Friday, June 16, 2017

Better or Worse?

Most people have probably heard of the It Gets Better project, designed to give hope to LGBT youth by telling them that 'it gets better'. And for many, this is true. LGB adults have more freedom to seek romantic partners regardless of gender, and are less likely to depend on homophobic people for their safety and survival. And transgender adults are more likely to be able to access medical transition tools, as well as less likely to depend on transphobic people.

But the same is not true for aromantic and/or asexual people. For these people, it frequently gets worse as we get older.

In our teens, we're often seen as just a 'late bloomer' or 'not ready yet' - even if we try to come out. It's frustrating and hurtful to get dismissed when you try to say something important about your identity, but at least we're not likely to get attacked or kicked out unless we're perceived as also being LGB or trans. Acting aro/ace in adolescence often looks like you're 'saving yourself for marriage' or just immature, both of which are generally accepted ways for teens to act, especially by adults.

But when aros and aces reach adulthood, we start to look more unusual, and get more prejudice.

In my experience, as I got visibly more adult in appearance, straight cis guys have gotten pushier about their romantic/sexual advances. Many guys who wouldn't dream of trying to pressure a teenage girl into something sexual or romantic are quite willing to pressure a woman in her twenties. All female-presenting people get this to a certain extent, but aro/ace women are seen as having less of an 'excuse' - we're not taken, and we're not gay. From what I've heard, this is especially true for aro/ace women of color, who are often dealing with racist fetishization and stereotypes of sexual permissiveness in addition to misogyny and aphobia.

For male-presenting aros and aces, the pressure often comes from other men, who see being a single man or especially a male virgin as shameful and a sign of incompetence and unmanliness.

Aces in relationships are faced with the most pressure to have sex. Sexual incompatibility is a valid reason for a relationship to fail, but societal pressure makes it harder for new partners to discuss sexual compatibility, and leads many aces to try to pressure themselves into being more sexually available to their partners. Allo partners may feel inadequate for not being able to make their partner attracted to them, or may become hostile because they feel like their partner has betrayed or tricked them by dating while asexual, especially if they didn't initially understand their feelings around sex. One of the common contexts for asexual corrective rape is being raped by a romantic partner, especially for female-presenting aces involved with men.

Aros who want strong platonic bonds find such bonds becoming less and less available as they get older. Preteen girls often pledge to be 'best friends forever', and from what I understand boys are less demonstrative but still very close to their 'bros'. In adolescence, many alloro teens maintain a balance between platonic and romantic bonds, and if they abandon their friends for their romantic partners, it's expected that their friends will feel hurt about this. But in adulthood, strong platonic bonds are considered less important, and friends start to drift apart, leaving romantic bonds as the primary bonds in most adults' lives. Aromantic adults often find themselves alone and lonely, with few or no close bonds of any kind - especially if they don't have good familial support.

So for aros and aces, it doesn't get better. Very often, it gets worse instead.

Friday, June 09, 2017

My Gender

OK, so this is going to be kind of rambling and confusing, but I just wound up chatting with an agender person recently, and it's gotten me to thinking.

I described myself to them as 'mostly cisgender', and I think that's probably the most accurate. And maybe this is why I feel so drawn to trans and especially non-binary experiences, despite not technically being part of that group.

OK, so first, I've realized I probably am a little bit genderfluid. There are times when I feel like a woman, in a positive sense, and times when I just feel like I'm not not a woman. There are even a few times where I feel vague hints of other genders. This happens when I'm identifying with a character.

Identifying with a character happens sometimes when I'm inspired for one of my own stories, or got really into someone else's story, and I end up taking on features of that character. I get their personality traits, mannerisms, sometimes I feel like my body looks more like theirs than it really does. Sometimes this includes gender, if they're not female. Obviously, most of the non-female characters I've identified with are male, but there's been a few nonbinary ones too.

Some random examples of characters I've identified with and traits I drew from them:

  • crochety old woman from a book I can't remember the title of, who was cranky and quarrelsome and miserable her whole life and then died just as she was fetching someone a glass of water - I ended up snapping at my parents over supper right after reading that book, because I felt crochety
  • Mitchell from Being Human - I got his mannerisms, a faint sense of being male, and I kept expecting to see myself wearing fingerless gloves when my hands were bare
  • Szthrar'kek, my illithid psion from D&D - I felt predatory, detached in an amused kind of way, genderless, powerful, and affectionate in a casual ownership kind of way
  • Vulcan woman lost on earth in a mental fanfic I never wrote down - I felt like I had pointy ears, and like people were really strange and didn't make sense to me
  • Lydia, a pregnant autistic woman from a story I'm writing - I felt like my sensory issues were more acute, like I wanted to pass as NT, and like I was pregnant (which felt really weird and wrong when I was actually menstruating)
  • brain-eating emotion-eater villain guy from the backstory to one of my stories - I felt arrogant, predatory, witty, and like I had everything under control, and a little bit male
These are not the only ones by a long shot. Aside from channelling random characters...

