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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » TOWN HALL » Scarleteen's Ed Stead » Finding ways to make sex ed work with asexuality (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Finding ways to make sex ed work with asexuality
Heather
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So, since this came up today on Twitter and was a bit of the impetus for my asking if folks wanted a forum like this, seems a sound thing to gab about here.

In a word, I'm often a little challenged with talking about asexuality and serving asexual people well in a few different ways:

1) We've had a couple asexual people write in and ask if we could make sure we're including asexuality more often than we do in things. The thing is, I'm not sure how to do that. In so, so many of our pieces, and our core values, we make clear sexuality is a spectrum, and that sex is something that can be VERY broadly defined, including things like, for instance, someone whose sex life doesn't include anything genital.

As well, it feels a little tricky to make this work in/for a site and org that is about sex education, kind of like, I suppose -- or it seems like, anyway, I may not be thinking this through clearly -- it would be tough for a site that's about meat to be very inclusive for vegans. Does that make sense?

2) Because our definition of sex is so broad, I find it often collides with some ways asexuality or asexual identity is defined. For instance, for someone IDing as asexual, or defining asexuality, in a way that includes masturbation or BDSM and doesn't call those things sexual, I've got a conflict since many of our users who are sexual -- and our own definitions of sex -- call those things sexual. For those who ID as asexual and mean only PIV intercourse, that's a conflict with the vast number of sexual people whose sex lives don't include that by virtue of their sexual orientation or things like health conditions or disabilities which take PIV off the table.

3) The last place where I feel challenged is with asexual people who feel strong aversions to discussions about sex and sexuality. I have absolutely no idea how we can serve people in that spot on a site that...well, is about sex and sexuality.

These are just my broadest thoughts on all of this, my starting points. Would love to talk about them with others.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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loststone
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Hi Heather.

Hopefully I can be of some help... (I don't know what the original talk was, should really get twitter)

1)
I can totally see where you're metaphor's coming from; but I think it's a bit more complicated than that. So if I can extend/destroy the metaphor I'd say the experience of being asexual is more like; the world is/seems obsessed with meat, everyone just assumes that you love meat, people spend lots of time talking about meat and eating meat. But you don't want to. Under those circumstances, a website that talks about people's different tastes in meat, discusses how and why people like different meats, cooked in different ways, how some people only like red meat, but some people don't; seems like the only place a discussion which includes the possibility of not liking meat at all could occur. If that makes any sense? (vegetarian here, meat knowledge limited => creating metaphor is difficult)

So, going onto more practical things. I actually think Scarleteen does this pretty well. I personally have found here to be helpful in affirming my identity. I guess maybe the word asexual isn't used as much as I think maybe it applies (for example, I feel like maybe I read "some people don't want to have sex" more than "some people don't want to have sex, and they might identify as asexual") but, I honestly don't think there is much of a problem in terms of acknowledging the existence of asexuality.

Maybe what people are getting at is that they feel left out if they are asexuals who do have sex? And I can see that, because a lot of what you talk about here is about enthusiastic consent, and so you talk about desire a lot. And so, asexuals who choose to have sex, but aren't feeling sexual desire; might well feel a bit left out by that. I'm not sure how much can be done about that, because obviously you're facing an uphill battle in saying "hey guys, sex is only really consensual if everyone involved REALLY wants to have sex" and getting female desire in the picture at all. I guess maybe talking about how wanting/desiring sex doesn't necessarily have to be about sexual desire? But then, that creates lots of problems for sexual people because acknowledging the importance of sexual desire (particularly female sexual desire) is really important. I think what I'm trying to say is, some people think asexuals can't enthusiastically consent (usually, in my experience only obviously, because a) they don't really understand enthusiastic consent or b) they want to be able to consent to sex when they don't really want to have it).

I don't know whether that has been helpful at all. There is this concept in the asexual community of "compromise sex", do you know much about it? It's pretty much asexuals who have sexual partners having sex with them.

(personally, I find the concept really disturbing, I mean, you want sex or you don't right? And if you want sex, that's not a compromise. And if you don't want sex, that's not a compromise. That sums by opinion up very fast, I wrote an article about it if you're interested/it would be helpful?)

2)
I honestly don't know many asexuals who don't go by the standard definition of "an asexual is someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction". So, under that model, an asexual person can masturbate (which, of course is a sexual thing) because sexual attraction isn't involved. Or, an asexual can be into BDSM, because they a) don't experience sexual feelings from it and/or b) they're still not sexually attracted to anyone else involved.

But I can, again, see the problem. Firstly if we're using the word sexual to mean several things, like both "experiencing sexual attraction" and "activities which are/can be sexual in nature", that clearly provides problems. Secondly, because a lot of how people in the asexual community define sexual attraction is very personal, that makes "what is a sexual activity?" into a personal question, rather than the broad definition like you have here. (say, asexuals are pretty split on whether kissing "counts" as sexual) I'm not really sure what the answers are here, but I think a resolution is possible. I think it would be possible to say "some people have sex that consists only of back massages" AND "some people have back massages that aren't sex". Because back massages CAN be sexual, but they don't have to be.

3) On this one, I'm not sure there's much that can be said other than "you are not broken, it is okay to not want sex, and to not want to talk about sex, here is some info on asexuality".

I hope that's been helpful, I'm not sure I really answered any of your questions...

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Heather
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No, no, this is all really great, cheers! I'm going to have another read-through of all you've said, then come back and talk some more about what you've brought up. I'd love it if you're up for engaging more with me on this.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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loststone
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Awesome [Smile] Yeah, I'm definitely up for discussing this more!
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Heather
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So, one thing you brought up here is a conflict that didn't even cross my radar. Alas, it's one where I am even more flummoxed as to how to bridge the gap, but still, important to talk about.

That's what you brought up around sex that's not really consensual or wanted, or "compromise sex," which sounds like sex out of duty or obligation or....I'm not sure what else. Heck, survival sex, even seems similar.

But that one? Gosh, I just don't know how we CAN bridge that and still support real consent, especially enthusiastic consent, and also counter all the other kinds of sex-as-duty or nonconsensual sex. I mean, I know I sure wouldn't feel comfortable saying those things are different for asexual people, because I can't see how they are. Engaging in sex when you have no desire to is doing that whether you often have desire to, sometimes do or never do. And I also certainly don't think anyone would posit that it's somehow more okay to engage in sex with someone who doesn't want it who is asexual (I really hope not, anyway).

So, yeah, I do know about the notion of compromise sex, and I'd say that it's complicated, save that it seems about the same level of complicated as, say, someone who is 15, doesn't want to have intercourse, doesn't ID as asexual, but has intercourse to try and keep a partner from leaving or having it with someone else, you know? Sounds like we're on the same page here, but I agree, if this is supposed to be okayed or treated differently, I just don't see how anyone can do that in a framework that presents consent as vital and the desire to do whatever is happening sexually as vital. And if we blur those lines around this, I think we blur them everywhere.

