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More from TheGoodMenProject and The Thinking Asexual

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ithaca

I don't know if there's any link to this blog, The Thinking Asexual: http://thethinkingasexual.wordpress.com/

It seems linked to the articles TheGoodMenProject has been posting recently about asexuality, as in I guess The Thinking Asexual is the author of the articles. One was shared here: http://thethinkingasexual.wordpress.com/

And this was shared in the FB group: "Male Asexuality and Its Challenge to Masculinity"

Male Asexuality and Its Challenge to Masculinity

JANUARY 16, 2014 BY MARIE S. CROSSWELL

An asexual man, particularly a celibate and/or sex-averse asexual man, is a bit like a symbol of religion in a fiercely atheistic society: some will dismiss him as a fantastical impossibility, while others will react with varying levels of animosity, out of the sense that he is an intrusion threatening the validity of their own worldview. In one corner, weve got the anti-asexual haters who dont acknowledge that asexual men even exist, which is necessary to their general dismissal of asexuality as not a real orientation but simply a new way to label an exclusively female tendency toward disinterest in sex or sexual inexperience or repression. In another corner, weve got the anti-asexual haters who accuse asexual men of: being too emasculated by exposure to feminism and feminist women to express their sexuality, being closeted homosexuals, being too socially inept or unattractive to obtain sex, etc. While many ignorant sexual people with little to no knowledge of asexuality often make the assumption that only women identify as asexual (which is in itself a roundabout expression of buying into the misogynistic stereotyping of women as naturally less sexual beings than men), others are downright angry at the idea of men identifying as asexual, and theyre especially angry at the idea of men having an enthusiastic aversion to sexual participation. Ive noticed that the sexual people who feel anger toward male asexuality are usually other men.

The reason? Male asexuality is a powerful challenge to mainstream masculinity, which hasnt changed its attitudes toward male sexuality at all, even after three waves of feminism. No matter what else has changed about how we view men and women, masculinity and femininity, no matter how men have changed since the 1960s, one thing remains utterly the same: successful masculinity depends heavily upon the males active sexuality.

The role of sex in masculinity performance is connected to other important markers of successful masculinity: power, money, dominance, and the approval of other men. All one has to do is pay attention to mainstream media to see that we collectively associate sex with power and money, regardless of gender but especially for men. The more money a man has, the more powerful he is, the more sexually desirable he is. The more sex he has and the more sexual partners he has, the more masculine he is, which wins the approval not only of women but of other men. Sex is also a part of male dominance: over women, naturally, but also over other men, even when the man in question is heterosexual. In male society, men can have a sense of where they rank next to each other, based on these elements of masculinity. Sexual promiscuity is something to be proud of, if youre a man, while sexual inactivity is shameful. Men respect other men for their sexual accomplishments and disrespect men who dont measure up to a certain sexual standard. Men compete with each other sexually: who can rack up the higher number of sex partners, who can build the best reputation as a skilled lover, whos had sex with the most desirable women (or men), etc. They dominate one another with their sexual performance according to these parameters.

21st century America views the male as a hypersexual being: he is supposed to value sex above almost everything, he is supposed to have sex at every given opportunity, and we sexualize all of his emotional attachments, regardless of the gender of the other person and the males own identity, with the exception of his love for his children. We cannot, as a culture, conceive of a man experiencing intense or passionate love for another person in a completely nonsexual manner. If a man loves someone with emotional intensity, romantic undertones or overtones, the only possible explanation the public sees is sexual desire for the loved one.

Its worth contemplating the possibility that one reason for this modern view of men is that unconsciously, we are only comfortable with a mans intense or tender emotion for others if sex coexists with that emotion as a buffer against the femininity of the emotion. A man who loves his friend too deeply or too passionately without wanting sex from that friend is being too emotional or sentimental, which is counter-masculine. But if a man loves someone deeply because he desires them sexually, now all of a sudden, were more comfortable with his emotion because his sexual desire is the dominant, masculine energy behind his pursuit and attachment to the beloved. (Of course, we as a society no longer conceive of passionate or intense love independent of sex, regardless of the gender of the people in question, but this inability to separate love from sex is particularly relevant to men because of the way it connects to masculinity. Women have always had a bit more room for intense nonsexual attachment, simply because women havent been construed as hypersexual beings in the same way as men, and their feminine image does not depend upon sexual performance. Women are perceived as more emotional than men anyway, which is an assumption unfair to both genders.)

One interesting observation Ive made is the way that certain sex-positive feminists, who adopt their own feminism-disguised attitude of compulsory sexuality, actually (unintentionally) encourage and bolster the very patriarchal conceptualization of masculinity that includes compulsory sexuality and sexual performance among its defining features. Men dont have the same shame attached to their sexuality that women have, thus compulsory sexuality means something different for men than it does for women. Sex-positive feminists who pursue the idea of women having a lot of sex as the ultimate expression of their empowerment, freedom, and rebellion against misogynistic control of female sexuality, without giving due respect to voluntary celibacy, fail to realize that not only are they creating a new, unhealthy paradigm of sexuality for womenone that ironically circles back around to feed into rape culturebut that they are also affirming mainstream masculinitys compulsory sexuality tenet that plays a part in mens misogynistic treatment of women. The kind of compulsory sexuality that feminists recognize as overtly anti-woman is the kind that demands women be sexually available to all men, at all times, for the sake of pleasing the men. The kind of compulsory sexuality sprouting from popular sex-positive feminism is actually more along the lines of masculinitys compulsory sexuality: creating shame around not having sex, rather than having sex.

