Recently, the lovely Queenie quoted an excerpt of a post of mine on tumblr (!), and I happened to discover that someone has reblogged it to voice some disagreement. See their post here. Although that particular user might never see this response, I want to address it as best I know how, as well as open the floor for y’all to comment and tell me if/how I’ve hosed up. For full disclosure: Lee/maizegeek is a survivor of sexual abuse. I am not.
What follows is their commentary and my response:
I really wasn’t sure at first how to respond to this. It bothered me quite a bit, and I really didn’t know how to articulate it.
There’s an inappropriate blending of two very different things in this quote. Asexuality and sex repulsion are not the same thing. However you personally choose to identify is your own business because everyone’s identity is their own, but DO NOT fall into the trap of mixing these two.
I’m not sure if what they meant here was to put out a general warning/reminder not to conflate them, or if this was specifically meant to address what I wrote. In case of the latter: I agree that asexuality doesn’t require sex-repulsion and that sex-repulsion doesn’t require asexuality, and I wasn’t aware that that excerpt could be read as implying otherwise. And as cliche as it might be to say “you’re taking this out of context”… I’d still like people to consider the context.
That excerpt comes from this post of the church email project, at the point where I was reacting to the section of the pastor’s email that cautioned, “It should be noted that none of what I’ve said takes the psychological into account. I would hope people who may not be asexual by nature, but merely feel that way because of some underlying trauma or reservation would be open to working through those issues toward a fuller life.”
I wrote that excerpt as an angry reaction to those statements. As someone who’s not a survivor, I don’t have much place to make statements on the subject, but in the context of analyzing his email, I didn’t want to leave those statements unchallenged. My reaction then got quoted and reblogged by rape survivors — and while that doesn’t necessarily prove anything but the fact that people can have different opinions, I think it’s worth noting at least to clarify that this isn’t just a case of Me vs. Everyone Who’s Actually Had This Experience. Still, I will retract and apologize for anything I’ve said if I’ve overstepped my bounds.
What I meant to convey — and what I may have perhaps failed to convey, despite my intentions, but what represents my actual beliefs — is that a background of abuse and trauma should not be leveraged to deny the validity of anyone’s orientation, and if a survivor* never wants to have sex ever, it would be unethical to try to cajole them into changing their mind. Period.
*This also goes for anyone, but the discussion arose in the context of making exceptions for survivors.
My reaction was mostly a paraphrasing of an amalgamation of things I’ve seen articulated by survivors themselves, and if anyone recommends I replace or edit that section of my original post with links to the same ideas in survivor’s own words, I’d welcome any link recs for that.
Asexuality is a sexual orientation. Sexual orientations are generally static and quite difficult to change if they can even be changed at all.
[ edit: “if they can even be changed at all” implies the idea is dubious, but as salmelo points out, sexual orientations can change — that’s some people’s actual experience. ]
Sex repulsion is an acquired problem that actually impacts people’s lives in a negative way.
I’m not sure that it’s strictly an acquired trait, in all cases — meaning, I presume it’s possible for someone to be sex-repulsed regardless of their life experiences (as there are plenty of asexual people who dislike sex and are not survivors of sexual trauma or abuse). That said, I definitely agree that sex-repulsion can be acquired.
I struggle with sex repulsion personally. Much of the time, I can’t even masturbate without experiencing a crying fit for several hours afterwards. I am not sexually active with other people AT ALL and I only sporadically masturbate. I am not asexual in even the slightest way.
If you cannot perform a natural, normal bodily function without having a meltdown afterwards, then it’s a problem.
Characterizing it a problem for yourself, if you view it that way, is something that it wouldn’t be my place to argue with.
However, if the intent here was to say that all sex-repulsed people should view their sex-repulsion as a problem (and that, by extension, they should try to Fix It if possible), then: sorry, no. I won’t let you do that. Sex-repulsed people are not obligated to hate that aspect of themselves. Sexual stimulation is not something that anybody owes the world.
Do not conflate asexuality with sex repulsion, people. :I
Yes, don’t. And don’t stigmatize either one.
Upon rereading the quoted excerpt from my post, I’ve been unable to find anything that implies being asexual and being sex-repulsed mean the same thing. The quote does deal with the idea of asexual people who dislike sex, but that’s only because I presumed the pastor wouldn’t recommend therapy for asexuals who were sex-favorable, and the quote was written as a reaction to the implicit ideas behind the pastor’s words.
Still, if I’ve messed up or said anything wrong on this topic or within this response post, I’d like to know. It’s important to me to be able to face criticism, and I want to do right by my fellow aces.