TMI Time: Let’s talk about sex toys!

Content warning for explicit discussion of sexuality and sexual behavior, masturbation, and sex toys. May contain external; links which should be assumed nsfw and visit-at-your-own-risk.

So, over on tumblr redbeardace made a very valid point that while ace communities have a lot of theoretical discussions about things like sex drive and masturbation, there’s often very little discussion about the specific topic of sex toys, which for many people are a big part of solo sexual play.

So, let’s change that! This is an open thread for anything you’d like to say or ask about masturbation, sex toys, or anything on those lines that you may not have felt comfortable saying anywhere else!

Some food for thought:

  • Do you use sex toys? Why or why not?
  • What kinds of sex toys do you particular like or dislike?
  • Are you comfortable talking about things like sex toys and masturbation? If not, why is that and what could make it more comfortable for you?
  • Do you think being ace affects your opinion of or use of sex toys, or your willingness to talk about using them?
  • Do you have any reccommendations for or against specific toys?
  • Any questions about certain kinds of toys that you’ve always wanted to ask?

 

Anonymous comments should be enabled, so feel free to use a pseudonym if you’d rather not be linked to this kind of conversation. However, please keep the conversation respectful and remember that everyone has different likes and dislikes, and that’s not a bad thing.

Posted in Open Thread, Storytime | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

Wanted: Aces and Aros at Creating Change 2017 in Philadelphia!

Hello followers! If any of you are thinking about attending Creating Change this year or plan to submit proposals, please hit me up! I’m part of a facebook group for Aces and Aros at Creating Change and we’ve just started the process of proposal drafting, so nows the time to get connected – we’d love to get in touch with any of you who might be there.

The group also does a lot of planning more casual stuff at CC like group lunches and dinners and hangouts in the ace suite, so you should totally join even if you just plan on attending and not running a workshop.

Aces Wild will also be hosting an ace/aro suite this year which will most likely be open to non-badged attendees – it’s pretty sweet (get it?).

If you’d be interested in joining the facebook group, shoot me an email at asexualitysf@gmail.com for an invite.

About Creating Change:

CC is the big annual conference for all the big-name LGBTQ organizers, with an emphasis on professional development, and it’s happening in January 18-22 in Philadelphia for 2017.

It’s one of the best ways for the ace community to form connections with big-name LGBT leaders and formal LGBT organizers. It’s also super expensive to attend (like $200+ reg fees, plus travel and hotel costs….) but there are some limited student and low-income scholarships and the like – though I’ve heard they are hard to get so if you want to try for one you should apply as soon as they open.

You can also volunteer a certain number of hours to get free admission on the days you volunteer.

Posted in Asexual Activism, Awareness Outreach and Education, Community Organizing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Excerpt from Sex and the Significant Americans (1965)

First, a big shoutout to my mom for finding this as a used book, knowing it was relevant to my interests and bringing it back for me!

Also, if this kind of historical snippet is up your alley, consider joining the asexual history interest group.


When it comes to researching the history of “asexuality” before communities began to form under that name in the late nineties, one set of sources that I think can provide interesting insight is in older academic and popular works of psychology, sociology, and sexology. While such books rarely refer to “asexuals” in the same terms or with the same models we use today, they do frequently make references to individuals with low libido or complete lack of interest, often describing experiences that in many ways mirror the personal testimony of aces today.

As with any research on the sexualities of individuals in a time and culture where different sexual paradigms prevailed, I don’t think it’s appropriate to argue whether or not  any of these populations described were or were not asexual – but I think we can definitely see them as something like our cultural ancestors, and we can definitely see the seeds of the patterns that currently pervade modern cultural and academic discussions of asexual people and communities.

For this post, I wanted to share a short excerpt I stumbled upon from a 1965 book titled “Sex and the Significant Americans”, a pop psych style overview of the sex lives of

“Significant Americans….a roughly representative group of the leadership echelon, the decision-making, policy-forming people, the most clearly successful, as success is currently conceived. In other investigations people like them have been designated Elites, Eminents, Top Influentials, and more academically, Upper Middle Class.”

