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sinisterporpoise

'Asexual Adult Reveals His Feelings' -- Ann Landers Column from 1979

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Nymzie

Ann is pretty cool! :) High-five to her!

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Qutenkuddly

Yay Ann! :D

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hexaquark

The Ann Landers column has fielded a few more letters on asexuality (with mixed results). Oh my goodness, can this be the old news clippings thread?

Because I have a file of these and I don’t know what the hell to do with them. I thought briefly about starting a blog, but between the fact that I hate my writing and the dubious fair use, I’d rather not. Also, most obscure blog topic :/

There is, of course, February 25, 1971 the Village Voice satire "Asexuals have problems too!", under the name Harold Nederlander. This has already been brought up by Siggy.

But what is interesting about this article is, despite being a rather over the top satire, it motivated people to write in to the editor in what seems to be a very sincere way.

Here is the first letter that The Voice published, on March 4, 1971:

*Afraid To Ask

"Dear Sir:

At last! For some time I have been wondering why the asexual hadn’t reared his ugly, impotent head – if for no other reason than to serve as an arbiter between his brethren in flesh, if not in spirit, the homos and heteros.

I suspect it’s because the average asexual doesn’t realize he’s an asexual. I mean it’s damn hard to come to grips with a problem – quote unquote – that doesn’t merit media attention, like an hour special in a television prime time slot. Or clinical coverage in a Dr. Reuben “Everything You Always Wanted to Know…” etc. etc., sex book.

So the asexual’s whole raison d’etre becomes, as Harold Nederland suggests (Voice, February 25), to become something – homo or hetero – one or the other – but something. Few, I would imagine, every really realize the true limbo of their lives.

Now I don’t know if I’m an asexual or not, but I know that when many of my friend are claiming to be staving off their primitive, lustful desires, I’m spending most of my time trying to reassure myself that I have them. I suspect I’m in pretty good company, too. I mean, how many of us are there out there who could care less about being dated up on a Saturday? Of picking up a broad on Broadway? Of Flirting – or being flirted at in the office? The thought of these things turns me off (if I ever was on, that is), though I’m not unopen to suggestions.

If I’m an asexual today, I think part of it was just having to overcome all that formality before the Moment of Truth – and finally getting to it and discovering it really wasn’t worth the trip.

I don’t think asexuals are incapable of having or appreciating sex – if they knew what it was. But I think that it’s nigh impossible these days to know. Before you even bite into your first forbidden apple there’s that sex movie to remind you of your inferior labial technique. Or that Tanfastic poster with the bronze-skinned girl to compete with your vision of the object of your immediate affections.

Sex, in other words, has gotten to be a big drag. Because you always know about somebody – or something, like a movie – that can do it better. For the asexual it’s just easier to let the Supremicists [sic] live life for him, and to go on watching the Big Picture on the wall."

– Name Withheld, Manhattan

On March 11, 1971, two more letters were published, and the editor finally acknowledged that the article was a satire written by Joe Flaherty:

Liebestoad

"Dear Sir:

Bravo for Harold Nederland’s attitude toward sex (“Asexuals have problems too,” Voice, February 25). Sex is merely another bodily function similar to elimination, respiration, or ingestion, and I’m sick of men being after my tits – all sexed up because sex is everywhere. Publicized sex means sex is depersonalized – an empty ritual to be exploited and exploded from general audience, movies, magazines, newspapers, and everyday men on the hunt.

Sex is the spice of life!

Sex is the last frontier!

Sex is obsession and compulsion and escape!

How about some personal interests instead of bread and circus socially programmed superficial sex!"

– Frances Tzerman, Arverne, New York

Asexuality Means Having to Say You’re Sorry

"Dear Sir:

An open letter to Harold Nederland: In your article “Asexuals have problems too” (Voice, February 25), you condemn bitterly, and in many respects justifiably, the reactions of heteros and homos to what you are. All too often when advocates of women’s lib, black freedom, gay lib, and others get together, they forget to espouse the liberation and enlightenment of all people as violently as their own causes. And all people is what the movement is about. Too often people look at oppression as a unique quality peculiar to their particular group, and therefore consider the results of oppression as being applicable only to their group. While the kinds of oppression differ (certainly the slaughter of the Jews in World War II is different from the slow mental entombment of the black man in the U.S.), the result of the oppression is always the same: frightened, ignorant people, pushed to the edge of endurance, ashamed that they are alive.

I believe the only way I can gain freedom is through awareness and a sensitivity to the plights of other people. We are all oppressed – some more than others – and to be sure, you have been shitted on amply. Personally, I believe my greatest travesty to you has been one of ignorance. I know little about asexuals. I invite you and any other asexuals who wish to a dialogue of letters. I hope that in this dialogue we will gain understanding of where our heads are."

– Brenda Jones, Atlanta

(Asexuality means having to say you’re sorry – “Asexuals have problems too,” which appeared under the byline Harold Nederland, was actually written by Joe Flaherty, who, until the arrival of dozens of letters like the above, was under the impression that he was a satirist – Ed.)