So, here's a spot where my brain gets all broken: [Smile]

quote:
I honestly don't know many asexuals who don't go by the standard definition of "an asexual is someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction". So, under that model, an asexual person can masturbate (which, of course is a sexual thing) because sexual attraction isn't involved. Or, an asexual can be into BDSM, because they a) don't experience sexual feelings from it and/or b) they're still not sexually attracted to anyone else involved.
Want to fill me in on the definition you're used to? And then how, in that framework, BDSM is defined? In other words, BDSM is generally, if not always, defined as doing the things that it can involve in a sexual context. If it's outside that context, is it still BDSM? (Not saying I have the answer to this one.)

quote:
Secondly, because a lot of how people in the asexual community define sexual attraction is very personal, that makes "what is a sexual activity?" into a personal question, rather than the broad definition like you have here.
The thing is, I think it's personal for everyone, which is why we go with the borad, and lead with the notion that what is sexual is highly individual and situational. When we work in sexuality, we know it's both of those things, and hear "sexual" people (side note, I'm not a fan of that way of framing people who are not asexual, at all) talk all the time about how it's personal, like how X kiss was sexual for them but Y kiss was not.

quote:
I think it would be possible to say "some people have sex that consists only of back massages" AND "some people have back massages that aren't sex". Because back massages CAN be sexual, but they don't have to be.
For sure. But that is what's usually said, and what I also know most sex-positive sex educators to say, basically.

Again, these are all such great thoughts and ideas you brought up, and I'm down with breaking my metaphor, too, even though (vegan here) I don't see how, honestly, a site about meat-eating could be vegan-inclusive or even something vegans would want to go to in the first place. [Razz]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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loststone
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quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
So, one thing you brought up here is a conflict that didn't even cross my radar. Alas, it's one where I am even more flummoxed as to how to bridge the gap, but still, important to talk about.

That's what you brought up around sex that's not really consensual or wanted, or "compromise sex," which sounds like sex out of duty or obligation or....I'm not sure what else. Heck, survival sex, even seems similar.

But that one? Gosh, I just don't know how we CAN bridge that and still support real consent, especially enthusiastic consent, and also counter all the other kinds of sex-as-duty or nonconsensual sex. I mean, I know I sure wouldn't feel comfortable saying those things are different for asexual people, because I can't see how they are. Engaging in sex when you have no desire to is doing that whether you often have desire to, sometimes do or never do. And I also certainly don't think anyone would posit that it's somehow more okay to engage in sex with someone who doesn't want it who is asexual (I really hope not, anyway).

So, yeah, I do know about the notion of compromise sex, and I'd say that it's complicated, save that it seems about the same level of complicated as, say, someone who is 15, doesn't want to have intercourse, doesn't ID as asexual, but has intercourse to try and keep a partner from leaving or having it with someone else, you know? Sounds like we're on the same page here, but I agree, if this is supposed to be okayed or treated differently, I just don't see how anyone can do that in a framework that presents consent as vital and the desire to do whatever is happening sexually as vital. And if we blur those lines around this, I think we blur them everywhere.

Yeah, I'm with you here, we really don't want to be okaying having sex with an asexual who doesn't want to. I think in the asexual community an asexual having sex with a non-asexual person is generally considered compromise sex, when really some of it is consensual, and some of it isn't. It's not something I've experienced myself, but I know asexuals who say that they do REALLY want to have sex with people they're not sexually attracted to; which would make it consensual. I can kind of understand this, I mean, people have sex for 100s of reasons, maybe sexual attraction doesn't always have to be one of them? But a lot of the time, I see asexuals having sex which doesn't look consensual to me at all. So I think being able to separate those things would be good. I think it's hard for me to work with this, because I find the concept of wanting to have sex with someone you're not sexually attracted to pretty much impossible to wrap my head around. I want to trust people when they say they do (it would be pretty arrogant of me to assume I know how they feel better than them!) but since asexuals face erasure, live in rape culture etc I'm not sure how often that is true.

quote:
So, here's a spot where my brain gets all broken: [Smile]

quote:
I honestly don't know many asexuals who don't go by the standard definition of "an asexual is someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction". So, under that model, an asexual person can masturbate (which, of course is a sexual thing) because sexual attraction isn't involved. Or, an asexual can be into BDSM, because they a) don't experience sexual feelings from it and/or b) they're still not sexually attracted to anyone else involved.
Want to fill me in on the definition you're used to? And then how, in that framework, BDSM is defined? In other words, BDSM is generally, if not always, defined as doing the things that it can involve in a sexual context. If it's outside that context, is it still BDSM? (Not saying I have the answer to this one.)
Okay, I would define an asexual person as someone who doesn't experience sexual attraction. I wouldn't really think about sexual behaviour at all when defining asexuality. So, an asexual can have sex with someone they aren't sexually attracted to, in the same way a hetero/homo/bi/pan-sexual could have sex with someone they weren't sexually attracted to, and that wouldn't make any difference to their orientation.

I guess I'm taking BDSM very literally. So, if an asexual person is taking part in bondage/discipline/domination/submission/sadism/masochism then that's BDSM, even if the pleasure they're getting out of it isn't sexual in nature. But maybe that wouldn't be BDSM, I don't know, but, it would be something that some people consider sexual and some don't.

quote:
quote:
Secondly, because a lot of how people in the asexual community define sexual attraction is very personal, that makes "what is a sexual activity?" into a personal question, rather than the broad definition like you have here.
The thing is, I think it's personal for everyone, which is why we go with the borad, and lead with the notion that what is sexual is highly individual and situational. When we work in sexuality, we know it's both of those things, and hear "sexual" people (side note, I'm not a fan of that way of framing people who are not asexual, at all) talk all the time about how it's personal, like how X kiss was sexual for them but Y kiss was not.

quote:
I think it would be possible to say "some people have sex that consists only of back massages" AND "some people have back massages that aren't sex". Because back massages CAN be sexual, but they don't have to be.
For sure. But that is what's usually said, and what I also know most sex-positive sex educators to say, basically.
I think the way Scarleteen goes about this is great. I guess that wasn't really thoughts about Scarleteen in particular, more general. So, umm, yay we agree [Smile] .

quote:
Again, these are all such great thoughts and ideas you brought up, and I'm down with breaking my metaphor, too, even though (vegan here) I don't see how, honestly, a site about meat-eating could be vegan-inclusive or even something vegans would want to go to in the first place. [Razz]
I think maybe the thing is, a site like Scarleteen maybe isn't the best/ideal place to learn about asexuality. But it's a place which is receptive to the idea of asexuality, is accepting of it; and so it's easier for asexual people to ask for more information here? Going back to the metaphor, if site A is a place where one can say "I don't like chicken" or "I like beef and duck together" without being judged, in a world where there are very strict models of the "right" way to eat meat; maybe a vegan might feel it's somewhere they could express their preferences without being judged too, even if it's not the ideal place for them.
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Heather
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quote:
I think in the asexual community an asexual having sex with a non-asexual person is generally considered compromise sex, when really some of it is consensual, and some of it isn't. It's not something I've experienced myself, but I know asexuals who say that they do REALLY want to have sex with people they're not sexually attracted to; which would make it consensual. I can kind of understand this, I mean, people have sex for 100s of reasons, maybe sexual attraction doesn't always have to be one of them?
I'd really need to know how someone talking that way was defining sexual attraction. Because on the whole, the way it's usually defined is that being sexually attracted to someone means something (or somethings) about them elicit sexual feelings in you, whether you want to do anything about those feelings or not. But if you do want to do something about them -- eg, "REALLY want to have sex with them," then clearly you are sexually attracted. Know what I'm saying?

