battery of tests (or ANOTHER battery of tests if the first tests came out normal… or the first two test… or the tests that the last doctor ran were normal but maybe this doctor will want to run them all again “just to be sure”) so the doctor can figure out what’s “wrong” with us that makes us asexual and try to “cure” us.

For many people that’s a daunting prospect, not only are people constantly trying to convince us there’s something wrong with us but then, what if a doctor does find something? Is it going to change my orientation? Is it going to change everything I feel and everything I believe about myself? We don’t constantly drill this fear in to people of other orientations (or at least reasonable people don’t, certainly there are still plenty of people preaching that homosexuality is caused by psychological or physical problems but they don’t really have the credibility they used to. All this achieves is shaming people of minority orientations who actually do have a psychological or medical problem because if they come out as having a problem in addition to being a sexual minority then they’re contributing to that stereotype so they may try to hide one quality or the other, neither of which is a healthy element to try and ignore).

Imagine for a moment that people were constantly telling you that despite being happy with yourself that your orientation was caused by a psychological or physical problem – rather than making you want to go look in to getting yourself “fixed” it would probably eventually give you a complex, make you afraid that people were right. Telling people who are happy with themselves that if they go to a doctor they will be “fixed” actually makes the idea of seeking help (for any problem) kind of terrifying and may prevent them from seeking help for something else in their life for fear that their care provider will ignore your actual problems in favor of trying to “fix” something that isn’t “wrong” with them. (I’ve heard plenty of accounts of aces and kinky and poly people going to helping professionals to seek help for something that was actually bothering them only to have the helping professional fixate on some aspect of their life that they didn’t approve of or didn’t understand, ignoring the problems the patient actually came to get help for). All this episode does is turn every friend, family member, and dip-shit doctor into a mini-House who will surely find out what’s wrong with us if they are just skeptical enough, if they just look hard enough for the real thing that has us so broken! Because we all needed fewer supportive people in our lives…

Problem 2)  It associates hormone imbalances and erectile difficulties with asexuality

The asexual patient in this episode apparently also had erectile difficulties caused by a tumor pressing on the pituitary gland that caused hormone imbalances. I think I should point out that orientation is not about sex drive or sexual functioning. A person is not asexual *because* they have erectile difficulties or because they have a low or non-existent sex drive. Sexual Orientation is about who you’re attracted to, who you’re interested in having sex with. Plenty of people with no erectile difficulties don’t walk around wanting to put their penis in everything just because it gets hard (notice for example the huge number of men who seem to be able to suppress their surely great desire to have sex with other men…) . Now, it’s true that when you have a hormone imbalance or low levels of arousal that this can be interpreted by the person as not being attracted to anyone but they are not the same thing (they exist independently of each other, you can have attraction and no erection difficulties, you can have no attraction and no erection difficulties or you can have no attraction and erection difficulties). There’s a whole market of pills, pumps and creams for people who have erection difficulties and still have attraction and want to have sex! If you have erection difficulties that is what you need to tell your doctor about, that is what you need to look in to correcting. The majority of asexuals have functioning genitals, you shouldn’t be afraid that this is going to change your orientation.

Difficulties with erections – including achieving OR maintaining an erection- can be symptoms of a more serious problem such as high cholesterol, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, hormone imbalances, and more. Orientation is not related to whether or not your genitals work! If your genitals don’t work the way they are supposed to that’s actually a problem (even if you don’t plan to use them for intercourse). If you have a penis and you’re not getting morning/overnight erections, if you’re not occasionally experiencing erections you should mention that to your doctor (there are things that cause this which you don’t have to be super freaked out about, it could be because you smoke, or an expected side effect to a medication you’re taking) but you need to tell your doctor. Having these kinds of problems addressed is not (necessarily) going to change your orientation. And if you feel like you want or need to change your labels after a period of time THAT’S OKAY. There are many things that can happen which cause a person to re-evaluate the labels they feel are best suited to them. I know many people who have changed the labels they have used over time and, really, it’s okay. We shouldn’t be shaming people for trying out new labels or for conceptualizing themselves in a new way. And honestly, I know it’s upsetting to think that you’re falling in to someone’s “I told you so” but for every person who decides to no longer identify as ace for whatever reason I bet 3 more start using the label because it’s right for them at that time. We aren’t shaming them for changing their label from heterosexual or homosexual to asexual, and we shouldn’t be shaming people for changing in the other direction.

