Pramana

Sexual Allies Policing Asexual Spectrum Identities?

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Pramana

Much of AVEN discourse is characterized by the Definition Debate, but despite the visibility of this discourse, its scope is actually quite limited:
– approximately a dozen or so vocal individuals who believe that the community needs more gatekeeping/identity policing.
– mostly the same people every time.
– mostly people who identify as sexual allies.

Rather than argue about definitions, perhaps it'd be more productive to consider factors that animate gatekeeping/identity policing. I'd suggest the following four likely candidates:

1. Using asexuality to fill the emotional space that might otherwise have been filled by a religious or political community (fear that the asexual community is becoming too inclusive and diverse; I feel like a stranger in my own community).
2. Using asexuality to avoid sexual expectations in romantic relationships (fear that my sexual partner won't take my asexuality seriously as a justification for not having sex).
3. Using asexuality to rationalize why my partner doesn't want to have sex with me (preserving self-esteem through narrative which says that because my partner is asexual it's not my fault that they don't desire me sexually).
4. Using asexuality to rationalize my switch from an asexual to a sexual identity (wanting to present an idiosyncratic personal sexual history as 'normal' sexuality; incentive to invest heavily in developing a positive self-image around a newly adopted identity contrasted favourably against a discarded identity).

I doubt that the amount of inclusivity and diversity within the community is actually causing problems for visibility and education, since the vast majority of members appear unconcerned. But what I do hear on other platforms are plenty of complaints that AVEN has gained a bad reputation for gatekeeping/identity policing and the divisive culture this creates.

Identity politics debates are often about emotional insecurities/anxieties attached to other things that are going on in people's lives (such as factors #1-4 above). For that reason, the Definition Debate is just people talking past each other because it fails to address those underlying emotional concerns. Instead, maybe we should be talking about issues like the unique situation of sexual allies and of asexuals in mixed relationships. I would welcome more input, such as suggestions for other relevant factors to add to #1-4.

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Ficto.
1 hour ago, Pramana said:

– approximately a dozen or so vocal individuals who believe that the community needs more gatekeeping/identity policing.
– mostly the same people every time.
– mostly people who identify as sexual allies.

It's been explained to you many, many times but for some reason, you just can't get it.

 

What is being 'policed' isn't 'asexual spectrum identities', but the way normal sexuality is being defined by some in the ace community. If you're defining asexuality in a way that makes the average sexual person sound like a drooling sex-obsessed beast (which bizarrely happens a lot around here) people, both sexual and ace, are going to take issue with that.

 

When you're saying asexuality is wanting to fuck some people and not others, or wanting to fuck but only because you love sex, or wanting a sexual relationship with someone without caring about what they look like, or wanting to fuck on some days but not on others, people are going to step in and try to explain that those are all aspects of regular sexuality, not asexuality.

 

They're not trying to 'gatekeep asexual spectrum identities' though, they're trying to explain that what is being defined as 'asexual spectrum' is part of normal sexuality.

 

Trying to explain facts isn't 'policing'. If the facts offend you then set the people who are trying to educate you to 'ignore' and go on living in your happy little bubble. That's what the ignore feature is for under these kinds of circumstances :) 

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Ceebs.

If someone is white and they say "I'm black", but they have the skin tone of a white person and I say "No you aren't" and explain why they're not black, am I identity policing? If someone is a human being and they say "I'm an aardvark", but they look like a human being and definitely not an aardvark and I say "No you aren't" and explain why they're not an aardvark, am I identity policing? If someone says "I'm asexual" but they go on to talk about how they really desire and enjoy sex with their boyfriend but only when it's a full moon and he's dressed in a Batman costume, and I say "No you aren't" and explain why they're not asexual, am I identity policing?

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Sally
7 minutes ago, CBC said:

If someone is white and they say "I'm black", but they have the skin tone of a white person and I say "No you aren't" and explain why they're not black, am I identity policing? If someone is a human being and they say "I'm an aardvark", but they look like a human being and definitely not an aardvark and I say "No you aren't" and explain why they're not an aardvark, am I identity policing? If someone says "I'm asexual" but they go on to talk about how they really desire and enjoy sex with their boyfriend but only when it's a full moon and he's dressed in a Batman costume, and I say "No you aren't" and explain why they're not asexual, am I identity policing?

Nope.  You're being rational.  But perhaps academia considers rational observation to be unproductive.  

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Ficto.
8 minutes ago, CBC said:

If someone is white and they say "I'm black", but they have the skin tone of a white person and I say "No you aren't" and explain why they're not black, am I identity policing? 

