Monday, December 29, 2008

The Magic Words Part 4: The Big Picture

It's taken me a long time to write about community. A lot of the blame rests on the usual whirlwind of grad school and life, but this is still a tough topic for me to articulate clearly. Here goes:

    I struggled with relationship stuff for a long time. Through college and for a few years after I beat myself up over what seemed like a persistent inability to form romantic relationships (the fact that I was attracted mostly to very sexual people didn't help.) I was scared- a fear that I'm sure a lot of asexual people can relate to. I was saving a part of myself for a kind of close romantic relationship that I just hadn't figured out yet. It started to feel almost virginal, and if there's one thing I can't stand it's saving myself. 
    Over the course of about a year, an experiment began to formulate in my mind. I didn't have a romantic relationship, but I was constantly surrounded by incredible friends and tight communities. What if I worked with what I had? How many of those pent-up expectations that I was waiting to put on a romantic relationship could be fulfilled by the people I already had in my life? When I caught myself pining over a romantic relationship I switched my thoughts to the people already in my life. I painstakingly went through every person that I spent time with on a regular basis, inventing a language to map the relationships and their potential for growth. I thought about the things that make romantic relationships special and began to invent small, subtle ways to incorporate them into my closest friendships. Slowly, the line in my mind between romance and friendship began to disappear. As my understanding of them became more ingrained and more intuitive the relationships in my life transformed from melodic background noise to something rich, beautiful, and at least as powerful as romance. 
    Earlier, I laid out a language for describing relationships in terms of Time (What you do), Touch (How you feel) and Trust (What you expect.) I'm going to use these three categories to try to describe my relationship with my community as a whole. What I describe may not seem all that different from how you relate to your own community, but hopefully the language will provide an interesting new perspective. 

Community: Every relationship in my life. This includes friends, coworkers, people I pass on the street, people halfway around the world that I am connected to economically, animals, plants, inanimate objects that I'm particularly attached to, spiritual relationships and my relationship with myself.

Time-Earlier this year I started business school. I showed up at orientation eager to meet the people that would be a big part of my life for the next two years. As I went around shaking hands and making introductory smalltalk, I paid close attention to the parts of the conversation where people got excited. All of us were in a scary, new environment where we hoped to accomplish great things, and all of us were going to need strong relationships to do it. I tried my best to squint and imagine what those strong relationships might look like so I could get busy creating them.
    Building relationships can be slow going, but it always pays off. All of the people that I met had things that relationships could potentially help them do- finishing homework, partying in Tahoe, emotional venting, etc. At the end of the day people don't prioritize relationships because the people in them are funny or attractive, they prioritize relationships where useful things happen, so I set about trying to build relationships that were mutually useful.
    I helped people with homework, I gave them a space to process the exciting things going on in our program. I also wasn't shy about building relationships that were useful to me. I spent time mapping out the things that I wanted to accomplish in the program, from getting through classes to exploring the business case for social justice, and I put extra emphasis on the relationships that took me in that direction. Before long I had more exciting opportunities to connect with people than I knew what to do with. I zeroed in on mutual utility, spending my limited time only on those activities and conversations that were most useful both to me AND to the other people involved. The result is rapidly transforming into a functional and supportive community, where I have relationships to support me in all of the things that I want to do. Because those relationships are mutually useful I know that they'll stick around, and if they don't I've got plenty of opportunities to build or deepen other relationships to take their place.
      Now that my community is falling into place, it's mostly just a matter of growth and balance. By deciding which parts of my community to focus on, I can determine whether my environment is supportive, fun, intellectually challenging or chill. I can arrive in class, ask myself how I'm feeling and then pretty easily focus on relationships to match. I can also begin to think long-term. All of the people that I'm connecting with have impressive skills and abilities, so for yucks I'll nudge my relationships so that those skills and abilities come together in interesting and potentially powerful combinations. I wonder what happens if I mix an innovative sustainable product designer, a detail oriented project manager, a dynamic spokes/salesperson and someone with a background in media? Small groups of people with good underlying relationships and the right combination of skills can get some very interesting things done, so I try to grow my community in ways that let these combinations happen organically.
    Business school makes a convenient example, but I can use essentially the same process to do things traditionally associated with romance. At the end of the day, romantic relationships also last because they are utilitarian- they let both people do the things in their lives that they want to do. Most of those things are fairly mundane (doing the dishes, going on hikes) and can be accomplished just as easily by a supportive community. Only a tiny portion of what happens in a romantic relationship actually requires a deep intimate connection. Confiding secrets, processing major life decisions, feeling a sense of stability and security with another person. For that stuff I've got what I call "primaries", relationships at the core of my community that happily reside in that gray area between friendship in romance. I'll discuss them later. 

Touch- I was looking back over old notebooks from college, and in one of the margins I'd sappily scrawled "I wish I could fall in love for about four hours a week." That's about what focusing on my community feels like. The big, showbiz emotions of romance are distributed across all of my relationships as they heave and change. I don't get my heartbreak in big, torrential breakups, I get it in little droplets as the parts of my community that I was most excited about quietly wash away. I don't spend days at a time head over feels about a special someone, but on a pretty regular basis I'll feel that rush of excitement about the possibilities presented by a new person or (better yet) a new opportunity for people to come together. 
    Emotions matter. They matter because they're my best guide to creating the kind of utility that I talked about earlier. If a relationship feels exciting then there is probably something useful going on, even if I don't yet understand what. Paying close attention to how my relationships feel and how those emotions are communicated lets me stably contributing to my life and the lives the other people involved. They're the key to keeping things in the balance, and the key to uncovering the places where relationships can grow.
   This is important, because it stops that deluge of emotions from across my community from becoming overwhelming. Right now I'm smugly happy about my relationships with my classmates, anxious about a good friend, giddy about a project I'm taking on and sad about a close relationship that's drifting. Because each emotion has a clear role in a distinct relationship it's easy for me to compartmentalize. When I feel something I generally know pretty clearly when and where that emotion is relevant, and I can keep ahold of it and act on it accordingly. Of course, a lot of the things that I feel are too big to fit in these sorts of boxes. I'll be bummed out or awkwardly overjoyed, and I'll pull on the parts of my community that help me express that mood until it stops being so overwhelming. 
    A lot of you are probably reading this and gagging at the idea of keeping emotions more or less neatly compartmentalized, but the shit works. Things aren't big, dramatic and messy, but that's kind of the point. I don't avoid feeling things, I just feel them in a way that helps my relationships along rather than threatening to tear them apart. This drives my relationships to go deeper and my communities get more and more interesting, and lets me feel things that would otherwise be impossible. 

