El cuadrado de Storms como un modelo para la educación

11 julio 2017

English version

En su propio nombre, AVEN tiene dos objetivos: visibilidad y educación. Aunque está entrelazados, este mes nos fijaremos en la educación. Todo esfuerzo de visibilidad educa enseñando a la gente que la asexualidad existe, pero quizá no en profundidad, y todo esfuerzo de educación visibiliza su objetivo, aunque quizá no de la forma más efectiva. Por supuesto, no es lo mismo tratar de educar a la población general, a la gente LGBT o a sus aliados. Uno puede profundizar más con las dos últimas poblaciones a causa del conocimiento compartido. Nótese que todavía hay gente que sólo es capaz de representarse un modelo binario hetero/gay o, if si llegan a concebir un espectro, es el espectro de mariconismo, que empieza por hetero, sigue por cis-gay y termina con trans, mezclando churras con merinas.

Como cualquier lector de mi blog puede haberse figurado al leer esta y esta enteradas, yo soy fan del cuadrado de Storms, y lo encuentro adecuado para la educación a varios niveles. En el más sencillo de ellos, muestra cómo la asexualidad es el la pieza que falta en el puzzle de la orientación, previniendo la respuesta “y cuántas orientaciones más?”. De este modo, podemos representarnos las cuatro orientaciones cardinales: heterosexualidad, homosexualidad, bisexualidad y asexualidad. Esta imagen, aparte de encuadrar la asexualidad como una orientación sexual, también previene las confusiones habituales con la antisexualidad o la abstinencia.

Un paso más allá de la lectura cuaternaria del cuadrado de Storms, uno puede introducir el área gris, incluyendo la demisexualidad, but con la advertencia de que las cuatro orientaciones cardinales vienen antes y que un demisexual aún tiene una orientación sexual para su atracción sexual. Yo lo compararía con el género gramatical en castellano. Hay dos géneros gramaticales en castellano estándar, masculino y femenino, junto con un neutro vestigial, pero luego existen cierto fenómenos en relación al género, como el género común, el género ambiguo o el género epiceno. Estos fenómenos no son género, y requieren de los dos géneros cardinales para su explicación. Por ejemplo, una palabra no puede tener epiceno por su género, sino que será masculina o femenina. Una palabra epicena femenina como “persona” es una palabra femenina, y su género epiceno significa que su género femenino tiene preferencia sobre el género de su referente. Del mismo modo, un demisexual hetero es heterosexual; su demisexualidad explica cómo funciona su atracción, no adónde está orientada.

Finalmente, el cuadrado de Storms es un modelo científico, publicado en 1980, lo que lo hace válido también para educar a profesionales. Otra ventaja del modelo de Storms es que es puede reproducir para la atracción romántica, dejando claro que las orientaciones sexual y romántica son esencialmente diferentes, aunque usualmente estén alineadas. Creo que es positivo introducir el modelo de atracciones separadas tan pronto como se trata con la atracción romántica de cara a evitar mitos como identificar asexualidad y arromanticismo o, peor, pensar que la atracción romántica es universal. Con el mismo cuadrado se puede explorar más lejos, no sólo la orientación romántica, sino también la platónica y la social.

El cuadrado de Storms no el la panacea, ya que ignora los género no binarios, pero es un gran modelo para educación en varios niveles.


Storms square as a model for education

29 junio 2017

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

Versión en español

In its very name, AVEN has two objectives: visibility and education. Though intertwined, this month we’ll focus on education. Each effort of visibility educates by teaching people that asexuality exists, but maybe not in depth, and each effort of education makes its objective visible, but maybe not in the most effective way. Of course, it’s not the same trying to educate the general population, the LGBT people or their allies. One can go more in depth with the two last populations because of the shared knowledge. Notice that there are still people who can only picture a binary straight/gay or, if they conceive a spectrum, it’s the faggish spectrum, which start with straight, follows with cis-gay and ends with trans, mixing apples with oranges.

