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Sennkestra

David Jay on Savage Love podcast

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Sennkestra

http://www.thestranger.com/SavageLovePodcast/archives/2011/07/12/savage-love-episode-247

I'm about to go listen. *fingers crossed*

EDIT: ok, here's the first part of the transcript. I'll leave you with that puzzling jellyfish metaphor at the end while I finish transcribing the rest. (spoilered for longness)

Caller: Hey Dan, I am a twenty-five year old woman, and here's the thing. I have never been in a dating/sexual relationship with anyone, male or female, and, well, the thing is it's never bothered me, exactly. I've never felt the need to be in that sort of thing, and I'm starting to wonder if maybe there's something wrong with me. I've done a little research back and forth on the internet, and I've started to come to the conclusion maybe I might be asexual or something? Because I've never, ever felt the need for marriage, or you know being in a sexual sort of relationship with anybody and, but when I've, like posited this to my friends, their reactions range from, well, “maybe you're a lesbian, if you don't like dudes,” “maybe you're bisexual” “you're just indecisive” “that's ridiculous”. The general overwhelming conclusion is that asexuals don't actually exist, and you know the internet, there's no consensus on anything either way, and I'm just – I don't know.”

Dan: Joining me now by phone, David Jay, founder of asexuality.org and sort of “Asexual Moses”

DJ: Thanks, thanks for letting me on.

Dan: ...who led the asexuals to the promised land of increased visibility and acknowledgement of thei existence. Do you exist, you asexuals?

DJ: As a matter of fact, we do. So, kind of all the scientific research out there shows that, at least preliminary stuff, that we're maybe as much as 1% of the population. And that there's nothing wrong with us. They've gone and done studies to see if there's a correlation with any sort of pathological anything, and haven't been able to find anything. So, the best understanding we have from our own experience as a community, and also from the scientific research, is that there are a bunch of people out there that just don't experience sexual attraction, or they experience only a little bit – there's a spectrum.

Dan: mhm

DJ: And there's not - y'know, like being gay, or being straight or anything else – it's not necessarily caused by anything, not necessarily a problem, it's just how we are.

Dan: Before we get onto the caller, and her question, do you want to punch me in the face or anything? 'Cause, there's a lot of asexuals out there who are mad at me.

DJ: We're not, actually, I think we've got a critique. So you actually are in the new movie that's just come out about asexuality.

Dan: That's a polite way to put it. I haven't heard it put that way.

DJ: We're very polite people, the asexuals.

Dan: [laughter]

DJ: And I think that it's this: so you like to say this, that as asexual people, if we want to get into a relationship with someone, then, like, the first thing that we need to say is that we're asexual. That we need to let them know like right off the bat, “Here's a form...

Dan: No, no, that's a bit of an exaggeration.

DJ: o.k.

Dan: I believe it's something that needs to be disclosed before commitment is made, that that's info that someone needs before going into hammering out a commitment. I don't think you have to have asexual tattoed on your forehead before you go out, but, you know, I would want to know, if my boy-if someone was dating me, and they were asexually identified, and they knew they were asexual, it wasn't something they came to during the relationship, although I'm sure I've inspired that in a few guys. I would think that's something relevant that I would need to be informed of prior to my committing to be with this person for life. Just as I've said to guys that are HIV positive, you know, that they should disclose being HIV positive, because that's something somebody going into a relationship should be aware of.

DJ: Ok, yeah, I'd agree with that under the fact that anyone getting in that kind of commitment has got to be having an in-depth discussion about one another's sexuality, right, on some level. And you've got to be honest in that discussion. I think that the dynamics early on in a relationship between an asexual person and a sexual person are a lot murkier, the same way they are with sexual people. Like, if two sexual people get together, and are interested in one another, then you don't necessarily lay out every aspect of your sexuality on the table right away, the same way you don't lay out every aspect of all the non-sexual things you might want to do.

Dan: Ok, but this is where we break down. Because I think, you know, when you date, the assumption, you know, for 99% of humanity, is that you are out there dating, and looking for a mate, in part because you want to, well, mate – you're interested in sex. It's presumed. And if you aren't, you have an obligation to disclose that you aren't. It's just like, you know, if you're presenting yourself as a carbon-based lifeform, a vertebrate, and you're allowing people to assume you are a vertebrate, because almost all humans are, you have an obligation to disclose that you are actually a jellyfish. If you're not a vertebrate. The onus is on you, is it not?

