Addyi/Flibanserin mini-update

I haven’t had the time or energy to keep up as much as I’d like with developments with flibanserin/addyi (yay burnout!), but I was curious and decided to do a quick little search today – looks like the horrible “find my spark” promotion is gone now at least!

Unfortunately, it has since been approved in Canada, and without strong prohibitions against drinking alcohol – despite the fact that combining alcohol and flibanserin is known to cause dangerous side effects.

After valeant got sued for giving up on it, Addyi/Flibanserin rights have returned to a reborn Sprout, the company that originally launched the drug before being bought by valeant.

Their new site is only somewhat misleading instead of very misleading, but it’s also really ugly. It also worryingly (and perhaps dangerously) encourages women to bypass their usual physician to speak to a sprout-recommended telemedicine provider. As the Hastings center asks,

“Are the doctors on this telemedicine portal really going to counsel patients adequately and explore other options for addressing low libido (such as identifying whether the symptom is a side effect of a libido-killing medication or recommending sex therapy) or are they only going to prescribe Addyi?

The telemedicine portal is a way for Sprout to sell the drug directly to a patient without involving her possibly reluctant personal physician….“

Also, you’know, consider the fact that low libido itself often isn’t even a problem in need of treatment at all?

I worry that aces and others who may have a low libido or sexual desire for whatever reason might receive poor guidance from any medical professional not already familiar with them and their concerns, especially one who is being promoted (and perhaps directly or indirectly compensated?) by Sprout itself.  (On top of all the concerns that aces have with even regular medical practitioners.

(I’m tempted to submit a fake request or two just to see what they would tell me, but I need to think a bit about the risks/legality involved with that first and also I think there’s a ~$50 charge at some point in the process.)

There’s also this suspicious new marketing campaign, which could use more looking into.

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December 2018 Carnival of Aces call for submissions: “Burnout”

This is a call for submissions for the Carnival of Aces, a monthly asexuality themed blog carnival. You can find the roundup of last month’s submissions for the theme “Carnival of Aces” here.

Anyone can write a post – to be featured in the carnival, just post a link to your article here in the comments or shoot me an email at sennkestra@gmail.com. No worries if you don’t have a blog – we can host posts for you here as well.

Submissions are due by December 31, but if you think you might take a little longer you can just shoot me a message to let me know and I can hold a spot for you :)

This Month’s carnival theme is “Burnout”.

We’re now a few weeks out from Asexual Awareness Week – one of the most active weeks of the year for ace activists, bloggers, and other ace community members. But as amazing as it is, the frenzied pace of activities that week can also be a major source of stress that can put ace activists at risk of experiencing burnout – the state that results when the continued stress of an activity becomes overwhelming, to the point where individuals may find themselves less and less able to continue with it.

Burnout can manifest itself in many ways. Sometimes it’s like an exhaustion that just leaves you too tired to get anything done. Sometimes it’s a paralysis of indecision that causes you to freeze up for fear of making the wrong choice. Sometimes it’s clouding of judgement that leads you to  do or say things you wouldn’t do otherwise – which can even lead to lashing out at the people you were originally trying to help.

There are ways to try and manage burnout (by taking breaks, or venting to outside support groups, or being more selective about the projects you take on, etc.) but sometimes it’s unavoidable – and all you can do is figure out how to recognize it and move on from there.

For this month’s carnival of aces, I want to talk about the experience of burnout in ace communities – whether it’s burnout from big activist activities like hosting events or running blogs, or from the daily grind of microaggressions, not-so-micro aggressions and the constant cycle of coming out (or being unable to come out).

Some possible topics include:

  • What are some of the common signs of burnout?
  • Have you ever experienced burnout before, in ace activities or otherwise?
  • Are there any strategies that you find helpful in avoiding or delaying in burnout? Or, on the other hand, are there certain situations that you find make you burn out even faster?
  • One strategy for avoiding burnout is to give yourself breaks and less stressful distractions. Are there any activities that you like to use as a break from ace community stressors?
  • Another strategy for avoiding burnout is to have safe places to vent, away from the communities that are the center of the stress. Do you have anyone who you feel you can vent to like this?
  • Have you ever been able to overcome burnout and return to something you once had to drop? Or, are there any activities that you’ve had to just give up because of the risk of burnout?
Posted in carnival of aces, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

There once was an ace who wrote Limericks…

This is my not-so-serious entry for this month’s Carnival of Aces, which has the theme “Asexuality and Poetry”.

