Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Repulsion is not body shaming

This post was cross-posted on The Asexual Agenda.

[Content note: genitals, body shaming]

I'm going to say something that is perfectly obvious to nearly every person in the asexual community (and probably also to kinky people).  It is okay to be repulsed by genitals, bodily fluids, or by any particular sexual practice.  It is okay to make an effort to avoid situations where you have to watch or participate in such activities.  It is not okay to shame other people for participating in such things.  It is not okay to inform strangers that you find their PDA disgusting, or to make jokes about how gross vaginas are, or anything like that.  That's clearly crossing some sort of line.

On Jezebel, there was a post about a guy who told his girlfriend that he found vaginas unattractive, and joked that hers was particularly repulsive.  Lindy West said the letter-writer should break up with her boyfriend "fucking yesterday".  Hard to argue with that.

However, it sort of seems like Lindy West thinks it's not just the body shaming which is a dealbreaker, but the repulsion itself.  It's hard to tell, because she never outright says it:
I don't care how much you think you like this dude, and I don't care how "nice" he is to you when he isn't telling you that your fundamental anatomy (your literal fundament) is so filthy and revolting that he needs to wear a hazmat suit just to coexist with you beneath the duvet. That's not something that a loved one thinks, let alone says to your face when you're at your most vulnerable.  Even if the "vaginas are icky" attitude can be explained away by weak "social conditioning" apologia, the acting out on it can't.
So anyone who tries to defend the personal experience of repulsion is just spouting "weak social conditioning apologia."

I appreciate that body shaming is a serious problem.  I appreciate that it's not just a few individuals, but a whole culture, that goes so far as to sell products to women to help their vaginas conform to ridiculous standards.  And I appreciate that this is a bigger problem than the problem I'm complaining about.  I don't want to derail, which is why I'm posting this minor complaint on a separate website, a week after the article appeared.

But seriously, this is a minor step every sex-positive activist should take towards asexual inclusion.  Just like how you shouldn't say, "Every person is a sexual being", you also shouldn't say that repulsion is always wrong.  Some fraction of asexuals experience repulsion to various degrees (and presumably, this variation exists among non-asexuals as well).  Most asexuals are not going to use their repulsion to shame other people, because it's blatantly obvious that this repulsion is thoroughly atypical.  It doesn't make much sense to shame other people when you know that it's really about you and not them.