Asexuality Segment on ‘The Morning Show: Fixing Some Misconceptions

This morning, Australia’s ‘The Morning Shoow did a segment on asexuality, particularly in dating relationships. Now, at first, I’ve got to say, I wasn’t overly offended, however, when I thought about it properly, I did get the criticism that was posted on Facebook about it. Firstly, there is no ‘pesonality traits’ or whatnot to pick out an asexual. You will likely NOT know someone is asexual unless they tell you.

Secondly, we are not against physical affection. Yes, there are some that are touch averse, period, but not all of them. In fact, I’m personally very physically affectionate, always have been.

Dating history (or lack of), is not necessary a factor in determining when someone is or isn’t asexual. In fact, many asexuals do have a dating history and may have been sexually active in past relationships, especially before knowing about the term and applying it to themselves.

Addressing something co – host Larry Emdur said: asexuality is not erectile dysfunction or has to do with libido or genital function. Many asexuals have full genital function and many still have a libido. What asexuals don’t have (or have much of), is sexual attraction to anyone.

And finally, fixing up what a Facebook commenter said No, asexuality is NOT the same as asexual reproduction, nor is it the same as abstinence.

Virginity

Australian women’s magazine “Cleo” has an issue with a story of a 24 – year – old woman who admits that she’s a virgin and is OK with that. I remember when reading about this on Twitter; about being a virgin at twenty – four, and my immediate reaction, was, I admit pessimistic; thinking it was just a virginity – shaming thing.

I was surprised by Cleo’s reply and am pleasantly surprised with the article. The woman, Peta Melrose, 24, is unashamed that she’s never had sex. She stands her ground, not bowing to peer pressure, social expectations or pressure from guys to lose it.l find this very positive.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been so cynical, because they have done an article on asexuality before back in 2011, (I think), featuring blogger Johanna Qualmann. They let her tell her story. Unfortunately, no, the article didn’t go into romantic orientations, etc, not her fault, of course. Actually, it was the first time I actually saw asexuality being presented in mainstream media.

Invisible Orientation: An Introductoin To Asexuality Review – Part 2 ctd

Today, I’ll be talking about the section of the book “Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” by Julie Sondra Decker, continuing with Part 2.

After discussing the LGBT communities and discrimination, Decker talks about the asexual community and the diversity of ages in the group. Unfortunately, most data and forums that are available about asexuality are skewed to young people, probably mostly under 30. Some of these reasons might be obvious, like most of the discussion surrounding asexuality tends to happen online, something that many older people may not be involved in.

As Decker pointed out, young people have become somewhat more open about their sexuality than in the past, which in turn, has had younger people admitting or at the very least, realising that they may not experience any sexual attraction at all.

There is data to suggest that people are “coming out”, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, a lot younger than in the past. In the past, gay people didn’t come out until they left home and gained independence, around the age of 16. Today, teens and even preteens are identifying as LGBT and coming out much earlier. (I want to talk more about younger people coming out as asexual later).

The fact that asexual people who are more likely to be open about asexuality has its drawbacks; that people mistaken asexuality as a phase, something that people will “grow out of”, or will “change their mind on” once they have had sex. This is contrary to much research that indicates that many people experience  and start to work out their orientation in early to mid teens,either with or without sexual experience. http://www.case.edu/lgbt/resources/safe-zone-resources/truth/

Asexual teens and young adults can experience alienation from most of mainstream media and their peers, where sex and sexuality are often main talking points. I can relate to this personally, especially before I identified as asexual. I actually tried to avoid all conversations about sexuality at this time. That got frustrating and lonely. To be perfectly honest, Personal Development (or as it’s called in Australia, Personal Development/ Health and Physical Education or PDHPE) classes didn’t really help in Year 10 because of a no real talk about sexuality outside the gay/ straight binary, the assumption that everyone knew whether they were gay or straight by the age of fifteen (I didn’t) and no distinction made between sexual and romantic attraction. I didn’t get any real dismissive comments about my age, although some did say that I was still young. On the other hand, a lot of it was the opposite. Because I was sixteen at the time, I was expected to have worked out who I was and the fact that I hadn’t identified as gay by then (or before), some people just assumed I was straight. So, I was straight… and felt no attraction to men… yeah, it made perfect sense… not. Just to be clear, I don’t begrudge anyone about this. I come from a small town and went to high school in a small town (not the same one) and, as I’ve written before, the discussion about LGBT and the complexities of sexuality can be limited.

