Asexuality 101, annotated

This article is being cross-posted to my other blog, The Asexual Agenda.

Some people may have seen the Asexuality 101 page linked on the side bar of A Trivial Knot. I originally wrote that article in 2011, and transported it from blog to blog, occasionally making updates.

Since the beginning, the purpose of the article was to “get it over with”. I had a lot of non-ace readers, but didn’t want to explain the basics over and over again. So the idea was to silently educate readers before they left ignorant comments, saving me energy and saving them embarrassment. These days, awareness of asexuality is so much higher, which leaves me wondering whether the page is necessary, but it sure doesn’t hurt to leave it there.

You can still see older versions preserved on my previous blogs and in the wayback machine if you’re really interested. The article reflects shifting conventional wisdom in how we do asexuality 101, as well as some idiosyncratic choices on my part. Here’s a point by point discussion of why I wrote it that way.

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Link Roundup: August 2022

In case anyone’s interested, this month I wrote a whirlwind history of asexual communities.

Facial Expressions Do Not Reveal Emotions | Scientific American – I’m a big fan of psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett and her writing about the construction of emotional categories.  Here she criticizes emotional recognition tools created by data scientists, and I’m inclined to agree.  AI can, at best, identify patterns in facial muscle movement, but the correspondence between facial muscle movement and emotions is culturally mediated, because the emotional categories themselves are culturally constructed.  If you use this AI to make any important decisions that impact people’s lives, there will be unacceptable disparate impact against people of different cultures, or with variant emotional expressions.  Frankly, we should be striving to reduce the impact of emotional expression in job interviews and court decisions.  It’s discriminatory enough when humans are the ones doing it.

Blame It on the Game | Real Life – When I was a teenager, there was a lot of fear of censorship in video games.  The big thing was the Hot Coffee controversy, but there was also a lot of defensiveness of the violence in video games, which gamers would insist was unconnected to violence in the real world.  Games criticism has changed a lot since back then, and gamers are more likely to play up how much games impact the real world.  Gamers today aren’t wrong, but neither were they wrong back then.  The research on violent video games finds “small, reliable effect of exposure to violent video games on aggressive outcomes in laboratory experiments and cross-sectional and longitudinal studies,” but that’s still pretty far from causing shootings.  In this article, Katherine Cross navigates old and new discourses to talk about the real significance of video game violence.

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Terrible graphs of agnostic atheism

Rebecca Watson, unfortunately, reminded me of a meme from the old days of new atheism. It’s those agnostic atheism diagrams.

A diagram showing agnostic theist, gnostic theist, agnostic atheist, and gnostic atheist as four quadrants

Credit: Skepchick

I have a rant in me about these diagrams. Agnosticism and atheism are political terms, and whether you identify with them has more to do with what you find useful in your social context than the literal definitions of these terms. This diagram became popular because it explains and justifies a particular choice in identification labels, but it is not an appropriate framework to understand more broadly why people do or do not identify as agnostic. Thus, as a meme, this diagram is a barrier to empathy and understanding of fellow nontheistic folks of diverse label preferences. Also it’s just kind of incoherent.

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Origami: Two pyramids

Modular fractal pyramid

Modular Fractal Pyramid, designed by me, based on Jun Maekawa’s Fractal Pyramid

Some time ago, someone showed me Jun Maekawa’s Fractal Pyramid, and I thought, I could make that modular.  So I designed custom units–actually, several distinct custom units.  This is definitely over-designed, and not fit for sharing instructions, but it can be fun to make a one-of-a-kind model.

How many units would you guess are in this model?  Highlight to see answer: It’s 29.