This has probably been posted elsewhere, but it’s going here too.
Tag Archives: media representation
Even if we didn’t already have a long list of reasons why “you can’t write an interesting story about an asexual character” is a ridiculous thought, I’ve found another in the variety of comments I’ve gotten on my “What To Do If You Think Your Partner Might Be Asexual” post, and considering that ace/non-ace relationships are a standard topic on ace ask blogs… it’s so clear to me how much we need stories to guide us, because people are floundering without any reference points, without an familiar framework — because the narratives that people in my culture are provided with situate sex & sexual attraction as such a foundational component of romance and this isn’t just some mix-‘n-match cut-‘n-paste; you can’t just take the sex out and leave the original narrative structure intact.
From an abstract vantage point, it’s so easy to say, “Well, just blaze your own trail,” but on the ground it’s so much harder to do that without stories to map the way for you. And I just don’t understand people who sincerely think that media and stories aren’t some of the most important influences in how we relate to other people.
Anyway, this is nothing new, but it was crossing my mind again.
This post is not going to be centered on the reassurance that people get from seeing someone like themselves in the media, although I’d argue that that’s one of the most important of representation’s effects. This post is also not going to be about how media representation can serve to create or reinforce harmful stereotypes, although a discussion of that is important too. This post is about some of the secondary positive effects that media representation can have for marginalized groups — that is, what else it is capable of, in addition to providing solace to those who are too often ignored, and how else, in our daily lives, it can be of practical use, in a more roundabout way, via reaching people outside those groups.
Although “media representation” is a broad category, this particular post will focus to some degree on fictional characters within narrative story arcs. It will also focus to some degree on the issues of the asexual spectrum, even though the concepts articulated here are applicable to any group often misunderstood and maligned.
Ace representation, though existent, is scarce, which is why it’s a frequent topic of discussion among the ace community. Fiction is powerful, and to deny that it can influence us is to be naive. That influence naturally extends to perspectives on sexuality, so in a world where asexuality is uncommon enough that many aces won’t meet any other aces but for the internet, media’s overt absence of acknowledgement creates the impression that we don’t exist — or worse, that we’re not supposed to exist.
I’m working on some more thoughtful posts off to the side, but in the mean time, I need a moment to vent about this video. What’s most frustrating about it is that she even mentions how many online resources there are for explaining asexuality, and then she goes on to talk about it in ways that prove she wasn’t actually paying attention. Either that, or her research wasn’t very thorough.
0:45 She describes her “sexual sonar”, a sort of reverse gaydar for asexual people, wherein she fails to detect the presence of people who are asexual, accounting for our excellent capacity to become unseen assassins. This might have been okay except for the fact that she describes the sexual sonar as sending out an “echo device” of libido. No no no no no. Stop making it sound as though asexuality is equivalent to not having a libido.
0:55 She relays a story in which she didn’t recognize that David Jay was in the room with her, something she attributes to her sexual energy going through him rather than bouncing off back to her for echolocation… which is uncomfortably reminiscent of how most allosexual people see us: unfinished, unwhole, missing a crucial part of being human. His asexuality made him invisible to her. As jokes go, this is one of the eerie ones where I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be laughing at.
2:51 She talks about how people with little or no sex drive have been pathologized for that, which… yes, that’s true, and that’s very important to talk about. It’s a key part of the discussion around asexuality. Now would be a good time, however, to point out that sex drive is not the determining factor of asexuality.
3:13 She outright refers to low sex drive as asexuality.
3:26 “One of the greatest things about sexuality, asexuality or not, is that you get to navigate whether you want this to change and how you’re going to find the resources to do that, or you’re going to love on you just the way you are.” That’s one of the greatest things? Really? The possibility of self-hate and going on a futile and miserable search to change something that’s not under your willpower?
3:41 She tells a story in which she pitched asexuality as a conundrum to a clergy panel. I actually liked this story, if only because of how it ended: they were stumped. Since asexuality doesn’t have much visibility, the chances are pretty low that the clergyfolk would have preformulated any responses to it. Them admitting to that is far better than responding with unconditional hate for it being a non-het orientation and better than responses that refer to it as “the gift of celibacy” and “natural purity”, a couple of things asexuals have run up against with religious people before.
4:09 As she’s telling the story, she refers to asexual people as people who “aren’t experiencing sexual desire.” No no no no no. Attraction. The word you’re looking for is attraction.
4:15 “…somebody of the same sex, opposite sex, trans, et cetera–” Not all trans* people are non-binary.
Considering the fact that she referred to celibate people as people who do experience sexual attraction but don’t have sex (which is itself inaccurate because some asexual people are celibate) you’d think she’d know how to contrast that with asexuality. Instead, she refers to asexuality as low sex drive (and, later, as lack of sexual desire) but never as lack of sexual attraction. This kind of thing is important, and I shouldn’t be seeing this continual conflation in a video that’s supposed to be already past Ace 101.