Trust- If there was a core to that fear about relationships that I felt in college, it was a lack of trust. There are some things that just can't happen in relationships without monumental levels of trust. Major commitments like buying property and raising kids require a significant amount of trust in a single person, and it's hard to imagine how I could accomplish that level of connection while flittering around my community. There's something deeply compelling and simple about having someone who I can fundamentally depend on, a relationship that will be around through thick and thin. How can I build that kind of trust?
    In romantic relationships that trust comes with time. It often takes years of standing together through good times and bad for that kind of quiet certainty to really take root. If I want to build that kind of trust it's a simple matter of identifying the people I care about most, making real commitments to them, and holding those commitments sacred. These kinds of extremely close relationships are vital, right now I have three of them. We openly discuss how we feel about our relationship and where we see that relationship headed. We constantly prove ourselves to one another and, about two years in, are beginning to develop the kind of trust that's normally associated with romance.
    Why three? It has to do with some basic but extremely important math. If I had a romantic partner I might expect to spend about four nights a week focused on quality time with her and another three nights a week attending meetings, taking classes and visiting friends. Instead of spending quality time with one person for four nights a week, I spend one or two nights a week with each of my three primary relationships (and usually save another night for a more traditional best friend.)   I still wind up spending four nights a week having quality time with someone that I love deeply- it's just not the same someone each night. All three of these relationships have all been going on for over a year now, and they feel like intimate relationships do when they settle in. The honeymoon periods with their explosive emotions are over, and we have begun to settle into our deeply comforting routines. By itself, none of these three relationships is as powerful as a yearlong romance, but in combination they're about the same. If I need someone, I know that at least one of these three will be there.    

Since I've started this experiment, some incredible things have started happening. I've been able to see my community and the other communities that I observe with a newfound clarity. I've been able to envision more and more powerful ways for my community to enrich my life while I enrich the lives of the people in it, and that's where things get interesting. Good romantic relationships force people to grow. They simultaneously challenge the people involved and give them the support that they need to surmount those challenges. My relationship with my community is no different. For an individual personal growth could mean quitting smoking or letting go of inhibitions. When communities grow they tackle problems like racism and political apathy. If I see community as the source of intimacy in my life I will inevitably work to improve that community. All of that time, emotion and trust flowing around my community contributes to a fertile environment for change. 

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Magic Words Part 3: Using the 3 T's

t-square = love
Originally uploaded by mynameis shoe

Oof, too much traveling and midterms have gotten me way behind on posts! So much has happened recently. Kristin Scherrer of the University of Michigan has published a paper: Coming to an Asexual Identity: Negotiating Identity, Negotiating Desire. Badass that she is, she's also breaking academic turf on asexual relationships by looking at asexual polyamory, where things get mighty interesting. "This research illuminates the complications of categorizing relationships as monogamous or polyamorous indicating that new language is needed to appropriately describe the wide array of relationships humans form outside of this binary." No shit. I'm kinda shocked that it doesn't exist already. Kristin: if you read this blog can I see that paper?

In other academic news, Brotto's study is about to be published. I got a sneak preview and there's some fantastic stuff in there, lots of useful information about the community that I didn't know and lots of stuff that will lay a foundation for studying asexuality in the future. She's following up with another study on physiology that's going to lay even better groundwork, all super exciting.

I also want to give a shout-out to pretzelboy's excellent research on the history of asexual identity.

Right, so where was I?

Last time I talked about how to describe relationships without relying on categories like friendship and romance. Personally, I describe relationships in terms of time (how much time you spend in the relationship and what you spend it doing), touch (how you feel about the relationship and how you express those feelings) and talk or trust (what you expect from the relationship and how you arrive at those expectations.) I personally find this system incredibly useful. Not only do they get me out of the romantic binary, they provide a pretty versatile and useful system for understanding the important things going on in my relationships.

Take my relationship with R. "Friend" could describe the relationship, but with a brush so broad it's almost useless. If I think of R as just a friend I can't describe a lot of power and potential that our relationship has. R and I hang out once or twice a week, we do political things together, have esoteric discussions and spend a lot of time happily working or thinking together in silence. We hug hello and goodbye, and almost always express feelings about the things that we do together. We also get slow, awkward, deeply sweet conversations every few months about how we feel about one another. At the end of those discussions we usually wind up making commitments to one another, and we usually wind up keeping them.

Understanding these three things about the relationship gives me a much clearer picture of what's going on than the word "friend" does. "Friend" tells me that this is someone who I value. The Three T's tell me that this is someone who I value because we create a quite, reflective space in oneanother's lives. They tell me that the way I should express that value is through well-spaced discussions on hikes in the woods, and they tell me that the way to feel secure in that value is to treat the little commitments that we've made to one another as sacred. Good stuff to know.

The Three T's also give me a way to explain the relationship to other people without relying too heavily on the romance/friendship binary.
I could say that R is my "friend" or my "close friend," but neither would give an accurate a picture (neither would "partner"). Instead I can say that R and I "are close" and drop a few tidbits from the paragraph above. The essential details can get packed into a single sentence. ("R and I spend a lot of time philosophizing, we're not too affectionate but there's a strong bond there.") This provides a quick, accurate way to describe relationships that are in that murky area between romance and friendship without needing to delve into binary-busting theory or use awkward terms like "lady friend."

Describing relationships this way also sets a standard for talking about relationships with more precise language, one that many people pick up on and copy instinctively. Say I describe my relationship with R to Z. I not only give Z an accurate picture of an important relationship in my life, I lay some important groundwork. Let's say that as Z and I hang out and talk about our love lives, I develop a little bit of a crush. I start thinking that it might be interesting if this relationship headed into that gray area between romance and friendship for someasexy good times. Normally there would run into a huge language problem here, I would struggle to express to Z that I was interested in cuddling and intimacy but not sex and Z would get confused. Not anymore. In talking about our love lives, Z and I have already gotten some practice in talking about relationships outside of the binary. Maybe I'll drop a few other examples of relationships closer to what my lecherous asexual brain has in mind: "K and I get together to dance really, really cheesily and support one another in our life's ambitions. We're super physically affectionate, say that we love on one another and have a plan for where our relationship is going over the next two years." I'll be able to subtly communicate that I'm interested while using context to give Z a rough idea of what I'm interested in. Right now Z and I talk about our love lives, play soccer and spend a lot of time laughing. Maybe from Z's perspective adding some cuddling and verbal affection to the mix might not seem like such a bad idea.

