The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 14

14) Tell us about a time when you met another asexual, whether in real life or online.

I sort of wrote about this in a previous post about how I first learned one of my college friends was ace, and in turn she learned I was ace as well. However, I first met her in the beginning of my freshman year, right before the semester started. We lived in the same dorm and her room was pretty near mine, and my roommate and I happen to see her unpacking while talking to two of her friends. We stopped in to exchange the usual “Hello, how are you, what’s your name?” kinds of questions.

We managed to know each other for about a year and a half, none of us realizing the other was asexual. Then during Paideia (the week before the second semester starts at my college when students are allowed back on campus and hold informal classes on any and every topic that interests them), one guy (who I’d never met before) put together an Asexuality 101 class, which I thought would be intriguing to go to, since I’d never seen asexuality explained or discussed in space outside of ace spaces on the internet, and I also wanted to lend support to the person doing the class. At the end, I went up to thank him for running the class and doing such a great job. He asked me if I was ace too and I said I was. I turned around to see my friend, who I hadn’t even realized had been there during the class, and she said, “You’re ace!?” “Yeah,” I said. “So am I!” she responded. And then we high fived.

Published in: on August 3, 2011 at 11:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

Relationships and Friendship

I’d been intending to participate in the Carnival of Aces for a while now, but each time I either missed the deadline or couldn’t think of anything to write about that I really wanted to say. However, this month’s topic of relationships let me write about something, and a relationship, that I’ve been tossing around in my head for a while. It’s kinda messy though. Feel free to pick it apart.

Among the asexual community, there has been a lot of discussion about the difference between a friendship and a romantic relationship and why the latter is so privileged over the former among many people. However, my question is this: how on earth can a decent romantic relationship exist without friendship?

Good friendships, the ones that endure, take a long time to develop. For them to succeed, they require the potential for and continuation of growth of camaraderie, trust, affection, and understanding. Friends are often defined as those with whom you can be yourself around and who will accept you for who you are, warts and all. In my opinion, all of these factors are essential in a romantic relationship as well. However, I also think that those with the best romantic relationships are those who have learned to be friends with their partners, who have built their relationship on a solid foundation of friendship that coexists with their romantic feelings for each other.

I have been in exactly one romantic relationship in my life with a friend of mine who I developed romantic feelings for. This person has, and continues to be, a good friend of mine. I don’t think I would have been romantically attracted to him if we hadn’t been friends already, nor would have I continued to crush on him for as long as I did if we hadn’t become close friends over that year. Even though it’s been years since we broke up and I am no longer romantically attracted to him, I would still say that I love him, and not simply “as a friend”. I am glad we are friends and I am happy to keep it that way, but from our friendship, I have grown to love him as himself, as the person that I’ve known for so long. Even when he enters a romantic relationship of his own, I will most likely continue to love him, because how can I not?

Some of the best romantic relationships I’ve seen among my friends and other people are those that arose from a pre-existing, firm friendship. What I don’t get are romantic relationships that begin just weeks or days of the people first meeting. How can those relationships last when there’s no foundation to build them on? I know some people do have happy, satisfying romantic relationships that began the way I just described, but it still boggles my mind. Attraction of any kind, be it romantic, sexual, whatever, is way too fickle to be the sole basis of any kind of relationship.

Now that I think about it, I think the boundary between friendship and a romantic relationship is a lot slimmer than it looks, to the point that I, too, am confused as to what exactly (besides increased physical contact, in many cases) is supposed to differentiate a “mere” friendship from a romantic relationship. When my friend and I started going out, I wasn’t sure how our relationship was supposed to change. This occurred before I knew I was ace, but even at the time, I wasn’t crazy about touching him the way I knew everyone else was expecting we would, i.e. sexually. Other than that, I had absolutely no clue what we were supposed to be doing differently. We had already developed a pretty good connection with each other when we were friends. Why was the fact that I was romantically attracted to him supposed to change how we interacted?

Also, I think friendship is such an essential part of a romantic relationship because it not only provides a foundation, but it also widens the boundaries of that relationship. In a friendship, each person is allowed space to exist outside of that friendship. They can see other people or do activities that don’t fit within the space of that particular relationship. In Mad Ship by Robin Hobb (one of my favorite authors), one character tells another that it is possible to love someone while remaining free, but in doing so, it is necessary for each person to recognize that they each have needs that the other can’t fulfill, which means allowing their partner to let other people into their life. And that’s how any kind of relationship works. No one but my parents will ever know me as their daughter, nor will I know them as anything but my parents. Romantic relationships, in which the expectation is that this relationship will be the sole important relationship in each person’s lives, make me feel like I can’t breathe. I have room in my life and my heart for many people, why must a romantic relationship eclipse all the others, even if that person is the one I’m “closest” to?

