Thursday, June 11, 2009

"When I say I want to talk about you, I don't mean I'm actually INTERESTED in what YOU have to say for yourself," part infinity-four

This edition, a slight twist on other versions of this wank, at least for this blog: a feminist who has decided that not only is sex a -positive- thing, it's positively -mandatory.- Whether you actually want it or not.

Clarissa explains it all for us:


A recent post at Feministing illustrates the point I was trying to make about tolerance that sometimes turns into a parody of itself.

The post responds to a message from somebody who feels asexual and finds anybody's touch "absolutely repulsive. The thought of sex makes me gag a bit." The response that the author of the message gets to her post takes the idea of political correctnes to the extreme that is even a little scary. The main idea of the response is "Asexual people of the world, unite!" Don't worry about beinng asexual, it says. You can always get together with other asexual people, date them, and form yet another neat identity group.

This attitude does not come exclusively out of the desire to show the world how tolerant and accepting one is. It is also the result of a deeply Puritanical view of sex, which refuses to see human sexuality on terms of a physiological process. If anybody found the idea of eating or sleeping (also physiological processes) "absolutely repulsive", we wouldn't be as likely to dismiss this problem with a lot of well-meaning but ultimately empty words. Nobody would (at least for now, I think) suggest to form an identity group around this problem.

Another problem that the response to this post brings to light, is the deep-seated fear that many Americans feel towards psychology as a field of knowledge. While several people suggested that the author of the post look for hormonal causes of her asexuality, nobody mentioned that it might be helpful for her to search for psychological causes.

a) "Political correctness"=pretty much automatic fail already. Sure enough:

b) "I'm all for 'tolerance,' but when it comes to something I'm too lazy to learn about and/or still want to make fun of/wax superior over, that's going -too far.-"

c) "For instance, the very idea that people might want to have meaningful relationships without sex, and that that might be about -their happiness- and have -nothing to do with me-, rather than about forcing poor put upon me to be "tolerant" of yet another "identity group."

d) "Blah blah blah one size fits all boilerplate which certainly has something to it but still doesn't have anything to do with this person whom I don't know -here- lecturecakes blah."

e) Glad you mentioned psychology. I happen to be training in psychology. And the first thing you learn in -my- school, at least, is you meet people where they're at. I.e., you don't try to "fix" them according to -your- standards of what would make -you- happy before even learning the first thing about -that other person who isn't you.- Those would be the second and third things as well, actually.

f) Also, armchair diagnosis over the Internets, while a fun party trick (I've done it myself): really not for the sake of the actual person being "helped," you know, so much as for the gratification of the person making the diagnosis and/or third party observers. Pretty much that would be always.

So, okay, so a bunch of people argue with her, many self-ID'd asexuals. And I was -going- to go over and throw in my tuppeny, but quickly realize I actually couldn't say the whole "you are not the center of the universe! no, really! p.s. this ain't feminism (or sex positive either, for that matter)" any more clearly than a number of other commenters already.

And then, to confirm my suspicion that anything I had to say over there would be both redundant and unheard, at the very bottom:

Clarissa said...
For those who feel the need to participate without reading what was said previously, I repeat: this discussion is closed.

I'm always ready to discuss anything with calm, reasonable, and polite people (such as pretzelboy, Allison, and more recently Erbs).

Those, however, who come to repeat things that have been discussed 100 times, or those who are so enraged with the fact that somebody somewhere dared to have an opinion do not interest me as interlocutors. Coming here to scream "batshit," "SILLY" and "LEARN" in capital letters is not, in my opinion, an acceptable way to engage in a discussion. I don't even want to imagine what would make people want to seek out blogs of those with differing opinions and to engage in such public fits of hysteria. Curiously, these are always the same people who scream "tolerance above all".

If there are still people who fail to understand that for me this is not about the asexual community, I can't help you.

Once again: the discussion is closed until the participants start behaving in a way I find more acceptable.

Oh, cupcake.

Putting everything else aside (woo, tone argument for the epic fail! "Cut his mike!" "I can spout ignorant offensive bullshit as though from the Papal office and then ignore any counterarguments that don't suit me if I want! IT'S JUST MY OPINION!" is that a universal BINGO card I see before me?):

Friend, if -you- can't understand how calling a post "asexuality" and then proclaiming, quite truthfully apparently, that "for me this is not about the asexual community" might just be a wee tiny bit fucked up...well, I can't help you either.

And aren't you glad you -asked- for my -help- and thinky thoughts?

--Especially wrt this, now I notice:

As to you parallel with homosexuality, I still fail to see how it applies. As I said, sexuality is a physiological process, like sleeping or eating. depriving yourself of sleep will be detrimental to your health. This is my firm belief and I have a right to it. Since gay and lesbian people do not deprive themselves of sex, there is no reason to believe that they might suffer detrimental effects of sexual deprivation.I find that trying to bring homosexuality into the discussion of sexless lives is nothing but a tactic aimed at diverting the conversation from the actual topic.

Oh where to begin.

Yes, sex is important to -most- people, and being "deprived" (i.e. "unable to obtain something you want and need, not something other people think you want and need) can seriously fuck up your emotional health and eat away the rest of your life. Been there, done that, got the scratchy hairshirt. Yes, I believe that sex-negative culture has had a lot of deleterious effects, individually and structurally. Yes, I even think Wilhelm Reich was onto something (at least some somethings).

And yet: no, actually, the individual -doesn't- need sex like sleeping or especially eating: if you don't eat, you're gonna die. As in, literally and physically, in a relatively short amount of time. This is not how sex works. That's not a "belief;" that's a fact. Unless you are some other species that I am not aware of.

And, I for one also really do not appreciate the implications of "deprive -themselves-" from what sure looks like a blandly oblivious heteronormative perspective; there's a lot to say about the ways in which internalized as well as externalized homophobia can cause "deprivation" and "detrimental effects"--see above re: unable to obtain something you want and need--but I for one sure wouldn't have found that sort of smug tone implying there was yet something -else- wrong with me remotely helpful, ever. One gets quite enough of that all around.

ETA: and yeah, as someone else noted, the whole "sex is a natural biological process" business is a wee tad 'normative itself. and annoying.

veyz. yeah, I can't actually get into all of the ways this irks right now. more later. maybe.

ETA: it crystallized a bit more:

Re the parallel with the queer umbrella sexualities and why it's a relevant parallel: most of us have direct experience with having been pathologized and disprespected for our sexuality (yes, "sexuality" includes "lack thereof," in fact) even when said sexuality is in fact none of anyone else's business, isn't harming anyone else, and in fact the people who say or imply they're lecturing us/attempting a "cure" "for our own good" clearly do -not- have our best interests in mind, but rather their own agenda.

Anyway, really, the definitive comment was made on an earlier (and equally headdesky) post at feministing some time back:

UnHingedHips said:

Dear Woman Doing Something: I am a feminist and want women to be able to make their own choices. However, YOU are too (young/old/poor/x/y/z)and I think your choice to (have babies/not have babies/sail around the world/a/b/c) while being so (young/old/poor/x/y/z) is reprehensible and you should be loudly condemned for daring to do something like *that*, even though it has no impact on my life.

I hope you see the error of your ways.

~Another Woman

ETA again: Just for the record's sake, here's one of those other commenters from over there.

Shain Neumeier said...
To both Clarissa and Anonymous 5:40 a.m.,

I think the main problem I have with all of this is that people who are not me are trying to tell me what I and people like me should be and disguising it as what we "are" and are refusing to accept, or what we should want by saying it's what any functional person would really like. It's unfair, and frankly condescending, to say about people that the puritanical patriarchy has brainwashed them into not wanting sex (I find this a bit antithetical to feminism anyways - isn't it the belief that women ARE smart and capable enough to make their own decisions about their bodies?), or that they're immature and will grow out of it. If someone happens to eventually want or at least like sex, or if the benefits of having it outweigh the costs for them at some point for whatever reason, then great. But at the point that someone is coming out as asexual, I can think of no way in which it helps anybody, you or them, to invalidate the conclusion they've come to about themselves.

As far as the argument that sex is good and even necessary for one - If I may, I'll accept, but revise, the food comparison. I would say that asexuality is a little like having an aversion to a food that most people like and/or that's very good for people. Would life be better for someone who couldn't stand the smell of bananas or the texture of salad if they could eat these foods without throwing up? Maybe. But if, as things are, they get sick if they try to eat these foods, the health benefits might not be worth the costs of trying to learn to like them. So let them use their multivitamins or whatever other compensatory measures to make up for any lost nutrients, or choose to do nothing at all. It's no one's business to tell them what they need or should want in case like this.

Likewise, maybe it's true that one gets headaches and irritability from not having sex. But you know what? I'd rather stock up on ibuprofen and get some hobbies that allow me to vent my anger in a productive way than let someone do things to my body that I'm uncomfortable with. I can imagine that someone will want to jump on me for that description of sex, but that's how I see it. I'm simply uncomfortable with invasive physical contact, as I am with a number of other sensory experiences, and sex falls under the category of invasive physical contact. I get emotional fulfillment from others through a lot of things, like watching movies, making up stories and having good debate, but sex just isn't conducive to trust or love in my mind. This is abnormal, but, as it does not interfere with my day-to-day or overall functioning, it's not by definition disordered. Such is the case with many asexuals, whether or not they're repulsed by sexual contact as I am. So who is anyone else to tell us that we should be otherwise?