The first part of that para confuses me, too. I'm not sure what the compromise is, just like I wouldn't see it as a compromise when someone straight or gay elects to be sexual with someone like me who is bisexual/pansexual. (Or, I don't know, if someone who wasn't a musician chose to sing with me, someone who was?) But I might be missing something there, or trying to apply a framework that doesn't make sense in this context.

With the issues around consent, I feel a little uncomfortable getting too into this without having someone in the conversation here who is asexual and engaging in sex they don't want, but. I guess it still isn't sounding to me like that is anything different than all the other folks engaging in sex they really don't want, or that the dynamics are that different. I mean, to me, "don't want" is don't want, no matter how you slice it, whether someone never wants something or only doesn't want it this time or that time.

With your para after that, I'm feeling disconnected because I'm still confused about how sexual attraction is being defined.

Per your last para, I agree that you're likely right.

However, I think it's important that as educators, here or elsewhere, we do the best we can to figure out ways to be as inclusive as possible of all sexualities (obviously with some limits: if we're aiming for sound physical and emotional health, for instance, any sexuality -- not saying asexuality is this -- which would include potentially harming others, like via sexual assault, wouldn't be something we could support/include) and be always looking at sex and sexuality, and framing them, in ways true to what we know the spectrum to be. It's also really important, obviously, for all of us to be sure we're letting people know what sexuality could be or mean for them to help them figure that out as best they can and make whatever life choices seem most likely to be in alignment with what they do and don't want, and what does and doesn't feel right for them.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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loststone
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I do get what you're saying. I guess, maybe if we put this on a par with, say, a gay man (who was exclusively attracted to men, and this woman wasn't an "exception") having sex with a woman. Can that be consensual? (I don't know the answer to that, all that comes up in my head is "Why would you consent to that?", so "could" is very hard to picture)

(like I said before, I really don't like framing this as a compromise at all, either everyone wants to have sex, or they don't. I don't even know where the idea came from)

I totally understand that. I could maybe find someone who would want to talk to you? (though clearly that wouldn't be representative) As far as I'm aware no one has ever tried to survey this, I'd be pretty interested to know what people had to say.

I think the definition of sexual attraction is, well, no one really knows what it is. That's what happens when people try to define what they don't experience, I guess. Also, feelings don't fit well into boxes and labels. (well, I don't think they do)

Oh yeah, I totally agree; I wasn't meaning to say that asexuality shouldn't be included here; or wouldn't have a place here if asexuality was more well known.

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Heather
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I'm not sure I get why that would have anything to do with consent, actually. Gay or homosexual simply means that someone is mostly or only sexually attracted to other men. So, if a man who identified as gay wanted to engage in sex with a woman, there's no reason his orientation would have any bearing on whether or not sex was consensual.

I guess I'd also disagree that no one knows what the definition of sexual attraction is. In the study of sexuality, anyway, we do know, and generally have a consensus with language like that. So, again, when we use that term, what we mean is that someone feels sexual desire for/about someone; experiences sexual feelings elicited by that person in some way. And we'd take the desire to have sex with that person as evidence of attraction, unless we were talking about things like compulsions, generally.

[ 08-22-2011, 06:20 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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loststone
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But, if what makes sexual attraction is sexual desire; and desire is a necessary part of enthusiastic consent, then how can you consent to sex with someone you're not sexually attracted to?

Or, if a gay man can consent to sex with a woman he's not sexually attracted to, then surely an asexual person can consent to sex with someone they're not sexually attracted to?

(I feel like maybe I'm disagreeing with something you didn't actually say, sorry, it's late here)

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Heather
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Can you clue me in on an example of the first?

For instance, thinking of the first example I'd pick, I'd think about sex work. many sex workers, if not all (at at least some point, if not often) consent to sex with people to whom they are not attracted because that sex is about work, about an exchange of goods. And that can certainly still be consensual, even if we are talking about something where consent is a bit more complicated, and not in the same arena (or isn't always) as when we're talking about sex people agree to have from a standpoint of the aim of some kind of mutual physical and emotional enjoyment.

When you gave the example of the gay man, you didn't say he wasn't attracted to this example-woman. But let's say he's not. So, why does he want to engage in sex with her? What is the desire for and what is the appeal to him? I think we have to know that to be able to answer these questions.

But I think what might be getting missed in this is what I first said: I'm not sure how this is related to consent. To consent, all anyone needs is to want to do (to desire) what they are doing and to have the capacity (intellectual and emotional, as well as agency) to give consent. What their motives are may vary. For some people, that may be about attraction and sexual desire. For others, it may be about something else.

[ 08-22-2011, 06:31 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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(...and maybe then I've circled back on something myself I missed over initially?

In other words, maybe then we're talking about a "really want to have sex" but for some purpose that isn't about sexual feelings, like to say one had sex, to try and cement a relationship, for an exchange of goods, and any of those other reasons you made clear people can have sex for.)

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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loststone
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Ok, if I'm getting this right; you're saying that in the instance of sex work, it's okay if we define consent differently than we would when we're having sex for mutual enjoyment. So, is it okay for us to define consent differently for asexual people? What if for a particular asexual person, sex is about an exchange? Is it okay if we define consent differently for non-asexual people too? If someone came here and said they were having sex as an exchange would that be okay in terms of consent? Or would it not be, because it isn't enthusiastic consent? (I have a feeling this has come off as accusatory and I really don't mean it to! I'm really sorry if it does)

That is where we could do with an asexual person who has sex!


I'm feeling like my brain's a bit scrambled, so I think I'm going to sleep on this and get back to you. Very interesting discussion though!

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Heather
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I'm not sure we have to define consent differently. A sex worker who chooses to do sex work willingly and chooses their clients is in the same position with consent as someone who is choosing it for other reasons. (Of course, I do think this is a precarious comparison, since sex work or survival sex is really something very different than choosing to have sex for other reasons.)

I mean, shared mutual pleasure IS an exchange of some kind, no? It's just an exchange of very similar things, or maybe even the same things (always tricky, though, since assuming any two people experience sex the same way is very iffy and also unlikely).

Assuming we are defining consent as permission for something to happen or agreement to do something, I'm not sure why we'd need to define it differently.

I think what might be getting mixed up here is the difference between talking about giving consent, and talking about "REALLY wanting to have sex," in other words, talking about sexual desire, which tends to be defined as someone really wanting to engage in sex in a strong way like that. (It might actually be that the bolding is what has me confused here, mind. That, to me, suggests a very strong desire, and it's hard for me to read a lack of sexual desire into that statement when it's made that way.)

On the other hand, someone doing sex work probably isn't saying that, they're probably saying, " I REALLY want to pay the rent, so I am going to choose to have sex to do that." Or, someone who isn't feeling sexual desire, but feels that engaging in sex will, say, cement a relationship would probably instead be saying, "I REALLY want so-and-so to commit to being with me, so I am going to choose to have sex with the aim of making that happen." See how those are very different statements than "I REALLY want to have sex," and why I read the latter as being about sexual desire, not something else?

have a good sleep, and thanks so much for talking some of this through with me. I really appreciate it!