Note that the editor had received dozens of letters. Now, many of them may have been letters like that of Brenda Jones, merely asking for more serious information about asexuality, or like the letter from Frances Tzerman, complaining about the sexualization of the media. But the first letter, from an anonymous Manhattan dweller, probably strikes a chord with most asexuals today. This person has spent their life trying to reassure themself that they have sexual desires, and has had sex but found it "wasn't worth the trip". The writer has considered asexuality as a possibility, in what appears to be an sexual orientation context (like “the homos and heteros”) for some time, but suspects that "the average asexual doesn’t realize he’s an asexual." In a lot of ways, it seems that they are reaching out.

There was one more response to the article that I found in the April 1, 1971 edition:

Only You, Mr. Nederland

"Dear Sir:

To Mr. Nederland (“Asexuals have problems too,” by Joe Flaherty, Voice February 25): That was a very, very funny piece. And there aren’t many of those in The Voice or any place else. Thanks."

– Merle Miller, Brewater, New York

So at least one person saw it as the humour piece it was intended to be.

I actually looked for all those letters because of this mention of the reaction to a NYC satirical article on asexuality which lead me down a bit of a garden path:

“In the winter of 1971, a New York City newspaper ran a half-column plea for "asexual liberation." It was meant to be a joke, but so many evidently sincere people responded that next week's edition ran an enormous headline: "Power to the Asexual!" But despite the deluge of mail the paper received in accord with its statement, medical science is still not sure whether asexuality actually exists. Assuming that it does, we can only regard it to be the antithesis of sensuality. Keep in mind that, strictly defined, asexuality is "complete and permanent disinterest in engaging in sexual activity." It should not be confused with either a physical condition that prevents sex or a purely conscious decision to abstain temporarily”

- Wagenvoord, J and Budinger, P. B. (1977). Men, a book for women. p.192.

The place fits, the time fits, but where is that "enormous headline" they speak of in the next week's paper? I just can't find it, but what are the odds that two NYC papers were discussing this at the exact same time? So did I miss it, is it in a different paper, or does it not exist at all?

Moving on, there was another article, titled "Asexual Chic: Everybody's Not Doing It" in the Village Voice on January 25, 1978 by Arthur Bell, a journalist and gay rights activist. This one is also a previously known entity, Lord Happy Toast found it, I believe. I transcribed it in case someone is unable to read images.

Asexuality: Everybody’s Not Doing It

By Arthur Bell

“When I make love, I come alive!” – Anouk Aimee to Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita

“There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.” – Alfred Hitchcock

It wouldn’t surprise me to see a rash of asexual non-dating bars opening on the First Avenue and the waterfront in the near future – places where people of different asexual persuasions stare at each other and keep their rocks on. Because sex is so accessible – in art as well as life – it figures that the plugged in are plugging out. With Koch as mayor and role model, perhaps asexuality is the wave of the future.

To test the water, I ask revelers in our intense environment what makes an asexual. Are they spotable? Are they crabby? Serene? Spacy? Are they all Jewish? Do they own lap dogs?

“We’re everything. We’re everywhere,” says a noted designer at Lenny Bloom and Gary Topchik’s housewarming party. At the same bash, Dorianne Beyer, co-publisher of Christopher Street, mentions that a friend of hers is in group therapy where five of the eight are asexual. “They’re either actors or dancers.”

A motion-picture publicist tells me that he thought Liza Minnelli was asexual. Why? “Because she doesn’t look like a man or a woman.”

“But that’s unisexual,” I reply.

“Okay. Then Jackie Onassis.”

“Why?”

“Because she’s spent all that time and energy pulling herself together and you just know she doesn’t want to get messed up.”

But is it bad? Is it good? And what is asexuality, anyway?

Dr. Stuart Berger, who, at 24, is the youngest resident psychiatrist at Bellevue claims that “asexuality means nonsexuality, and nonsexuality doesn’t exist. But why people don’t have sex is up for grabs. Diabetes mellitus can cause impotence. Dexedrine often works against erections. Depression decreases sexual drive. Any kind of psychogenic disorder will do it.

“It is not unreasonable to believe that someone in politics or business today is so anxiety ridden that he can’t have sex… It might be a totally inappropriate response to an intense environment.”

Apparently, whatever it is, the sexual act is getting to be unpopular. Andy Warhol’s not doing it. Bob Weiner would like to do it, but often can’t find anyone to do it with. Patricia Elliott has discovered, through yoga and meditation, that she doesn’t have to do it. Dr. John McNeill is thinking about it, but won’t do it because his church says he can’t. Larry Flynt has been saved by Ruth Carter Stapleton and is doing it “clean.” Yasir Arafat leads an ascetic life and wouldn’t dream of doing it because he’s “married to the Palestinian people.”

