this is another post about White aces

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.

(bolding added)

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.

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18 responses to “this is another post about White aces

  • Arrela

    *considers getting a wordpress account just so I can like this post*

  • Siggy

    “PoC are hypersexualized” Okay, no, I am already objecting to this. Some PoC are hypersexualized, but not all are. Some are desexualized. I am an east Asian guy, and this is a group that is desexualized.

    • Coyote

      Right, right… I’ll edit that.

        • Coyote

          No problem! How’s the update look? I want to make sure this is accurate.

          • Siggy

            The update looks fine, although I think the article you link makes the same mistake you did. It says right in the article, South Asian women are seen as repressed. In the very same sentence, it makes the generalization that women of color are always assumed to be available for sex. I don’t think those match??

            It’s totally fine to talk about how certain PoC groups are hypersexualized, and how this affects some APoC. But desexualization is another can of worms. Although it doesn’t match my own experience, it’s what Alok talks about in their well-known article, “What’s r(ace) got to do with it?”

          • Coyote

            I don’t see them as contradictory, but I guess it does depend on how they’re using the terms… What I assumed was that “sexually available” doesn’t require cognizant desire/absence of repression.

          • DG Arf

            I didn’t think that was contradictory either—the women are seeing as having repressed desires of their own, but they are still supposed to fulfill the desires of others.

          • Siggy

            Right, it’s consistent, but if your only example of women of color were those southeast asian women, and you said they were repressed, you probably wouldn’t conclude, “and therefore, the primary stereotype of women of color is that they’re always sexually available.” It’s about having your conclusion first, and recognizing experiences second.

          • Coyote

            Fair enough. There’s lots that’s been written on the subject, so I can change that link to something else.

  • queenieofaces

    Going off of Siggy’s comment, I see a lot of people falling into this trap where by “PoC” they mean a very specific PoC experience, and then they apply that experience to all PoC in all contexts. And it’s not just a question of hypersexualization vs. desexualization, it’s also that…hypersexualization (and desexualization) is different depending on the context. So the way I (a mixed race Latina) experience hypersexualization is different than how a black man might experience it, and that’s different than how an Afro-Latina trans woman might experience it. And I think a lot of the time when people (especially white people) talk about race they see it as a binary (you’re either white or you’re PoC) when it’s actually much more complicated than that, and reducing it to a simple “white or not” binary lumps a bunch of diverse and potentially conflicting PoC experiences together. (Plus, it makes whiteness one of two possible racial experiences, when it’s actually more like one of a bazillion.) It’s one of the reasons I really balk whenever anyone wants an ace of color on their panel/project/blog to talk about “race things,” and I think it might make it easier for white aces hand wave talking about race, because you’re only hand waving one experience (“the PoC experience”) not, you know, a bazillion different experiences.

    • Coyote

      Makes sense. Is there something I need to change in what I wrote because of that, or is this just a general extension of info? (either way, ofc, thank you for commenting!)

      • queenieofaces

        Um. I don’t think pointing out specific word changes would be helpful so much as…keeping that in mind if you decide to write a follow-up? Because given the terms in which you’re couching this post (whiteness vs. PoCness) and then given the examples you’re using (black women), it’s…not…really possible to add what I would consider the necessary nuance without substantially rewriting and reframing.

    • Sennkestra

      Yeah, this is a really good comment. And the white vs. PoC binary thing also makes it awkward approaching these kinds of conversations as a mixed person, because…I’m kind of both?

      And re: what to change, i think this is more something for future posts than for editing in, but I personally think it helps sometimes to just not even use the term “PoC” and just talk about the specific experiences you’re actually focusing on – for example, specify a post about black women, or asian-americans, or south asians living in south asia, or recent latin@ immigrants, or whatever else – since the experience of one PoC will be completely different from each other.

      While PoC is a useful term for creating solidarity and such, it’s only appropriate for limited circumstances where you actually mean all people of color, and where you’re not getting into too many specifics. For example, things like “The experiences of ace people of color are often not included in mainstream ace narratives” would be a totally appropriate use, since it’s pretty general. However, if you start to get into specifics, it might be better to be like “for example, many black aces experience….[thing that mostly black aces experience]” rather than “for example, ace PoC experience [thing that mostly black aces experience]”, which sort of ignores other Ace PoC who may not relate to that experience at all.

      (also, not related to this specific post, but another pet peeve is viewing single PoC writers as spokespeople for all PoC – for example, the things I say as a mixed-race white/asian person will provide no extra insight about what it’s like being a black and ace, and vice versa. So relatedly, sometimes it’s less useful to talk about white vs – nonwhite, but instead, [specific race/ethicity] vs. [any other race/ethnicity] – for example, when it comes to say, the experiences of latin@ aces, the opinions of an asian ace won’t necessarily be any more relevent than the opinions of a white ace)

  • DG Arf

    I second Queenie’s comment but also thanks for writing this. I think you have a good point about what/who is held up as an example of “society’s obsession with sex.”

  • Sennkestra

    (Also, I just want to apologize for piling on these particular posts so hard, and I waned to clarify that it’s not like these are particularly bad, as these are all issues I see all over the place in various forms – both in ace and non-ace spaces, and even from both white aces and PoC aces. It’s mostly just that it seems like opportunities for discussions about how these affect ace communities don’t often pop up on places like wordpress that have non-broken comment systems. So thank you for making space for this and taking comments gracefully!)

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