Oppression and asexuality

For discussion of general issues pertaining to asexuality.
Mage
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Oppression and asexuality

Postby Mage » Wed Jun 30, 2010 5:40 pm

I haven't been able to find a topic specifically about oppression on Apostive, so I'm making one. Lately I've been thinking a lot about what oppression is and whether asexuals experience oppression around this orientation specifically. Multiple people have told me that in order to be oppressed, you must be LEGALLY PREVENTED from access to some things that other people have access to. One problem with this: not all oppression is government based!

So here's a little rundown on what oppression is

Oppression = power x privilege x prejudice

I'm not a math nerd and I've been told that the equation should look a little different, but the basic idea is that if you replace any of the p's with a 0, you get 0 instead of oppression.

Sexuals, especially heterosexuals, definitely have power and privilege, and many have prejudice against asexuals. This by itself equals oppression.

"Power" doesn't simply refer to individual power, but also systems of power...
I haven't taken a sociology class, but in my women's studies classes we talk about how (in sociology) there are "the big five" institutions of power:

Education, family, government, economy, and religion.

So clearly, just having "equal access" doesn't mean we are totally free of oppression. Governmental and economic oppression may not be factors of specifically asexual oppression, but I think it's arguable that many people experience oppression in the realms of education, family, and religion based on their asexuality.

Let's take this a little further

Oppression is:

1) Institutionalized
2) an imbalance of power
3) part of the national consciousness

Now, 3 is where we can see that we are oppressed educationally, specifically. It is part of the national consciousness (I'm in the states, but arguably it's international as well) that all people are sexual, that being sexual is normal, and that not feeling sexual means you are ill.

I think that the other parts of the big 5 will vary in their effects on a person's life depending on individual factors, such as the intersection of their other identities. So, hypothetically, a middle class Christian white cis-male heteroromantic asexual may experience little or no oppression due to privileges compared with a working class atheistic hispanic trans-female aromantic asexual, for example.

I'm not trying to play the oppression olympics or suggest that if you don't experience oppression then you must be oppressing others, I'm saying that there may be individual levels of asexual oppression. I'm also trying to say that the main one which asexuals experience is educational. It's obvious if you think about--why else would we focus so much on asexual visibility and education? But I don't know that this has been said openly, and asexual oppression has been flatly denied over and over again (see the current issue [2008?] of AVENues for proof!) which is why I'm bringing it up.


Please share your thoughts.
Last edited by Mage on Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
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My blog: http://acefeminisms.blogspot.com

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Siggy
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Siggy » Wed Jun 30, 2010 6:26 pm

The author of the referenced AVENues article is on this board btw, under the name pretzelboy.

I'm not sure that "Are we oppressed or not?" is the right question. Obviously, we are oppressed for sufficiently broad definitions of oppression, and not oppressed for sufficiently narrow definitions. I think it's more important to ask, "Is it politically useful to declare that we are oppressed?"

And I don't think it is. I'm afraid we would lose the oppression olympics so quickly and so badly before we can even remind people that oppression olympics sucks and no one wants to play it.

SlightlyMetaphysical
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby SlightlyMetaphysical » Wed Jun 30, 2010 11:02 pm

Mage wrote:Oppression = power x privilege x prejudice

I'm not a math nerd and I've been told that the equation should look a little different, but the basic idea is that if you replace any of the p's with a 0, you get 0 instead of oppression.

Sexuals, especially heterosexuals, definitely have power and privilege, and many have prejudice against asexuals. This by itself equals oppression.


Right, so the idea of asexual oppression is one we need to talk about, but my first reaction to this, I have to say, is to question that equation. There's no way anyone in the world has a coherent mathematical proof for that. This ust isn't a subject that can be combined with maths.

I'm probably just more sensitive about this than usual because I wrote about it recently (I don't normally link to my blog here, but; http://asexualcuriosities.blogspot.com/ ... ilege.html ), but that equation doesn't really come from anywhere, therefore fulfilling it or not wouldn't prove anything.

In fact, now you've got me thinking radically about oppression, why exactly do we need to figure out if we fit the meaning of 'oppression'? All we'll be doing is constantly trying to tread in the footprints of bigger movements. Couldn't we just say that in the same way other minorities have needs, ending persecution and oppression, we have needs, which are primarily going to be about visibility and validation?

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Dargon
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Dargon » Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:58 am

SlightlyMetaphysical wrote: There's no way anyone in the world has a coherent mathematical proof for that. This ust isn't a subject that can be combined with maths.


I've seen equations used in social issues many times before. What is necessary to understand about them is they are illustrative of an idea, not a definitive proof. None of those values are even quantifiable, so as a math statement, it is relatively meaningless, but as an idea, it conveys a meaning.