In films, the two biggest hits are Close Encounters of the Third Kind, about a transcendental experience and Star Wars, about two robots who are “just friends.” On Broadway, Annie, Golda, and Dracula are, all combined, less lustful than The Boys from Syracuse.

Just before the smear campaign erupted, a reporter acquaintance from The New York Times phoned and asked if there was any truth to the rumor about the mayoral candidate. Not having been to bed with the man, I couldn’t answer from experience, but said there was no evidence, nothing concrete through the gay grapevine, and surely these ears would have heard if there were any dilly-dallying.

“Poor Ed,” sighed the Times reporter. “That’s what I was afraid of. If only he were gay, or something, or anything. Our next mayor, I fear, is asexual.”

In the weeks that followed, Bess Myerson told us in New York magazine that “I share a part of Ed’s life that is politics and most of his life is politics.” And The Advocate reported that Carmine DeSapio had once had Koch followed for two weeks, “attempting to find out his sexual activities. DeSapio’s intentions were frustrated when his private eye discovered that Koch did nothing but campaign and sleep.”

Poor Ed. The dirt is that there is no dirt. Koch may be what every Jewish mother hopes her son will grow up to be – asexual and a mayor.

*

At the Columbia Records party for Jon Peters and the vocalist he lives with, an ad copy writer admits that she went through a long period without sex. She was married then, and the sexual situation was a difficult and unhappy one. To dull her misery, she worked three jobs. At night she retired at odd hours to conflict with her husband’s schedule. There were no dreams, no masturbation, and no sex for a period of six months. “When I got into this state, I wasn’t very attractive to people,” she says, “I wasn’t aware of being unhappy. In fact, I wasn’t aware of anything.

“I think of that time now as a period of sublimation,” she whispers, adding that I must not, under any circumstances, use her name.

Well, I’m not using her name, but it’s interesting that the majority of asexuals I’ve talked with have asked for anonymity. Some of them are professional “walkers” (witty, charming men who escort women to society parties and opening nights, often with the blessings of their husbands because the husbands themselves are too bored or too busy and they know their wives are “safe”), several proclaim homosexual feelings, and one said that he’s given up sex because “It hurts.”

*

Photographer B. B. Bronstein, who is not asexual, urges that I differentiate between impotence, which is not being able to get it up; celibacy, which is self-afflicted abstention; and dry periods.

Presently, there is no asexual liberation front to put out pamphlets underscoring variations. Mention the Stonewall riot to a celibate and he’ll yawn in your face. Generally, asexuals would rather not switch or fight. They prefer to keep their mouths shut. Most support comes from the sexual community. Writer Shaun Considine swears that he’d give 20 years of his life to be an asexual.

“Think of all the time and energy spent in the search and consummation – and the hangovers of sex. Think of the books I could have written, the photographs I could have taken.

“Sure, there have been terrific moments, but when you boil them down, they amount to 30 seconds, all told. My fondest with is to be an asexual.”

*

It is the day before New Year’s. It also happens to be the day before Frank Langalla’s 38th birthday. The actor is wrapped in a thin blue bathrobe, nothing underneath. Like everyone else in town, he is sniffling and coughing. He asks his assistant to tell the 20 young women who are waiting at the stage-door entrance with stars in their eyes and Kodak Instamatics in their hands that he will not be leaving his dressing room between the matinee and evening performances. He pours himself a grapefruit juice, retires to a cot, pulls a blanket over his sinewy frame, and signals me to sit in a chair beside him. I swear in blood that there’ll be no puns about fangs.

Defiantly, he begins by stating that Dracula is enormously sexual but avoids sex. What keeps the customers panting is the suggestion that women can cheat on their husbands without cheating, without the fear of actual penetration, If Helen Gurley Brown were to analyze Dracula, I’m sure she’d say that no sex is sexy.

But, because Count Dracula uses his teeth in lieu of his penis, he is the dream lover of every shopgirl who’d rather rhapsodize about it than do it. I ask Frank Langella if he thinks that Dracula more in the direction of asexuality.

“Dracula asexual? Certainly not,” snaps Langella. “He has a penis but just doesn’t happen to use it between 8 and 11 p.m. at the Martin Beck. The play is about a man who is totally in love with a woman whom he takes in his own unique way. Adolescents find it enormously romantic. They find it white-satin clean, like a fairy tale. Their knees shake.”

That several sleeping princesses are quivering outside the theatre proves his point. Langella is matinee-idol material – he has a commanding stage presence, especially when he spreads his cape. Offstage he’s newly married, sort of old-fashioned on the subject of sex. For instance, Plato’s Retreat, the backroom bars, whips, and chains, dismay him. He believes that the farther you get from simple romance, the farther you get from yourself. “Asexuality,” he says, “is the first step you take when you decide to become nonhuman. The penis, vagina, breasts exist. If one wants to use them, one must have sex.

