So, the worst case scenario is likely happening. What comes next?

A/N: as of now (9:45pm) the race has not officially been called – but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that things will turn out well. At this point I’d love to have to eat my words, but right now i am preparing for the worst.

As I sit here watching the results roll in, it’s looking like the worst case scenario is actually playing out: Trump is leading, and it’s looking like republicans are almost certain to keep the senate – combine that with their continued grip on the house, and that means a unified republican government, in a time where the republican party is in the throes of record radicality and irrationality. Plus an uncontested congress means they have nearly free reign on that supreme court nomination that’s up for grabs, which means a potential conservative domination on all three branches of american government. Markets worldwide are crashing pretty badly in response to the election results, which will also mean potentially rocky financial times to come.

I’m sure there will be rumblings of a Trump impeachment, but be aware that that doesn’t actually offer much hope – even if it actually happened and went through (unlikely), that just leaves Mike Pence in office, who if anything is even more dangerous – he has the same radical anti-immigrant, anti-LGBT policies, he’s just also rational and competent enough to make them happen.

So, things may be about to get very bad, especially for the most marginalized and at risk. That said, before we get too sunk into despair, there are things you can do to help.

1. Get involved in local politics

While we won’t have a chance to retake the presidency for another four years, senate and house elections occur every two years. Elections for state legislature representatives and municipal elections (mayors and city councils) will also be happening, possibly even sooner.

These elections are often ignored by many people because they are less ‘sexy’, but they’re just as important – a progressive congress or a progressive state legislature can serve as protective insulation against a conservative executive branch. For example, states and local governments can pass legislation to increase minimum wages, mandate better insurance policies, or increase welfare support even if the federal government starts cutting back in those areas – but this also means that a conservative local political presence can make things work.

In addition, local politicians are more sensitive to the input of individual voters – a president may ignore all input from random letter writers or callers, but to a local city council person, a few loud voices on an issue may be all it takes to sway their opinion.

Concrete actions you can take:

  • Start researching your local representatives and look up their contact information.
  • Sign up for updates on city council meetings and public hearings – even if you can’t go to that kind of thing (most of us don’t go regularly), you want to know if important decisions are coming up.
  • Look up details on your local elections – when are city council elections? How is the mayor chosen? What are your house and senate districts? When do each of those districts next go up for election?
  • Sign up to campaign for local progressive candidates.
  • Got an issue you have an opinion on? Write your local representatives. Email your local representatives. Call your local representatives on the phone. Make your voice heard.

2. Fight for voter rights and electoral reform

Somewhat as a corollary to the above points, now is the time to fight for reforms in voting to make district borders fairer and voting more accessible. One of the reasons republicans are dominating so much now is because gerrymandered districts favor republican congressional incumbents and voter suppression tactics have driven down minority voter turnout, especially in the wake of the repeal of the Voting Rights Act. In order to break these barriers down before the next election, we need to start working on these now.

(Also looking forward, now is the time to explore reforms to the primary system, the possibility of ranked voting, or the abolition of the electoral college)

3. Throw money (or time) at important progressive organizations

Just as local representatives can offer some protection when the federal government goes sour, private organizations can step in with services where public government fails. In addition, progressive organizations can do important political lobbying and legal activism to both fight bad changes (by suing unconstitutional laws) and push for good ones (by lobbying those representatives who can be swayed).

For those of us who have cash to spare, donations to these organizations can be one way of fighting back – especially if you have a workplace that offers any form of corporate matching (look into that!). Some of these organizations may also need volunteer manpower for running operations or helping with lobbying or fundraising – you can reach out to local chapters and see what they need.

These organizations are also good sources of information on what’s going on, what you need to be worried about, and what you can do to help.

A handful major organizations who I personally recommend supporting are below – feel free to suggest more in the comments, especially if there are any that have been especially helpful to you personally (this is not an exclusive list – there are many more good orgs than I can list):

Also, look up and support your local progressive organizations! Local organizations – both independent local orgs and  local chapters of national organizations – provide many immediate on the ground personal services like housing and healthcare that have the most impact on people’s daily lives. (I’m just listing national orgs here because local orgs will be different for everyone).

4. Check in with your friends and family

Check in with the people important to you and keep tabs on those you know who may be most vulnerable – when government fails and large orgs can’t help, friends and family are the last line of defense. Be ready to reach out to friends who need your support (where you are capable of it), whether it’s legal advice or chipping in with finances or emotional support or just finding someone to safely get drunk with as we all commiserate and prepare for a miserable and anxious four years.


