an ethnography of running for your life

A post in which I talk about some comments on another post of mine, entitled What To Do If You Think Your Partner Might Be Asexual.

Consequently, expect anti-ace hostility and rape apologism in spades.  Please note that even for anti-ace hostility, some of these are unusually extreme.

Another disclaimer, first: There are comments on that post that are decent and fair.  There are comments on that post that are morally-neutral.  There are even some that I’d call sweet.

This post is not about those.

This post is about the real, living people who’ve dropped into my comment section to let me know that they think asexual people are morally bankrupt.

While I can’t be certain that all of these commenters would agree with one another (although I think it’s worth nothing, no one in that comment section has commented to argue with anyone but me), I’m going to highlight a class of comments in which I generally see traces of the three following elements:

  1. They express dissatisfaction.
  2. They indicate an opinion that my original advice points (and, sometimes, my comments on the post) are flawed and lacking something important.
  3. That something important is rape apologism.

A sampling, for your perusal:

..Laundry isn’t the favorite activity of many people – as sex is for my wife. But she seems to have no intention of even trying to help me, her husband, out? At this point I am just getting angry. It’s like she has no intention of lifting a finger to help the situation. Are some a-sexuals just completely incapable of empathy?…
John Smith

…You’re just a c*** with a blog…
Anonymous

Coyote you stun me with your callous shallowness.
“Patient Spouse”

The attitude of asexuals is “deal with it or end the relationship and admit that you’re a selfish prick.”

The partner who is looking for a healthy, normal relationship is somehow demonized for wanting that thing that the asexual partner committed to and now will not or cannot provide. No concern is made for the sadness, confusion, feelings of rejection, or needs of the sexual partner, all that matters is the asexual one. Looking for that affect if a healthy relationship elsewhere is cheating, so in the end you either need to ignore your natural needs our leave the person and go through the true heartache of divorce
“Me myself”

Asexuals are guilty of bait & switch as far as I’m concerned. Get you to fall in love with them…string you along with just enough sex to keep you ignorant…marriage… a kid ….then the slow decline to nothing.
I don’t appreciate being conned. Call it what you want coyote, but sexuals weren’t the ones lying in the relationship.
Richard Cranium

I really feel like you should maybe re-word this. It reads very much like ‘oh just break up then or think about separating’. It’s a very harsh reality for some people trying to deal with finding out after knowing someone for years that they arnt exactly who you thought they were, or who the portrayed to be. I would suggest saying ‘give yourself some time to think about it, don’t get in a panic and think your sexual needs are never going to be met’ there is a lot to think about and to adjust to. Just like the person who is or maybe just realising they are asexual, the partner needs time to adjust and think about all aspects.
Clairec

Run!!!! For “YOUR LIFE!!!” Seriously
Anonymous

make them your friends and nothing else . They are like blood sucking vampires for their own selfish needs without considering yours . If someone you love won’t share intimacy they are called a friend . Friends are happy for you when you find a intimate partner who loves you like you love them . Go find a proper partner that’s not selfish for their desires 😎. It’s a lot more satisfying in life !!!
Chris

No , not at all . you are a idiot that shows no empathy to the sexual partner . Oh a problem comes up and just leave them . Asexual people change their status of the relationship singlehanded and then leave it up to you to pity them as they didn’t know until you love them . If I was a homosexual ( which I have no problem with )
I wouldn’t let a woman fall in love with me to tell them I was . Changing a sexual desire during a relationship makes you a disrespectful person with no empathy
Chris again

So, in summary — not counting the insults against me personally, aces are, apparently, selfish, disrespectful, conning, bloodsucking vampires, lacking in empathy and guilty of “bait and switch,” from whom you should run for your life.

The words “selfish” and “empathy” come up time and time again.  We are “selfish” and condemnable when we don’t consent to sex — that is, when efforts to coerce us into sex fail.  We are guilty of “bait and switch” for existing while being capable of loving and being loved.  We are monsters.

We are monsters because there are people who read sinful noncompliance into our existence.

We are monsters because someone feels entitled to control us, and we trouble their process of effortlessly extracting any sexual behaviors they want.

So let’s talk empathy for a bit.

In some of these, “empathy” is invoked when an ace, real or hypothetical, does not capitulate to others’ desires, because according to these commenters, some sexual boundaries are too inconvenient (read: gets in the way of their sexual pleasure) to be valid.

In others, “empathy” is invoked because of the style/tone/contents of my advice, creating the grounds for an objection that is occasionally, as in the case of “Me myself,” then generalized to All Asexual People, because, unbeknownst to me, I’ve been nominated as the representative of the hivemind (who did this?  did y’all vote for me?  I don’t have room in my office for the plaque).

On that note, I’d like to point out that the way I talk about mixed relationships is very different from how some other aces handle the topic.  I’ve collected some egregious examples here, and you can also see that pattern reflected in this post, which was actually directed at other aces, and where I wrote:

Whenever I see this discussion happen, people seem very eager to consider that the partner who wants a sexual relationship might be well-meaning and non-abusive and genuinely hurt by their partner’s disinterest […]
What I do see is aces expressing sympathy for dismayed non-ace partners…  I see aces acknowledging that there are “legitimate reasons to want sex in a relationship” in response but not challenging the roots of that insecurity in any way, not reassuring them that their partner’s preferences aren’t a reflection on them, not contradicting the idea that they deserve to have body-image issues over not being sexually desired.  I see aces asserting that “for many people, sex is intricately (and irrevocably) tangled up in… confirmation of self-worth” but rejecting the idea that anyone should argue against that and assure those people that, hey, you know what?  Your worth as a person isn’t determined by who does or doesn’t want to have sex with you.  You can let go of that idea.  You don’t deserve to let it keep hurting you.

So I think that ace discourse on mixed relationships is actually fascinatingly complex, tends toward empathy for non-aces, and, when harmful, is harmful for far different reasons than “doesn’t empathize with & validate the feelings of non-aces”… not that anyone saying otherwise cares what I have to say on the matter.

Anyway, back to my original post and people’s objections to it.  I like to try to keep an ear open to criticism.  I’m sure there are ways that the original post could be improved.

On that front, the criticism I have received (as of this date) isn’t very enlightening.

According to Chris (“you are a idiot that shows no empathy to the sexual partner . Oh a problem comes up and just leave them .”), my advice consists entirely of flippantly suggesting a break up, even though my advice actually presents more suggestions than that (and what suggestions Chris would add, Chris doesn’t say).

According to Clairec, I’m still a flippant breakup-peddler, but they go on to add some suggestions: “give yourself some time to think” is the first, which also happens to be something that was in my original post.  Clairec also suggests, “don’t get in a panic and think your sexual needs are never going to be met,” which is an especially perplexing suggestion given that this Clairec apparently doesn’t believe breaking up is a good solution.  From that, I can only conclude they want me to give the reader tips on how to pressure an asexual partner into sex.  Otherwise this particular combination of opinions is just baffling.  If “sexual needs getting met” is the first priority worth naming, then it’s not fair or right to rule out a breakup like it’s an unfair and unthinkable option — because sometimes people just aren’t sexually compatible, and no, you don’t have my permission to be a rapist.

I can be, yes, a blunt and unkind person.  But even so, I think the claims about my lack of “empathy” are disingenuous.  It’s not as though the possibility of difficult feelings for the non-ace reader goes unacknowledged.  It’s not as though I don’t allow for the possibility that “no sex” can be a dealbreaker (and that that’s fair and okay).

What the “empathy” brigade seems to be bothered by, according to my best guess, is that I asked them to empathize with asexual people at all.

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10 responses to “an ethnography of running for your life

  • Klaaraa

    I was going to vote for you to be representative of the hivemind, but then I didn’t Hand in my Ballot, so I don’t think I Count… Anyway I had no idea of the bizarre comments you received on that post.

  • Elizabeth

    I get SO MANY of these types of comments. I finally decided to just turn off the damn comments on That Post because I’m so sick of it—there have been some nice comments, but most of the time it’s just abusiveness, and when it isn’t that, it’s usually demands for me to do emotional labor on behalf of the allosexual partner of an asexual person to save their relationship (which sometimes comes across as an abusive person trying to use me to bludgeon their partner into sex, so I absolutely will not answer those under any circumstances). Or irrelevant whining. Probably the best kind of comments come from well-meaning people who just want me to change the post in some way, which… I’m already doing. At some point I’ll finish, but for now there are too many triggers and too much potential for further harassment. And those people can easily comment on the other post I made about it, so I don’t feel like I’m losing out on that too much.

    I’m just done with it. And I’ve considered doing a post like this one, where I discuss comments, but frankly I’m just not interested in inviting more bad shit to my blog. My search terms are terrifying enough as is. But… I mean, it does need to be discussed, so I’m really glad you’re posting about it.

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  • Sara K.

    I find it ironic that the commentators who claim that you and other aces are empty of empathy don’t show any empathy to aces themselves. I’ve read that, if you want someone else to feel empathy for you, a good first step is to express empathy with them…

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