On Being An Asexual Stereotype

While I waited for my tea to brew this morning I was thinking about the stereotypes surrounding asexuality, and how many apply to me. I don’t know what prompted the thought but I was interested to see exactly what stereotypes are out there and how many I fit. Doing a quick google search and looking at several different threads gave some common things that asexuals supposedly do, of which 10 are listed here, in no particular order.

Drink a lot of tea

I guess this also ties into the British stereotype, but I drink a heck of a lot of tea. A variety of types, not just black tea- there are 10 different types in my cupboard right now. That doesn’t mean that every asexual out there does the same- and many of my friends, both straight and LGBTQ+ also consume vast quantities of tea.

Love dragons

Who doesn’t love dragons? There must be a reason that dinosaurs and dragons are so popular in fiction, and I think that’s because giant lizards would be freaking cool. They’re one of the most iconic fantasy creatures along with unicorns, it seems a bit of a stretch to say that only asexual people love them. Also the ability to fly and breathe fire? Wow.

Watch Sherlock and Doctor Who

Guilty as charged. I haven’t watched Doctor Who for years so I can’t comment on why thats linked to an ace identity, but Sherlock? Do other people think we’re sociopaths and that’s why we enjoy the show? I think its far more reasonable to assume that asexuals relate to the side of the detective that shows little to no interest in relationships than the cold, logical side.

Generally nerdy

This ties in to the above stereotypes. Asexuals are seen as kids, or immature. It’s seen as a phase, something that will obviously disappear when a person grows up. I’m a nerd and proud, and it has nothing to do with my orientation.

Love pizza and cake

I think this originated from Tumblr, with a comment about how someone would prefer pizza/cake to sex. I’m a sucker for both, but so are most people I know. I guess thats how stereotypes work though, certain things stick to certain groups.

Spend a lot of time on the internet

I spend a lot of my time on the internet. This assumption is probably tied into the kind of comments that claim that peoples’ identities are fake because they found them on the internet. That they’re trying to be a special snowflake. Just because somebody found a word that describes themselves online doesn’t make it any less valid.

Psychopath

This is hurtful. Is this because sex is seen as a universal human need, and thus anyone who doesn’t feel sexual attraction is somehow less of a human? Asexuals aren’t monsters. We have feelings.

Have no emotions/are a robot

We’re not all Mr Spock. This is a conflation of sexual and romantic attraction, but it is perfectly possible to feel one without the other. Also, if a person doesn’t happen to feel romantic love it doesn’t make them a robot. There are plenty of other emotions out there. Emotions can be hard for anybody, regardless of gender or orientation. Most of my family have real problems expressing emotions, does that mean we’re all ace?

Are just a closeted gay

I don’t understand this one? Why would a closeted gay say they’re asexual? It could potentially relieve pressure from friends or family to find a partner, but other than that I don’t see much of  a benefit to claiming this label if it doesn’t fit you. It just feels like another way to claim that asexual people don’t exist to me.

Just haven’t had sex yet

And last but not least, this old chestnut. I’ve received the suggestion several times that once I find the right person I’ll change my mind. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. Also asexual people can be sexually active, its about attraction, not action.

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I fit 7/10 of these. On a quiz that would probably give me a result of Mostly Asexual.

Connecting With Words

I don’t know if there’s a word for the feeling you get when you hear a word for the first time and for some reason it feels like home. Something that you connect with instantly. I’ve experienced this feeling a handful of times but often initially rejected the word that speaks to me.

The first time I was probably about 8, sat in the school hall for assembly. The headteacher (or whoever was talking) was reading a poem or story or something and mentioned the mythical Griffin. The description that followed captured my heart and to this day if someone asks me for my favourite mythical creature my instant reply is that of the half-eagle half-lion. I can still picture the initial mental image that I had of the beast flying, and the joy that it gave me. It’s a strange example, but its the first time that a word really resonated with me and claimed a place in my heart.

Another time was coming across the word ‘asexual’ on tumblr. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, only that I became aware of the concept and immediately started reading more and questioning whether this was me. I rejected the label for a good few months because it just didn’t feel like I was feeling anything different to anyone else. I find it easy to talk yourself out of asexuality, easy to dismiss yourself.

The same denial process happened when I came across the word ‘transmasculine’. It was a similar situation, coming across the term along with the definition and how transmasculine is different to transman. Instantly I was intrigued. I felt like this was something I wanted to know more about, so I did some reading before deciding it wasn’t me. The concept stayed with me though for almost a year as I started to become more and more uncomfortable with my assigned gender, until I revisited it and it felt like a warm hug.Looking back its strange to me that I didn’t take the label right away, but its a process and I think the fact that my labels spoke to me long before I incorporated them into my identity says a lot.