Only if you're white, obviously :P 

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Serran

It generally isnt policing identities. Just correcting inaccurate information. Like that all sexuals want sex based on looks... which really isnt true. Sexual attraction isnt just looking at someone and wanting to bang them. And that is one of the common misunderstandings that gets posted.

 

Under a lot of definitions people try to post, I would be asexual. However, I tell anyone outside of certain online communities that I am ace but enjoy and desire sexual contact with my spouse multiple times a week..  wouldnt go over well. 

 

I am an unusual sexual, but I still am sexual in nature. And I have no interest in trying to take on a label that doesnt fit, when other people who it does fit like Sally and others need it to become visible as something other than I love sexual contact I just dont find randos hot and I want it based on love not physical attraction. 

 

So if I see someone thinking finding randoms hot or wanting specific types of sex is the defining factor of sexuality, I will correct the idea. Because it isnt.  And I want asexuality to become known and accepted. I want more characters who just happen to be ace on TV. I want you can want sex or not, whatever makes you happy to be the norm taught to kids. I want young aces to know before they end up 5 years into a miserable relationship because they cant feel what their partners need them to. But part of it is answering can this be part of being sexual? And in some cases the answer is yes, it can be. The idea that asexual can fit basically anyone is not helpful to aces who are struggling. The kids who call Trevor Project suicidal because they are scared they will never find love, or are broken for not fitting in to something schools teach as basic needs. 

 

However, AVEN is strict about not telling someone their label. So we can say this can be part of normal sexuality, because it is vast and varied. But we also say its up to you to decide what you are. So if someone giving information, experiences and relating to what you feel despite being sexual is that threatening, might be a good idea to examine why you feel threatened by hearing some sexuals feel the way you describe, rather than calling it policing. I am very glad people were around to challenge me when I began questioning. Its frickin confusing trying to work out what is sexual if you dont fit the stereotype. 

 

And I am perfectly secure in being a sexualish person. Being an oddball who doesnt fit the sexualized norm doesnt make me not sexual and I am still totally fine with  being odd enough to not fit in either with aces or sexuals. 

 

But I care about acceptance of the general population. And people pushing that experiences like mine are asexual will confuse things and not help that cause. So, I will push back that people like me, despite being odd compared to media representation, do not fit. 

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Telecaster68

The reason it tends to be sexuals pointing out this is that having experienced both wanting to have sex with someone, and not wanting to have sex with someone, we know the difference. We can define each thing partly in terms of what it's not. Asexuals can't do this because they don't have the appropriate experience, which is partly why the definition debate gets so arcane and weird. 

 

You missed out the other reason for posts like these though Pramana. It's just annoying when people who have less information than we do insist they're right when they're wrong. 

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Small Horse

Asexuality has become a wide definition due to so many factors, sometimes to the point where allosexuals find it to be a joke, due to the logic of an example of "I haven't dated anyone in awhile because I haven't found anyone attractive, I must be ace now" to which the allosexuals think "That's normal, you're just finding an excuse to put a label on yourself, asexuality isn't a real thing". Asexuality is confusing and has a lot of factors, and I think it's important to consider the facts before applying a label to yourself. People are quick to find any label just to keep more inclusive, but this is actually very normal for teenagers especially, because this is the age people are trying to figure out where they fit. I'm apprehensive about any label, because I don't want to subvert something just to feel like I belong to a group, but this is why discourse is especially important. Labels are not absolute or permanent. I think it's normal for people not to be 100% black and white about something, that's why we have the gray spectrum, otherwise the ace community would be so tiny that there wouldn't be much variety or people to talk to about it.

 

A bit related here on the subject of gate keeping: I have seen some sex-negative/repulsed asexuals trying to push themselves into the LGBT+ space so they can be inclusive, while at the same time putting down LGBTs talking about sex. That is a HUGE no-no. They have already set up that space so they can freely talk about sex, gender, and sexual orientation, and when it's invaded by somebody who's not wanting anybody to talk about sex, it hurts the ace community as a whole and they feel the need to police and gate us back. There was a lot of ace discourse started on Tumblr because of this. Having our own ace community, not necessarily part LGBT+ space, is necessary, so we can focus more on the spectrum itself. (This does not mean we can't share a space with LGBT+, but rather we don't have to shove ourselves into other spaces where it causes discomfort for others).

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InquisitivePhilosopher
2 hours ago, CBC said:

If someone is white and they say "I'm black", but they have the skin tone of a white person and I say "No you aren't" and explain why they're not black, am I identity policing?...

