“Asexual Computer Repair” on Nathan For You

So, as of a couple days ago, the Nathan For You asexuality episode has aired! Here’s some initial comments after my first watchthrough.

(warning: will contain spoilers for this episode but nothing else in the season, afaik)

The asexual computer repair shop gig makes up the first half of a split episode, at about 9.5 minutes total. You can find the full episode here if you have cable (content warnings for a couple very pixelated implied dick pics, brief discussions of masturbation, and some inaccurate definitions of asexuality. I have not watched the second half so I don’t know if there’s anything warn-worthy): http://www.cc.com/episodes/1xvf7u/nathan-for-you-computer-repair—psychic-season-4-ep-405  There’s also a very very brief clip at the end during the credits.

(ETA: you can also watch the first portion, up through the first client pitch, for free on youtube: https://youtu.be/jf9I04Oa-hU)

The basic premise starts with Nathan (the title character, who thinks up various absurd business proposals for all sorts of businesses as a consultant) is working with a computer repair shop owner, Herman, who has a dilemma: no one believes him when he says he won’t look at his client’s nude photos (he asserts that he can resist because he already saturates all his sexual desires by watching porn at home) – because they still mistrust him as a “sexual being”

Nathan’s proposed solution? “Put the customers at ease by offering the world’s first asexual computer repair service.” Hire some asexual people with no sexual desires and you can assure the customers that their nude pics will be safe!

After interviewing several asexuals and hiring two who don’t react to “stimulating” (but actually pretty SFW) stock photos with spikes in heart rate tests, they get to work in a very silly “desexualized zone” complete with electronic keypad locks and sirens that announce any possible penetration (sorry, I couldn’t resist) by sexual people, and a sealed observation booth for Herman to direct from since he’s the only one actually trained in fixing computers. After a harrowing incident where Herman has to make a dash through the “desexualized zone” to get to the bathroom, with “sexual intruder alert” sirens blaring and an emergency “lockdown protocol” in effect, the repairs are finally completed and both the customer and Herman are satisfied with the new service.

As far as accurate representation of asexuality, it was mixed. On the one hand, they got a lot of basics right – like the 1% figure, and characters literally posting AVEN’s vis/ed forum, but they do deliberately skew the definition a first to better fit with the gag, by initially introducing it as “the 1% of americans who identify as asexual, meaning they have no sexual desires whatsoever”, which we know is not really an accurate definition.
They do later have an asexual character re-define it as “…a lack of sexual attraction, and need for sex is all that asexuality truly is. And there’s a spectrum”, so it sounds like they actually did their research decently well, but just chose to ignore some of it for the sake of plot. Which is….better but also worse?

It did find a way to incorporate asexuality into a comedy show in a non-mean spirited way, which I appreciated. They also didn’t go for the obvious “lying ‘asexual’ actually is weak to porn” gag that a less respectful show might have gone for, and I though they presented the asexual characters fairly respectfully and believably, even when they went into the nerdy ace trope; if anything it spent most of it’s time being rude to the sexual characters.

The asexual cast was definitely very white, but seemed like maybe not exclusively so? (At least to my bad-at-ethnic-boundaries eyes), which is a start I guess, but there’s a long way to go.  Four is a lot of faces for one 10 minute skit, though, so that’s a something! But then they do also fall into the “the one token girl(?*) has to be white because you can only be one minority at once” thing, and it’s still nowhere near as much diversity as they could have had in terms of age and other factors (and it totally excludes mentions of aces with libidos for obvious reason).

(*I’m not sure if that particular character was actually a woman or nonbinary or what since I wasn’t able to catch any pronouns)

ETA: so allegedly they recruit real semi-unsuspecting people for this show (which is billed as a “docu-reality show”) but considering the camerawork and the dialogue appears to incredibly scripted (and that the location of the supposed featured business has clearly been changed) I’m a little dubious. I suppose we won’t know unless any of the features aces/actors happen to not be on NDAs and ever decide to blog about it.