In the end, I continue to love my friend, and we continue to build and maintain a friendship that the both of us value. We have a lot of history between us and he means a lot to me, as a person and as a friend. However, like I said, I don’t think I could have ever grown to love him if we hadn’t developed the friendship we did. Romantic attraction and feelings come and go, but relationships, solid, meaningful relationships of any kind, are what allows love to grow between people, and friendships are prime breeding grounds for love.

Published in: on August 1, 2011 at 8:34 AM  Comments (2)  

Shadow Touch by Marjorie M. Liu

This book was literally the only book I could finish during my vacation in Ireland. I guess that’s a positive thing, right? Anyway, while I enjoyed parts of it, particularly the romance, the overall package didn’t work as well for me.

Artur, a member of Dirke and Steel introduced in the previous book, can access the memories and emotions of any object or person he touches. Elena can heal broken bones and cure cancer, an ability she has no idea why she even has, but one she is willing to use for the benefit of others. Their paths intersect when they are both kidnapped by a powerful, sinister organization called the Consortium, which is dedicated to studying humans with psychic and magical abilities and using their powers for their own benefit. Their first meeting largely takes place within each other’s minds, which creates a mutual connection whose reach and strength allows them to look after each other whilst getting to know each other on a very personal level. Artur and Elena’s romance continues to develop against the backdrop of their effort to prevent the Consortium from potentially gaining the control of one of the largest crime syndicates in the world.

Marjorie M. Liu is quickly becoming the master of writing romances that occur over absolutely unrealistic spans of time that I somehow manage to believe in nonetheless. In this book, the majority of the romance takes place over the course of one to two days! This should be completely ridiculous! But because of the nature of the romance – the fact that most of their original communication occurs in each other’s minds, combined with both of their abilities to touch and learn about each other on a psychic level due to their individual powers, means that the shortness of time it takes for them to make a move on each other gains a lot more plausibility than seems possible.

Another thing Marjorie M. Liu is becoming exceedingly good at is writing heroes who are physically powerful, skilled in violence, and are vested with protecting their love interest, but who aren’t muscle-bound stupids constantly reveling in their own masculinity. Artur has a particularly dark history, what with his former employment with the Russian Mafia as hired muscle, and so he never lets his guard down even for a minute due to his violent past. Furthermore, his psychic ability makes him extremely vulnerable to touch, since everything he comes into contact with carries the history and memories of the person handling them, and in his line of work, that includes a lot of horrific and obscene memories. Despite all his physical strength and multiple capabilities, he keeps his past and his emotions locked away so as not to harm himself or anyone else with the memories of all that he’s done. However, when he starts falling for Elena, he doesn’t go, “FEELINGS? What foreign concept is THIS? I am a MANLY MAN and I don’t need FEELINGS!” Instead, like Hari in Tiger Eye, Artur becomes a giant sweetheart whose interactions with Elena are tender and lovely to read about. Really, it’s less a battle about what he feels as opposed to if he’s able to let Elena into his mind to judge for herself what kind of man he is.

I won’t deny, it was a little strange reading about Artur because I kept picturing him as a Russian version of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, but he’s actually a huge teddy bear who needs and deserves one million hugs and kittens and rainbows. Also, he’s not a sex god and the first time he and Elena have sex isn’t perfect! I love him even more for it. Again, like in Tiger Eye, this relationship is based more on emotional intimacy, openness, and trust than it is on lust and physical attraction, though the latter is still there.

Elena was decent, but her back-story was paper thin, especially compared to Artur’s. She has a vaguely described bad history with her mother, she grew up on a fruit farm that she now owns, and has an ability to heal people that she doesn’t really understand how it works. That’s it. As a result, it was difficult for me to fully understand the person Elena was at the time of the book because I couldn’t put together what made her who she is. She was suitably brave, heroic, and capable, which was good. Still, when placed next to Artur, Elena was not as well-drawn a character, and it did make it difficult for me to understand what Artur saw in her, whereas I fully got why Elena was interested in Artur.

The plot of this book was, to me, a lot weaker than the first book. The entire captivity sequence didn’t come together fully, I think because the stakes weren’t made as clear. There was too much disconnect between Beatrix Weaving, the head of the Consortium, and her lackeys, who are supposed to do her bidding. Really, the lackeys felt like they each had their own agenda that never matched up with anyone else’s, and so it was impossible to figure out why Elena and Artur had been captured and what the hell was going on. Which might have been the point, but it mean that I had little vested interest in approximately half of the book. Things pick up in the second half and the plot and action tightens considerably. And while the events in this book lay the ground for what looks like a series arc, it’s still too open-ended right now. As it stands, it looks as though Dirke and Steel’s enemies are doing evil and attempting to take over the world because they want “power”. Whatever that means.