Yes; that would be, because the person could be a white-passing biracial or multi-racial person (and it hurts and bothers some of them when others assume and want to choose how to label them, ignoring their family's racial background and how growing up with their POC parent and/or relatives' culture or around POC makes them different from other "white" people.) One biracial classmate of mine told me how angry and hurt she felt growing up having both white and darker-skinned black classmates tell her that she didn't belong to their race because, to them, she was either "too dark to be white" or "too light to be black." https://www.marieclaire.com/culture/a15941992/biracial-in-america/

 

(a small example of YouTube videos from mixed-race, white-passing people who explain what their identity means to them.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ebb01F5oYQM

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-qvlQeEtWI

 

4 hours ago, Pramana said:

...Rather than argue about definitions, perhaps it'd be more productive to consider factors that animate gatekeeping/identity policing. I'd suggest the following four likely candidates:

1. Using asexuality to fill the emotional space that might otherwise have been filled by a religious or political community (fear that the asexual community is becoming too inclusive and diverse; I feel like a stranger in my own community)...

I'm confused about what you mean by this, as, in other threads, like in the Intersectionality forum, plenty of asexuals admit that they're close and have been involved in their religious and/or political communities (e.g., their college's LGBT+ club). Some who are religious and asexual have joined AVEN and said that their family, friends, partners, etc. accept their asexual orientation.

 

So, it's not automatically true that all asexuals feel unhappy or "like a stranger in my own community."

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Ceebs.

@InquisitivePhilosopher Fair enough, but I guess I was supposing that not only did the person look very, well, white, but also gave no reasoning that made logical sense as to why they said they were black. Plus I assume if they were biracial and passed as white, they would say just that -- "I'm biracial". Or express that they have some black ancestry/relatives/whatever. Most people would probably feel strange saying "I'm black" if they were obviously not just black.

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uhtred

Human sexuality is very complicated and multi-dimensional.  Think of a big many-dimension (or 3-d if you are not math inclined) box with little dots representing all humans.  On direction might be called gay / straight.  Another, kinky / vanilla Another romantic  / aromantic.,  High / low libido, on and on. 

 

There are a few billion people in this big box.   Some of the dots cluster a bit - there is probably a largish clump for straight vanilla sexuals.  There are other clumps, say for  vanilla gay men, or kinky lesbian women etc etc.   Some clumps are big, some small.  Some of the people are vaguely near one or more clumps, others are spread out anywhere 

 

Then we try to put boxes around those fuzzy clumps and call them "heterosexual", or "gay" or "asexual".  But since the clumps are fuzzy, its not at all clear where the boarders of those boxes go - and some people won't fit into any common box.  That's fine - you don't get points for being in a box - its just a way to label people. 

 

So in the end all we can do is try to apply names to some of the larger clumps, but be aware that there will always be fuzzy edges, and lots of people who don't fit in any of the common goups. 

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Philip027
Quote

Asexuality has become a wide definition due to so many factors, sometimes to the point where allosexuals find it to be a joke,

Sexuals aren't the only ones, tbh.

 

Also, the definition of asexuality isn't "wide" just because loads of people misinterpret and stretch it to however they see fit.  It still means a very clear, concise thing: you do not desire sex with people of any genders.  Just because people misappropriate it does not mean the definition has expanded.

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Sally
1 hour ago, uhtred said:

Then we try to put boxes around those fuzzy clumps and call them "heterosexual", or "gay" or "asexual".  But since the clumps are fuzzy, its not at all clear where the boarders of those boxes go - and some people won't fit into any common box.  That's fine - you don't get points for being in a box - its just a way to label people. 

 

So in the end all we can do is try to apply names to some of the larger clumps, but be aware that there will always be fuzzy edges, and lots of people who don't fit in any of the common goups. 

My clumps are not fuzzy, and from being on AVEN a long time, I know many others have decidedly unfuzzy clumps.  You're making assumptions in the cause of being inclusive.  

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Telecaster68

I was imagining more like a 3D scatter chart, a bit like clusters of stars in a galaxy, with each coordinate for sexuality, romanticism etc a different dimension, so the edges of each cluster are about how people's traits en masse are distributed, rather than individual people having fuzzy clumps. 

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Tunes

Sexuals cannot define asexuality because they don’t know what it means and have never experienced it, just like no matter how hard I tried to define aromanticism, I didn’t get anywhere until really discussing it in depth with my aromantic partner - I could tell there was a distinct difference, but I had a hard time pinpointing exactly what that difference was. 

 

Likewise, asexuals cannot define asexuality alone because they don’t understand normal sexuality, as they have never experienced it, and thus have nothing to compare it to. Similarly, it didn’t work well when I tried to get my partner to explain how aromanticism works, because she had nothing to compare it to, and even had a hard time answering if she was aromantic at all, as she had no idea what being romantic (orientation, not cultural) even meant. Again, we knew there was a difference, but we couldn’t place what exactly it was. 

