When I decided to stop writing about asexuality ten years ago, I thought I had some very good reasons. After having written so much on the subject, I had started to feel that I was simply repeating myself and why should I bother? After all, everything I had already said was still available for all to see. Why keep harping on the same string?
The discussion would still go on, I knew, and the contributions of one person would hardly be missed. I decided to keep A+ open and functioning and I figured that would be enough from me. But, beyond simply keeping the lights on around here, I have literally contributed in no other way to the online presence of asexuality.
Of course, this didn’t mean that I simply stopped talking about the subject altogether. I have been out and about for quite some time, so my sexuality is well-known. Consequently, I am often the go-to asexual to ask when my friends occasionally have questions on the subject. And, recently, the question was this: “Hey, have you read this book?”
First and foremost, let me get this out of the way: the answer is, “No.” I have not read this book, and I am not about to comment on the contents of a book I haven’t read. Instead, it was simply the title that got me to thinking, and bad things happen when I start thinking. All of this is rather unfair of me. It is quite possible that the author of the book didn’t even come up with the title. And clearly, going on the reviews and awards the book has received indicates that it is a very good book. But the title got to me: The Invisible Orientation.
Asexuality is … invisible? I am invisible?
Whereas I’m perfectly willing to accept that many people don’t rush to assume that someone they know is asexual, most everyone I’ve encountered recently have been perfectly aware that asexuality is a thing. The concept has been featured prominently in books and on television. Jughead from Archie was recently outed as asexual and the world didn’t recoil in confusion. Lars Von Trier used an asexual control in his recent cinematic experiment Nymph()maniac – and when the concept has shown up in a movie about a woman so horny she’s likely to bone her sofa, that’s just about as “visible” a concept as I can imagine. Asexuality is not only in the public consciousness, but it is also actively being used in conversations about sexuality in general.
Go us. So what’s with this “invisibility”?
Naturally, that is probably in the book, and I should probably read it. But, of course, it didn’t stop there. The link which had been so helpfully sent to me naturally included listings for other books on asexuality, as well. And here is where things got very weird.
It doesn’t surprise me that there are books on the subject, by this point. It has been quite some time since AVEN burst forth from the Haven for the Human Amoeba, after Miss Geri’s splinter group rode off into the sunset. Much has happened since then, so naturally there should be some literature on the subject of asexuality available to the public. So, we have … three whole books? And two of those are primers on the existence of asexuality? And the final one – the one that has been professionally published and is (once again, I can’t stress this enough) well-reviewed and award-winning has as its front-and-center thesis that asexuality is “invisible”?
Why? Allow me to ask that question again, in triplicate: WHY, WHY, WHY?
Would it be reasonable to expect a book in 1989 to be called “Homosexuality: That Thing You’ve Never Heard Of”? That was twenty years after the Stonewall Riots encouraged the world to acknowledge that a homosexual identity existed – and, naturally, many, many millennia after homosexuality became something that existed in the first place. Granted, it hasn’t been twenty years since the founding of AVEN and the conversation began in earnest. It has been fifteen years. But, really, would you expect to find critical assessments of homosexuality’s existence even in 1984? The world can’t possibly be that dense. And it isn’t.
Of course, maybe I’m just living the Life of Reilly in the only center of culturally adroit and accepting humans on the planet. Perhaps my little Podunk town is secretly an unusually sophisticated cosmopolitan center and the only place where everyone has heard of asexuality. But, somehow, I doubt it.
Sure, sure, I do occasionally get the odd clueless comment. There was the girl who confidently announced that the A in LGBTA stood for “Allies”, saying, “That’s me! I’m an ally!” But it was a quick process to inform her that, no, simply not being a bigot didn’t garner her an invite to what is apparently the very fab, very queer party. And, in any case, she was merely guilty of being a bit overly centered on herself. No one had to tell her what asexuality was or remind her that it existed. (To be fair, those of us of a certain age might remember that the A once DID stand for Allies, but it is also true that the organization which gave the book on asexuality an award does not, itself, include the A at the end of their list of queer letters, rendering the whole point moot -- meaning a subject which is rife for debate, because that word doesn’t mean what the internet thinks it does.) And, yes, I do still get that wrinkled nose of doubt when someone first learns about my sexual identity, but that’s never lasted for any longer than it takes for the person to think about it, shrug and move on. It really isn’t that difficult a concept.
