Beyond Character representation

This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2015, with a few edits for clarity. I chose this post because the paper I just discussed makes a mention of QGCon, and I was reminiscing about the event.

I’m lucky that the Queerness and Games Conference is right by where I live, and has many fascinating talks on the subjects of queer theory, games studies, and game design.

The QGCon logo

A major theme at the conference is the idea of going beyond mere character representation. That is, a queer game doesn’t just mean having a character who is queer, or giving the player the choice of who to romance. It could be about having queer themes, such as the theme of rebelling against the status quo.

Of course, me being me, I have a rather different style of thinking from most people at QGCon. At QGCon, no one ever voices disagreement, and everyone is happy and constructive. Who would ever want to discourage all these awesome but anxious creators by saying anything even mildly critical? But personally, I don’t feel like I have properly engaged in any subject until I have cast a critical eye upon it, and listed its disadvantages. So this is the critical discussion of non-character representation that I wish I heard.

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Paper: Gaming’s Queer Economy

In my last link roundup, I pointed to a paper called “Coin of Another Realm: Gaming’s Queer Economy“, by Christopher Goetz. I’m all over this, because I’m really interested in the economics of video games, and what this means for people with minority tastes. That’s not the direction Goetz takes, but still.

But I must warn you, you may find this paper infuriating. It shows some of the most frustrating tendencies of critical theory and queer theory. For example, in queer theory, “queer” often does not refer to sexuality, but instead means something like, “against norms”, “relating to oppressed groups”, or “in opposition to reproductive futurism”. Frustrating, as an activist, but also frustratingly standard!  And it’s not really much of an economic analysis–the paper quite literally uses a child’s understanding of economics. It’s a “literary” view of economics: myths, not maths.

But my purpose is neither to attack nor defend the paper (although I may do either incidentally), but to engage with it in good faith. The reader is welcome to quit in frustration at any point, and tell me about it in the comment section.
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On the obsession with penis size and race

cn: discussion of genitals, porn

PZ brought to my attention a “joke” where a comedian mocked the penis size of Asians. My emotional response to this joke is not offense, but rather concern and bemusement.

Concern, because this obsession with penis size sounds hazardous to your health. I would be very surprised if psychologists found that an obsession with penis size were not associated with mental health problems. It’s like if someone “jokingly” mocks another group for not getting smash drunk all the time.

Bemusement, because I knew in the abstract that many people care about penis size, but it still feels unreal. How does this cultural obsession even get transmitted between generations? It’s not a normal topic for kid’s television, or for conversations between parents and children. Are sex ed teachers directly telling kids about the importance of a good dick? Or maybe it mostly affects those souls so unfortunate as to enjoy “edgy” stand-up comics? Or maybe it comes from porn? Hmm, that last one might be the front runner.

As I was reflecting on this, I grew attached to the hypothesis that it’s mostly White people who care about penis size, and Asian people only care insofar as they’ve been affected by cultural imperialism and stereotyping. Of course, a hypothesis demands evidence, and this one is impossible to google. All I could find were think pieces talking about how racist the Asian stereotype is (no, duh).

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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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In which I destroy marriage

Attentive readers may have noticed a while ago when I started referring to my robot boyfriend as my robot fiancé. As I’ve told various people, we’ve been cohabiting for years, so we’re functionally already married. But after graduating, getting legally married has become a good financial decision, for two reasons.

First, it lowers our taxes. The general principle is that marriage most benefits couples where one partner has much higher income than the other.1 Since I’ve been unemployed for at least the first half of 2018, marriage very likely benefits us this year.

Second, it lets me buy health insurance through my partner’s employer. This is fairly significant, because I regularly take medication for asthma, and this stuff is surprisingly expensive without insurance coverage. Obamacare guarantees that I at least have the option to buy healthcare, but as I found out when I looked at insurance plans last December, the options aren’t nearly as good as what you can get through employers or universities.

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