Just another point about teens. It can be particularly for adolescent boys to acknowledge their own lack of sexual attraction. Society bombards young men with the idea that men are supposed to be “full of testosterone” and “getting laid”. The stigma surrounding lack of sexual attraction can be stigmatised by both people who are straight and the gay community. So much of how masculinity is viewed is largely based on sexual performance or the desire to make sexual conquests. I can’t help but think that this can only lead to low self – esteem in young asexual men, and other problems.

There is a tragic paradox when it comes to older asexual people. On one hand, society likes to desexualise older people, yet older people who are asexual are often ignored. Children get “grossed out” if an older couple visibly displays affection or talk about sex. Conversely, older asexual people, especially women, are often looked down upon if they are not partnered by a certain age. Now, this is according to Decker. I know a few older people (who aren’t asexual to my knowledge), but they are single. I haven’t heard any negative comments about them. What does plague women though, especially over thirty, is the “ticking” of the biological clock. Women are told to hurry up and seek a partner/ spouse before it’s too late to have children. I find that annoying, to be honest. I get that it can be harder for older women (especially over 35) to fall pregnant, but just telling women to “hurry up” isn’t necessary going to help. And, what about men? Just saying. It takes two to tango, right? Then again, there are IVF, fostering, etc that is open to single women and same – sex couples in some States (I think NSW is one of them). Just putting it out there. I get that it’s often controversial. I’ve talked about both sides of the gay parenting/ adoption debate before.

Funnily enough, according to Decker, women in their 30’s who identify as asexual are often referred as “late bloomers”. No kidding? That’s late… except of course that as I pointed out before that sexual orientation is often (not always) discovered in the teenage years, including asexuality.

I just want ot talk about the desexualisation of older people. In aged care, it’s now expected that workers acknowledge the sexuality of their clients, including those who are LGBT. All community service workers are expected to acknowledge and respect the fact that elderly people are (often) sexual beings. It’s actually unlawful under anti – discrimination legislation to prevent couples to express affection to each other in aged care facilities. This includes same – sex couples. I hope that this doesn’t put undue pressure on people who don’t want to seek or engage in sexual activity or be partnered, regardless of whether they identify as asexual or not. I’m hoping that it’ll be discussed more in the future and, ultimately, respected.

 

There are asexual people who don’t, or didn’t realise they were asexual until after they married or entered long – term relationships. For these people, their lack of sexual attraction is pushed aside and there is a lot of compromise in the relationship; more than what would’ve happened if the asexual partner would’ve known or acknoweledged their asexuality. This has lead many people in long – term relationships to be frustraed and the asexual partner internalising harmful beliefs about them and the relationship. There does seem to be a very damaging perception that people “owe” sex to their partners (or anyone).

I get sex can be seen as an important part of a relationship to most people, but I think it’s gotten to the point where dangerous attitudes have been accepted by society, such as if a partner/ spouse doesn’t get sex, then the other partner deserves to be cheated on. I get that deliberately withholding sex in a relationship, especially out of spite is not the best idea, but the load shouldn’t all be on the asexual person either. Both parties should take part in voicing their needs and desires and work out individually what compromises can be made (if any). If a compromise can’t be met, then they may make the decision to break up. But it’s not up to everyone else to decide who should do what.

 

Asexual visibility is relatively new. It’s clear that the lack of visibilty and acceptance of asexual people has affected people across all age groups. Overtime, I hope this will improve (I’m quietly optimistic).

 

 

Equality: What Does It Mean?

Trigger Warning: violence, gender and sexuality discrimination. Proceed with caution if this is triggering for you.

The last couple of days have been about the campaign for equality. Last night, Sydney, NSW, celebrated the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. Like every year, the issues that come up surround the legalisation of gay marriage and other legal rights.

On Mamamia, Labor senator Penny Wong, herself a lesbian, wrote a post in the light of Mardi Gras about gay rights in Australia and how Australia falls short. She talked about, for example, the high instances of verbal and physical attacks gays and lesbians, specially young people, still face. I have written before that LGBT youth faced a much higher instance of bulling according to Youth Beyond Blue.

In late 2011, sister of conservative columnist, Andrew Bolt, Stephanie, wrote columns published in both Crikey and the Sydney Morning Herald about her wish for marriage equality to become legal in Australia. Her main reason? She argued that the marriage certificate made her feel more secure and validated (she’s married to her partner in Canada… at least she was at the time that the article was written). She too, faced violent attacks when she came out at 21.

To me, the issue goes beyond marriage, as I think these two examples point out (especially the Mamamia article). Whether we like to admit it or not, homophobia still exists. It’s still risky for gay people to reveal who thetpy are. Have we made progress? Yes, but we’ve. Still got a long way to go.

What about people who are bi? From what i’ve read, they seem to be attacked by both the gays and heterosexuals. I’ve been critical of how bisexual people are portrayed in the media, as do many people who identify as bi themselves. No, they don’t need to sleep with everyone they see! Stop fetishising them, (especially bi women), and turning who they are into nothing more than a porn movie! They just happen to be able to experience attraction to both men and women (well, usually). Deal with it! Same as pan sexuals and poly – sexuals are attracted to multiple genders (poly – sexuals aren’t attracted to all genders where as pan sexuals are just so we’re clear).

And finally, asexuals. I’ve said this again and again, first being believed would be nice (I’m talking for all asexuals here, not my experiences personally). I’d like there to come a point where discrimination and teasing of asexual people is frowned upon just as much as any other form of discriminatory behaviour. I’d love for all asexual women to be able to resist sexual advances without having their safety in jeopardy. I’d like for asexual men not to feel emasculated because of their asexuality. I’d like it for asexuals to not experience discrimination by health professionals (e.g. being treated like a ‘problem’ in relationship counselling.

So, yeah. We’ve come along way, for sure. Hopefully,we can go a little bit further so what I’ve written above can come true too.

What steps would you like to see takecplace as in LGBT+ rights?

My Own Experiences Writing About Asexuality

I’ve been writing this blog for a bit over a year and a half now. I don’t know what I intended to do when I started, create conversation, sort myself out… something like that. Now, my main aim for my blog (this one anyway), is to (hopefully) create more visibility on asexuality, how it relates to the society, discrimination against asexual and LGBT people and other topics.

As time goes on, I’m able to write, what I think about more controversial topics, for example like LGBT+ discrimination and the relationship between sexuality and Christianity. I’ve been able to do so without much problem… so far (my most controversial one to date was about a petition on change.org condemning a mental health organisation for “promoting and encouraging” homosexuality, which, I stated was, frankly ridiculous and I stated why).

Anyhow, I survived that. Lately, my big thing is to make sure that any links I try to post work. Also, I’m wary about making sure I’m careful when referring to other bloggers. One of my posts about asexuality and pop culture was a mess and I think I (unintentionally) caused offence. I try not to! Honest.

What about the future? I’ll keep blogging. I’ll put down anything that comes to my head. OK, that’s kind of a lie… I’ll post things that are in my head that I feel comfortable posting and something that will (hopefully) not cause World War 3!

Asexuality and Symbolism

Since I’ve been coming to terms with my asexuality and getting involved and researching the asexual community (mainly through Facebook), I”ve become acquainted with the symbolism that is often used to represent asexuality.

First, the flag. For anyone who hasn’t seen an asexual flag, it’s purple, black, white and grey. Here’s one for people who don’t know.

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Sometimes the flag features a purple triangle shaded with white, grey and black.

 

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If I remember correctly, I think the flag was voted by members of the Asexuality Visibility and Educatoin Network by members in early 2000’s.

 

Second popular symbol in the asexual community is the black ring, which is often placed on the middle finger, rather than the ring finger. Some people use this as an outward expression of their asexuality.

Thirdly, the last major symbol attributed to the asexual community is that of cake. I think this was also decided on AVEN by users. In a way, it creates an endearing and social aspect to online communities for people who may otherwise feel isolated due to their asexuality ( along with other factors usually).

I’ve thought about getting a black ring before, however, I’m not really a jewellery wearer, so in that respect, there’s probably little point for me to get one. It may be an interesting way to start discussoin though (if it ever came up). But other than that…. I really see no need for one personally.

I like the flag. I guess it’s sort of the equivalent to the rainbow flag usuallly attributed to the LGBT community. I’ve never really felt overly attached to the cake idea. Not that I don’t like cake, but, as a symbol, it’s never really grown on me, although I respect other people who do.

To members of the asexual community (or other communities), how do you relate to symbols often associated to your particular group? Do you embrace it or don’t you really care either way?

 

 

“Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” – Part 1 Review

Sorry it’s taken a while to get to this. This post is a continuation of reviews of the book “Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” by Julie Sondra Decker.

Part 1 basically gives a rundown on what asexuality is and what it isn’t. There is repeated emphasis that asexuality is an orientation: not something that can (or should) be ‘fixed’, the difference between asexuality and ‘purity’, that not all asexuals are religious (actually, I’ve queried on here before why so many asexuals are actually atheists). Also, she pointed out that asexuality should not be mistaken for asexual reproduction. Basically, to cut the rundown short, Decker wanted to emphasise that asexuality is an orientation. That’s it.

Just a note on trying to be ‘fixed’. It doesn’t work. The American Psychological Association, as well most other major organisations worldwide agree that any sort of effort to change one’s sexual orientation is futile at best to downright psychologically harmful at worst. In the latest version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there was a modification to deliberately separate asexuality from disorders like Hypo Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) and Sexual Arousal Disorder (SAD). Unfortunately, the medical industry as a whole hasn’t caught on (more on that on a later post).

She also talked about asexuality and gender identity. Most asexuals identify as cisgender. This busts the myth that people are asexual because of being intersex or transgender, thus, linking asexuality to hormone situations often linked to intersexuality and transgenderism. Yes, there are many self – identified asexuals who do identify as trans or intersex, but it’s not all of them (there’s a few trans – identified people in the Asexuality group I participate in on Facebook. While a number of them do identify as trans, or fit under a non gender – conforming identity (agender, gender – fluid, etc), most are cisgender.

Next myth that was busted in the book was the idea that asexuals are “anti – sex”. Many asexuals are sex – repulsed, but most respect the fact that other people enjoy sex and deem it an important part of their lives, even if the asexual doesn’t. Anti – sexual comments and almost a reverse – discrimination, of allosexual people is usually actually frowned upon in asexual circles. Unfortunately, I’ve read that this makes people who are sex – repulsed (which is apparently statistically speaking, the majority), feel alienated, even in asexual circles. But most asexuals do respect the right for others to have consensual, legal sexual interactions.

She talked about this and I’ll further emphasise it: asexuality is not a trend or phase (for most people; some people can and do experience fluidity – she cited Dr. Lisa Diamond when pointing this out). To call asexuality a “trend” is quite frankly, ridiculous. Like really, we’re 1% of the population! It is just the way some people are wired/ built or experienced their sexuality. That’s it. It’s also not a reflection of the person to not find a “suitable” partner/ spouse (I honestly hate it wne so much value is placed on people’s ability to find a partner and get married – more on that later). I’ll talk more about this later, but I find the sentiment about this both absurd and, frankly, quite damaging.

All asexuls can’t be placed in a pidgeon hole. Som asexuals want romance (I talked about romantic orientation here). Of course, there are other variations, which i won’t describe here because I feel that i’m in danger of summarising the whole book part, which is not my intent.

A plea to the allosexual community, both from Decker and myself. If someone discloses to you that they are asexual, please respect the person and believe them. This is so important. Coming to terms that you’re anything other than straight, including asexual, can be terrifying to admit to yourself let alone anyone else. Please take our word for it.