I haven’t seen a study on associations between erectile difficulties and men who identify as asexual (and if anyone has seen one please send it my way) but I have seen studies of arousal levels and women who identify as asexual and the women who identified as asexual had the same arousal capacity as women of other orientations (ie they were all over the map just the way you’d expect for other orientations). Similarly I haven’t seen any study showing that aces are more likely to suffer from hormone imbalances. In fact I’d go so far as to say that aces are more likely to have actually had their hormones checked than the general population.

Being asexual is not about not being capable of having intercourse (though of course some aren’t capable, just like some people of other orientations aren’t capable). Asexual as an orientation is about who you’re interested in having sex with (generally even people who are incapable of having traditional intercourse, if they are of another orientation, are still interested in having sex or sexual contact with people they are sexually attracted to, regardless of capacity – there are exceptions). The idea that as soon as this guy is able to keep an erection he’s also going to start experiencing sexual attraction is kind of a stretch, I think. In fact some of his comments make me think he may be categorized as a repulsed asexual, the idea that he’s just going to “get over” those feelings is absurd. Frankly, the only way the writers at House could redeem themselves is if the couple make a cameo in a later episode because her husband is still asexual.

Problem 3) Clearly only “fugly” people who identify as asexual are ACTUALLY asexual. Young good looking people who identify as asexual actually just have medical problems or are apparently chronic liars.

House didn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that the woman was sick, his first conclusion was actually that she was ugly. It wasn’t until he found out she was attractive and married that he made his bet. I can’t tell you how good that feels, Fox. But moving on… first of all you expect us to believe that this woman has pretended to be asexual for 10 years? And not just asexual but married to a man who sounds like a repulsed asexual and who thinks that being asexual is all about not functioning sexually? So she’s been hiding the fact that she’s probably been getting off for the last ten years?  And then, on top of that, the woman LIES to Wilson? What reason would she have for saying that she’s not celibate, she’s asexual when no, really, she’s chosen to be celibate because her husband identifies as asexual and she’s more interested in having a relationship with him than she is in having intercourse? Also, it’s positively CHARMING that you think that we’re so in demand that non-aces are lying about being ace to be in relationships with us… but it’s usually the other way around. Ask enough aces and I’m sure you’ll find a lot of stories of years spent in the closet, pretending to be heterosexual or homosexual to try and make a relationship work. Most of us have figured out by now that relationships built on lies about orientation don’t work so well.

Other great posts on this episode:

Megan Christopher of HollywoodJane’s post “Asexuality on House: You’re Doing It Wrong

Swank Ivy’s Post “Add ‘Been Checked for a Tumor?’ to the Bingo Card

Writing from Factor X “This is Not My ‘Better Half’ ” and “House Linkspam

From An Asexual Space “Stereotypical

From Shades of Gray “On ‘Better Half’ — Gregory House is not Infallible

Posted in Asexual, Asexuality, AVEN, Awareness, Pride, queer, Sexologist, Sexology, Sexual Health, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Disputes – Part 2

I find it kind of ironic that the storm of angry tweets insisting that aces are not welcome and do not belong not just in “queer” spaces but also “safe spaces” all started because I responded to this tweet:

“…i’m extremely confused as to why people are scared of outing themselves as asexual. I didn’t think anyone took issue with it really…?” <— I want to live in a world where this is the impression that everyone has, wouldn’t it be lovely if this was true?

My response was three tweets long, concluding with this one “and of course we’re not queer enough, heaven forbid we go to a “safe space” and expect any support. Not that I’m bitter :)”

Which opened up the flood gates of people… well, making my point for me. The argument went on for two days… yes, 2 days and involved people saying lots of terrible and ignorant things… but only two people decided to dispute any of what I said in defense of aces and below are the disputes:

“S” said that it was problematic that I said that “Heteroromantic is not the same thing as being heterosexual.” They said this is problematic because “Being hetero is being hetero. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people coined the term “straight” to describe hetero people. Hope That Helps.”