As for the topic at hand, my first issue is the definition of the term "oppression." While it may not necessitate legal removal of rights, it tends to have that connotation, so it may not be the best term to use. Since the term often conjures images of slavery or various rights movements, using it to define the challenges asexuals face may be seen as playing victim or something. Essentially I am seconding what Siggy said.

That being said, by that definition you used, asexuals are indeed "oppressed". I would say the three most common sources would be family ("when are you going to settle down and get married and give us grandkids?"), education ("we are all sexual beings"), and religion ('be fruitful and multiply").

That being said, and going back to the topic of terminology, even the creationists trying to get intellegent design into textbooks seldom use the term "oppression," nor do atheists fighting for separation of church and state. Seems to me the reason is as has been mentioned, that the word has connotations that would be detrimental to apply to those situations.

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ily
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby ily » Thu Jul 01, 2010 1:47 pm

I'm not sure if asexuals would be considered oppressed as a group, considering how few people even know we're a group. As a group, we are invisible, which brings its own issues. Just because something might not be "oppression" per se doesn't mean that everything is all fine and dandy. There are some really bad things that might not be "oppression" exactly. But I do think individual asexuals can be oppressed. As in your example of the working-class Hispanic trans asexual, it would be impossible to tease out all the layers of oppression that might exist for that person to find which one is worst. That's why it bothers me when people are always asking, "Who has it worse, male or female asexuals?" Because it totally depends on the individual and their personal situation. And I think all of our struggles are related, because the point of our activism is to change society in some way, which is the place where every one of us lives.

Oh, who am I kidding...I'm sort of an anarchist so I think we're all oppressed. But that's another story. :roll:

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Dargon
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Dargon » Thu Jul 01, 2010 2:12 pm

ily wrote:...That's why it bothers me when people are always asking, "Who has it worse, male or female asexuals?"...


I freaking hate that game. Saw it waaaaay to many times at AVEN and it got very annoying.

Mage
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Mage » Thu Jul 01, 2010 3:20 pm

ily wrote:I'm not sure if asexuals would be considered oppressed as a group, considering how few people even know we're a group. As a group, we are invisible, which brings its own issues. Just because something might not be "oppression" per se doesn't mean that everything is all fine and dandy. There are some really bad things that might not be "oppression" exactly. But I do think individual asexuals can be oppressed. As in your example of the working-class Hispanic trans asexual, it would be impossible to tease out all the layers of oppression that might exist for that person to find which one is worst. That's why it bothers me when people are always asking, "Who has it worse, male or female asexuals?" Because it totally depends on the individual and their personal situation. And I think all of our struggles are related, because the point of our activism is to change society in some way, which is the place where every one of us lives.

Oh, who am I kidding...I'm sort of an anarchist so I think we're all oppressed. But that's another story. :roll:


Well, right. That's exactly what I'm getting at, we shouldn't play the oppression olympics. I'm not saying one kind of oppression is worse than any other, I'm saying that all oppression is bad. I also totally agree that everyone is oppressed, and so ultimately the point I'm trying to make is that asexuals are oppressed for being asexual. I'm just tired of hearing some people say that calling oppression what it is, is "whining," or "just wanting to feel put-upon." Seriously, who wants to be oppressed?

I think that our invisibility just exacerbates this, because then people inevitably ask, when you come out, "is that a real thing?" and choose not to believe you, and tell you you're sick, etc.

Oh, and yes, the equation is more of a symbolic representation than a concrete formula.

I don't think we necessarily have to say that we're oppressed to deserve respect, but I've definitely been questioned as a feminist about why my asexual issues should be of any importance to feminists (some people are such elitists!) if we're not being barred from (hetero) marriage for example. I'm a radical though and I want to overthrow the nation-state system so obviously any kind of law is meaningless to me, but it's a hard question to answer when in general our community rejects the idea that we suffer from any level of oppression.

The whole group invisibility thing does lead me to wonder if the prejudices could escalate into something more violent when we become a visible group. I still want visibility and in my ideal world we would recognize differences in types of attraction as well as levels of desire, but I do have to wonder. I am fearful.
"If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
—Audre Lorde

My blog: http://acefeminisms.blogspot.com

pretzelboy
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby pretzelboy » Thu Jul 01, 2010 6:08 pm

Two comments for the record: First, the issue of AVENues that that article appears in isn't the most recent one, although it is the one appearing on AVEN's main page. There was a March 2008 issue that appeared after it and somehow never got promoted to the front page, and no one quite seems to know how to do it. Second, the reason that I wrote that article was because of the food for thought in the previous issue:
In what sense, if any, are asexuals oppressed, and how should this influence the goals of AVEN?

I was the only person who ventured to write an article in response. (AVENues has serious problems getting contributors, which is why the last issue was 2008. It's also why making a thread on AVEN was necessary to get more than just one person saying anything.)

Onto the main issue: Are asexuals qua asexuals oppressed?