...aaaaand part 2 of many is now up, with another weird phrase. Apparently there are "good asexual fairies" and "bad asexual fairies"

DJ: I would say, to an extent. So if I am getting close to someone, and we're having fun getting close to one another, and they assume, and they expect – even though I haven't given them, necessarily, any reason to expect that sex is going to be a part of that relationship, then I have some amount of responsibility for that expectation, but not a lot. They're making a lot of assumptions about me-

Dan: They're making an entirely reasonable and rational assumption! You're out there dating, because even as an asexual you want intimacy, or you want a romantic connection, or you want a life partner or something – so you're out there dating, and they're making an assumption that is...like the assumption about gravity and that there'll be oxygen outside my front door in the morning -

DJ: It's making an assumption that's grounded in a big norm in our society, which is that emotionally close relationships involve sex at some level. And that's an assumption, by the way, that's really limiting for asexual people, that a lot of us kind of but up against, in one way or another, and a lot of us have to find ways to tiptoe around, the way that gay people have to tiptoe around heteronormativity.

Dan: But the comparison would be like me dating women, and them assuming that I'm straight, because I am dating them, and my reluctance to disclose, and maybe I'll get to that – but a woman's going to be pretty angry if I date her for a year, or six months, or three months, or three weeks, and then tell her I'm a fag. And justifiably so, right?

DJ: possibly...this get's into, and it's another area, I think, where the asexual community plays around a lot in the margins, is, what counts as dating and what doesn't count as dating. What counts as becoming friends with someone, and becoming emotionally close with someone, and what makes something count as romantic? If I'm spending time with someone on a regular basis, and we're getting along, and there's a chance they may interpret that as dating, and there's a chance that they may interpret the fact that we're dating as an expectation that we're going to be sexual with one another, then...yes, at some point I want to let them know that that expectation isn't true-

Dan: I agree with you there, it just-

DJ: ….I don't feel that I have wronged them if I allow some ambiguity there. Because there is always some ambiguity in dating, period.

Dan: I agree with you that there are friendships where one person is thinking, hoping, that it's going to be something more, that there might be a romantic component, and they're investing some time in the relationship, and the onus then doesn't fall on the asexual person if it's it's just been hanging out and it's just sort of a friendship and there's been no explicit “we are dating, we're a couple, I'm your boyfriend” - those kind of conversations.

DJ: yes

Dan: I think the onus is not on the asexual person necessarily in those cirumstances. Where I've gotten in trouble with asexuals – or asexuality.org, and the asexual community – is when I've come down on people who I believe were dishonestly withholding that information because they felt it was the only way to get a partner, was if they thought they were out as asexual, no one would want to be with them. And so they didn't disclose. And I don't think that's cool.

DJ: And I would say that's not the only way for an asexual person to get a partner, certainly not the only way to get intimacy-

Dan: -I agree, I completely agree, it's not the only way. It's a way that some people, who have written to me, have. And I've come down on them, and then asexual-land has exploded that I've said asexual people have no right to date, and should all be tattooed with asexual so everyone will know, and I don't believe those things. I'm not talking about the good asexual fairies, I'm talking about the bad asexual fairies.

and now part 3. I'm getting ever closer...

Dan: But I thought we could hash this out.

DJ: yeah

Dan: So, how long have you been asexual? And how did that realization come to you? Or not come to you?

DJ: I've been asexual...I've thought of myself as asexual since I was 13 or 14; I've been asexual for my entire life.

Dan: So, when you were 13 or 14, you didn't masturbate thinking about X-pop star or X-movie star?

DJ: Not, not really. And there's more than that, because it's really more about sexual attraction than sexual arousal. There's a lot of asexual people that masturbate. I wasn't sexually attracted to anyone, so all of my friends were like talking about the boys they were into, or the girls they were into, and trying to figure out if they were straight or gay, and I just didn't have a context to understand that experience. Like, they'd be like “Who do you like” or “who do you think is sexy?” And I just had no...emotional...feeling there.

Dan: But the plumbing worked -

DJ: Yeah, the plumbing worked. It just wasn't pointed at anything. [laughter]

Dan: But you enjoyed the sensations, and you enjoyed the physical pleasure of an orgasm. It's just not outward directed or other directed.

DJ: It's not something I feel like I want to integrate with my relationships with people. So when I see someone – in the process of getting close to someone – I don't have the desire to be sexual with them. So I still have the desire to be close to them, and spend time with them, and be physical with them, and cuddle with them...but not to have sex.

