Spoons.

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

Between all of the shit that’s been going on in my life, both now and over the past year, I haven’t got any left for blogging. So until further notice, this blog is suspended.

Every comment that has been left is still there, but I haven’t read them. They and all future comments left during this period of suspension will be kept in the moderation queue until I’m able to devote time to blogging again. Likewise for the questions on formspring. I intend to answer them eventually, but I have no energy to devote to them now.

I won’t be checking my blog-related email for the time being. You can still send emails if you’d like, but just know that you may be waiting a very long time for a response.

When I do eventually come back to blogging, it’s likely that I’ll be changing the name of this blog. It’s not particularly accurate anymore, and has acquired some unpleasant associations with a certain fanfiction lately. It’s about time to re-brand.

Rest assured that I am still writing. For the time being, though, my work will have to remain private.

Still too busy to make a proper post, but I wanted to write a response to this comment on my How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person post that I just saw on Tumblr:

This is a great article aside from the emphasis on exclusively verbal communication. I agree that clear communication and having a complete understanding of how and when a person(or persons) is ok with what is entirely necessary; however, it is also important to remember that there are other entirely unambiguous forms of communication that some people use that are nonverbal.

You mean communication like signing, right? Thank you for the reminder, and sorry for not picking that up. I’ll try to keep this in mind.

I do mean communication like signing, using an communication board, using a pen or pencil and paper, using a tablet pc, using an alphasmart or any other adaptive technology. Just because someone is nonverbal (to whatever extent and for whatever reason) doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t give consent and frequently the sex education and consent education that any nonverbal (for reasons of disability) people receive is inadequate or nonexistent. This is related to the lack of disability related material on this subject overall but is also of course related to the general forced desexualization of disabled bodies.

I think there’s a miscommunication in how we’re defining terms. I’m a little confused, here. How is writing something down using any of those different methods, or signing or using a “talker” (this is what we’ve called them in my family), non-verbal communication? Is sign language not still a language? Verbal, to me, means using language. Sign language and written communication are INCLUDED under the category of “verbal communication.” At least under my definition!

Here’s what is NOT included under the (very broad) category of “verbal communication” by my definition: sighing, facial expressions, what clothes you’re wearing, that you have gone home with someone for a night, that you had coffee with someone, etc. Basically, any kind of assumption that someone might make about whether or not you want to have sex without asking you in some form of direct language whether you want to or not.

I was quite deliberate about the word that I chose, because I wanted to avoid this exact miscommunication.  If I wanted to refer ONLY to spoken communication, I would have said oral communication.

However, I probably should have consulted the dictionary before I posted, because I was not aware that one of the definitions referred specifically to oral communication. Every definition but the third one refers ONLY to words. So I see where the confusion came from, and I apologize for causing it. My intent was not to exclude anyone with a disability.

Is there some phrase more specific than “verbal communication” to refer to a BROAD UMBRELLA of different types of communication that include words? Or do I just have to go back and elaborate on what I mean every single time? How can I make this more inclusive when I revise it?

Edit: I also touched on this in my last post responding to Tumblr comments, but it bears repeating: The person who is being asked for consent can give it with a clear nonverbal signal, like a thumbs up. But the person who INITIATES must use some kind of direct, unambiguous language to do so rather than relying on assumptions based on body language or circumstance. (Unless, of course, what is and is not okay has already been pre-negotiated, using words. You still should check in to make sure it’s still okay every now and then, though.)

Well, goddamn. You Tumblr people. If you like something, that shit gets around, doesn’t it! I came back to check on the blog to find that I’d had just shy of two thousand views in a single day. My previous high record, set only four days before, was a mere 700. If this trend continues for only a little while longer, that post will have become the most popular post of all time by the end of this month. And I’ve been blogging for almost four years already. It’s already #3.

Since I hate hate hate Tumblr’s format and refuse to get an account, I’m just going to respond to some of the comments from there here.

Someone commented that the title of my How to Have Sex With an Asexual Person post is “misleadingly” creepy. Yes. It’s creepy on purpose. It’s creepy because it’s based on REAL search terms I have repeatedly gotten leading to my How to Seduce An Asexual post, which was itself based on a similar query. It’s actually a toned down version of those search terms. There are enough people out there who google things like “how to convince an asexual to have sex” (that one was just yesterday) that I felt it was necessary to make a guide for it. I was consistently getting these searches, and they are different enough from my old post’s title that I’m convinced it’s not just people who read that post and wanted to find it again. There have also been more and more people searching for this lately, to the point that I was finally convinced I had to do something about it. These are people who actually want to “seduce” asexuals enough that they’ll look for ways to “get an asexual to fuck you” on the internet.