The findings of the book are drawn from personal interviews with 437 “significant americans” – government officials, business executives, judges, specialist physicians, professors, military officers, clergy and artists (mostly male, but with a few women). Single women were deemed “significant” by the same standards as men, while married women, as well as the recently widowed or divorced  were considered “significant” if their husbands were (hello, sexism).

It’s a popular press book from the 1960s, and it kind of shows. There’s definitely a lot of embedded gender roles, and it’s aggressively heterosexual – it very carefully never mentions anything about same-sex encounters (despite citing Kinsey’s reports, so lol). That also means that it reads very differently from more modern, “sexual orientation” approaches to a/sexuality. Instead of framing asexuality as a sexual orientation compared to being gay or bi, books like this one (and other sexological works from this time period) are more likely to discuss asexuality-like experiences in terms of lack of sex drive, lack of sexual desire, or low libido, rather than using a [lack of] gender preference frame.

In particular, this book contains a passage that many modern aces may find familiar in a section on “sexual sublimation” (emphasis added by me):

“Sublimation, too, can do with a second look. In recent years it has been intellectually fashionable to point out that sexual sublimation is exceedingly difficult to pull off and quite dangerous to mental health should one succeed. The people who provided the information for this study challenge both of those assumptions. Many of these career dominated people have channeled almost the whole of their energies into success aspirations. For some it had been practically a necessity to do so in order to complete their education and carry the grueling responsibilities and workloads of their early years. Some now regret that they were as successful at sublimation as they were; now they would like to recapture the sexual vitality which they relegated to disuse, but they have become different people and it is impossible to go back. We are, of course, dealing here with a highly educated group of people, a selected group in the sense that they have demanding jobs that usually require a great deal of discipline. In other classes the frequency and success of sublimation may be very different. Nevertheless, a great many of these prominent people have been able to inhibit the sexual side of their nature without visibly jeopardizing their mental health or their spectacular career success.

Some, of course, seem to have paid for successful sublimations – depending on what one means by “paying a price”. It is very difficult to weight a distinguished scientific or diplomatic career built by endless hours of hard discipline against a presumably enriched personal sexual life which the subject might have had if he had lived more like an ordinary man. This raises questions of moral value which go beyond considerations of individual frustration or fulfillment. It can and has been argued that talented and highly placed people have a public responsibility to make whatever personal sacrifice may be entailed in order to carry out their obligations to society. At least some of the Significant Americans accept this logic and defend it as an altogether reasonable requirement.

Furthermore, what is often interpreted as sexual sublimation in the interests of career has in many cases not been sublimation at all. For some people there has always been low sexual energy or absence of sexual awakening, hence no pressing libidinal urge to be inhibited. It has been suggested in much serious professional writing that low sex capacity may be associated with outstanding academic and later occupational achievement in just this way. Whatever the cause and effect connection, it is in line with the self-description and self-analysis of a substantial minority of those whom we interviewed that the absence of a clear sexual valence in their lives is not the result of deliberate inhibition. “It’s never been that important to me – much less a problem”.

This comes from chapter 9, “Against the Grain”, which in general details instances of dissatisfaction with sex and marriage that run counter to common social sexual expectations – though not all of these instances are quite so directly relevant to the modern asexual experience, some definitely makes for interesting further reading for those who would like to dive deeper through this kind of period perspective.

As for the word “asexual” itself, it doesn’t get mentioned much in the book, but there is an offhand reference in the following chapter, which serves as a concluding overview, where we see this statement:

The biological fact of heterosexuality is not so much a determining fact of life as a condition upon which people build radically different life facts. The sexually expressive, the asexual, the apathetic, the hostile – all have built their characteristics upon the biological and cultural substructure of a two-sex order, but they have done it so differently that they are strangers to one another in this important regard, however close their affinities on politics, recreational or aesthetic matters.


Source:

Cuber, John Frank, and Peggy B. Harroff. Sex and the significant Americans: A study of sexual behavior among the affluent. Penguin Books, 1966.

Posted in Ace History | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

First Clue

When I was at Creating Change in Denver, Colorado in 2015, one of the organizations there was the storytelling project First Clue – they had a nifty booth set up where people could make little polaroids of themselves with a short quote about how they identified, and what their “first clue” was. The First Clue project describes these as

 A new beginning to the narrative that starts long before “when did you know?” or your “coming out” story. It is about the small, private moments when you begin to discover who you really are.

