Todd in the Shadows & Gendered Compulsory Sexuality

Ace Admiral’s post about the Artemis Fly Trap reminded me of the same gut reaction I had to his Top Ten Worst Hit Songs of 2012 video.  I like watching Todd’s reviews because I like watching people get angry at bad media, and he’s entertaining sometimes, but there are also times when he makes cringeworthy mistakes that cut down on the enjoyment — and when it came to the song “Wanted”, the disheartening thing is how many people would unthinkingly agree with him.

Why wouldn’t they, you know?  Because “men only want one thing” = men are categorically incapable of genuinely wanting nonsexual relationships with women, right?  Asexual men, those can’t exist, right?

Hunter: I wanna call you mine
Wanna hold your hand forever

Todd: “Wanna hold your hand”? It… it’s not 1963 anymore, guy. There is no man in the world this innocent, girls.

Hunter: I wanna make you feel wanted

Todd: “I want to make you feel wanted” is how drunk guys hit on you. This song is so unbelievably chaste that I can only see it as a complete con. Hayes just wants to get laid, girls.  Don’t fall for it.

ego sneer

Because men who aren’t immediately demanding sex (or worse, claim they don’t want sex at all!) must be trying to deceive you, right?

Agh, this is reminding me of that movie trailer where some character goes, “I wasn’t going to have sex with you this early [in the relationship]… but then I remembered… I’m a man.”

And we’re not supposed to expect any different.

Apparently asexual men defy the laws of nature or something.

On the same subject, Ace Admiral wrote:

I have an intuition, though, a puzzling, puzzling intuition, that asexual men are a very important component to making asexuality more visible and accepted, and I don’t mean by using their male privilege to make it happen.

I disagree.  I think this is absolutely a matter of male privilege, albeit in a nonstandard way.  Granted, the whole manhood = sexual presumption is irritating for asexual men, yes, but the way in which “asexual men are avery important component to making asexuality more visible and accepted” is rooted in the presumption of relative male credibility.  How many times have we seen people respond to the revelation of asexuality* with “Okay, but are there any asexual men?”

It’s in part because the existence of asexual men is considered less plausible, but it’s also because the credibility of women and non-men, on their own, isn’t seen as enough.  Once men are established as part of a phenomenon, that’s when it becomes real.

And that’s a load of bull.

*Feel free to picture “the revelation of asexuality” as someone pulling back a velvet curtain to reveal a bunch of aces sitting on the floor drawing charts and graphs.

So yeah.  This attitude bites for asexual men, but it also bites for all asexual people being told that asexual men are the key to our legitimacy.  I mean, what if there were no asexual men?  What if if were just women and non-binary people who could have asexuality as their orientation?  Would that make it any less valid?

And as if enforcing allosexuality on men and  telling everyone else that their feelings aren’t legitimate until a man feels the same way wasn’t enough, the culture of compulsory male sexuality also contributes to the anxieties of sex-repulsed asexual people who date allosexual people, especially male ones — because no man could really be satisfied with a nonsexual romantic relationship, it says.  A man who claims to accept your boundaries is only trying to trick you, it says.  He’s lying, it says.

And, hell, maybe he is.  I’ve heard enough to be wary.  But I also hate to see this idea naturalized (“there is no man in the world this innocent” and “unbelievably chaste”), as if sincerity in these matters is not just unlikely but impossible.

This is part of the reason why it’s so confusing to see someone (like Dan Savage) worrying that sneaky asexual people might be luring unsuspecting allosexuals into sexless relationships.

Dear allosexual people: We’re not trying to trick you.  If anything, we’re afraid of you.

13 responses to “Todd in the Shadows & Gendered Compulsory Sexuality

  • luvtheheaven

    I certainly agree. Todd’s comments… ugh. I hate that attitude and how widely accepted it is. And what you said about male privilege… yes.

  • Madcap

    I would imagine that Todd’s comments are made more out of ignorance than anything. It’s hard to remember that, to the world at large, asexuality is not well-known or accepted. Also, while I don’t follow Todd’s videos (though I do love the TGWTG website) he has always struck me as a bit…cynical. I mean, all reviewers are, to some degree (which is why I want to be one) but still.

    Yes, it’s a bad attitude to have, and yes, it is too wide-spread. But why exactly do you think Moffat makes the comments he does (like not having sex means you’re boring)? It’s because of this sort of thinking–that men don’t not want sex. It’s simply…ignorant.

    • acetheist

      Ignorant, and harmful. It’s one thing when asexuality is left off a list of orientations or not given a mention even in relevant contexts, which is what I expect from most people. Acknowledgement is relatively rare. But it’s another thing when somebody’s presented with a relatively chaste love song from a young man and insists that it must be a “con”.

    • Calum P Cameron

      Ignorance is generally assumed to not be a valid excuse for hurting people under most legal systems. We have a duty to address our own ignorance, and in order to help other people to do that we also have to flag it up whenever someone’s ignorance is causing harm.

    • Rowan Ingram

      As an allosexual man this attitude annoys me endlessly as well, so ignorance of asexuality can’t be even the flimsy defense it might. We are not all sex-hungry beasts, even if we do feel sexual attraction. The idea that no man would be nice just to be nice, that he is trying to trap a woman is just repulsive.

  • AceAdmiral

    I just wanted to let you know–I didn’t know this post existed until just now when it popped up in a google search of myself to see if anyone was hating me on the internet (more difficult than it would seem, as there is also a successful racehorse named Ace Admiral). I didn’t ignore it on purpose! I’m sorry I missed it at the time.

    • Coyote

      Haha, it’s okay. Locate any haters?

      • AceAdmiral

        It’s weird, actually. I can locate friends talking about people hating on me, particularly for one post that was linked during the ontdf imbroglio of 2011, but not the actual haters themselves? I guess that’s better for my blood pressure in the long run, though…

  • luvtheheaven

    Might I add, now that I’m reminded of this post, now that maybe I know the song much better than I did back when you posted this due to, since then, seeing plenty of (multi-fandom) fanvids set to it, or re-watching at least two super beautiful ones over and over and yes I’ll admit also I was falling for the song… that this song doesn’t even seem chaste at all to me?? Never did?

    Part of it is that I’m not a very sensual/aesthetic/romantic type of asexual and after trying kissing with two different guys, one whom I cared for deeply attempting to enjoy it many times over the course of months, kissing really seems sexual to me. Hand-holding is another thing I’ve tried quite a bit. Story for another day.

    Hunter Hayes repeats in the chorus over and over about how he wants all these touch-related things and how he wants to make her feel wanted, which to me has heavy implications of a woman being sexually desired in the average allonormative/heteronormative mindset.

    “Anyone can tell you you’re pretty
    And you get that all the time, I know you do
    But your beauty’s deeper than the make up
    And I wanna show you what I see tonight

    When I wrap you up
    When I kiss your lips
    I wanna make you feel wanted
    And I wanna call you mine
    Wanna hold your hand forever”

    “tonight”/finding her pretty/wanting to hold her hand “forever” and that being listed AFTER “kissing her lips”? Yeah I’m glad to be reminded in a round-about way through criticism of Todd in the Shadows that maybe these things are “chaste” in the sense that for SOME people (mainly those in-the-know about what is discussed in asexual communities) kissing and holding hands and wrapping her up is either romantic or sensual and finding someone beautiful is aesthetic or romantic but not necessarily sexual. And I’m ALSO glad to now be thinking that it can all ALSO be chaste in the sense that (for instance) a person waiting for marriage for sex, but still deeply desiring it, could be saying/thinking all these things. These statements alone don’t explicitly imply any sex is actually being had in their relationship, it’s true.

    But still… IT *CAN* BE SEXUAL. Just because it doesn’t have to be… idk… I’m reminded of this post of Siggy’s: and how for a lot of people, this is what sexual attraction is, desperately feeling so much for a person that they want to “Show someone” tonight (whatever that means) that “I find you so beautiful” and wrap that person up, kissing their LIPS (not something much more chaste like their, you know, skin on their hand/cheek or their head), being able to express their romantic feelings physically by hand-holding “Forever”, etc, etc.

    “As good as you make me feel I
    I wanna make you feel better”

    That can mean SO many things, and yes that is a wonderful way (allo)romantic asexual people can express their love, or aro aces like me could feel that way toward a person we care about, or… or you know, guys who are super into sex can certainly feel that way too. This can also literally be a description of a kind of sex that a ton of people actively fantasize about.

    I mean so Todd’s comments frustrate me on THAT level too, because the narrow thinking that this song is underplaying true feelings about sex to too extreme a degree makes me just think… why can’t this be a pretty typical expression of sexual desire?? Really that’s how it always seemed to me anyway.

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