Growing Up Ace: First Lessons In Transaction Sexuality

I’d be willing to wager that phrasing makes you think of sex work, and while that is one type of transaction, it’s definitely not the first I learned. The first example of this for me was in the animated Aladdin. I can still picture Jasmine in the red outfit, flipping a switching and beaconing the bad guy with a come hither tone of voice.

That is my first memory knowing that sexuality, particularly women’s asexuality, was something that was not so much felt, but offered. The next time I saw this type of behavior was a Stargate SG-1 episode where the men were chemically seduced by Hathor. The women were locked up since they are unable to be controlled in this fashion, hick up their shirts and get their flirt on with the male guards.

Science fiction is a common offender of this trope, which says fair reaching things about the assumed submission of women to men, and how men are slaves to their urges.

But today, I’d like to highlight how these examples teach aces that sexual behavior is something offered in exchange for something. This is a wildly dangerous situation when aces date simply because a friend is needed, or when aces have sex because protection is wanted. These events are at times consensual, but are transactional in a less obvious way than sex work.

For aces in particular, depictions of Jasmine’s red outfit inspired sexuality, or Stargate’s flirt ploy, can dangerously misinform aces about how to navigate the topic. Women’s sexuality is displayed as a weapon towards men, and one that far to easily can turned against us. A weapon not of our own consumption, and not for our own empowerment.

And without feeling earnest sexual attraction we have less of a chance to make course corrections into situations that make us feel respected.

While this article does not paint a complete picture of all the reasons aces might have sex, but it does ask for a growing awareness that the behavior of aces, and many other groups, are the result of simply trying to survive in a world where compulsory sexuality and amatonormaity are demanded.

And acknowledgment that aces face this, that women face this, that anyone may face this, might be able to keep our sexualities from feeling as if they were for sale to the hetro-patriarchy.

My Community, ‘Tis of Thee

I wish I could quickly explain that “community spaces” are not geological territories based on land. The idea that queer people will abuse each other over this concept of a club that has no physical barriers is mine numbingly incorrect.

This dream of fully protecting a community from outsiders that would do it harm is a false one. “I want the lgbtq community safe from people who have a privilege” is nobel, but flawed.

We don’t kick cis people out because there’s trans people in the community. We don’t kick white people out because there’s people of color in the community. We don’t kick abled people out because they’re disabled people in the community.

And this idea that we can even kick people out, at all, is a false one. Our communities are multiple communities, ranging in physical location, online platforms, and the idea of human categorization itself.

You can keep your interactions with the people you deal with as safe as you believe. Measured by whatever metric you believe in. But it is impossible to wholesale protect the community from all harm because you are not all knowing, all present, or responsible for anyone besides yourself.

Exclusion does not only fail because asexual‘s are inherently targeted by hetronormality. Exclusion fails because we are not one community, but the many. Liberation is not won on a single front. We are, and it is, endless.

You can no more protect the community and the people with in it from harm than a parent can protect their child from harm. All you can do is be a loving environment in yourself and teach what you know so your child may protect themselves with or without your presence.

We never should never fool ourselves into thinking this is a country. There’s no authority, we are all equal, and while that makes organization harder at times it’s a constant reminder of all own worth.

#BelieveAces Part 3: On asexuality, abuse, and gender

Final thoughts for the #BelieveAces series:

I was talking with someone the other day, and we were having a very frank conversation about the abuse we faced in life. Awful things that got us targeted because we were both asexual. And this person kept saying things like, “you’re a girl, you get it”. A bunch of times. And this article holds no ill will or blame because I didn’t correct them for it. For a curious reason I’d like to explain.

Now this is based on my personal interactions with cis women. Trans people have every right to completely halt a conversation until they are properly seen. For me, I’ll sometimes allow it because these situations always show my ever fraying connection to “womanhood”, whatever that means. And makes me realize that whatever it does mean, I don’t feel it in such a literal way.

Interactions where I can nod along and agree to “I was targeted by men because I am asexual.” Are common. Let me say that first. They are so jarringly common that opening our ask box can be triggering. But the point I want to make is times when I am able to nod along, and say this is shared abuse because we were seen as women who were unavailable. That’s really the only connection to womanhood I do feel. But trauma bonding is not gender.

So often bigots want to excuse abuse faced by asexuals as simply the abuse of women, and it’s such a dismissive thing because multiple genders are being ignored. My ability to say “Being asexual made me a target” is honestly the only detail I like sharing. And by hearing cis women say the same thing is validating in a way. I get told often that any aggression I face is misdirected. But by listening to others stories reaffirms my own ability to clearly describe my own experiences and what caused it.