“I would be more sad to find that Koch was an asexual than if I knew he was gay. Still a politician’s job is not to show us the way to sexuality. Beame didn’t do it. Koch shouldn’t have to, either. His job is to get the subways uncrowded, among other things.

“But maybe we are headed towards an asexual society. Look at the top media figure in the country – Farrah Fawcett Majors. She personifies the regular, normal, healthy girl. She’s not sexy the way Marilyn Monroe was lascivious sexy. She run around New York with her mother as chaperone. And look at our newscasters – one pretty girl and boy after another – blonde and boring. All asexual-looking people. None of them are luscious. All sexually safe.

“As for the act of sex, the more you do it, the more you do it. I’m not sure there’s a unified effort not to do it. But once you get over the first three or four weeks, it comes easy.”

*

Teri Garr is a blonde, blue-eyed cigarette-smoking actress who’s recently been playing the kind of roles that Ruth Hussey and Evelyn Keyes used to play. She’s John Denver’s wife in Oh, God, and Richard Dreyfuss’s wife in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Both films are among the top grosser of the year, according to Variety; neither is about romance, sex, or love; neither is explicit, pornographic, or vulgar in the traditional sense. They are as wholesome as Ed Koch on Inaugral Day.

The actress does not like interviews, but does like The Voice, despite Andrew Sarris’s unkind words about her role in Close Encounters. She admits her part was drastically scissored. But there was a script cut she was pleased with. In one scene, Richard Dreyfuss was to have ripped off her nightgown. Both she and Dreyfuss thought the sequence would cheapen the film. They convinced director Steven Spielberg, who agreed, and dropped it.

“I don’t know what I’d have done if Spielberg had decided to go through with the scene,” sighs Garr, thankful that “the days are gone when an actress would have to remove her blouse and show her boobs to a director.”

But are they? And is there a reason why filmmakers are getting away from sexuality? Can she explain why Julia, Turning Point, and Pete’s Dragon are lining them up at box offices throughout the country?

“Because the public is wise to the fact that the open-leg porno stuff on screen is a perpetual lie about the man and woman situations,” she says. “Moviegoers are bored with exploitative se. They want to see something special, like a space ship coming down, and laser beams – they want to experience fear and mystery.”

If we are heading away from sex in movies, does it follow we’re forsaking the primrose path in real life too?

The question takes a lot of thinking. Teri Garr apologizes for sounding like something out of a woman’s liberation manual but suggests that, on a personal level, “Career takes away from the sexual energy. You can either have a nice sex relationship or be completely selfish about your work. You can’t have both.

“I can’t be thinking about sex when I’ve got an audition tomorrow, when I’ve got to put cream on my face and rollers in my hair and when I have to be home at 10 to study lines. There’s no time for a man.

“Going with someone is fine – but the initial effort takes up 90 per cent of your time. I need time to myself. I’m an independent woman who thinks and makes her own life and I don’t want to be that girl picking out detergents. I’m real scared of her.”

*

The time factor also makes Steve Rubell a victim of the late ‘70s malaise. The 33-year-old co-owner of Studio 54 slouches on one of those couches shaped like a giant condom at his disco emporium. Casually, he announces that he is an asexual. Will he explain?

“To me, an asexual is someone who has no desire for sex. Whether he represses the desire is something else. It’s peculiar to people who are involved in work and can’t put their energy into too many sources. If I’m here 16 hours a day, I can’t run out and think of fucking.

The tiny, hyperactive Rubell is sniffling. He, too, is getting over an attack of influenza, guzzling orange juice, and wheezing. Instead of resting in bed, where he belongs, he is watching a rehearsal of his New Year’s Eve spectacular featuring Grace Jones, Chorus boys in black leather jumpsuits make like demented Katherine Dunham dancers. Smoke erupts from smudge pots. It’s all very “now,” all very purgatory, all very done before. Nevertheless, to Rubell, it represents a breakthrough in nonorgasmic dream – a merging of the disco scene with Broadway. “If it works,” he says, “we’ll do more – bigger, better.”

“It all looks sexy to me,” I say.

“Sure it’s sexy. This is a sexy place. But the people who come here aren’t into love and sex, you know what I mean? This is not for pick-ups. If I see something that looks like a pick up, I tell them to stop, but I don’t throw them out. Bianca Jagger comes here all the time and has never once left with a guy. She dances with safe partners. Jon Voight was here last week. One of my assistants asked him to dance and he said he wanted to be left alone, to look and enjoy. These people are not like college kids who have time for sex because they’ve got nothing else to do. There are busy, active people.”

Ron Link, the director of the Grace Jones Shows, leans against a sound booth and shrieks that asexuality is not on the way in. “It’s already here.

“It’s impossible to have a relationship in this perverse disco madness,” he says. “How can you get to know anyone in this craziness? You go home with who you came with. Who you came with is a friend who knows you, someone you play off of and play with. Discos are killing sex.