This series really is becoming addicting. The books aren’t weighty, thinky-thought types of books, but they’re fun, engaging, and easy to read. One could say that they’re “light” reads, but I think it’s more that what you see is what you get. You get awesome action scenes, cool psychic abilities, and a romance that makes you go “aww” (well, it makes me go “aww” at any rate). Still, Shadow Touch was definitely a step down in terms of plotting and pace, and I hope those problems are rectified in the next book.

Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 1:10 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 13

13) Your favorite asexual website.

My favorite ace website is Writing From Factor X. Sciatrix’s blog posts are always thought-provoking and carefully constructed without being overly long (my ability to read blog posts longer than a certain length is pretty bad, sadly). Also, I love her Wednesday Linkspam posts (and are where I found this meme!)

Published in: on July 28, 2011 at 9:58 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 12

12) Your favorite asexual Tumblr site

I barely hang out on Tumblr. The closest I get is when I stumble upon a link that happens to lead to Tumblr, or someone sends me something that’s posted there. I know there are quite a few asexual Tumblr sites, but I almost never read them.

In short, I got nothin’.

EDIT: My favorite  asexual tumblr is Attempted Danger. The author writes about so many things I think about and have tried to write about, except she does it 200% better than me.

Published in: on July 27, 2011 at 10:04 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 11

11) If you’re out, talk about the most accepting person you’ve come out to. If you’re not out, talk about what you would hope a coming out experience would be like.

I could do the easy answer and say the most accepting person I’ve come out to is my ace friend from college, due to the fact that… ya know… she’s ace. But that answer is also pretty boring.

So instead I’ll say that the most accepting, non-ace person that I’ve come out to is my friend Michael. Most people I’ve told intellectually understand that I’m not sexually attracted to other people, but tend not to take that next step into understanding how that affects a lot of aspects of my life, and that it’s more complicated than just “I don’t want to have sex”. What I appreciate most though is that he gives me the space to be confused and uncertain about how I feel or what I want. In other words, he takes me at my word for what I said yesterday about me being ace and he’ll do the same thing a month from now as well. Not only that, but he’s encouraged me as I’ve started writing about asexuality online, and we’ve had some conversations about things I want to write about because I want to see how our perspectives differ and/or coincide. Essentially, he lets me be me while giving me the space to change and grow. He’s a pretty awesome dude.

Published in: on July 27, 2011 at 10:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 10 (long overdue)

Ugh, I really did not mean to put off continuing with this meme for as long as I did. For the past week that I was on a family vacation in Ireland, my ability to do anything besides be a tourist or be tired was practically nil. I didn’t even read very much, and I had brought a lot of books with me. But now I’m back and will finish what I started.

10) What have other people said about your asexuality?

Most responses have consisted of “Um, ok. Cool.” Some have been more positive, others have been neutral. One person did play the “you can’t be ace because it’s not evolutionary viable” card, but in the end, he accepted and believed the fact that I identified as I did, regardless of how he saw it.

My favorite response is this one –

Me: “I’ve never really been able to identify as straight, gay, or bisexual…”

My Friend: “So, you’re asexual?”

Me: “…How did you know about asexuality???”

My Friend: “Doesn’t everyone know about asexuality?”

She said all this with the utmost sincerity, without any hint of humor or sarcasm.

Published in: on July 25, 2011 at 12:48 PM  Leave a Comment  

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

“The Duff” is what Wesley labels Bianca one night while she’s sitting by herself in the club, sipping cherry coke as her friends are out dancing. “Duff” stands for “Designated Ugly Fat Friend.” Bianca is insulted enough to throw her coke in his face and resolves to stay far away from Wesley, who is notorious for sleeping with every and any girl who asks. However, she later happens to kiss him rather enthusiastically and realizes she very much enjoyed it. Combined with a home situation quickly going to hell, sleeping with Wesley seems like just the thing to help her forget her life for a little while, even if she still thinks he’s a despicable person. But, as it turns out, Wesley actually gets where Bianca is coming from, and the two of them actually might be compatible in ways outside of a good sexual chemistry.

I kind of want this book to be required reading for every sex-ed class taught in every single school in the United States. It has so much that is right with it in terms of portraying sexual relationships in all their confusing, complicated, awesome glory. One of the best things about all the sex was that the authorial voice never indicated that any of the characters were wrong in their actions. Sure, Bianca sleeping with Wesley in order to ignore all the problems in her life is probably not the best decision she could have made in terms of her emotional health, considering she’s convinced she wants Wesley to die a horrible death. Same thing with when she had sex with her first boyfriend – he was a lot older than she was and their entire relationship was a sham. But Bianca is never cast as doing something wrong because she has all this sex. The sex isn’t the problem – the reasons why she has it might not be completely A. OK, but sex itself is not to blame.