Dan: Do you have an intimate partner?

DJ: Define intimate. Do I have a partner that I have sex with, or that I'm physically close with? Right now, a couple people that I'm physically close with, no one that I'm having sex with, many more people that I am emotionally close with.

Dan: O.k. But nobody that you're attracted to, nobody walks by, they catch your eye....?

DJ: Oh, people that I'm non-sexually attracted to – like crazy. But I'm not attracted to someone and as a result want to have sex with them. I'm attracted to them and as a result of that want to spend time with them, or have a conversation, or y'know, play soccer or something.

Dan: Wow. It makes my head explode. But you know I bring my experience to it, which is...it's not my conversation I want to stick in somebody who is hot and on the bus. And that's a burden, y'know, and sometimes it would be a relief if you didn't go through life with people pinging on your sex radar everywhere you go.

DJ: Yeah. And you know, on the flip side of that, I have a real appreciation and respect for like, how much fun people have with sex. And that's great, that everyone has this thing, that they feel is a way to connect people and be passionate and have fun. All of that is totally awesome to me, and I would say to the majority of the asexual community, it's just that personally it's not what we're into, and we've found other ways to do all that stuff.

Dan: O.k. So this girl, who called in, who is not attracted to anybody and she's getting a lot of pressure to make a baby, hook up, settle down, have a relationship – this must be common to the asexual experience, this kind of pressure and those expectations.

DJ: Yeah.

Dan: So what's your advice for her? If she's potentially asexual?

DJ: My advice for her is, First of all, I think the question she's asking is “am I asexual.” And I would rephrase that question. Because no one can tell you if you're asexual. That's very taboo in the asexual community, is to label someone else. The idea is that it's a tool and not a label. The question is what would help her figure herself out. If the word asexual feels like maybe it would help her figure herself out, if spending time in the asexual community, reading about the other peoples experiences would help her figure herself out, then that's great. She can spend time doing that exploration, and it's totally up to her if she wants to adopt the identity of – the word asexuality as her identity, in that process. Lots of people spend time in the community, figure themselves out, and never use the word asexual to describe themselves. But still get a lot of meaning out of it. And those of us that do use the word asexual to describe ourself, it's just sort of the beginning. Like the same way that the word gay is the beginning of an identity, not a complete identity. And so, if she decides that she does want to identify as asexual then I think that there's a lot of other questions to probe into. And it also sounds like she – her experience aligns with people in the community who identify as aromantic. There's a lot of people in the community who in addition to being asexual don't form romantic attraction, who aren't being interested in romantic relationships with people. I count myself among this number, we have a lot of fun in our lives, forming really close friendships, forming intimate relationships with communities – kind of focusing on the activities we find interesting and engaging and empowering. And I would sort of direct her to maybe come to the asexual community, and look for discussions about – among aromantic people, and see if that resonates with her.

Dan: mhm

DJ:...and then to reflect on that.

and all parts are now posted.

Dan: O.k., can I ask you, about the catholic church clerical sex abuse scandal?

DJ: uh...sure.

Dan: It's like...priests raping kids.

DJ: I don't know what makes me an expert on it, but go ahead.

Dan: I want to know if you think this might be, if this is a truth: One of the things that people have identified as a contributing factor is, to all those priests raping kids out there, is that there were a lot of people who were deeply fucked up about their sexualities who fled into the priesthood, the catholic priesthood. Because celibacy – you didn't have a sexuality, if you were a catholic priest. So there were people who were terrified of sex, or who they were sexually, who hid out in catholicism, basically, hid out in the priesthood. And when I try to talk about this sometimes, you know, the asexual folks, uh, explode, and rightfully so. I'm not compating asexuals to pedophiles, I'm not saying there's an asexual clerical abuse scandal. Do you think it's possible that there are some people who have fled into an asexual identity, just as there are some deeply fucked up catholic men who fled into the priesthood to hide, or dodge, or run from a sexuality that troubles them, as opposed to embrace, or grow into an awareness of their asexuality. Do you think, or have you ever met anyone, in your experience in the asexual community, that you thought “not asexual, just fucked up”

DJ: No I haven't. And, um -

Dan: 'Cause it seemed to me that an asexual identity might be a comfort and a balm to some people whose sexuality is so disturbing to them, or so impossible to realize, because it's immoral, there's no way to realize it morally, that embracing an asexual identity could be an escape valve/clause/dodge. Do you think that's not true, for a very tiny percentage of your very tiny percentage?