And the best way to do some damage control is to use a post title that will attract those people. Hopefully some of those people will bother to read it, at least a little. Even if they don’t read the whole thing, maybe they will at least gather that you can’t make anyone do anything, and that it’s a lot more complicated than it’s worth to try. I hope this will reduce the number of people who try to pressure asexuals into having sex or go into it thinking they can manipulate an asexual person into “becoming sexual.” Even if most of the creepers ignore it, if it manages to reach a portion of them, then I’ll count it as a success. On that note…

This is great, but I highly doubt there are many guys who would be willing to put so much thought into something like this. ^^;;; Hell, I don’t think I would want to either….it’s too complicated. >.<

Better that someone who is unwilling to put thought and effort into making sure things are okay gives up because they think it’s too complicated than be obstinately, petulantly manipulative. I HOPE my post scares some people off. It should!

The funny thing is, apparently now I’m on the 2nd page of search results for “how to have sex.” Uh… woo? I didn’t realize there were that many people searching for such things. More visibility, I guess?

Should this not be how you have sex with anyone? Unless there’s a roleplay thing going on in which case remember the safety word.

Yes, it should apply to having sex with anyone, not just asexuals. But like I said, the point of making the post is to try to get through to people who really don’t get it. People who use hostile and aggressive tactics, without realizing how wrong they are. People who are specifically targeting asexuals, with the idea that they can “fix” us. Many of the things in section 2 are concerns that apply to asexuals specifically and likely do not apply as much to people who are not asexual. It’s not a completely generalized guide. But really, the vast majority of it, it’s not “special treatment” for asexuals. It’s common courtesy.

Part of me read this and was convulsed with sick laughter, the face of my ex overlaid on the screen, like a parody of all the writer warns against.

I know that exact feeling. I had a specific person in mind when I wrote it. The date it went up is also personally significant.

There were quite a few people who had specific people in mind when they read it, and I feel for all of you. If I could, I would give each one of you a (safe) hug.

I like this; it’s a decent resource, but it definitely made me raise an eyebrow with the “You must obtain verbal consent.”  Because, well, that can be problematic for those of us who lose the ability to be verbal, sometimes even before sex.

I am one such person who becomes nonverbal during sexual activity.

Yup, me too.  And again, this is an excellent reason to come up with some sort of signal system and to talk about as much as possible beforehand.  But I did think the rest of the article was very well-written.

Is this not in the article already? Pre-negotiation, and especially pre-negotiating signals in case you become non-verbal, I mean. I mentioned the keys as one possible signal, should I try to expand on this whenever I come back to it? Perhaps it’s unclear what I meant in some places. Clear nonverbal indicators that things are okay, like a thumbs up, are totally fine—why wouldn’t they be?—but the questions about whether or not x is okay should be explicit and verbal. Always, until it’s been firmly established by prior negotiation what things are okay and you’ve become so familiar with your partner’s nonverbal signals that you are able to tell when things aren’t okay anymore. If it’s ever in question, then you should ask.

There were also some people who commented that not all asexual people will want to take such a passive role. Of course not. But this is primarily aimed at people who are attempting to seduce asexuals, and it’s a relatively safe assumption that the people who get there by actively googling ways to convince an asexual to have sex are going to be taking the role of the initiator at the very least. And an asexual who is able to take the more dominant role isn’t going to be at quite as much risk as one who is passive, simply because it requires more confidence and know-how. For “brevity’s” sake (lol), I didn’t address it. (I considered splitting the post into a series of posts because of the length of it, actually, but decided against it because for every click you require a visitor to make to continue reading, you lose people. I’d rather have someone skim the post than miss important points that weren’t contained in whichever part they happened to read.) I may go back and add something about being dominant, or just add a link to another post about it later.

It’s certainly something that can still be improved. Other suggestions are welcome.

[Note: I'm swamped with work at the moment, so comment moderation and response may be slow. I realize other people have asked me questions, btw, before the last post went up, and I want those people to know I wasn't ignoring them. The last few posts were all scheduled in advance so that I would have something going on here while I focus on other things.]

Here’s Amanda Marcotte responding to an article by David Wong on misogyny, wherein he claims that men are just so much more sexual than women, that women can’t possibly understand, and so men tend to think women are conspiring to give them boners in inappropriate settings:

Do you see what I’m getting at? Go look outside. See those cars driving by? Every car being driven by a man was designed and built and bought and sold with you in mind. The only reason why small, fuel-efficient or electric cars don’t dominate the roads is because we want to look cool in our cars, to impress you.Go look at a city skyline. All those skyscrapers? We built those to impress you, too. All those sports you see on TV? All of those guys learned to play purely because in school, playing sports gets you laid. All the music you hear on the radio? All of those guys learned to sing and play guitar because as a teenager, they figured out that absolutely nothing gets women out of their pants faster. It’s the same reason all of the actors got into acting.

