Monday, September 24, 2012

Asexuals construct things too

This was cross-posted on The Asexual Agenda

Previously, Calinlapin explained what a social construction is, and how many of the beliefs that asexuals fight are social constructions.  But I must admit that I am somewhat of a detractor from this idea.  To take a single example,
Everyone desires sex and has pleasure having it.
This is a social construction because it appears to be a natural consequence of our world, but it's really a belief that's contingent on our society and culture.  But--maybe the is the scientistic way of viewing it--isn't it easier to argue that the belief is simply false?  Let's look at it empirically.  Can we find anyone who does not desire sex or derive pleasure from sex?  Perhaps there are some reading this blog right now?

On the other hand, I also like to use social constructionism to understand ideas created within the asexual community.  Perhaps this is because as a gray-A, I am on the borders of many definitions, and I find it liberating to question those concepts, to realize that they are not inevitable.

Take sexual attraction, which is the keystone of the definition of asexuality.  Sexual attraction is typically conceptualized as being accompanied by sexual arousal, sexual fantasies, butterflies in the stomach, a desire to look at or touch the person, and probably some other experiences I'm unfamiliar with.  But as asexuals we understand that this conceptualization of sexual attraction is contingent on culture.  And as proof of this fact, in our own little asexual subculture, we separate out sexual attraction from sexual arousal from sexual fantasies, etc.

But do we realize that we're basically countering the social construction of sexual attraction with another construction of our own?  That the way we think of sexual attraction is contingent on our subculture, upon the history of our community?

Yes.  I think we do realize that.  But sometimes we don't act like it.

Of particular interest to me is the endless agonizing over what would count as asexual, and what wouldn't.  I did that too, once upon a time.  And it wasn't a bad thing; it helped me think over a lot of stuff.  But sometimes we are too slow to realize that one possible answer is, "There is no answer."  That is to say, there is no inevitable answer.  The answer could depend on whether you're in this culture or that culture, on whether you're in the asexual community of 2006 or the asexual community of 2012.

Note that I could be wrong about this!  If I say, "sexual attraction is a social construction", that is a statement that can be true or false.  Most likely, it's partly true and partly false.  Some things will change as asexual communities develop, grow, and split, and other things will stay the same.  If you want to know which parts are socially constructed, let's watch and find out!

I am a hopeless empiricist.