I think this is a great example of erasure. The argument is essentially that romantic orientation is the same as sexual orientation, which I guess means that the only people who can identify as asexual are people who are also aromantic? And heteroromantic aces are really just straight people who are celibate?  So homoromatic aces are really just celibate homosexuals, too? Props on being able to dismiss asexual as a valid orientation in one sentence. Generally I identify as panromantic but apparently that’s the same as pansexual but the closest label you used in your list of people approved to tell other people what their orientation is would be bisexual, so I’ll go with that, and let me tell you that I can’t imagine using one sexual-minority label as licence to police, deny, and cast out other sexual minorities. A person’s romantic orientation (which you’re arguing isn’t real anyway) does not change their sexual orientation.

The next dispute was from Nona, who said that their problem was my “general misuse of the term queer.” They say this is problematic because “Queer is a reclaimed homophobic and transphobic slur. It can ONLY be reclaimed by those who are called it- lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people. It CAN NOT be reclaimed or used by those it is not a slur against. It is not a slur for asexuals who are not homo, pan, poly (ect.), bi-romantic OR trans*. For those asexuals who do not experience some variation of gay attraction and who are not trans it is wildly inappropriate to identify as queer and/or demand entrance to queer safe spaces.”

I find it amazing that Nona knows against whom queer has been used as a slur. This must be some new type of super power to know when and in what context a word has ever been used. Interestingly Nona does recognize that romantic orientation is separate from sexual orientation, recognizing that it’s okay for asexuals to identify as queer as long as they are homo- / bi- / pan- romantic (and thank you so much for that permission, btw). Likely most of the time aces are shamed for their orientation before coming out it’s because people assume that they’re homosexual (well if they aren’t interested in people of the opposite gender then they must be gay…) but it isn’t like the people who are tormenting you for not being heterosexual find out that you are, in fact, asexual, not homosexual, that they go “oh, okay, cool, I only wanted to  harass you if you were gay, but now that I know you’re asexual I’m not going to harass you anymore.” Do you really think that’s how it goes? So yes, often I would imagine that the people who are using slurs against aces are doing it because they think they’re gay, but a) those are not the only cases, people do knowingly use slurs against aces and b) when people continue to use slurs, particularly homosexual-specific slurs like “faggot” and “dyke” against aces it’s another form of erasure which compounds the problem – I mean, how often can you get harassed for your orientation (or lack there of) and have your orientation erased at the same time? That’s gotta be good for two bingo squares. But “queer” is not a homosexual-specific slur, it’s thrown at non-cis-hetero-sexual people of all variations and to think that homosexuals have a monopoly on the “queer” market is silly. They definitely have the biggest market share but you’re also a much larger group with more recognition. I would have thought that aces responding with “Queer? Oh god, I’m not one of THEM” would have been a way more offensive response than “why yes, I am a sexual minority, what’s your problem?”

What I find interesting that links these two “disputes” is that they’re both willing to accept non-heteroromantic aces into queer spaces because heteroromantic aces are really just straight people who don’t face any discrimination, oppression, or negative consequences for being out (which makes me think you’re trying to gaslight aces). But that means they aren’t really *accepting* non-hetero-romantic aces either, because if heteroromantic aces are really just straight people, then homoromantic aces are really just gay and lesbian people. What I find amazing is that you’re saying homoromantic aces are welcome in queer safe spaces but obviously it isn’t really a safe space for even the “queerest” of us because we aren’t accepted. I’ve heard the same hurtful ignorant attacks on my orientation in queer spaces that I hear from heterosexuals and the erasure of asexuality as an orientation is the very reason that happens. If you don’t accept aces who identify as heteroromantic then you don’t really accept aces who have any other romantic orientation. You’re just using the existence of heterormantic cisgender aces as an excuse for why “safe spaces” are rarely safe for any aces.

I find it painfully ironic that in queer spaces I am still told that my sexual orientation is just a disorder, either physical or psychological, that I “just haven’t met the right person yet,” that I’m going through a phase, that I can be cured. I hardly consider a space where people feel comfortable saying those things to another person a “safe space” for anyone (and yes, they say those things to me as a polypan ace who according to both of the disputers should be accepted in the queer community, and those same things are said to trans* aces and homoromantic aces and biromantic aces, too).