As a society we don’t listen to abuse victims, and when it comes to aces even less so. Same with trans stories. Because identity is treated as an excuse for detractors, not a factor. My assumed in-availability towards sexually entitled men connects me to women, and connects me to lesbians, and connects me to aces of all genders. 

While we all should be more aware not to assume gender of those we are talking too, I don’t really find this empathic reaction as a complete failure. Instead it should be a reminder that we are all people. All living in this society that only views us as binary and straight. 

– Roses from a digital typewriter

Social Justice—what now?

Satire is an interesting beast.

When The Colbert Report was on most people understood that it was all satire. Airing on Comedy Central proved it was a joke.

But these days, it seems like a lot of people get news from these sort of shows, and there’s more than ever.  I remember when The Colbert Report had a running “gag” that he couldn’t see color. I’m not going to get into why color blindness is bad if you don’t know I’d check out MTV’s video on the matter.  The point is, if you aren’t in on the joke, satire can support what you are making fun of.

As movements and societal trends grow the misuse of those successful tactics also grows. Thus more satire is often created. Which cycles back to the problem of satire supporting what you don’t want.

This phenomenon has a name: Poe’s law. Which follows, “without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, parodies of extreme views will be mistaken by some readers as sincere expressions of the parodied views.”

The story it was named when Nathan Poe wrote an article and then added a winky face at the end and a commenter replied, “Good thing you included the winky. Otherwise people might think you are serious.” When watching comedy favored news you at least have tone as an indicator of intent. But when you read this article or tweet the writer can’t control what tone your inner voice uses. This becomes a real problem when speaking to an online audience.

It’s not that social justice has run amok and therefore should be tossed out. It isn’t that people have become too politically correct, or too easily offended. It’s that we all learn at different rates and times. My experience of working daily with certain activist groups means I’ll see things that it could take months for you to see, or years for someone who doesn’t spend their life on the internet. And you could learn just as many new and different things in some other circle. This isn’t to fault anyone. Merely point out that we aren’t more divided than ever, we are more interconnected than ever.

“A wise man knows that he knows nothing.” I heard that as a kid, and as I think about the internet and interconnectivity, the age of the quote stands out to me. Socrates first said it in B.C. times. Just consider for a moment how nearing timeless that philosophy was.

If we want progress we have to build on the past. But, each person has to learn from a starting point of zero. So jokes and methodology will get misused or misunderstood. We mustn’t think that a minority group is just now speaking out, when in reality they have been fighting the whole time. Far too often nothing gets done because we are missing the frame of reference. But maybe we don’t have to know everything if we can simply admit we don’t.

What A Joke

I’m going to talk about strong writing today, but first, I have a joke for you. So a white comedian walks into a bar. He steps on the stage and says: Racism! The racists and white allys™ laugh, no one else does. In the news that night, the white comedian is applauded for his progressiveness.

I first heard of this idea when watching a documentary. I forget what it was, but it stated that if a comedian tells a racist joke that everyone in the audience laughs. Those who aren’t racist, understand the context and that it was “just a joke”. But the racist in the room hears everyone is laughing and believes everyone thinks the same as them. And why not? Everyone is having fun right now. Right??

A lesson from my favorite editor is that words have a weight on the page. I don’t mean socially, I mean for readability. If you can say something in fewer words and still convey your meaning you’ve done your job. You actually don’t need much more advice because that one suggestion covers a lot of it.

Which brings me to my point today. To have strong and diverse writing you can’t just say haha racism! And leave it as that, because the people experiencing it don’t find it funny. Nor do LGBT+ people when they are included, but killed off or made the joke. Nor do rape victims when they have to explain to you why something is bad, because haha rape sucks, obviously? Oh, that didn’t come off on screen that way? Oh well, there’s no more time! 

Mirroring a trope is not changing the trope. It is not calling out the trope. And we as writers, cannot assume we are better or greater than every writer who has done it before. If you are going to have homophobia, or racism, or sexism, etc in your narrative you need to not only spend the time and words on that, but also the time to draw a huge circle around it with shining lights that flash bad, bad, bad.

I see so many TV shows lately getting applauded, and congratulated for “facilitating the discussion” when in reality the show didn’t do anything. These “discussions” have been happening for centuries. And while I can’t stop TV studios from doing these things, I can tell you that strong writing comes from the puzzle you assembled. Not the pieces laid out so your readers can collectively put together.

Nor as consumers, should we agree that they are doing anything remarkable either. That’s a lie we tell ourselves to make enjoying something that would otherwise hurt our conscience.

And as writers, let’s do this soon, because the people hurting the most aren’t laughing.