This post has been cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.
A few days after Thanksgiving, I was faceplanted on a cafeteria table, trying to explain to a friend (let’s call her T.) about my relationship with another friend, which had recently taken a turn for the unexpected. Well, I say “explain,” but mostly it was a lot of “I’M SO CONFUSED” and “WHAT DOES THIS MEAN” and “UGH, FEELINGS SUCK, CAN WE JUST NOT.” T. was pretty calm for someone faced with a wildly flailing, faceplanting Queenie and asked, “Well, have you tried asking her?”
"NO! THAT’S SCARY! I don’t want to freak her out by talking about my feelings for her!" I faceplanted on the table again, because I am an adult who deals with feelings in a mature manner.
After some more flailing and extremely mature handling of feelings, T. told me, “JUST USE YOUR WORDS.”
Queenie’s patented research essay writing technique:
1. Do way too much research
2. Write a bunch of incoherent notes on aforementioned research
3. Leave aggressive comments in all caps commanding self to WRITE AN ACTUAL INTRODUCTION HERE or ADD SOME KIND OF CONCLUSION
5. Turn in an essay that’s at least 50% longer than the professor asked for
Using your words may not solve all your problems, but it’s significantly more effective than hoping to spontaneously develop telepathy.
A few weeks ago, an interesting conversation kicked up on Tumblr when several people started talking about how hard it is to find sex-repulsed perspectives in the asexual community. Because I am chronically late, I feel that now would be a great time to chime in on that.
Thing is, we’re right here. We’re just being really quiet about it.
In which I talk more about why we rarely hear from repulsed aces about repulsion/sex-aversion in asexual communities. Go check it out!
My Aces Run on Cake mug came in the mail today! It has significantly improved my paper-writing experience by holding delicious tea. 10/10, would recommend.
Call for Submissions: December Carnival of Aces
This month I’ll be hosting the Carnival of Aces, a monthly blog carnival dedicated to writings on…
I know what you mean—for a really long time I had a hard time articulating when I found people aesthetically attractive for precisely this reason. Recently I’ve gotten a little bit better at it, although part of that is that I tend to be very open about being ace around the friends who I would be likely to talk about pretty people with. (If I’m willing to talk about who I find aesthetically attractive around you, we are probably pretty good friends! [PRETTY GOOD FRIENDS GOLD STAR])
Lemme see what I can come up with to help you out, though!
One of the best descriptions I’ve ever heard of the disconnect between aesthetic and sexual attraction is that aesthetic attraction is like going to an art gallery and looking at all the beautiful paintings. As you’re appreciating the paintings, suddenly all these other people start coming in and start licking the paintings and making out with the paintings, and you’re pretty deeply confused because you’re just here to look at the art—it’s not like you want to touch it or anything. And when you’re like, “Hey, that’s a nice painting,” they’re like, “So you wanna lick it or what?”
Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of allosexual people seem to be able to understand aesthetic attraction as separate from sexual attraction if you frame it to them in certain terms. For example, I have straight (female) friends who think other women are very beautiful but aren’t sexually attracted to them. If they’re having trouble understanding your finding someone aesthetically attractive without being sexually attracted to them, ask them to think of someone they think is really pretty/handsome/beautiful who they’re not sexually attracted to. A lot of people will be able to think of someone! Then just explain that you feel that way about EVERYONE.
If you want general coming out advice, I have a (kind of old) post here. Sometimes saying, “I don’t feel sexually attracted to anyone!” will get people off your back, but sometimes it just winds up turning into a huge drama party, so I can understand if you’d prefer to just explain in terms of aesthetic attraction vs. sexual attraction rather than your sexual orientation.
Do any of my followers have other advice?
Yep, I know! She’s on my list!
A lot of the times when I am reading people’s writings on sex-positivity, they will cite the model of enthusiastic consent - that is, of someone being excited and positive about the sex they are about to have. This is often also presented through the lens of sexual attraction, and the assumption that any two people who are having consensual sex are sexually attracted to each other - thus, being sexually attracted, aroused, excited, desperate, and so forth.
This obviously produces some problems in the asexual community, since if we go by that model of consent, we cannot consent to sex at all, not being sexually attracted to people - or, in the case of demisexuals and grey-asexuals, can only consent occasionally, and probably not when it’s actually wanted.