A man is never supposed to NOT be in the mood for sex. It doesnt matter if hes straight, gay, or bi. It also doesnt necessarily matter who the potential sex partner is. If someone offers a man sex, hes expected to enthusiastically want it. The idea of a man saying no to sex and meaning it is so unbelievable to us, as a society, that male rape victims are still often viewed as a myth. This is one of the more extreme consequences of the compulsory sexuality aspect of masculinity. A man cant say no, without failing at masculinity in the moment. For women, the issue of saying no is tied into the misogyny, compulsory heterosexuality, and rape culture of our society; it is more an issue of a womans no not meaning anything or having power, when she says it. For a man, no isnt even supposed to be in his vocabulary, when it comes to sex. We have men tied up in a situation where hes supposed to want sex constantly, having sex makes him more of a man, and hes also supposed to be incapable of emotional passion and intimacy outside of a sexual context. Saying no to sex, if youre a man, is a rejection of masculinity, love, and intimacynot just a no to the sex. Arguably, when women say no to sex, their femininity isnt in jeopardy. We encourage women to say no more, because saying no and having that respected is something weve had to learn that women are entitled to do. But no ones encouraging men to say no to sex when they arent truly enthusiastic about it, are they? No ones even imagining that men want to say no, ever.

So along comes the asexual male. Maybe hes bored by sex and apathetic. Maybe hes repulsed by sex. He doesnt care about it. He doesnt need it. He doesnt particularly want it. Maybe he really doesnt want sex. Maybe hes the sort of asexual that, if put into a sexual situation, he panics to some degreerepulsed. Hes a man that considers sex, this all-powerful entity that brings society to its knees, that gives men everywhere status and respect, that is both the cause and effect of successful masculinity in societys eyes, and says, No, thanks.

◊♦◊

Think of what a radical challenge to masculinity that is! If an asexual man is to have his masculinity considered valid, that forces us to recognize that masculinity is not innately dependent upon sexual performance. We remove the power of sex within masculinity, and we remove masculinitys power to compel sex. Stripping sex of its role in masculinity would demand a truly major reconstruction, maybe even a permanent deconstruction, of masculinity as something distinct from femininity. Thats why male asexuality pisses some people off. Those people feel their own conceptualization of masculinity threatened, perhaps their own masculinity threatened. Thats also why others fail to even imagine that an asexual could be male, because not wanting sex is so anti-masculine to our sensibilities.

If the asexual man is romantic or if hes an aromantic that still wants and likes emotional/physical intimacy, if he just wants to hold hands and cuddle and be life partners with someone (or many someones). what sort of image does that give him? Even the most ardent, progressively thinking feminist must admit that the idea of a man having hardcore, powerful sex compared to the idea of a man cuddling his partner fully clothed in a nonsexual situation evokes very different responses to each mans masculinity. Who would you say is more masculine?

Sex is power, aggression, dominance, activity, energy, and sometimes even violence. We might say that sex is masculine, if were making our associations based on traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity. On the other hand, romantic gestures and nongenital physical affection (like hugging, cuddling, holding hands, etc) is sweet, soft, sentimental, passive, vulnerable, etc. In other words, feminine. Sexual men may do the latter without being seen as feminine but only because theyre doing it in correspondence with the more masculine act of sex. Asexual men who dont have sex but engage in romance, romantic behavior, or physical affection are behaving in the feminine ways without the masculine act of sex to diminish the femininity of those other behaviors.

Another thing to think about is the challenge to our gendered view of rape that asexual men pose. As I said before, because we view men as hypersexed beings and view their masculinity through a lens of compulsory sexuality, we have a major tendency to dismiss or fail to notice that men can be raped and are raped. Asexual men, particularly sex-averse ace men, force us to acknowledge that men can be raped and can be raped by both men and women. Thats a thought that makes everybody uncomfortable, from the sexist men who support the hypersexualized view of their own gender to feminist women who believe that women can only be the victims of rape and men, the perpetrators.

The interdependence between sex and masculinity is an issue that must be dealt with as asexual visibility continues to rise, because men who are effectively asexual (or demisexual or gray-asexual) and especially men who fall somewhere on the sex-averse side of the spectrum can face a tremendous challenge with identifying as asexual. For a man to merely admit to himself that he doesnt want to have sex is sort of a big deal. Simply accepting the fact that they can be asexual and that its a legitimate thing for them to be, will force them to confront this masculinity problem. Coming out as asexual is a whole other can of worms for men because then, theyll be opening themselves up to the publics criticism not just of asexuality as an orientation but of their masculinity. Furthermore, these men who, deep down, dont really want to have sex, need to learn that they can still experience intimacy and love and romance and primary partnership while being celibate and that their desire for any or all of those things still makes sense, even though theyre asexual.

How do we conceive of an asexual mans masculinity? Can he ever be as masculine as sexual males? How can broader society reconfigure our idea of masculinity to include asexuality and sex-aversion? What breakthroughs might result from masculinity becoming ace-friendly?

Then I noticed this one, I don't know if it was shared already: "Life Partner Is Not Synonymous with Romantic Partner"

Life Partner Is Not Synonymous with Romantic Partner

NOVEMBER 21, 2013 BY MARIE S. CROSSWELL

Marie S. Crosswell explores the radical notion that your Life Partner and your Romantic Partner may not have to be the same person.

The fact that romantic-sexual people equate primary/cohabiting life partner with romantic-sexual partner is so baffling to me, that every time I think about it, it feels like my mind goes completely blank and the only thing there is a big question mark. This makes even less sense to me than linear algebra. It is so beyond my ability to understand, that I can hardly get over the How is this possible? long enough to attempt analyzing the logic behind it.