I.
I’m ace and while writing a limerick,
I feel like I’ve drawn out the short stick,
because rhyming asexual
with something not “sexual”,
Sure leaves me with not that much to pick.

II.
The rhyming is best for the aro
whose options aren’t nearly so narrow
Just as “aromantic”
Has lists quite gigantic
Just use all the rhyme guides for “arrow”.

III.
My cousin once met an asexual,
Though their talks were entirely textual,
She soon made a pass,
Sought a date, but alas,
Her wooing was quite ineffectual.

IV.
There once was a fellow on AVEN
who was constantly rantin’ and ravin’
‘Bout the mysteries of sex,
Which he found too complex,
For good cake is all he’s ever cravin’.

 

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Guess “everyone” doesn’t include me

The scene: a monthly happy hour at a bar after work with a few other coworkers, including one who has just joined the company a couple weeks ago, and all of whom were hired after me (and who thus may never have seen all the “asexual” bits all over my resume).

After around twenty minutes of chit-chat, we hit a lull in the conversation. Then one of my coworkers has a great idea:

“I know, let’s trade bad date stories! Everyone has one of those!”

…Except for me, apparently. So when the conversation worked it’s way back around the table to me a few bad date stories later, I got to be the buzzkill who just sort of had to mumble, “Actually, I don’t date…” and get completely frozen out of that chance for social connection-building.

While extremes like this are fortunately a rare occurrence (as most of my coworkers are also nerds who can usually be swayed into other, safer, topics), it’s things like these that can kind of serve as a jarring reminder that yeah, sexual-/amato-normativity still goes strong and that I will continue to be the odd one out. And it’s been a painful reminder that while lack of dating and sexual experience as a college student isn’t particularly noteworthy, that becomes less and less true for me every year that I grow older.

It’s also a reminder of the awkwardness of the perpetual coming out cycle. When I first got hired, I was sort of out by default since my volunteer work with asexual groups was one of the few work experiences I could list on my resume, which was passed around to everyone currently in my department at the time, so I never had to worry about coming out. But over the course of several years and new hires, there’s a lot of people who may not have figured it out yet, and I’m never sure how ready I am to bring it up for the first time.

On the one hand, I don’t mind being open about it to strangers all the time, and it’s not even like I expect a very bad reaction – one of the other things that happened at that happy hour was another person being loudly out as polyamorous and everyone seemed to take it totally in stride, so I don’t think being ace would necessarily phase them that much either.

But at the same time, I’ve had enough experiences with dropping the ace-bomb and completely derailing otherwise lighthearted conversations or social connections that I’ve become wary of coming out in any setting that seems too sensitive, especially ones linked to the workplace. (So, thanks be for communicating via social media and the internet, and their nice safe layers of time delays and geographic distance to water down the awkwardness). But that means that when I get blindsided by things like this, I still freeze up like a deer in headlights and just mumble whatever evasive answer pops into mind first. Even if I know that it’s just going to prolong the do-they-or-don’t-they-know agony.

(Also, From another angle, I feel like it’s also just further contributed to my overall wariness of all-women spaces – these things rarely seem to happen to me in mixed company. Possibly because the presence of other genders preserves a level of social restraint and prevents the kind of “female bonding” intimacy that inevitably lead to expectations of shared experiences that I just can’t fulfill, whether it’s because of the aro-ace thing or the genderfeels are complicated thing.)

 

Posted in aromantic, asexual, Genderfeels, Storytime, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Running out of Mile Markers

When I was a younger ace, I often treated things like “would you like to have a queerplatonic partner”, “would you consider legally marrying a partner?” or “do you want to have kids?” as abstract yes-or-no propositions – and the answers seemed like an easy “yes”, “yes” and “yes” at the time.

Now that I’ve reached the ripe old age of my mid-twenties, it’s started to sink in that these questions aren’t quite that simple. Part of that realization stems from the fact that I am having to confront those possibilities head on for the first time, as actual current possibilities rather than abstract considerations for a future me.

As a student, it was easy to think of these decisions as simple, binary, and abstract, because I knew I had no plans to act on them anytime soon – I didn’t even want to think about settling down with a partner or having a kid until I finished my education and had a job.