And yet, here we are, reminding the world that we exist at a time when the world hasn’t forgotten.
Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that we are getting this kind of recognition. I am thrilled that people are writing books and these books are getting published. But, it was supposed to be so much more.
And if I sound angry or annoyed, you should realize that I am not yelling at anyone I can’t regularly see in the mirror. By no means did I create A+ all by myself. In fact, I wasn’t even the site’s first owner. But the site’s stated purpose, it’s expressed reason for existence was to further the conversation on asexuality past leaping up and shouting “WE’RE HERE!” like a common Benedict Cumberbatch at the Oscars.
It isn’t that there is precisely no need for Asexuality 101, anymore. There will always be a need for that, because there will always be those who are new to the concept or questioning their own identity.
But, where’s the rest of it? Asexuality isn’t a life sentence dooming someone to sit in a corner, doing … nothing. Once someone has discovered their sexual identity, it opens up a world of potential behaviors which help them express that identity. This is true of all sexual identities, and there isn’t a single, solitary reason why asexuality would be the only exception.
Having said that, I can only imagine that I’ve switched on some sort of Bat Signal and even now the Valkyries of Righteous Indignation are descending upon this thread to dispense the whooping of the ass, and it is at just such moments when it’s good to be king. Before you sputter and point at threads over at AVEN (Hi, AVEN! How ya’ been?) or remind me that “Nuh-huh! Asexuality means you sit in the dark and don’t go blind because you aren’t even masturbating, DUH!”, let me assure you: this is precisely what I want to hear. Whatever it is you want to say, that is what I WANT to hear.
Disagree with me. Disagree with me all to heck. Disagree with me strongly and use your strong words. Or, agree with me. That’s allowed, too.
I want to start that conversation, the conversation A+ was created to start. A conversation mostly of questions, of assumptions, of individual experiences and, more importantly, how those do (or do not) fit into the overall world of asexuality.
And, I am saying this as The Old Man of the Mountain, a creepy shadow which has never managed to stop hanging over asexuality. Whether you know it or not, even if you like it or not, when you talk about this stuff, you are standing on the shoulders of giants. (Spoiler alert: I’m no giant, but, yes, some of my words and ideas still show up regularly on AVEN. You’re welcome.) People far more eloquent (but possibly far less egotistical) than myself wrote reams on the subject. Bishop, the Bard, Miss Perfect, an android or two, and lots and LOTS of others. Some of these people have long since wandered off, just as I did. But many of them are still not quite gone. And in quiet places, they have never stopped talking, stopped being asexual or stopped pushing the boundaries of what asexuality can be.
Have you ever stopped to consider the connections between asexuality and the world of kink? Because, there are far more connections than you might at first assume. Are some of the recent micro-a identities really a thing, or does it just mean that there are still people in the world who enjoy the same sexual mores and appetites my parents do (and, thank you SO BLOODY MUCH for sharing, dad. LALALALALA)? Going back to whether or not A stands for “ally” or “asexual”, is there any compelling reason for us to frame ourselves using expressions utilized by the overall queer community? Am I really queer? Are you?
Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anyone really care? (Trick questions: it is 25, or six to four. Obviously.)
To have the conversation I’m envisioning, no opinion can be considered sacrosanct. No position can be unassailable. Not mine, not yours.
This is how it was done fifteen years ago. And this is how I would like it to be done, here.
I’ve met you guys. You aren’t shy. Give it your best. Give it your worst. Just remember: this is serious stuff. Have fun with it.
This is A+. I never said it was going to be easy.