If you need sex, fine.

If you need romantic relationships, fine.

If you need sex and romantic relationships and you need them to always come in one package, fine.

But how and why would anyone believe that your primary life partnerthe person you live with and share your practical responsibilities with and have a home with, etcmust also be your romantic-sexual partner,as if thats universal law and absolutely impossible to choose your way out of?

◊♦◊

This is completely and totally irrational. Theres a logic to it, sure, but theres zero rationality. (FYI, logic and rationality are two different things.)

Once in a while, Ill see or hear about a friendship between two sexual people that actually has emotional weight. (Almost always, the two friends are teenagers or young adults, because the vast majority of sexual adults cant do friendship worth a damn.) Its so obvious that the two friends love each other, they get along so well, their relationship is effortless and 99% positive and stable and affectionate, etc. They have an enthusiasm for each other. They can be themselves together. All the ingredients for a secure, healthy, positive, happy life partnership are right there in their friendship.

But theyre going to spend their whole lives searching for a romantic-sexual partner to fill in that Life Partner role instead.

Even though romantic-sexual relationships are the most volatile kind of human connection. Even though the American divorce rate is 50%. Even though building nuclear families on a foundation of romantic-sexual monogamous relationships has created a society full of broken homes and kids that have little, if any, stability. Even though most romantic-sexual people who claim to believe in sexual monogamybecause our culture says monogamy is good and non-monogamy is badroyally suck at it in practice. Even though cohabiting with a string of lovers takes highly uncomfortable emotional and practical tolls when the couple breaks up and someone has to suddenly move out. Even though youre fifty million times more like to be physically, mentally, sexually, and emotionally abused by a romantic-sexual partner that you live with than you are by your best friend. Even though the frequency of conflict in a romantic-sexual relationship is usually exponentially higher than it is in a best friendship.

I could go on.

◊♦◊

Its just totally nuts to me, that anyone could have a real best friend who is compatible enough with them that the friendship lasts a long timewithout even any formal commitment!and choose to live a lifestyle where having a home and a family and a life partner all rides on their romantic-sexual relationships. Its nuts to me that anyone could have a best friend, an honest-to-God best friend, who provides EVERY SINGLE THING THEYRE LOOKING FOR IN A LIFE PARTNERSHIP EXCEPT SEX, and choose to put not just one, but a whole series of sexual partners above that best friend, in the pursuit of the magical Romantic-Sexual Monogamous Life Partner Who Makes You Happy Forevermore.

And this is not about having sex or not having sex. This isnt a matter of rejecting romantic love for friendship. This isnt a choice between one or the other.

This is just about relationship organization.

You could have a non-sexual, non-romantic primary life partner who you live with, who is there for you emotionally and physically and financially, whos there to take care of you if medical issues come up, whos there to help you raise a kid if you want one, whos there to keep you company at home and go on vacation with you and help keep house, etcand still have a sex life and romantic relationships!

And my God, would that make so much more sense on every single level! I could paper the walls of my bedroom with all the benefits of making your best friend your non-romantic/non-sexual life partner, instead of a lover who may or may not stick with you for the long haul.

◊♦◊

How many sexual people in the United States alone are wasting their lives on a never ending roller coaster of serial romantic-sexual relationships, looking for the perfect one, getting married and getting divorced, moving in and moving out, scattering children all over the place, living in bad marriages or cohabiting romantic-sexual relationships, cheating on their lovers, fighting every other night, on and on and on? For what? For a home? For love? For joyful companionship? For happy family?

You could have all of that with your best friendif youre lucky enough to have a best friendwithout eventrying.

But instead, you subordinate that best friend to all of these sex partners/lovers, to spouses you end up hating, to romantic-sexual relationships that last three months or six or a measly year, to romantic-sexual relationships that steal years of your life before finally imploding. How many people actually find what theyre looking for in romantic sexuality?

If you want a stable, warm, low-maintenance, loving, caring home life; if you want someone there for you who accepts you and likes you exactly as you are; if you want someone to share your life with who will take care of you and be loyal to you and still give you the freedom to be who you are and connect with other peoplethen be life partners with a best friend, if youre lucky enough to get one. And you can still have sex and you can still have romantic relationships, and if those romantic-sexual relationships prove to be consistently short-term or troublesome, at the very least, you still have a home and a steady companion and a source of love and support that doesnt break down, when your sexual relationship of the moment does.

◊♦◊

This is pure rationality, to me. Its about maximizing your chances for a stable, happy, loving home life and reducing the negative impact of romantic-sexual relationships on yourself and your children, if you have any. Instead of asking one romantic-sexual partner to be your Everything, let them just be your romantic-sexual partner, and make someone else your living partner, your financial partner, your live-in co-parent, your best friend.

If I had any reason to believe a romantic-sexual person capable of committing to a nonsexual/nonromantic life partnership and if I had a sexual best friend and if that best friend wanted to be life partners with me, I would commit and be non-monogamous life partners with them. And I wouldnt care about their sex life or their romantic relationships with other people, as long as I could trust my partner was committed to our home and our friendship. It probably helps a lot that Im a radical relationship anarchist and not looking for any kind of strict monogamy (the sexual kind is irrelevant; the emotional kind isnt doable for me), but even if that partnership were missing certain elements I wanted in my lifelike physical affection, lets sayI still wouldnt have a problem with being my friends partner for good, as long as I could pursue other relationships, too.