“Punk rock is driving the final nail into the coffin. The punks don’t have sex; they talk about it all the time. They’re afraid to fuck because they might do something wrong.

*

It’s Patti Smith’s opening night at the new CBGB theatre. I notice Stiv Bators, lead singer of the Dead Boys, hovering around the lobby, and throw Ron Link’s quote at him.

“I get plenty of sex,” he boasts. “I fucked a woman onstage in Kansas City a few days ago. But I know what he means. A lot of kids are bored with it. They know how to do it, they can get it, but they’re just not interested. They’ve had physical relations since the age of 10, so, by the time they’re 15, they’re looking for new kicks.”

Bators, a graduate of the Harley-Davidson school of music, is usually besieged by fans who want him to hurt them. In Philadelphia, a teenage boy had him rip a safety pin off his cheek onstage. Dozens of young women demand that he autograph their arms with safety pins. “They like that because they’re not getting enough parental supervision as grown-ups. They were beaten up as kids – it’s how their parents showed love.”

A woman comes over to us and hands the punk-rock start a gift – an earring which she has made herself. It is a hand-painted Tampax with a safety pin piercing the middle. Bators thanks her and places the earring in the pocket of his leather jacket.

Later I see the fan surrounded by three friends, each dressed in her own brand of calculated grotesqueness. I ask the fan if I can speak with her. She starts to shake. There’s terror in her eyes. “What for?” she asks. I tell her about the article. “Thank God,” she says. “I thought you were calling me in for illegal possession of Tampax.”

She says that she’s 23 years old, her name is Junie Wound – an adopted name – and admits that she thinks about it, but doesn’t do it. “I swear to God. I’m saving myself for Joey Ramone.”

“Sex,” she says, “is scary.” Her words of advice to those caught in the web are “Find something you love. Find a terrific substitute. And get into it.”

While I’m chatting with Junie Wound, a figure from my past who’s gone punk spots me and starts jumping up and down like he’s on a pogo stick, his fluffy hair waving, tiny squirrel squeeches coming from his mouth.

“What are you doing here?” he squeals. I mention the story.

“Eeek. Eeek. Come with me. You’ll know everything.’ He detaches me from Junie Wound, and takes me by the arm and literally forces me down a flight of stairs to the men’s room. As he’s peeing, burping beer, and talking incoherently about the joylessness of sex, about the Boomtown Rats of London, I think to myself that I’ve done many Sherry-Netherlands sipping frozen-daiquiri interviews, but never one at a urinal. I ask him if we can go back upstairs.

“Okay,” he says, and spits in my face.

My instincts are to spit back, but I’m too shocked. Instead, I take a hankie, wipe off the slop, and asked him why.

“Because I like you,” he says. “Now you know everything.”

This article seems to largely be about celibacy rather than asexuality, as Bell conflates the two, but there is a comment from a psychiatrist, Dr. Stuart Berger, who when asked what asexuality was, said “asexuality means nonsexuality, and nonsexuality doesn’t exist. But why people don’t have sex is up for grabs.” The article was written after there had been some speculation about whether Ed Koch, the mayor of New York City at that time, was gay or asexual, and he is mentioned numerous times in the article.

As in 1971, this article lead to a series of letters being published in the Letters to the Editor on February 6, 1978:

Cocksure

“Dear Editor:

It seems to me the Mr. Bell’s article on asexuality (Asexuality: Everybody’s Not Doing It, Voice, January 30) dealt more with declining promiscuity than with its professed subject. Instead of building his article around one or more working definitions of asexuality, Mr Bell chose to present us with a rambling pastiche of anecdotes and musings. But perhaps the main failing of the article is its concentration on male asexuality. If Mr. Bell had included women more frequently in his discussion, he might have revealed much more about the true nature of asexuality to his audience. The number of women who have been turned off of sex by the selfish and boorish attitude of many men must be quite high – and undoubtedly more significant than the number of those who abstain because it is fashionable.”

- Sarah Slote, West 12th Street

Asexual Liberation Front

“Dear Editor:

I was most disappointed in Arthur Bell’s article on Asexuality (“Everybody’s Not Doing It,” Voice, January 30). And in The Voice’s decision to print it. It was an unthoughtful and offensive piece.

The question of asexuality is certainly one we should be examining: it seems to be an option chosen by increasing numbers of people. I wonder, however why Bell felt so compelled to ridicule and deride it. Perhaps his single worthwhile point was that asexuality is sometimes attractive to busy people.

It’s to [sic] bad that Bell missed a few points about asexuality that many of us are exploring. For example, is asexuality a response to the grossly unrealistic portrayal of sexuality in the media? Is it possible that asexuality is a response to the overavailability of casual sex – perhaps we are “all fucked out” and require a distance from that variety of performance. Or, could asexuality be a response to hurt: an unfortunate, but in spite of ourselves, a frequent by-product of current sexual practices.