This is absolutely amazing. I can’t remember reading another YA book where a girl has this much sex and isn’t called a slut or a whore. Bianca does wrestle with that problem a bit herself. Does sleeping with Wesley so much outside of the context of a relationship make her a whore? After all, she makes it completely obvious Wesley that she’s screwing him only because he helps her forget about all the things going badly in her life. However, Wesley puts the kibosh on her doubts when he tells her, “What you are is an intelligent, sassy, sarcastic, cynical, neurotic, loyal, compassionate girl.” I can’t describe Bianca any better than Wesley just did right there.

Another thing that was a pleasant surprise – I’ve only read one or two YA books that included oral sex, but I definitely have not read a book before this one that has a guy going down on a girl rather than the other way around. THIS. YES. MORE OF THIS PLEASE. There are not enough positive, happy examples of cunnilingus in mainstream media, and that includes YA fiction. Also, as a side note, there’s a lot of sex that occurs over the course of this book and they are all written well. Since sex scenes are ridiculously hard to Get Right, kudos to the author on that.

The concept of the Duff was a really good one, and I loved how it was a comparative word, rather than a definition. A person is only a Duff in relation to who their friends are or who they’re seen with at any given time. Bianca thinks she’s the Duff because she’s not as tall or thin as her friends Jessica and Casey, but as far as Casey’s concerned, she’s the Duff because she towers over everyone, including most of the guys. And it’s probably true as well that every person has felt like the Duff of their group of friends at least once in their life.

I did wish Wesley’s problems with his parents had been given more attention and detail. All we have is that they’re away most of the time so Wesley never sees them and feels lonely. Which is understandable and sympathy inducing, but compared to the depth that Bianca’s family problems are given, it feels weak. Similarly lacking depth was Toby, Bianca’s long-time crush, whom she starts dating. He pretty much has no flaws, which makes his perfection a flaw, and I hate characters that I like that. They’re not flawed, they’re boring.

Also, for the time that Bianca’s trying to convince herself that she hates Wesley, she’s particularly one-note in her hatred and her thoughts about him. It’s sort of repetitive in that she has to keep thinking about how he sleeps with every girl ever and he’s so slimy and icky and she hates every fiber of his person. With regards to this, the writing did feel simplistic and a little forced.

I am really glad that this book currently exists and is being sold in bookstores and read by teenagers. It is, without a doubt, one of the most sex-positive YA books I’ve read, and that alone makes it worth reading. There are some elements lacking needed detail or emotional fortitude, rendering them more simplistic than they should be, but they’re made up for by two relatable, flawed, fucked-up characters who actually manage to bang out a decent, working relationship in the end. All in all, I am pleased with this book.

Published in: on July 15, 2011 at 2:29 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 9

9) What does being asexual mean to you?

For me, being asexual means I’m not sexually attracted to other people. That is ALL that it means. It does NOT mean that I don’t appreciate or desire any sort of intimacy and it does NOT mean that I dislike physical closeness. In fact, I very much like physical intimacy and really want to experience more of it in my life. I think intimacy in general is one of the best things ever to exist and to be shared among all human beings. Sexual activity is one form of intimacy. It is neither the best, nor the be-all, end-all of all possible ways to express and share intimacy. My ability and capacity to love other people, in whatever way I do, is in no way dampened or hindered because I am not sexually attracted to them. Just as sex doesn’t equal love, the latter, even romantic love, doesn’t equal sex. Similarly, intimacy of any kind, be it emotional or physical, does not equal sex. That’s all there is to it.

Published in: on July 14, 2011 at 11:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

The 30 Day Asexuality Challenge – Day 8

8 ) Do you believe there should be asexual pride? What do you imagine it being like?

Yes, I do there think there should be ace pride. Right now, simply promoting visibility and awareness is an example of pride because of its lack of presence and acceptance in the mainstream conscious. To be openly ace in whatever way, be it a pin, a black ring, or a label on your forehead is, to me, an example of showing one’s pride about being asexual. In whatever way someone stands up and says, as a matter of fact and with confidence and self-acceptance, “I am what I am”, they are showing pride.

That being said, I currently lack an obvious asexual symbol with which to express pride. I know I said earlier I don’t want symbols to do the work of advertising my orientation for me, but I still like the idea of symbols as an expression of self-pride. I’m not really a pin or badge type of person, but I do like the idea of the black rings. I need to look more into getting one.

Published in: on July 13, 2011 at 10:37 PM  Comments (2)