I feel like there’s probably a word out there, maybe not in English but in some other language for the concept of connecting with a word instantly. And thats why labels are important.

Joining the Ace Community

Written for the October 2016 Carnival of Aces

As I mentioned in my previous post for the carnival, it took me a long time to start identifying with the label of Asexual after the first time I came across the term. Seeing as I mostly covered my journey to identification in that post, I think I’ll cover my thoughts and experiences with the community in this one.

It’s getting pretty close to 3 years since I took the label as my own, wow time flies. My first experiences were on tumblr, probably around Ace Awareness Week looking back on it. I just remember a whole lot of validation posts being reblogged by the people I was following. This in turn led me to do further research until I gradually ended up following several ace people and feeling a connection to them when they made comments, either on posts or in the tags, about being ace- although I never spoke to them. Reblogging ace-positive content was my way of being a part of the community even though I didn’t know anybody.

When the Ace Penpal Project was started I watched from the sidelines, being too nervous talking to people (and having an incredible inability to hold a conversation). I think it took a good few months before I actually put my name down and was matched with a fellow ace person. She was lovely, we chatted, but like all of my online conversations it tailed off after a month or so which was a shame. But I mean, we didn’t have a lot in common so it makes sense. I think that’s the problem with being matched with someone at random, but it was a nice experience.

Shortly after (for unrelated reasons) I mostly stopped using tumblr and started spending more time on WordPress where I came across other members of the community, those who were writing about their experiences which felt extremely validating to me- more so than short posts on tumblr telling me I was valid- and was part of the reason I started this blog in order to do the same for other people.

Until recently I hadn’t met any openly ace people in person, until my aunt came out to me a while ago and one of my friends recently updated their tumblr profile (something that I’d had a feeling about for a while based on the way that they seemed very uncomfortable when sex was mentioned like I did).

I don’t think I really feel like I am part of the community, I just identify the same way as other people who are. To me, being a part of the ace community is about self-validation and pride. About finding a group of people who have similar experiences to me and knowing that if I ever need to vent there’ll be someone there who gets it (because as much as my non-ace friends can offer words of comfort its not the same). And even though I feel like I’m right on the edge of the community, its where I want to be.

Naming It

Written for the August 2016 Carnival of Aces.

This month’s topic is based around names and terms used within the ace community to describe our experiences. I can’t remember the first time I came across the word ‘Asexual’, partly because it took me so darn long to actually start identifying with it. Until then, I hadn’t even considered the fact that what I was feeling was different to most peoples’ experiences. But now it’s like a warm blanket, or a shield. Something that comforts and protects me (even if I don’t tell people. It’s a kind of internal reassurance I guess).

When it did finally click that maybe the word asexual actually fitted my experiences it was a weird moment. It took several months between my first exposure to the community on tumblr and me deciding that yes, this was me. In the process of deliberation, I ended up delving deep into the terminology used by other asexuals- learning that romantic attraction is not inherently the same as sexual attraction for instance, or that asexuality is a spectrum with so many identities under the umbrella (some of which I’m still discovering now- whether that’s because they’ve just been named or I’ve only just been exposed to it is something I’m unsure about).

And that’s another thing. Exposure.

I think that part of the reason it took me so long to start identifying as Asexual was because it seemed like some kind of made up thing. Something that seemed so obscure, and surely it was just aimed at the people like me who’d never been in a relationship, right? The awkward kids, giving us an excuse to not have a partner.

The other day I was with my aunt, both of us scrolling through social media. She reached a post of different flags and pointed out the asexual one, saying that that was her. Then she misread aromantic as aromatic and was confused, what was this? So after I’d explained that within the community there’s often a distinction made between sexual and romantic attraction- you don’t need to feel neither- and that this has a name, she looked stunned. That’s the power of names. They can work in one of two ways: you come across one that doesn’t fit your experience and are enlightened as to how your experiences differ from other peoples; or you come across a name, term or definition that you click with.

Names have the power to easily convey to others the way you feel, to differentiate between similar but different experiences, to find other people who also connect with this word. If nothing else, names give you something to type into google when you think this word might be you but you’re not quite sure yet. And I think that’s pretty cool.

