Debunking that OTHER Sexual Privilege List

May 29, 2011 at 10:02 PM (Asexuality) (, , , )

Because endless cries of “homophobe” haven’t done the trick, one of our antagonists on tumblr has set forth a list of things they’d like us to provide before they begin taking asexual oppression seriously. Azi has already pointed out one problem with this list, noting that whether or not sexual privilege exists, our problems do. I’m going to take a different tack, and address the list directly.

I’m all for constructive criticism, but I’ll state from the outset that I don’t believe this individual is arguing in good faith. Even ignoring their previous behavior (and the fact that their tumblr is “a blog dedicated to exposing tumblr’s most heinous social justice warriors”), many of the things on this list have already been answered, are irrelevant to what we’ve been saying, or are not possible at this point. A few mistakes are fine; I’m not going to begrudge someone not knowing the history of the asexual community. This many problems, though, strike me as either the work of someone who’s either been paying negligently poor attention or is deliberately setting impossible standards.

Still, they are being civil, and I suppose it’s better to directly address these things. With that in mind, onward!

-Construct a coherent and consistent definition of “asexual” that does not exclude grey-A and demisexual people.

First of all, what is incoherent or inconsistent about “does not experience sexual attraction”? I certainly have a hard time thinking of something more coherent or consistent.

Second, yes, that definition excludes demisexuals and gray-As. That’s part of the point: gray-As and demisexuals are not entirely asexual, but they’re far closer to that state than to any other. (And I say this as someone who may possibly be a little gray-A herself, or close enough for government work.) There’s a reason many of us talk about the asexual spectrum or asexual umbrella.

-Construct a coherent and consistent definition of “sexual” that does not include grey-A and demisexual people and does not imply that non-demisexual and non-grey-A people are oversexed, promiscuous, or even necessarily interested in casual sex or any sex at all.

While I admit that AVEN has some problems in this regard, and that the definitions of gray-A and demisexual are, by necessity, fuzzy, we’ve already done this. There’s nothing about “experiences sexual attraction (more than once in a blue moon, and outside of already being in love)” that implies any of those things, and I’m sure that many, many gray-A and demisexual people would be happy to expound on this for you.

-Construct a coherent and consistent definition of demisexual that does not imply that a huge part of the heterosexual human population, complying with the dominant societal prescription for female sexual behavior, belongs to a sexual minority.

Again, while the definition of demisexual could probably use some refinement, we’ve got the basics of this already down. This is something demisexuals certainly do discuss, so by all means, lurk a bit and learn.

-Decide whether people who fall into these definitions but don’t know about or don’t care about your identity politics count in your oppression or not.

Considering that a couple aces in this very debate who’ve mentioned that they’re speaking up for all the people who’ve never even heard of asexuality, so that those aces don’t have to go through what they went through…

…Well, I’m guessing that’s going to be a yes.

-Demonstrate any compelling pre-Internet link between hetero- and a-romantic asexual people and queer communities.

The asexual community did not exist pre-Internet.

We do not consider this a good thing.

-Be able to talk about why hetero- and a-romantic asexuals belong in the queer community without implying or outright saying (as one person representing AVEN has) that queer people need you to teach them about this new thing called non-sexual intimacy.

Has anyone in this discussion been saying that? Even by the standards of this list, this question is unfair, bringing up a comment from elsewhere and using it to deflect attention from our actual argument.

But, for the record, nobody should be saying that, and I think most aces involved in this would agree with me.

-Be able to illustrate how each instance of asexuals being “oppressed” is specific to those who identify as asexual and does not apply to women with FSD, people low sex drive due to long-term depression or other health reasons, people who abstain from sex due to trauma, gender dysphoria, or any other deeply personal reason, sexual people who are nonetheless alienated by dominant sexual culture, etc.

(For those of you still convinced this list is an honest attempt at dialogue, note the scare quotes.)

…Why?

This whole point is a giant grab bag and I’m not sure how relevant it is. It features many complicated issues, some of which we don’t agree on (some of us take more issue with the whole idea of sexual dysfunction than others, for example). In some cases, the differences are obvious. Someone who doesn’t have sex out of trauma, for instance, is obviously not going to find their sexuality as invisible as ours. In others, there is certainly overlap. But so what? It doesn’t invalidate what we’re saying if mainstream society disprivileges lack of interest in sex and sometimes fails to distinguish why someone’s disinterested.

-Understand the key difference between someone who identifies as asexual and someone who is diagnosed with Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.

I’ll tell you this when you can tell me the key difference between someone who identifies as gay and someone who is diagnosed with ego-dystonic homosexuality.

-Be able to recognize that some people may desire treatment options for low/null sex drive without assuming they are asexuals with a false consciousness.

This is a loaded question – who’s to say they aren’t? Would you offer a similar bullet point in regards to homosexuals who don’t want to be gay?