I just dont understand how anyone could pass up the opportunity to make a best friendship a cohabiting life partnership, for the sake of romantic sexuality. I cant understand. Its incomprehensible.

Originally published on The Thinking Asexual

Photo foshie/Flickr

About the Author: Marie S. Crosswell is a celibate asexual, a radical relationship anarchist, a thinker, and a writer. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and currently lives in Phoenix. Her short fiction can be found in Thuglit: Issue 7 and the upcoming issue of Plots with Guns. She is currently working on her first novel.

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sinisterporpoise

I think I like the intent of the Good Men Project, but I'd rather see a site that tries to bring these issues to popular attention. Although I think I would subscribe to the site if it had an Android or iPad magazine.

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A-listed

Thanks for sharing those articles. Well worth reading.

I agree that we asexual men are construed as a challenge—nay, an affront—to masculinity. To tell the truth, I'm glad that we are seen that way: we get the honour of liberating men from compulsory sexuality while also striking a blow against men's domination and subjugation of women.

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thylacine

That is one of the best articles I have ever read about masculinity and stereotypes.

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Hobbes!

I read the article on asexuality and masculinity - had some good points to raise, but I've got to say all those sweeping generalisations bug me.

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Lambda Corvus

The posts from a similar thread, named "Goodmenproject: Male Asexuality", have been merged to this topic. The OP has been informed.

AlGorithm

World Watch Moderator

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Heart

Thank you! Some more bedtime readings :)

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Heart

I found this link through the thinkingasexual blog, and wanted to know what others thought about it. I found it through these links, so I thought I'd just put it here instead of starting a whole new topic, but if you feel I am derailing the conversation, just let me know and I'll move it elsewhere.

Here's the link: http://queerlibido.tumblr.com/post/74181237292/whats-r-ace-got-to-do-with-it-white-privilege

The theme of masculinity and asexuality is there as well. But it's a very different view of asexuality than we are used to (or at least than I am used to). It heavily implies that "asexuality" is foisted on some men, namely men of colour or men subjected to trauma. I feel like the author's definition of asexual is not the same as the one commonly held here on AVEN (he seems to feel like one is "made" asexual or at least can be made so, as the conclusion of his article implies; whereas we tend to view asexuality as a built-in thing rather than a fluid thing - or at least only as fluid as all other orientations are). He appears resentful that he has been "made" asexual, or influenced to be asexual.

It's an interesting article for me to read though. For me, the label asexual is something I had to fight for, and continue to have to fight for. I fight for asexuality being seen as legitimate and real. But he seems to fight against asexuality being seen as legitimate, because such a thing is a cover for the fact that he is perhaps really sexual and just feels pressure to present as asexual...

Thoughts everyone?

Edit: Upon reading this, I think the author might actually be gay, not asexual? http://queerlibido.tumblr.com/post/43064438754/the-real-significant-other-the-queer-politics-of



2015 Edit: The above links don't work anymore, but the first one can be found here; for future reference:


QUEER LIBIDO

What’s R(ace) Got To Do With It?: White Privilege & (A)sexuality

In this series of pieces I hope to develop a new grammar to talk about asexuality outside of the ways in which it has been co-opted by neoliberal identity politics. I am interested in reclaiming and developing an analysis of (a)sexuality in our collective efforts toward racial justice and anti-capitalism. These pieces are motivated by an absence of dialogue around asexuality and all of its associated critiques from many queer spaces I’ve been a part of.

The first time I ever saw someone like me having sex was in a spam internet advertisement in India. “Hairy Mallu Boys.” And I may have followed the link. And I may have gawked at the spectacle of it all: brown hairy men fucking each other. I want to tell you about the validation, how affirming it was to finally see someone who looked just like me having an orgasm, but that would be misleading. I was too shocked to feel validated. Too surprised to see a body like mine fucking in this city where my gay Indian friends ask me if I’ve ever slept with a white men because “they are cleaner than us” because they’ve “seen it on porn.”

Growing up in the US I never really saw brown people engaging in public acts of intimacy. From a young age I remember feeling jealous of the Suzy, the Michael, the Patrick and their parents who kissed them goodbye. I remember getting jealous of the Tom, the Dick, the Zach and their parents who hugged when their child scored a goal at soccer games. My parents never touched one another in front of me. In fact, we never really spoke about sex. So I remember always thinking that sex was something for white people. I understood that our parents must have ‘done it,’ but I couldn’t imagine them enjoying it. Pleasure didn’t belong to us. That’s why we moved to this country, right?

When I looked to the media for representation of brown sexual boys all I got were spelling bee champions, gas station owners, and that one guy from Mean Girls – that archetype of the brown boy being forced to overcompensate to compete for the attention of white people. Indeed, the brown body was usually depicted as engaging in emotional, physical, or mental labor for white interests. And as I got older and the other male assigned people around me had voices that got deeper I witnessed the many ways in which they felt compelled to overcompensate – by either adopting the aesthetics of white patriarchy in all of its J Crew JP Morgan finesse or by adopting and exploiting blackness to seem more ‘cool’ and ‘masculine.’ The plight of the South Asian American male lied in his effort to grapple with a culture that did not, and continues to not, recognize his body as beautiful and worthy of receiving and transmitting desire.

Which goes to say that it has always been difficult to fantasize with sexual scenarios that involve my own body because I have never had a reference point for my own pleasure. Voyeurism here becomes less of a choice and more of a position of coercion: feeling like I’ve been set to watch sex occurring, always at a distance. Queerness here becomes less of a destination aspired toward, but rather one dressed on a body without its consent – a type of otherness that is not only about not seeing one’s face reflected on the screen, but about experiencing one’s difference inscribed on skin. Wearing it close and lethal, like a weapon.