 

So we need both groups talking about their various experiences to determine what asexuality even means. But this creates something of a circular problem:

 

First, many asexuals do suffer from society’s current views of sexuality - some more than others. In order to give asexuality visibility at all (which is how we address harmful aspects of cultural understanding, among other things that frankly benefit everyone, regardless of sexuality), we need to be able to define what asexuality is and how it differs from normal sexuality. We can tell that there is a difference, especially when we compare someone very clearly sexual to someone very clearly asexual. But most people will fall in between the two extremes. So we need to find the differences that are fundamental in order to fully define asexuality, so it doesn’t ONLY include the extreme cases.

 

The problem is, without asexuality already being defined, we don’t have a definition for normal sexuality either. So suddenly it gets minimized down to just a difference of what we call “normal”. We have people who think normal sexuality is constant horniness, so they call themselves asexual, and we have people who think that asexuality is an inability to connect with people or an inability to experience any kind of physical arousal at all, who then call themselves sexual. 

 

So in our efforts to define the relevant differences (so society can accept our existence at all), we get discussions with ‘sexuals’ saying that asexuality is really limited and ‘asexuals’ saying that asexuality includes a variety of experiences that the majority of the population can identify with. We look scattered and inconsistent. People start denying our existence and saying the entire term only exists because we all want to be “special snowflakes”. It hurts visibility immensely and can even lead to permanent rejection by society if not addressed.

 

So these discussions are an attempt to find what the majority of people relate to and consider normal sexuality, and use that to define what makes asexuals different, so we can give asexuality a stable definition so society will accept our existence, which is vital to visibility efforts. In the process, we will of course eliminate people who called themselves asexual before - people who actually did want to be “special snowflakes” (unfortunately they do exist), people who had highly limited views of what was “normal”, people who are honestly just confused. We will also get people who, no matter how thoroughly we define anything, will end up not technically fitting into either category, because life is a complicated, messy spectrum that can never be entirely shoved in easy-to-understand, society/visibility-friendly boxes.

 

But visibility needs neat boxes. Because society needs clear definitions. Because basic human understanding is limited, especially when you have no personal experience to relate a new concept to. 

 

So we work with what we have. We talk it out and continue looking for a good, stable definition that society can use to not only understand and familiarize itself with today, but also continue to use indefinitely into the future. And that’s not an easy task. And some people who considered themselves normal will be insulted because the definition of what is normal excludes them, and other people that considered themselves asexual will be upset because the definition of asexual excludes them yet they still don’t view themselves as normal (whether or not they actually are). That’s just a side effect of what we need to do in order to give ourselves a place in society. 

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Tunes

And if you are arguing against the specific definition we have going, then I’ll add this: 

 

It seems to represent the most fundamental difference between sexuals and asexuals. It is the definition that is as clear and concise as we can get it. It sets a clean distinction that we can use to give ourselves a stable and accepted place in society. It still includes the large majority of the people who suffer the most from society’s current views of sexuality. It addresses the difference that causes to most suffering to those who do suffer from it. 

 

So if anyone opposing it can come up with a less controversial definition that serves all of these purposes at least equally as well, then please share it. We would love to find the most accurate definition possible. But considering this is the defiition agreed upon by many MANY people, based on many MANY compared experiences, over the span of multiple YEARS of research, I doubt one person trying to be more inclusive at the cost of all else is going to suddenly have a better definition. Definitions change by people presenting logically valid points that get debated over and over until they are either generally accepted or generally rejected. But if someone thinks they figured out the whole thing on their own in one fell swoop, then by all means - we would love to hear it. 

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MichaelTannock

I feel like I'm in an odd position because in my case, I don't experience any of the attraction types.
Which means I can use the definitions I'm given to tell someone what their Sexual or Romantic orientations are likely to be, but they're not part of my experience.
If I'm given two conflicting definitions for the same thing, I don't think I'd be able to figure out which one is correct.

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Tunes
3 hours ago, MichaelTannock said:

I feel like I'm in an odd position because in my case, I don't experience any of the attraction types.
Which means I can use the definitions I'm given to tell someone what their Sexual or Romantic orientations are likely to be, but they're not part of my experience.
If I'm given two conflicting definitions for the same thing, I don't think I'd be able to figure out which one is correct.

And this is exactly why society needs definitions. 

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Pramana
13 hours ago, InquisitivePhilosopher said:

I'm confused about what you mean by this, as, in other threads, like in the Intersectionality forum, plenty of asexuals admit that they're close and have been involved in their religious and/or political communities (e.g., their college's LGBT+ club). Some who are religious and asexual have joined AVEN and said that their family, friends, partners, etc. accept their asexual orientation.