All those wars we fight? Sure, at the upper levels, in the halls of political power, they have some complicated reasons for wanting some piece of land or access to some resource. But on the ground? Well, let me ask you this — historically, when an army takes over a city, what happens to the women there?

It’s all about you. All of it. All of civilization.

I don’t realize if Wong gets this, but he basically just argued that since women are just so asexual, we’re also basically unartistic, unambitious, and even though he decried treating women like decorative objects, I don’t really see how we fit into this. We don’t have any desire to impress men and get sex, so we’re never going to build and invent, right?

Amanda is right to call Wong out on his assumption that women just can’t feel as deeply sexual as men can. But whether Amanda meant to do so or not, she also plays into a common trope about asexuals that we’re all passionless, uncreative, and somehow lacking that “spark” of life that sexual people have. To her credit, she at least says “What about the gay artists?” a little later on. I haven’t read the comments, so perhaps she challenges this anti-asexual trope somewhere in there, but I wouldn’t make the assumption that she did. In any case, it’s a big oversight.

Now, Wong’s argument is familiar to me. I encountered a version of it several years ago:

9/7/2007  9:13:09 PM  M: it’s considered unnatural, because for many people, sexuality is the central driving force behind our decisions, endeavors, and pursuits as human beings
9/7/2007  9:13:17 PM  M: and for someone to step and say they dont have that
9/7/2007  9:13:31 PM  M: a “normal” person can’t comprehend that
9/7/2007  9:14:08 PM  M: and a truly asexual person, will never be able to truly understand what it means to be sexual
9/7/2007  9:14:28 PM  M: that person will never know what it’s like to have a mind that is sexually driven,
9/7/2007  9:14:47 PM  M: and by no means is it a simple, oh i like women/men and i act on it once in a while
9/7/2007  9:14:54 PM  M: it’s an all-encompasing process
9/7/2007  9:15:01 PM  M: that drives every single thought
9/7/2007  9:15:31 PM  M: to a sexual, an asexual claiming their asexuality sounds like claiming you can have fire without fuel

It’s one thing to feel like your own sexuality is the central driving force behind all of your own behavior. But there are a hell of a lot of people out there who don’t feel that way, even among *sexual people. Ask my partner, for one. Moreover, there are a lot of male *sexual people who don’t feel that way, too. Are they not “normal” because their feelings aren’t the same as yours?

Failing to recognize that other people feel differently from you, failing to recognize that other people can be motivated by things other than the things that motivate you, is an egocentric fallacy. Failing to recognize that creativity and passion can come from avenues other than sexuality is a huge chasm in your ability to understand others.

You want an example of a fantastically creative person who isn’t driven by sexuality? Look at Emilie Autumn. Hell, look at me. I haven’t got much published yet besides this blog, but I am furiously working on it. I have to create, you guys. I have to write. I am passionate about making the world a better place, and to that end I will strive to annihilate misunderstandings and create human connection through my writing, even to the detriment of other areas of my life. How dare anyone call me passionless.

I think a big part of the reason why people think that asexual people are passionless is that they’re unable to conceive of passion in a non-romantic context, and also to a large extent, unable to fully separate love from sex. They’re different processes. I would suggest that love, being a neurochemical brain state similar to OCD, is as much if not more likely to be the motivation behind great works of art. For a lot of people, it’s probably motivated by both, but which is the stronger of the two? I argue that for many people it’s actually love, but it gets subsumed under the heading of sexuality without recognition that while the two often go together, they really are separate processes.

But you know what? Even if the definition of “passion” is strictly confined to sex, I’ve still got it. Don’t make the assumption that asexual people are cold fish in bed. We’re not limp robots, as long as we want to be doing it and have enough experience to know what to do. And if we are? Then there’s something wrong, and you better find out what it is and try to fix it.

Wong’s theory is a bad one, and while Amanda’s response didn’t quite cover all of the reasons why, she is absolutely right to say this:

I have a counter-theory. I don’t believe that men build civilization to impress lazy women who keep saying no to sex, because we don’t understand what it’s really like to want it. I believe men built most things because women were shut out of political power, job opportunities, and education for most of history, and instead forced into servitude towards men in the home. I believe my theory has a lot of evidence for it, in the form of all of history. Plus, this theory doesn’t do much to explain all the gay men who have been creators throughout history, of which there have been many. You know, it’s not like Michelangelo was rumored to be doing the Sistine Chapel to catch a lady’s eye. His theory doesn’t really explain how it is that women, once given the opportunity to be creators, take it.