As far as the overall humor, I have to admit I did laugh at all the silly antics around the “desexualized” zone, especially the asexuals only sign. All the scenes where Nathan and Herman tried to pitch it to customers, on the other hand, felt pretty strained, although that was largely second hand embarrassment for Herman over the way they presented the “disclaimer: there is a sexual person here” and “so….asexuality” thins.

Overall, once I get past being peeved about the misleading “no arousal” comments, I actually like the rest of how they handled the ace-ness of the ace characters. I’m perhaps also a little more forgiving of the “haha hire aces with no arousal who won’t look at porn” and it’s basis in stereotypes than I would be usually because they manage to make it feel more like the kind of stereotyped jokes that we aces already like to make about ourselves sometimes.

Now, have some screenshots. If I ever figure out how to make proper gifs I’ll post those in a follow up post (and if anyone has gif-making tool recommendations, I’m all ears).

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Starting off with the classic 1% figure (if slightly misattributed) and a skewed definition that ignores reality to fit the plot better.

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Informative shirt just in case you were confused.

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Nice plan.

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Literal screenshots of AVEN, so they definitely did at least some research.

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Hello VisEd subforum!

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Asexual Interviewee #1 thinks about superheroes instead of sex and is wearing an orange shirt in honor of aquaman today. They also give a slightly better and expanded definition of asexuality.

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Asexual Interviewee #2 is sitting across from Nathan and not feeling any sexual attraction right now. And also has cute clothes both now and later (I really like the bunny dress at the end)

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Asexual Interviewee #3 was born asexual and will probably still be asexual upon leaving this world.

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Asexual Interviewee #4 (whose is ironically named “Randy”) is not stimulated…

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…by men with cucumbers tucked into their pants

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I remember these pulse oximeter things from when I got my wisdom teeth out.

 

 

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The small window separating the “Isolation Room” from the “Desexualized Zone”

 

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Oh hey look it’s the banner. This appears to possibly be based on a real company, though this is a fictionalized version

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Nathan’s first pitch for the asexual compute repair service is successful.

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Asexuals Only! I should print out that sign for our meetup group.

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So, after the interviews, the one female-presenting ace doesn’t get to touch a computer or talk until the super short after credits scene, which I almost missed. Not sure if they realized the implications of that.

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Warning! Warning!

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It’s time for flashing lights and sirens! But all ends well after they awkwardly stand outside the bathroom waiting for a bit.

Anyway, you can also find other reviews/reactions here – and share your own in the comments!

AV Club

C+ Comedy

Reddit episode reactions thread

AVEN reaction thread

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SF Human Rights Commission report on “Alternative Families”

Some more interesting reading on the topic of the kinds of legal protections that QPs and other non-romantic partners may desire to seek out – there’s a lot to learn here from pre-existing LGBT activism around alternative families. One document that I consider a good read on the topic is the 2009 forum on “Alternative Families” by the SF Human Rights Commission:

Not all close human relationships fit into the mold of parent, child, sibling, or spouse. Many LGBT people, former foster or emancipated youth, seniors, and people from all walks of life are estranged from their biological relatives or have no surviving family. They have no spouse and rely on the protection of alternative families without the legal protection of blood relatives. These people are more than friends and they are not lovers. They are as brothers and sisters or adults with senior mentors, and they often become caregivers when illness and infirmity strikes, but have no legal standing in hospitals, employer benefits, or in the legal line of consanguinity.

Family law mechanisms focus on spousal and parental relationships through marriage, divorce, adoption, and the emancipation of minors. However, there is no easy way to convey a legal standing between friends similar to the family rights of siblings or non-spousal domestic partnerships. There are no simple legal mechanisms to aid in the formation of caregiving cooperatives for the purpose of including the quality of care for a single ill, disabled, or single person.

Of particular interest may be Section IV: Legislative Proposals (p. 35), which proposes possible legislative solutions that could give more caregiving protections to non-blood related, non-spousal relationships.