It makes little sense to me to create a formula or engage in wild speculation about how some asexuals somewhere might concievably experience oppression. If you want to say that asexuals as a group are oppressed, give me some concrete examples to demonstrate this and that would suggest that such examples result from systemic social issues and not simply isolated incidents. If you don't have that, there is no point whatsoever of saying that asexuals or oppressed. Moreover, I have real fears that insisting that asexuals are oppressed, without any data to back up our claims, is going to result is us being seen an annoying and whiners.

Mage wrote:I'm just tired of hearing some people say that calling oppression what it is, is "whining," or "just wanting to feel put-upon." Seriously, who wants to be oppressed?

There is a difference between wanting to be oppressed and wanting others to see your problems as being oppression. Your argument conflates these. (We've probably all seen people who have a victim mentality, who always portray themself as a victim to get sympathy, even when their problems are largely self-inflicted and giving this view of themselves is used to make people look bad who really don't deserve it.)

Mage, I think that Siggy asks the right question about your first post: how should we define oppression?

If we define it broadly enough, then sure, asexuals will fit your definition. But if you define it so broadly as to fit everyone, then it becomes largely pointless. A real issue is that we all have limited time and resources. There is the question of why I should spend time helping out this particular issue in light of all of the other issues that also need help.

Perhaps one of my big objections to saying that asexuals are oppressed (unless you gave give me evidence that we are) is that this thinking, I think, does tend to foster the oppression Olympics and a victim mentality.

Mage
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Mage » Thu Jul 01, 2010 6:49 pm

Thanks for telling me about the most current issue, pretzelboy. I thought it was odd that the issue on the front page of AVEN was so old! By the way, are you at all interested in putting out another issue any time soon?

As I said before, I think we are oppressed as a group systemically through education, which tells us that all people are sexual and that if a person does not feel sexual it is due to illness.

I'm not asking you to get behind the issue of our being oppressed as if it were a separate problem from everything else, I'm saying that asexual issues probably result primarly from oppression through education, which is why we are focused on educating the public about asexuality.

I think that anyone who complains about being oppressed is going to have to deal with being called a whiner, because that's a way of making a person feel that they are unimportant and should be ignored.

I suppose if I have to pin down a specific type of oppression, I'm referring to indirect oppression, because I don't think we've been necessarily been exploited. I'm starting to think there might also be some internalized oppression, which is why groups exist who claim there is a specific way to be a "real" asexual. But that might be a separate unrelated problem.

I probably sound like I'm being totally obtuse, but I'm still learning about oppression and asexual issues so I'm just trying to probe as much as possible! I'm really grateful that everyone is putting up with me.
"If I didn't define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people's fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
—Audre Lorde

My blog: http://acefeminisms.blogspot.com

Jicragg
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Jicragg » Sun Jul 04, 2010 6:49 am

Dargon wrote:
ily wrote:...That's why it bothers me when people are always asking, "Who has it worse, male or female asexuals?"...


I freaking hate that game. Saw it waaaaay to many times at AVEN and it got very annoying.

I've never seen that brought up though I am curious about the discussions behind it. Where would be the best thread to read something of that nature?

As for AVENues: I'm trying. *refrains from ranting*

pretzelboy
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby pretzelboy » Sun Jul 04, 2010 7:27 am

Jicragg wrote:As for AVENues: I'm trying. *refrains from ranting*

Do you mean how AVENues hasn't had a issue published since March 2008? Or do you have objections to the article about whether asexuals are oppressed? If it's the latter, I'm very interested in getting feedback on the article. If it's the former, well...

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Dargon
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Dargon » Sun Jul 04, 2010 8:05 am

Jicragg wrote:
Dargon wrote:
ily wrote:...That's why it bothers me when people are always asking, "Who has it worse, male or female asexuals?"...


I freaking hate that game. Saw it waaaaay to many times at AVEN and it got very annoying.

I've never seen that brought up though I am curious about the discussions behind it. Where would be the best thread to read something of that nature?


Check the Hot Box. Every time I saw the topic brought up it got very nasty and oppression olympicsy fast enough to go to the hot box near immediately. Then got locked.

Roy
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Roy » Sun Jul 04, 2010 8:11 pm

In the most emotionally detached way possible I think that asexuals do fit under the definition of "oppressed". However I do not think this is a useful, beneficial or helpful term, and we should avoid it. As far as oppressed groups go, we're pretty well off. At the most we will suffer from misunderstanding or people mistaking us for an orientation that we are not (and then can it really be called oppression of asexuality?). There are enough people with a victim complex out there, we shouldn't add ourselved to the list. Thinking yourself oppressed usually makes it so.

Jicragg
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Re: Oppression and asexuality

Postby Jicragg » Sat Jul 17, 2010 7:47 am

To Pretzelboy - to the lack of AVENues being progressed though that's taken off again now. I'm not really one for having opinions on things.

To Dargon - I shall go and have a look. I don't really into that subforum very often but I shall take a peak.