At that point, I was still progressing at a standard pace through all the typical life milestones – Graduate high school. Get into college. Pass the next midterm. Pass the next final. Get a degree. Then, time to find any job that will pay. Then, as my old roommate left for grad school in another city, it was time to find a new apartment and new roommates. Then time to find a long-term job that could be more of a career. When I was focused on all these immediate goals, it was easy not to think that much about all the other questions about kids and partners and houses and such that I had tabled for an abstract “future me”.

Within the last couple years, though, as the new grad chaos has settled, I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine – I have a good apartment, a job I like, stable roommates and active social groups. And when it comes to next steps, things are….much less clear. I’ve already reached all the easily achievable milestones, and now I’ve found myself in uncharted territory.

That means seriously thinking about not just “if” I would like kids or partners or a house or a marriage – it means thinking about things like “when” and “how much” and “at what cost”. And as I’m taking into account things like the realities of how much I’d have to change my lifestyle to find and form a partnership, or how far I’d have to relocate to own instead of rent, or how much of an economic hit it would be to have dependents, things that seemed like easy “yes”es have become a lot more uncertain. It’s come with the reality that even if I like the idea of something, I’m not sure I want it enough to put in the labor and make all the sacrifices that might be required to achieve it.

At the same time, it’s also the first time I’ve really experienced a long period of life with no immediate milestones ahead to strive for, and I’m still not completely sure what to do with myself.

And this isn’t just an ace thing, necessarily – I think this is the kind of existential crisis that a lot of young adults go through. But I think that being ace – and perhaps more importantly, being aro – adds another level of complexity to the situation. So while things like “Would I be willing to move just to be able to afford to buy instead of rent” are common problems regardless of sexuality, other issues like “how do you go about finding and evaluating potential life partners/co-parents if you have zero interest in casual dating or romance, but also are nowhere near ready to settle down just yet?” are not so common, and just make things all the more complex.

 

Posted in aromantic, asexual, Storytime, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Random Musings: Microlabels as a derivative of the Tumblr tagging system

I’ve put absolutely no structured thought into this yet, but there’s a thought that sort of bubbled up to me as I was reading through some of the recent “then and now” posts like this one, which mention the great proliferation of hyper-specific identity labels that has occurred in the more recent years of the ace community. And I started wondering if that proliferation was encouraged at all by the nature of tumblr’s tagging infrastructure, in which having a single unique identifier is often the easiest way to build conversational communities.

To start off with a definition – when I say “microlabels”, I’m thinking of labels that are meant to convey very specific flavors of ace-spectrum community experiences, rather than just degrees of asexuality/aromanticism (as “grey-A” or “A-spec” do) – things like “autochorissexual” and  “aceflux” and “cupiosexual”, etc. One could argue that this is a trend that started with the much earlier creation of “demisexual”, as a label that was created to carve a very specific space out of the asexual-to-grey-A spectrum. There’s a lot of them now, although many are so specific they may be used only by a handful of individuals or even a single coiner.

In my head, I tend to think of microlabels as different than modifiers like “aromantic” or “sex-averse”, in that they tend to replace rather than supplement ace identity (“Hi, I’m Andy, and I’m autochorissexual”, as opposed to “Hi, I’m Beth, and I’m an aromantic asexual”, but modifiers and microlabels are likely affected by the same factors and may function in similar ways.

(It’s also important to keep in mind though that the distinction between labels, modifiers, and microlabels in this post is completely subjective and arbitrary, and some of this may just be me being a curmudgeonly old fart shaking my head at the kids these days and their new-fangled slang)

In general, I get the impression (although I haven’t looked at it empirically) that the creation of new microlabels for specific ace experiences is much higher on Tumblr than it is on forums like AVEN or blog platforms like WordPress. Some of this may simply be a factor of ace community growth and tumblr’s overall popularity (more users = more labels), but I wonder if the specific infrastructure of tumblr way have contributed to the growth and popularity of microlabels. Specifically, the following factors:

  • On forums like AVEN, or even on blog posts, commentary on shared experiences was often organized and developed around threads, where many users could chime in and go back and forth – but tumblr’s reblog tree structure makes ongoing conversations unintelligible, so another method is needed to aggregate commentary on shared experiences
  • Tumblr doesn’t really have threads, per se, but it does have “tags” – the ability to assign a few key words to each post for searching and sorting purposes.
  • On Tumblr, therefore, the alternate solution is often to have a specific “tag” for each chared experience – and tags both reflect and are reflected by new identity labels.
  • Tumblr’s search function is also abysmal, which further encourages the use of tags to access new content
  • Posts only index the first five tags, which further encourages users to condense as much information as possible in a single tag rather than multiple tags.
  • Because most users only see content from users they follow, there is increased fragmentation of the community which means that many disconnected splinter groups may develop unique terminology for similar or overlapping experiences, thus increasing the total number of terms.