In my experience Z doesn't have to be asexual for this to work. Once we've got our soccer, laughing, cuddling and possibly low-level commitments going on there's absolutely no reason for Z to suddenly need sex to keep the relationship going. If anything, sexual people in Z's position tend to be titillated at the possibility of getting so much intimacy WITHOUT being railroaded into sexuality. Even die-hard sexuals need a little asexiness now and then.

Last but not least, I've found the Three T's very helpful when thinking about growing my relationships. I've found that they tend to build over time and work in a cycle. Touch follows time, talk follows touch, and time follows talk. Let's take my imaginary relationship with Z. I've got this crush on my soccer buddy, what do I do about it? I can't just say "I like you, let's be grey-area relationshippy friend/lovers" and reach for a cuddle, dumping that much talk and that much touch on the relationship would be incredibly awkward. If I use the Three T's I can push the relationship to grow more organically.

Touch follows time. If I want to be more affectionate in the relationship I should wait until we've done something that we both have feelings about and then express those feelings. I'll start small, maybe making a point of always saying what I feel about the soccer we play together. Once that becomes accepted I'll start expressing feelings about Z as a person ("I can't get over you're jokes, you're too much!") and eventually start in on my feelings about the relationship itself ("Z, I just want to say that I'm really glad that we're spending time together. It means a lot to me.") The more emotionally expressive the relationship is, the more organic it is to express affection through touch and body language. Maybe we'll start out hugging hello and goodbye, will move to comfortably leaning on one another during during jokes and will be full-fledged cuddlers by the time we're talking about our relationship. That's not to say that this is a formula to insert touch anywhere you please. As you build touch gradually, you'll have ample opportunity to see whether or not the other person reciprocates. Listen to how they express affection so that you can get a sense of what they want and how they emotionally communicate. If they're not interested in a lot of cuddling they'll let you know by not reciprocating affection beyond their comfort level.

So we've got love and cuddles in our life, what about dependability? In a world where friends are often thoughtlessly discarded for lovers, trust can be a big challenge. How do you ask someone to commit to you without coming across as needy? (Warning: some awkwardness completely unavoidable.) In my experience, talk follows touch. Remember how in my relationship with R we would always make commitments to one another after those awkward conversations about our feelings? That's not a coincidence. Once everyone's expressed their feelings it's natural to make commitments based on those feelings. When my relationship with Z starts out these commitments are small, possibly just arranging the next time that you get together. As the relationship grows we can start committing to seeing one another on a regular basis, then talking explicitly about how we want to be a part of one another's lives.

Of course, as I make more and more commitments with Z we'll spend more and more time together. Time follows talk. At first that time will just be soccer, jokes and gossip, but as we express more emotion and learn more about one another we can start exploring all sorts of other things to do. The more we do, the more feelings we'll have to express about it and the more commitments we'll make based on those feelings. If you think about it this time>touch>talk cycle shows up naturally in conversation. It's common to end an afternoon (time) by saying "this was fun! (touch) Let's do it again! (talk)." How about "I love you! (touch) Let's get married (talk) and spend the rest of our lives together (time)." Is it me, or does "Let's spend the rest of our lives together (time) and get married (talk). I love you! (touch)" seem a lot more awkward?

That's it for now. I hope that this system makes sense. I've found it's a powerful tool for taking relationships to their full potential. The next question is: should you? The fact that you can delve into the murky depths of nonsexual intimacy in any relationship in your life doesn't make it a good idea. All of that nonsexual intimacy takes time, and you're an asexual with shit to DO. If you've only got a few hours in your week which relationships should you spend them on? How can you spend those hours building relationships that will make you and those you are close to balanced and happy? Next post I'll take a shot at those questions by talking about the magical world of community organizing. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Magic Words Part 2: Time, Touch and Talk

Originally uploaded by doozzle

Last week I talked about the importance of clearing the slate, of throwing out the words "friendship" and "romance" and thinking of every connection with another person as a relationship. This gets pretty tricky. It's difficult to lump the stuff that we're used to thinking of as romance with the stuff that we're used to thinking of as friendship, because the two look, act and feel so fundamentally different. In order to describe where relationships are and where we want them to be we'll need a way to describe them that does not rely on the old binary. If we're trashing the binary, we need to design a new system for talking about relationships from scratch.

So if we're designing a new language system, what are our criteria? Well:

  • It should be versatile enough to talk about the most superficial friendship, the closest lifelong partnership and everything in between. 
  • Because many of us desire (but can't describe) relationships in the "gray area" between friendship and romance it should be able to navigate that gray area with ease. 
  • It should be simple: easy to learn and easy to apply to the real world.  
  • Finally, it should also be easy to communicate with. We should be able to speak this language to the general public without stopping to illustrate new concepts or define new terms.

This is no easy task. In one way or another, this is a problem that I've been grappling with ever since I started AVEN. After a lot of trial and error I've found a solution that seems to do the job fairly well, I've been using it for the past several years to think about and describe my relationships and have seen some pretty incredible transformations as a result. The old barriers around friendship have begun to melt away, as my (former) friends and I have grow considerably more open and affectionate and begun to talk about where our relationships are going in the long term. The numbers problem is almost completely gone- if anything I've got too many possibilities for meaningful intimacy (a happy problem I'll discuss next post.)  This system is something I like to call the 3 Ts.

The 3 Ts are Time, Touch and Talk. Think of them as a set of vital signs for a relationship, a way to quickly and easily understand the what is going on in a relationship and communicate it to others. They are also incredibly versatile, allowing you to accurately describe friendships, romantic relationships and relationships that fall far outside of either norm. To think about any relationship you really only need to understand 3 things:

How much time do you spend in the relationship?
What happens during time?
Time fleshes out a relationship, how much time you spend with someone and what you spend that time doing. Relationships are built by spending time with people doing things that have personal relevance. The people that you have spent a lot of time with and done a lot of meaningful things with are probably the people that you trust the most and feel closest to. By looking at how much time you spend with someone and what you do with that time you can paint a rough sketch of the role that that relationship plays in your life. 

Time also tells you a great deal about your priorities. When you spend a lot of time with someone it's usually because you choose (consciously or otherwise) to prioritize your relationship with them over other things that you could be doing. You may go out of your way to spend time with someone that you are close to because it lets you relaxed or because it lets you feel challenged. You may spend lots of time with a coworker that you don't like because doing so allows you to earn money, and money is important to you. 