On a state level, their suggestions include:

  • State Caregiving cooperatives, in which rather than having a single designated caregiver (which is a role not all individuals may feel able to take on alone), a group of individuals could share a contract to act as caregivers, with rights and responsibilities such as hospital visitation, ability to discuss confidential health information, ability to act as a proxy desision maker, etc. (Power of medical attorney would still rest with a single individual for practical reasons)
  • State Designated Benefeciary registries, in which any two adults not in a marriage or domestic partnership could register with the state as designated benefeciaries, and also choose which specific benefits to include (examples include inheriting property, visitation rights, insurance beneficiaries, having the right to sue in the event of wrongful death, and more. Unlike standard marriages or even domestic partnerships, partners would not need to be in a romantic relationship and could pick and choose which benefits to include, rather than an all-or-none package option. Colorado already has an examples of such a law!
  • State Declarations of Kinship, in which an individual could register another such that they would have the same family law rights as a blood brother or sister (rather than being based on spousal or domestic partner rights) – similar in procedure to the state designated beneficiary registry above, but with a somewhat more limited package of available rights.
  • Expanding domestic parterships to eliminate intimacy requirements and make then available to opposite-sex parterns as well (note – this was proposed in 2009, before marriage equality became the law nationwide)States should remove [romantic] intimacy and same-sex requirements such that the only requirement would be that the partners are in a “committed relationship of mutual caring”

Failing that, their recommendations for steps that local (i.e. city or county) governments could take include:

  • More limited local declarations of kinship and domestic partnership expansions to non-romantic partners. While local governments have much less control over family law rights than states, they could mandate expansions to some things like visitation rights at hospitals within their jurisdiction and expansion of local benefits programs, like the SF Sick Leave Ordinance that I posted about a couple weeks ago.
  • Family Law Contracting Centers, which would give residents centralized access to legal advice, standard contract language, notarization, and other resources to help them take advantage of the few benefits (like power of attorney) that are already available. Even though local governments can’t change state family law provisions, they can help fund programs that will make residents more informed and more able to access existing provisions.
  • Designated advocates for educational decisions on behalf of a minor, which (if passed at a school district level) would allow parents and legal guardians to designated additional trusted adults, who would be able to pick small children up from school, attend parent-teacher hearings, etc.

Other suggestions which are floated but not discussed in depth include:

  • The right for adults to to “disown” other adult biological family members and revoke their kinship rights
  • Co-parenting and methods for granting full parental rights to more than two people
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Asexual Prevalence in the ACHA-NCHA II

Today I wanted to highlight a pretty cool but little known new source of potential asexual prevalency information: The ACHA NCHA II. (s/o to David Jay for sending me a link to this!)

The ACHA-National College Health Assessment II (ACHA-NCHA II) is a national research survey organized by the American College Health Association (ACHA) to assist college health service providers, health educators, counselors, and administrators in collecting data about their students’ habits, behaviors, and perceptions on the most prevalent health topics.

ACHA initiated the original ACHA-NCHA in 2000 and the instrument was used nation wide through the spring 2008 data collection period. The ACHA-NCHA now provides the largest known comprehensive data set on the health of college students, providing the college health and higher education fields with a vast spectrum of information on student health. A revised survey, the ACHA-NCHA-II, has been in use since the fall 2008 data collection period.

As of Fall 2015, the ACHA-NCHA-II has revamped their sexual orientation question language, including the addition of asexual as an option – making this now one of the only large, randomized studies to ask directly about asexual identity, not just lack of sexual attraction or lack of sexual behavior. It is, however, limited to college students, so the findings may not be generalizable to the general population.

While data is released twice a year, so that we have three sequential reports with ace inclusion, I’m going to present only the most recent data from the 2016 Fall Reference Report:

Students describe themselves as:

Asexual: 6.0 % 
Bisexual: 5.7 %
Gay: 1.6 %
Lesbian: 1.0 %
Pansexual: 1.5 %
Queer: 0.7 %
Questioning: 1.4 %
Same Gender Loving 0.1 %
Straight/Heterosexual 81.1 %
Another identity: 0.9 %

That’s a big number!