Asexuality, too, is a matter of private choice. How pathetic that Bell must share his voyeuristic inclinations with Voice readers. How pathetic is it that the Voice needs to capitalize on this with a bravo headline like last week’s. (Why, Voice?) In any case, there are many things that concern me about Mayor Koch other than his sexual habits. What is the point of getting into that?

Finally, I am sure that your Jewish readers have taken offense at a number of Bell’s comments about them. I would like to see you print such tasteless and, yes – prejudiced – comments about other ethnic groups in this town. Backs? Puerto Ricans? Chinese? It’s sad to see The Voice promoting that kind of thought. And dangerous too, as stereotypes usually are.

I hope that in the future you paper will show greater sensitivity and sense to what you print.”

– Susanne Eliot, W. 84th Street

Combat in the Erogenous Zone

“Dear Editor:

Q: Why are you “asexual”?

A: It hurts

Q: “Hurts”?

A: Sex is an experience vitality. It stimulates feeling. New York City is an anti-life environment. Sex, by enhancing sensitivity makes you more vulnerable to the stressful, violent influences that you are exposed to. Thus sex in New York City hurts. “Asexuality” is an organic survival response.”

– Robert Cohen, West 70th Street

Interestingly, Bell and Dr. Berger went on the Phil Donahue show to discuss "asexuality." I found a reference to this in a Chicago Tribune TV guide from March 30, 1978. This description is from a later repeat of the show:

donahue.png

It would be interesting to know what they talked about.

Apologies about the thread hijack, I never feel like starting my own. Is anyone interested if I keep going?

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Batman's Ace

That's really neat! Thanks for sharing! :)

(Both of you!)

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sinisterporpoise

Can we get a moderator to fix this thread title please? I have no idea why 'his' is capitalized either.

But I came across this by accident. I knew the term was used in Academic papers about this time, too. I'll probably go back through Google's news search to see what I can find.

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Siggy

These articles deserve a page on the wiki.

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hexaquark

But I came across this by accident. I knew the term was used in Academic papers about this time, too. I'll probably go back through Google's news search to see what I can find.

That’s kind of my point, I’ve done that! I’m sure there are more out there though.

I'm just going to post a bunch. Some of these are more recent, but they are all pre-AVEN/Haven for the Human Amoeba/the LiveJournal Community.

Dr. Walter Alvarez, July 2, 1956. "Men Who Would Be Women Victims Of Cruel Hoax"

This is actually about trans people, but it is a pretty early mention of people being described as asexual with regards to their orientation or preference rather than their appearance.

"During the last several years I have been asking homosexual persons about their ancestry, and so far I have always got a story of one or more near relatives who were a bit psychotic or alcholic or epileptic. Occasionally, I have found others in the family who were homosexual or what I call asexual. They were persons who seemed uninterested in either men or women, and who usually never married. For instance: A homosexual man recently said to me, "I cannot tell you definitely that some of my brothers are homosexual; I don't know; but five of them never dated and never married"

Dr. Walter Alvarez, June 18, 1959. "Impotence in Hubby Wife's Worry"

Another mention from Alvarez.

Art Hoppe, November 10, 1979. "Asexual Militancy"

Another satire. Uses “A” a slang for asexual, which is actually something that was used on AVEN at one point (and is currently used in French AVEN, did you know they use A and S for sexual and asexual, as in “un couple A/S”?)

Dear Abby, May 4, 1981. "Happy Celibates Want No Change"

Responding to statements like "no healthy normal man (or woman) is supposed to be 'happy' in abstinance", is something the asexual community still contends with. A letter writer mentions asexuals as a "forgotten minority".

Ask Ann Landers, March 25, 1983. “Life Sans Sex Prompts Query

A woman asks if it is "possible to be asexual - to have no read interest in either male or female" and if that is the case, if it is treatable.

Ask Ann Landers, June 11, 1983. "Asexual fellow just shy"

Dear Ann Landers: I am a good-looking, 26-year-old male college grad and definitely asexual. This is not the way I want it to be, but after 15 dates with lovely, interesting young women, and not the slightest desire to kiss even one of them, I know the truth.

My problem is how to deal with those who assume that because I do not sleep around I am gay. Several friends have hinted and offered “understanding and acceptance anyway.” Relatives have suggested counselling. I admit I have problems but homosexuality is not one of them.

Years ago, when dealing with my fear of relationships, I considered the possibility that I was gay. But I have never been attracted to males, so that’s out.

My shyness has made me reluctant to form close relationships, and I’m sure there are others like me. Please print this letter so all the bloodthirsty clunks out there will stop whispering about us and offer, instead, a little understanding.

- Nowheresville in Loveland

Dear Nowhere: Simply ignore the innuendoes. He who excuses himself accuses himself. Get some additional counselling. Your life will be enormously richer when you conquer your fear of close relationships.

Ask Beth, May 13, 1986. "Male feels guilty about his viginity"

Unfortunately, I have not tracked down the letter by the "asexual" boy that preceded this letter.