There were some really excellent comments made on the first part of this dispute post, go check those out, too. Links that were shared on the first post that I particularly enjoyed include “Asexuality and the Queer Community” posted on Lashings of Ginger Beer Blog which was shared by Jenni who has a great blog post on the subject of Asexuality and Queerness, too. I also enjoyed Ace Admiral‘s post “Lazy Math” shared by SlightlyMetaphysical of Asexual Curiosities. Also some of what I’ve said here was shaped by Z’s comment on part one. Thank you to those of you who commented on part one as well as those who opted to discuss the subject via e-mail.

Posted in Asexual, Asexuality, Awareness, Coming Out, LGBT, Pride, queer, Sexologist | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Disputes, part 1

In the last two days I received the following disputes via my anonymous submission form on my dispute page. They both stem from conversations I had on twitter two days ago regarding whether or not asexuals have the right to identify as queer.

Name (optional): S
What did I do/say/write that is problematic?: “Heteroromantic is not the same thing as being heterosexual.”
Please articulate what is problematic about what I did/said/wrote here.: Being hetero is being hetero. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people coined the term “straight” to describe hetero people. Hope That Helps.

What did I do/say/write that is problematic?: Your general misuse of the term queer.
Please articulate what is problematic about what I did/said/wrote here.: Queer is a reclaimed homophobic and transphobic slur. It can ONLY be reclaimed by those who are called it- lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans* people. It CAN NOT be reclaimed or used by those it is not a slur against. It is not a slur for asexuals who are not homo, pan, poly (ect.), bi-romantic OR trans*. For those asexuals who do not experience some variation of gay attraction and who are not trans it is wildly inappropriate to identify as queer and/or demand entrance to queer safe spaces.

Now, it’s the middle of the night and I don’t plan to respond in full to these now and, honestly, I’d like to take time to think about the concerns addressed in these disputes before I answer one way or the other – particularly since I’m still a little angry from much of what was said during those arguments.

I will say that my initial response is that those arguments started because I used the word queer for myself and then for aces in general (I realize that not all aces identify as queer but really twitter isn’t a good place for elaborating). The initial arguments were that asexuals do not be long in queer spaces and should not expect to have their orientation validated, respected or accepted even (or apparently especially) in safe space. Eventually concessions were made that aces who were homo- bi- pan- romantic and trans* could be accepted but only because they face discrimination as being homo- bi- pan- romantic and trans* and not because of their ace identity (wherever on the ace spectrum they identified).

I went back to look at some of the surveys I have collected and the largest survey I have collected has 250 responses – when I applied filters to it to see how the numbers broke down for cis-gender hetero-romantic responders… there were 10. 10 out of 250. Of those 10 only 2 also marked that they identified as queer. Which makes me believe that a) the presence of hetero-romantic aces in queer spaces is pretty low, particularly compared to the number of aces who are not hetero-romantic and cis-gender. The existence of hetero-romantic aces is used as a scapegoat to explain why all asexuals are discriminated against in many “safe” and queer spaces.

But putting aside that it seems it is by and large aces who would otherwise be accepted as queer who are going to safe spaces, even if we look only at hetero-romantic aces I would still have to say that for those who identify as queer… there’s probably a reason they identify that way and it might be a really good idea to listen to why they identify that way before turning them all away wholesale because of your own misconceptions about the types of negative experiences aces (yes, including hetero-romantic aces) can and do face.

Even as a polypan ace (btw, to those of you who started using that when filling out my surveys, totally love it) I think about some of my worst moments of being shamed about my sexuality… and have never been shamed for being poly or pan-romantic… by I get shamed for being ace almost every single time I come out – in fact I only have 2 examples of not immediately being shamed and/or being told I need to see a doctor to get fixed (oh, or jokes about corrective rape, which never get old). And I would have had those experiences regardless of my romantic orientation.

In fact, many of the negative experiences I hear of are related to hetero-gender relationships that involve one or more ace. I know one of the presentations at the asex studies conference a few months ago discussed a married hetero-gender couple who were asexual who were denied their request to adopt because they explained to the social worker that they wanted to adopt because they were asexual and had no interest in reproducing biologically – and there’s no anti-discrimination laws that say she can’t discriminate based on them being asexual. More common though are cases of ace women being guilted and shamed into sexual encounters that range from rape to less-than-enthusiastic consent (and I am not saying that all sexual encounters with ace women are non-consensual though encounters which are less-than-enthusiastic do seem to be a common theme).

