Alternatively titled: “Where do asexuals come from?” Part 2.
[content notes: talk of flibanserin junk, the aces/q***r debate, parsing aces by romantic orientation, internalized heteronormativity, and related nonsense]
On the one hand, when you’ve been in the ace community a while (and paid any attention), it’s easy to see what’s wrong with the Flibanserin rep’s statement that “Asexual individuals are not distressed, and therefore would not be a candidate for treatment with Addyi.” But it didn’t occur to me until much later what assumptions like that have to do with some of the assumptions in the aces & q***rness conflict, which has been coming and going in waves for years.
Somehow or another, these arguments often seem to converge on the question of what to do with cis heteroromantic aces in particular, as a means of isolating variables ( — since “of course” lgbt aces are welcome in lgbt spaces and have a right to reclaim the q-slur, etc.). Aros, meanwhile, are ignored or lumped in with heteroromantics for not experiencing same-gender romantic attraction. Aces have protested this trend in myriad ways (check out Queenie’s linkspam and this post especially) and I don’t want to rehash too much of that. I don’t want to suggest that cis heteroromantics don’t need to be careful, either.
What I want to suggest is that I’m noticing a peculiar pattern of reading of asexuality as stasis.
The logic that the Flibanserin rep seems to be working off is that identifying as asexual brings with it 100% automatic peace of mind, and that would-be-aces who haven’t yet heard of asexuality or decided whether to identify as ace are a non-issue. As if we don’t grow up in a culture that sanctifies and celebrates and mandates sex as a measure of worth. As if nothing about our society and how it approaches sexuality could be distressing to people like us. As if we’re born frozen like Han Solo in carbonite, unreactive, unaffected. As if identifying on the asexual spectrum puts us in stasis.
Lately, I’ve begun to wonder if this is the same mindset applied to cis heteroromantic-identifying aces with regard to heteronormativity. I’ve complained before that people calling me straight for my “I Am Not Straight” post are not only missing the point, they’re missing the very obvious signs that I was already questioning my gender and orientation. And when people see individual aces who call themselves cis and heteroromantic saying that they’re uncomfortable with being called straight, and/or expressing that they feel drawn toward identifying as q***r… and they shut that down with “no you’re just straight, shut up”… ?
Maybe they are. Telling cishets to shut up is pretty okay in my book.
But it seems like these people rarely ever take seriously the possibility that those aren’t the labels that would serve those individual aces best.
It’s one thing to say that a person who identifies as heterosexual might not actually be heterosexual. That’s something I would expect anyone involved in these debates to be aware of. You could say the same applies to heteroromantics, but there’s another layer of context here that I think often goes overlooked.
At present, my experience has been that for newcomers to the ace community, the idea of “romantic orientation” is one of the basics you’re first exposed to, along with the concept of the “spectrum,” terms like “sex-indifferent,” and so on. And with so many people describing themselves in terms of their separate romantic and sexual orientations — and some even outright stating “everyone has a romantic and a sexual orientation” — there can be pressure to pick one, even if you’re a little unsure.
And guess what most people are going to default to?
Identifying as ace isn’t an automatic guarantee of stability and certainty in all areas. That applies to romantic orientation as much as anything — we’re subject to the forces of heteronormativity as much as anyone else.
To be clear, I don’t want this post to come off as excusing any of the crap that I’ve seen hetrom aces pull. I just wish someone had told me, when I first started identifying as ace, that you don’t have to start using a romantic orientation label. I wish someone had told me that the model of romantic orientation doesn’t work for everyone. I almost even wish I hadn’t researched so much, so I wouldn’t have come across all the contention around cishet aces and decided to myself, “well, since there are such big consequences over whether or not to identify as cishet, even here of all places, I’d better ID as cishet as a concession just to be safe” because — because I felt like not IDing that way required a higher burden of proof to myself. Because if cishet aces are that big of a deal, then that’s what I ought to default to Just In Case.
All of that you’re straight, you’re straight, you’re just straight and you’re trying to worm your way out of it but really you’re straight — Is an influx of that not supposed to affect those of us who aren’t straight? Is our asexuality supposed to grant us stasis?
I know y’all are just trying to keep the str8s in line, but think of it as the difference between “don’t ask people to use neopronouns for you if you’re cis” vs. “if you’re drawn to pronouns other than the ones associated with your assigned gender… maybe consider that you aren’t cis.”