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).

Bidimensional models for asexuality and gender identity

31 enero 2015

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre asexualidad y género no binario. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval.

Disclaimer: In this post I use the word “gender” with is psychosocial meaning, not as an euphemism for “sex.”

Thinking of this month’s topic of Carnival of Aces, Non-binary People and Asexuality, I remembered that the celebrated Storms binary model of sexual orientation (Storms, 1980) is based, as he states in the article, on a previous bidimensional model of what he calls “sex role” and yields four categories: undifferentiated, masculine, feminine and androgynous. Applied to sexual orientation, the model yields the four categories well known in the asexual community: asexual, heterosexual, homosexual and bisexual. One could naively try to harmonize the terminology and rename Storms’s “sex role” categories as agender, masculine, feminine and bigender, but I think this goes astray of the established terminology. For instance, if I’m not wrong, a bigender person has two gender identities, in different regions of the bidimensional spectrum, contrary to an androgyne, who has one gender identity in the androgynous sector. Thus, gender is (a priori) more complicated than sexual orientation, since one can have a different number of gender identities, from none to a continuum, in the Storms-like spectrum.

Storms’s model of sexual orientation (on the left) and the corresponding model of gender identity (on the right).

The part of non-binary-ness that could be compared to asexuality is what Storms calls “undifferentiated.” I’m not a fan of this terminology, but I will use it for want of a better one. Another related term is “agender,” which seems to be polysemic. According to Neutrois Nonsense, “agender” may refer to the absence of gender identity and to one gender identity in the “undifferentiated” sector. Though only the latter is parallel to asexuality, there was an old opinion (now dismissed) of asexuality as lack of sexual orientation. In my opinion, the simpler model of sexual orientation leaves no room for a lack of sexual orientation, but the more complicatedness of gender allows two different concepts: genderless and gender-neutral.

Yet there is another concept which can be confused with genderless-ness and gender-neutral-ness, and it’s the strength of gender identity. Theoretically speaking, a weak gender identity is close to genderless, but in practice it’s difficult to distinguish a weakening a gender identity fixed at one point of the bidimensional spectrum from moving this point of the spectrum toward the origin. What’s the difference between weakly feeling 100% masculine and strongly feeling 50% masculine? If I’m not wrong, the latter identity is called “demiguy”, so we could rephrase this question as “What’s the difference between weakly feeling a guy and strongly feeling a demiguy?”.

References: Michael D. Storms, 1980. Theories of Sexual OrientationJournal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 38, no. 5, pp. 783-792.

My experience with asexuality, marriage and Christian religion

26 octubre 2014

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

I am not religious nowadays, but I was raised Roman Catholic, which is the traditional religion in Spain. I am asexual aromantic, and singlehood is my natural state, though I lacked unmarried role models in my childhood, except in the Church. So religion was for me the proof that marriage is a choice, and not something unavoidable and irresistible everyone experiences when grown up. It is therefore understandable that I considered becoming a priest when a child. Later I detached myself from the Church because of the hypocrisy of its people, who make prophetic the words of Matthew 23 that Jesus addressed to the Pharisees.

Fortunately, when I left the sheepfold, I already knew that marriage is a choice, but I still had to bear the societal pressure to match, maybe tempered by the Catholic tradition. I don’t know from experience what happens in Protestant societies, but from what I read in the asexual blogosphere, the pressure to marry is stronger there, probably because they lack unmarried role models. But I think that, though the priestly celibacy is questionable, the Catholic doctrine of celibacy is righter than the Protestant one. The latter, who allegedly follow the sola scriptura policy, are forgetting the doctrine of Saint Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, who clearly states the following.

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. […] But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that. I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn. — 1 Corinthians 7:1-2,6-9

I had to remind this passage a few times in AVEN because the Protestants ignore these verses. I shall assume bona fide they did for ignorance, but I feel tempted to think that they are teaching as God’s commandment what is plainly human tradition, as Jesus himself condemned.

