Why I am childfree

30 abril 2017

Esta entrada es una continuación de mi anterior colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre asexualidad, aromanticismo y paternidad. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval.

In a previous post I explored how my disaffection with parenthood is related with my asexuality and my aromanticism. There are many reasons to choose not to have children. Some, like saving time, money and effort for oneself, are dismissed as selfish, with the hidden assumption that your children exist beforehand and you are denying them something. But the truth is that, if they don’t exist, you can’t owe them anything. Contrary to this fallacy, I feel I have a duty with my potential children, to be a good parent, and I think I could be a bad father. Why does society assumes that an untrained parent can properly raise a child. Parenthood should be taught explicitly, with supervised training and raising your first children together with an experienced advisor. Otherwise, the first child may pay the price of the inexperience of their parents. Moreover, apart of lacking the proper training and the suitable school for getting it in case I were interested, I think I don’t have the aptitudes for being a good parent. I wouldn’t like myself as my own parent.

Not only does society lead parents to raise children as if there were a magical instinct that could guide them in all the subtleties of educating a human kid, but also it grants the parents the right to do so by their own beliefs, regardless how wrong they might be. This “right” is understood even as a right to deny a need to your children as long as you dismiss it as a whim. Conversely, this “right” is understood as a right to impose your whims on your children as a duty. Provided these denials or whims are not too fringe, nobody will challenge your “right” to raise your children your way. And not only may it be voluntary mistreatment, but also it may be due to ignorance, especially when most novice parents lack the training I mentioned in the previous paragraph. I’m concerned about the latter in case I had children.

But even in the ideal case of well-trained parents raising children without mistakes, the social context is far from ideal and is hard to change. Though it may sound pessimistic, is bringing a new person to this world a positive thing? Is life in this context a gift or a sentence? Another hidden assumption of the aforementioned fallacy “childfree is selfish” is an optimistic answer to these questions. Moreover, this fallacious claim diverts attention from some of the motivations for having children that can be actually selfish.

My asexuality, aromanticism and not parenthood

25 abril 2017

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre asexualidad, aromanticismo y paternidad. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval.

By the end of the previous month, a Spanish newspaper published the article La generación sin hijos [The generation without children] about how the so-called millennials have it so difficult for starting a family that many of them are choosing not to have children. The author of the article criticizes the older generations (as expected from a young author) and the inertia. The comments on the article became an intergenerational war with more explicit charges. I, being younger than the author, sympathize with her points. I think it’s true that my generation is much more open to making compatible family and work, so the responsibility of the current incompatibility is on the roof of the previous generations. If in their generation the “solution” was a stay-at-home mother but the current price of housing makes this “solution” a luxury, we need other solutions, and as having children is a choice, a “solution” is not to start a family. I think this is a responsible solution at an individual level, but intergenerationally it may cause problems whose solution would require a deep restructuring of society. But, again, the responsibility is on the roof of those who made young people opt out of parenthood.

From my opinions in the previous paragraph, one can guess I agree with all her points, but there is one that is alien to me. Both people interviewed in the article are open to parenthood if it were possible for them. I understand that its was necessary for her point, and even they may be the majority in our generation, but I feel very disconnected from their desires of starting a family, even if the conditions were favorable. The question is now the relation of this with my asexuality and aromanticism.

I feel this disaffection with parenthood is as ingrained in my personality as asexuality and aromanticism, but I feel the three independent, though aligned and helping each other. My asexuality and aromanticism are matched in such a way that my celibate singlehood satisfies both. My asexuality and celibacy help my desire not to procreate by avoiding unplanned pregnancies. My aromanticism and singlehood prevent a hypothetical girlfriend wanting to have children with me. Conversely, my disaffection with paternity helps my aromanticism by not needing a mother for my children. If I were sex averse, I would also thank for not having the need to have sex in order to reproduce, but it’s not my case.

As I told in My experience with asexuality, marriage and Christian religion, when I was a child, I saw marriage and children as unavoidable and irresistible experiences of adulthood, but then I realized that both are choices. Moreover, they are independent choices, though the decision depends on two people. In this point, I’m glad that society has been so clumsy in promoting them, just expecting that the “natural” drive to pair off would lead to marriage and children. Though most people are driven to pair off, marriage has lost its privileges (e.g. being the only way to have legitimate children) and can result even disadvantageous for both partners, so it’s a natural consequence that more and more couples choose not to marry. The prejudices of the previous generations about marriage fade out, and the older a relative, the less important their opinion on marriage. If there is a societal pressure to pair off, I’m immune to it, and the pressure to marry only works for couples, as far as I can observe, so I’m doubly immune to it.