It can also tell you about the priorities of others. If someone goes out of their way to make time for you or keeps large sections of their schedule open for you it means that they consider their relationship with you a priority. It doesn't tell you WHY you're a priority, it could be because they care about you deeply or it could be because they want to steal all of your money, but it gives you a hint at how likely they will be to spend time with you if you ask.

Stop reading for a second and ask yourself:
What five people do you spend the  most time with on a weekly basis? What do you do with those people? Why are those five relationships with ones that you spend the most time on?

How does the relationship make you feel?
How do you and the other person express what you feel about the relationship?
Touch is about all of the "touchy feely" parts of a relationship, not just physical touch but the whole host of verbal and nonverbal ways that people communicate their feelings. Saying "I love you" is touch, so is flirting, so is saying "thanks for inviting me to the concert, it was awesome", so is sex. All of those things express feelings that you have about the relationship. When done right, touch is almost always fun. Expressing a genuine, positive emotion gives you a chance to experience that emotion more fully. It makes you feel good and it helps you to understand the emotion better. 

Touch is a little bit like a language that you build every time you form a new relationship. Over time, you and the other person will develop ways to communicate how you feel about the world in general and about the relationship in particular. Maybe you constantly give each other shit as a way to show affection. Maybe you hug when you say hello and goodbye and always take time in the conversation to ask the other person how they are feeling. 

If built effectively, touch operates as a sort of feedback system for relationships, it helps you quickly identify what works in the relationship and what doesn't. When good systems to exist to communicate emotion you can constantly tweak the relationship to fix things that are hurtful and explore things that are exciting. Without a good system of touch people tend to step on one another's toes without realizing it, and relationships quickly become frustrating. 

Stop reading for a second and ask yourself:
What four relationships in your life do you feel strongest about? How do the other person in the relationship and you express those feelings? Are there types of emotions or types of emotional expression that you would like to have in your relationships that you don't have currently?

What expectations do you have about the relationship?
How do you decide what to expect in the relationship?

Talk is the conversations and other things that you do to know what to expect from a relationship. It's the times when people say "honey, we need to talk," it's the endless hours that people spend processing relationships with their partners and friends. Talk is deciding whether to raise kids together, it's agreeing never to go to that pizza place again, it's popping the question and it's asking someone to go to the movies.  All of these things set some expectation about what the relationship will be like in the future. 

Like it or not, expectations matter. Expectations give structure to a relationship, they tell you that the relationship is a safe place to invest time and a safe place to express your emotions. If you build up good talk in the relationship you'll have a clear sense of the role that the relationship plays in your life that's based on good, ongoing conversations with the other person. If you want to change anything about the relationship you'll feel comfortable having an open conversation about it, and you'll know that the other person feels the same way. 

Like touch, talk works differently in every relationship. Some people are comfortable diving right into the guts of a relationship's expectations, while others need to spend hours meditating or processing with their friends before they can speak with the person they're in a relationship with. Talk is also the way that time is negotiated. If I call you and invite you to a concert on Saturday, I'm setting an expectation (talk) about doing something together (time). Looking at talk is a good way to know which relationships matter, since relationships have to be important to involve big commitments. Looking at how those commitments and expectations are decided on can divulge information about the way that power works in the relationship.

Stop reading for a second and ask yourself:
Think of four random relationships in your life. What do you expect from those relationships? How did you decide to expect those things? How do you and the other person communicate about the expectations that you have for one another?

Ok, this blog post is running a little longer than expected. I'll have another update, possibly mid-week, where I talk about how to use these three concepts to build, understand, and communicate about relationships. 

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Magic Words Part 1: Focus on Relationships

Last week I talked about how the relationship problems facing asexual people aren't all that bad, because we can use language to solve them. By finding new ways to talk about relationships we can greatly increase our options for forming them. I'm going to spend the next three posts talking about some of the language that I use, I hope that you all will respond by posting some of yours!

Drop the words "friend" and "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" from your vocabulary, use "relationship" instead.

The first and most important task in rephrasing relationships is getting rid of the binary. Describe a relationship as a "friendship" and people will make a set of assumptions about how important that relationship is in your life, how you feel about the person and what sort of commitments you've made to one another, describe it as "romantic" and you'll get another set of assumptions. Personally, I've found that most of the time neither set of assumptions is very accurate. I'll form a new relationship that's exciting like a romantic crush, nonphysical like a friendship and structured like neither. When talking about the relationship, either to the person it's with or to other people, I want to jump out of these boxes. I want people to get a puzzled look on their face and ask me what I mean so that I can have a chance to tell them.

Just using the word "relationship" does this beautifully. I use relationship in the broadest possible way, the dictionary definition of "a connection, association, or involvement." I have a relationship with my computer, the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in my glass of water have a relationship, so does a nine year old and her multiplication tables."Relationship" describes the full spectrum from friendship to romance and then some, it gives people almost no room to project false assumptions about what kind of relationship you're talking about, which is what you want.

You can think about this sort of language like a coloring book. When you say "friend" you get one page with a bunch of lines that you can shade and color in. If you don't have all the right colors or you want to draw a different picture then you're out of luck. When you say "romance" you get another page. When you just say "relationship" you get a blank page. You have to go to the trouble drawing your own lines, but you can draw them however you want, with whatever colors you and the other person have around and like the best. 

That blank page can be a little intimidating. Stop right now and think about some of the most important friendships and romantic relationships in your life. Now, imagine describing those relationships without using the words "friend" or "romantic". What would be the most important information to convey about each relationship? How would you distinguish the relationships from one another? Are there common themes in how you would describe them? Getting rid of the binary forces you to generate a new language to replace it. (I'll talk about the words I use next post.) This is good because the new language will much more accurately reflect how things work for you than the binary does. It's also challenging, because you wind up thinking about relationships in a language that no one else speaks. Sometimes people will be happy to sit around while you go into long discussions of what makes your relationships unique, but most of the time you'll only have room for a few words of information. For your most important relationships it's important to figure out what these words are. 

Relationships are not people.

The other reason I love the word "relationship" has to do with grammar. Friends, boyfriends and girlfriends are all types of people, relationships aren't. If I have a girlfriend then conceptually all that's going on is me and her. If I have a relationship with Bernice then there are conceptually two things going on: Bernice and the relationship. For me, separating these two makes things a lot clearer. I can feel respect and love for Bernice while at the same time feeling fear and excitement about our relationship. Bernice can stay more or less the same while our relationship changes radically, or vice versa. 