[ 08-22-2011, 07:00 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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missmarymax
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So, as someone who's spent a lot of time in the ace community (but does not actually identify as asexual), the questions about what "sexual desire" and "sexual attraction" *mean* -- and what behaviors or feeling we include under those headings -- have always struck me as among the most interesting challenges ace people are posing. One of the things I love about asexuality is that it undercuts our assumptions about sex and makes us rethink the notions we take for granted -- including the assumption that we all have a concrete concept of what "sexual" "desire" and "attraction" mean.

That said, even in ace communties, the way those terms are defined often leaves me uncomfortable. As you pointed out, Loststone, the explanation generally given for why asexual people choose to have sex (when they do) is usually that there are reasons to have sex other than sexual desire/ attraction. But often (although certainly not universally) "sexual" seems to stand in for "what I'm not doing" and "not sexual" for "what I am doing or what I enjoy." And when that becomes the rhetorical shorthand, even if one doesn't align with the asexual subgroup that's anti-sexual, I think there's some shoring up of those antisexual ideas. Much like the "omigod, culture is so hypersexual" trope accepts the notion that sexuality is, simply, that very limited (and often exploitative) definition of sex. (Without taking into account how that degrades sexuality or fails to work for many sexual people also.)

Like Heather, I'm uncomfortable weighing in too much here without hearing from asexual folk, including those who are choosing to have sex. But I guess my question -- for those who find it interesting would be this -- how can asexuality be defined in a way that doesn't shore up those definitions of sex that are problematic for so many of us -- if, understandably, at times in problematic in different ways?

[ 08-22-2011, 07:49 PM: Message edited by: missmarymax ]

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Saffron Raymie
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(*Screams and points* MMax! MMax! *sends scarlet and teal flip flops to the Scarleteen Dressing Room*)

[ 08-23-2011, 03:37 AM: Message edited by: RaeRay2112 ]

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loststone
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Okay, I've had a think about this and I think I might have found where we're having trouble.

If we define consent to be "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something" then clearly (I think) that doesn't necessarily have to be enthusiastic consent, right? So, enthusiastic consent is more, a model of consent that we find to be helpful and good and useful but not mandatory. Similar to how, explicit verbal consent is also a model of consent which fosters consent but is not required for consent (because we can consent non-verbally). Am I on the same page as you here? So, it is possible to consent unenthusiastically? (such as in your example. Unless you think that is enthusiastic consent? Is money a goal or a pressure?)

Some really interesting points MMax! [Smile]

I'm also concerned about us not having any asexuals who have sex in this discussion. Most of the asexuals I know who have sex are older than this site is intended for, would it be okay if I asked some people to come here? Or I could just advertise this discussion in the asexual community?

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Heather
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quote:
If we define consent to be "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something" then clearly (I think) that doesn't necessarily have to be enthusiastic consent, right? So, enthusiastic consent is more, a model of consent that we find to be helpful and good and useful but not mandatory. Similar to how, explicit verbal consent is also a model of consent which fosters consent but is not required for consent (because we can consent non-verbally). Am I on the same page as you here? So, it is possible to consent unenthusiastically? (such as in your example. Unless you think that is enthusiastic consent? Is money a goal or a pressure?)
While I think that last question is really loaded (I'd say surviving is always a serious pressure), yes, I'd agree with the bulk of what you've said here.

By all means, I'd love to have some ace folks here, and, like I said, feel pretty uncomfy talking about people, always, without including people. Since this new section of the boards is for a mixed-age group, I don't think age is relevant in terms of participants. (Mind, when asking about how to work asexuality into sex ed for young people, I think age matters, but that's a level of the discussion I think we're also pretty far from, at this point.)

I also had some extra thinks about this last night, and I think one of the places I'm realizing I'm getting hung up is in the framing -- which not everyone does -- of asexuality as an orientation. Orientation, whether we're talking about driving or sexuality, is really about our position to, with or on something. If we don't have that, we're essentially not oriented (and I don't think we're disoriented, either, we're just not oriented). The way sexology has defined and works with orientation kind of requires that, too, so I feel like when we try to have orientation include not-orientation, it kind of all falls apart.

On the other hand, when I think about asexuality as sexual identity -- identity being something that can be about a whole life and world, but which, ultimately, is centered on and with the self -- then I don't have the same issues, and it all gets a lot easier to work with.

However, while I do think it's important to kind of keep with some core sexuality theory and frameworks, I also obviously don't ever want to do so at the cost of people's identities and own sense of authentic sexuality. I think the goal, a very important one, is to always manage to do both.

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loststone
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Okay [Smile] then we can deal with issues of consent for asexuals as we always would for anyone else? Whilst still working to break down pressures that we face.

Awesome [Smile] I will see if I can get anyone on board.

I can see the issue there, it's certainly not something there is consensus on. I think what there is consensus on, is that asexuality is about sexual attraction, not behaviour, arousal etc. But it all gets a bit iffy, for example, demisexual isn't about who you're oriented towards, it's about how you get there.

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Heather
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Like I said way back up there, I'm still not seeing why you're bringing up consent as an issue unless you are saying that asexual people tend to engage in sex against their will or when it is not wanted. (Which isn't my impression or, rather, it's something I get the impression happens any more often with asexual people than it does with everyone else.)

But if that is what you are saying, then again, I think the same rules (and certainly the same laws) with consent apply to ace folks as to everyone else. And I'd posit that if someone is saying they can't or don't because they don't desire sex, something crucial is being missed, overlooked or dismissed. Again, not desiring sex is something everyone is experiencing if and when something sexual is happening they do not want, thus the "not want" part.

With your last para, I think now you're moving a bit into something that's a bit sideways, or rather, perhaps another additional conversation, which is how sex educators and sexology can address the formation of language and terms about sexuality/sexualities and choose what to include in educational and scientific frameworks and what not to.

Of course, that's highly relevant in a discussion about asexuality because there's still a fence that term is sitting on when it comes to this field. But, for example, I'd be pretty surprised to see a term like demisexual wind up sticking and becoming part of sexology and sex education, since it seems to present a very common way of being sexually responsive (and not) -- if not the most common way, actually -- as something unusual or only relevant to asexual people. It seems to me that it also creates or enables a framework with sexual desire and arousal which can seem to affix identities or orientations to what we consider and have known to be very typical fluctuations and fluidity in sexual desire. I know that speaking for myself as an educator, it's something I'd be very uncomfortable using for a handful of reasons.

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loststone
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I think, what I was trying to say when bringing it up; is that I think some asexuals, who consider themselves not to experience sexual desire (even if maybe their definition isn't the same as yours), find the language of enthusiastic consent difficult. And therefore are less likely to engage with resources such as this because they feel distanced. Maybe.

As to whether asexual people engage in sex they don't want as compared to non-asexual people doing that, I wouldn't want to make any guesses as to that without some evidence. But I think lack of knowledge about asexuality/asexual erasure, as well as other issues which affect everyone like rape culture, sexism, heterosexism etc; do make it difficult for asexual people to feel able to state their boundaries and to practise consent. And I see those problems being enabled by other asexual people too. So, I guess, I feel like that discussion about consent for asexuals needs to be had (somewhere).