Having children is a horse of a different color. Though young people is avoiding or delaying marriage, many are living like a married couple, just without the papers. But having children is not an administrative formality, except the case of adoption. Though family is a social construct, having children is a biological fact. Even unplanned pregnancies exist. But modern contraception, much more effective than in the past, makes that the drive to have heterosexual intercourse doesn’t grant the children anymore. Nowadays having children is mostly, as it should be, a deliberate decision. Again, as I’m permanently single, I don’t feel any pressure to have children. I don’t know if it doesn’t exist, if it exists but it doesn’t operate on singles, or if I’m just lucky with my family.

Though its steps change, the relationship escalator remains. For instance, marriage is no longer a step before cohabiting or having children, but the idea that a relationship must progress by taking certain steps is too ingrained in society. Has marriage become optional or was it just delayed in the series of steps? And having children? It’s blurry which step is before, since some couples get married before having children while some others get married after. Maybe we’re still in a transition between two models of the escalator.

The step of having children in the relationship escalator is one of the possible directions of the link between the two societal pressures: to get a spouse-like partner and to have children. The other direction is pressuring to get a partner in order to have children, or to give grandchildren to your parents, or to give children to your community. Fortunately, we no longer live in a society where children were a duty. We don’t live a transition period, but the change is accomplished. I don’t know for women, since our sexist society still puts different expectations on each sex, but I haven’t felt any pressure to mate in order to procreate. So, if this link exists, it has had no effect on me.

Algunos binarismos persistentes

12 marzo 2017

El sexo binario tiene repercusión incluso allí donde se han dado pasos para romper el binarismo. El primer ejemplo a considerar es el propio sexo, tradicionalmente dividido en machos y hembras, sistema binario al que tardíamente se ha añadido los intersexuales, una categoría que no pasa de ser un cajón de sastre donde colocar a todo aquél que no tiene cabida en la categorías tradicionales. En este sentido hilaban más fino los romanos, pues el Código de Justiniano distinguía, aparte de varones y mujeres, a eunucos y hermafroditas (Wacke, 1990). Sé que es grande la tentación de hacer una analogía con los modelos bidimensionales descritos en la entrada Bidimensional models for asexuality and gender identity, interpretando cada una de estas categorías como un cuadrante en un modelo bidimensional, pero lo que sí que es cierto es que en el Código de Justiniano se conciben estas categorías como continuas, disponiendo en varios de sus artículos que los hermafroditas sean tratados según el sexo cuyas características predominen. En una manera de hacerles encajar en el binarismo, pero sin negar su existencia, como harán legislaciones posteriores.

El siguiente binarismo que me gustaría discutir es el de la orientación sexual. La clásica dicotomía entre heterosexuales y homosexuales supone tres binarismos: de sexo del sujeto, de sexo del objeto y de la propia orientación en sí. El reconocimiento de la bisexualidad sólo viene a romper el tercero de estos binarismos. El concepto de pansexualidad, al ser independiente del sexo del sujeto y del objeto, sí rompe los tres binarismos, pero no todo el mundo es pansexual ni todos los pansexuales se identifican con esta etiqueta. Algunos prefieren la etiqueta bisexual, generalizando su significado más allá de los binarismos. La mayoría monosexual prefiere las etiquetas heterosexual y homosexual u otras igual de binarias. Estas etiquetas presuponen un sexo binario y bien definido tanto en el sujeto como en el objeto, diferenciándose en si éstos son iguales u opuestos. Por eso no es de extrañar que algunas personas se identifiquen más como androsexuales o ginosexuales, independientemente del sexo del sujeto, suponiendo sólo binario el sexo del objeto. Incluso los modelos bidimensionales de atracción sexual (Storms, 1980) presuponen, precisamente en su bidimensionalidad, el binarismo en el sexo del objeto. Rompemos un binarismo o dos pero seguimos atrapados en otro, pues salir de él complicaría demasiado los modelos.