Because I think about Bernice as "Bernice" and not "my girlfriend" it's easier to separate who she is and what she wants from the expectations I've placed on her. It's easy for me to see that there are important parts of her that have nothing to do with her relationship with me, I can see that she is a complicated entity that I only understand one facet of, and I can appreciate that she's deserving of unconditional love and respect (though not unconditional time and energy.) 

Because I think about my relationship as a distinct entity I can appreciate all of the ways that it behaves like a relationship and not like a person. It exists to the extent that both people are actively invested in it. It can be hurtful without either of the people involved in it being hurtful, it can go from extremely energetic to fairly mellow without the people involved changing in any fundamental way. Usually it's easier to try to change a relationship than to try to change a person. It's one thing to say that I want Bernice to call me every day, it's another to say that I want to build the sort of relationship where we call each other every day.  It's one thing to say that a person is hurting me and needs to stop, it's another to say that I am being hurt by my relationship with them and try to envision ways that I can change that relationship. 

I find it useful to separate people from relationships because it helps me draw general guidelines. People aren't fundamentally more important than one another, but relationships can and should be prioritized. I can't control people (and generally shouldn't try), but I always have some control of my relationship with them. All people are deserving of fundamental respect, even if relationships with those people have serious problems. 

Next post I'll get into some of the language that I use to describe these relationships, ways to quickly and accurately give them meaning without relying on the binary. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Asexual Problem Part 2: Language

Last post I left you hanging. I went through what probably seemed like an incredibly depressing  breakdown of all of the reasons why asexuals have a polar bear's chance in climate change of forming a committed romantic relationship with another asexual. Those odds are getting better all the time, and the more people chip in with local community building the faster they'll improve. Still, on daily basis almost all of the people that we interact with, get crushes on and begin to develop feelings for are into the whole sex thing. Why CAN'T we form relationships with them?

The traditional story is that there is a fundamental compatibility problem. In order to be happy in a romantic relationship sexual people need to have sex, so sexual people can only get romantically involved with people that they can boink. There is a widespread assumption that without sexual compatibility relationships are doomed to fail, because people only fall in love with people that they are sexually attracted to. So a straight woman can fall in love with a gay man, but she'll only get her heart broken because his attentions will be elsewhere. No matter how much she pines the two of them will never be more than friends. Friendship is the kid brother to romance, it's what happens when two people who aren't sexually attracted to one another (or who don't act on it) love one another. Friendship love is to romantic love what a snack is to a balanced meal- satisfying, but not that important and not enough to live on. Friendship comes with a set of emotional and sexual limitations, which get  invoked with the phrase "just friends." If you believe in this relationship binary, asexual people (romantic ones, anyway) can't be "more than friends" with sexual people because we're sexually incompatible. We have to form relationships with other asexual people because they are the only ones that will have us, and the depressing numbers problem results.

Hold up a minute. People only fall in love with people that they are sexually attracted to? Relationships which involve sex are fundamentally more powerful, fulfilling and important than relationships which don't? The logic of the relationship binary is fraught with assumptions that asexual people disprove by our very existence. If we can form emotionally powerful, fulfilling and important romantic relationships with one another, then it's possible to form them without sexual attraction and without sex. Read that again, and think about how monumental the implications are. Nonsexual relationships can be just as powerful, just as passionate, and just as deep as sexual ones. Look around the asexual community and there is plenty of evidence that the wall of "just" constructed around friendship is fundamentally a lie. This means that straight women and gay men can fall in love, a lesbian can steal a straight girl's boyfriend, and there are no limits to how deep a sexual and an asexual person can go.

The more you look for it, the more that this kind of nonsexual intimacy is all around us sticking it's nose in the face of the relationship binary. Longterm couples say that it's the little (nonsexual) things, not necessarily tons of sex, which keep relationships going in the long run. Check on facebook, where the "Relationship Status" box is used to "marry" and "date" nonsexual friends almost as much as it's used to communicate socially valid sexual relationships. Turn on the TV and you'll notice an interesting trend. Popular shows that focus on human relationships almost never focus on sexual ones. Shows like,  "Will and Grace", "Friends" and (ironically) "Sex and the City" topped the charts by focusing on nonsexually intimate relationships, not the supposedly more powerful and interesting sexual ones. ("Friends" went sexual only when it began to lose steam and ratings.) What's going on here?

I propose that there is a significant gap between the way that most of our society talks about relationships and they way that we actually experience them. Sex is exciting for some people, but it's not really that much more exciting than the other things that people are truly passionate about. Relationships that are "just" friendships can get incredibly deep and complicated, and they easily take on the ups and downs of their romantic counterparts. But how often do friends sit down and talk about where their relationship is going? How common is it for groups of friends to gossip as excitedly about new nonsexual relationships as they do about new sexual ones? Sexual and asexual, we all want to find relationships where we can explore our passions, challenge one another, build trust and feel loved. In all of the things that really matter in relationships, sexual and asexual people are fundamentally compatible. The only problem is that the words we have, "friendship" and "romance," don't adequately describe the powerful nonsexual relationships that we want to form. In short, asexual and sexual people don't have an compatibility problem, we have a language problem

The nice thing about language problems is that they're easier to solve. If we see this as a numbers problem we have to solve it with numbers- diligently building up the asexual community until the odds of finding a mate become reasonable (this still isn't such a bad idea.) If see it as a compatibility problem we have to solve it with compatibility- compromising to make ourselves more sexual and asking our partners to compromise to make themselves less sexual, which works but not that well. But what if it's a language problem, and we can solve it with language? What if having unfettered access to deep, fulfilling relationships is simply a matter of saying the magic words?

For the past four years or so, I've turned my life into an experiment which tests that hypothesis, and the results flip conventional wisdom on its head. Talk about asexuality the right way and it turns people on, not off. As much as they sometimes fixate on sex, sexual people are mostly driven be the same nonsexual desires as us and are just as eager to build relationships around fulfilling them. All we need is the language to show them how.

Next post I'll get into some of the language that I use to do just that. I haven't found the answers, if anything I've just barely scratched the surface, but it will hopefully get you thinking about language that works for you in your community. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Asexual Problem Part 1: Numbers

Thanks for all of the great comments on my last post! I definitely agree that we need more asexual literature, and gathering narratives are a great place to start. I'd be up for making room on the AVEN homepage for this kind of stuff if anyone wants to help me collect it. Maybe we should even feed in posts from the emerging and fabulous asexual blogosphere? (And thanks Ily for subtly shaking your fist and getting me to post more.)