Over the years I have stumbled on several words to articulate this distance: gender-non conforming to express an inability (and perhaps unwillingness) to identify with the masculinity I was assigned at birth and ‘asexuality’ to articulate an inability to feel authentically ‘sexual,’ capable and worthy of wanting. But these terms never really felt adequate to articulate that conglomeration of anxiety, power, histories, stories, and paradoxes that come to mind when I think of my gender and sexuality. Like all identity markers they are shorthands we have been prescribed to halt conversation: we can retreat into our identities like we retreat into our apartments not asking how and why we got there, who we gentrified to get there, not being able to have a conversation about how this place will never fit all of our idiosyncrasies.

And this ‘distance’ has been something I have been trying to reconcile for years: how to articulate that mixture of power, shame, desire, and fear that makes me uncomfortable thinking about myself as a sexual body. And, simultaneously, how to challenge the onslaught of dogma from so called ‘sex radicals’ who claim that we have just internalized ‘sex shame’ and that shame is something we can be emancipated from.

So when I talk about asexuality I don’t mean some sort of sanitized model of identity politics invested in being recognized and affirmed (by capitalism) – I’m talking about that distance. That absence of wanting. That anxious condition of not being able to differentiate trauma from truth – that peculiar position of never being able to divorce ourselves from the power that continues to shape our every want, desire, and action.

Why Asexual Identity Politics Isn’t Enough

As a queer South Asian I don’t feel comfortable ascribing the identity of ‘asexual’ to my body. Part of the ways in which brown men have been oppressed in the Western world is by de-emasculating them and de-sexualizing them (check out David Eng’s book Racial Castration). What then would it mean for me to identify as an ‘asexual?’ What would this agency look like in a climate of white supremacy? Can I ever authentically express ‘my’ (a)sexuality or am I always rehearsing colonial logics?

The dilemma of this brown queer body is its inability to see itself through its own eyes. The mirror becomes a site it which we view what white people have always told us about ourselves. Regardless or not of the status of my libido, I’m not sure I will ever feel comfortable identifying as asexual because it seems like I am betraying my people.

I am invested in South Asians and all other Asian Americans being able to reclaim, re-affirm, and be recognized for their sexual selves. I am invested in brown boys and brown gurlz being able to get what they desire. I am invested in the radical potential of brown (queer) love in a society where so many of us grow up hating our bodies and bending our knees for white men. I want to be part of this struggle. Sometimes I get angry at myself for not being able to eliminate the distance, not being able to join in solidarity. To fuck and be fucked, to publically claim and own my sexuality. I understand that there is something (as Celine Shimizu reminds us in her book Straightjacket Sexualities) radical about Asian American masculinities being displaced from patriarchal masculinities rooted in hyper-sexuality and hyper-masculinity and the reclamation of ‘effeminate’ and ‘asexual’ representations of our bodies as a political refusal of the very logics which have rendered those bodies numb.

But at the same there is a difference between theory and practice. Theories don’t matter when you find yourself always defaulted in the category of ‘friend.’ Theories don’t matter when you grow up being turned on by ghosts of all of your internalized shame. Theories don’t matter when you find yourself buying button up shirts and shaving your beard and trying your best to look more white so they will even have the courtesy to look back to you. Why do theories always put the burden of change on the oppressed and not the systems that oppress them?

There is some part of me that will never be able to overcome the desire for ‘more.’ I want to be able to be in a bar and to not just be the object of desire, but a subject of desire. Part of white supremacy as I understand it is the privilege of being a subject of desire: one who can feel in control of one’s desires and one who has more agency to act on said desires. The ‘distance’ I experience around my sexuality makes me often feel unable to be a subject of desire. This distance makes me feel out of control, jealous, and in a perpetual state of lack. It feels like I’ve just internalized white control of my sexuality and my body.

So when I read this piece about how folks involved with the asexuality community feel as if they are post-race I’m pretty well, flabbergasted. Asexuality has always been a carefully crafted strategy to subjugate Asian masculinities. Asexuality has everything to do with race. Which goes to say that what if the very act of articulating a public asexual identity is rooted in white privilege? Essential understandings of being ‘born’ ‘asexual’ and loving my ‘asexual’ self will never make sense to me. In a world that continually erases Asian (male assigned) sexualities I was coerced into asexuality. It is something I have and will continue to struggle with. My asexuality is a site of racial trauma. I want that sadness, that loss, that anxiety to be a part of asexuality politics. I don’t want to be proud or affirmed – I want to have a serious conversation about how all of our desires are mediated by racism and how violent that is. My pleasures – or lack thereof – are not transcendental and celebratory, they are contradictory, confused, and hurt.

I want to envision and build communities where we can discuss and heal together from the traumas inscribed in our flesh. I do not think that declaring an asexual identity is the best strategy for me to pursue this. What I am asking for is an acknowledgment among all people – not just people of color – of the ways in which colonialism has and continues to map itself on our bodies in different ways. My story of distance is only one of the legacies of the ways in which racism has shaped our desires. I do not mean to suggest that all South Asian male assigned people are asexual nor do I mean to suggest that asexual identity is necessary oppressive for South Asians – what I am sharing is the story of a body that has found and continues to find ways to cope. Which means that my ‘asexuality’ can never been seen as outside of the saga of racialized violence against people of color. I want a space where I can claim that with those folks and discuss the ways in which white understandings of relationships, intimacy, desireability, beauty, progress, and happiness have made us always feel a certain sense of lack and how we have built our entire lives constructed around that lack. For me sometimes I feel like escaping from asexuality would mean one way of escaping from colonialism – would mean finally having the ability to self-identify to really know who “I” (whatever that is) am.