DJ: So here's what would happen in that situation. Because of the way that the community works, because of the way that the asexual identity works – first of all, we're different from celibacy, celibacy is a choice – Asexuality is an...

Dan: Agreed, agreed. But we're not talking about celibacy, we're talking about people in flight from their sexuality. As opposed to not having one.

DJ: I'd just like to draw that distinction first. Second of all, if someone shows up in the asexual community, and says “you know what, I think I might be asexual, here's the life experience I've had”, then what we're going to do is welcome them, and sort of help them create a space for them to figure themselves out, and challenge them to figure themselves out.

Dan: mhm

DJ: and, if you're in a space where people are actively sort of challenging you to figure yourself out, then it's not an awesome place to hide from who you are.

Dan: good point

DJ: And there are people – what is more common than what you are talking about – there are people who – and this is still not the norm , this is still just a tiny percentage – but there are people who will go from identfying as sexual to identifying as asexual, or from identifying as asexual to identifying as “gray-A”, which is on the spectrum between sexual and asexual.

Dan: mhm

DJ: and people sort of come to understand themselves more deeply over time, and then have their identities reflect that. And so the idea is that as an asexual person, as any person does, when developing a healthy relationship with their sexuality, you need to be in a constant state of exploration, and challenging and questioning yourself. And not sort of resting on the identity as this sort of pre-described rules for who you are.

Dan: O.k. So that's terriffic. And what you're saying is that you recognize that there are some folks who identified as asexual for a time as just a point on their journey, and realized they were actually grey-A, or actually sexual, and actually dipping into the asexual community and thinking about it and meeting people who are working through these issues helped them realize who they really were, whether it was asexual or not. Is that what you're saying?

DJ: Yes. And that is what I'm saying, and that is something that we love. We encourage that in the community.

Dan: 'Cause when I say that I get killed.

DJ: Describe how. I think if what you're saying is that people are coming here for a place to hide and to deny understanding themselves, or to kind of stop understanding themselves, then I think that that goes against what we really value as a community. Which is people understanding themselves, and they're sexuality-

Dan: I'm not saying that, I'm saying that, you know, I've run letters in my column that are from people who identifies as asexual for a while and then just realized that they were, ala catholic priests in the old mold, in flight from a sexuality that terrified them, that they wanted to hide, and then left the asexual community, wrote about their experience, and you know, I don't hear from people who are content at savage love. You hear from people who have issues, and who are working through shit, much like you described some of the people that you hear from. So I've always recognized that that's not a representative sample of the asexual community or the asexual experience, but, those people exist, an when I've discussed them or acknowledged them, I kinda get shouted at, a little bit, because it somehow threatened...

DJ: And I would say that, to me anyway, again, I do not represent the entire asexual community, that to me personally, I would just hope that the time the people spent in the asexual community was helpful to them figuring themselves out. Was a step on their journey that was meaningful. And if that's the case, as opposed to sort of a detour that they could have gotten caught in forever had they not escaped out clutches.

Dan: [laughing] describe it as a warm embrace, not a clutch

DJ: we take a lot of effort to kind of have people focus on what's best for them.

Dan: Before we go, just tell us a little bit about asexuality.org and what people will find there.

DJ: so asexuality.org is sort of the biggest network of asexual people on the internet. And the real thing that happens there is people who are just coming to terms with their identity come and sort of tell their stories, and figure themselves out.

Dan: And you founded it.

DJ: And I founded it -

Dan: How long ago?

DJ: ...back in 2001.

Dan: Back in 2001. So it's almost ten years old this year. And it's no overstatement to say that your founding of this website created the asexual community. There was nothing about asexuality out there, there was no sense of belonging, there was no place where asexual people gathered, to share their stories, or have their existences acknowledged, and it was only your founding of this website that created a community, a sense of itself, it's a real acheivment.

DJ: Yeah. And it's been a really powerful thing, over the years, to see this community flourish, and to develop what it really means to be asexual, and develop a way to support people, and just begin to develop a physical identity. So we've done things like lobby the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual to change how they are addressing, or how they are categorizing, certain mental disorders that were miscategorized. And so we're beginning to take action as a community and it's really powerful to see us, to see how the community has sort of grown in that time.

Dan: Thank you so much David, for joining us today.

DJ: Thank you.