 

So, it's not automatically true that all asexuals feel unhappy or "like a stranger in my own community."

Just as a point of clarification, I'm not referring to all asexuals here, just the tiny percentage who become invested in definition debates, with a view towards considering plausible explanations for what might motivate that investment. And then in addition, attempting to explain why sexual allies become disproportionately invested in this dispute.

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Philip027

For what it's worth, I've definitely had the "felt like a stranger in my own community" feelings.  Occasionally still do.

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R_1
5 hours ago, Tunes said:

And if you are arguing against the specific definition we have going, then I’ll add this: 

 

It seems to represent the most fundamental difference between sexuals and asexuals. It is the definition that is as clear and concise as we can get it. It sets a clean distinction that we can use to give ourselves a stable and accepted place in society. It still includes the large majority of the people who suffer the most from society’s current views of sexuality. It addresses the difference that causes to most suffering to those who do suffer from it. 

 

So if anyone opposing it can come up with a less controversial definition that serves all of these purposes at least equally as well, then please share it. We would love to find the most accurate definition possible. But considering this is the defiition agreed upon by many MANY people, based on many MANY compared experiences, over the span of multiple YEARS of research, I doubt one person trying to be more inclusive at the cost of all else is going to suddenly have a better definition. Definitions change by people presenting logically valid points that get debated over and over until they are either generally accepted or generally rejected. But if someone thinks they figured out the whole thing on their own in one fell swoop, then by all means - we would love to hear it. 

 

From what I seen in research, there's a study out that that puts multiple identity dimensions for just sexuality. Something that ludicrous should tell you that there will never be anything that's separates asexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, etc in a concise and clear manner at all.

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MichaelTannock
1 minute ago, R_1 said:

 

From what I seen in research, there's a study out that that puts multiple identity dimensions for just sexuality. Something that ludicrous should tell you that there will never be anything that's separates asexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality, etc in a concise and clear manner at all.

Having multiple identity dimensions for sexuality makes sense to me, so I'm not seeing what's ludicrous about it.

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R_1
1 minute ago, MichaelTannock said:

Having multiple identity dimensions for sexuality makes sense to me, so I'm not seeing what's ludicrous about it.

I understand what's you're saying, but to many, it's ludicrous because to many people, they believe sexuality is coherent, and doesn't require multiple definition or interpretation.  Hence, why I said what I just said. Sexuality, gender, and so on will never ever be coherent at all.

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Tunes
15 minutes ago, R_1 said:

multiple identity dimensions

Sorry; what does this mean?

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R_1
2 minutes ago, Tunes said:

Sorry; what does this mean?

I only seen the abstract of the study, but I believe it would mean that there are different scale to where one would go in. Kind of left-wing/right-wing scale, and different versions of those within different countries.

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Telecaster68
38 minutes ago, Pramana said:

And then in addition, attempting to explain why sexual allies become disproportionately invested in this dispute.

What about why asexuals become disproportionately interested in what sexuals think?

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Tunes

You mean how some people are hypersexual while others are less sexual and some are completely asexual? That seems like common sense to me, though. And pretty much anyone I talk to, inside or outside the community...

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R_1
2 minutes ago, Telecaster68 said:

What about why asexuals become disproportionately interested in what sexuals think?

This is something I find so ironic. But, I'm not too surprised. When you support yourself with a identity within a community that shares that identity, you want to know what exactly it is that separates you from them, and hence why asexuals are so interested into what sexuals thinks. It's why we have endless debates, and it also why some like @Philip027 and @Ficto. advocates we should stick with a interpretation (Please correct me on that if I"m wrong on the interpretation of you).

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Telecaster68
1 minute ago, R_1 said:

This is something I find so ironic. But, I'm not too surprised. When you support yourself with a identity within a community that shares that identity, you want to know what exactly it is that separates you from them, and hence why asexuals are so interested into what sexuals thinks.

... right up to the point where we say stuff like 'no, sexuality doesn't work like that', at which point many asexuals suddenly know better...

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Pramana

With respect to 'normal sexuality', people usually mean one of two things: 1. My sexuality (with the assumption that my sexuality must be normal, because of course everyone wants to believe that their sexuality is normal); or 2. Average sexuality (establishing what's average requires using statistical data, which of course I've never seen anyone present). Personally, I've spent enough time on the Internet that I've become sceptical about the concept of 'normal sexuality', but I'll refrain from going into detail regarding my Reddit and 4chan adventures.

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