The idea of an identity politics around asexual identity scares me in the same ways that any other single issue politics anchored around a (sexual) identity does. It operates in ways that are racist, classist, and colonial. It assumes particular bodies with particular histories and particular political interests. What I am calling for is a departure away from asexual identity politics toward a frank conversation of trauma and sexuality. How can we move our understandings of sexual politics away from anchoring them in essential narratives that reproduce biological essentialism (born this way) to narratives that name specific moments of historical and personal trauma that inform our sexualities. Which means that I am not as interested in the words that you affix to your body – I am interested in the journey that it took for you to get there.

What inhibits you still?

What makes you tremble?

What would it mean for you to feel free?

(is that even the goal?)



And the second one can be found here; for future reference:

QUEER LIBIDO

The Real Significant Other: The Queer Politics of Singlehood

Today is Valentines Day and you pretend that you don’t care about it (even though, at some level, you do). Today you will find yourself increasingly bitter. You will hate the couple engaged in intense titanic meets glacier PDA in front of you (a little more than yesterday, that is). You feel like you are oppressed, like you have been denied something. Today you will think of all of your ex lovers and you will remember the tenderness of their skin, the allure of their promises, and you will hate them a little bit more. This, this essay for you.

I think I understand what you are feeling.

These days I find myself looking for love on dance floors at gay clubs. I find myself looking at that old gay guy, the one leaning up against the bar eyeing the shit out of me. I find myself hating him because I am afraid that one day I will grow up and be like him – that being queer (and of color) is a death sentence because I am doomed to be forever alone – some creepy trick in a bar.

It is in these spaces that I find myself thinking about loneliness the most. I become aware of the fact that I am ‘single,’ and that some of my friends aren’t ‘single’ and that therefore I am ‘alone’ — an identity that I didn’t consent to, an identity that makes me feel insignificant. I will text my friends emotional things (even though I’m not drunk), I will write pathetic poems about love and fantasize of the day when I meet him (errr, or her, or ze…)

Today is Valentines Day again but this time I am a different person. I am a college student writing a blog in a library instead of doing my homework. I’m supposed to be writing a paper about Marx and instead I’m thinking about love (and realizing that they’re actually more connected than I thought).

In this post I hope to provide a critique of ‘love’ (or at least how our society understands it). I will show you how ‘Single’ is actually a site of radical queer resistance and I will deconstruct the methods of power that make us feel what we do today. This is not my attempt to justify myself (okay maybe it is). This is really an attempt to make you (and me) reconsider the systems of power that have come to enforce this dreadful day on us. This is an attempt to show you that you are capable of being loved (in fact, that you already are).

What does Single Mean Anyways?

I’ve always thought it’s fascinating what Facebook believes is important about our character: our gender (only two options!), our religious/political views, our sexuality (can I choose none of the above plz?), and our relationship status.

Facebook is merely a symptom of a larger ideology.

Dictionary.com defines ‘Single’ as only one; not one of several. Okay, doesn’t that mean we’re all Single (last time I checked most of us aren’t physically connected, all do respect to our conjoined twin siblings out there)!? Our other options on Facebook are: “In a relationship,” “Married, “etc. It appears that we are ‘Single’ because we have some sort of lack – because we are simply not one of these other categories.

But does that still mean we’re not in a relationship? Last time I checked I’m in a relationship with many people. I am my mother’s child. I am my friend’s friend. I am my teacher’s student. Last time I checked I’m in a relationship with many objects. I adore my clothing (and take a particular fondness for bowties!). I’m in a relationship with space, with the environment, with the floor, with all things around me.

Yet, for some reason FB – and our culture more broadly – wants me to be in a very particular type of relationship. And because I’m not intelligibly in such a relationship, I am ‘Single.’

Not only am I single, but I am ‘alone.’ When I catch up with friends who haven’t seen me in a while they ask eagerly, “So, how’s your love life?” The assumption underlining their curiosity is that my ‘love life’ is the ultimate litmus test for my happiness, for my social well being. I perform accordingly. I am still Single – it SUCKS!!! In this moment I become aware that I am ‘Single’ and I remember that I am supposed to want somebody (one body) in my life and began to mourn the fact that I don’t.

This, to me, is a particularly queer condition. A very particular type of monogamous relationality is enforced on our bodies. The social actors around us police our relations ferociously. “Are you dating him?” “Do you love him?” “Did y’all (okay maybe I’m the only one that says y’all) sleep together last night?” they ask. Those bodies that are not in this system of relationality (presented to us in media typically through two ‘monogamous,’ able-bodied, white, heterosexual, attractive bodies) are made to feel insignificant. In the same way that I used to want to be white, to be straight, to be rich, goddamnit I want to be in a relationship.

It is my contention that the imperative to be in ‘a relationship’ is a mechanism of power. This imperative ignores the relations that we are all a part of. Thank you, Facebook, but I am in a relationship.

I am learning how to be grateful for my mom after benefiting from years of her gendered labor and unyielding compassion. I am learning how to respect my father and feel comfortable being compared to him. I am learning how to love my culture, even though I am afraid that it has no space for me. I am learning how to be a better friend, how to actually be there for others instead of just saying it.

Thank you Facebook, but I am in a relationship. I’m in a relationship with myself and each day we are fighting and each day I am trying to convince her/him/ze/it that her/him/ze/it is beautiful and capable of loving.