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Heather
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Again, really appreciate your participation with this, loststone, and your patience with me. [Smile]

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loststone
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No problem! Really appreciate your efforts to include asexuality and have discussions like this [Smile]
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AVENminion
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Someone linked to this on AVEN and asked for asexual input. So here I go. XD

1. A comment we see often on AVEN (The Asexual Visibility and Education Network) is that people wish they had found out about asexuality 1 year, 10 years, or even 50 years ago because it would have saved them so much bad sex and failed relationships and marriages. What I want as an asexual is just generic visibility, a "Hey teens, asexuality is a possibility, here's the basic definition" so we catch the asexual teens before they start trying to be straight or gay without knowing why all their relationships aren't working. For example, if someone asks a sex ed question about sexual disinterest or repulsion, asexuality as a possibility is worth mentioning. When listing orientations, we'd like asexuality to be considered the fourth orientation (if you combine bi/pansexuality as the third).

2. Asexuality is about not having sexual attraction to another person. You can have the highest sex drive in the world, masturbate more than anyone else, and yet still be asexual if that sex drive is not directed at any person. Yes, masturbation is a sexual thing to do, but doing it does not make you "sexual" because only sexual attraction to another person makes you "sexual" by our definition. I can't speak for BDSM, I honestly know nothing about that.

The difference between people with a disability that precludes sex and asexuals is that people with disabilities want to and can't, asexual people don't want to but could (with a few rare exceptions for asexuals who happen to have physical disabilities too).

3. I don't think you especially need to talk to the people with a strong aversion to sexual discussion. They don't need to be singled out or anything, just the generic asexual sex ed covers them too. There are "indifferent" and "repulsed" asexuals but for the purposes of sex ed I don't think the distinction is important, and why split ourselves into even smaller groups? I'm repulsed and I still think sex is fascinating in an anthropological sense anyway.

In reply to the last post: I seriously disagree about "not desiring sex is something everyone is experiencing if and when something sexual is happening they do not want, thus the "not want" part." People can certainly desire sex and still refuse sex. Being horny doesn't make consent automatic! I'm sure you didn't mean it that way but I still have to point it out because it bothers me.

Also, I'm surprised to see you say demisexuality as the most common way to be, since from what I understand, most people date those they are sexually attracted to to begin with. Dating a person you have no sexual interest in, and then later developing a sexual interest in that person, is demisexuality. Which seems pretty rare to me if my social group (not asexuals, just college students) is anything to go by.

And one more thing, this has gotten so long, sorry:
"and hear "sexual" people (side note, I'm not a fan of that way of framing people who are not asexual, at all)"

To me using the term "sexual" to mean non-asexual people is similar to using the term "neurotypical" for people without Aspergers. I mean, obviously we can't say "normal" people or anything like that. What other word works for non-asexuals, and isn't as unwieldy to type or say as non-asexuals?

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Heather
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Hey, thanks so much for coming over here! [Smile]

In the hopes of keeping this quasi-organized, I'm going to put my comments and questions in the same numbered order as yours that I'm responding to.

1. Very much agreed, and -- speaking for myself and Scarleteen -- that's something we already do, save listing it as an orientation. Mind, we also don't really list orientation in this first, second third way, period, but instead talk about spectrums, and like I said, I'm having some troubles from a sexology standpoint in addressing asexuality as orientation, rather than identity. When people lead with talking about it as their orientation, I of course will follow that, and I also don't have the door closed on this, but I feel like I need a LOT more discussion and decision-making around that first, especially since it seems to me it involves redefining sexual orientation in a way that can impact everything else. Know what I mean?

2. I hear you, but I think the tricky thing with that is that you're then defining what sexual is in a way that....well, makes what sexual is a lot more narrow than we tend to use in sex education and the study of sexuality, where masturbation is almost always considered sexual activity. So, again, I feel like we're facing an issue where in order to be inclusive with asexuality, we'd need to potentially redefine our whole framework, but also do so in a way which would then exclude other people's sexualities.

I also have some big issues with defining people who are not asexual as "sexual." It's a big thing to talk about with a lot of legs, but if anyone wants to talk about it, I think it's important.

Per that last post, I think my train of words obscured my meaning. I absolutely agree with you, and I didn't intend at all to imply that desiring sex means someone would always want to be sexual. That would stand massively counter to some of my most core values and aims as a sex educator. Rather, what I meant was that everyone can not desire sex and decline sex for that reason, and I'm not sure I understand why it would change anything per consent when someone is refusing sex they do not want at one time or in one situation, but might at/in another, versus someone who has never wanted sex and might not ever. Does that make more sense?

quote:
I'm surprised to see you say demisexuality as the most common way to be, since from what I understand, most people date those they are sexually attracted to to begin with. Dating a person you have no sexual interest in, and then later developing a sexual interest in that person, is demisexuality. Which seems pretty rare to me if my social group (not asexuals, just college students) is anything to go by.

Personally, I'd say that I don't think your assumptions are right there in such a broad way, but that there also can be some assumptions made, as I understand the framework of demisexuality, about the primacy of attraction. In other words, I think some unsound assumptions are being made in generalizing how people feel attraction to others and what that is about primarily, secondarily (or even thinking that a lot of people could order attraction that way).

I think what's more sound is to say that most people pursue people to date (though even dating may be tricky here, since not everyone dates sexual partners) to whom they feel attracted in some way. In which ways is very diverse, in my experience working with sexuality, and what part whatever sexual attraction is to an individual plays in that also varies. But I think we can say that it is very common for many people to experience increasing sexual desire/arousal with more familiarity and emotional involvement with a partner or potential partner. People raised as women, in particular, often bear this out in studies and anecdotes (given, of course the nature/nurture in that is always a big question).

I think the biggest issue around calling people who are not asexual sexual is that it necessarily sexualizes them, and suggests pretty strongly that being sexual is something that is pretty much always on or always off, to boot. That's big shorthand in both cases for the issues, but those would be my starting points. I'm also not sure if it's sound to try and come up with a term to create that kind of binary. Not only do we know that binaries are usually really poor systems when it comes to people, period, I think setting that binary up wouldn't serve people who are asexual any better than people who are not. It actually seems like in a lot of ways it would only feed into a lot of the things I tend to hear asexual people voice as feeling very oppressive, if you catch my drift.

Do you feel like we need that kind of binary? For any given sexual identity, do we have to have a not-that-identity? When is that useful, when isn't it, and how can it be positive or negative? Those are always the kinds of questions I'm going to ask with anything like this.

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mindsword
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I agree with AVENminion here. I'm also from AVEN. 21 year old male.

1) For the most part, we don't know what we are until we find the term. I remember growing up and learning about sex. My thoughts went as such, "Sex is an important thing that is needed to promote the growth of the species. the desire to have a family and pass on your genetic line was obviously the main reason anyone engaged in this activity. Since the world is overpopulated and my genetics aren't the greatest, I believe it'd be best if I simply didn't compete." Looking back now I can't believe how naive I was.

I was 19 that I came across the term for asexuality. Until that time I thought I was heterosexual who was a late bloomer. I only found it because one of my friends was turning every conversation into a discussion about sexuality and I wanted fast data so I could at least follow what he was saying. I went to wikipedia for the fast data and started skimming through sexualities, which lists asexuality.