On the one hand, that percentage seems unusually high when compared to Bogaert’s classic 1% finding, which was based on reported lack of sexual attraction rather than reported identity. On the other hand, the UC Campus Climate surveys – which also asked college student populations about their a/sexual orientation with similar language – had similarly higher findings at 4.6% on average, so it’s not just an outlier.

There is some speculation that the high numbers in both this and the UC surveys were a result of sexually inactive responders being confused about how to answer, rather than “real” asexuals. However, I’d argue that, first, who are we to say who’s “really asexual” vs. just “confused”, but also that an understanding of sexual orientation that includes the possibility of both fluidity and multiple overlapping identities makes this number seem less absurd. Even if this does turn out to be largely influenced by sexually inexperienced young people who not continue to identify as asexual, that’s still worthwhile to know, and the fact that they might change that identify or not be out and loud about it doesn’t invalidate the fact that they find it fitting now. While I’d still treat these findings with caution, I don’t thinks we should be dismissing them out of hand either.

In addition, we know from experience with the Ace Census that only about 69% of self-identified asexuals actually indicated that they had no sexual attraction at all to any gender, which means that measures like “no sexual attraction to any gender” capture only one segment of the actual asexual population, so that’s another possible reason why this is so much higher.

The fact that this is a study repeated every year also means that we can compare data to some extent year over year – I encourage any interested followers to look into this in more depth, but just for a quick comparison while I’m at it, here’s the data from Spring 2015 (the last report before the question change):

Students describe themselves as:
Heterosexual: 88.5 %
Gay/Lesbian: 3.3 %
Bisexual: 5.5 %
Unsure: 2.8 %

So, assuming there wasn’t a massive rise in the popularity of asexuality over the next year (highly doubtful), it’s not just people from the “unsure” group who are now checking other options like asexual  – there are, presumably, some people who might othewise have identified as a more “traditional” identity when those were the only options. Interestingly, we have precedent for this in other ace research too – in the 1999-2000 Toronto Sun/COMPAS Sex Surveys, which I’ve written about before, a phone survey that found that around 2% of respondants identified as “non-sexual” without prompting in a 1999 survey, but later found that that number jumped to 5% when “non-sexual” was actually listed as an option.

(We actually collected data on how aces respond to more vs. less inclusive questions like these in the ace census, but that analysis is still forthcoming – but it will be interesting to compare to the results here once it’s out!)

Anyway, if anyone out here is a grad student looking for a project, or just someone with a lot of time on their hands who wants to do some amateur research, there’s lots of potential fodder to work with for you here.

And finally, here’s a link to all the reports: http://www.acha-ncha.org/pubs_rpts.html

Posted in Asexual Research, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

A Designated Person

“Per the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, employees that work in SF may use paid sick leave when they or a member of their family are ill or injured for the purpose of receiving medical care, treatment, or diagnosis. Family member is defined as child, parent, legal guardian or ward, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, and spouse or registered domestic partner under any state or local law. In addition, if any employee has no spouse, or registered domestic partner, he or she may designate one person for whom the employee may use paid sick leave to provide aid or care. If you would like to designate an additional person, you may sign this form and provide the designated person’s name.”

I was filling out some forms for work recently when I was reminded of the above section of the SF Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, which is a feature that I actually really like – the fact that this expands benefits not just to the typical family and married/romantic partner, but to literally anyone you choose to designate, regardless of relationship. (It would be even better if it could make this an option even for those who do have spouses or allow multiple designated persons, although I can see why they haven’t done so).

While there has been a general trend in some benefits programs to extend benefits to not just married but also unmarried partners, these tend to remain couched in terms associated with romantic relationships. What I like about this particular language in SF  -that I don’t see often elsewhere – is that it is very deliberately neutral about what relationship a person could have with said “designated person”.

It also reflects the “designated person” relationship narrative that I’ve encountered in aro communities (though unfortunately I can’t remember who I first heard it from), in which two (o more!) people might make a commitment to care for each other and prioritize the other person in their life – to be, for example, the “designated emergency contact” on those emergency forms, or the person you designate to take you home from the hospital when you’re drugged up after surgery, or the person you designate to make medical decisions for you if you’re incapacitated.