As any reader of this blog may know, I am a big fan of Storms square, and I find it suitable both many levels of education. For the simplest level, it shows how asexuality is the missing piece in the puzzle of orientation, preventing the response “and how many orientations more?”. This way we can picture the four cardinal orientations: heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality. This picture, apart of framing asexuality as a sexual orientation, also prevents the common misconceptions like equating asexuality with being antisexual or abstinent from sex.

Advancing further than the fourfold reading of Storms square, one can introduce the grey area, including demisexuality, but with the warning that the four cardinal orientations come before and that a demisexual still has a sexual orientation for their sexual attraction. I would compare it with grammatical gender in Spanish. There are two grammatical genders in standard Spanish, masculine and feminine, together with a vestigial neuter, but then there exist some phenomena regarding gender, like common gender, ambiguous gender or epicene gender. These phenomena are not genders, and require the two cardinal genders for their explanation. For instance, a word cannot have epicene as its gender, but it would be either masculine or feminine. An epicene feminine word like “persona” is a feminine word, and being epicene means that its feminine gender has preference over the gender of its referent. In the same way, a straight demisexual is heterosexual; their demisexuality explains how their sexual attraction works, not where it is oriented.

Finally, Storms square is a scientific model, published in 1980, what makes it valid also for educating professionals. Another advantage of Storms model is that it can be reproduced for romantic attraction, making it clear that sexual and romantic orientation are essentially different, though usually aligned. I think it’s positive to introduce the split attraction model as soon as dealing with romantic attraction in order to avoid myths like equating asexuality and aromanticism or, worse, thinking that romantic attraction is universal. With the same square one can explore further, not only romantic orientation, but also platonic or social orientation.

Storms square is not the panacea, as it doesn’t deal with non-binary genders, but it’s a great model for education in many levels.


My thoughts on kissing, holding hands and bed sharing

31 mayo 2017

Esta entrada es una colaboración para el carnaval de blogs, que este mes trata sobre besar, agarrarse de la mano, compartir cama, etc. Escribo en inglés porque es el idioma de este carnaval.

I don’t think that kissing, even French kissing, holding hands or sharing a bed are intrinsically romantic, but toxically considered romantic by our society, making difficult to do them outside a romantic setting. First, I shall exclude cheek kissing because our society has decided that this is the formal greeting when a woman in involved, though I strongly hate these protocol and its gender asymmetry. I think French kissing is considered romantic or sexual, so if it’s not considered romantic it’s because it’s linked with casual sex. The latter would be the only case I would engage in French kissing, and I did engage in it in a context of sensual explorations, but in general I’m not driven into partnered sex, so I’m not driven into French kissing for sexual reasons, and less for romantic reasons.

Regarding hand holding, I shall exclude the case of helping another person, or being helped yourself, where holding hands is functional. When a couple hold hands for romantic reasons they do it in a dysfunctional form, and they insist on being granted room for the pack even in crowded settings where one can hardly get their own room. In extremely crowded settings, it could paradoxically result functional as a way to keep together, but again the way you should fasten your partner’s hand is not romantic, as far as I know. I haven’t tried romantic hand-holding, and I can’t see the point in it. Just showing everybody you are a couple?

Again, I shall exclude bed sharing for a need, which uses to be temporary. Romantic bed-sharing uses to be a standing situation. In this case, if two people share a bed in a continuous basis, it’s assumed they’re a couple more surely than if they held hands or kissed, and it’s also assume that they are more committed and, of course, that they have sex on a regular basis. Among this three romantic gestures, I dislike more bed sharing, especially for lasting hours. I wouldn’t share a bed if there were no need. I can’t understand the couples that, being able to have separate beds, decide to give up this comfort in order to be closer to their partner. One thing is sharing a bed for a sex session, which I understand, and another thing is sharing it for sleeping. And I hate when society dismiss a couple’s love and engagement when they find out that they sleep on separate beds, or even in separate rooms.


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.


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.