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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OrbitCon schedule

The OrbitCon schedule is now online.  You might say, “Yeah yeah, another conference I can’t attend.”  But you can attend this one!  It’s held online!  This weekend!

I’ll be in a panel called “Ace/Aro Atheists“, held at 2:30 CDT Saturday, with Sennkestra and Emily Karp.  Come join us!

“Aro” is short for aromantic, and “ace” is short for asexual (usually denoting the asexual spectrum).  Yeah, last time I did one of these panels, somehow all the panelists were in romantic relationships.  But this time all the panelists are aromantic-spectrum.  That includes me–I’m both aro-spec and also in a relationship, funny that.

Any ace panelists?

A few years ago, I organized a panel called Asexual Spectrum Atheists for FTBCon, an online conference. It was great success, and we were praised as “the nightmarish collision of FTB and tumblr!” OrbitCon is the spiritual successor of FtBCon, held on April 13-15. If I organized a similar panel, would anyone be interested in either watching, or being a panelist?

Ideally, the panel would have a variety of viewpoints, including ace/aro atheists/freethinkers who have never been involved in atheist communities, people who used to be involved but left, and people who are involved currently. Probably most of the time spent won’t be about atheism at all.  OrbitCon will provide tools and information if you wish to conceal your identity.

I’m ambivalent about organizing this, because I’ve been doing this for so long and it would be nice to have fresher faces.  Depending on the level of interest we can figure something out.

You may also e-mail me at skepticsplay at gmail dot com.

Paper: Asexuality in China’s Sexual Revolution

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2015, for The Asexual Agenda.  A few small changes were made to incorporate corrections by commenters.

It’s well-known that English asexual communities are dominated by people in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. [The Asexual Agenda] has made minimal efforts to include voices from other countries, but one of our blind spots is China. You know, that one country that has three times more people than the US, UK, Canada, and Australia combined.

The thing is, between the language barrier and the Great Firewall, hardly anyone in the English-speaking community knows anything. The closest we’ve gotten is our interview with Robin, but Taiwan isn’t the same as Mainland China at all. And given the complete lack of communication, it’s possible that asexuality in China is so different as to be unrecognizable.

That’s why I was interested to see this recent paper: Asexuality in China’s Sexual Revolution: Asexual Marriage as a Coping Strategy. By Day Wong, in Sexualities, February 2015.

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