As of right now, at 1am on January 12th 2012 I do still feel that hetero-romantic aces can (and many do) face orientation-based discrimination which may lead them to identify with the queer community and I’m not sure why that’s a bad thing. In fact one person on twitter went so far as to say that accepting a person who identifies as hetero-romantic as queer (if they identify that way as well) is homophobic… which I don’t understand at all. They went so far as to claim that any asexual expecting to be accepted in a “queer”/safe space was being homophobic… Though I’m not sure the same person who made that case is one of the people who submitted a dispute so perhaps that should just be addressed at another time.

I’ll certainly write something later after I’ve had more time to think about this and by all means, please comment to share with me your opinions and experiences from both perspectives so that I can take other positions into account…. I’m not just sure I can, right now, fathom telling someone that they are not allowed to identify as queer despite their own individual experiences of sexual-orientation based discrimination and mistreatment at the hands of partners, strangers (who always seem to think they have the right to give you the riot act…), and medical and psychological professionals (usually with little to no training in human sexuality let alone the relatively new field of asexual studies which actual explore  and generally debunk the common myths about asexuality).

I think this is all I’m going to say right now. I’ll take some time over the next two days to read any comments here and to review some of the experiences that have been shared with me via my various surveys, looking particularly at the experiences of hetero-romantic aces.

Posted in Asexual, Asexuality, Awareness, Coming Out, LGBT, queer, Sexologist, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Dear Dr. Ruth… #Asexuality

A few days ago this gem of an advice column from Dr. Ruth (@AskDrRuth) came across my virtual desk:

Q: I’m a 25-year-old heterosexual woman with absolutely zero libido. I have never cared about sex, and it is beginning to be a serious problem with my boyfriend. I’m not on any medications, I’m in great health and I don’t have any sexual trauma in my past … I just think sex is kind of pointless.

Orgasms seem like a lot of work for very little reward. I’d rather read a book! This is my first serious relationship, so I’m just now realizing how little I care about sex. (I only had one-night stands before.) I don’t know what to do to make myself like it. We’ve tried everything — books, positions, toys (we can’t afford counseling). Am I one of those asexual people?

A: Since it seems you do have orgasms, you’re not asexual. But perhaps you aren’t fully sensing the entire orgasm, and are experiencing more what is called missed orgasms. Or, it may be that this relationship isn’t the right one for you.

If you’re feeling very little passion for him, then that’s not going to make you very aroused. But before you do anything drastic, I want you to spend some time every day thinking about sex. You may require a long time to become aroused, and if you’re thinking too much about it when you are in bed with your boyfriend, that also could be preventing arousal. But if you think about sexual situations during the day, for a couple of minutes maybe three to five times a day, that might permit you to become more easily aroused when you’re with him at night.

Also, if he’s not being very romantic, he needs to do a better job of that. Try that for a while and see if it helps, even a little.

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I’ve tried posting my response several times and with various phrasings but every time it tells me that it cannot be posted due to “profanity” but I can’t figure out what they are deeming profanity, so I’ve included my response(s) below.

For the person who asked this question:

First, let me say that “asexual” does not mean “incapable of having an orgasm” – it’s an orientation label used by people who (generally speaking) are not sexually attracted to anyone. They may or may not have a libido, they may or may not masturbate, they may or may not have sex, they may or may not experience other types of attraction (romantic, aesthetic, etc), all it means is that generally they don’t look at other people and think “oh yeah, I’d like to have sex with them!” There are also variations within the asexual spectrum which I mention below.

From your brief description your experience sounds very similar to the experiences I’ve heard from many people in the asexual/ace communities. You are not alone in what you’ve described. You may or may not decide that identifying as asexual is right for you but you owe it to yourself to look into it since it probably wasn’t explained in any sexuality education you’ve had so far. You may also consider looking into gray-asexuality and demi-sexuality, you may or may not identify with those terms, also.  You mentioned one-night stands and if you enjoyed those and were sexually attracted to those partners maybe gray-a would ring more true than demi but a) your question didn’t give a lot of details and b) no one can “diagnose” you as asexual (or gay, or straight, or bisexual… etc) we can only help you find the language that you feel accurately describes your experiences. I do wonder a little if those one-night stands involved “bad sex” – ie you didn’t enjoy the sex you had or didn’t orgasm and felt cheated?