For many people, being a  “designated person” is just one of many elements of a standard relationship, alongside other things like co-parenting and romantic intimacy and sharing finances and living together. But there’s no reason it can’t be a form of relationship in it’s own right – it’s quite possible to have a “designated person” type relationship with someone without necessarily having any of those other common relationship elements that were just mentioned. A designated person could be a QPP, a romantic partner, a relative, a roommate, a trusted friend – whoever you feel comfortable making that commitment with. It also doesn’t necessarily need to be a symmetrical approach: the person you designate may have a different person who they choose to trust with that responsibility, and that’s perfectly fine. And the person you designate for one type of responsibility may not be the same as who you designate for something else.

Also, while this type of relationship approach may be particularly appealing to many aro people who may never have a spouse or romantic partner to list as their designated person, they are hardly the only ones for whom it is useful. For instance, in the example I mentioned above, I believe that that the addition of that language was likely heavily influenced by the experiences of San Francisco’s LGBT community during the AIDS crisis, as well as the experiences of LGBT elders now as they deal with aging and end-of-life care decisions. For many LGBT people during the AIDS crisis, they had lost touch with or could not trust their birth family and may not have any children; those who had romantic partners had no way of getting legal recognition for them, and many others did not necessarily have a designated romantic partner. As a result, many of the kinship and caregiving relationship that people formed were not based on blood relation or marriage – but they struggled to have these relationships recognized by hospitals who would deny access, employers who would deny leave, etc, just as many ace and aro people struggle to have their alternative relationships acknowledged now.

Because of this, this is an issue where I see a lot of opportunities for ace and aro communities to join with general LGBT organizationsto pursue shared goals.

Posted in aromantic, Healthcare, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Asexual (The Echoes, c. 1985) – lyrics

Someone found and introduced this song on AVEN a few months ago and it was too amazing not to share. I couldn’t find the lyrics anywhere yet, so here’s a quick transcript.

The song is from 1985 (re-released in 2000), by the band The Echoes.

(There’s another video here too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkerdwqsNbc)

She walks around in designer jeans
but she don’t know what it really means
Don’t try to make her ’cause you’re wasting your time
Making love never crosses her mind

She’s Asexual,
All my lines are ineffectual,
A-a-a-a-a-a-asexual

Her only is interest is electronic toys
She’s not the kind of girl that plays with boys
I can’t believe that she’s so unaware
Her lights are on but no one’s home down stairs

Asexual,
All my lines are ineffectual,
A-a-a-a-a-a-asexual

I take her to the movies
I call her on the phone
We always go out dancing,
But we’re never all alone

I say let’s get together
We can have a lot of fun
She say’s she’ll be right over
But you know she never comes

[instrumental break]

I understand that she’s got no desire
I only wish she wouldn’t set me on fire
Just when I think I’ve got her in my power
10 minutes later it’s an ice cold shower.

Asexual,
All my lines are ineffectual,
A-a-a-a-a-a-asexual

I take her to the movies
I call her on the phone
We always go out dancing,
but we’re never all alone

I say let’s get together
We can have a lot of fun
She say’s she’ll be right over
But you know she never comes

She’s Asexual,
All my lines are ineffectual,
A-a-a-a-a-a-asexual

A-a-a-a-a-a-asexual

A-a-a-a-a-a-asexual

A-a-a-a-a-a-asexual

(Never fools around)
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*Not sure about this line – “mack” (slang, to hit on/seduce a girl) would make more sense, but it really sounds like they are saying “make” so I’m not sure. Update: Apparently “make” is also slang for having sex, so that’s probably the correct word.

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Ace Competent Healthcare Resources

As some of you may have seen in my recent tumblr post, I’ve been working on developing a masterpost of ace healthcare related resources or writings that I could pass around as a reference for aces or allies interested in learning more about ace healthcare issues (for example, I was originally working on this for an LGBTQ health conference I was checking out, in case anyone I chatted up there might be interested in reading more). RFAS already has some great link posts for mental healthcare (that were a big inspiration for this!), but I was looking for something that covers physical healthcare as well.