For me, my “first clue story” starts around when I was in middle school, when my dad was enrolled in a sexual health study study called Talking Parents, Healthy Teens. On my dad’s part, that meant attending periodic workplace training sessions on how to talk to your kids about things like sexuality, safe sex, consent, relationships, friendships, and related topics. On my part, it means getting occasional lessons/games about said topics and filling out surveys every few months about when and how I talked to my parents about sex, my sexual behaviors, how I felt about sexuality, and a few other things.

At the time, I mostly though it was a great study because they gave me a $20 Target gift certificate for every survey I filled out. Plus, I thought filling out the survey and bubbling in all the bubbles was fun anyway. (What can I say, I’ve always been a nerd).

When completing these surveys, one of the questions that appeared went something like this(1):

Are you….

A. Only attracted to boys
B. Mostly attracted to boys, but a little attracted to girls
C. Equally attracted to both  / unsure
D. Mostly attracted to girls, but a little attracted to boys.
E. Only attracted to girls

Little me enthusiastically checked of “C”, because well, I’m definitely kind of unsure, but I also definitely don’t have a preference for one gender over another!

At the time I didn’t really think all that much of it; I was just fantasizing about what I could get with that Target gift card. In retrospect, though, that answer was kind of glaringly queer – older me would like to point out to younger me that “Oh that’s easy! I’m equally (un)interested in both”(2) is kind of not at all how most (straight) people think, and that might actually be kind of significant. 

I do think it’s a huge credit to my parents and peers, though, that I was even in a place where I could think of being as interested in girls as in boys as completely unremarkable (3). I had the good fortune to grow up with an incredible open-minded family who didn’t take heterosexuality for granted and made it clear that same-sex attraction and relationships were just as normal and valid as heterosexual ones.

Despite basically checking off the bisexual box on the survey, though, I still never…made the leap that “oh, this is what people mean by LGBT”. After all, gay and even bi people are boys and girls who have crushes on boys and girls, and that’s not me!

At the same time, though, I do remember that I never went the other way and thought of myself as straight either. Instead, I was just…nothing. My identity was just “not interested”.

It would take years before I really started thinking more deeply about the whole sexuality thing, and eventually come to terms with the fact that I was ace and queer and all that. But for me, I think this was that “first clue” that something different was going down.

Followers, I’d love to hear any of your own “first clue” stories in the comments!


(1) It’s been way too many years for me to remember the details, and I can’t find it online, so I have no idea whether it was worded as like, sexual attraction, sexual interest, wanting a relationship with, romantic interest, or what. But those details aren’t really important for the purposes of this post.

(2) Which is quite binarist, yes, but at like 12 I wasn’t exactly educated on the gender spectrum yet.

(3) One of the things I will forever be grateful to my family and peers for is the fact that, as I started exploring and questioning my sexuality (and to a lesser extent, my gender) I never had to be afraid of what I might find. I was confused, questioning, unsure – but never afraid. I worried about being wrong, or jumping to conclusions; I never had to worry about losing the support and goodwill of my family or friends, no matter what the outcome might be. To know that my family and most of my friends would be equally happy with a potential partner of any gender  – and that they were equally fine with me bringing home no one at all – made the whole process of questioning 1000x easier and less frightening.  I can only hope for a future where an experience like this is the norm rather than an incredibly rare miracle.

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Joy

At some point around when I was in elementary school,  I made the mostly disastrously decision to play softball, which is, as it turns out, an incredibly boring sport which involves spending 90% of your time standing around kicking holes in the dust waiting for something to happen.

But there was one good thing that came of it.

I was on my way to practice, or coming back, I don’t remember which – but the important thing was that I was still in my uniform: black shirt, those staticky white pants, a baseball cap over my short-so-I-barely-have-to-brush-it hair. My unisex uniform. We had stopped at a garage sale to look around, and I was picking up this pink and brown fleece vest (which, in retrospect, sounds like a horrible color combination but young me wasn’t exactly known for good taste in fashion) when I heard a voice from behind me:

“Oh, I think that one’s actually meant for girls”

Someone else at the sale quickly jumped in to correct them – “that is a girl!” But I was still stuck on the first comment – someone actually thought I wasn’t a girl! I  had always been a tomboy, sure, and I’d never have anyone pull out the old gender roles and tell me I couldn’t do something because I wasn’t a boy. But at the same time, I’d never had anyone believe that I could actually be a boy.

At the time, I didn’t really think much of what that meant, that that single comment had left me with such a lingering warm and fuzzy feeling, to the extent that I remember such specific details even to this day. But I think it was the first time that the question of gender first started to crack for me, even if it’s didn’t really start hatching open til years later.

When it comes to talking about gender and all that, the thing that has always shaped my experience the most has never been the negative things – sure, there have been the body issues with breasts and menstruation; there has been odd discomfort with being in a room full of women and being told that you belong because you share something special, yet still feeling out of place. But those never stuck with me in the same way.

What first comes to my mind when I think of how to feel about gender is joy – that feeling of joy I felt the first time I had someone assume I was anything other than female. The thrill I wish for but haven’t quite managed to find since.

I can use drugs to make the bleeding stop. I can bind my chest on the days where that’s what I need. And that helps, it really does. But it doesn’t bring that same kind of deep-seated satisfaction that I had that time.

It’s not that I’ve ever been that invested in passing. I don’t even have anything that I really want to pass as. I’m just painfully aware, that no matter what I wear or how I wear it, I get read as a girl. A girl with with an androgynous look, or a girl in really great drag – but still a girl. Maybe dfab instead, if people are a little more enlightened. Sure, people are great about asking for pronouns just in case, and all that. They do exactly what they are supposed to – but it’s not the same. And it’s not like I hate it – I still identify as mostly just a cis-girl, at least nominally. But there are some days where I just wish for something else.

I’ve always had a bit of a baby face, and smallish frame. I’m not particularly feminine, but not particularly androgynous either. I’ve always had hips that are a little too wide, shoulders a little too small, face a little too delicate. And I don’t really plan on changing that, or really need to. But I also wonder – what it would be like, if there were ways to change ourselves without painful surgery that yields limited results. If I could drag the sliders on a character design too for the real world instead of just fantasizing in my head. I wonder if I might be calling myself something else, in another world or another life.

Unfortunately, we live in a reality where that isn’t available. And my identity is shaped but that reality. But sometimes, I wonder.

*   *   *

The closest I get to that feeling again is something like 15 years later, when I’m walking down the street downtown, past the rows of resident panhandlers. Most of them are quite polite, but sometimes they get a little aggressive. This one is muttering  an insult about my hair and my clothes under his breath as I pass by:

“…can’t even tell if you’re supposed to be a dude or a lady…”

It’s supposed to be an insult, but all I can feel is joy.

Posted in Genderfeels, Storytime | 2 Comments

In the News: Pentagon Lifts Transgender Military Service Ban

As of today, the pentagon has officially ended the ban on transgender individuals in the armed forces. This means that current trans members of the military can be open about their identities without being discharged; the army will also begin covering the medical costs of transition for current service members.

Training and medical program changes will be implemented over the next year or so, but trans military members can serve openly beginning today.

On the other hand, the army has implemented a waiting period of 18 months for potential new trans recruits – that is, trans people who want to join the military after transition must live in their new gender identity and be “free from distress or impairment” for 18 months (1.5 years) before they will be allowed to enlist.

Read more here and here and here

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Asexual Awareness Week is Back!

This year’s dates for Asexual Awareness Week have just been announced – this year’s AAW will be October 23-29!

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Asexual Awareness Week is an international campaign that seeks to educate about asexual, aromantic, demisexual, and grey-asexual experiences and to create materials that are accessible to our community and our allies around the world.

We primarily fulfill our mission through campus or community planned Asexual Awareness Week events that include at least one workshop, lecture, or presentation about asexuality.