All search terms appear exactly as they were typed into Google/Formspring, so I take no credit for any spelling or grammar errors.

Standard Definitional Disclaimer: Asexuality refers here to a sexual orientation among humans.  It does not have anything to do with biology, whether that means the biology of non-human asexually reproducing species, or humans with non-standard anatomy (if you’re looking for that, google intersex conditions instead). Asexuality means not experiencing sexual attraction; it does not mean or imply that we are “not sexual” in any way at all. The term is analogous to homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, etc. For a more detailed explanation on this, please check my FAQ page. Asexuals are a widely varied group that may have little else in common with one another aside from not experiencing sexual attraction to others as a general rule. I can only answer for myself. My answers may include sarcasm.

On to the questions!

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Q: do asexuals avoid dating (from Google)
A: Sometimes. I avoided it for a very long time, because I felt like I would be pressured to do sexual things, and because I thought it would be very structured and have too many rules to follow. I didn’t want to follow a cultural script that would encourage others to put me in a box that I don’t fit in. So for a while I just went (or intended to go) straight from friends to “in a relationship” status with people I was interested in. Then I met my fiancée, and accidentally ended up going on a date with her even though we had planned to go out as friends. I learned that dates don’t have to be that structured, and they’re not all that different from hanging out as friends. Now, I go on dates several times a week. But not all asexuals are like me; some just don’t want to date, or don’t see the point of it.

Q: are physical looks important to asexuals (from Google)
A: They can be. For some asexuals looks don’t particularly matter, though for me they actually do. I need to have at least a neutral response to looking at a person in order to be with them, as if I find them disgusting I’m not likely to want to be around them for very long. Prettiness is a bonus, but not a strict necessity for me. I also care about the way that I look and the kind of image I present to the world, and have several different styles I wear depending on my mood, some of which are deliberately strange. Sometimes I will dress down, and sometimes I will dress up, depending on how comfortable I am getting attention for my looks that day. Occasionally I have been known to experiment with what I wear to see whether people treat me any differently than they do when I dress “normally.”

Q: I’ve found that the older I get and the more in tune with myself I become, I find that while I enjoy masturbation, I’m less interested in having a sexual partner and would prefer someone I can emotionally connect to. Could it be possible I’m asexual? (from Formspring)
A: It’s possible you might be, however it’s also fairly common for *sexual people to feel that way too, especially as they age (from what I understand). The key difference is that the asexual people don’t feel any kind of sexual attraction, while the *sexual people do. So, are there still people that you get turned on by in some way, and would have sex with if not for being primarily concerned with emotional connection? If so, you are probably not asexual. Only you can know for sure, and sometimes it can be very difficult to figure out exactly what “sexual attraction” means. Give yourself some time to think about it, and realize that it’s okay not to know the answer!

Q: To the extent that there is an answer to this in the abstract, how do you think asexuals would feel about sexual people who chose celibacy? My hope is as kindred spirits, my fear is as tourists or wannabes. (from Formspring)
A: I think most of us would feel more like kindred spirits with *sexual people who choose to be celibate. There are a lot of similar issues that both asexuals and *sexual celibate people face, so we can relate in that way, and I’ve found that celibate people tend to react to asexuality with particularly enthusiastic support. Just the other day I had an interaction with a celibate person who had the “Wow, asexuals are AWESOME!” reaction, in fact. I don’t see why asexuals would see celibate people as tourists or wannabes, however, there are some reasons why asexuals might come into conflict with celibate people. The enthusiasm they have for asexuality can be a little too much sometimes, and it can feel like we are being idealized or even fetishized (by that I mean in the same sense that some Western people get overly obsessed with Japan because they think it’s the most amazing place, and by extension Japanese people, not necessarily a sexual fetishization). A lot of times the reasons why celibate people see us as kindred spirits are not reasons that we agree with, especially in the case of religious celibacy. Asexual people are often assumed to be religious due to the confused conflation of asexuality and celibacy, but in fact many of us are atheists, some of whom even actively oppose religion. So while we generally support celibacy as a legitimate life choice, we sometimes oppose the specific reasons why some people choose to be celibate. If someone is celibate because they’ve actually thought hard about it and come to the conclusion that that’s the best choice for them, awesome! But if someone is only celibate for religious reasons, believes that celibacy is the only good choice, pushes celibacy onto other people and/or believes that asexuals are “purer” or “more enlightened” because we don’t feel sexual attraction… well, those people are not so likely to be considered “kindred spirits” to asexuals.