If asexuality had been part of my sex ed, then... well I probably still would have taken forever to learn it cause I had a doctor's appointment that day. But I might have avoided confusion and mild worry. my parents, at least, were concerned because their 19 year old had never even looked for a girlfriend while his 16 year old brother was on his 3rd.

It might also help with acceptance. if I were to explain I was asexual to my co-workers, they wouldn't have a clue what I was talking about.

2) I don't masterbate, but I can get aroused. its not something I think is sexually based because the triggers aren't sexual in nature.

67283) One more thing. the consent issue. I am a virgin, so it doesn't really apply to me. The way I've always seen it was like work. I work at a grocery store. I do not enjoy my job, but it pays the bills. Is this consent? Yes. I agreed to work 32 hours a week and in return they give me money. Is it enthusiastic consent? No. I would much rather stay at home and read my books. but then I wouldn't get any money.

And this isn't even touching the romantic vs sexual attraction we discuss to death...

[ 08-23-2011, 11:40 AM: Message edited by: mindsword ]

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Heather
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mindsword, thanks for coming in and adding your two cents and thoughts, too. And I'll thank everyone in advance for their patience, which I've no doubt will be required. [Smile]

Because I'm asking these things for myself as an educator and the work I do, it might be helpful to give something of a picture of how I've talked about asexuality so far in that work. This is obviously only within certain kinds of that work (not, for instance, in-person presentations, or ongoing discussions), but I figure it might be helpful to flesh out the picture and help to identify any failings or problems, if you're interested.

So, our glossary definition for asexuality (that's in our online glossary, and gets linked to when the term is used) is: "In the context of human sexuality, someone who either does not experience or has not experienced any sexual desires at all, or who has experienced/does experience sexual desires, but not a desire to enact them with other individuals."

A couple links where it's been discussed on the main site are:
• http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/am_i_asexual
• http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/i_dont_want_to_masturbate_or_have_sex_whats_wrong_with_me
• http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/he_doesnt_feel_any_desire_for_sex_but_i_want_a_sexual_relationship
• http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice/what_if_i_never_want_or_feel_ready_for_sex

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JoDawson
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Hello! This is all my initial reaction stuff, so if the thought trains derail just ask and I can clarify. I’m also going point by point because different parts of the convo popped out at me and I wanted to jump in on those sections.

A. vegan/meat eater/vegetarian metaphor is difficult for me because I don’t think sexuality fits so cleanly into the concept. The dynamic that breaks it down for me is that some people view an “item” (let’s say some food, or a behavior between partners) and one person looks at that thing and says “that’s definitely meat”, while another looks at it and says “nope, that’s not meat”. It’s hard to debate such clear lines for reaching out to “vegans” vs “meat eaters” when the definitions are personal and inherently subjective. In terms of the site? What’s more, is that as an educator I like to promote the concept that “what may be meat for one person, may not be meat for another” and individualization of our sexual spectrums. So then how would a site like Scarleteen NOT be including the veggiesaurus’s out there because it is explicitly and consistently promoted to be “sexuality as a spectrum”?

For me it gets even easier: we are all human. Unless you’re a wonderfully creative and brilliant creature accessing the internet and reading scarleteen, I think it’s safe to assume we’re all people here. With that said, my approach from a sex-positive perspective is that everyone has a form of sexuality. The definition of the term is varied, but the fact that a person who identifies (or not!) as asexual would access the site is enough to demonstrate their cognitive focus (and therefore presence) on the topic. For me, if someone has thoughts and choices surrounding the concept of sexuality - then they are inherently sexual. Ever seen the circles of sexuality? In my (albeit basic) understanding of asexual folks, it seems that certain areas remain non-sexual, but others cannot be fully ignored (body image, reproductive processes, sexual harassment). Just as I wouldn’t assert an ID’d gay/lesbian/bisexual/etc would have to be all or nothing, I am not trying to say that asexuals need to be as well. Simply, I am trying to point out that there must be inherent sexual components to their person that could be addressed on a site like Scarleteen. Or perhaps in line with concepts of fluidity- that it comes and goes over time?

Lastly on this note - is Scarleteen a place for asexuality at all? My gut reaction says: of course! Same with those who choose abstinence (of any sort), it is still important to understand what drives us as humans, the experiences we all go through and the nature of communicating with ourselves/others. Scarleteen is a wonderful platform for all of it. Even if you’re a woman who would never dream of having sex with a penis - sexuality is still fluid and the possibility theoretically ::could:: come up. That may be especially easy for my brain to come to as a bisexual woman - so the current of fluidity seems strong for me. How this relates for asexual folks? Part of developing your sense of identification is through learning. This site is a place to learn, connect with peers and figure out just where you stand on things. Wouldn’t it be an important component for a young person coming to terms with their asexual nature to see how varied and complex the universe of sexuality can be? I think Heather’s already laid it out nicely: “It’s really important for all of us to to be sure we're letting people know what sexuality could be or mean for them to help them figure that out as best they can and make whatever life choices seem most likely to be in alignment with what they do and don't want, and what does and doesn't feel right for them.”

BDSM - sexual or not? This is a really interesting thought to me.
Loststone’s quote: I guess I'm taking BDSM very literally. So, if an asexual person is taking part in bondage/discipline/domination/submission/sadism/masochism then that's BDSM, even if the pleasure they're getting out of it isn't sexual in nature. But maybe that wouldn't be BDSM, I don't know, but, it would be something that some people consider sexual and some don't.
I struggle with a few parts here: 1) is it not inherent in the definition that BDSM be consensually arranged? So if an asexual partner set up a scene with someone who was going to spank them, does this not define the moment as sexual in nature? I think plenty of feelings/experiences that come out of BDSM scenes are not sexual in traditional gratification measures, but the satisfaction and classification would still fit that umbrella category? Thinking - if we experience pain in a random accident, it is clearly interpreted as pain. When a person experiences the pain (and whatever else) from a spanking scene - does it not fall into the spectrum of sexual experiences? This is how my brain is seeing it. 2) Does it matter? When we talk about spectrums and individuality, aren’t there many asexuals who have different degrees/choices about what is/is not sexual to them? Could BDSM not also be included here, and therefore can we possibly even answer with an ultimate truth? I’m thinking not. Which is totally cool [Smile] 3) Who’s sexuality? In this supposed BDSM scenario, there is a partner engaging in the act of spanking. Not a requirement for kink, I know - but for my concept there was a second person. As the top (let’s say), they are recieving gratification and emotional reactions to spanking their asexual partner. It’s bound to be a spectrum of feelings, but if sexual desire is a component of these thoughts, and the asexual person knew it (since it was a consensual experience), isn’t that recognizing the state of sexuality within the entire scene itself? I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself well enough (probably a better day to sleep more than a few hours! Let this be a lesson!)

C. Consent and “compromise sex”. This makes me nervous too, because I fear the similar situations that have already been laid out. Anyone have any personal experiences to share that we could delve into? I’m going to post this now - haven’t finished the whole thread and it seems to have distilled into a conversation about consent, fluidity and what not. cheers!

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Activism is my rent for living on this planet – Alice Walker

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Heather
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In the middle of finishing some other work at the moment, so taking a pause on this convo for a bit, but just so people can be on the same page, if you don't know about the circles of sexuality Jo mentioned, here's a PDF: http://www.elirgreen.com/SIIE-Resources/CirclesofSexuality.pdf

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JoDawson
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My goodness! I messed up the part about a woman who IDs as homosexual - I meant to say that it could still be appropriate for her to understand the basics of condoms and safer sex practices with penises, even if she never foresees the situation arising. It still could...

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Activism is my rent for living on this planet – Alice Walker

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alydiabyanyname
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This conversation has inspired me to bring up Asexuality on my blog http://fuckyeahsexeducation.tumblr.com/ I've got a lot of feedback, feel free to check it out!
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missmarymax
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>>(*Screams and points* MMax! MMax! *sends scarlet and teal flip flops to the Scarleteen Dressing Room*)<<

Ha. It's good to be loved. <3

[ 08-23-2011, 02:40 PM: Message edited by: missmarymax ]

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missmarymax
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quote:
Originally posted by loststone:


If we define consent to be "permission for something to happen or agreement to do something" then clearly (I think) that doesn't necessarily have to be enthusiastic consent, right? So, enthusiastic consent is more, a model of consent that we find to be helpful and good and useful but not mandatory. Similar to how, explicit verbal consent is also a model of consent which fosters consent but is not required for consent (because we can consent non-verbally). Am I on the same page as you here? So, it is possible to consent unenthusiastically?

I'm another one who wouldn't want to cling to a model (including that of enthusiastic consent) at the expense of the people such terms intend to serve. That said, I'm also really leery of abandoning the model in favor of a definition like this -- which I'd suggest is the definition we did use (and many of us, and our culture at large) still use, to great harm. When I look at "permission for something to happen" or "agreement to something" -- I'm immediately struck by a sense that, at least in my interpretation, the sex this model describes is very one-sided. Someone is asking for sex, and another person is granting them the right to it. Someone is suggesting sex, and another is agreeing to it. And, while we still don't seem to have pulled in any voices to describe why asexual people might choose to make that decision, I know far too many people -- regardless of sexual identity -- who are driven by, for instance, a sense of obligation. I would hate for anyone -- including an ace person -- to feel "they deserve it" or "I owe it to them" is a reason to have sex.

For example, when we talk about ace people having sex because they recognize their non-ace partner has legitimate sexual needs, which -- as someone who cares about that person -- they wish to see met... we're still bringing to sexuality a loss-gain model in which we agree to sacrifice something of our own, for another person's good. It makes me uncomfortable to align with a model that says "your desire for sex trumps my lack of desire for it," as it seems to have internalized some of the core tenets of rape culture and misogyny from which enthusiastic consent seeks to diverge.

So, I suppose my question is this: why should one's desires as an asexual defer to the sexual needs of a partner -- ever? Where does that "this is to be expected of me" line of thinking come in, and why do we accept it, when we do? And why must the other reasons for having sex -- for instance, the desires that ace communities don't label as sexual desires -- be considered "not sexual"?

On the one hand, why should one expect to behave outside of ace identity in a way that other sexual folk do not? And on the other, if you want sex -- for any reason -- why not call that desire sexual?

This brings me to something Heather mentioned -- about determining when, if ever, a binary can be useful. I remember having that conversation with an ace activist when I was first exploring asexuality, and he had an interesting point. In essence: a binary is freeing when the alternative is a monolith. If all we have is sexuality, and sexuality is constraining, then creating a second pole allows us to expand -- and maybe, eventually, explore the space between. This made a great deal of sense to me when the conversation took place a few years ago. But it makes less sense to me now. Again, I think the snag I hit is that it accepts the definition of sexuality presented in mainstream culture, which is very limiting, over the spectrum supported in sex-positive sex ed. And I think, when you're familiar with the spectrum (or the circles) instead of the monolith, the binary still feels incredibly limiting.

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Cleander
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I haven't been able to read through everything yet, so sorry if I repeat any points, but as an asexual I'd like to try and respond to the whole consent thing.

first: this may have been said before, but it's important:
Asexuality, as commonly defined by those who actually identify as ace, is not about a lack of interest in sex - it's a lack of interest in sex WITH OTHER PEOPLE.

And so, asexuality does not contain any inherent aversion to sex. Yes, there are asexuals who are repulsed by sexual things. But then, there are just as many people of other sexual orientations who feel the same way!

and I'm going to repeat that again: Asexuality in and of itself does not imply any kind of dislike or aversion to sex.

For many asexuals, there is nothing bad about sex. It's not that they dislike it, it's that it just means....nothing. They're indifferent.

And then, there are the ones like me who may even have an interest in sexual things - it's just that there aren't any specific people who become the focus of that interest. And since I'm curious as hell, sould be interested in experimenting with someone, under the right circumtances, even if I weren't particularly attracted. There are likely other aces who may feel similarly.

And, so, finally, onto the issue of consent for asexuals:

First of all, even as an asexual, it's possible to want sex for entirely personal reasons - curiosity, for example. And hey, the physical sensations that people seem to like are still there.

Even if they are indifferent to sex, an asexual may still want sex for a partners sake - and there's nothing wrong with that.

I suppose I can see why some people might say that a sex-indifferent ace having sex just to please a partner might be a little off, but it's still their decision. Even if their reasons are different, their consent is valid.

And, you know, you don't have to like something to consent to it. For example, I don't particularly like marinara sauce, but if someone makes me past with marinara, I'll still consent to eating it. Because while I may not like it all the much, I don't really dislike it either. And my consent would still be valid.

And, what if, say, I had a girlfriend who sometimes had backaches, and liked backrubs. I may not have an instinctual desire to go give people back rubs, but I know it would make her happy. And I'd like it if someone I liked was happy, so I might want to still give them a backrub. I don't think anyone would object to that.

And what if I change that to this:
"what if, say, I had a girlfriend who sometimes got aroused, and liked to have sex. I may not have an instinctual desire to go have sex, but I know it would make her happy. And I'd like it if someone I liked was happy, so I might want to have sex."
The act is different, but the situation and the idea is still the same.

Now, these examples are a little simplified. While I as an asexual might actually bring up the idea of sex if it would make a partner happy, many would not.

and the waters admittedly get a lot murkier if there's pressure from the sexual to the asexual. If there's outright coercion, then that's not cool.

But, a small amount of suggestion may be fine. For example, if I really like to play chess, but say, my partner doesn't, and I ask him to play with me sometimes, and talk about how I'm lonely without a chess partner sometimes, but nothing more, and he eventually consents to play chess with me sometimes, that consent is valid.

But if I threaten to find a new partner if he doesn't play chess, then that's crossing the line. The trouble, I suppose, is in figuring out where the line is.

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tl; dr:

There's a difference between not WANTING to do something, and actively wanting NOT to do something. If you are mostly indifferent, even if you don't like sex, you can still consent. And heck, even if you actively dislike it you can consent, as long as it's not only because of undue outside pressure. The trouble is in defining undue outside pressure, but then that's an issue for everyone, not just asexuals.

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EDIT: ok, finished reading. My two cents on some other topics covered:

-on asexuality as orientation: The current common conception of "sexual orientation" is basically only a reference to which genders a person feels [sexual] attraction to - a homosexual is attracted to their own gender, a heterosexual to the opposite, and a bi/pan sexual to more than one. Asexuality is the logical missing piece to finish the setup - those who are attracted to no one of any gender. Under this view, asexuality is simply a lack of sexual attraction to any gender.

-on defining asexuality: It seems like everyone on the internet has their own definition and interpretation. However, the one I usually go by is the "lack of sexual attraction TO PEOPLE OF ANY GENDER." The emphasis is on the lack of other people, not the lack of sexual interest. And, I think that far too often people see "asexuality" and jump to the conclusion that it means "a-" [without] "sexuality". Which is not what it means at all. The word "asexuality" developed to follow the pattern of other sexual orientations, which is a prefix and "-sexuality". However, since most people have never heard the actual definition, they tend to jump to conclusions, whereas most people know better than to interpret "bisexuality" as having twice as much sexuality, or "heterosexuality" as having lots of different, non-matching sexualities. (andnowiwillstopbeingalinguisticsnerd).

-on asexuality as orientation vs. asexuality as identity, and variation within the asexual community: While asexuality as an orientation is strictly limited to a lack of interest in any gender, asexuality as an identity is much more complicated. It's influenced by asexual culture, and also by individual experience, so people who identify as asexual may have very different experiences, which confuses non-asexuals a lot. It even confuses other aces! To understand, try and think of it in relation to bisexuality - it's a simply defined term "attraction to both/all genders" - but it covers so many variations - say, one person may switch between periods of attraction to different genders, another may be sexually attracted to both/all genders but only be able to have emotional attractions to men, or may almost always be attracted to women but occasionally be interested in someone male or nonbinary. In the same way, asexuals are incredibly varied - some may not be at all attracted to anyone but like sex, others may be intensely emotionally attracted but repulsed by the prospect of anything sexual.Some may have high sex drives, some may have none. speaking of which...

-I don't think I saw this mentioned yet, so I would also like to put out there - asexuals can still have sex drives, in that there are time when you desire sexual stimulation, etc. It's just that there is no need/wish to include another person in the process of satisfying said desires. And it varies - there are asexuals with high, low, or no sex drives. Sex drive is not a factor of asexuality, only attraction. That's how an ace could possibly want sex w/o being sexually attracted.

-on the use of the work "sexual": The only real reason for this term existing is that in conversations about asexuality, saying "straight people" was uninclusive, and saying "non-asexual people" or "hetero-, homo-, bi-, and pan- sexuals" was simply too inconvenient. So the other prefixes were dropped and "sexuals" developed as a shorthand for people of orientations other than asexual. Any other meaning that can be inferred are unfortunate later developments. Although, at this point it's such a common part of asexual parlance that I don't really see it going away. I suppose non-asexuals would have fewer awkward implications, but it's less convenient so I don't know if it'll be a good alternative.

-on BDSM: I am no expert, but one idea that seems to get put forward in the kink community a lot is that while for many people kink like BDSM is innately tied to sex, it doesn't have to be. One could have an interest in aspects of BDSM without having an interest in making it sexual.
And while BDSM often involves at least two participants, there are aspects of it that don't rely on another person, like self-bondage (But, keep in mind that doing something like that without someone else keeping an eye on you can be very dangerous. ) I mean, you can like, say, martial arts for the conflict and physical aspects without being sexually attracted to your sparring partner. Why couldn't someone have an interest in BDSM that is similarly non-sexual?

-on wanting testimony from aces who have unwanted sex: I am asexual, and have currently not had sex, but it is something I'd like to try, for curiosities sake at least. I mean, people with a fear of heights can still want to try sky-diving. And while I can't speak from experience, I can say that if I were to enter some sort of committed relationship with a sexual, I wouldn't mind having sex. Because as I said before, while I don't have a burning WANT for it, I don't NOT want it. And since I understand that most people would like sex in a traditional relationship, if I were in one I might even be the one to suggest it. Because making a person I like happy would make me happy. And heck., I'm really, really, really, really, curious. While current circumstances (i.e. roommates and introvertedness) make experimentation impractical, I would like to try sex just for the heck of it some day. Because asexuality just mean a lack of interest in genders, not a lack of interest in sexual things themselves.

-------
ok, that was a long wall of text. sorry.

I came over here from AVEN for this thread, but it seems interesting so I may stick around for a while. If you have any questions/topics that you'd like an asexual perspective on, feel free to ask away! I can't speak for everyone, but I can give my thoughts at least. I'm an aromantic[?] (not interested in any gender emotionally), indifferent (not repulsed by sex), sex-positive (thinking that sex is ok and you should have it/not have it as you like as long as everyone capably consents) asexual.

[ 08-24-2011, 04:17 AM: Message edited by: Cleander ]

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Former Lee Warmer
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Hi, my name is Ashley and I identify as aromantic asexual. It took me a long time to figure this out and particularly the aromantic part has caused many problems for me over the years (because I didn't understand the concept of romantic attraction well enough to know I wasn't having it).

I have never masturbated or had sex. Before I even knew I was asexual I told prospective boyfriends that sex was not an option, end of story. I have only had remotely sexual thoughts...maybe twice in my 23 years (an one of those times was on purpose to try and figure out how I felt about the idea--the other was a dream) and only once had what I guess is a 'horny' feeling. I woke up (at 18) one morning with a strage sensation. I didn't know what it was or why it was happening so I got freaked out. I just pulled the covers over my head and waited for it to go away. It never happened again. I can say for certain that I've never experienced sexual attraction. In fact, I didn't learn that the rest of the world had sex until I was 19. Before that I just thought everyone was like me and only joked about sex but never actually did it. Most awkward conversation ever.

I've also never enjoyed kissing and I think my experiences can easily translate to some asexuals feelings on sex. My experiences in relationships ranged from 1) letting a guy kiss me cause he seemed to enjoy it; 2)I'll kiss you sometimes but if you open your mouth you die; 3) I think this is a situation in which I should kiss him (only to find out that he was extremely hurt to find out that I had no desire to kiss him); 4)no kissing, period. One boyfriend (3) convinced me to try kissing for a long period (which I'd never done before) and I had a panic attack. Boyfriend from (2) I broke up with because one weekend he kissed me too much which I interpreted as a breach of trust and never felt any affection for him after that.

I once said that I wouldn't mind being a dom in a BDSM relationship, as long as my parter was a straight woman so they'd would never want to have actual sex with me. The notion of getting hurt was never appealing in a sexual way but there's this whole adrenaline rush thing. I never did it and I'm not interested now so it's moot. Hope it helps though.

I wonder why you have such a strong aversion to our use of sexual as the antithesis of asexual. Would you prefer that in conversations we said things like, "I don't really understand homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals and pansexuals." Bit of a mouthful, no?

I think one of the main problems that young asexuals face is the fact that no one knows what it is, or addresses it if they do know, so it isn't uncommon for people to get into their 30s or 40s before they figure it out. In that time, they often put out in the hope that maybe they'll like it more this time, keep their partner/spouse happy, or even just because that's what everyone says they should be doing. Often it doesn't seem to matter how happy we are being single and unsexed, people still tell us that we probably just have a medical problem, are a late bloomer, will hopefully (or probably) find someone soon so don't worry.

It's not just for our benefit that education should happen, in my opinion.

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