Ask Beth, December 26, 1986. "Least Credible Sexuality Group"

The ideas expressed in this letter show remarkable similarity to the concepts used by present asexual communities. When looking at asexuality in the past (and the uneducated present), it is often framed in terms of no libido or sex drive, as Winship does in her response. This letter writer, on the other hand, is expressing asexuality in terms of the lack of sexual attraction, and considers asexuality to be a "sexuality group", much like many present-day asexuals frame asexuality as an orientation.

Ask Beth, March 13, 1987. "Young woman is worried about lack of sexuality"

An 18 year old woman writes in, feeling alone, different, and about to have a nervous breakdown because of her lack of “sexual attraction or feelings for boys.” Today, this letter writer would be in her forties.

Dear Abby, December 21, 1992, "How many sexes are there, Daddy?"

Using asexual to describe a sex (or even a gender) happens not infrequently in newspapers and books. This response to a letter in the Ann Landers column is a bit different. “Recent studies have shown that homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality are not the result of something that has gone wrong with the sex organs, but rather a biochemical-genetic alteration that no one has been able to explain.”

Dear Abby, February 28, 1995. "Not Looking for a Girlfriend in New Jersey"

This 53 year old man from New Jersey, who has "no feelings for men or women", and no interest in dating or sex, would probably be considered what we'd now call an aromantic asexual. The letter expresses a few sentiments I've see in similar letters: the assumption that the writer is gay because he doesn't date women, and the isolation, for lack of a better word, of a person who has never read about someone like themselves. Abby's response is pretty refreshing, she offers a label, and she doesn't try to make his asexuality into a problem. Her previous correspondence with asexuals many have something to do with this.

Ask Ann Landers, July 19, 1998. “Woman with no sex interest wonders if there are others like her

This is getting quite close to the cusp of the first online asexual communities I know of. However, you can still find letters like these in help columns… apparently from asexual people who feel alone and coin the term but can’t be fussed to Google it (e.g. Miss Lonelyhearts, Winnipeg Free Press. 02/16/2011 (the second letter)). The difference? Now people write back with links (Miss Lonelyhearts, Winnipeg Free Press 02/24/2011 (also the second letter))

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Guest member25959

Can we get a moderator to fix this thread title please? I have no idea why 'his' is capitalized either.

But I came across this by accident. I knew the term was used in Academic papers about this time, too. I'll probably go back through Google's news search to see what I can find.

Fixed it =P

Members can edit titles in their own thread.

Click Edit > Use Full Edit > Voila.

As for the article. These are very interesting. I've always presumed that asexuality has never had any media mentions prior the mid-2000s.

These articles deserve a page on the wiki.

I agree ^_^

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hexaquark

These articles deserve a page on the wiki.

I agree ^_^

Okay then, should we make a new page? Or add them to the media page?

I feel like there is a distinction between pre-community pieces and the ones that came after the initial online communities were formed (the "asexual revolution"?). So I'd lean towards a separate page.

Here are two more from Ann Landers, very borderline ones (e.g. HHA was created in October 2000, AVEN in March 2001). Since they have no influence from those early communities, I'd still classify them as pre-community. This is only a decade ago... feels quite strange doesn't it?

Ask Ann Landers, February 25, 2001. "Mom may be misjudging son's coach"

A woman suspects a single male coach in his late 30s of being a pedophile, Landers suggests he may likely be homosexual or asexual.

Ask Ann Landers, August 2, 2001. "Reader: Sex simply overrated"

A letter writer has a little rant about how sex is put on a pedestal, because they don't like it, and they know there is nothing wrong with them. Lander's response? "I assume you are aware that some people are simply asexual - normal but not interested." That's a pretty big assumption, Ann. She also gives some condolences to the letter writer for being “so sour on something that can be so rich and rewarding.”

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ignoranceisn'tbliss

Very interesting. I've read most of them, but the screen is starting to sway back and forth :blink: :blink: :lol:

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Guest member25959

These articles deserve a page on the wiki.

I agree ^_^

Okay then, should we make a new page? Or add them to the media page?

I feel like there is a distinction between pre-community pieces and the ones that came after the initial online communities were formed (the "asexual revolution"?). So I'd lean towards a separate page.

Here are two more from Ann Landers, very borderline ones (e.g. HHA was created in October 2000, AVEN in March 2001). Since they have no influence from those early communities, I'd still classify them as pre-community. This is only a decade ago... feels quite strange doesn't it?

Ask Ann Landers, February 25, 2001. "Mom may be misjudging son's coach"

A woman suspects a single male coach in his late 30s of being a pedophile, Landers suggests he may likely be homosexual or asexual.

Ask Ann Landers, August 2, 2001. "Reader: Sex simply overrated"

A letter writer has a little rant about how sex is put on a pedestal, because they don't like it, and they know there is nothing wrong with them. Lander's response? "I assume you are aware that some people are simply asexual - normal but not interested." That's a pretty big assumption, Ann. She also gives some condolences to the letter writer for being “so sour on something that can be so rich and rewarding.”