The AVEN (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) Forums would be a great place to find people (of all orientations) who share your concerns and who would be interested in discussing them with you. There’s even a whole forum dedicated to the non-asexual partners of people who identify as asexual – what you’ve described is not at all uncommon.

In regards to your libido – is it a problem for you? If so, is it a problem for you only because it is a problem for your partner? How much does it really bother your partner? Is this a deal breaker for your partner? And if this is something that’s really important to your partner and not important for you, is that a deal breaker for you?

Some people who identify as asexual don’t have sex with their partners because they have decided that for them it’s a deal breaker, others have sex out of duty, and some do find ways to enjoy sex with their partner (for instance, when you masturbate – whether to orgasm or not since you said orgasms seem like a lot of work – is there a particular fantasy that turns you on? Is there an activity that’s traditionally considered “non-sexual” that you find arousing?). If you can think of *anything* that gets you turned on (physically and psychologically) try incorporating that into sex to see if it makes it more enjoyable for you (if having sex regularly is what you want). Also consider that maybe you just aren’t going to want to have sex as often as your partner (or maybe never) and why does your partner’s level of desire trump yours? He’s a big boy, I’m sure he’s figured out how to take care of his erections by himself by now or maybe you’d rather get him off in some other way sometimes.

You did mention that you think orgasms take more effort than they’re worth but I will say that some women find that orgasms become easier to achieve with practice (you have to learn what you like first before you can tell your partner and you can’t expect your partner to be able to get you to orgasm very quickly, or at all, if he doesn’t have any guidance about what you like). I would definitely recommend masturbating, by yourself, without your partner around, practice with the toys you purchased and some lube – do you like direct clitoral stimulation, or through the labia? A little to the left or the right? In circles? Constant vibration? Just some gentle stroking? And what about your G-spot? Can you find it? Is it a little to the left or the right? It may be higher than usual but generally you’ll find it within a finger’s reach so don’t think you need to stick some really long toy up there looking for it or you’ll go right by it. I’m sure this sounds like even more work for something you think may not be worth it but would it be worth it for you if you learned just what you liked and the best/quickest ways for you to achieve orgasm and could communicate that to your partner (which is kind of an important step #2, don’t leave that out!) and could achieve orgasm more consistently? There’s a book on the topic of masturbating that I really enjoyed reading called Sex For One by Betty Dodson which you might like to check out.

Clearly I’m just throwing out some ideas based on the hints I got from your question because there are so many ways to interpret what you’ve said and so many follow up questions I would have for you but I hope you’ll explore some of the suggestions I’ve provided and by all means feel free to comment or to e-mail me and I’ll do my best to offer you more resources in whatever direction you’re interested in pursuing at this time.

Now… on to Dr. Ruth…

Dear Dr. Ruth,

Your flippant comment associating sexual orientation with capacity for orgasm was out of line and misrepresented both people who identify as asexual and people with low or no capacity for orgasm.

First of all, people who cannot achieve traditional orgasms are not inherently asexual, they may be any orientation and their needs and desires should not be ignored (as they have been for so long by medical and helping professionals). It is possible that they would be asexual but I wouldn’t expect more people in that category to be asexual than in the general population (about 1%).

Second, people who identify as asexual may or may not be particularly orgasmic, for information about how asexual women compared in levels of arousal and frequency of masturbation relative to straight and bisexual women I suggest reading Lori Brotto’s study “Physiological and Subjective Sexual Arousal in Self Identified Asexual Women.” (Spoiler: asexual women were all over the charts, just like the straight and bisexual women – some masturbate a lot, some a little, some never, etc.)

I strongly suggest that you update your understanding of asexuality by checking out the latest research, articles, and presentations (Brotto, Bogaert, Hinderliter, Chasin, Carrigan, and others). The outdated and flippant response you wrote was not just careless but harmful and directly contributed to the already massive amount of misinformation out there not just about asexuality but sexuality in general … and isn’t that what you’re trying to prevent?

Posted in Asexual, Asexuality, AVEN, Awareness, Sexologist, Sexual Health, Sexuality | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments