Hi, folks. If you don’t mind, let’s sit down and have a talk. An actual, honest talk, if you will.
This is a post about the target audience of imperative grammar (i.e. command words) in the context of talking about abuse in relationships. It’s also a post about making moral-grounds proclamations about sexual violence. It’s also a post about the internalized obligation to have sex. It’s also a post about that thing that we usually call victim-blaming. It may even be a post about rape culture in the guise of fighting rape culture? And, basically, yelling at abuse victims to stop getting abused.
But more specifically, this is a post about this post [cw: bad], which at this time of writing has over fifteen thousand notes. And it’s also a post about my confusion regarding the trajectory of its tumblr reblog chain.
I’m very physically tired right now, I’m sorry. Maybe under different circumstances I wouldn’t feel like there’s a sense of urgency to publish this post as soon as I can type it out rather than revise it into something a little less tired sounding.
The linked post is broken into two parts (the initial post and the self-reblog with added commentary). I’m going to just put a line between the two parts and quote the thing in full here, with bolding added on the relevant imperatives:
“Don’t force yourself into sexual situation just to satisfy your partner” should never be a radical statement
This isn’t a matter of [discord]. If you don’t like sex or are meh about it, then don’t force yourself to do it just for your partner. Sex isn’t a task. Sex isn’t a requirement for a relationship. If you are afraid not wanting sex is a dealbreaker for your partner, talk with them about it.
Sit down and have an actual honest talk about the matter. If your partner prefers to be with someone who is into sex while you aren’t then it’s more fair for both of you if you split up, than to try to keep together a relationship that wouldn’t work. A person who is sex repulsed/uninterested in sex deserves a partner that will respect that, and a person who likes sex deserves a partner who will respect that. Stop perpetrating bad sex rethoric for fuck’s sake
To recap what this is saying: Don’t force yourself. Sit down. Have a talk. Stop perpetuating bad sex rhetoric.
These sentences are 1) written in imperative form (i.e. commands) 2) directed (via second person, i.e. “you” and “your”) at an audience of people who “don’t like sex or are meh about it,” have a “partner,” a partner who is presumed to probably want sex, and are considering whether to (or might have already) “forced [themselves]” into having sex with that partner. The reverse, or the other half involved here, is not addressed as part of the audience.
Well, first of all, what the hell is this. How– I mean. How do you start from a basic premise of “people shouldn’t be forced into sex” (good, check) and stumble your way into saying, hey, you know who needs to be reprimanded here? The people who were forced to have sex. Because they (supposedly) did it all to themselves (by internalizing the guilt and sense of obligation), and therefore, to fix this? We’ve gotta (exhasperatedly) tell them to just stop it! “Sit down and have an actual honest talk”! “Stop perpetrating”! “For fuck’s sake”!
What the actual true genuine hell.
You know what this reminds me of? This reminds me of my roundup of Examples of Bad Ace Advice, specifically the parts where self-appointed advisors give a thoughtless “Talk to him about it” or “Talk things out with him” or “Talking regularly with your partner elevates [sic] any worry” when that kind of simplistic advice makes no sense in the specific context.
Hey, you know what’s an unfortunate fact of the world? When someone is taking advantage of you, it’s not always possible to simply talk them out of taking advantage of you.
Why is the audience of that post the audience that was chosen for that post? Why is the tone of that post the tone that was chosen for that audience?
Here’s what I do appreciate: the idea that we need to challenge our internal self-talk regarding sex. Yeah, we do. Here’s what’s wrong with this particular attempt: attacking victims of sexual coercion as literally “perpetrating” (exact word) the problem, like they’re the main party at fault.
Now here’s what has me the most confused about all this:
The version I linked was reblogged through “Life of an Asexual,” which is a fairly standard pro-ace/ace ed blog. I checked who they reblogged it from, and one of their recent reblogs is this [moving gif at link], proclaiming their blog “safe for asexuals,” whatever you want to take that to mean. Okay. I checked who they reblogged it from, and oh look, same post. Okay. So I checked who they reblogged it from, and I checked who they reblogged it from, and I found a surprise candidate for “blog whose theme is least compatible with loading in my browser,” which also reblogged this list of terms/definitions that really makes me question what conversations I’ve been missing out on and since when all of those have been canonized — but also has a neutral mention of asexuality (which is practically an endorsement in this climate), so there’s that. The chain is looking solidly pro-ace so far. Who did they reblog it from? A person whose recent asexual-related posts are mostly negative. And the person they reblogged it from is the OP, whose recent asexual-related posts are even more negative.
What the heck happened here?
It’s not that I expect everyone to be on each other’s blocklists — what does surprise me is that this post, a post pretty clearly yelling at sex-repulsed+indifferent people for being sexually coerced, would be taken up from its “spitting at aces” context and start being circulated without comment among aces who reblog offhandly-ace and pro-ace posts.
So, really, I know we need more “Sex isn’t a requirement for a relationship” messages circulating, I know that’s good and it’s fine to want that on your blog, just, uh, maybe… maybe reassure me I’m not just seeing things? And that this particular instance of trying to get that message across is, actually, treating abuse victims like the problem? Can somebody reality-check me in the comments here? I’m very tired.