Last post I talked a little about "The Asexual Problem," the idea that as a community we face barriers to forming some types of intimate relationships. I wanted to expand on this idea a bit and flesh out my hippyshit solution a little better:

A few weeks ago, we got dropped from the Tyra Banks show. It was gonna be great: I was all ready to head to New York for filming and we were going to get the concept of asexuality out to hundreds of thousands of people who had never heard of us. Then, at the last minute, the producer called and said that he wanted a couple: two young, photogenic asexual people interested in coming to be on the program. And I was stuck, because as far as I know that couple doesn't exist in the US. We had one (1) couple that fit the bill, but they moved to England. As I scrambled to try to meet the request, I could feel Tyra's people backing off. If our community couldn't produce a happy couple for the show, then were asexual people really as happy as we claim to be? It's a sobering question. In a poll on AVEN 60% of asexual respondants identified as romantic, we have over 15,000 registered members, yet I can count all of asexual/asexual couples that I know about on a single hand (and the most asexual/sexual couples I know aren't exactly ready for Tyra either.) What gives? Why are ase having such a hard time hooking up?

At first glance, it looks like a numbers problem. Even 15,000 asexual people spread across the (English speaking) world is a pretty thin distribution, the best case scenarios are in major metro areas where a little over a dozen people get together for meetups. Subtract the 40% of those that are aromantic, another 50% if you're not bi, and the luckiest gay and hetero asexuals in the world have a dating pool of about 4. That's 4 people who run the full gamut of age and personality type, making the likelihood of compatibility pretty slim. A local a-a relationship has happened only once, to my knowledge, and it's not hard to see why. 
Online dating is another logical option, and a few asexual dating sites are working their way into the picture. Falling in love over the internet is less than ideal for many people, and until these dating sites can build up an active base of users they won't provide compelling option. Most of the a/a couples I know about have gotten together on AVEN itself, but even that presents challenges. Most AVEN members are either there to get community support or to pointlessly mess around- neither of which are particularely romantic. Sitting on top of it all are a few dozen people who volunteer to keep the community going: admods and power users that are invested in keeping the community humming, and this seems like the only place where people are engaged enough for real relationships to form. All of the AVEN couples that I know about emerged from this tight little group of powerusers. 
Just to recap: all you romantic asexuals out there have two options. Either you can move to a major metro area, pour your heart and soul into building a meetup scene and with a littleluck find one other romantic asexual in your approximate age bracket. Or you can get on AVEN, spend a huge part of your life working on building up the community, get elected to the admod team and somewhere between fights over warning policies find true love. Them's the bones. Take 'em or don't.

Love always finds a way, but even It can get tangled in those odds. If all of those romantic asexual people stake their happiness on falling in love with someone like them then our community will be waiting and unhappy for a long, long time. If we want to solve the numbers problem then we have to learn to fall in love with sexual people, and we have to learn to make it work. This is actually a lot easier than you might think. After all, sexual people form intimate relationships with one another all the time, research indicates that it's not uncommon for them to have stable, happy romantic relationships that don't involve sex. If sexual people can get down and nonsexually intimate with one another, why not with us? The more you ask it, the more perplexing this question becomes. Shows like Will and Grace to Sex and the City thrive on nonsexual intimacy, yet there's no market for it. Carrie Bradshaw has mutliple sectors of the economy devoted to helping her find Mr. Big, but no clear way to go looking for a Samantha. 

I've got much more to say on this topic, but I'm trying to keep these posts a digestible length. Expect a follow up soon where I get into some ways to fix this. 

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What Asexual People Want

Wow, has it really been a month since my last post?

I just had a cool discussion with a researcher from down the bay, and we go into an interesting discussion about what asexual people, as a community, are out to accomplish. I broke it down into four categories, though I'd love people's thoughts on the issue.

Probably the biggest thing asexual people are looking for is a place to figure ourselves out and be supported in our identity. This is why most people bother to show up to the community, and is probably one of the things that we do best. It means offering an open, accepting environment that makes people feel safe and encourages them to explore themselves in whatever terms fit best. Even the way we that we talk about asexuality (it's just a word that you use to describe yourself) is geared to create a supportive atmosphere.

How we do it: AVEN discussion forums, other online communities, admod team, advisory team, meetup groups.

Most asexual people are peeved at how little asexuality gets talked about in our culture. More visibility is the first step to broader social acceptance, and many of us are tired of giving a 20 minute lecture every time we come out. Most importantly, visibility let's us make the great support systems that we've built available to people who might need them. All of us have knows how much it sucks to not have a community, and we know that there are tons of people out there going through the same struggle. Visibility lets us reach out to them.

How we do it: Media trainings, AVEN Media Guidebook, assisting reporters in finding interviewees for their stories, lectures, informational pamphlets.

The next step after visibility is getting other organizations to recognize us and incorporate us into what they do. To me that's meant getting LGBT and sex ed groups to start including asexuality in their materials, getting scientists to include us in discussions of sexuality and getting doctors to stop pathologizing us half the time. There are two powerful social institutions that we're courting (or at least I'm courting).

The first is the LGBT/sex positive movement (the two movements are pretty integrated at this point.) They make up a huge grassroots network that does education around sexuality and gender and advocates for legal rights. Making friends with them means that that huge grassroots network talking will add asexuality to the list of things that they talk about, which is huge. They tend to be interested in us as a social movement like they are. We gain their respect by talking about our personal stories, our political views, they way that we have emerged as a movement and the amount of people/resources that we are capable of mobilizing. We also have a little hiccup in dealing with this community. Because their politics are all about celebrating sexuality, it sometimes takes them a second to get how they share the same agenda with asexual people. I've been trying to smooth the transition by getting leaders in the sex positive movement, like Carol Queen, to go on record as saying that asexual people are cool.

How we do it: Show up/give talks at conferences, network with educators and organizers, participate in LGBT and sex positive communities, publicly affiliate with LGBT/sex positive leaders.

The second is the academic/medical world. They control not only classroom sex ed, but also the medical institutions which treat asexual people when we have problems. Getting them to see us as legitimate and healthy will mean inclusion in a bunch of classrooms and will make it much much easier for asexual people to go to the therapist (and for people who do might identify as asexual but don't to go to the therapist.) This community is a tougher nut to crack than the LGBT world, they care primarily about academic research and very little has been done on us. Current medical definitions of things like Hyposexual Desire Disorder and Sexual Aversion Disorder kind of graze the question of asexual pathology. An out-and-proud asexual probably wouldn't be considered pathological, but someone struggling to come to terms with their asexual identity probably would. The strategy here has been to encourage academic discourse. Get academics talkign about asexuality, make it known that we want them to research us and help them in any way that we can if they decide to do research. The more research gets done, the easier it will be for us to change the way that the academic and medcial world talks about us.

How we do it: Show up at conferences (we usually don't have the credentials to give talks), give talks on college campuses, assist anyone doing research on asexuality, network researchers together so that they can assist one another and begin to buil a professional community, AVEN DSM Task Force.

Once people get past the need for support, one of the biggest looming questions is around forming intimate relationships. We face some a pretty serious challenge here as a community one that I've spent so much time thinking about that I referr to it as just "The Asexual Problem":

Many asexual people want to form intimate relationships, and in our culture sex is what separates primary intimate relationships (dating and marriage) from secondary ones (friendships). That means that no matter how close I get to someone, that relationship is considered "just a friendship" in the eyes of our culture unless it involves sex. This creates big problems for us, since many of us want to be more than just friends with someone at some point in our lives. There isn't really a perfect solution to this problem, a lot of asexual people that I know are still struggling with it, but there are a few imperfect ones:

1) Just form friendships- This tends to be a matter of personal preference, but a lot of asexual people, mostly those who identify as aromantic are happy this way.

2) Date other asexual people- This can work really well. It's easy for two asexual people to get together, decide to form a primary intimate relationship and announce it to the world. A couple of happily married couples have already come out of AVEN this way. The problem is number. Even major metro area have, at best, a few dozen people actively identifying as asexual, which means that the likelihood of finding a good match is pretty low. For this reason most asexual-asexual couples meet online and eventually move long distances to be together. Since many people aren't interested in long distance online dating, this will probably only become a solution once local meetup groups have grown significantly.

3) Date sexual people- Though there are several examples out there of healthy sexual/asexual relationships, this remains a problematic option. Sexual and asexual people are fundamentally incompatible in something that our culture claims to be vital to an intimate relationship's emotional health. Making a sexual/asexual relationship work requires extensive communication. To make matters more complicated, most people see sexual compatibility as a precurser to an intimate relationship. That means that in order to start dating a sexual person an asexual person usually has to stay closeted, making the extensive communication that needs to take place evren trickier.

4) Create new models for intimate relationships- This is my personal favorite. If friendships don't work and traditional dating doesn't work, why not invent new words to describe the relationships that we want? I've had a lot of success with this method. It lets me form relationships with sexual people that are intimate, emotionally expressive and committed but that don't require sexual exclusivity. That means that I avoid the emotional ceiling of just forming friendships, the numbers problem of only dating asexual people and the incompatability problem of being monogomous with sexual people. I get to form close relationships with anyone I want, and there's no limit to how close those relationships can get. The only problems are around communication and jealousy. I have to be cool with my partner forming sexually and emotionally intimate relationships with others (which has never been an issue for me personally). I also have to communicate whatever hairbrained relationship model I've thought up to the other person clearly enough that they understand it, accept it, and get emotionally turned on by it. This is a lot easier in places that have are already accepting of sexual diversity, and could pose a real challenge in places where traditional dating is all that anyone has ever thought about.

How we do it: Discussions on AVEN, meetups, asexual dating sites, blogs discussing relationship issues.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blurring the Desire Line

So I got an email from someone today who had some awesome comments about this blog and podcast. She was talking about the episode on having a crush and raised an interesting point:

"because the word crush is so sexualized I prefer using 'to be enthusiastic' about someone."

This is a completely legit way to approach things. For a lot of people keeping the line between sexuality and nonsexuality nice and clear is an important part of being A, and I can think of a lot of reasons why it would be a good idea.

I'd like to make a case for the opposite. I love my sexualized language. When I have connect with someone nonsexually, even if we don't touch, I'll sometimes talk about "hooking up" with them. I'll say that I need to get laid (want to cuddle with someone) I'll flirt and tease and can get downright raunchy on the dancefloor.

To me, the line between sexual stuff and nonsexual stuff is ultimately a line that holds us aces back. If my friends all get to "hook up" with people and all I get to do is hold stimulating conversations, then the things I have to gossip about will never seem quite as interesting as the things that they have to gossip about. That's a big deal. The phrase "hook up," while being fabulously ambiguous, bears a lot of social weight. It's an exclamation point. It says "pay attention to what's going on here, because what's happening here matters" and as asexual people one of our big challenges is to demonstrate that our relationships matter.

I like to think of it as sexual drag. Drag is all about blurring lines, messing with preconceived notions of what's male and what's female, which is why it's so fun. Sexual drag works the same way. Once someone knows I'm asexual, they expect me to exist purely in the social space that they have set aside for nonsexuality. I form only friendships, I experience no fiery passions, I have little or no relationship with my own body, yada yada. By breaking that expectation I can force people to reassess their expectations of me (which is handy) and also reassess what they think about sex. Is there a nonsexual reason to make flirty eye contact from across the room? Sure- if I know how to turn that flirtyness into a compelling nonsexual relationship (which ain't that hard.)

In a society where the word "desire" has a sexual connotation, it's tough to get people to realize that we have any. I know from experience that a huge part of forming close, healthy relationships is clearly articulating the things I want, which is tricky when the language for a lot of my nonsexual desires doesn't really exist. Talking about the things that I want in sexual terms makes those desires matter. It makes people say "wait, you're asexual, what do you mean 'hook up?'" and that gives me the opportunity that I need.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

#22- Interview With Carol Queen Part 2

Listen here.

As promised, here is the second installment of the interview with Carol Queen. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

#21- Interview with Carol Queen


I got to interview Carol Queen, an icon in the sex positive world. She had some very interesting, very positive things to say about the overlap between sex positivism and asexuality!


Asexualest. Robot. Ever.

Even though Wall-E's hopelessly romantic and I'm hopelessly not, I was way way into the relationships in this movie. So cute! And falling for the girl with the laser cannon and tireless directive to save the world? Story of my life.

On the HSDD front, some promising news. It looks like there's a timeline of "a couple of months" (how many I'm finding out), and I've tracked down the recently-released list of working group members. A cool AVENite also updated the definition of HSDD on Wikipedia.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

How to hit on people

I just listened to an excellent episode of Polyamory Weekly about hitting on people. The show gives some good philosophy and methodology for flirting, and it's flexible enough to get easily used for nonsexual flirting by romantics and aromantics alike.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


At my housemate's insistance I rolled out to Sexicon, which was this kink art show at a leather store in SOMA (South of Market, an SF neighborhood.) There was all manner of sexually themed art on the walls, people in their cute little dominatrix clothes spanking one another and cages and erotica readings and whatever.