Thanks to the help of everyone who responded to that post, I now have a working draft of a resources guide put together here.

It’s still not completely comprehensive (I really need to add more links to stuff about Addyi/Flibanserin and FSD, for example, and it’s heavier on mental healthcare than physical healthcare) but it’s decent enough that I’m starting to pass it on to people who express interest in working together to learn about ace healthcare issues, until a better alternative arises.

It’s also not at all polished or and not all the links have been thoroughly vetted, but it should hold until a more developed resource can be created. It’s designed as a living digital document, so it is constantly in a state of being revised and updated – so if you have feedback on how to make it better, I am always open to hear it!

If you are interested in ace healthcare, feel free to take a look now, and feel free to pass it on to anyone you know who might find it useful.

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Drug Watch: New Addyi Marketing Campaign, “Find My Spark”

So for those of you who remember Addyi (aka Flibanserin, the anti-HSDD drug that went through a lot of controversy over it’s FDA approval and has been warily watched by the ace community), the company that produces it (Valeant) has launched a marketing campaign called “find my spark” (associated website is here).

The drugmaker also announced it would re-launch its sexual dysfunction pill Addyi. Separately, Valeant announced a new campaign, Find My Spark, that was developed in tandem with the American Sexual Health Association.

Valeant acquired Addyi in its buyout of Sprout Pharmaceuticals in 2015 for $1 billion. Addyi received FDA approval the same month as a treatment for hypoactive sexual disorder in premenopausal women.

The campaign’s website, findmyspark.com, offers a sex health quiz and talking tips for patients to discuss hypoactive sexual disorder with their doctor but does not specifically mention the drug. Valeant plans to kick off the re-launch of Addyi in March, according to its earnings presentation.

This is definitely something that the ace community should keep an eye on.

The site doesn’t sell Addyi specifically, but rather encourages women to talk to their doctors about FSD (female sexual dysfunction, the salesy term for HSDD, FSIAD, lubrication  or vaginal pain problems, and related sexual disorders that all get lumped together regardless of whether the etiology is at all similar) – which if anything is probably more concerning for us in the ace community. This big push is likely in response to the lackluster sales of Addyi so far (because, you know, it’s expensive, barely effective, and the problems it “treats” are half made up), and the fact that the FDA’s limits on early marketing have now long expired.

I haven’t had a chance to take  deep dive into the site’s contents yet, but at first glance it’s not encouraging.
Example: literally the first quote on their personal stories page is

“I wanted to want sex because my husband is very sexual and we had had a great sex life when we were younger.”

And if you’re thinking “well, it could be worse” the second quote is:

“I have an amazing husband, three incredible children and a wonderful life. The only thing missing: I never wanted to have sex…we had sex, usually a couple of times a week. And while I did it, part of me dreaded it. Every time.”

They also have a “my sexual health” quiz, and 95% of the results ended with the captcha code not working (bad web design?) or other technical glitches, but on the two that went through, one suggested that I probably did not have FSD, but one did. I’ll try to play around and see if I can figure out what responses trigger what suggestions. notably, it sends you to the “learn more about FSD” page no matter what answer you pick.

Result

Don’t hold us to this, but based on your score it seems likely that you don’t have a female sexual dysfunction (FSD or female sexual difficulty). Of course, only a licensed sex therapist or healthcare provider can tell you for certain. In the meantime, learn more about FSD.

Result

Excuse our bedside manner, but based on your results, something may be bothering you. Only a licensed sex therapist or healthcare provider can tell you what though. In the meantime, learn more about female sexual dysfunction (FSD or female sexual difficulties).

(These are the two answers I was able to see – not sure if there are additional options or not)

That actual “learn more” page is *slightly* better – it at least includes semi-acknowledgments like “There are some who are satisfied just getting their cuddle on”, but there’s still an overall theme of “sex is great! Everyone likes sex (at least a little)! And if you don’t, we can fix that!” that makes those comments a little too late.