“Just a Phase”

Today I went into town with my friends to run some errands and we stopped to get a coffee. I’m not entirely sure how we got onto the subject of phases, all I remember of the conversation prior to this was us talking about what we’ve actually got from our degrees.

My friend who was sat opposite me started talking about how phases shouldn’t be disregarded and are just as much a part of a person as a constant trait. That yes, sexuality or gender may be a phase but its real at that time and whether it is a phase lasting 6 weeks or 60 years its still a valid part of someone’s life. Putting the word ‘just’ in front of it belittles it and makes it into something trivial. Using the word ‘phase’ suggests its temporary and therefore unimportant. We came to the conclusion that people are scared of change and want everything to stay constant which is why it the idea of people being fluid is hard to accept- it makes it harder to put people into a neatly defined box. That this is probably why so many people dismiss others’ experiences as “just a phase”.

“It’s not a phase, it’s who I am” has become something of an internet meme, usually said in a sarcastic tone to joke about a controversial appearance or choice [example: I used it when my hair was an absolute mess the other day and my friend commented on it]. But I feel that phases should be taken more seriously, nobody is the same person now as they were in the past.

I was a child once, now I’m an adult. Nobody tells me I was lying then, or that I’m lying now. Everyone just accepts that it was a part of my history and I’ve changed. It would be ridiculous of them to assume that me being an adult is only temporary and I’ll actually turn out to be a child all along. So why do it with other aspects of peoples’ identities?

Phases define who people are. A passing interest may be outgrown, or may be pursued. Trials with different labels may help people find the one that truly fits them. They may go back to their original. And that’s OK. Experimentation and fluidity of identities should be accepted because people grow. People change. And they’re allowed to change back.

Being Validated While Revising

In the process of reading scientific papers for my Human Behavioural Ecology module this term, I came across an absolute gem by G.A. Schuiling*. Its a personal view so is written in a much less formal style than most papers and is a collection of the existing research interspersed with Schuiling’s comments and opinions. One of my favourite sections of the paper is the paragraph:

Almost every aspect of human culture and indeed of man’s daily life emphasizes the fact that, for humans, reproduction is the raison d’etre; we are thoroughly sexual beings. Literature from ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ to pulp novels and soap operas; art, both in the Vatican and in avant garde galleries; advertisement; music (from operas like Orfeo & Euridice and Le Nozze di Figaro to most pop songs): literally everything is pervaded with sexual images.

Asexual people often make the comment that sex is everywhere, and its nice to have it pointed out from a scientific point of view, even in passing- it feels validating, in a way.

(Sorry for the short post and not posting in a while, life is hectic at the moment with dissertation and exam revision. I have a load of ideas for when I have time to write again though!)

* G.A. Schuiling (2003) The benefit and the doubt: why monogamy? Journal of Psychosomatic Obsetrics & Gynecology, 24:1, 55-61

I’m Hidden But That’s Fine With Me

Written for the April 2016 Carnival of Aces.

This month’s topic is “Be yourself (but stretch)” which is really interesting and it’s made me think about how I see and change my behaviour in everyday life in relation to my asexuality which..isn’t much to be honest.

I think I’m pretty much myself, I don’t change my behaviour a lot depending on who I’m with. Only my close friends know that I’m ace but it doesn’t really affect anything- its a pretty neutral friend group where sex isn’t all that essential to conversations. I mean, having my housemates commenting on characters being ‘hot’ and making lewd comments or talking about how they think of sex a lot and I’m like ‘really?’ can sometimes make me feel out of place, like I’m missing out on something.If I make any comment on how I don’t experience that kind of thing they tend to say things along the lines of ‘well of course you don’t’ which…I don’t know. On the one hand it’s reassuring, at least they get that I see things differently. On the other hand it feels kind of…like pity? Or them doing their best to accommodate me?

Not being out to my family can be tough at family gatherings, but I find that just shrugging off questions about having a partner and saying I’m not interested tends to work pretty well. I think having my sister there most of the time helps, the person asking then has somebody else to direct their question at. I’m not sure if I’ll come out at all, it doesn’t really have a major impact on my life because I’m not often in directly sexual/confrontational situations and I’d rather not invite interrogation.

If I need to reaffirm my ace identity, I tend to put on my ace beanie that my friend knitted for me, or wrap myself in my ace scarf. Social media is pretty good too, there are certain blogs and pages that are very comforting to visit if I’m not feeling great.

Overall, being invisible and being myself seem to roughly equate to the same thing so I don’t really need to stretch that much, but that may all change in the future when I’m no longer in education and I’m in the Real World.