Celibacy, and its use by asexuals

This post is being cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda, and is written for a general audience.

“Asexuality is not the same as celibacy” is a common line in introductory explanations of asexuality, but as I discussed in an earlier post, mocking celibacy can still be asexual-unfriendly. Here I will go further in depth.

The distinction between asexuality and celibacy plays the same role that “born this way” plays for LGBT people. The purpose of each talking point is to establish that LGBT/asexual people did not choose their orientations. The slogans can be useful, particularly in hostile environments. However, if people become more accepting, if people realize it does not matter if it is chosen, perhaps we can move beyond slogans.

Aside from the politics, there is also a question to what extent it is really true that LGBT people are always “born this way”. If you look, you will find people who subjectively experienced a choice, people who emphasize that their identity or behavior are chosen, and people who would like an honest look at the empirical evidence.

Similar questions may be raised about asexuality and the extent to which choice plays a role in it. While asexuality and celibacy certainly have distinct meanings, we want to know exactly how far that distinction goes. For example, some people take that to mean that asexuals and celibates are non-overlapping groups. But is that really true?
[Read more…]

Before you mock celibacy, listen

Asexuality is not the same thing as celibacy. This is something we can agree upon. However, when people mock celibacy, it can be done in a way that is particularly unfriendly to asexuals. This is a particularly common occurrence in atheist spaces, where people often make fun of clerical celibacy.

Nearly ever time I’ve ever raised the issue, the defense is that asexuality is not the same as celibacy. While true, I want to show why it is uncompelling as a defense.

The bottom line: It is okay to not have sex. First corollary: it is okay for asexuals to not have sex. Second corollary: it is okay for literally anyone else to not have sex.

[Read more…]

The Extremely Simple Model of Orientation

I’m trying a monthly feature where I repost things from my archives.  This one is from 2015, and is very silly.  It’s also a great example of talking about asexuality without talking about it.  A preoccupation with modeling orientation is flamingly ace.

When it comes to models, simplicity is a value. The point of a model is not to tell you everything, but to isolate the information that you actually want to know. When people try to model human sexuality, they often undervalue simplicity, leading to such misguided attempts as the following:

Transcript: an equation for W, the amplitude of a quantum transition, including parts from quantum mechanics, spacetime, gravity, other forces, matter, and Higgs.
The Universal Equation Model of Orientation (TUEMO). Image borrowed from Sean Carroll.

Proponents of this model argue that they are making simplifications, and far too many. For instance, they already graciously ignore quantum gravity, under the assumption that black holes aren’t involved in most human relationships. But I say it still doesn’t go far enough. I propose a bolder simplification…

[Read more…]

Everything is my football

This was originally posted on The Asexual Agenda last week, and is thus written explicitly for ace audiences.  If you want to see ace responses, you might find the comment thread over there enlightening.

Sometimes in college, I would persuade people to play a game. Name a movie. I probably didn’t see it. If I saw it, I probably didn’t like it. It would usually take over a dozen tries before anyone could name a movie I cared for.

It’s not just movies. I don’t like most television shows, books, or music. Or at least, I probably won’t like any particular example. I’m not snobby about it, and I am not embarrassed about the things I like. I’m just not a fan of pop culture. Or most other culture for that matter, but pop culture tends to be most relevant.

Put it this way: every year, geeks have a competition to see who can be most loudly uninterested in football. I don’t participate, because everything is my football. If you like most of pop culture except for a few things, you can afford to be a jerk about it. I cannot afford to be a jerk about absolutely everything, so I try not to be a jerk about any of it.

There is no identity label for this experience (I don’t consider myself “indie”), but I still feel there are thematic resonances with asexuality, outlined below. After all, asexuality is also about not liking something that is popular.
[Read more…]

Who shows up, and who doesn’t

Atheist communities tend to be male-dominated, and that means that the women who show up tend to be atypical in some way.  Those women have some personal background, some personality trait, that lets them cross the barriers that keep most women out.

The same is true of many minority groups.  Atheist communities don’t have many Asian Americans, so the ones who show up are atypical.  There aren’t many vocal aces, so the ones who show up are atypical.  I showed up, so I am atypical.

Here’s something you may not have known.  Atheist communities are dominated by men, but ace communities are dominated by women.  Men make up 12% of the online anglophone community.  I have data!

[Read more…]