This year we are targeting October 23th – 29th, 2016, for Asexual Awareness Week. While we have a coordinated date, we understand that some communities and campuses won’t be able to adhere to that date. We encourage these folks to still hold an event at whatever time works best for their community, and to let us know about it so that we can add it to our events page!

To learn more about Asexual Awareness Week, check out aceweek.org!

You can also add your local AAW events to the map here.

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In the News: EEOC pushes for Title VII interpretation banning Sexual Orientation Discrimination in the workplace

Bit of interesting news: http://www.npr.org/2016/03/23/471601947/federal-state-moves-aim-to-protect-lgbt-workers

The main points:

  • Earlier this month, the EEOC filed several lawsuits alleging that companies had violated Title VII by disciminating against employees based on their sexual orientation.
  • Title VII is the section of the Civil Rights law of 1964 that bans sex[i.e. gender]-based discrimination in the workplace.It has also been interpreted in courts as banning sexual harassment as well – on the grounds that sexually harassing employees or coworkers in inherently also a form of gender-based discrimination; it has also used to protect transgender and other gender-nonconforming employees on similar grounds.
  • The EEOC (Employment Equal Opportunity Commission) is a government organization tasked with enforcing federal antidiscrimination laws like Title VII, by filing lawsuits against employers who violate them
  • The EEOC has recently begun to argue that, under their interpretation, Title VII also bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, as discrimination based on sexual orientation is also inherently based on gender. (Title VII has previously not been interpreted as covering sexual orientation).
  • However, while EEOC has set this out in their documentation, there haven’t been  cases yet, so it is not yet an established legal precedent. (The EEOC has successfully prosecuted cases of transgender discrimination under title VII, but not any cases involving LGB discrimination)
  • Therefore, if the courts agree  with the EEOC’s reasoning in this case, it could set a legal precedent for LGBT workers in states that do not already have LGBT anti-discrimination protections.

This is a small step for a somewhat arcane legal argument, but it’s definitely an interesting story to follow.

Further Reading:

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Sexual+ is still sexual…

Y’know, considering that the whole point is supposedly to avoid forcing connotations of sexual activity/sexual availability/sexualization onto non-ace groups who may be at risk from such assumptions*, it seems kind of odd that all the popular coined alternatives to “sexual” still end with…”sexual”.

Like, if “sexual” can cause those kinds of unwanted connotations, I’m not sure how successful things like “allosexual” (sexual with other people? sexual with a lotion that’s good for sunburns?) or “zsexual” (still sexual but also with accidental connotations of zombie-dom?) are going to be at avoiding that issue. (or alisexual or consexual or poikkisexual or any other of the many -sexual alternatives.)

The ace community does have a history of loving [insert here]-sexual terminology a little too much, but I’ve definitely seen some advocacy for moving away from it here – so I’m surprised that I haven’t seen more proposed alternatives that just abandon -sexual altogether.

The only ones I can thing of atm are “non-ace” (not an original coinage) and “OTJ” (not exactly a serious proposition).

Does anyone else know if there have been any other more etymologically varied proposals?**


 

*There are of course other motivations for finding an alternative term, like avoiding the implication that ace people can’t do sexual things, or avoiding terms with too many other meanings, or creating a label that doesn’t rely on negation, but this is the one I see cited most often among the strongest advocates for such terms

**(I’m not necessarily advocating for more coinages, since I’m a bit of a debbie downer on that topic who is skeptical about any novel coinages (as opposed to derivations like non-ace or non-asexual) ever catching on beyond jargony spaces like ace sub-community blogs and maybe some parts of academia. But hey, maybe y’all will prove me wrong.)

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Update on “The Boss”

Remember when I mentioned the (not very positive) asexuality reference in the trailer for “The Boss”?

Someone mentioned to me that it had been changed since then, so I finally went and checked the most recent trailer and indeed, though it includes the same opening scenes, the asexuality/no genitals reference has been removed, and the dialogue has been changed to a different crude joke about their disbelief that anyone would want to have sex with her (as opposed to a disbelief that she would/could have sex). The rest of that particular scene remains the same.

(The lesbian joke also remains unchanged)

It’s sort of interesting to see that, given that this particular instance didn’t seem to raise much fuss in the ace community – makes me wonder what motivated them to change it.

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