-the end-

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sinisterporpoise

He's more or less reasonable, although off on a few points. I'll be doing what I perceive as my job and summarizing the comments so the people who do not want to listen to Savage to not have to. The section with Jay starts about 14 minutes in.

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Faelights

Do they ever post an official transcript? I fear that I rather absorb information much better through reading than through auditory means... >_<;;;

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Sennkestra

Do they ever post an official transcript? I fear that I rather absorb information much better through reading than through auditory means... >_<;;;

I don't know, but I plan on transcribing it later this evening anyway.

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bristrek

I think, and I hate saying this, Dan Savage came off as mostly reasonable and David wasn't at his best. I think, if I wasn't already a part of the community, I'd come away with a few wrong ideas like none of us think it's that important if one partner is sexual and other is ace in terms of how to negotiate the relationship and that informing the sexual partner isn't that important. Which most of us do tend to think, even if we don't think it's the first thing to say (which, I think is what David was getting at).

God, I hate even thinking that let alone typing it. :blink:

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Jess312

Haven't watched yet, but went through the comments... >.> I should really learn to stop reading comments as they are biased, often negatively. **sighs** (Though they weren't /that/ bad, btw.)

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Bero

Haven't watched yet, but went through the comments... >.> I should really learn to stop reading comments as they are biased, often negatively. **sighs** (Though they weren't /that/ bad, btw.)

I did the same thing and kind of regretted it. Someday I'll learn?

And thanks in advance to anyone who might transcribe this... I'm going to admit to being lazy and not wanting to listen to the whole thing, but I am curious as to what was said, so I'll gladly read it if someone writes it down.

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Sally

Savage is an interesting writer but he speaks with such an annoying snark, I just can't listen to him.

Cleander, if you do transcribe it, could you post it?

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sinisterporpoise

Savage is an interesting writer but he speaks with such an annoying snark, I just can't listen to him.

Cleander, if you do transcribe it, could you post it?

Here is the Summary I Promised

I had to hurry to get it out. Hopefully the site's editor will get a chance to look at it and correct any glaring typos soon.

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Sally

Savage is an interesting writer but he speaks with such an annoying snark, I just can't listen to him.

Cleander, if you do transcribe it, could you post it?

Here is the Summary I Promised

I had to hurry to get it out. Hopefully the site's editor will get a chance to look at it and correct any glaring typos soon.

Thank you, SP!

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nleseul

Just finished listening to this.

I do have to give Savage respect for doing this segment. Despite the way he's reacted to criticism of his column in the past, it does seem like he's trying to demonstrate that he's not actually as hostile to our existence as he's been accused of being (possibly because I hear that the release of (A)sexual makes him look kind of bad). I think it was a quite positive interview.

FWIW, the interview begins with a short call from an asexual woman at about 16:00, and goes on for about 20 minutes from there.

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Siggy

Dan kept on going on about how important disclosing asexuality to potential partners is, and DJ kept on going, "Yes, but..." Tactical error! Much of the negative response by Dan's readers comes from the irrational fear that they will date an asexual for months before they disclose. Therefore, it is better to emphasize, not deemphasize the importance of disclosure. Talking about additional complications on top of that is putting the cart before the horse. Actually I feel like I saw a lot of asexuals making the exact same tactical error in previous encounters with Dan Savage.

The rest was good though. I liked the exchange about people fleeing from sexuality.

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Sennkestra

slowly transcribing it now. I'll add to the first post as I get more done. (see top of page)

should I just post it here or make another thread for the transcript?

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PiF

certianly dan was on form and dj wasn't..but..i don't think anyone else would have got the slot other than dj

yes he did lose the way on being open before getting serious but that was the only tool dan had to dig at asexuality and he used it well..the rest i think dj did a reasonable job

but on that openess at the beginning..it isn't just an asexual thing..most people i know have secrets that when they go into a relationship either never come out or come out later..asexual or sexual ..so dan was a bit bias in that only assexuals should be open and honest

i don't think dan is a bad man..he is opiniated..these boards have opiniated people

in a way it's like telling parents/friends

you can explain it, put over how it is in your life and hope others understand and respect that..beyond that you can't do much more

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simplymaya

i just thought when he was talking about people fleeing a sexuality and going to another and it mostly being asexual doesn't sit right with me.

I mean many people who are gay flee to being straight because they are afraid of coming out and what society thinks or depending how they are raised think that being homosexual is wrong and that is why they go to these becoming straight camps and date and marry woman because they are in denial.

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