This narrow comprehension of relationality is perhaps a product of the Western world. When my grandfather died, my uncles and aunts began to house my grandmother (without hesitation). Now she lives in an apartment complex with all of her brothers and sisters in laws. She is not ‘single,’ she is not ‘alone,’ she remains connected. She is part of a culture, of a tradition, of a family where this type of individualism (a prerequisite for the Western understanding of ‘Single’) makes no sense. I, too, feel connected to my South Asian culture and people in deeply profound ways. I remember this when I’m the only brown body at an Indian restaurant in the trendy immigrant part of London and I get called bhaiya (brother). I remember this when I hear Hindustani music and begin to tear up because it reminds me of dinners with my mom when things were more simple, when I felt like I had a people, like I had a home.

Yet, the fact that I – as a person of color — continue to valorize a particular type of relationship is profoundly sad to me. How much we have lost! How narrow-minded we have come to understand our bodies, our capacity for love and desire. Why am I expected to be unhappy (why do I feel unhappy) because I don’t have this type of relationship?

The valorization of this particular mode of relating is not just the fault of social and cultural discourse — we also have agency and perform our trauma every day. I perform it when I insist to my friends that I “don’t see ___ like that, that we are just friends.” We create these boundaries, these silos, these distinctions. We divide our love in ‘appropriate’ quantities for ‘appropriate’ relations. We divide our capacity for love into different ‘types’ – friendship love versus REAL love. We perform the trauma of Singlehood. We listen to melancholy song lyrics and post passive aggressive LOVE ME Facebook statuses

Wake up! You and I are receiving love in every fiber of our being right now. It is a tragedy that we cannot see it. That we cannot explore it with everyone we relate to every day, because we are all fixated on such a narrow understanding of a ‘happy’ ‘successful’ relationship that we ignore, deny and legitimize the wonderful, complex, and protean relations we are already a part of.

What purpose does the dominant definition of relationships serve? Let’s unpack this by thinking about what we first think of when we think of ‘love.’ When we think of love we think of Valentines Day, of marriage, of happy couples smiling, of families.

In particular, I think of my white peers in high school who looked so happy being dropped off by their trendy moms who loved their totally hot dads. My understanding of ‘love’ is deeply imbedded within a milieu of social oppressions – oppressions that construct particularly racialized, gendered, sexualized, class-based bodies as desireable, as ‘normal.’ I am shocked that I’ve waited until now to problematize love, considering that as an activist and scholar I’ve been so committed to dismantling other systems of normalization.

Normal love oppresses us because it polices our capacity for desire and pleasure. Because we are grown up in a world that re-enforces the idea that ‘true love’ can only be found through one (hegemonic) relationship structure, we deny the love we experience from all the other relations we are a part of. Thus, we are denied the capacity for increased pleasure.

Imagine if we were to open ourselves up to multiple ways of desiring, of being, of relating? Imagine if we could experience emotional orgasms just by having a good lecturer, by just having a good conversation with a friend? We’d be happy all the time! Heartbreak wouldn’t be nearly so traumatizing.

Why would the systems that oppress us want to love in this particular way? I believe that normal/hegemonic love glues us to the very social infrastructure that oppresses queer desiring bodies in our society.

Pleasure is antithetical to notions of productivity and reproduction. Homosexuality was historically demonized/stigmatized because it involved sex for pleasure rather than reproduction. In fact the term ‘heterosexual’ was first used as a pejorative term to denote people who had sex for pleasure (god forbid!) The State had an invested interest in restricting pleasure and producing a very particular family unit in order to maintain the status quo – to produce similar looking bodies with similar ideas and a commitment to production. This largely bastardized and overly-simplistic queer history of relationality allows us to deduce that our understanding of (monogamous) love is implicated within this heternormative structure of the family. If people loved beyond the boundaries of this hegemonic relationship, then the very core unit of social, biological, and economic production would be distorted and power relations would drastically shift.

To put it more crudely, perhaps we feel upset that we are Single because we are not somehow productive. Think about it this way. Why do I hate the lonely gay man in the bar? I hate him because, to me (thanks to my socialization), he represents a failed life. Our understanding of ‘futurity’ is predicated on hegemonic relationality. Because this man is not part of this relationality (ostensibly) because this man is exploring alternative sites of pleasure and relationality (alcohol, clubs) than what I ‘expect’ for someone whose body looks like he does, I am upset! This rhetoric of failure is deeply implicated within this anxiety. Instead of focusing on how this man might be maximizing pleasure in his later years, I am concerned with why he hasn’t found someone significant. I am nervous that I won’t find someone significant.

Single Identity Activism!

What is more queer than being Single? Mainstream culture associates being happy, being healthy, being compotent, being productive with being in a hegemonic relationship – anything else is stigmatized, demonized, Othered. What would it mean for us to reclaim this abject subject position? What would it mean for us to say, “Fuck you I am HAPPY being ‘Single’ (in the way that you narrowly define it) because I realize that I am connected to everything in the world!!!

This is a Single’s manifesto.

Think about all the times your friends would define their future on marriage. When they said, “when I get married I’ll….” Fuck that! What about, when I achieve personal social and political liberation I will… What about! When I learn to love myself I will… What about when I finally decolonize from growing up in a small town texas I willl.. Our very notion of happiness, futurity, and progress is colonized by the imperative of the hegemonic relationship structure.