Q: why does my fuck buddy confide in me so much? (from Google)
A: Well, gee, I dunno, maybe your fuck buddy trusts you and thinks you’re a good friend? They must be mistaken about that, though, if you’re so annoyed or worried about having their confidence that you’d google that. Apparently you aren’t actually interested in hearing what they have to say. Way to go, jerk.

Q: does greg house get nicer (from Google)
A: That one gave me a laugh.

Q: why date (from Google)
A: Because you want to, ideally.

Q: how do different sexual customs around the world increase the incidence of sexual dysfunction? (from Google)
A: Wish I had the expertise to answer that one. If anyone else wants to take a stab at it, feel free to answer it in the comments.

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Have you got a question you’d like me to answer? Ask me here. Remember to check the FAQ page!

[Content Note: This post mentions non-consensual situations mostly in a theoretical way, without going into detail. It is frank, but not very graphic. However, there are links to posts that are more graphic, so click through with caution. This is meant to be an in-depth guide for how to safely approach sex with an asexual person, including both casual sex and sex in the context of a romantic relationship. As such it doesn't focus on physical techniques, but more on setting up a good frame for such interactions to go as smoothly as possible. Please note that "relationship" here refers to both platonic and romantic relationships, unless otherwise specified. This is also written to be gender-neutral and inclusive of transgender people. There is a TL;DR summary at the end.

Edit: Also, since apparently it wasn't clear enough, this way to approach sex is NOT SPECIFIC TO ASEXUAL PEOPLE. It is not "special treatment" because we are asexual. It's common courtesy. This is how you should approach sex with EVERYONE. There are simply more things to be cautious about with asexual people.]

So there’s this hot asexual that you really want to have sex with. Or maybe you’re already in a relationship with someone who is asexual, and you’re grappling with the idea of having sex with them. You wonder if it’s even possible, so you do a little Googling, and you find yourself here. I’m here to tell you that yes, in some cases, it is possible. Some asexuals are open to having sex (key word = SOME). Not only that, but it is possible to have really great, mutually enjoyable sex with an asexual person. But it is also possible to fuck it up so bad that the asexual person has nightmares about you five years later. You don’t want to do that. There’s a right way to do it, and I’m going to tell you what you should do, and what you should avoid.

Please note: This post is not about seduction. You can’t seduce an asexual, and framing it as seduction is dangerous for us, because it encourages people to follow a sexual script that is coercive and manipulative instead of listening to us. Get that model of sexual interaction out of your head right now. You need to start fresh. Trust me, it’s the only way this is going to be any good.

Step One: DO YOU HAVE PERMISSION?

I don’t mean the “well, they didn’t stop me” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they didn’t say no” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they said ‘I don’t know’ or they kind of sort of wanted to” kind of permission. I don’t mean the “they said they wanted to at some point a while ago, so I assume that means they want to right now” kind of permission. I mean the “I explicitly asked them if they want to have sex right now, and received an unambiguously affirmative verbal response” kind of permission. (That doesn’t mean you have to say it exactly in that way, of course, but there does need to be at least some verbal communication in the moment about whether it’s (still) okay or not.)

Any kind of sex you have without obtaining that kind of permission? At worst, you’ve just raped someone (who may not have been able to move or speak because they experienced the freeze part of the stress response cycle). Most likely, there was some serious coercion/pressure involved, even though it may not have been intentional on your part, just because sexual people are not typically aware of the concerns that asexual people have. We are embedded in a culture that tells us we should have sex, that we owe it to others and that others expect it from us. And also, crucially, that we don’t exist. If you wordlessly initiate a sexual encounter with an asexual person without ever having any discussions where you pull apart those cultural expectations beforehand, the weight of them will still be pressuring that encounter. Even if it turns out to be consensual (and since you didn’t ask, you don’t know—don’t pretend you’re psychic, because you’re not, and because of the existence of tonic immobility, the onus is on you to ask permission, not on them to say no if you start touching without asking first), if you didn’t actually ask permission you certainly haven’t negotiated any boundaries about it, so the sex isn’t going to be good. At best it’s going to be mediocre, somewhat uncomfortable. Probably quite detached. It doesn’t have to be that way just because someone is asexual. Popular conceptions of asexuals having sex include descriptors like “passionless” or “frigid,” but it IS possible for asexuals to give good, informed, affirmative, even enthusiastic consent (although using enthusiasm as the only indicator of good consent is problematic for asexuals), and “passionless” or “frigid” are certainly not descriptors my partner would apply to me. I’ve read erotica scenes similar to some of the sex we’ve had, although frankly, I think ours was better.