 

Anyway. This is just a few wild suggestions to keep us from falling into despair while we’re all still reeling from the news; if any of you have your own input, or just want a place to commiserate and vent, please feel free to chime in down below.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Models of Sexuality in Shively and De Cecco’s “Components of Sexual Identity” (1977)

A/N: this post is partially inspired by historicallyace’s recent post on the history of Split Attraction Models – check it out here.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I recently stumbled across an early example of a split-orientation style model in sexological literature that I haven’t seen mentioned much in ace history before – a brief paper on the structure of sexual orientation that was published in the journal of Homosexuality in 1977.

In this paper, Shively and De Cecco discuss that many conceptual components that combine to create sexual identity, including biological sex, gender identity, social sex role, and sexual orientation. After discussing contemporary approaches to studying social sex-roles that posit placing “masculinity” and “femininity” on two parallel axes, instead of one binary axis (in which an increase in one must be accompanied by a decrease in the other), they then propose applying to this method to sexual orientation as well (similar to the approach used in the Storms model, this also capable of better accounting for asexuality than older binary models, although unlike Storms the authors do not take that approach here).

However, this model takes an extra step beyond the typical Storms model by dividing sexual orientation into two components: physical attraction, and affectional attraction:

Sexual orientation can be viewed as having two aspects. One is physical preference, and one is affectional preference. Physical preference refers to the individual’s preference for male and/or female sexual partners. Affectional preference refers to the individual’s preference for male and/or female emotional partners.

Physical preference can be viewed as two independent continua of heterosexuality and homosexuality (see figure 4). For each individual there is one continuum of physical heterosexuality and one continuum of physical homosexuality. Qualitatively, individuals can be seen as heterosexual, homosexual, or both heterosexual and homosexual. Quantitatively, individuals can be seen as having heterosexuality and homosexuality ranging from very much to very little

Affectional preference, in a similar fashion, can be viewed as two independent continua of affectional heterosexuality and affectional homosexuality. Figure 5 shows the two continua and and the relationship of one continuum to the other…..

screenshot2016-10-24at4-47-33pmscreenshot2016-10-24at4-47-14pm

….A theory that includes both the physical and affectional aspects of sexual orientation allows an examination of greater variety of ways of expressing sexuality.

In the physical-affectional theory of sexual attraction conflicts can occur (a) between physical and affectional expression (b) between homosexual and heterosexual physical sexuality, and (c) between homosexual and heterosexual affectional sexuality. These conflicts may be resolved at two levels, behavior and fantasy….

(you can read the full paper here)

In many ways, this is an extremely close parallel to the way we now discuss sexual and romantic orientation in current asexual communities, and one of the earliest discussions of such models that I have seen so far in academic literature  (though this post discusses significantly earlier examples from the work of Karl Ulrichs)

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Take the 2016 Ace Community Census!

It’s that time of year again – we are now recruiting participants for the ace community census!

The ace community census is an annual survey by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network which collects valuable information on the demographics and experiences of members of the ace community. It is the largest survey of ace communities and creates a valuable pool of data for future ace community activists and researchers.

The survey is open to anyone: ace, non-ace, or still questioning, as long as you are over the age of 13 we want to hear from you! We want to get a wide variety of responses from as many parts of the community as possible, so we encourage you to share this link with any other ace individuals you know or any ace communities you participate in.

Click here to take the 2016 Ace Community Census!

For answers to common questions about the survey, please see the FAQ here.

Any results and analysis will be published on asexualcensus.wordpress.com

 

Source: Take the 2016 Ace Community Census!

Posted in Announcements, Asexual Activism, Asexual Research, Awareness Outreach and Education | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Coming Out Stories

A/N: I posted this to another private community as part of a National Coming Out day prompt about sharing your coming out stories, but I thought I’d post it here too for everyone else. To anyone who is planning to come out today, I wish you the best of luck! and to everyone else, whether you’re out for years and tired of the game or new to things and not ready to tell everyone just yet, I hope you all have a great day too!

I’ve had a lot of “coming out” moments over the years, but there’s two that I think of as my main real “coming out” stories.

I was a little slow in questioning my sexuality – for years I had been blatantly “not interested” in guys (or girls, as I had discovered in moments of introspection) but I had never thought that deeply about it, or the fact that that wasn’t exactly “normal” – after all, I was a nerd, I was supposed to only be interested in anime and studying, right? It wasn’t til around my high school graduation that I started actively questioning my sexuality.

Even then, I mostly just explored it silently and online, mostly under a pseudonym on AVEN. I talked to a lot of people then, but since I was still trained to believe that everyone on the internet was a potential axe-murderer, I never shared many personal details, so I wouldn’t really call any of those conversations a “coming out” moment.

The first time I actually said the words “I’m asexual (and aromantic)” out loud to someone other than myself in the mirror was in college, after I joined the campus queer straight alliance. I had sort of managed to coast by on never really mentioning whether I was there as a queer kid or a questioning kid or an ally. I decided to finally take the plunge when the group brought in David Jay, certified Famous Asexual, to give a short talk; when we were in small groups during the workshop I managed to work up the nerve to finally mention a casual “so, by the way, I’m actually asexual myself”….only to find out that one of the other group members across from me was also ace, and also in the same major! (seriously, what’s up with linguistics and queer/ace kids?) So that was a pretty good start, and the first time I had ever met other not one, but two other aces in the flesh. (Several other people I had known previously would, of course, come out yeas later, but that’s another story).

As for coming out to everyone else in my life….I sort of decided to come out to everyone else at the same time. It was about a month after my previous “omg meeting other aces” moment, national coming out day was rolling around, and I wanted to finally start talking about this with other people. So i figured, hey, this is a good opportunity, why waste it?

I had sort tested the waters a bit by mentioning “LGBTQIA” events on campus, haha, did you know there’s so many new letters? to some people, but other than that, I’d never talked about my asexuality or my questioning to anyone at all outside of that campus QSA. I was maybe a bit premature in deciding to spring it on literally everyone I knew at once, but at this point I just wanted it over with, and I was also luckily enough to have family and peers who I knew wouldn’t react too negatively, even if I didn’t know if they would react positively.

So, in a moment of brilliance, I decided that the second time I ever came out should be by announcing it to all and sundry over facebook.

In some ways that worked well – It was over the internet, so I didn’t have to deal with people’s awkward stunned faces in person, I could reach a lot of other people at once, and I could drop a bunch of education links at the same time. The big downside, though, that I hadn’t quite thought about, was the waiting game. I knew some people had seen it – there were likes, and comments, and a few curious questions over chat. And I knew other people would see it, eventually, including the most important ones like my sibling and parents. But it was sort of…anticlimactic not doing it person; I never knew exactly who had seen or how they had reacted and we never really sat down and talked about it directly. I knew they knew, and they knew I knew they knew, but we just…never did the traditional “sit down and talk about what this means” thing. (Although, my sister did point out later that it’s not like it was really a surprise, considering my blatant lack of crushes or dates or anything throughout my high school career)

Six years later, we talk about it all the time now – especially as ace community social events and volunteering have become a major part of my life. My mom calls me excitedly when she hears someone on NPR mention asexuality; my sister sends me ace memes she runs across on the internet. Everything went well, it’s just sort of weird not having a clear transition from people not knowing to people knowing. On the other hand, when it comes to other people – like older, less tech savvy relatives, or distant friends who I rarely interact with – It’s left me in sort of a weird state of not knowing if I’m actually our or not?

I don’t think I’d necessarily change anything if I decided to do the big reveal all over again, but the weird limbo of “did I actually come out to them or not” is definitely a strange place to be in.

Posted in Storytime, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Asexuality in Court Records from Hollingsworth v. Perry

So while trying to look up some more information on works by Kenji Yoshino, I actually stumbled upon something else pretty neat – mentions of asexuality in court transcripts from the Hollingsworth v. Perry court case, which is notable for leading to the legalization of same-sex marriage in California.

While all the references to asexuality were all very minor side notes and not major points of contention in the case, I do think it’s interesting to note that it is popping up in official records and discussions.

You can see the full court transcripts here and here for more context, but here are the relevant passages if you just want to take a quick look.

The most relevant example comes from cross-examination of Dr. Gregory Herek, a professor of psychology at UC Davis. During a discussion of models of gender and sexuality, they mention one approach to modeling sexuality that includes asexuality:

Whereas, masculinity and femininity had previously been conceptualized as lying at two ends of a bipolar continuum. You are either masculine or feminine and if you are high on masculinity, you necessarily were low on femininity.

Around this time some researchers had proposed that actually you could — those were independent of each other. Some individuals were high on both masculinity and femininity, and those individuals were labeled androgenous.