In general, my hypothesis is that the importance of “tags” to tumblr’s infrastructure may encourage the use of “tag-like” hyper-specific microlabels among communities who use it – because they spend so much time thinking about keywords while blogging, the “tag” approach carries over into their thought processes for identity description as well.

At this point, I have no real backing for this hypothesis either way, but I’d be curious to hear others’ opinions on the subject.


For anyone curious, the post that prompted this line of thought was this one from Rotten Zuchinnis, although it touches on the subject only briefly. They also have an older more in-depth post that analyzes the proliferation of hyper-specific identity labels through the lens of neoliberalism, which is  good reading and food for thought on other possible contributing factors.

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“Greatest Hits”: Help from followers needed!

Hello readers!

After over six years of running this blog, even I can’t remember what all I’ve posted here. So I figure now is a good time to start collecting some of the most popular and/or useful things I’ve written here into one place where they’ll all be easy to find.

I have my own favorites, of course, but I’d like to hear what (if any) other posts people have found useful:

  • Are there any pieces of writing that you really like?
  • Any linkspams that you find useful?
  • Any linkspams you’d want to see updated for 2018?
  • Any posts you commonly find yourself referring people to?
  • For the tumblr crowd: anything you’ve seen me post on tumblr that deserves a more permanent home here?
Posted in Housekeeping, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ACHA-NCHA II and Asexuality: Initial Explorations

Since I don’t actually have time to do any deeper analysis anytime soon, here’s a brief peek at my initial graphic representations of data from the NCHA over the last several years, both before and after adding “asexual” as an option for sexual orientation.

As I’ve written before, the NCHA is a neat dataset because it’s a decently large, randomized, recurring survey that (as of the last several years) has collected data on asexual identity. The fact that it’s a biannual survey that switched from having only a few sexuality options to having both asexuality and several other emerging identities also gives some potential insight into how changing question wording changes responses – because while trends in sexual identification change over time, the ~6 month period between surveys is brief enough that you can at least make a reasonable guess that a large part of any discrepancies between the before-and-after results is likely at least in large part due to the change in survey structure.

For the chart below, I’ve broken out how the approximate percents for each sexual orientation category have changed over the years. Surveys from before the addition of asexuality are marked in red, and surveys from after the addition of asexuality are marked in blue. When reviewing the chart, however, please keep in mind that results here are affected by many factors, including sampling pools that differ somewhat year to year, survey structure, change in identity trends over time, and simple random chance; this preview does not include any analysis that could determine which changes are significant enough to be simply a result of chance so you have to take any seeming trends with a grain of salt.

*Please also note that I’ve taken a few liberties in grouping similar categories from the pre-2015 and post-2015 in order to save on space – these groups are not necessarily directly comparable due to differences in survey wording (especially in the case of “unsure” and “another identity”), but they are thematically similar enough that I find it interesting to group them adjacent to each other. I’ve also lumped together “Gay” and “Lesbian” in the post-2015 data for convenience when comparing to the pre-2015 group “Gay/Lesbian”.

**I also haven’t double checked for typos (hence the axis with decimal instead of percent units) so if you want to do any serious analysis, I suggest you start with the raw NCHA data here.

NCHA 14-17 TableNCHA 14-17 Straight ChartNCHA 14-17 Non-Straight Chart

If you find this kind of data interesting, definitely check out the original NCHA reports page. I’m also happy to share the excel files used here upon request.

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

Milestones and Priorities

This is a down-to-the-wire submission to the April Carnival of Aces, “All the birds but us…”.

For a long time – including the period when I started and was most active on this blog – I mostly thought about big life choices like having kids or a committed relationship as an abstract yes-no-maybe proposition. As a young person, the get good grades > get into college > pass your finals > get an apartment > get a job pipeline was clearly defined and kept me busy enough pursuing the next stop on the line that I never spent much time looking at anything further down.

But then, eventually I got my degree. And I got a job. And I got an apartment. And then  I found myself out of easy milemarkers to aim for next.

