Obstacles Faced by Asexuals – May ’14 Carnival of Aces

There are many obstacles we aces face, many on a daily basis. The most significant barriers, though – for aces of a kind inclined to form close relationships with people – are the ones which stand between us and relationships, whether romantic, platonic, or somewhere in between. I’ll be drawing on my own experiences here to help colour my claims.

Society tightly twists together romantic and sexual attraction, leading to problems for people who don’t. These issues stem from the prevailing view outside the asexual community of nonsexual relationships as unfulfilling and thus inferior to relationships with a sexual element. This is demeaning to asexuals in or seeking relationships as it devalues nonsexual intimacy.

A couple of weeks ago, I overheard a woman say she was “undateable.” As a celibate asexual, I can safely say that she probably wouldn’t know “undateable” if it was sitting at the adjacent table in a café. The commonly proposed solution for a celibacy clause is to just ‘date’ another asexual, but we all know it’s more complicated than that. I can’t help being attracted to someone, my emotions aren’t restricted towards asexuals and thus I am statistically prone to irrevocable sexual incompatibility with people I take an interest in.

I experience what you could call ‘aesthetic appreciation’ for people, regardless of gender. I admire their bodies in the same way people admire works of art at a gallery, perfectly content at a distance and not inclined to come into contact with them. But I also find people who I want to become intimate with, in a completely nonsexual sense. I would just like to spend time with them, make them a chocolate tart and know what their favourite colour is. It’s not quite romantic and I’m not big on physical intimacy, full stop. Hugs are pretty much my limit (generally speaking, I can divide physical intimacy into two categories: ‘Stuff I’m okay with Sometimes’ and ‘Anything Involving Bodily Fluids’). But that doesn’t mean I don’t need intimacy, I just experience it in a very different way – an idea incomprehensible to many people. So I’ll just call my desire queerplatonic; it’s a wonderful term for the uncertain territory between the platonic and the romantic which many aces walk. It’s a place of doubt and often isolation, made worse by the fact that mainstream society denies its existence. How am I supposed to explain my desire to a potential partner if I can’t even figure it out for myself?

All this talk of alternate forms of attraction reminds me of another problem facing asexuals who aren’t averse to a relationship of some form or another: the invalidation of our asexuality in the eyes of a non-asexual observer. Because if we are attracted to anyone, in any way, at all, the need for sex which dominates each and every human being is obviously just hiding beneath trauma, sexual inexperience or a need for attention. Surely this or that interaction will be enough to “make [you] crack.”

Here we trip over another hurdle in the ace race: acceptance. Personally, I’ve sailed gracefully over the majority of the scant few I’ve come across, with the rest resulting in little more than a bruised shin and a new wariness of certain people. To have an invisible sexuality affects many everyday interactions. Just last week I met a couple of people to work on a group project. Afterwards, we all set off across campus, conversation turning to the everyday. All of a sudden, they start discussing what they find attractive. My stomach turns, I go very quiet. “How ‘bout you?” One says, nudging my shoulder playfully.

What do I say? Do I tell them about asexuality? Do I tell them what I find aesthetically appealing? If I tell them one, will they believe the other? Does it matter? My sexuality isn’t relevant to our interactions. Chances are I won’t meet with these people once the project has been submitted. I probably won’t even get halfway through explaining before we have to go to our next classes. I’m getting more and more anxious as I think over my options.

To my relief, they find someone they know and the subject has changed before I can implode from indecision. But nonetheless, in a space in which I am not out as asexual – for any number of reasons – things can quickly get awkward for me if the conversation takes such directions.

I fear that in places this piece may have crossed into the rant zone, so I’d like to finish on a calmer note. I identify quite happily with my asexual identity and in circles in which I am out I have nary a care. I have little comprehension as to the reason the vast majority of the population spends much of their time seeking a genital interface, but nonetheless respect their perspectives and pursuits.

I believe it is of utmost importance that the campaign for asexual visibility continues, so that asexuality can be respected as a legitimate orientation, and the various obstacles we face made easier to navigate.

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Analogy to an Asexual Experience – April ’14 Carnival of Aces

Imagine a large room. It has a bar on each wall, as well as a circular one in the center. Each serves any drink conceivable. Imagine this room is comfortably housing one thousand people, with relatively normal personal space requirements. There are people of all genders, most ages and a vast range of favourite drinks. They’re chatting, mingling or ordering said favourite drinks.

Nine hundred and ninety of these people eat meat. Some are voracious carnivores. Some are quite choosy with their dishes. Some like a few different meats. Some only like one kind. They are chatting to people about meat, offering to cook for one another and swapping recipes. Everyone wants to know who eats meat with whom, how they prepared it, what they ate. Around the room are posters depicting meat dishes. All the songs that play have meat as their underlying theme. It’s all very catered to those nine hundred and ninety people.

But that isn’t everybody. Scattered throughout the crowd are ten vegetarians. One sits at the center bar, dejectedly staring into her tall glass of pink lemonade while she listens to countless people banging on about something she doesn’t understand the appeal of. She wonders what memo she missed, which of her wires aren’t connected that resulted in this incomprehension.

Another is standing in the corner. He honestly couldn’t care less about meat. He just wants to have a conversation that isn’t dominated by it.

A third – in a one on one conversation with a bubbly carnivore – has eaten meat before, but didn’t develop a taste for it, despite the claims made by their peers.

A fourth is sitting at the south bar, reflecting that he’d be okay with eating meat if he ended up falling for a carnivore, to preserve the relationship.

Another vegetarian is in a circle of carnivores, quietly sipping his sarsaparilla, when the conversation changes to dairy products. Finally, a topic he can relate to! He puts his word in on how much milk is too much to put on cereal, as well as which soft cheese best complements a water cracker. Eggs prove common ground for another veggie, who eagerly champions poaching them so that the yolk stays runny.

Wonderful! You may be thinking. They have common ground after all, despite their differences. Hold that thought.

The rest of the ten are vegans.

One is repulsed, he doesn’t understand how people can eat meat, eggs or dairy without feeling uncomfortable at the very least. He feels alone, a changeling mistakenly left in the cradle of a human.

Another sits at the east bar, using a straw to play with the ice in her virgin daiquiri. She wants companionship, but won’t cook with meat, eggs or dairy, as her personal principles are too high a price to pay for it. She yearns for a culinary companion who would be able to satisfy this need, but is far too afraid of depriving someone of an important part of their diet to pursue such a thing.

The last two sit at the north bar. One sips her green tea. The other sighs at her irish coffee, and says, almost under her breath:

“I don’t understand why they all aren’t satisfied with fruit, vegetables and chocolate.”

Green Tea’s eyes widen briefly in surprise, before she looks up from the rim of her cup to face Irish Coffee. “Neither do I.”

 

Now for a dash of exposition.

This is quite close to what being asexual sometimes feels like, for me. The analogy isn’t quite perfect, of course, because no analogy ever is. I didn’t mention the carnivores who didn’t like eggs and dairy, representing aromantic non-asexuals. An important point is that a person’s affinity for certain foods is not a choice, but whether or not they eat them is, thus illustrating the difference between asexuality and celibacy. For example, a person who despises or is indifferent to fish is still capable of eating it, and may, to please someone they care about. Finally, the drinks were added to accentuate the individuality of each of the people involved.