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Reporter from SF State
Spanish news website elmundo.es
Potential documentary on the science of asexuality!
Ghosts (sparking a cool discussion discussion!)
A little under a year ago I gave a talk at the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. The room full of grad students and professors didn’t quite know what to make of me at first, but by the end of the talk they were blown away by the work that we in the asexual community are doing. One woman was so impressed that she invited me to play on her Ultimate Frisbee team, and we got into a habit of hanging out after practice to talk shop.
During one of these discussions she said something that got me thinking. She said that condom use in teenagers was directly proportional to amount that teenagers expected to have sex. When they knew sex was coming they had the foresight to plan ahead and be safe, when they couldn’t envision themselves having sex but somehow got caught up in the moment, high-risk behavior got a whole lot more likely.
That got me thinking about the community on AVEN. Though only some of us are actually having sex, most asexual people experiment with some form of sexuality in some way. That I’ve seen we don’t really talk about that experimentation much, but it seems like the more openly we can address the topic of asexual people experimenting with sexuality the more we’ll be able to do it on our terms. We don’t find sexuality addictive or intoxicating the way that sexual people do, and that makes it slightly less ugly a prospect, but there are still a lot of very real emotional, relational and medical risks involved in experimenting with sexual dynamics. With forethought and we can minimize those risks. And whether you foresee yourself dealing with sexuality in the future or just want to be prepared, knowing how to safely and purposefully approach sexuality is something that even the most sexually averse of us should know how to do.
**Disclaimer: A small percentage of experimentation with sexuality involves gooey fluids. This type of experimentation, though it can be worthwhile under certain circumstances, it will not be the focus of our discussion today. If you think that there is a chance that the experiment you are planning may involve Gooey Stuff, it is extremely important to familiarize yourself with its safe handling. After reviewing several sites, I recommend Wikipedia for a comprehensive, asexual-friendly view on this topic. (I’ll include a link with the show notes on asexualunderground.blogspot.com) **
What do I mean by “experimenting with sexuality?”
Gooey fluids aside, sexuality is a social thing. It’s about a certain way of thinking, acting, and feeling which comes very naturally to most people and seems alien to us. Experimenting with sexuality is a little like dressing in drag. It’s about taking on, playing with and complicating a social performance that most people take for granted. It can be fun, exciting, educational, and can cause the sexual people around you to question their assumptions. Experimenting with sexuality does not necessarily mean having sex, it means doing things which most people consider “sexual” even though you aren’t. This could include flirting, telling dirty jokes, or allowing sexual tension to develop in a relationship.
In my experience experiments with sexuality always follow a set pattern. Knowing the pattern can help you plan ahead, decide when it’s worth bothering to experiment with sexuality and approach sexual experimentation with a sense of purpose.
Here’s how to turn sex into something useful in six easy steps:
Step 1: Imperative –Why experiment with sexuality? Because we live in a sexual world, where a whole range of thoughts, activities and feelings are arranged in a hierarchy around sex and sexual relationships. Take kissing. Unless you’re kissing your grandma, touching your lips to someone else’s is generally considered a sexual act. Now, touching your lips to someone else doesn’t necessarily mean that you want to have sex with them, but do it for long enough and everyone will look at you funny and wonder why “more” isn’t happening. In the sexual world things like kissing, flirting, dating, talking to people at parties, and dancing are all considered part of this sexual hierarchy: even though they look and feel nothing like sex, each one is inexplicably chained the desire to boink someone.
When we experiment with sexuality we’re slapping on camouflage facepaint, sneaking into sexual territory and cutting those chains. If you try out kissing, like it, and figure out a way to work it into your life without porking anyone, you’ve taken a step towards a more asexual-friendly world. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Step 2: Dismissal- What’s the first thing I do when something in the sexual hierarchy catches our eye? Generally speaking I ignore it. Experimenting with sexuality can be a lot of work and a huge headache, and I’ll only go through the trouble of venturing into sexual territory if it seems worth the effort. Nine times out of ten it’s not- there’s nothing wrong with experimenting with sexuality, but there’s also no reason to if it doesn’t seem worthwhile.
Step 3: Confusion- I want to be clear: experimenting with sexuality does NOT make you any less asexual unless you want it to. There are a lot of things to be confused about when you’re skirting the sexual/asexual boundary- your identity isn’t one of them. Experimenting with sexuality could bring up parts of yourself that you didn’t know existed, but it won’t change who you are.
Identity aside confusion is a natural part of any venture into unexplored territory. Remember: the asexual community has only been around for a couple of years, experiments which mix out-n-proud asexual people and traditional sexual activity are pretty new territory, and there’s no telling what could come out of the reaction. Accept that not everything makes sense- that’s why you’re doing the experiment in the first place.
Step 4: Experimentation- With all that confusion it’s hard to have a clear plan, but the clearer you can have the better. I like to try and think of it in terms of green, yellow and red- things I’m interested in, things I’m willing to let happen and things that I’m not down for. (e.g. I’m INTERESTED in hitting on people at this party, I’m WILLING to let people think I’m sexually interested in them if that’s how they interpret it, but I’m NOT DOWN for letting anyone take me off into a corner.) Once you’ve set you’re boundaries, go ahead and jump in. Don’t expect things to feel natural- sexuality is a performance, and it may take you a while to learn how to play the role (maybe longer than most sexual people, since you won’t have your own sexual desire to act as a compass.) Be curious, try different things, see what works, what seems interesting and what doesn’t. Remember this is like drag- by a little campy and have fun. Once you’ve gotten your bearings, don’t be afraid to break out of the usual sexual script.
Whether you’re at a party or alone with someone, whatever experiment you’re doing will probably involve other people. Sometimes it’s impossible to keep everyone fully informed at all times, prefacing a flirting session with a disclaimer about how you’re asexual and this is just a test might kill the mood. You won’t be able to engage in clear, open dialogue all the time, but you should communicate as openly as possible the second other people start getting seriously invested in things.
Step 5: Reflection – Now it’s time to let all of that confusion sort itself out. Every time I’ve experimented in any way with sexuality I’ve enjoyed at least some part of it, but usually not the “sexual” part and usually not in quite the same way as sexual people seem to. As I turn the experience over in my head I’ll find a way to separate all of the parts I’m not interested in from the parts I am.
Talk things out in a place where you feel safe doing so. What did you like? What didn’t you like? What seemed easy to fit into the rest of your life and what seemed tricky? Maybe the experiment brought out parts of yourself you weren’t aware of, maybe it didn’t. If it did, take the time to figure out how they fit in with the rest of your life.
Step 6: Reinterpretation – Finally, the fun part. Now that you’re figured things out, you’re got a new tool in your asexual repertoire. Once you’ve separated the stuff you like from that big, ugly hierarchy of sexuality you are free to do it on your own terms. Once you’ve sorted things out in your head you can come up with clear, concise language to communicate with any sexual people (or asexual people) who might be left scratching their heads. Once everything works and makes sense, make sure you post about it on AVEN. Asexuality is still new territory, and we need people like you to blaze the trails.
A little homework in lieu of a question of the week: when I was researching safer sex sites for the disclaimer I came across the site for Planned Parenthood. Now I usually have a lot of respect for Planned Parenthood, but the wording on their site is unfortunate:
Their section on safer sex opens with the unfortunate phrase “We are all sexual — from birth to death.”
Waddaya say we see if we can get them to change it? Drop them an e-mail at email@example.com. Be respectful and polite- we’ll get a lot more accomplished that way.
Peace in the middle east.