I believe Shively and DeCecco were influenced by that perspective and what they proposed to do was to take Kinsey’s approach, which had that scale that ranged from exclusively heterosexual to exclusively homosexual, and to apply this new way of thinking and say that you could possibly be high on both, in which case I imagine you would be labeled bisexual; or you could be high on one, low on another, or low on both, in which case you would probably be labeled asexual.

And I think that’s a reasonable way of asking about it. I — I think that one thing that’s missing from this approach is that they are looking at physical preference and affectional preference. They are not asking about a person’s actual identification or a person’s behavioral history; but as far as looking at the idea of physical and affectional preferences, this is a reasonable way to measure that.

The article being discussed is “Components of Sexual Identity” (1977), which I actually don’t think I’ve read before but which is definitely interesting and relevant to the ace community! It also discusses  physical vs. affectional attraction, which appears to be similar to the way ace communities discuss sexual vs. romantic attraction; this is covered earlier in the court transcript.

There is also another more minor reference to behavioral asexuality later in the same interview:

And we can go back, yet again, to the Laumann and Gagnon study, which asked about attractions and identity in the present, but asked about sexual behavior in the past.

So this unanswered question about whether the measure will predict future behavior or orientation, I would say, given the way they phrase this, it would be an unanswered question in that they don’t even — are not proposing, I don’t think, a particular measure that one would even use in this.

And so, again, I would say, as I said before, that if  you are trying to predict a person’s future sexual behavior, especially if this is an adult, someone who has gotten past adolescence and maybe even young adulthood, that you would probably do best to hypothesize that their behaviors will be consistent with their current sexual orientation, if in fact they engage in sexual behaviors.

I believe one of the reservations I had in my deposition was that you might not even know that the individual is going to engage in any sexual behavior. So people end up being celibate or asexual for various reasons.

The other example, from the cross-examination of Dr. Letitia Anne Peplau, a UCLA professor of psychology, is not a reference to asexuality per se, but more a discussion of asexual lesbian relationships. (I’ve noted before that most of the examples in this book are not really of much relevance to the asexual community today, nor do most of the people in the book consider themselves “asexual” as a sexual orientation).

I’m not sure what the point of this particularly line of questioning was, but it followed discussion on whether gay and lesbian couples can accidentally get pregnant.

Q. Do you recognize this?

A. Yes. This is a book review that I wrote of a book by Esther Rothblum, an edited book, yeah.

Q. A book entitled “Boston Marriages: Romantic but Asexual  Relationships Among Contemporary Lesbians,” is that right?

A. That was the title of the book, yes.

Q. And in your book review, you wrote that:  “A growing body of research suggests asexual lesbian relationships are not uncommon.” Isn’t that right?

A. I would agree with that. I don’t know if I would — I agree with the statement that we have documented examples of lesbian relationships that are not characterized by what the general public thinks of asexuality; that is, sort of genital sexual activities. And elsewhere I have written about the fact that sometimes we use definitions or criteria for sexuality that are based on male sexuality. Kind of assuming if there isn’t a penis involved or genital contact of some sort, that it’s not a  sexual activity. And one of the things that some lesbians report is that other kinds of activities that might have a sexual component, such as cuddling or kissing, are things that they  value, but that genital sex may not necessarily be a part of their relationships.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Evaluating California Ballot Propositions

A/N: this is just a description of my personal methods for researching ballot measures; you should tailor your own research to your own political interests. 

As elections approach this November, one additional factor for Californians to consider is the set of 18 ballot propositions on this year’s ballot. Under California’s initiative system, voters can directly for or against certain changes to law instead of having to vote for a representative who may or may not end up supporting certain laws. Ballot propositions can be proposed by legislators or directly by any citizens (or, more like by any major political organizations) who have the time and money to sponsor enough signature raising. On the one hand, it allows citizens a way to have a direct say in the development of law (direct democracy) instead of relying on shaky promises from a political representative; on the other hand it allows interest groups to use money and advertising to try and force changes in law that might not pass an elected legislature (like the anti-same-sex-marriage prop. 8).

California has a record 17 ballot measures to be considered this November.

