Classifying sexual violence

Readers may recall earlier this year, when I wrote a practical guide to sexual violence terminology.

Now I’ve written another article, as part of the Ace Community Survey Team, explaining how sexual violence is classified by the CDC.  Go take a look.

Although the CDC’s definitions of sexual violence are publicly available in the NISVS report, few lay people would sift through over a hundred pages in order to find them. The lack of easily accessible information concerns us, because it deprives some victims of tools they need to understand their own experiences. The goal of this article is to explain the CDC categories and their use in the 2018 Asexual Community Survey.

Some aromantic basics

I don’t do enough ace blogging around here. I zipped right through Asexual Awareness Week without saying a thing! But let’s not talk about asexuality, let’s talk about something a bit different: aromanticism.

I don’t like to think of myself as writing a definitive guide to aromanticism, since I’m not aromantic myself, so I’m just going to keep this casual in tone.

Romantic orientation

“Aromantic” is constructed in an analogous way to “asexual”. Asexual means not experiencing sexual attraction, and so aromantic means not experiencing romantic attraction. Alternatively, “aromantic” might just mean not wanting romantic relationships, the definition is a bit flexible like that. Either the noun or adjective form is fine, and “aro” is a common abbreviation.

Aromanticism as a concept has had a long history, since the beginning of online asexual communities in the late 90s (although terminology may have changed since then). Once you get a group of asexual people talking to each other, two of the very first narratives to appear are: asexuals who want relationships and don’t want anything to do with sex, and asexuals who don’t want anything to do with romance. It’s natural to make a distinction between these two experiences, and the name for that distinction is romantic vs aromantic. (In some places, they use “alloromantic” instead of “romantic”, in the same way that “allosexual” is a common term for “non-asexual”.)

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The sexual recession: an ace perspective

“Why are young people having so little sex?” asks the title of a new article in The Atlantic. The article is also summarized in video form. The article reports that the number of high-schoolers who have had intercourse declined from 54% to 40% in the period from 1991 to 2017. The author writes,

But now some observers are beginning to wonder whether an unambiguously good thing might have roots in less salubrious developments.

The author says the decline in sex is not just among teenagers, but among young adults too. Among people in their early 20s, 15% say they haven’t had sex since becoming adults, as compared to 6% among Gen-Xers. The author calls this a “sexual recession”. What follows is a long list of speculations about what could be causing it–be it porn, dating apps, helicopter parents, bad sex, or inhibition.

I will offer an unsympathetic, perhaps callous perspective–this being largely a straight people problem, and me being a gay ace guy. Yeah, I really don’t think this is as much of a problem as the article makes it out to be.

Flipping scripts

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Rape is about power and sex

cn: non-explicit discussion of rape

“Rape is about power, not sex” is one of those old feminist sayings. I don’t know the exact source, but Psychology Today suggests that it might be simplified from statements by Susan Brownmiller in 1975.

In its simplified form, it’s obviously a political soundbite, a piece of rhetoric rather than a serious thesis. If I put on my philosopher hat, what does it even mean for X to be “about” Y? Is this about-ness relation commutative, reflexive, or transitive? Based on usage, I’m guessing that what people mean is that rape (and other sexual violence) is motivated by power relations, and not motivated by sexual desire. Which just isn’t always true, so I don’t know why people say it.

I recently discussed the case of Avital Ronell (who, to be clear, was found guilty of sexual harassment, not rape). One detail I didn’t mention, because it was irrelevant, was that the perpetrator was lesbian, and the victim was gay. This surprised some people, and I saw people on Twitter defending the perpetrator on this basis, or suggesting that she must really be bisexual. This comes from the false belief that sexual harassment must be motivated by sexual desire. In this case, it was motivated by the power relation between an advisor and grad student.

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Asexuality on Breitbart

I’m going to make this short, because it’s Breitbart, there’s hardly any point.  I’m only talking about it because a friend was quoted in it.

Recently, Breitbart posted an article titled “Asexual” is a Hot New Sexual Identity In the San Francisco Bay Area.  Rather than doing their own journalism, they basically copy content from Mercury News, and add insinuations that asexuality is a ridiculous trend that is confined only to recent times, and to the San Francisco Bay Area.

They also spoke to an “expert” from Israel, the author of The Truth: A Pathway to the Subconscious.  She says:

My research shows that every person is divided into five different levels of being; the mental body, the feelings body, the emotional body, the spiritual body, and the sexual body. […] The people who define themselves as asexual, most of them are activated from a conditioning that says ‘sexuality equals delete’.

At first it looked like Breitbart quoted an “expert” to invalidate asexuality, but on second glance I believe they were trying to find someone ridiculous to “support” asexuality, in order to make asexuality look ridiculous.  But nobody in the ace community would take this woman seriously, and we can all see that it was Breitbart who thought she was worth talking to.

Breitbart also wrote about asexuality last year.  What?  I don’t follow Breitbart, I get Google alerts, okay?

Attraction and emotional granularity

This article was written for the Carnival of Aces themed on “Nuance & Complexity“. It is being cross-posted to my other blog, The Asexual Agenda.

Asexuality is chiefly about noticing a distinction between the emotions you perceive in other people, and the emotions you perceive in yourself. We give a name to this distinction, for example by saying some people experience sexual attraction and some people do not. And we discuss appropriate responses to our emotions, for example by saying that some emotions mean we want to have sex, and other emotions do not.

Within ace communities, we often discuss further distinctions in emotions. Again, we give names to these distinctions, for example by talking about romantic attraction, platonic attraction, aesthetic attraction, sensual attraction, and so forth. And we discuss appropriate responses to these emotions, for example by describing what kinds of relationships might satisfy our emotions, or if a particular emotion only makes us want to look at a person.

The ability to distinguish different emotions is a nascent research topic in psychology. And while you shouldn’t let psychology research dictate how you live, looking into the research may give us insight into a common topic.

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