Context and More Context

My post from earlier analyzing a tumblr post got a quick response.

Sidenote: I always find it interesting to see what things I have to seed on tumblr myself and which things people pick out and start spreading without me ever having intended that.  What I’m saying is, I am not the anonymous messenger, and I am amused at having achieved the status of “I thought you might want to know that this kid is writing about you.”

Anyway, I must thank Kiowa for being so graceful and polite about this.  I’m sure my post (and the notification of it) must’ve seemed like it came out of nowhere.

The truth is, I did not intend to dig up an old post.  WordPress allows me to see some of my referrers, and since Asexual Advice has a link to one of my posts in its sidebar, sometimes random AA posts show up as having referred people to my blog.  Today, that post showed up, and I got curious.  Then I got tunnel vision, spewed some thoughts on my own blog, and published it… all before checking the original post’s timestamp.  Oops.

I apologize for not thinking to check first.

At the moment, I intend to leave my own post up as-is, if nothing else than an example of how to critically deconstruct that kind of ask. I can make changes to it if you prefer.  Once I saw how old that ask/answer was, I assumed that a mod from two years ago might not still be on the team.  Still, I am greatly relieved to hear (and see) that practices have changed.  Thank you, again, for the thoughtful response.

My only remaining concern is that, in order for that url to show up in my referral list, that means someone was looking at that page, possibly unaware of how current mods would view Neth’s advice.  I wouldn’t expect you to go back and check everything ever posted to the blog, but considering the problems with this one… would you mind editing it to add a link to this more recent post of yours?


17 responses to “Context and More Context

  • luvtheheaven

    Interestingly, in that “quick response” they posted, they linked to three more recent asks that they answered in ways I’m not sure I entirely agree with either. They didn’t respond to the idea that you can really love someone yet still be incompatible and need to break up. They seemed to imply at one point that if the non-ace was better at sex or at least better at listening to his girlfriend that she *would* be able to enjoy sex. To me, even these new, “better” examples of what their asexual advice tumblr is now were still relatively problematic answers. :P I’m not sure if you agree, but me reading them now just idk, gave me the wrong feeling, like they still could answer asks in an even better way.

    • Coyote

      Thanks for saying something. I skimmed and read some parts in more detail than others, but I can look again and get back to you on that.

    • Coyote

      Can you point out the specific parts you’re talking about?

    • Tristifere

      I agree with luvtheheaven. I skimmed the other two asks, but that one about the aroace girlfriend…. ouch. Handy direct link:

      It’s very obvious that Kiowa and I interpret the tone of that ask very differently. They go in immediate attack mode. Yet I don’t necessarily see that ask as hostile, just as someone who’s rather confused about the situation (what does my girlfriend mean when she says she loves me? Will she love me like I want her to love me? AKA: will I be able to get the love and affection out of this relationship that I am craving?). Yes, anon words it rather unfortunately, but you cannot expect everyone to be completely up to date on the latest ace sensitivity training. And I certainly don’t see why that ask warrants saying that the anon needs to be punched in the face. In fact, I don’t see any legitimate reason for telling people who are asking for advice that they need punching in the face. It might get you brownie points from your ace audience, but it doesn’t help the person who’s asking the question.

      Also this statement: “Some asexuals do enjoy sex if their partner is good and works with them.” Really now? Only if their partner is good? If I learned anything about hanging out in the relationships fora of different AVEN variants, is that allos can feel very insecure about their sexual prowess when their partner doesn’t enjoy the sex. It’s probably not the best solution to enforce that by tell an allo that asexuals /only/ like sex when allos are good at it. It’s toxic in so many ways. Not just for the allos involved. (hello magic genitals myth …. “ah yes, but you never experienced /my/ sex”)

      If I were to answer that ask, I’d focus on the “listen to your partner” and “respect her and her feelings for what they are – don’t expect her to do/feel stuff she’s unable or uncomfortable with” aspect that – to be fair – Kiowa does address, and leave out the hostility and weird “you need to be a sex god” bit.

      • Coyote

        I interpreted that ask differently than Kiowa, too, and just assumed that Kiowa took “she is really touchy” and “she does get a bit nasty” to mean Anon had been rude/invalidating to her. It’s not completely clear from the ask itself.

        Looks like I completely glossed over that “if their partner is good” part. I presume that was to specify “just because someone’s not opposed to sex doesn’t mean they’d enjoy it in all circumstances” (in light of some of the issues with “sex-favorable”), but I can see how it might be interpreted as “if you’re skilled enough,” too, and agree that that can be harmful. Wouldn’t take it so far as to interpret it as “you need to be a sex god,” though.

      • Elizabeth

        [tw: victim-blaming]

        Just reading over this link now, and this statement:

        “Anon, if I was your girlfriend, I wouldn’t have been nasty. I would have punched you in the face and kicked your ass to the curb. You’re lucky she’s still talking to you.”

        I read this a little differently than you, I think. I read it as Kiowa assuming the Anon is being abusive (which may be true? but I don’t think it’s that clear, so that level of hostility is not warranted, I agree)… and then saying what she would do in that situation. Which, if you’re actually a survivor? That’s not only a worthless statement (because dude, you really do NOT know what you will do in that situation UNTIL IT ACTUALLY HAPPENS), but it’s harmful to us. It’s victim-blaming.

        People like to assume that they would fight, and over-value the fight response as the best. They don’t understand the grooming that happens and the way that abuse actually works—when you’re in a survival situation, fighting can often be the most risky thing. You might think you would fight, but when it actually happens? Freeze. Or cooperate.

        There’s nothing wrong with that, and yet there is all sorts of social conditioning to say that if you didn’t fight back, then it “can’t” be rape. Kiowa’s response there was thoughtless and plays into that, effectively shaming Anon’s girlfriend for not doing what Kiowa thinks she would do in that situation. I’m sure she meant well and didn’t intend to do that, but…

  • luvtheheaven

    Sorry for not being specific enough. And then disappearing. I am back online now and can answer. Tristifere and Elizabeth covered a lot of what upset me and felt off when I read those two answers to the asks.

    To be more specific…

    Kiowa answered:

    “…So, to get to the heart of the issue… I agree with what was said on the Acetheist. Honestly. I would give advice to that anon similar to what the author said they’d prefer, and in fact, I have. You may recall the shenanigans from a few days ago wherein I got cranky with an anon for being upset about their girlfriend being aro ace… or the time I addressed a question along the same lines, then got fed the kind of stuff Neth actually talked about and tore it down. And then there’s this one.”

    So to take this one step at a time… I’m glad Kiowa agrees with you about that other post.

    But when she said “the time I addressed a question along the same lines, then got fed the kind of stuff Neth actually talked about and tore it down,” she didn’t link to the original “question along the same lines” so that we could judge whether or not she did answer it the same way you suggested she should. She only linked to being fed “the kind of stuff Neth actually talked about”, and I don’t quite get what she’s referring to. But okay.

    Let’s address this one first.

    The very first thing the anon says is:

    y’all say, every single time, that if the non-ace person leaves the ace person because they’re ace, then the non-ace person never really loved the ace person and is basically human trash.

    So the first thing that needs to be addressed, in my opinion is “I’m sorry if we gave that impression on our advice blog, but that’s not what we meant to say. Love is complicated, and you can truly love someone but still be incompatible. If you break up with someone because you feel you need sex in your romantic relationships in order to be happy, that’s fine, and valid, and you’re not human trash. We believe you that you care about your partner. We appreciate you not sexually assaulting her or making her feel like it’s all her fault. At least, we certainly hope you didn’t. Because an ace can’t control the fact that they’re ace, and if you both are sexually incompatible, that’s not any one person’s fault. That’s both of you bringing different desires to your relationship and then realizing they clash too much and it can’t work out.”

    But Kiowa doesn’t address the idea of a non-ace person really loving the ace even if they have to break up. Kiowa doesn’t reject the notion that their blog supports the idea that non-aces who leave their partners are “human trash”. Kiowa basically says “Yeah, we say this regularly on our blog. Yes, you’ve interpreted us correctly.” and then defends the blog and their statements without bringing up the idea of love or someone being human trash – Kiowa goes right into discussing the issue of choosing not to have sex in a mixed relationship, which didn’t seem to be the heart of the problem for the anon asker. The anon asker was seeking validation that it not working out with them and their partner didn’t mean they were a bad person, and didn’t even necessarily mean they didn’t love their partner. And all the advice given did was say, kind of condescendingly, “duh the world agrees with you so we’re trying to be the one place aces can hear an alternate POV” and idk… it just gave me the wrong feel.

    • Coyote

      I see what you’re saying, except for the “We appreciate you not sexually assaulting her.” Also, I think it would have been better to counter the human trash thing too, though I was initially dismissive of that part of the message since it comes off so… passive-aggressive.

      • luvtheheaven

        Obviously the sexual assault stuff is a huge deal and no one needs to be congratulated for not raping someone. I shouldn’t have suggested that.

        It’s just… I don’t know. I felt like something should be different about that answer. So I was trying to quickly come up with one idea for how it could have been different.

        You’re right, though.

  • luvtheheaven

    The last one they linked to was the least problematic one in my opinion. But I still would’ve answered it differently. The asker is a psychologist, and basically says leaving someone because they don’t ever want to have sex with you is so so so much different than leaving someone who just hates dogs.

    I’m not sure what previous ask/answer they are responding to, but to me, the analogy is a good one, so it feels off to me that the answer hinges on the idea of “There is no perfect equivalent to use, which is why I do what I do – go for a dramatic example.” To me that analogy is better than this psychologist seems to think it is. A potential partner hating dogs, for someone who has a dog, and is always going to have one, and who loves their dog maybe as much or almost as much as they would love a child if they had one… how is this not a hug deal-breaker for a romantic relationship? At least a type of committed monogamous leading to living together type of romantic relationship? How is this so drastically different than someone who has a sex drive and isn’t satisfied by masturbation not being able to handle being with an ace who doesn’t want to have sex, ever? It just feels like the answer doesn’t address the heart of their question in a proper rebuttal fashion the way I would defend the previous analogy, whatever it was. :P I wish they had linked specifically to the asks&advice that these asks were follow-ups-to, so I could know exactly what these new anons were replying to. But in general, that’s just my two cents.

    • luvtheheaven

      The main PROBLEM I have with the hating dogs analogy is actually because um, if someone “hates dogs” they’re hating living creatures and maybe can be seen as heartless and to compare that to hating “the wonderful thing everyone is supposed to love” that is sex kind of just draws some icky parallels. It’s better if the ace is the person in the hypothetical example who “loves dogs” and “can’t be in a romantic relationship unless their dog is allowed to be a part of it too”, because that being similar to someone who “is a sex-averse asexual” and “can’t be in a romantic relationship unless their sex-aversion and asexual identity is respected and understood” has less of a problematic implication to it. You know?

      • Coyote

        I suppose, but that feels like it runs into conceptions of sex as something you opt out of (rather than consent to) by conceptualizing sex aversion as the dog.

        • luvtheheaven

          True, true. Good point.

          There are problems with the dog analogy. A lot of problems with it.

          But the asker considered the problem to be that one person loving dogs and the other hating them is not nearly as big a deal as one partner “needing” sex in a relationship and the other partner needing to not have sex. And I disagree that THAT is the problem, at all, with the dog analogy. I don’t know. :P These were just my thoughts.

  • luvtheheaven

    So lastly, to go back to that first one…

    Tristifere and Elizabeth handled the most glaring issues with the first of the 3.

    Let’s break down the question into parts. I don’t want to heteronormatively assume anon is a guy, so I’m going to use the gender neutral pronoun “them”, or just call them “anon”, every time I want to refer to anon.

    Hello, I have been with my girlfriend for 3 months, we have had sex and it was far less than erotic. She was unable to ‘in the mood’ quite a lot and totally unable to finish.

    So… there are a few ways to react to this part of the ask, and I think Kiowa immediately jumped to the idea of “This was rape”. Not being “in the mood” means non-enthuastic, probably. Possibly not even aroused. And to a lot of people, and maybe to Kiowa, unless you’re enthusiastic, it’s probably rape.

    However, when I first read this, I felt like this could’ve been my ex-boyfriend talking. Literally. I mean it really echoes my own experience. And what we did was totally “willing consent”, “reasoned consent”, “hesitant consent”, and um, yes, consent.

    So for Kiowa to reply, “Anon, if I was your girlfriend, I wouldn’t have been nasty. I would have punched you in the face and kicked your ass to the curb. You’re lucky she’s still talking to you.” It seems really awkward to me, because I feel like I could’ve been Anon’s girlfriend. Why is violence the answer? (I know I’m not, because of what was said later in anon’s message, but still.) Like Elizabeth said, even if it was rape, it’s both victim blaming and unhelpful to say that kind of “if I were her, I would’ve reacted by hurting you” statement, and like Tritifere said, “In fact, I don’t see any legitimate reason for telling people who are asking for advice that they need punching in the face.” YES. That. In my opinion, as well, there is probably never a good reason to really tell anyone that they deserve to be punched in the face. I mean, an eye for an eye doesn’t solve problems. Trying to help an abusive person understand the error of their ways is not going to be achieved by telling them “you deserve to be abused back”, regardless of all other factors.

    Then the asker continues:

    She is now saying she is aromantic and asexual, she insists that she is still in love with me. Can this be true? Isn’t platonic love more like friendship? I really love her and I want her to love me, not like a friend.

    This could be pretty confusing, even for someone immersed in ace discourse, because being “aromantic” and being “in love” at the same time seem like a contradiction. In fact, anon’s girlfriend may have legitimately been saying to anon, “I just love you like a friend, but I do genuinely love you, and I care for you deeply”. She could’ve been saying, “I just figured out words like aromantic and asexual exist, and I think they might be me, at least the asexual part for sure,” or “I’m a romantic asexual” and they misunderstood it as “Aromantic”. I mean we weren’t there. We don’t know what happened.

    The correct way to answer this ask would’ve been to address the confusing thing that is “what is the difference between friendship, non-sexual romantic love, and sexual romantic love” – namely, telling the anon that there are no clear dividing lines, that there is no easy answer, that people are debating these things all the time, and that your questions make sense because it really is confusing and a lot of people do think they want someone to love them as “more” than a friend, but…

    what Kiowa said, “Being aromantic does not mean incapable of romantic love, or of any other kind of love. Romantic love is not superior to platonic love.“, just doesn’t quite cut it in my opinion. What DOES aromantic mean then, if not incapable of romantic love? I’d be confused if I was the anon. I get that this is true, but it’s just a bit too brief of an answer for such a complicated question. And it just felt like it glossed over what was maybe the main point of the entire question. It answered the question, sort of, and didn’t do that bad of a job of it, but it didn’t piece out the idea that love could be romantic but not sexual and that this is different, for a lot of people, than friendship love. Etc.

    Also, in response to anon’s “I really love her and I want her to love me, not like a friend.”, Kiowa’s response seemed to assume the absolute worst, which felt in poor taste to me. Kiowa said things like: “Your reaction completely invalidated her identity, erased her feelings, and was utterly unacceptable.” as if we know anon has said something to her face, which as far as we know anon didn’t.

    Kiowa continued, “Congratulations, you want to your girlfriend to live up to your ideals – guess what, she’s her own person and she is who she is, not some fantasy in your head.

    When you reacted like that, you not only made several wrong assumptions about her, but you also devalued her feelings and treated her like a sex object, not a person. So that’s, y’know, awesome.

    – and it’s true, anon wanting her to love them as more than a friend doesn’t mean she necessarily will or can, but Kiowa just made way too many assumptions and reacted way too harshly.

    It’s good to keep in mind that what happened might’ve been rape, that anon might have reacted in a hurtful way to her disclosing her identity to them, etc. The answer can include some “if, then”s but it shouldn’t ASSUME those are necessarily the case.

    Finally the asker concludes,

    She is really touchy about the subject and refuses to talk about it much. She does get a bit nasty. Thanks

    So what we’ve got here is a confusing ending to the ask, something that brings up the girlfriend acting “nasty” which makes anon seem unsympathetic to her, given that word choice, despite earlier saying “I really love her”, and like maybe anon did something to provoke that nastiness, although we have no clue.

    The truth is, though, that there is a generous way to interpret that. Communication in these cases is usually recommended, and her refusing to talk much and being too touchy about the subject could be really frustrating and explain why the anon is coming to an ace advice blog to ask for advice.

    Kiowa concluded her answer: “Some asexuals do enjoy sex if their partner is good and works with them. Your girlfriend is a not a magical thing that you give your feelings to and magically get love and sexual pleasure from. She’s a human being and you need to treat her like one – recognize that her feelings are valid.

    So, basically… your girlfriend is 100% justified in being pissed off with you. If you want to keep her, you’d better go apologize for being an asshat, then listen to her when she talks and stop invalidating her feelings.

    And that was where I got the impression that despite being harsh and calling anon an “Asshat” (asshole) and throughout the whole response acting like she knew how they reacted to their girlfriend and acting like anon definitely did horrible things that I’m not so 100% sure they definitely did… despite all of that…

    I felt like Kiowa was still saying, “if you want to keep her, you can, all you have to do is listen to her and not invalidate her, and also if you’re good at sex and work with her, listening to what she wants from the sex, you can keep her as your girlfriend AND have a sexual relationship with her.” And to me, that’s a HORRIBLE message to give. The message this non-ace (allo) anon needed to hear was NOT “You’re a horrible despicable human being but if you work on being a better person it will all work out and you’ll be able to have the intimate sexual and romantic relationship you want with your girlfriend, where she loves you as more than a friend and is able to have sex that is erotic with you.” The message that I think this anon needed to hear was the opposite. “You might be a good, kind human being, and I understand how all of this might be confusing for you. Let me try to explain it a little. Also, you might need to prepare yourself for the fact that even if you love her and she loves you, she might never want to have sex. And then you’ll need to make a choice about whether you’re happy staying with her but never having sex, or whether you guys will need to break up.”

    You know what I mean?? These were my thoughts. I don’t know.

    • luvtheheaven

      I do think the answer should’ve explicitly said “if she didn’t want to have sex, it was RAPE” and I mean, addressed some of the issues that were just being assumed to be true and therefore warranted such a harsh response. I wasn’t trying to say the answer needed to entirely view the anon ask as necessarily coming from an entirely innocent place where the asker definitely did nothing wrong. I simply think the answer should’ve left SOME ROOM for the asker to have maybe not done all of the horrible things Kiowa was assuming anon did.

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