Another biblical passage that I had to quote in AVEN, though less clear than the Pauline excerpt above, is the so-called verse of the eunuchs. I know there is controversy because of the exact meaning(s) of the word “eunuch” in the verse, with the Christian gay groups preaching it refers to homosexuals, but I shall not enter here the discussion. I will only notice that “eunuch” did not mean exclusively “castrated”, as the Justinian compilation proves, but I may blog about this in another occasion. The verse, in context, is the following.

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it. — Matthew 19:9-12

Jesus is clearly speaking of marriage in this passage, clearly claiming that marriage is not for everybody. The verse of the eunuchs is an (obscure) explanation of this statement. This “marriage is not for everybody” thing is something that the Protestants are forgetting again. So I’m glad I had been raised in Roman Catholicism rather than in Protestantism because of its acceptance of unmarried life.

Asocial: the final frontier?

13 octubre 2014

Versión en español

This post is a translation of the relevant parts of Asocial: ¿la última frontera? (in Spanish).

In the short history of asexuality we have witnessed twice a reaction against which we should be cautious in order to avoid committing it a third time. I mean the denial of asexuality by the (allo)sexuals who, unable to conceive that someone may lack what they feel, deny that asexuality might exist arguing that sexual attraction is universal and lacking it would result in inhuman beings incapable of loving. In reaction to this, the romantic asexual raise the flag of love without sex and reply things like “asexuals can also fall in love,” invisibilizing and denying the aromantics. Moreover, forgetting the way they were attacked, they now defend the universality of romantic love and even claim that its lack would result in inhuman beings incapable of loving. In reaction to this second denial, the aromantic asexuals discovered the squish and reclaimed the (queer)platonic relationships. This sounds again as the invisibilizing and denying cries of the (allo)sexuals and the romantics, and I would not want that these findings so useful to our emotional lives were used for the invisibility and denial of the aplatonics. I have read claims of universality of platonic love, although I still have not read that its lack would result in inhuman beings incapable of loving, and I would not like to see it happened. We know that the aplatonics exist and are capable of loving. Even the aplatonic aromantic asexuals show other kinds of affection for other people: for their family, their non-platonic friends and their close acquaintances. Apart from family love, the affection toward this kind of friends could well be called social. The coinage is not mine, since I had already read “homosocial” before, especially in the context of “heterosexual and homosocial.” In the same way we are socially conditioned into heterosexuality, we are also socially conditioned into homosociality, but I think that in past times more than nowadays.

This social affection would correspond with social attraction, which would be what we call “to take to,” in my opinion. Thus, according to the social attraction, a person could be heterosocial, homosocial, bisocial (well recognized terms en sociology) and even pansocial or, why not, asocial. Nevertheless, does the term “asocial” do justice to the people lacking this affection? We have spoken out in favor of the aplatonics and would not want to see another turn in the cycle of oppression described above, but it seems that the various senses of the term “asocial” does yield the same meaning. Do I miss anything? A person can be asexual, aromantic, aplatonic… and asocial; is “asocial” the final frontier of human attraction? I can at least say that, being platonic, I am not an interested party in setting the frontier precisely in the first kind of attraction I experiment in this digging of attractions: sexual, romantic, platonic and social. Though I can’t be accused of partiality, I don’t want to boast of objectivity either, so I would like to get feedback from the readers. You may post your message either as a comment below or, if you prefer privacy, through the contact form. I would like to get replies especially from aplatonics and from asocials.

A good ally

24 septiembre 2014

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval. Esta entrada va dedicada a un aliado de la comunidad asexual hispana.

When reading the call for submissions for September’s Carnival of Aces, whose topic is allies, I couldn’t help remembering Jose Cabrera, a bisexual activist and ally of the Spanish-language asexual community who blogs at La Radical Bi (in Spanish) about any minority marginalized for their sex, gender, orientation or combination thereof, including asexuals and intersexuals. He was an active member of AVENes around the time I was most active there, and he had a bidirectional communication with the asexual community. He asked to and learnt from the asexuals in order to educate both himself, the LGBT community and the open-minded public. He also informed the asexuals about queer topics that might be of their interest. I’ve known other LGBT activists doing these things, but they were asexuals themselves, so they don’t count as allies but as members. Therefore he is the only ally of the asexual community I’ve known, and he happens to be a good ally.