She/her pronouns feel the most right. They/them doesn't bother me, but feels imprecise. He/him feels wrong. I haven't been called by any other pronouns, and I've only gotten they/them and he/him online.

Mrs, Miss and Ms all feel wrong, and Mr even worse. I would most like to have no title or Dr, although I haven't technically earned my Dr yet. Mx might also work, but it feels a bit weird because it's new to me, and part of me feels like people will assume I'm non-binary, which I don't think I am.

I tend to call myself 'person' more often than 'girl' or 'woman' (as seen in my about section), because I feel like my gender is not a very big part of who I am, but calling me a girl or woman doesn't feel wrong. Calling me by any other gender would definitely feel wrong.

The times when I've felt most alienated by femaleness is when people have paired it with being straight, NT, and/or feminine.

Recently, I had to pick out some formal wear for a funeral, and the formal women's clothes all looked completely wrong - not just like they'd set off sensory issues and look too 'neurotypical', but also like they were implying I want to be sexually attractive. (They all had some kind of feature to draw attention to the wearer's chest.) I ended up getting a couple shirts aimed at men that feel particularly masculine to me, probably the most masculine thing I've worn, with button-up collars. They felt a bit odd, but in a good way. It didn't feel like I was male, in any sense. Mostly, it felt like I was queer, in a KD Laing sort of way.

A few years ago, we had our car break down and my Dad and I wound up hanging out with some elderly people at some kind of club. The old ladies encouraged me to sit with them, while my Dad sat with the men. I sat there only a few moments, listening to their conversations about things I had no interest in, before fleeing to my father's side, feeling really alienated by their femininity and their assumption that I was like them and our shared gender should somehow overcome the bond between me and my father.

I don't like my body, but not in any real gendery way. My genital area is a big problem for me, but it's mostly sexual abuse issues, cleanliness obsessions and my particular weird nonfunctional experience of sexual arousal that create negative feelings around that area. I certainly would be a lot less happy if I had a penis and balls there instead of what I do have.

My breasts sometimes cause me pain, but I'd like them fine if they'd just stop hurting. I really, really like the idea that I have a womb, even though it causes me pain and discomfort every month, because I love the idea of being fertile and getting pregnant, and I love the idea of breastfeeding. Probably the thing that make me feel the most connected to womanhood is my capacity to do the female mammalian reproduction thing. (I do wish I didn't need a man, or anyone, to help - if I could do parthenogenesis, I would.)

So, this random mess of gendery stuff mostly adds up to cis, but not the conventional idea of cis, and not 100% cis. I'd say I'm, indeed, 'mostly cisgender'.

Friday, June 02, 2017

101 Ways To Teach Social Skills - Neurodiversity Comments (Activities 77 - 101)

This is the fifth and final part of my review of 101 Ways to Teach Social Skills.

Section 7: Standing Up For Yourself

Activity 77 focuses on feeling good about yourself. This activity looks great!

Activity 78 is about having a positive attitude. This looks mostly good, except for the claim that other kids will like them better if they have a positive attitude. This could easily lead to self-blame if the kid is being bullied and can't maintain a positive attitude - even if the bullying came first.

Activities 79 - 80 are about sticking up for yourself and patting yourself on the back. These activities both look great!

Activity 81 focuses on being physically attacked. This activity has good advice, but it's vital that adults follow up appropriately when a child reports being attacked. If the child tells you that they reported an act of violence and didn't get an appropriate response, discuss the issue with their parents. If it's a chronic problem, the parents may need to take the issue to a supervisor, contact the police (especially if the perpetrator is over 12, as they can be charged with assault), or remove the child from the environment.

Activity 82 focuses on being bullied. This one is pretty poor advice. Ignoring bullies doesn't work, especially when you outright tell the bully you're ignoring them. Bullies will just escalate if ignored, until the child can't ignore them. Avoiding a bully is usually impossible if the bully attends the same school as the victim. And the discussion question of "why do you think you (or the child) were chosen as the victim?" sends serious warning bells. Never, ever suggest to a child that their personal traits caused them to be bullied. While having poor social skills can make them a more attractive target, the bully is ultimately responsible for their own actions. It's never the victim's fault that they got bullied, any more than it's a rape victim's fault that they got raped.

Activity 83 is about dealing with teasing. This activity is absolutely terrible. It doesn't actually give any advice on how to distinguish friendly teasing from verbal bullying. Plus, the advice they give for verbal bullying is terrible. They repeat the advice to ignore it, and also suggest saying 'so?' and having a sense of humor, which don't work either. The only piece of good advice is to tell an adult.

The surest way to distinguish friendly teasing from verbal bullying is to use an "I statement" to say how what they said made you feel, and ask them if that's what they intended. If the teasing is friendly, they'll probably apologize and clarify their intentions. If they're bullying, they'll probably either mock you for being upset or tell you it was no big deal in an aggressive tone without apologizing.