Plus, if you won’t talk about sex before you have it, and you won’t ask permission and make sure everything’s okay for fear of not getting to have sex after all? That just REEKS of desperation. Is it really THAT important that you get to have sex with this particular person? Even if it’s really bad sex that is damaging and traumatic for them?

While you might be able to make a case for the benefits of non-verbal communication about consent with other people, if you’re trying to have sex with an asexual person, that script just doesn’t work. It puts us in a very dangerous position, because we don’t know how you’re going to act or how you’ll expect us to act—or worse, we do know how you’ll act and expect us to act, and we know that your expectations don’t take our feelings into consideration at all. We need to be sure you understand that “spooning leads to forking,” as the popular saying goes, is NOT necessarily true (and likely for us more often false). We need you to understand that wanting to cuddle or make out does not mean wanting to have sex. We need to be assured that you will not start telling us that being aroused means that we are not asexual, despite the fact that arousal is an automatic physiological response not tied to sexual attraction (and can happen during rape* [TW]). So set aside your loaded assumptions and baseball metaphors, and try to rescript sex.

You need to respect what the asexual person wants. Some of us ARE NOT interested in having sex, period. As soon as you find that out, that should be the end of the story. Ask the person you’re interested in if they’d ever consider having sex once, preferably in a friendly way and not in a creepy way, and if the answer is no, don’t ask again.

If you haven’t bothered to get to know the asexual person well enough first, you will almost invariably come off as creepy and pushy, so you should really not do it unless you’ve at least established a friendship. Take interest in who they are as a person. Don’t introduce the idea of sex too soon. When you do introduce it, it would probably be best to ask if they’d ever consider it in a general way, and not specifically with you… unless of course you’re already in a romantic relationship or headed in that direction.

Realize that just by asking this question, you are probing for some very private information, and not every asexual person is okay with talking about it. However, you are at least demonstrating that you know that asexuality is not the same as celibacy, which may give you a little bit of credibility, depending on how you broach the topic. Establishing credibility as someone who actually goes out and looks up asexuality on the internet (as you’re doing now) to find out what it is will really help the asexual person feel more comfortable with you, and will also make the giant hurdle of trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t know anything about asexuality a lot less steep. You should read as much about asexuality as you can. Realize that as a still very obscure minority, we are put in the position of constantly having to educate everyone around us, and that’s a huge burden. Doing everything you can to lighten that burden is a good way to start gaining our trust. AVEN has several FAQs. I also have one here, and you can read  all the questions that people have asked me here (or ask your own).

So read up on asexuality, talk about what you read, and once you’ve established a good friendship and shown that you’re someone who is interested in learning about asexuality, then ask the person you’re interested in if they’d ever consider having sex.

If the answer is, “I might one day,” then it might be reasonable for you to ask the asexual person if they’d be interested in having sex with you specifically, IF their answer was NOT followed by a conditional that conclusively rules you out as a possibility. If they say, “I might have sex one day, if the person I’m in a relationship with really wants it, so that I can please them,” and you’re not in a romantic relationship with them, drop it unless that situation changes.

If they say they might want to one day without any conditional or other explanation, you can (politely!) ask them if they have an idea of what circumstances they might want to have sex, or if it’s just a way of staying open to possibilities. Don’t press them if they don’t want to answer that. However, if they do answer and seem okay with discussing it with you, and if their answers do not exclude the possibility of experimenting with you, you can then express your own interest in having sex with them. Make it clear, however, that you do not expect them to be interested in having sex with you.

It’s important not to put pressure on the asexual person to have sex with you. You want them to feel comfortable with you. Your actions need to match your words. You need to make good on your promise not to put any pressure on them, and do your best to actually listen to their concerns. Try to understand where they’re coming from. And above all, let them know that if they don’t want to have sex with you, that’s perfectly okay, through your actions as well as your words.

Step Two: What are your expectations, hopes, and fears?

So now you’ve talked about sex with the asexual person you desire, and they’ve expressed an interest in trying sex with you. So far, so good. But before you actually do anything, for your own benefit as well as your partner’s, you should step back and think about what you expect to happen when you actually have sex.

  • Are you secretly harboring a desire that by having sex with you, this person will realize that they’re not actually asexual?
  • Does the asexual person seem to be trying to “fix” their asexuality or “prove” to themselves that they are actually asexual? If so, have you talked about this with them to make sure it is something they genuinely want to do, not something they feel they should?
  • Have you heard other people telling the asexual person that they “can’t know if they haven’t tried it” or similar? How did each of you react to that?
  • What kind of relationship do you have with this person, and how do you want it to keep evolving?
  • How much do you value this relationship, outside of sex? What are you doing to show that you value it to your asexual partner?
  • Do you expect romantic feelings to develop or deepen on either side, and is this something that you hope for or fear?
  • If you are in a romantic relationship, to what degree do YOU feel that your partner owes you sex? To what degree does YOUR PARTNER feel that they owe you sex?
  • Do you expect this to go well, or do you expect it to go badly? Why?
  • What do you fear will go wrong?
  • What do you hope for or fantasize about?
  • Are you aware of any power differentials that might affect how well your sexual experiences go? Do either of you feel pressured to have sex?
  • Has your partner ever made any hints or have you seen any red flags (asexuality itself doesn’t count) that they might have been sexually coerced or abused in the past? What have you done to reassure your partner that you won’t do that?
  • What kinds of sex acts have you considered? Are you thinking of sex in terms of having penile-vaginal intercourse (in the missionary position) or does your idea of “sex” also include oral or digital stimulation? What is your partner’s idea of what counts as “sex”? Have you considered other ways that both of you might be satisfied without resorting to intercourse?

Many of the above are potential warning signs, and you should discuss them if you notice any of them. This post has another list of warning signs that you should also consider, which is more focused on obtaining good consent specifically. You should at least be aware of your expectations and have thought about them a little before having sex, and you should probably discuss them a little bit with your partner, and find out what they expect as well. You may want to discuss your hopes and fears as well, if you and the asexual person are in the kind of relationship where you do that, and if not, you may want to discuss them with another friend.

If you are in any way hoping to “fix” your partner’s asexuality, stop yourself and take some time to think about it and learn more about what asexuality is before proceeding. Asexuality is not some kind of dysfunction, disability, or “condition” that can be “cured,” it is a sexual orientation. It means that we don’t experience sexual attraction. That’s all. There is no known cause, and no “cure.” If you are holding out hope that sex with you will change us, then you are in for some serious disappointment… and so is your partner.

Step Three: Care is Not Love

At this point, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed, especially if you are not in a romantic relationship with the asexual person you desire, and neither of you intend to be. I want to take the time to remind you that all of this is caring, not loving. This is just part of having safer sex. You already know (or should know!) that you shouldn’t have sex without protection, because you could catch STIs or (if you’re having that kind of sex) be at risk of pregnancy. You should be having caring sex with everybody you have sex with, even if it’s only casual sex, but asexuals are a particularly vulnerable population and we do have extra concerns to worry about that you should be aware of. Read the rest of this entry »

When I posted the reason why I identify as sex positive despite seeing sex as neutral, I specifically did not mention sex-negative feminism because I felt that it was a much more complicated issue that deserves its own post. It’s one that I think it would require a lot of effort and reading on my part to try to understand where sex-negative feminists are coming from (which frankly, I’ve never fully been able to do). I don’t have the time to write a deeply informed and detailed post about it, so this is not that. However, there are a lot of other writers who have written about it, so here is a link spam post, with some thinking out loud. I have an epically long, super important post full of practical advice for how to ethically have sex with an asexual person scheduled for later this week, but I figured I might as well pass these on in the meantime.

Lisa from Radical Trans Feminist: The Ethical Prude: Imagining an Authentic Sex-Negative Feminism. (If you have trouble reading because of the text colors at the link, like I do, Lisa was also kind enough to provide a link where you can easily change the text to a readable view. I had never heard of this website before, so this is a great find for me! Thanks, Lisa!) This is a really great article that shows how there isn’t actually a huge difference between sex-positive and sex-negative feminists. It’s more a matter of what kinds of things you emphasize than anything else. It’s long, but well worth a read if you have the time. I’ve been prude-shamed quite a bit myself, and if I were more on the repulsed end of the spectrum, I might consider trying to reclaim the label Prude for myself, too.

Framboise just posted about sex positivity and anti-asexual views within it. Quote:

“The other most prominent argument tends to dance with the No true Scotsmen fallacy. Simply, many argue that when asexuals experience various forms of oppression from sex positive feminists (including concern-trolling about how to “fix” their sexuality, accusations of being judgmental, or erasure) they are encountering people who are doing sex positivity wrong.  However, these experiences are common.  Far more common than asexuals receiving any sort of affirmation in sex positive spaces.  If the majority of people claiming sex positivism are doing it wrong what does that mean? Whose responsibility is it to fix?”

This is definitely a huge problem, and I think there are a lot of sex positive people out there who really aren’t doing enough to make sex-positive spaces safe for asexuals and people with low interest in sex. It’s perfectly understandable why asexual people would feel alienated from an environment where it’s generally assumed that people want sex. But I also think it’s important to point out that the majority of people, sex positive or not, are not sufficiently educated about asexuality to respond to it appropriately. There are some sex positive people who DO reach out to asexuals and truly try to embrace sexual diversity in all its forms, but they’re in the minority because people who accept asexuality are in the minority. It’s easy for someone who is uninformed to think that asexuality is somehow related to shame about sex, because they’ve probably never had that assumption challenged. Those people who do accept asexuality and consider themselves allies need to bring the issue up, and educate others about it.

I don’t think the No True Scotsman fallacy is applicable in this case, because we’re dealing with ideals and not facts like where someone was born. It would be applicable, if someone was arguing that because sex positive people value consent and sexual diversity, they never push sex or sexiness onto people who don’t want it. That’s a factual contradiction. But that’s not the argument. The argument is simply that they aren’t living up to their own ideals.

Here’s an analogy: the United States of America was formed with the idea of liberty and equality, but still allowed slavery and didn’t give women the right to vote. We still have problems with racism and sexism, even today. Despite the founders’ commitment to the ideals of liberty and equality, mainstream views at the time limited their egalitarianism to such an extent that what they enacted wasn’t true egalitarianism. I think we’re seeing a similar effect here: the mainstream view that asexuality is pathological is limiting even people who believe in the importance of embracing sexual diversity and the value of consent.

Does that mean that these people don’t genuinely see consent and diversity as ideals, and therefore aren’t allowed to call themselves sex positive? No. Does that mean that these sex positive people who don’t accept asexuality as legitimate aren’t truly, fully living up to their own ideals? Yes. They’re not taking the values of consent and diversity to their logical conclusion. Whose responsibility is it to fix that? It’s everyone’s. Even if you’ve talked about it before, if you haven’t talked about how sexual diversity includes people who don’t want to have sex at all lately? Do it again. Any time you mention sexual diversity, try to make it clear that it’s okay to not want sex, too. You may feel like that should go without saying, but it really doesn’t, and not mentioning it contributes to asexual erasure.

Emily Nagoski posted about anti-sex-positive feminism in response to this post by Meghan Murphy, which in turn quotes this post by Holly Pervocracy, and this post by Charlie Glickman. All of those posts are well worth reading. In particular, I want to quote Glickman:

The very notion that a sex act can be good or bad in and of itself is simply the current iteration of sex-negativity because it locates the value of sex in the activity rather than in the experiences of the individuals who do it.That’s like saying that sandwiches are good or bad without reference to the personal tastes of the people who eat them. It’s much more productive to ask how a given individual feels about what they do and make room for a diversity of responses, instead of judging the acts themselves.

This is why I think that it’s a misunderstanding to think that sex positivity is about saying that sex itself is good. It’s more that sex, in general, has the potential to be good. IF it’s done in a consensual way, but more than that, a way which values the satisfaction and emotional well-being of all participants. Consent is just the bare minimum requirement, but we need to aim higher than that.

One other thing I want to point out: I keep seeing sex-negative/anti-sex-positive feminists claim that sex positive people can’t handle critiques of sexism in porn and other mainstream parts of culture that enforce sexism. That’s not true. Yes, a lot of us will have defensive reactions to critiques of porn. However, the problem is not critiquing sexism in porn, but that the way in which the critique is framed either generalizes that all porn is bad, or that the sex acts themselves are bad, without recognizing that it’s possible to do those things in an ethical, consensual way that values the satisfaction and emotional well-being of all participants.

I dug up an old article by Greta Christina on this distinction, and how critiques of sexism in porn often miss it and end up engaging in kink-shaming. While we’re talking about her, I’ll also link another piece she wrote about sex work. She’s written many more excellent articles on sex positivity, and they’re all worth reading, but I’m not going to dig up every single one of them to link here.

I think ultimately, the main difference I’m seeing between sex-positive feminists and sex-negative feminists still comes down to how they feel about porn and sex work. The sex-negative folk seem to think that porn and sex work are both inherently abusive, while the sex-positive people (myself included) think that, even though there IS a lot of abuse in sex work and the porn industry, and we acknowledge it, we also think there’s a way to combat it without banning porn or sex work. I think prostitution should be legalized and regulated, for example, rather than criminalized and driven underground, where abuse can be much more easily perpetuated.

If I’m wrong about the way that sex-negative feminists view porn and sex work, though, feel free to correct me. A lot of the posts I read from sex-negative feminists only tangentially mentioned porn and sex work without making their views about it explicit, so I’m still thinking of the ones who did mention it that I read so long ago that I now can’t even remember where I read them anymore.