Even ignoring that, asexuality is not about sex drive. It’s about attraction. This isn’t just Asexuality 101, it’s the very first comment in the very first lecture on the very first day of Asexuality 101.

And even ignoring that, the asexual community is generally pretty good about distinguishing a sudden drop in sex drive from asexuality. Additionally, the DSM V committee we had was very concerned about providing recommendations that allowed asexuality to be removed while still retaining something for people who wanted a higher sex drive.

-Omit any examples of “sexual privilege” that women in a misogynistic society and queer people in a heterosexist society do not actually benefit from.

Benefit compared to what? I assume this bullet point covers things like saying that sexual privilege means I can find information on my sexuality, because queer people still have a harder time of it than heterosexuals? I don’t deny they do. But there’s a difference between only having a crappy community center and ten queer books in your local library and not having any community center or any books, anywhere. The degree of the problem is so vastly different that it arguably becomes different in kind; when you have people regularly reaching their thirties and beyond with no idea what is going on with themselves, it’s not the same thing as not finding out about homosexuality until you’re sixteen. Not to say that the latter situation isn’t awful for anyone going through it, but it’s simply not the same thing.

Mostly, this point seems like an attempt to get us to take anything with any overlap off our list.

-Learn the complex pre-1990 history of anti-oppression movements, specifically those whose frameworks you are appropriating.

“Those whose frameworks [we’re] appropriating”? What’s next, a question about whether we stopped beating our platonic partners?

Sorry, sorry.

I don’t see any reason for us not to take a look at history – it’s useful, after all! – but I fail to see how this is particularly relevant to whether or not we’re currently oppressed. I can look at current examples of, for instance, bisexual erasure and see my own experience mirrored there, and if the former’s a problem, then so’s the latter.

-Using reliable, concrete data, be able to illustrate how sexual persons, including LGBTQ sexual persons, have better access and opportunities than asexual persons in most if not all of the following categories: housing, education, employment, health care, income, and wealth accumulation.

One, discussions of heterosexual privilege (and monosexual privilege, for that matter), concern themselves with plenty of things besides these issues. Should you have to show all these to have discussions of heterosexual privilege taken seriously? Do the other forms of heterosexual privilege not matter? If LGB people were on par with heterosexuals in all those areas, would those mere ten queer books in the local library cease to be worth mentioning?

Secondly, I can’t think of anyone who was saying we had it bad in any of these areas (save certain aspects of mental health care). This entire bullet point has almost nothing to do with our actual concerns.

Thirdly, this bullet point is not just irrelevant, it’s currently impossible. There is simply no data available, because nobody studies us – which is why a lack of academic studies was put on the sexual privilege list.

-Optional: Using reliable, concrete data, be able to illustrate how asexuals are disproportionately policed and imprisoned.

Absolutely nobody’s saying they were, and even if someone was, we wouldn’t have the data.

As I said before, I don’t believe this list was a good faith attempt at constructive criticism. A couple irrelevant or inaccurate points would have been perfectly excusable; these things happen. (If I don’t have several screw-ups in any given post, it’s probably not long enough.) But here, between the well poisonings, the attempts to change the subject, and the ignorance about what we’ve already said, I have a hard time believe this list is nothing but honest mistakes.

Which also makes me wonder why I even bothered, but I suppose someone had to.

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3 Comments

  1. just-frigid said,

    This is a good post. Must have taken you a long time to take all of that apart! I don’t see why we have to prove that we are “oppressed” to other people, in order to fight our problems. I for one don’t think we experience any kind of systematic oppression, except for the healthcare issues that have been well established. That doesn’t make our experiences less valid, though, which is the conclusion most people seem to be coming to.

    I was looking at the thread about “sexual privilege” on ontd_feminism on LJ earlier and it seems that people there are still conflating sexual attraction with sexual behaviour and sex drive. And when questioned, one of them says they experience sexual attraction and drive together, therefore they must be intrinsically related. Someone responded and said they aren’t always linked, even if you experience them together. Totally valid, right? Well, the original person was like “This is just more evidence why asexuals don’t have their definitions straight, hahaha!” *sigh* because you know, it’s our fault if other people refuse to understand Asexuality 101, like basic level stuff. That’s our fault.

  2. Tani said,

    I’ve been reading a lot of the “response” posts to all the shit that’s being flung around. It’s very discouraging that they need to be made in the first place. These people aren’t interested in understanding. But I like to think that these responses will help someone.

  3. Lasciel said,

    This post is awesome!

    And the “show concrete data” “prove you’re oppressed!” cracks me up.
    I have access to a lot of academic databases & journals through my college and you’re lucky if you can find that article about Asexuality in Marie Claire or a tiny mention in a non-related sexuality study.

    It’d be easy to just say “Prove they’re not.” “Find concrete data that we aren’t.” ’cause they couldn’t do that either! There’s only a handful of studies that say anything about asexuality, and it’s most “Hey we asked everyone about their sexuality, but a few people didn’t match in at all. Weird blips…”

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