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).

 

 

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Is Singleness Genetic Or A Choice?

An article in Britain’s Mail  Online has done an article about a supposed study that suggests that singleness may be at least partly genetic. The theory is that certain genes affect serotonin levels affects how you bond with others and find a partner. I’ve read some Facebook comments of people who are skeptical. But my view is maybe, just MAYBE these scientists may have somewhat of a point. Let me explain.

OK, firstly, I’m a firm believer that attraction, sexual or romantic is at least largely, is not a choice. I do believe that people’s attraction (or even platonic to a degree), can come out of the blue. I also believe that biology does play a large part of whether or not someone is attracted to someone.

The article did acknowledge, however that .environment does also play a part and that genetics are not exclusively responsible. In actual fact, people in the study who did supposedly lack serotonin were only were only 20% less likely to find a partner. There was something about attractiveness in the article and how that plays a part, but I didn’t really look at closely.

So, what do you think?

“Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality” Review Part 2 Ctd

I’m back to write the second review for Part 2 of the book (or ibook in my case), of “Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuailty” by Julie Sondra Decker.

In the post where I last talked about this, I got to the part about different types of relationships that asexual people are involved in and the role they play in their lives, including romantic relationships and attraction.

Next, she goes on to talk about libido and masturbation. It’s an embarrasing question that many asexual people get asked. Any answer  that the asexual people gives seems to backfire on the individual. So, if you really want to know – do they? Simple answer: some do – some don’t. “Why?”, might you ask. Many different reasons: comfort, libido’s high at certain types of month/ day, curiosity, etc. Many asexual people wouldn’t relate it to sex. Even those who fantasise about certain erotic situations find themselves separated from such fantasies and has no bearing on their attraction or desire.

I’ll add to, that for women, the endorphins released through self – stimulation can help soothe period pain. In both males and females, self – stimulation can be done out of curiosity. It’s actually documented that children use self – stimulation by the time they reach primary school. The reason is mainly curiosity and the exploration of one’s own body. This, obviously, has absolutely NOTHING to do with sex or sexual attraction.

She briefly talked about other asexuals who experience no libido or desire to self – stimulate at all (often called non – libidoists). The discussion in the book was very short in my opinion, compared to other topics. Not a criticism as such, just an observation I made last night. Anyone else notice this? What’s your thoughts?

 

Asexual people, as she wrote in the book, can and sometimes do participate in sexual activity with a partner (or partners). Like with anything else, reasons can vary from person to person, but a major reason is the satisfaction for a non – asexual partner. Most asexuals can do this and some are willing to, depending on their attitude toward sex itself. Some are like the sensations, some tolerate it, however, some are completely or largely repulsed by it (a lot of survey results tend to point out that a fair percentage of asexual people do describe themselves as “sex – repulsed”. So, whether sex will be a part of a relationship, I guess, depends largely on the atttitudes each party has toward sex itself and whether it can be tolerated. Decker did argue that relationships without sex can work, with the right communication and honesty from both partners.

Some asexuals are fine practising non – monogamy with a partner so they can both get their needs met. Some practice non – monogamy because they don’t favour traditional monogamous relationships (is that a form of relationship anarchy?). Of course, non – monogamy isn’t trouble – free and anyone, regardless of orientaion should be careful when entering such an arrangement.

Just a note: interestingly, (well, I think so anyway), there has been an overall backlash against non – monogamy in society, with the recent Australian sex survey indicating that over 90% of partakers in the survey expected monogamy and faithfulness from both themselves and their partners. However there are people who completely reject the whole monogamy structure, most notoably sex advice columnist, Dan Savage, who admitted that he and his spouse don’t practice monogamy. However, that really doesn’t seem to be the mainstream anymore. Anyway, back to Decker, as usual, communication is key in this area. Could I participate in this myself? I always thought that if I was ever to enter a relationship, it’ll be monogamous. Rest assured, I don’t condemn anyone who does practice non – monogamy, it’s just my preference.

Next, Decker talked about kink and fetish. Now, personally, I have no experience or real knowledge in the area, however, according to Decker, a small minority of asexuals have fetishes and are happy to be involved in roleplay and Bondage, Discipline and Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM). For anybody who participates in such activities, particularly in a group context, sexual attraction can be seen as irrelevant. Asexual people (and anyone else for that matter), can practice BDSM simply because they enjoy the psychological thrill of the experience. There are asexual – friendly kink/ festish communities, particularly online. Major site Fetlife.com to their credit, has specific asexual – friendly areas in which asexual people are free to participate and explore the world of kink/ fetish.

Last two things I’ll talk about in this post explored in the book was to do with grey areas of sexuality, in particular, grey – sexuality. Most people acknowledge that sexuality isn’t always black and white. Studies attributed to Alfred C Kinsey back in the 1930’s  argued that sexuality for allosexual people isn’t always as simple as gay or straight. More recently, researcher Lisa M Diamond from the University of Utah have found that, particularly women’s sexuality can be more complicated than just “gay” or “straight” and can even be fluid overtime. Greysexuality isn’t necessarily about fluidity (although there are asexual people that cand their sexuality to be fluid). Greysexuality is more about bieng on the spectrum between asexual or non – asexual, with most relating to asexuailty than allosexuality. People who identify as greysexual can fall into a number of categories, including:

  • People who feel weak sexual attraction
  • People who go through phases of being asexual than allosexual
  • Peple who are confused about where they fit
  • People who get caught up in desire with their partners, but it’s not an intrinsic part of their overall experiences
  • People who only experience sexual attraction to a very small number of people
  • Experience attraction without physical response
  • People who find others to be attractive, but deliberately don’t pursue them

Note: These aren’t necessarily exlusive to asexual people and some find labels to be totally irrelevant.

The last thing I’ll talk about in this post is demisexuality. A demisexual perosn is someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction to others immediately. It’s often a secondary attraction rather than primary attraction. They never experience attraction to a stranger, celebrity, etc. An emotional bond always comes first for a demisexual individual.

(This is what i found interesting), many demisexual people can still be attracted to certain physical characteristics in a person, however, only on people they are close to on an amotional level. So, for example, a demisexual man might find women with dark long  hair attractive however, they’ll never experience attraction to someone, like say, Katy Perry. It’ll always be someone that they know personally and whom they have an emotional connection with. I always wondered what role physical characteristics play in asexual (or demisexual’s) attraction to others.

That’s it for this post. Sometime next week (hopefully), I’ll conclude Part 2 of the book.

 

 

“The Invisible Orientation – An Introduction to Asexuality Review – Introduction

In the “Introduction” of the book, “The Invisible Orientation – An Introduction to Asexuality” ,author Julie Sondra Decker tells her own story of how she never felt sexual attraction, even when she tried to date in high school. She terms herself “non sexual” after her second relationship failed.

I found this part quite empowering actually. She goes on to say that she decided after the failure of her second relationship that she was non – sexual (hadn’t heard the term asexual yet), and was determined to own her own feelings and let HER tell how she felt and not others. This part was so empowering and great to read! And someone who would’ve been so young at the time, I find even more inspiring.

One fact that I did relate to was, after reallising that she wasn’t sexually attracted to anyohne, was the alienation she felt from her peers. I truly get that. It can be isolating, espoecially when you can’t put a label on why. Or just the pure fear that you might be rejected.

Frankly, I was shocked about some of the “concerned comments” she said she recieved. Personally, I found them quite mean. They included:

“That’s not normal. You need to get checked out” (not too bad, ill – informed, yes, but not too nasty)

“You’re never going to be happy” (Ill – informed, quite unnecessary. Deliberately mean? Maybe not)

“I can fix you. I can help you”. (Well, for one, no one can “fix” something that isn’t broken and also, I think that can come off as quite a dangerous comment).

“You’re going to die alone with a house full of cats” (How rude!)

“Shut up and admit you’re gay” (This one hits me. I honestly believe that no one as a right ot “accuse” anyone of being gay, no matter what.

“Why is it such a big deal to try sex?  (Why is it a big deal NOT to?)

I’m glad for her that she obviously wasn’t too phased by these comments, and I commend her for being so strong. But I do find that some of these comments are offensive and can be very hurtful for someone who isn’t so strong and thus, such comments, I believe, shouldn’t be encouraged. LIke she herself said:

If eveyrone treats you like you’re broken, you may evenutually crack

I believe that to be true. The comments above, to me portay, yes that there is (or at least has been) a lack of awareness aboiut asexuality until recently (especially since the making of AVEN (Asexuality Visibility and Education Network) by David Jay in 2001. I also can’t help but think that asexual people do face treatment that would be at least widely criticised if it was aimed at another group of people. It would be nice if ALL discrimination and rudeness toward people was all equally condemned, that’s all I’m saying (asexual people aren’t the only ones to face such issues, I may talk more about that in another post).

 

She explained why the book was written; to put simply – to infom people asexuals (or suspected asexuals) and non – aces alike. Good move. Everyone could benefit from at least having a brief understanding of what asexuality is (and what it isn’t… something she did explain very well also).

I’ve been enjoying the iBook so far. It’s been a really good read. Next post I’m hoping to talk about “Part 1”. Watch this space!