The FAQ does include the question, “If I don’t want sex, is there something wrong with me?” to which the answer is:

Every woman’s libido is different. Some women keep their libido and some women experience dips as they age. Also, the stress of daily life, relationship issues, and hormonal changes as a result of menopause can impact your libido.

While it could have been worse (the lowest bar of all to pass), they rather conspicuosly don’t have anything that actually indicates “having low libido doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with you”. And of course, no acknowledgment of asexuality anywhere, but tbh I am less surprised by that – I don’t have high expectations from this group.

(on a side note, I am also a bit miffed that they seemed to be going for a black/purple/white color scheme. Like, really?)

I’ll try to post some more thorough commentary once I get a chance to explore things a bit more, but in the meantime, if anyone else has thoughts I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Posted in Asexual Activism, Healthcare | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Marriage Tax Bonuses and Penalties

A/N – this is a post about the United States – your situation may be very different if you live elsewhere, as most other major countries don’t do taxes the same way the us does.

When discussing the idea of marriage from an aromantic or asexual perspective, one of the common refrains you may hear is “maybe I’ll get married just for the tax benefits”. After all, one of the significant changes that marriage brings (as opposed to just living together, which has its own financial benefits) is that a couple will now be considered a single “household” under the law, and will be taxed accordingly – which in some cases can indeed bring potential savings when tax day comes around, which is referred to as the marriage bonus.

However, the issue is a little more complicated that that. While marriage can lower the tax burden for many married couples, for other couples getting married will actually increase the amount of taxes they owe, in what is known as the marriage penalty.

What determines whether a particular couple will receive a marriage benefit or a marriage penalty? You can read a little more about the mathy details and see a nifty chart here, but the short summary is that:

  • Couples where one partner has either no income or an relatively much lower income will almost always benefit from marriage
  • But couples where both partners have the similar incomes may instead face tax penalties from marriage (if their combined income can bump them up into a higher tax bracket than they would be in otherwise). Couples at the upper or lower ends of the income bracket will be the most strongly affected.

This is another part of the reason why some “millenials” avoid getting married – for many couples where both work (as is increasingly required as wages stagnate) it isn’t actually always financially beneficial to get married, at least from a tax perspective. (Though inheritance rights, child custody, insurance, joint property, social security and other benefits of marriage may still make the tax penalty worth it for some).

This “marriage penalty” is also a big deal for disabled, low-income, and other vulnerable couples  – some government benefits like disability are reduced for married couples as opposed to individuals filing separately, and filing as a married couple can push many low income people over thresholds for welfare support like the Earned Income Tax Credit that they would have been eligible for if they filed separately.  If you’re barely scraping by already, that small difference can be crucial, which means that many couples that may want to be married may not be financially able to.

(The reason for this is that the US tax policy is based on the idea that ‘two households with the same overall income should pay the some overall in taxes’, which can lead to uneven treatment of married and unmarried couples; on the other hand, other systems (like in many parts of europe) that rate taxes on an individual rather than household basis may emphasize that ‘unmarried couples should pay the same in taxes as equivalent married couples’, which can instead lead to uneven treatment of single income vs. dual income households. So it comes down to which form of equity you personally consider more important)

What does this mean for ace communities?

As a community with a high interest in being creative with relationship structures – whether that means things like pursuing committed romantic relationships outside the structure of traditional marriage, considering a “marriage of convenience” with a platonic pal for practical benefits, polyamory, or other nontraditional forms of relationships, knowing how things like marriage will actually affect your particular situation is important.

And while one common narrative gripe among single communities is that “married couples get all the tax benefits and that’s not fair”, that actually isn’t always the case – and it’s especially unlikely for people considering relationships that don’t fit into the heterosexual “one high income breadwinner and one no income homemaker” mold.(Who are also more likely to be queer, to be lower income, to be non-white, etc.)

That is, when we talk about things like “the tax benefits of married people”, we should acknowledge that those benefits are only accessible to one (often more privileged) segment of married couples – and that many other couples are actually penalized for marriage instead (and we should keep that in mind when we catch ourselves griping about the tax code being unfair to unmarried people).

That’s something to be aware of when we take a serious look at how we want to navigate the current legal system for relationships, as well as when we think about proposals for how we’d ideally like that legal landscape to look in the future. (Of course, this isn’t touching all the other legal aspects of marriage like child custody and visitation rights and inheritance and all that – those are all complicated matters that deserve their own posts).

Further reading:

NYT article on Marriage Bonuses and Penalties, with nifty graphs

Marriage Penalties and Bonuses explanations from the Tax Foundation

Marriage Penalties on Wikipedia

Deeper analysis of how Marriage Tax Penalties affect low-income couples

A really dense detailed look at US tax policies and marriage

A mathy comparison of the “neutrality” of different types of tax systems WRT marriage


A/N – this is an expanded and cleaned up version of a comment I originally posted here.

 

 

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Help Wanted: Crowdsourcing a Comprehensive Asexual Research Bibliography!

Now that the Asexual Explorations bibliography has officially been retired, there is a dearth of good resources for people who want to start reading up on asexual research but have no idea where to start. Bibliographies – whether comprehensive or more finely curated – help people discover more about a field by indexing relevant article in one place, instead of leaving people to stumble around on search engines on their own.

That’s where the asexual research zotero library comes in  – the goal here is to initially work on a comprehensive bibliography of as much known asexual research as possible, followed by curated sub-lists which will be more streamlined and accessible for people looking for research on a specific topic.

Please see the link below for some more details, or shoot me an email at sennkestra@gmail.com if you want to help or if you have any questions or suggestions! We are super open to any feedback or suggestions anyone might have for how to structure or run this project, since it’s the first time we’ve tried anything like this.

http://asexualresearch.tumblr.com/post/156615315572/asexual-research-zotero-bibliography

Posted in Announcements, Asexual Activism, Asexual Research, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Feedback Wanted: Issues Aces Face

Back in 2016, I created two quick slides listing common ace issues for a general asexuality 101 presentation at Creating Change:

At the time, the main issues I highlighted were:

  • Rejection, Denial, or belittlement of ace identities and experiences
  • Limited research data
  • Difficulty accessing competent healthcare
  • Limited public awareness
  • Lack of community resources
  • Lack of good representation and role models
  • Lack of good models for nonsexual or nonromantic relationship
  • Sexual harassment and sexual assault
  • Pressure to be more sexual/sexually active
  • Intersectional issues (heterosexism, cissexism, racism, ableism, etc.)

Now, I’m hoping to re-use these slides to make some more general stock presentations, as well as individual handouts (which would also include additional text). But before I do that, I wanted to get feedback from other community members on how you feel about this current list:

  • Is there anything that seems to be missing?
  • Is there anything that you think could be grouped together under a broader heading?
  • Is there anything that seems oddly specific or oddly irrelevant compared to the other items?
  • Is there anything that you think would be better called something else?

I am looking to keep the total list to no more than 10-12 (fewer is better) for brevity’s sake – this is meant to be a brief overview, not a deep dive, which is when I am trying to group together similar issues when possible. The original slides came with additional verbal explanations of each item, and any handouts would have some explanatory text added, so the general “name” of each issue can be fairly vague (ex. “lack of community resources” includes things like a lack of offline groups, lack of historical documentation, lack of experienced leaders, lack of assets like money, physical spaces,  and print resources, etc.).

As an example, some feedback that I have gotten already includes a suggestion to include something about the pressure to be an “unassailable ace” and stand in for the whole community, and to consider combining pressure to be more sexually active with sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Thanks in advance for any thoughts you have to offer!

(also, if you have thoughts on specific sub-issues that you think are most important to  mention in any verbal explanations or additional explanatory text, feel free to mention those as well – I’m not quite at that stage yet but I can definitely file away any comments for future reference)

Posted in Asexual Activism, Awareness Outreach and Education, Uncategorized | 16 Comments