Label =/= identity (Carnival of Aces)

31 enero 2018

This is a contribution to January 2018 Carnival of Aces.

My sense of identity is not strong. I have a greater sense of individuality than of identity. Among the different factors of identity (race, religion, gender fandom) proposed in the call for contributions, I don’t feel strong identity in any of them. I live in a racially homogeneous country (thanks to miscegenation) where the great gap is marked by the Hispanic culture, which includes a lot of countries in the Americas. My country is also religiously homogeneous country, where even the atheistic are so in opposition to Catholic beliefs. Personally, I don’t feel a strong sense of gender identity, and I don’t identify with any fandom. Contrary, I do feel identified with the asexual and aromantic labels.

The label itself doesn’t create the identity, as one’s identity may be expressed with a complex phrase, but it helps shaping it. Identifying with a label is not the same as satisfying the label. For instance, most of asexual are unaware of their asexuality because they ignore the label. Conversely, many antisexual identify as asexuals when they are actually allosexuals who reject their sexuality. I especially dislike when journalists confuse these states as synonyms, speaking of a 1% of the population who identify as asexual, when most of this population is unaware of the label.

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Labels left behind in my discovery of asexuality

30 noviembre 2017

I came across the asexuality jargon in 2008 while trying to help a friend to understand their sexual orientation. When I read the definitions, they resonated a lot with my experience, but I didn’t identify as asexual right then. I had previously considered if I could be bisexual, but I discarded the idea because I didn’t desire guys sexually. I didn’t desire girls sexually either, but what confused me is that I was open to sexual exploration with girls, so I was an odd kind of heterosexual in my mind.

From my first encounter with asexuality terms, I remember reading about Rabger’s model, whose author has changed their mind later, and about the split attraction model. The distinction between sexual attraction and desire was clarifying, though I still needed better descriptions of them in order to decide if I could be asexual. Also, the split attraction model made me realize I could be aromantic, though by that time the concept of squish had not been coined yet.

Three months later, after some conversations with more sexual people, I realized I was not in their wavelength, so I reconsidered asexuality and joined AVEN. At the beginning, as my first posts in this blog prove, I didn’t consider me asexual yet, but within the gray spectrum. I considered myself hyposexual on the heterosexual branch. In terms of Storms’s model, I would score a little in the heterosexual axis and zero in the homosexual one. This was still subject to revision under better descriptions of sexual attraction, however I was pretty sure about my aromanticism.

The concept of squish made me completely sure of my aromanticism, and further conversations with asexuals made me refine the definition of sexual attraction and labeling me as asexual. Nevertheless, I am still attached to the term hyposexual, and defend it as a useful and legitimate category within the gray spectrum. So, I encourage people to explore their orientations and take as many provisional labels as they need, using them always descriptively and never prescriptively.


My favorite asexual research

11 agosto 2017

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

Versión en español

I’m glad to learn that the baton of Asexual Explorations on compiling a bibliography of research on asexuality has been picked up by Asexual Research in the platform Zotero [see introduction]. This way I’ve found recent articles revisiting my all-time favorite piece on asexual research, Storms (1980). The reason I like Storms’s article is because of his bidimensional model of sexual orientation, which I’ve described previously in this blog and, in a nutshell, considers heterosexual attraction and homosexual attraction as perpendicular axes, obtaining four regions: heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality and asexuality. This model improves Kinsey scale, considering asexuality a fully legitimate sexual orientation instead of an off-scale outlier.

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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 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.


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.