I was all set to have a ball, when I realized that ALL of my friends were event staff working the bar or the door or the coat check in their little corsets and wrestling outfits and the whatnot. Generally when I have no one to talk to I'm pretty adept at making friends, but here I felt a bit too disconnected.

This used to happen to me all the time. I'd show up somewhere that was drenched in sexuality and feel completely out of place. Sexuality is scary when everyone else is fixated on it and you don't have an internal reference point to understand what the frak is going on. What's a boy to do?

After pacing around the room for a minute my head started to hurt. Trying to make sense of all of this sexuality felt like high-order calculus, so I grabbed a pen and a cocktail napkin, found a corner and got to work.

Once both sides of the napkin had been filled with nerdy little notes a snap went off in my brain and I could get up and enjoy the party. The piont wasn't that this was an erotic party, the point was that it was a celebration. For the most part people weren't actively getting off, the event wasn't about sexual pleasure it was about sexual empowerment. It was a room full of people who had all had significant struggles in their lives to become sexually empowered getting together to celebrate and reinact that empowerment, it's the sexual equivalent of cake. And I may not be into the eroticism thing, but I can definitely relate to a good celebration.
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Friday, June 06, 2008

At the table

Oh man.

So I roll up to 1325 Mass Ave, which happens to house not only the National Center for Transgender Equality but also the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and a shit-ton of other GLBT and sexuality related lobbying groups. (Mighty, mighty convenient.) I bumble my way past the building directory and into the elevator, and some compassionate guy there asks me where I'm going.

"The National Center for Transgender Equality." I proudly beam.

"Oh..." he says "are you David Jay?"

Holy shit. I am.

"I wrote a paper on you! You're awesome! Come on in!"

I wound up in a good 20 minute meeting with Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality and all-around badass. I gave a quick overview of asexuality, and she raised some excellent points that I haven't seen talked about recently:

1) It's apparently not too uncommon for trans people, especially trans women, to use the term "asexual" to describe themselves during parts of transition. It seemed like this is considered a disempowering thing. While it's tough to say how much overlap there is with the ways that the term is getting used on AVEN, it seems like thinking about nonsexual empowerment coming out of our community could be useful in parts of the trans community where we're not currently doing active outreach. I know that there's already significant overlap between the asexual and trans communities, but crafting a specific "asexuality for trans people" education message could be interesting and very cool.

2) So I'm all listening attentively and Mara Keisling is all assertively putting her hand on the table and she's like:

"Are you all doing anything with the DSM?"

"I'd love to, but I don't think we have the capacity to target someone like the APA right now."

"You'd be surprised. There are several committees getting together now to discuss the DSM V. We've obviously been targeting the Gender Identity Panel, but there is another one which deals with fetishes and sexual disorders that would be in a position to amend the definition of Hyposexual Desire Disorder." (Not an exact quote, but you get the idea.)

Holy Shit!! Apparently the DSM panels HAVE to talk to outside advisers, including community advocates (thank you thank you thank you radical gay rights movement for paving the way here!). That means that if we put forward advisers who can discuss asexuality then it's their job, at least in theory, to listen. I'm getting more info from Mara, but we can send a fistful of grad school AVENites and friendly academics their way and pray for the best.

She also introduced me to folks from the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, who do sexual freedom lobbying and coalition building, and sold me about a group called the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States that does sex positive sex ed work and generally is connected in the Sex Ed world. All good people to keep in mind moving forward, we've got everything to gain from being on coalitions (if the votes are there on AVEN) and getting in with the sex ed infrastructure is Money.

To top it all off, I got introduced to policy and organizing staffpeople from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, who do tons of grassroots organizing around gay rights around the country. They weren't really interested in us unless we could send people to their mobilizations, but if we can and it can get back up the chain it'll make us a serious player at the national gay rights table, which means that when we start having legislative things we want we'll be able to integrate them into the agendas of organizations with real money and muscle.

I am all a-twitter.

Hopefully AVEN chapters can get up and running and we'll get one in DC....

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


As I mentioned last episode the good folks at Google Reader and Asexy Beast (or should I say, Asexy Best!) have been inspiring to get more on the content generation. As a part of that noble effort I'm going to give up on the strictly-podcasting format and let loose my random thoughts about Community Based Intimacy and whatnot. Podcasts will still keep flowing, as they give me a perfect excuse to talk to awesome people like Carol "Sex Machine" Queen (which will be up as soon as I can get it audio edited!) For now:
My work just flew me out to DC for a conference, so I am just atwitter with potential networking. I'm gonna try to pry my way into the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. That's right, they got their grubby paws on, which pretty much makes them the Special Get Shit Done Commando Squad of Operation Gay. H.O.T. It also means that the they probably won't have time for the likes of my pissant sexual orientation, but oh wells. Here's the gameplan:

Step 1) Hang out with the awesome sounding interns at NCTE and get them to think I'm cool.

Step 2) Get them to introduce me to their Task Force friends, who apparently work one floor down, over lunch.

Step 3) See about hooking local AVEN groups into Task Force campaigns, which will give AVEN people an excuse to make friends, give them organizer training and get them hooked up with their local gaybourhood.

Step 4) Throw organizing love to the NCTE as a way to demonstrate solidarity between the communities and so that we have allies there, who will come in all sorts of handy over time.

Fingers crossed.

Speaking of lobbying, Carol Queen thinks we're beyond awesome, which is a good thing. Carol is the founding director of the Center for Sex and Culture, and has the love, respect and admiration of the sex positive everybody near as I can tell. If someone were to be elected President of Sex there's a good chance she'd take the ticket, and during our interview she gave a long list of ways that the asexual and sex positive movement could have a constructive dialogue. HOPEFULLY this means that we can soon drop business cards on sex positive folks without getting the evil eye, which would be a nice change of pace. (To be fair, I only get it half the time now.) We just need to get an "endorsed by Carol Queen" seal for AVEN.

The above pic is a shot I took of the white house, which featured a mysterious woman in coral. Ooohhh.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

#20- Is asexuality radical? Interview with KL Periera

A pretty awesome interview with KL Pereira, the reporter for Bitch magazine who recently wrote an article on asexuality. We discuss everything from radical feminism to hot asexuals to gender neutrality.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Once more with feeling

Sorry folks, this link to Episode 19 should work now...

Monday, May 05, 2008

#19- Love and Economics

A new episode finally! I'm trying to wrap my head around the ways that relationships are not only a way to feel good but a way to make things happen in an economic sense.