In the stereotypical american success story, the next big steps to aim for might look like this:

> Find a romantic partner

> Get married

> Buy a house

> Have a kid (or two, or three)

But now I’ve found myself stuck: As an aro ace, I don’t particular want a partner. Housemates are definitely nice, but I already have those, and the idea of something like a queerplatonic partnership is not unappealing, but it’s also not something I’m really motivated to seek out. And without a partner, the question of whether or not to get married is moot.

A house, on the other hand, is a milestone I’d very much like to reach. But I also live in the bay area, with no plans to relocate any time in the foreseeable future, and my income is about 3x too low to even start thinking about purchasing a house here. Which means that this milestone is effectively postponed for at least a decade or two.

So, then, that leaves kids. And that’s where it gets tricky. See, in theory, I do want kids. But my desire for children is a very conditional one: I don’t want to be a single parent by choice – I’d only want to make the choice to bring kids into my life if I had a dependable partner with which to raise them. Except, if you remember two paragraphs ago, I’m not really looking for a partner. So there’s a bit of a conundrum.

What I’ve realized is that I’ve found myself at a point where, instead of thinking about how to achieve new milestones – or even whether I want to achieve them – I need to start thinking in terms how much I’m willing to prioritize them above other things in my life, and how much work I’m willing to put into pursuing them:

Instead of asking myself, “Do you want to own a house” (yes), I need to ask myself, “Am I willing to change cities and possibly careers for the chance to own a house (A: short term, no, but I would be willing to reevaluate that in a few years if my social group starts to settle down and spread out).

Instead of asking “Do I want a relationship” (yes), I need to ask myself, “To what  extent am I willing to put deliberate effort into seeking out social spaces and proto-relationships that could lead to the type of relationship I prefer?” (A: not very much, especially not for anything past housemates. I’ve realized that while I like the concept of queerplatonic relationships as an abstract, it’s also just not something high on my agenda. Examples of items higher on my agenda at the moment include fairly trivial things like “make a postage stamp quilt” and “eat some cornbread with honeybutter”.)

Instead of asking “Do I want children?” (yes), I need to ask myself, “Do I want children enough to seek out and dedicated myself to a partner(s) solely to raise a child? Or enough to raise a child solo”? And although it hurts a little to admit, the answer here is again….I’m not sure I do. And that’s also something I’ve had to come to terms with.

It can be a little sad, sometimes, to realize that the numbers game and the difficulty of building alternative relationships just makes it that much more unlikely that I’ll ever meet some of these milestones, even though I’d like to. But at the same time, I think that the complexity of being ace and losing that default guide to life plans has helped in some ways, by leading me to actually sit down and hash out what my priorities are, not just what goals I’ve been taught should come next.

And while my current situation and priorities does mean that some of my original life goals have been set back or set aside, there’s still lots of room to build new ones. Instead of dwelling on what could have been, I’ve taken the opportunity to start pursuing new goals – things like finally taking a trip abroad that I’ve been wanting to try for years, or deciding to learn a new craft, or deciding to incorporate an organization.

 

Posted in Storytime, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

“Asexual” Updated in the OED

(Take that, “but that’s not what the dictionary says” sticklers!)

This March, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which is widely considered the most comprehensive of authorative english language dictionary, released a new update that included major additions and expansions to sexual and gender identity terminology. (This is part of a series of ongoing revisions, with new releases roughly every three months, as part of the process of generating the third edition of the OED).

Part of this update was a major overhaul of the entry for “Asexual“, which has been greatly expanded from the original 1989 definition by the addition of several different “senses”, or possible meanings of the word. Each sense was also given additional dated historical use sample citations from various primary sources. [A/N The entry for “asexuality” and was similarly updated. I have not transcribed it here since it follows similar lines, but I could add it in a separate post if there is interest.]

The actual OED definitions are behind a paywall, but if you have a library card there is a good chance your library already subscribes, so you can login with just your library card number. If not, you can look below the read more to view the relevant excerpts with links to full PDF snapshots.

Overall, as an ace and an amateur linguistics enthusiast, I have to say I’m pretty well satisfied by this update – at least as far as “asexual” and “asexuality” goes. Now we just need to coax them into adding ace, aromantic, and all the other community lingo…

Continue reading

Posted in Asexual Research, Awareness Outreach and Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments