Asexual, because reasons

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2015, primarily for an ace audience.

I grew up in a family that never talked about sex or even really relationships and intimacy. Of course I was still surrounded by sex in media, my peers, etc, but I never got “the talk” or had any discussions about sex within my household. My therapist wanted me to consider if that could have influenced my disinterest in sex and lack of sexual attraction.

–Seen on AVEN

I don’t feel sexual attraction to people but I know my antidepressants repress my sex drive so I don’t know what I feel naturally and what’s been taken away from me if that makes sense.

–A question seen on Asexual Advice

In a world that continually erases Asian (male assigned) sexualities I was coerced into asexuality. It is something I have and will continue to struggle with. My asexuality is a site of racial trauma. I want that sadness, that loss, that anxiety to be a part of asexuality politics. I don’t want to be proud or affirmed […]

Alok Vaid-Menon

There’s a common theme among people questioning whether they’re asexual. What if I’m really this way just because of _____? Replace the blank with “trauma”, “hormones”, “medication”, “my age”, “gender dysphoria”, “abuse”, “anxiety”, “repression”, or “upbringing”.
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Ostensive definitions for queer experiences

While I’m still on the subject of Wittgenstein’s private language arguments, I’d like to say more about how it relates to queer experiences.

You might notice that I’ve never stated exactly what the private language argument is. It isn’t really a formal argument, in the sense of having premises and a conclusion. Rather, the private language argument refers to a cluster of issues regarding personal experiences. For example, what does “pain” refer to, if anything? When I experience a thing, how do I identify it as pain or not pain? How do I know that it is similar to what other people are feeling when they refer to pain?

You must realize that I am not formally trained in philosophy. I’ve never read Wittgenstein first-hand and don’t know precisely what he says. But it seems to me that the private language argument is wasted on philosophers, when it’s so directly relevant to queer experiences. How does one know that one is experiencing sexual or romantic attraction? How about gender dysphoria? This isn’t philosophical abstraction to us, it’s something we live through and discuss amongst ourselves extensively. I would bet that it is also relevant to other minority experiences, such as chronic pain, depression, or aphantasia.

Usually, when we define a word, we explain it in terms of other words. But clearly we can’t do this for every word, because the definitions would eventually become circular. If you think about it, there is a way around this.  You can define a word by pointing to examples of it. For example, I can define an ant by pointing at one, or I can define an octahedron by pointing at one. This is called an ostensive definition.
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My beetle is an elephant

This is a repost of an article from less than a year ago, which went on The Asexual Agenda.  I was recently reminded of this article, and I intend to say more on the subject.

Sciatrix once created an influential metaphor for attraction: it’s like everyone has an invisible elephant that only they can see.  These invisible elephants are apparently very important in society, but hardly anyone can be bothered to describe them because it’s assumed that everyone has their own elephant and can see for themselves.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, once described a thought experiment: Suppose that everyone has a box with a “beetle” inside it, but each person can only see their own “beetle”.  Wittgenstein argues that when we talk about “beetles”, we are only referring to that which is in the box.  It doesn’t matter if the boxes actually contain different things, or if the things change over time, or if the boxes are actually empty.  (watch this video)

That feeling when philosophical thought experiments become directly applicable to your daily life. [Read more…]

Japanese “herbivore men” hold a mirror to our culture

This is a repost of an article from 2013. There were a lot of comments on this one, probably because it upset MRAs.  To MRAs I say, cry more.

Herbivore men briefly explained

The Japanese subculture of “herbivore men” seems to hit the news every so often.  Here is a recent example in the Guardian: Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?  What exactly is going on over there?

I’m no expert in Japanese culture, but my coblogger on The Asexual Agenda, Queenie, is an expert.*  I will defer to what she’s written about herbivore men.  My summary: In Japan, men are expected to be “carnivores”, aggressively pursuing relationships with women.  But many men in metropolitan areas have become “herbivores”, being less assertive in relationships, more sensitive, and even willing to be friends with women (in Japan this is a big deal).  And there’s probably other stuff as well, like their attitude towards money, jobs, and fashion.  Women of course are expected to be herbivores to begin with, although there is also talk of carnivore women.

*She’s actually an expert in Japanese religion, but close enough.

In Japan, herbivore men are sometimes the subject of moral panic because they’re not forming relationships, are defying Japanese gender roles, and may be contributing to the declining birth rate.  Cry me a river I say.  People aren’t obligated to make babies just to uphold the national birth rate, and if Japanese people really wanted population growth so badly they could try being less racist and accept more immigrants.

In the English speaking world, the reaction to herbivore men is… different.  Sometimes, the reactions really say more about our own culture than about Japanese culture.

Here I will briefly show the reactions coming from three different groups: mainstream news, asexuals, and men’s rights activists. [Read more…]

Ace webcomics you should read

Today’s the last day of Asexual Awareness Week.  I don’t do many things for AAW, except this survey thing.  There’s a sample of AAW activities in this linkspam.

But today, I have a small bonus: webcomics with ace characters.  Although ace characters in fiction are in general quite sparse, webcomics have been an exception.  There are more webcomics with ace characters than I can keep track of!  This is great for me, because I am occasionally picky.

For a more complete list of webcomics with ace characters (including much more obscure examples), I recommend the LGBT webcomics list.  To avoid “archive binge”, I use Comic Rocket to bookmark pages and generate custom RSS feeds.

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Take my survey!

I volunteer for the Ace Community Census, an annual community survey.  The survey is open anyone over the age of 13, both asexual and non-asexual people.  The purpose of this survey is to measure various demographics of the asexual community in order to create an annually updated database of quantitative information which can be used for future asexual research.

The 2016 Ace Community Census is run by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN) Survey Team. If you have any questions or concerns about the survey, you can contact the AVEN survey team at  You can also ask me directly, for a more informal response.

Click here to take the 2016 Ace Community Census!

For answers to common questions about the survey, please see the FAQ here.

You may share this, but I’m going to specifically ask that PZ Myers not share it.

Data feels

cn: rape, sexual violence, & CSA juxtaposed with cold data. This is being crossposted to my other blog.

Some of my most important activist work is in volunteering technical skills for the Asexual Census, a survey of English online ace communities. This past week, I’ve been on a roll analyzing our 2015 survey. No numbers will be reported here, this is just a personal account.

Unsurprisingly, as soon as I was done with prep work, my attention was drawn to the statistics on sexual violence. As a programmer, I’ve been trained to always use descriptive variable names. Now I’m looking at variables named “rape” and “rapeCombined”.
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