If I'm unhappy or unhealthy because I'm not having sex, I'll see an actual psychologist or doctor about it, and work something out that makes me better without making me uncomfortable. All I want - and, I think, what most "aces" want - from people who are not being paid for medical advice is acceptance and the belief that we are capable enough to define ourselves as makes sense to us.


Brown Shoes said...

I think you're just mad that she's finally figured out the true nature of anti-Semitism such that nobody else has:

"Think about the whole "Jews are greedy" stereotype. This characterization has nothing to do with the Jews. It has to do with non-Jewish people wanting to distance themselves from being perceived as greedy."

And as far as I know she's not even Jewish, too!

belledame222 said...


I kind of see what she means: if she's referring to the whole "stereotypes are made of peoples' projected shadow." the rest of the piece,, okay, basically she's making it sound like -all- identity groups are formed out of that impulse; and that "the persecuting Other" is -only- a projection of the fearful group in question.

which, uhhh...

"just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you."

belledame222 said...

good to see you, p.s.!

Ouyangdan said...

I don't comment often (if I have I don't remember), but occasionally you break stuff down in a way that I really appreciate. This is most definitely one of those times.


Stentor said...

Well said.

belledame222 said...

thanks & 'welcome.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

In relation to the "physiological need for sex" thing, my read of the first comment you posted is that the asexual individual was asserting that anybody *else's* touch was repulsive. This "physiological need" argument is specious for exactly the reasons you eloquently stated, but even if it weren't, is there any reason to conclude that the asexual people being complained about are not masturbating, and thereby satisfying this bogus "physiological need"?

belledame222 said...

Yeah, there is that, too, isn't there.

belledame222 said...

Or, well, no; the author specifically says that masturbation doesn't do much for her either; but I mean, okay, so what, you know? Maybe it doesn't. What, so we should not take her at her word and wave hands about how if she doesn't at least rub one out every once in a while, her labia will explode? Don't think so.

NancyP said...

Thank you, belledame222.

Clarissa's obtuseness was getting on my last nerve, partly because she couldn't listen, but also partly because she has no, repeat, no, expertise in psychology, medicine, human sexual physiology, relevant anthropology, or history of attitudes and "scientific" theories concerning sexuality or gender. She's a literature teacher.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Wow! That's some interesting reading over there.

NancyP, really? lol

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Heh. No, that kind would give flak for not enjoying masturbation too. I've seen it, been the recipient even, because I find masturbation boring unto pointlessness.

belledame222 said...

Welcome, NancyP. Yeah--it's so funny; I've been in what feels like an infinitude of very similar feeling encounters with feminists who're being jerky the -other- way: basically -being- the straw person that Clarissa seemed to be arguing with/lecturing ("women don't really need sex, no one -needs- sex, ew icky gross etc etc etc"). And in their turn some of 'em have replied as though I were talking like...well, Clarissa, basically. maybe the rest of us should just get together and make 'em all e a party or something. "feminists who have Very Strong Opinions About Sex (One Size Fits All!) and don't listen at all." and lock the door.

belledame222 said...

seriously, though, someone stop me from going back over there; I'm getting bad "someone is WRONG on the Internets!!" syndrome here.

there is something about that particular form of obtuseness that brings out all my urges to whale away at it with a clue bat.

Anonymous said...

Like the logo here:

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I'm dealing with my personal bout of "Someone is WRONG on the internet" by going to bed.

I believe you said a while back something that led me to believe that you were attempting to achieve the same bedtime as I was attempting to achieve, and we're both UP TOO LATE.

So you go to bed too, and solve your intarwebs problems. :} We can make a pact to protect ourselves from bigoted stupidity and also get some damn sleep.

belledame222 said...

sound plan. -nods- I'll...go to bed in a minute.

have stopped engaging this person, really. unplugging other shiny temptations, otoh...feh.

and i have class at 9 tomorrow (all day). & just drank Coke. you'd think i -wanted- to be underslept and cranky all day...

Dw3t-Hthr said...

... I hate it when the snappy comeback gets me back out of bed so I can post it so I can sleep ...

... no really this time. G'Night.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I'm getting bad "someone is WRONG on the Internets!!" syndrome here.


Anonymous said...

Freedom of sexuality necessitates freedom from sexuality.

Or something like that. (h/t to atheists)

GR said...

Wow - this is so vile! Makes me understand exactly *why* I'm glad to have missed the "lesbian sex wars" of the 80s - thanks!
Were a lot of these people basically maybe threatened by someone making a life-choice so different from theirs? Just guessing, as I don't have the stomach to dig further.