beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

For discussion of general issues pertaining to asexuality.
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spin
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beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby spin » Sat Feb 02, 2008 12:34 pm

One point that's come up in several threads is the issue that asexuality, just as not having sexual attraction to anyone, is a difficult enough concept for most people to grasp at first. Which is fair--it's very counter to most peoples' adult experiences.

But as we know, asexuality in practice is much more complex. Not having sexual attraction doesn't necessarily mean not having other forms of attraction, sensuality, emotional and romantic interest in others, curiosity about sex and sexuality, or *gasp* enjoying sexual behavior on some level.

I've found that when I discuss the nuances with friends I'm out to, after some first initial confusion it really does deepen their understanding of me and of asexuality as an orientation. Friends have been more reluctant to accept my asexuality when they haven't known anything beyond the basics.

I suppose I have two questions:
For those of you who discuss asexuality with non-asexuals in your lives, how do you address these subsurface issues? Do you find it helps, or just confuses people?
And how do we frame this more nuanced view of asexuality in such a way that we can bring it beyond our community to friends and family, to LGBT* organizations, or even in media appearances? Can we?

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Mysteria
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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Mysteria » Sat Feb 02, 2008 3:15 pm

I recently had a very nice conversation about asexuality with a friend of mine on facebook, whom I very rarely talk to anymore. I had posted some asexuality-related links on there, and he commented that it was like an epiphany to him that real asexuality existed. He found it hard to believe at first, but as our conversation moved on to more of the nuances of dealing with a lack of sexual attraction, he said the more he thought about it, the more it made sense to him. So yes, it helps.

As for how I address the issues, usually I just let the topic come up in casual conversation. Often people will have questions that they want to ask me--they don't always do it right away but they tend to get around to it eventually, and I just answer them when they come up.

I have no idea how we can present these nuanced ideas to LGBT groups and so on. I have tried before, but the LGBT group on my campus really wasn't interested in hearing any of it. :/

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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Karl » Sat Feb 02, 2008 4:45 pm

Back when I first started getting involved in the visibility effort, I sent e-mails out to well over a hundred LGBT organizations in the UK to see if they'd be interested in including asexuality in their remit and stocking the original AVEN pamphlets (DJ had sent me a boxful of them for distributing in the UK). Only a handful of them were willing to take me up on my offer, most of them didn't even reply to my e-mail. Just one or two of them were outright hostile about it. One in particular (I think it was in Ireland) ranted at me about how being gay was about having sex with people of the same sex, whilst asexuality was about not having sex, so why the hell would they be interested? I never got around to correcting him by saying that surely being gay was about being attracted to people of the same sex. I think the distinction between sexual attraction and sexual interaction is something that we really have to stress with LGBT groups as well as the public in general.

pretzelboy
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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby pretzelboy » Sat Feb 02, 2008 5:21 pm

With regard to the media, something some said really sticks in my mind: are we talking about visibility work on Montel or on NPR? One is going to reach a much broader base; one is going to allow for a lot more nuance.

As for talking to people, of the people I've spoken to about asexuality, there was only one (my mother) that I had a long conversation about (because my relationship to her is very important to me, not because she was unaccepting.) But she had already known for decades that some people were asexual and were still capable of loving, romantic relationship, so that may be a bit of an exceptional case.

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Emmarainbow
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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Emmarainbow » Sat Feb 02, 2008 7:14 pm

The Apositive Admin wrote:Back when I first started getting involved in the visibility effort, I sent e-mails out to well over a hundred LGBT organizations in the UK to see if they'd be interested in including asexuality in their remit and stocking the original AVEN pamphlets (DJ had sent me a boxful of them for distributing in the UK).

:D My uni was one of the ones that agreed. :D [/off topic]

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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Karl » Sun Feb 03, 2008 7:30 am

Well yay! ;)

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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Dame du Lac » Sun Feb 03, 2008 11:09 am

I suppose in order to get it across in the media we probably need to look at getting a printed feature, rather than tv coverage, in one of the Sunday supplements of the quality newspapers or something similarly "high-brow". The alternative may be to generate interest by publishing a book covering all the varieties of asexual experience.

The latter would take time of course, and I'm not sure how we'd go about arranging the former. However, a well-written Sunday spread article would have the space to deal with a range of issues and include several examples. Plus it would be read by a reasonably educated audience on a day when they have time to read carefully. That audience would probably include more active members of the LGBT community and, if you people who identify as homoromantic, you may find some taking more notice.

I do think explaining it to a broader audience would be difficult and whilst asexual remains a little-known term, potentially counter-productive. It seems to be difficult enough to get a broader understanding generated within the community, let alone outside.

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Placebo
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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Placebo » Sun Feb 03, 2008 1:17 pm

spin wrote:For those of you who discuss asexuality with non-asexuals in your lives, how do you address these subsurface issues? Do you find it helps, or just confuses people?


I think I've mentioned this before, but I've only had to describe asexuality to one person--the one with whom it has personal relevance. I thought long and hard about how to do it, because I didn't want to alienate him, or make him feel like it was "us against him" (asexual vs sexual) or like I was refusing to do things "just because." There'd been a number of great threads on AVEN about that time about different types of attraction, so I sort of laid a few hints and waited for him to ask . . . I think about film stars. . . if I was attracted to them. And then I just said, "what kind of attracted do you mean? There are at least 5 different types that I know about." He was sort of confused but intrigued--this is a person that really likes learning new things, which made my life easier--so he asked about the five types and I described each of them and gave examples and said which ones affected me and which didn't.

