No, no, no, no

[tw rape] I think we need to have a talk about how we address mixed ace/allo romantic relationships.  That is, I know the community has always paid attention to such things, but we could stand to continue reevaluating ourselves.

I say this because this ask strikes me as plenty skeevy, and I would have handled it differently than the answer Neth gave.

[ Note: for important context, you can follow the rest of this conversation between me & AA here and here. ]

Here’s the original message in its entirety:

I’m not asexual, my girlfriend is. It’s a big struggle for us because it’s getting to the point that I feel guilty for wanting sex because she seems to think that I don’t love her enough to suppress my sexual urges towards her. I don’t know what to do, I love her so much but for me, sex is a natural need just like it is to a lot of people and I honestly don’t think it’s fair to expect so much from me when It’s not something I can control at all. How can we ever find a middle ground?

First, let’s get this out of the way: sex is not a “need,” not for anyone.  We need to shut down that kind of rhetoric hard and fast.  This is something I see missing from Neth’s answer.

Second: “I feel guilty for wanting sex” is the part of that sentence that Neth seemed to focus on, and while granting sympathy/reassurance there is fine, I would have been more critical of the claim “because she seems to think that I don’t love her enough to suppress my sexual urges towards her.”

Can we think for a moment about what that’s supposed to mean?

  • “she seems to think” = she hasn’t outright stated this.  The anonymous speaker is making a guess about what she’s thinking.  What are they basing this on?  We can’t tell from the content of the message alone, so I would prompt them to think about what has led them to this assumption.
  • Now look at the rest of the claim — “that I don’t love her enough to suppress my sexual urges.”  This part set off serious alarm bells for me, because it feels like a guilt-tripping cousin to the sex-love equivalency.  To understand what I mean by that, consider this: what do they mean by “suppress my sexual urges”?  …Not make sexual comments at her?  Not make sexual passes at her?  Not rape her?
  • The most generous interpretation I can think of is that “suppress my sexual urges” refers to their girlfriend forbidding them from even masturbating in private.  Since that’s a bit outlandish and since Anon didn’t specify, I am doubtful that this is what they might’ve meant.
  • This is the timeline that I can best infer from what they’ve shared: their girlfriend has set a boundary (or they think she’s set a boundary), Anon has pushed or shown reluctance to respect that boundary, Girlfriend has shown alarm/discomfort in response, and Anon took that as a sign that she thinks they “don’t love her enough” (to recognize and respect her right to set sexual boundaries).
  • All in all, “she seems to think that I don’t love her enough to suppress my sexual urges towards her” is a pretty dubious allegation.  Either 1) Anon is already “suppressing their sexual urges,” and she continues to have anxiety about it regardless and is in need of more reassurance, or 2) Anon isn’t “suppressing their sexual urges” after all.  In which scenario is their girlfriend doing anything wrong?
  • “I honestly don’t think it’s fair to expect so much from me when It’s not something I can control at all.”  What is the “it” that Anon cannot control?  Presumably, they’re referring to their sex drive, but I already dismissed the masturbation theory, and in this context, what with their whining about their girlfriend’s sexual boundaries, I have to wonder whether they’re claiming that arousal should grant them free rein to do anything they want.  Does that sound like too much of a leap?  Let me double back.
  • If the problem were just “my girlfriend gets mad at me for involuntarily getting horny around her,” I would have expected Anon to have framed this message differently.  Instead, Anon expressed a genuine will to engage in sex with her despite knowing this would go against their girlfriend’s wishes, justifying the desire to violate her boundaries with “sex is a natural need.”  They’re not just experiencing sexual arousal without meaning to; they’re griping about being expected not to involve her in relieving it.

What I’m saying is, the wording of this message leaves open the possibility that Anon might be abusive.

In Neth’s answer, however, that possibility is not considered, and instead, attention is given to the supposed shortcomings of their girlfriend: “I think a problem is that it can be hard for a lot of asexuals to really get how important or significant those feelings can be for sexual people. Like a person who has always been blind trying to understand how colours play off of each other and how they look.”

From this, I assume Neth took Anon’s assertions at face value and believes that their girlfriend isn’t being understanding enough.  This idea — that ace people don’t get it and need to be more considerate of others’ feelings — is something I responded to in a recent post.  The short version?  Non-ace people are the ones who need to extend more empathy, not us.

Due to my skepticism toward various parts of Anon’s message, I think criticizing their girlfriend was unwise.

Lastly: Anon presumes there is middle ground to be found, and I think they need to be confronted with the possibility that there might not be any.  If Neth’s answer was intended to broach this suggestion, I don’t think that came off clear enough.

Does anyone know if Asexual Advice ever retracted or made later statements about this post?

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9 responses to “No, no, no, no

  • epochryphal

    Wow what a shitty disability analogy too, especially if Neth is abled

  • salmelo

    My first thought after reading that ask was “you might need to consider you’re just not compatible with each other romantically and move on, hard as that may be.” While I understand the desire to try and ‘make things work’ I really think the answer should’ve covered that contingency more, which you mentioned as well.

  • warningstandbygo

    Hey! I’m one of the mods over at asexualadvice, which is where the ask you linked to came from. Someone sent us a link to this post and one of our other mods (Kiowa) replied to that and have a response to the points raised in your critique, if you’d like to take a look. The link is http://asexualadvice.tumblr.com/post/114453301529/here-is-a-reply-to-a-january-2013-anon-ask-that

    If you have any other questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to let me know here, or interact with us over on the blog.

    Thanks!
    -Di

    • Coyote

      Yep, I saw that (but thanks for commenting all the same). I’m in the midst of making a second post about it right now.

      • warningstandbygo

        My pleasure! It’s been a really interesting discussion, and I know that I’ve enjoyed reading both sides of the discussion! It’s always honestly a pleasure to have good intellectual discussions about these sorts of things, and such a refreshing change. I think you handled it really well, and it’s been a great learning experience! (Also, the internet is such a fascinating place… how interesting that that link would come up!)

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