When it comes to evaluating ballot propositions, you want to start by getting a general overview of each set of propositions. There are a few main sites that I typically use for getting a general overview of every single proposition on the ballot:

  • The most “official” proposition information comes from The California Secretary of State Voter Guide: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/en/propositions/
    This is the official state guide to all the current ballot propositions. Each entry includes the full text of the proposed law, analysis of expected fiscal effects of the proposition and it’s relation to current policy, and short summaries and arguments provided by both proponents and opponents of the bill.  That said, I do not recommend using the short summaries here as your main factor in deciding what to vote for or against. The descriptions in the official voter guide are often much to brief and can be misleading about the actual effects of each proposition. This site is much more useful as a simple references for topics (when you’re like, “which one was prop. 60 again?) or when you want to look into the nitty gritty of the propositions full text.
  • However, I find the overviews at Ballotpedia to be much more informative: https://ballotpedia.org/California_2016_ballot_propositions
    Ballotpedia provides brief summaries of each proposition, as well as major arguments for or against. More importantly, perhaps, it also includes information on which organizations have come out for or against the bill, as well as providing quotes from media endorsements for or against the bill. Everything is linked back to the original sources so it’s a good place to start your initial research and begin exploring further if you see endorsements for or against that intrigue you.
  • You can also see brief easy to read overviews  from KQED: http://elections.kqed.org/measures
    These overviews are briefer and easier to read than the other sources above, and provide pretty good summaries overall; they also chart the major campaign contributions for and against each proposition in a helpful format. Unlike ballotpedia, they don’t link to any outside coverage, but they do link to other NPR news coverage or interviews related to each measure, including some Forum radio interviews with advocates for or against some of these measures..

That said, these are still all sources that attempt to be “unbiased” and present a fair view of arguments for and against.  I, however,  am not unbiased – I don’t want a “balanced” evaluation of each proposition, I want an evaluation of how closely each of these will fit with my personal political beliefs. To that end, it helps to look at the endorsements for or against each bill from institutions I respect and tend to agree with politically; unlike the “balanced” coverage above, endorsements make explicit arguments for or against each bill (and sometimes, seeing the rationale being used to argue for and against these bills is more telling than the proposition itself). In addition to the endorsement summaries on Ballotpedia, the main endorsements I tend to look at are:

  • The LA Times: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/endorsements/
    As far as the “liberal conspiracy” of mainstream media publications go, the LA times tends to lean a little more conservative, and sometimes takes a more conservative view than I would personally agree with (especially on financial and budget issues). However, on many issues they are close enough to my opinions, and I also trust their editorial boards knowledge of California politics. The LA times is also the paper I grew up with, so I have a better intuitive sense for where it aligns and doesn’t align with my views. So while I don’t follow it’s endorsements automatically, I find the background details and research the provide very useful.
  • The Mercury News (San Jose): http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/editorials/
    The Mercury News (formerly the San Jose Mercury News) is one I know less well since I’ve only been reading it for a few years, but it’s my current favorite of the major Northern California newspapers and seems to align fairly closely with my political views so far. It helps provide some contrast with the LA times endorsements since it comes from separate staff and a separate perspective.
  • The League of Women Voters: https://lwvc.org/vote/elections/ballot-recommendations
    The League of Women Voters’ primary goal is to support the right of women to vote and advance women’s participation in the political sphere, but they also support several progressive causes more generally. The California chapter publishes easy to read endorsements for all state ballot propositions.
  • The CA Democratic Party: http://www.cademvote.org/endorsements
    As a fairly establishment liberal, whether or not the Democratic Party of California supports or opposes a proposition is a quick litmus test for whether or not I would probably support it. However, the CA dem endorsements don’t provide much more than a one sentence rational, so they aren’t great to use on their own – they are better used as a comparison alongside things like media endorsements that contain more explanation and research.

In general, this is usually enough to get me a pretty good sense of what positions I want to take with respect to each ballot proposition. However, it’s always good to do more research when you can; as you read more endorsements you’ll probably encounter more questions, and google is your friend in finding more specific sources.

In addition, if you are doing your own research, you may want to look at endorsements form other organizations and individuals you trust – many political figures and local political organizations will publish endorsements, and nonprofit advocacy groups often post endorsements for or against propositions relating to their areas of activism. The organizations that align with my opinions may not align with yours.

Also, while this post is specifically regarding ballot propositions, I use pretty similar research techniques for local municipal or county initiatives and elected positions as well, just varying the exact sources used. (For example, if I’m evaluating judge candidates I might look at endorsements from the state bar association).

For followers – do you have any particular organizations whose endorsements or ballot summaries you find particularly helpful?

Posted in Not Asexual, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

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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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