I’m going to try and connect some dots here.
I’m also very unsure whether posting this will do more harm than good, so… feedback needed, and please don’t link this anywhere just yet. [last edited 12/26/15; note: read the comments]
I have in mind a particular group, here. I’m thinking of the White aces who maybe read a few of these posts and understand that APoC need more representation within asexual vis/ed and know that within the category of “PoC” there are demographics who are hypersexualized by the White gaze, but they don’t see what it has to do with them. They reblog posts by aces of color talking about their experiences but they don’t see what it has to do with them. They hear some talk about how racialized violence shapes understandings of sexuality but they don’t see what it has to do with them. Maybe they even understand that identity policing APoC is racist and strict-definition-rigid-clarity-isolate-all-variables gatekeeping in general is wrong (and racist), but that’s it. That’s as far as it goes.
They see no role their own Whiteness plays in how they engage with their own asexuality. They think a White gaze that hypersexualizes is, by default, by nature, a gaze that requires sexual desire as an ingredient. They think as long as they’re asexual, as long as they aren’t sexually attracted to anyone or seeking them as sexual partners, that that gaze, which includes that ongoing history of racist hypersexualization, has nothing to do with them.
I want to spell out what it has to do with them. What it has to do with us.
Because this is what we all know. Being asexual makes you hungry. You’ve been gaslit and undermined and held at arm’s reach. You’re parched for validation. You don’t want to just be tolerated as an outlier; you want to feel safe and celebrated.
And we, as White people, live and operate in a society tailored by White supremacy. We’re indoctrinated with centuries of images and ideas that fester in our subconscious even if we renounce them at the surface level. No individual White person built it all, but we’re all embedded in it regardless.
What I’m saying is, before the “asexual community” was ever conceived, there was a trap laid for White aces — only it’s not us who’s hurt by it when we walk into it. The trap is how easily, how unconsciously, our ways of seeking solace and healing from our wounds can end up regurgitating the language of White supremacy.
I’m going to explain an example.
The hypersexualization is the business end of a larger binary: innocence, purity, and abstinence over deviance, dirtiness, and excess. Restraint over wilderness. Intellectual over physical. You know the one. In light of how colonialism and racism have constructed and weaponized this system of ideas, it should be easy to understand why Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” is racist:
Instead of using black women as props to further her career, Allen blames them for its stagnation. In full-sleeved dresses Allen mocks her inability to twerk amidst women of color in body suits who launch into exaggerated dance moves, licking their hands and then rubbing their crotch. Her older white male manager tries to get to her to mimic them. Meanwhile she sings, “Don’t need to shake my ass for you/‘Cause I’ve got a brain.” Cut to black women shaking their ass, so much for sisterly solidarity.
The trap is that in the act of rejecting the sexual and embracing the nonsexual, devalued-sexuality is and has long been depicted through some bodies more than others.
This is the temptation in being a White ace. These messages (“finally, for once, the nonsexual is valued first!”) are going to sound like your lifeline. And if you don’t give a crap about dismantling White supremacy or making the world safe for all your fellow aces, then… yeah, they are. Racism has a nice cozy loft corner all picked out for you.
This is why White aces need to be careful about how we think about and talk about the “Does our society have too much sex in it?” question. Because there’s a pattern to how that conversation plays out, when you bring it up with other people. Ask a group of White people to think critically and/or negatively about the emphasis on sexuality in media for more than two seconds, and you know what tends to happen?
How long do you think it takes for someone to bring up rap music videos? How long do you think it takes someone to bring up Nicki Minaj and Beyonce?
Now compare that with: How long do you think it takes for someone to bring up classic literature? How long do you think it takes someone to bring up John Steinbeck or JD Salinger?
When you’re a White ace trying to make peace with or even take pride in your asexuality, the easiest, most well-paved avenue for you is going to a racist one. Trying to flip your pathologization and demonization as an ace will have you participating in the White gaze. Celebrating “asexual pride” can, too easily, lead you to speaking the language of White supremacy. Because the language of devaluing sexuality already has a history, and you’ve got to watch your step if you don’t want to step in line with it.
That’s what I meant, in my last post, about an asexual White gaze and an asexual way of Whiteness.