I agree with this, these are worthy of their own page.

At first I was leaning towards both, including them on the Media list and giving them their own page. Though, if they are included on the Media list I can see it causing confusion (with the huge gap between 1970 and 2006. :P )

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hexaquark

Heeere’s another one.

This is from December 23, 1973, on the topic of the APA ruling to change the DSM so that it would no longer classify homosexuality as a psychiatric disorder (it was sort of retained as a “sexual orientation disturbance”, then later “ego-dystonic homosexuality” then later sort of subsumed under “sexual disorder not otherwise specified” if there is marked distress).

Anyway, this is a discussion between Dr. Irving Bieber and Dr. Robert Spitzer (yes him) and “asexuality” came up (as did frigidity), though it was not very clearly defined. “ndividuals who have no operational sexuality”, but what does that really mean? For Bieber, it is clearly enough to be a condition in the DSM... why did Spitzer bring it up specifically? Did Spitzer just mean celibacy?

Transcribing the relevant excerpt, but the whole thing is interesting if you enjoy face-palming about dated views on homosexuality.

DR. BIEBER: I didn't say homosexuality was a mental illness. And the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) contains other conditions [that do not satisfy Dr. Spitzer's definition] that I don't consider mental disorders either, such as voyeurism and fetishism.

DR. SPITZER: I haven't given as much thought [as Dr. Bieber] to the problems of voyeurism and fetishism, and perhaps that's because the voyeurs and fetishists have not yet organized themselves and forced us to do that. But it is true that there probably are some other conditions, and perhaps they include voyeurism and fetishism, which do not meet the criteria [of mental disorders]. I would be for reviewing those conditions as well.

I would like to ask you: Would you be in favor of adding the condition of asexuality, or celibacy, to the DSM?

DR. BIEBER: In individuals who have no operational sexuality, apart from those in certain professions, like the clergy, where it is demanded? Yes, I would.

DR. SPITZER: Well, you see, that exactly illustrates our difficulty here. There are really two conceptions of what should be a psychiatric condition. There are those who, with me, believe there should be a limited conception, which is close to a medical model, and there are those who believe that all psychological behavior which does not meet some general standard of optimal behavior, such as fanaticism, racism, male chauvinism, vegetarianism, asexuality should be added to the nomenclature.

By removing homosexuality from the nomenclature we are not saying it is abnormal but we are not saying it is normal. And I also believe that normal and abnormal are, strictly speaking, not psychiatric terms.

DR. BIEBER: These are questions now of definition.

DR. SPITZER: They are. That is the whole issue.

DR. BIEBER: I am talking as a scientist. I think I made it clear that as a civil rights person, I was in the vanguard for civil rights for homosexuals.

This is a completely different issue. We are psychiatrists. I am a scientist primarily. One, there's no question in my mind, that you are making a serious scientific error. Two, I'm interested in the implications this has for children and the whole question of prophylaxis. I can pick out the entire population at risk in male homosexuality at the age of five, six, seven, eight. If there children are treated, and their parents are treated, they will not become homosexuals.

DR. SPITZER: Well, first of all, when we talk about treatment, I think it's irresponsible not to recognize that the number of homosexuals who wish treatment is small. The real problem is that the number of psychiatrists available to treat these individuals is small. Treatment is lengthy.

DR. BIEBER: That's irrelevant.

DR. SPITZER: No, it is not irrelevant.

DR. BIEBER: Do you think frigidity should be in the DSM?

DR. SPITZER: I would have to say that when it is a symptom of distress, yes.

DR. BIEBER: You mean a woman who is frigid and is not distressed by it --

DR. SPITZER: She does not have a mental disorder.

DR. BIEBER: So you're going to make two classifications for frigidity too. Frigidity that causes distress is the only one that remains. Is that correct?

DR. SPITZER: No, I'm not sure if that's correct. I think there is a distinction. Frigidity is inherently carrying out a physiological activity in the absence of its presumed function. That is different from homosexuality.

DR. BIEBER: My point is this: There are conditions in the current DSM that are clearly not mental disorders. Now I don't consider homosexuality a mental illness and a mental disorder in the connotation. Yet I consider it an injury to function caused by psychological fear. It belongs in the DSM the way frigidity does because frigidity is also an injury to a sexual function caused by fear.

I’m more fuzzy on the history of HSDD than I really should be, but I believe “Inhibited Sexual Desire” was in the 1980 DSM and in 1987 it was renamed “Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder” just to add some more context.

I’m thinking I’m starting to need a timeline to keep track of various things in relation to each other… maybe that is the way to go about it on the wiki?

Very interesting. I've read most of them, but the screen is starting to sway back and forth :blink: :blink: :lol:

:lol: When my contacts are all dry from staring at the screen without blinking, that's when I know that I have spent too much time with a search engine.

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