Monday, May 6, 2013

Why I don't trust you

This is part of my "Fantastic Primer" series, which incorporates a few fictional elements.  Please read the introductory post, which explains the premise.

Playing the representative

Blogging fame is a mixed blessing.  When I first started my obscure little blog, I wanted to be well-read, to be like the skeptical and atheist bloggers I admired.  Then I realized how much work it would be--getting e-mails, moderating comments, making a special effort not to say something totally wrong.  But for all that, I'll accept my newfound fame.

Of course, I'm anxious.  And most of all, I'm anxious about how my asexual orientation will be received.

"Oh, no, that's not a problem at all!  Why would anyone have a problem with that?  It's just the same as any other orientation."

Yes, yes.  Thanks for your support.  To some extent, my anxiety is amplifying my pessimism, and I know that.  But even if my anxiety is irrational, it is still a real emotion.  Let me explain where it's coming from.

Like anyone else, I am a person with many attributes.  My most important identity is that I'm a physicist.  I also have a strong interest in recreational math.  I like to play board games and fold modular origami and play electric guitar.  I'm an ex-Catholic atheist.  I'm particularly fond of the skeptical aspects of atheism, just because I think it's intellectually interesting.  And I'm gray-A, meaning I'm partly asexual.

Well, I know which one of those traits will stick out to blog readers the most.  Yep, I'm the asexual atheist blogger.  And I'm going to be complicit in my own shoehorning.  Generally speaking, asexuality constitutes only a fraction of my blogging, but now I'm obliged to give it a much greater fraction, at least temporarily.  After all, I'm sure some of you don't even know what asexuality is (and others think they know, but don't).

Negative expectations

But hold on, I'm not getting to the explanations yet.  That will be in another post.  First I want to talk about various negative reactions I expect from the more ignorant and troll-ish among you.  This is a deliberate tactic to challenge my readers to not give me these responses.  Will you rise to the challenge?

-I expect people to ask me why I'm even blogging about this subject.  "So you don't like sex, why is that a big deal?"  "Asexuals don't really experience oppression, so what is there worth fighting for?"  "If you don't being shoehorned into the role of the asexual atheist blogger, why are you talking about it?"

-I expect people to ask me about my history.  "Could it be that it's some residual sexual shame from your Catholicism?  I'm just interested to know if there's any pattern of this among asexuals."

-I expect to have to deal with atheists who are tired of feminism.  "So what, atheists have to care about asexuality too?  I thought it was ridiculous when people said we had to fight ageism, but now this?!  Asexuals aren't even oppressed!  This is some PC bullshit."

-I expect people to lecture me on science.  "People can't be asexual.  Especially men.  Evolution programmed us to like sex. What you're describing sounds more like a disability."

-I expect people who obviously didn't read anything I wrote.  "Isn't a lack of libido a medical issue?"

-I expect people with hangups about basic linguistics.  "Just because you define asexual as a lack of sexual attraction doesn't make it the real definition."

-I expect people to tell me about some asexual they had met.  "I had a friend who thought he was asexual for a while.  Then he realized he only liked kinky sex."  "In high school I knew someone who was asexual, and she was always railing against porn and hookups."

-I expect people to make awkward jokes that I've totally never heard before.  "So, if you cut off your arm, will it grow into another person?"

-I expect people who will react positively at first, but who won't like some of the things I say afterwards.  Some people won't like gray-A or demisexual identities.  Some people won't like aversive asexuals.  Some people won't like asexuals who seek relationships with non-asexuals.  Some people won't like it when I defend non-asexuals who choose to be celibate.

I expect people to wonder where I get these crazy expectations.  Let me tell you.  I have Google alerts on the word "asexual".  I know what people say in forums, blogs, and the comments of news articles.  Some people have said these things to me.  But I'm challenging readers not to say it here.

Are atheists any better?

Surely, people who read atheist blogs are better than the commenters on random news articles.  In my experience, atheist groups, both online and offline, are the most pro-LGBT groups out there.  Unfortunately, pro-LGBT attitudes don't always carry over to asexuality.  Anti-asexual attitudes, while less virulent than homophobic attitudes, also tend to be more bipartisan.  Liberal people prove to have all sorts of sexual hangups that basically only become relevant when asexuals show up.

Atheists in particular have hangups relating to religious puritanism.  Atheists love to make fun of religious attitudes towards sex.  People who don't masturbate?  They're fooling themselves.  Sexless marriages?  Good thing they're not passing on their genes.  When prompted, they'll often say that they're just making fun of religious purity culture, and are totally respectful of asexuals who might engage in the same (lack of) behavior.  This is never very reassuring, especially since others respond by making fun of asexuality.

As for the times that atheists talk directly about asexuality, it's not good.  Some atheists get it, and some don't.  See my links at the bottom of this post for examples.

Some people will say, "Why should you expect any better from atheists?  Atheists are just as flawed and prejudiced as anyone else."  Clearly I don't expect better.  This entire post is about how low my expectations are.  But I want better.  And I know it's possible, considering the uniformity of pro-gay/lesbian attitudes among atheists.  At the very least, it should be possible among readers of my blog.

A more standard asexuality 101 to follow.

Examples of atheists and skeptics talking about asexuality on forums:
JREF forum
Thinking Atheist forum
Previous posts on the issue:
Atheists on asexuality
Making fun of sexualities: Godless edition

The Fantastic Primer series:
1. Introduction
2. Why I don't trust you
3. Yes, I'm one of those atheists
4. A skeptically-oriented Asexuality 101
5. Atheism as minority, atheism as political cause 
6. Atheism and asexuality: a historical comparison  
7. Why atheism and asexuality taste great together