I found that way really helpful because it raised the concept of "attraction" in a non-threatening way. It wasn't "are you attracted TO ME"--because then if I say no, it's being mean. It was more: there are these different types, I feel these three FOR YOU; the last two I don't feel for ANYBODY. That doesn't mean that I don't like you or that we can't do things together, just that I feel them differently. I did something similar when the triple headed beast of sexual attraction--sexual desire--sexual arousal reared it's (ugly?) head. ;)

I guess it was convenient because using that device--although initially it seems more complicated--allowed the other person to 1) learn something new about semantics and 2) learn something new about both himself and me--he doesn't understand/feel romantic attraction either, although I may not have explained it well. Also, it manages to avoid putting the concept of sexual attraction on a pedestal--asexuality ceases being a badge, something absolute that might make us flawed/deranged/overpure/frigid/celibate/DIFFERENT--it becomes an aspect of a larger phenomenon, more of a behavior in context and, in combination with the other forms of attraction, it helps to explain why various of us might act differently in different situations.

Also, the fact that he (sexual) also seems to be "missing" one of the forms of attraction makes me think that probably both hyper- and hypo-attraction of one of the five types is probably pretty common among the population--once they start thinking about it, just like the squarescales (http://asexuality.org/discussion/viewtopic.php?t=27692&highlight=squarescale) things that we were having fun coloring on AVEN a while ago--everyone starts realizing that there are forms of attraction that are both more and less important to them. Actually, that diamond thing (sorry, I forget who came up with it!) might be a good activity with smaller groups. This could have the side effect of diminishing the importance of asexuality ("who cares, it's only one of five kinds, why is this important to me?") but I think that if it's presented well, it could expand not only others' understanding of us, but also--importantly--their understanding of themselves.
"Now it's right for me to be me."

Phil Halvorsen, from "The [Widget], the [Wadget], and Boff" (Theodore Sturgeon)

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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Omnes et Nihil » Wed Feb 06, 2008 10:09 pm

In chronological order, after the basic "no sexual attraction thing":

I usually start with the idea of romantic orientation. People can usually understand the idea of sexual attraction without the romantic component, so I start there-- then ask if they can picture reversing it.

So that flows nicely into how some asexuals may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bi, aromantic, etc. or not.

Which moves nicely into sexual-asexual romantic relationships, which is a nice way to broach the "sometimes asexuals can and do have sex - wide range of compromising ability and willingness"... which gets into ranges of sex drive, and ranges of grey-zone / demi-sexual / others.

And that covers the basics in a way most people deal with pretty well.

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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Witch of Wapping » Sat Feb 23, 2008 12:05 pm

Omnes et Nihil wrote:In chronological order, after the basic "no sexual attraction thing":

I usually start with the idea of romantic orientation. People can usually understand the idea of sexual attraction without the romantic component, so I start there-- then ask if they can picture reversing it.


Oh, I like that, it works! I sometimes have trouble myself with talking about distinct types of attraction, because I'm not sure they feel quite that distinct even to me, and I've semi-secretly doubted that the word "romantic" was the right word in terms of my own experience.

I've had, or thought about, a couple of odd media encounters recently where I'm left feeling that I'm just too complicated. One, which I'm not going to do, is a UK radio producer who emailed DJ on Thursday for a programme this Sunday (tomorrow), for a token celibate - DJ did attempt to explain the difference - in a programme on "The Seven Deadly Sins: Lust". Hopefully this was also passed on to some others (Mr Paradox?) and I hope somebody will do it, but it doesn't need my history squished into that format.

The other is an independent film-maker who is interviewing me in a series of rather spread out emails (and possibly also separately interviewing Mr Paradox!). This is sort of OK, but he seems to keep gently nudging me towards saying I find most of society to be "sex-obsessed", and his assumptions are getting on my nerves. I'm not sure I'm the right person to do media contacts, for all kinds of reasons.

(and another off-topic footnote - in about 1973 I was one of the founder members of what in those days was called a student "Gaysoc" at my university - and yes, it was Aberystwyth!)

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Emmarainbow
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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Emmarainbow » Sat Feb 23, 2008 12:34 pm

Witch of Wapping wrote:(and another off-topic footnote - in about 1973 I was one of the founder members of what in those days was called a student "Gaysoc" at my university - and yes, it was Aberystwyth!)

Wow! Aber rules in so many ways... that's at least 5 aven members who've been here. It still gets called gaysoc in a very jokey way... officially called Aberpride though :D
[/offtopic]

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Re: beyond 101: explaining nuance to the media and others

Postby Vittoria » Sat Mar 01, 2008 6:50 pm

When trying to explain how an asexual person can have libido I usually use the, "It's like being hungry but not fancying anything on offer," metaphor. People tend to get that.

I must say that I'm pretty lazy when it comes to discussing nuance with people, though. I usually only try to talk about it with people I know are sophisticated enough to get what I'm talking about rather than attempting to explain it to people who probably won't. I simply get no joy from banging my head against a wall.