The issues of excitement, arousal, etc, may well also be issues for other people: for example, those on medication which prevents expression of high-stimulus emotions. The proposed approach may well be useful for such people also.
However, as anagnori writes about here, the asexual community is particularly at risk for being shamed into sex or otherwise coerced, due in part to compulsory sexuality and heterosexism; thus, the need for a model of consent more precise than ‘yes is yes; no is no’ is needed, to draw distinctions between ‘yes, I guess I will have sex with you if that will make you stop guilt-tripping me’, for example, and ‘yes I want to have sex with you; that would be enjoyable’.
This problem of the lack of scope of the model of enthusiastic consent seems to have also been noticed by the allosexual community, as evidenced by this post by pervocracy here; many of his points reflect points I would also make, but I think that there are also some other points which may well concern asexuals and asexual-spectrum people more than allosexuals. For example, his introduction/preface to the post regarding the necessity for holding out for ‘YES FUCK ME NOW’ consent until both people know and trust each other isn’t and can’t be a relevant part of any asexual model of consent; mutual trust must be assured, and a safe space in which to say ‘no’ and the ability to say it are vitally necessary.
So, given that consent predicated on sexual attraction/allosexual experiences is not viable in an asexual-community model of consent, but that a more in-depth model than ‘yes’/’no’ is needed, what next?
I think that one of the most vital components to this model of consent - to, indeed, any model of consent, but most specifically one for asexual-spectrum people - is the fostering of an environment in which both people feel free to say ‘no’ without fear of negative consequences.
Does that seem obvious? Maybe. But it also seems often overlooked, and, in a way, the model of enthusiastic consent seems to have been developed to remove the need for talking, for safe communication; to establish consent without building a platform for nonconsent to be expressed. (Incidentally, I am not sure how many of the people who will respect that only enthusiastic consent should be viewed as consent would refuse to develop an environment in which nonconsent is expressed; thus rendering a lot of the point of the model of enthusiastic consent null.)
Am I saying that asexual or asexual-spectrum people can’t have casual sex? Not at all! I am merely saying that, ideally, it would be with someone who would foster an environment in which nonconsent could be expressed without fear of harm - whether due to long association or merely to basic respect.
If the space exists in which to express nonconsent without fear of harm or disparagement, then the next assessment point is the ability to say ‘yes’ for reasons unrelated to (internalised) coercion (this supposing that such a space, as it should be, is free from externalised coercion). Examples of this would be ‘oh I ought to have sex else it is unfair on my partner’ ‘oh I ought to perform that act since they like it so’ etc. If that ability does not exist, it is then necessary to acknowledge that: either to be aware of it and assess whether a putative ‘yes’ in any given scenario is motivated mostly by internal coercion or mostly by free choice, and give or withhold consent accordingly; or to communicate this to the other person involved, in order to facilitate understanding and hopefully root out the internal coercion. If that ability does exist, then congratulations: you have created a safe space in which you can talk about sex and give and withhold consent freely.
This should, of course, extend in both directions: there’s no point in one person acquiring the ability to give consent and withhold it without the other doing so.
I also suggest that a name for such a process might be ‘reasoned consent’ - consent that someone can give because they can consider the implications of the request, whether or not they want to do it, and proceed based from there, without fear of what refusal may bring.
In addition, I would venture that this model of consent might also bring about a greater degree of freedom to talk about sex and sexual preferences: this is of marked importance in both allosexual and asexual spaces. For allosexual people, it’s important, and encouraged in principle if not in practice, to talk about sexual preferences freely to avoid coercion, guilt, avoidable frustration, etc. For asexual people, all of these are important, but in addition it’s of vital importance to be able to discuss asexuality and how that pertains and alters those views and preferences. I think that the explicit inclusion within this model of consent of a space in which talking about sex is acceptable in terms of refusal would foster a space in which talking about sexual preferences is acceptable.
In conclusion, the idea behind the model of enthusiastic consent is commendable, but the execution proves problematic for many communities and subsets of people, of which the asexual community is one. I suggest the model which I have here termed ‘reasoned consent’ may eliminate some of these problems.