So what are we going to do about it? The personal is political! Let’s began to deconstruct how we let certain people hurt us more than others, why we spend more time with the people we’re sleeping with than the people who actually make us feel the most happy. This is not to suggest that if you’re in a relationship you should immediately break up and be Single (because this would just be endorsing the understanding of ‘Single’ we’ve been given by a heteronormative society). Rather, I’m encouraging us to develop Single Consciousness (a fancy way of conceptualizing self-confidence). Let’s learn to love ourselves and give loves to all others, not just particular bodies or relations. Let’s stop performing the ‘abject’ Single and let’s develop the relations we are already so privileged to be in. Remember that our understanding of love is so narrow and so hegemonic that it denies the existence of alternative ways of knowing, of being, and feeling. If you find yourself falling in (hegemonic) love, make sure that you do not let it seduce you away from all your other connections. Do not lose your ‘self’ in this relationship. Do not define your life’s worth on this relationship. Contextualize it! Think about it within the broader systems of pleasure and relations that you’re implicated in.

Next, we need to think about Single activism in the realm of formal politics and the law. We have to better articulate a queer Single critique of gay rights advocacy which suggests that the only way to love queer bodies is if they’re in a socially sanctioned single relationship. Why is marriage the only way to get 1,137 federal benefits? Why must we be in a relationship to get these benefits? Don’t we deserve them as individuals?

We must provide an intervention to single shaming. Think critically when you watch your chick flicks, call your friends out when they’re moping about ‘being single.’ Do not police their relations – let them find happiness on their own terms. We can only change our culture by re-imagining it.

Edited by ithaca

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Siggy

I read the article on asexuality and masculinity - had some good points to raise, but I've got to say all those sweeping generalisations bug me.

I have several disagreements with The Thinking Asexual, mainly to do with the sweeping generalizations, not clearly backed up by any personal experience of theirs, nor matching my own personal experiences. This seems particularly egregious in the piece about masculinity, since AFAIK the author does not identify as male, nor has been assigned the male gender. But I'm glad that they wrote it and that it got reposted on The Good Men Project, because it brings up the basic issues and is a good starting point.

I found this link through the thinkingasexual blog, and wanted to know what others thought about it. I found it through these links, so I thought I'd just put it here instead of starting a whole new topic, but if you feel I am derailing the conversation, just let me know and I'll move it elsewhere.

Here's the link: http://queerlibido.tumblr.com/post/74181237292/whats-r-ace-got-to-do-with-it-white-privilege

The theme of masculinity and asexuality is there as well. But it's a very different view of asexuality than we are used to (or at least than I am used to). It heavily implies that "asexuality" is foisted on some men, namely men of colour or men subjected to trauma. I feel like the author's definition of asexual is not the same as the one commonly held here on AVEN (he seems to feel like one is "made" asexual or at least can be made so, as the conclusion of his article implies; whereas we tend to view asexuality as a built-in thing rather than a fluid thing - or at least only as fluid as all other orientations are). He appears resentful that he has been "made" asexual, or influenced to be asexual.

It's an interesting article for me to read though. For me, the label asexual is something I had to fight for, and continue to have to fight for. I fight for asexuality being seen as legitimate and real. But he seems to fight against asexuality being seen as legitimate, because such a thing is a cover for the fact that he is perhaps really sexual and just feels pressure to present as asexual...

Thoughts everyone?

Edit: Upon reading this, I think the author might actually be gay, not asexual? http://queerlibido.tumblr.com/post/43064438754/the-real-significant-other-the-queer-politics-of

The author IDs as queer, and not as asexual. I've met Alok once, and at least at the time they identified as demisexual.

They feel uncomfortable identifying as asexual, because it feels like a concession to the colonialist desexualization of South Asian American men. It's not clear to me that they believe they were "made" asexual--I think it's more likely that they don't know to what extent their sexuality and sexual expression has been influenced by colonialism. And more to the point, it's hard to see asexuality as a point of pride when you've been a victim of desexualization. At least, this is my summary.

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The author IDs as queer, and not as asexual. I've met Alok once, and at least at the time they identified as demisexual.

They feel uncomfortable identifying as asexual, because it feels like a concession to the colonialist desexualization of South Asian American men. It's not clear to me that they believe they were "made" asexual--I think it's more likely that they don't know to what extent their sexuality and sexual expression has been influenced by colonialism. And more to the point, it's hard to see asexuality as a point of pride when you've been a victim of desexualization. At least, this is my summary.

That's actually really useful to know, thank you for that! I was struggling to pick apart their writing, and I think I was still a little off the mark in my interpretation. Knowing this now makes me re-read it in a different light. Because of my position and experiences in society, it is more natural to me to think of asexuality as something to be fought for, rather than desexualization as a thing to be fought against. Though they are linked intimately, they aren't the same thing, so the use of the term asexual in a piece that intimately is tied to desexualization was confounding my thoughts, I think.

They are a great writer, and brings up great points. I'm glad I now have a bit more a framework to try to understand them through. Thank you once again!

Edit: I noticed that you use the pronoun they when referring to the author, so I have gone through and changed that. For future reference, they prefer that pronoun?

Edited by Heart

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Siggy
Edit: I noticed that you use the pronoun they when referring to the author, so I have gone through and changed that. For future reference, they prefer that pronoun?

Actually, I'm not sure. I just use "they" by default whenever preferred gender pronouns are not clearly stated.

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Edit: I noticed that you use the pronoun they when referring to the author, so I have gone through and changed that. For future reference, they prefer that pronoun?

Actually, I'm not sure. I just use "they" by default whenever preferred gender pronouns are not clearly stated.

Good policy, I'll stick to it :)

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