Thursday, February 2, 2012

Asexuals are not X-men

There was another thing that really bothered me about the House episode featuring an asexual couple, which was something the writer said afterwards.
Originally, part of my dialog included thoughts about whether as a species we've grown past sex. Any time we tackle a subject, we risk the possibility of not doing it justice. I apologize that you feel I did you a disservice. It was not my intent.
Asexuality is a new topic for me and definitely one I find fascinating. It is a subject I would like to continue to explore here or ..on future shows I write for. I think it speaks to where humans are now and where we are going. I will do my best in the future to do it justice. Thank you for feedback and please share any and all thoughts.
[emphasis mine]
Of all the things you could possibly say about asexuality, this one really gets me.  It offends me as an asexual and as a skeptic.  If there's one way to make House's portrayal of asexuality even worse, this is it.

I'm not really sure where people get this idea, that asexuality is the future.  It's comparable to Creationism in how wrong it is on evolution.  It's a magical worldview, where cultural saturation of sex will somehow spawn asexuals as a spiritual counterweight.  It's a false equation between "evolution" and "progress".  It's a mythical view of the pure, superhuman asexual.  It just doesn't make any sense no matter how I look at it.

Nonetheless, this is not the first time I've heard it.  In fact, I hear it from several different quarters.

1. People who think they're helping.

Sometimes I get this response from non-asexuals who are trying to affirm asexuality.  How else to affirm it, but by saying what you think is great about it?  Maybe you think chastity is christ-like, or that society is so oversexed that it's desensitizing itself.  Asexuals sure sound chaste, and maybe they're part of the coming Great Desensitization!

Ugh!  If asexuals are chaste, it's not usually because they hold it up as a virtue.  It's because they would rather be chaste, regardless of whether or not they happen to think it is a virtue.  I certainly do not regard chastity as a virtue; furthermore, like many other asexuals, I am not chaste.  I find it really offensive to stuff these "values" into my mouth and pretend that's what I asked for.

If you talk about how extraordinarily great asexuals are, that's missing the point.  Asexuals are ordinary people.  Sexuals are ordinary people.  Neither is a choice, and both can result in functional human beings, so why is it suddenly a moral thing?  And what induces a person to say that they themselves are in the immoral, lesser group, I'll never understand.

2. People who think that's what I say.

Observe that the religious right is always stuffing their values of "purity" into your face.  Asexuals sure sound pure.  They think they're better than us!  They're be hijacking the discourse of sexual identity in order to advance the "family values" agenda!

If I really were advocating everyone be more abstinent, and if I really were using my identity as a way to protect my politics from criticism, then my critics would be absolutely justified.  This is what I am afraid would happen in House.  An asexual character, written by a clueless non-asexual, says something clueless.  And then viewers (especially my friends in skepticism) would call out the BS, and they would be right to do so.

Meanwhile, in the real world, asexuality actually made me even more liberal on sexual issues.  Before I knew I was asexual, the only way I could make sense of the world was by assuming people were almost like me, but exaggerating their sexuality.  Now I know better.  Now I recognize that there is wide variation in sexuality, and what seems unthinkable to one person is the reality of the next person.  I've heard so many times the idea that more sexuality is better, and that's wrong.  But if I simply reversed it, saying less sexuality is better, that would also be wrong as well as hypocritical.

3. Asexuals who say it, putting me down.

A corollary of "asexuals are ordinary people" is that some asexuals will also believe some wacky things.  They're put in a senseless position in life, and they have to make sense of it.  And why not make sense of it in a self-flattering way?  I'm not weird, I'm above it all.  I'm the next step.  Sex has been cheapened and no one takes it seriously anymore.

The trouble, besides the blatant misunderstanding of evolution, is that other asexuals don't "fit" into this picture.  As a gray-A, I definitely don't fit into the picture. To them I'm not a "real" asexual, I'm just a sexual trying to be like them.  As if I would try to be like anything.  I have one foot on each side, and I didn't get to be this way by thinking one side is "better" than the other.  What am I to them, a pervert, half a pervert?  I don't know what they think of me; I suspect they don't think of me at all.

Because this view is fundamentally harmful to the community, I usually only see it coming from a few newbies.  Presumably, they're either soon disabused of the notion, or they stop participating in the community.

tl;dr: The idea that asexuality is the next stage of humanity is just wrong and offensive from all angles.  I just lost all confidence in the writer for House, and would really rather she never "explore" asexuality again.


Sciatrix said...

This pisses me off something fierce too, both for all the reasons you mentioned and because I work in evolution and it's almost always cloaked in a thin veil of "human evolution." I really wish people would sit down and attempt to understand how concepts work before using them in terrible arguments.

I keep meaning to tackle this argument from an evolutionary perspective and explain, in detail, why it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how evolution works. Now that you've written such a handy explanation of why it's offensive and insulting, maybe I'll bounce off that and create a post about it. God knows I sat down and made a proto-post on the subject frequently when I was still on AVEN--this particular attitude really bugs me on several levels, no matter who it's coming from.

miller said...

I think here, people are motivated by what they find personally meaningful. And then they twist objective facts to suit their needs. Both steps are wrong. People should not find it personally meaningful, given all the offensive implications. And even if it were a pleasant view of the world, that's no excuse to distort facts. Though I didn't elaborate on the evolutionary errors, that would be a useful thing to write up.

miller said...

This post has been reblogged on Tumblr.

Anonymous said...

This entire post is just ridiculous. Really? They tried to get the story into the open, and then apologized if they got anything wrong. In the 60's gay men and women would have killed to get a little love from the mainstream. To this day they get it wrong. Or did you miss 8 entire seasons of Will & Grace? My grandmother and step-grandfather are asexuals. (My grandmother, born in the 40's, was expected to get married and have kids.) They have not had sex in 40 years. They are just happy it's out there as a semi-normal option now. Be happy you are a radioactive unicorn.

P.S. No one thinks asexuals are the future. Evolution disproves that as an outcome. Oh, and stop bashing religions. It's just ignorant. Take the high road.
P.S. No one thinks asexuals are the future. Evolution proves otherwise. Oh, and stop bashing religions it's just as ignorant. Take the high road.

miller said...

"Or did you miss 8 entire seasons of Will & Grace?"

I don't think the existence of Will & Grace negates all other problems in the world.

"P.S. No one thinks asexuals are the future."

This is a funny response to a post that contains a quote to that effect.

"Oh, and stop bashing religions. It's just ignorant. Take the high road."

Your opinion is noted.

Larry Hamelin said...

"Oh, and stop bashing religions. It's just ignorant. Take the high road."

Your opinion is noted.

You slay me, miller.