Por último, quería discutir el binarismo de identidad de género. Si bien la distinción cis/trans rompe con el binarismo de sexo, desligando el género del sexo, mantiene tres binarismos similares a los expuestos para la orientacións sexual. Así, se supone binarios el sexo, el género y las posibilidades de identidad de género. De este modo, se supone que una persona sólo puede ser macho o hembra e identificarse como hombre o mujer, siendo cis o trans según si la identidad de género coincide con el sexo o son opuestas. Los modelos bidimensionales de identidad de género descritos en Bidimensional models for asexuality and gender identity, que Storms (1980) utilizó como inspiración de su modelo de orientación sexual, rompen uno de los binarismos citados, aunque no está claro cuál. Se puede interpretar el género como una paleta bidimensional, rompiendo su binarismo, en la cual cada persona toma su identidad de género. Este modelo, aunque a priori los excluye, se puede arreglar para incluir a las personas bigénero o de género fluido, pero no distingue la intensidad de la identificación con el género. Otra interpretación supone binario el género pero permite identificarse independientemente con cada uno con diversa identidad, lo que da lugar también a un modelo bidimensional. En ninguna de las dos interpretaciones queda claro qué es cis y qué es trans cuando la identidad de género es no binaria. A la vista de la analogía con el párrafo anterior, sería tanto como preguntar a un bisexual o un asexual si es hetero u homo.

He dejado deliberadamente otras cuestiones más complejas para otra entrada. Ésta es mi pequeña contribución al tema. Dejo como sugerencia de lectura Non-binary people who aren’t trans.

Michael D. Storms, 1980. Theories of Sexual Orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 38, nº 5, pp. 783-792.
Andreas Wacke, 1990. Del hermafroditismo a la transexualidad. Anuario de derecho civil, vol. 43, nº 3, pp. 677-712. Recuperado de boe.es.

Heterogeneidad en la comunidad asexual

11 enero 2017

English version

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre diferentes formas de ser asexual. La he traducido del inglés, que es el idioma de este carnaval, por sugerencia de su anfitriona.

A pesar de no haber dos asexuales iguales, incluso dentro de cada subcategoría, todavía percibo una gran división entre románticos y arrománticos. Aunque la frontera entre ambos es borrosa, habiendo una amplia y diversa zona gris, todavía encuentro útil la distinción entre románticos y arrománticos. Mientras que la división entre asexual con y sin libido, la cual completa el modelo ABCD ahora obsoleto, tiene que ver con asuntos más privados, la división según la atracción romántica tiene que ver con cómo los asexuales se comportan socialmente, en especial respecto al emparejamiento. Tenemos que lidiar con presiones sociales muy diferentes. En mi primera quedada asexual, el anfitrión dijo en la presentación “supongo que todo tenéis experiencia sexual”, a lo que yo respondí “ni la tengo, ni me he visto presionado a tenerla”. La clave estaba en que yo era el único arromántico en la quedada y esto hacía mis experiencias acerca del sexo muy diferentes de las de los demás. Aunque hay quienes, siendo arrománticos e ignorándolo, sucumben a la presión por emparejarse y así tienen que soportar también la presión por practicar sexo, la mayoría de las experiencias que he oído de asexuales podrían clasificarse grosso modo como, bien felizmente solteros y célibes, bien en pareja y con problemas acerca del sexo. Cada grupo suele sentir una sola de las susodichas presiones sociales, con excepciones. Por ejemplo, algunos chicos felizmente solteros, ya aceptados como solteros empedernidos, sufren presión para echar un polvo.

Al contrario que la división discutida en el párrafo anterior, que puede reconocerse a partir de la historia de cada asexual, hay otro dato que debería proporcionarse para saber de dónde viene cada asexual y cómo les trata la sociedad: el sexo asignado al nacer. No me refiero a la identidad de género, que suele proporcionarse en el perfil de usuario, sino del sexo asignado al nacer, el que es socialmente reconocido, en especial por los más conservadores, salvo que vivan como su género preferido manteniendo en secreto su sexo. Mientras que la identidad de género es necesaria para tratar con respeto a los demás usuarios, el sexo al nacer es necesario para entender adecuadamente las reacciones sociales y poder aconsejar más acertadamente. Cuanto más conservadora sea la sociedad donde vive el asexual, más relevante será el sexo asignado al nacer. Yo soy un chico cis y así lo tengo puesto en mi perfil. Si fuera trans y no me sintiera identificado con mi sexo de nacimiento, consideraría alguna fórmula para hacerlo saber en mi perfil. Pero, aludiendo al tema del mes pasado, es una decisión de privacidad personal qué datos compartir en la red.

A pesar de su utilidad en las presentaciones, las categorías antes discutidas no son divisiones nítidas, pues Natura non facit saltus [la Naturaleza no hace saltos]. No debemos reemplazar un estereotipo homogéneo de la asexualidad por un conjunto discreto de ellos, pues incurriríamos en el mismo error a otro nivel. Quiero finalizar traduciendo una palabras del Informe Kinsey:

El mundo no se divide entre ovejas y cabras. No todo es blanco o negro. Es un fundamento de la taxonomía que la naturaleza raramente trata con categorías discretas. Sólo la mente humana inventa categorías y trata de forzar los hechos en nichos separados. El mundo vivo es un continuo en cada uno de sus aspectos. Cuanto antes aprendamos esto en relación al comportamiento sexual humano, antes llegaremos a un claro entendimiento de las realidades del sexo.

PD. Otra división, en este caso dentro de la comunidad arromántica, se discute en esta entrada de A Life Unexamined. A grandes rasgos, separa los arros dirigidos al emparejamiento o a la soltería. El estereotipo de arromántico que mencioné se correspondería con el de aquéllos dirigidos a la soltería. De todos modos, la conclusión de la autora es similar a la mía.

Heterogeneity in the asexual community

6 enero 2017

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre diferentes formas de ser asexual. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval, pero hay una traducción aquí.

Despite not being two similar asexuals, even within subcategories, I still notice a great divide between romantics and aromantics. Although the border between both is blurred, existing a wide and diverse grey zone, I still find useful the distinction between romantics and aromantics. Whilst the divide between asexual with and without libido, which completed the now-obsolete ABCD model, deals with more private issues, the divide about romantic attraction has to do with the way the asexuals behave socially, especially about pairing off. We deal with very different societal pressures. In my first asexual meet-up, the host said in the introduction “I assume you all have sexual experience,” to which I replied “No, I don’t, and I’ve never felt pressured into it.” The point was that I was the only aromantic at the meet-up, and this made my experiences around sex very different to others’. Although there are people who, being aromantic in ignorance, succumbed to the pressure to pair off and so had to bear the pressure to have sex too, most experiences I’ve heard from asexuals could be roughly classified as, either happily single and celibate, or with couple issues around sex. Each group use to feel only one of the two aforesaid societal pressures, with exceptions. For instance, some happily single guys, once accepted as confirmed bachelors, feel pressure to get laid.

Contrary to the divide discussed in the previous paragraph, which can be recognized from the asexual’s story, there is another piece of information that should be provided in order to know where the asexual comes from and how society treat them: the so-called sex assigned at birth. I don’t mean the gender identity, which is stated in the user’s profile, but the sex assigned at birth, the socially recognized, especially by the most conservative ones, unless they go stealth. Whilst gender identity is necessary for politely addressing the other users, the sex assigned at birth is necessary for properly understanding the societal reactions and giving better advice. The more conservative the society where the asexual lives, the more relevant their sex-at-birth is. I am a cis guy, thus I state so in my profile. If I were trans and felt mislabeled by my sex-at-birth, I would consider using a formula in my profile that let other users know. But, recalling the previous month’s topic, it’s a matter of personal privacy to decide what data to share online.

Despite, their usefulness at introductions, the aforesaid categories are not clear cut, since Natura non facit saltus [Nature doesn’t make jumps]. We should not replace a homogeneous stereotype of asexuality with a discrete set of them, since it would be the same mistake at another level. I want to end with some words from Kinsey Report:

The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.

PS. Another divide, in this case inside the romantic community, is discussed in this post at A Life Unexamined. Roughly speaking, it divides between aros driven to couplehood or driven to singlehood. The stereotype of aromantics I mentioned would correspond to those driven to singlehood. Anyway, its author’s conclusion is similar to mine.

Naming and discovering new categories

31 agosto 2016

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval.

When I first came across the asexual community and read the descriptions of the terms it used, I didn’t identify with it initially, though these distinctions made a lot of sense to me. Despite the definition of the word “asexual” was a bit undefined that time because of the vagueness of “sexual attraction,” I considered really necessary to separate sex drive, sexual attraction and romantic attraction. Because of the lack of a good definition of “sexual attraction,” I considered myself hetero-hyposexual, but I immediately felt that the word “aromatic” described myself, so I wrote in my AVEN description “strongly aromantic.” Through discussion of the concept of “sexual attraction,” I finally recognized I had always been asexual, but I didn’t feel as identified as when I learnt of aromanticism. But the best word I found in the asexual community for describing myself was “squish.”

My reference for the definition of squish has always been the blog post Squish! by Trix. I had experienced squishes before, but I misidentified them heteronormatively as crushes if they were on girls and irrelevant if they were on boys. In the terminology of an older post, lacking the platonic category, I misclassified the girl squishes as romantic and the boy squishes as social. I think they would have been better classified as social, but amatonormativity made me consider some of them actual crushes. But they were platonic, and the word “squish” opened my eyes to a new category where I could recast many relevant feelings of my life. The platonic category has simplified the understanding of my feelings since I was aware of it, and the word “squish” has allowed an accurate communication with other members of the asexual community about my feelings.

The word “squish” was a breaking point of my policy about translation of asexuality terms between English and Spanish. Initially I kept a dictionary so that I could speak of asexuality in both languages, but I couldn’t find a word for “squish,” and the Spanish word “platónico” is quite different from the English word “platonic.” Anyway, the platonic category was so useful that we needed to use it in Spanish regardless the denomination. Some years later, some Spanish-speaking aromantic activists proposed terms for this category, like “arrobo” or “arrobamiento” for “squish” and “afectivo” for “platonic”, but the years when I had to use the English ones made hard for me to adapt to the new ones, especially “afectivo” because of it’s prone to confusion.

Other people may live happily unaware of the platonic category, but for me it was lacking words for one of our senses. If we identify the platonic feelings with hearing and romantic feelings with sight, my previous life was lacking terms for the sounds, being blind in a visual society. When I heard music, I thought I had to be seeing something. Realizing I was blind and that sound was a sensible reality, I could enjoy the music for itself.

Kinds of attraction: an analogy from phonology

28 agosto 2015

Versión en español

This post is a translation of the relevant parts of Tipos de atracción una analogía desde la fonología (in Spanish).

This post continues the discussion and the terminology of Asocial: the final frontier?, which I now review. First, we have romantic attraction, understood as separate from sexual attraction. Second, we have platonic attraction, and then the social attraction. In that post we considered the question of whether there is attraction further than the social one. Today we shall discuss what there is in between.

With each of these kinds of attraction there is a corresponding kind of relationship. For platonic attraction, the community coined the terms squish for the instances and objects of the attraction and zucchini for the partner in this relationship, though many people deem the latter unnecessary, having friend with adjectives. The issue is that friendship includes both the platonic and the social meanings. This post will deal with the relation between the classic trichotomy partner-friend-acquaintance and the finer distinction romantic-platonic-social-acquaintance, using as a source of analogy the phonology of Spanish and Catalan (a language spoken in Eastern regions of Spain, in bilingualism with Spanish).

Stressed vowels of Spanish and Catalan

Stressed vowels of Spanish and Catalan

Catalan language has 7 stressed vowels (à, è, é, í, ò, ó, ú) compared to the 5 ones of Spanish language (A, E, I, O, U). While in Catalan there is semantic difference between è and é, to the Spanish ear both sound like E, resorting to adjective (like open and closed) in order to distinguish them. The same happens with ò and ó, which sound like O to the Spanish ear, though I will focus on the E. In the spectrum between the A and the I, Spanish language sets 3 vowels (A, E, I), while Catalan language sets 4 (à, è, é, í), with the consequent differences it has for classifying a vowel in this spectrum.

Well, I think the same happens with the difference between couple and friendship and between friendship and acquaintanceship. As far as I know, for the precise discussion it is more useful to set 4 points in this spectrum (à=romantic, è=platonic, é=social, í=acquaintance) instead of only 3 (A=couple, E=friend, I=acquaintance), though a person whose ear is used to the the concept of friendship (opposite to couple and to acquaintanceship) will find the same kind of problems as the Spanish speaker that hears in Catalan è and é. Especially, in case of need to distinguish two different concepts, they will use one of their native categories (like friendship) qualified by an adjective (like close).