Activities 84 - 85 cover coping with stress, dealing with group pressure (peer pressure). These activities all look pretty good.

Activity 86 is about learning to say no. It's pretty good, but I have a problem with the suggestion to tell people why you're saying no. That's a good idea sometimes, but you don't owe people an explanation if you don't feel comfortable telling them.

Activity 87 is about releasing anger safely. Most of their suggestions look good, but hitting a pillow isn't a good idea. Research has found that aggressing against an object when you're angry just makes you angrier, and more likely to take out your anger on someone else. Talking about it, drawing a picture, exercising, counting slowly to 10 and breathing deeply are all much better ideas. Exercising in particular releases the pent-up energy without role-playing aggression.

Activities 88 - 89 discuss rights and responsibilities and being assertive. These activities both look good.

Section 8: Managing Conflict

The introduction touches on the idea of 'natural leaders', claiming they are kids who manage conflict better. In my experience, though, the kids I knew who were considered 'natural leaders' were manipulative social bullies, who charmed adults while being a menace to other children. Just because a child is a leader in their peer group doesn't mean they show positive social interaction patterns.

Activities 90 - 91 discuss what conflict is and what internal conflicts are. These activities both look good.

Activity 92 teaches children that both parties are responsible for a conflict. This message concerns me, because bullies often disguise their bullying as a mutual conflict, when really it's entirely one-sided. Care should be taken to acknowledge that sometimes people attack you for no reason at all, and that's not a conflict - that's bullying.

Activity 93 teaches children how to apologize. This activity looks good, but you should also address unnecessary or excessive apologies, which can be a result of low self-esteem.

Activity 94 talks about knowing whether you should resolve a conflict right away or wait until people are prepared to handle the discussion. This is a good idea, but some kids might have difficulty waiting if the conflict is very upsetting to them. It's a good idea to discuss coping strategies if that's an issue for any of the kids.

Activities 95 - 99 talk about resolving conflicts calmly, compromising, finding win-win solutions, negotiating and peer mediation. These activities all look great.

Activity 100 discusses fair fighting, attacking problems rather than people. This looks great, but you should discuss what to do if their opponent doesn't follow these rules. You could set a verbal boundary and refuse to discuss the issue until they agree to follow the rules of fair fighting. For example "I will not tolerate name calling. If you can discuss this without calling me names, I will discuss this issue further." If they don't listen to the boundary, use the broken record strategy or simply leave.

And lastly,

Activity 101 discusses positive and negative outcomes from conflicts. This activity looks great.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Survey on Romantic Attraction - Part 2

This is part 2 of a survey on romantic attraction, which I'm analyzing for my submission to the May 2017 Carnival of Aces. Part 1 can be found here.

Romantic Attraction and Attitude Towards Romance


In part 1, I discussed what the participants' self-reported romantic orientation was. I also asked a variety of questions to explore their feelings around romance more closely.

Firstly, I asked participants if they considered themselves to experience romantic attraction - 46.5% said no, 37.2% said yes, and 16.3% were uncertain. Among aromantic participants, 88.4% said no and 11.6% were uncertain; among alloromantic participants, 88.9% said yes, 1 person said no and 2 were uncertain; and among 'other' participants, 50% said yes, 43.8% were uncertain and 1 person said no.

I also asked individuals if they had ever been in a queerplatonic relationship, and 61.6% said no, 24.4% said they were unsure, 9.3% said yes, and two gave other responses (one saying maybe, but neither partner knew they were queer at the time; and the other saying it was unrequited). I also asked if they wanted a QPR, and 41.9% said yes, 32.6% said they were unsure, 11.6% said no, 8.1% said they didn't know what a QPR was, and 4 gave other responses (1 said they were already in a QPR, 1 disliked the term and wanted multiple significant relationships, 1 wanted a strong relationship but didn't care if it was platonic or romantic, and 1 wouldn't refuse one but wasn't actively looking).

Towards the end of the survey, I asked individuals how they would feel about the prospect of being in a romantic relationship themselves, and found that 14% chose "I really want that", 37.2% chose "I would be open to it", 3.5% chose "I would be indifferent to it", 18.6% chose "I would probably not like it, but might with someone special", and 26.7% chose "I would never want that".

Desired and Undesired Activities


In addition to asking about what participants have done in close relationships with nonrelatives, I also asked about activities that they would like to do in close relationships, and activities that they would feel uncomfortable doing, using the same list. Note that 8.1% of the sample didn't answer what they would like to do, and 4.7% didn't answer what they would feel uncomfortable doing. The statistics below are based only on those who responded to this question.
  • 55.7% would like to kiss the other person on the forehead or cheek, 24.4% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 57% would like to receive kisses on the forehead or cheek, 20.7% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 35.9% would like to kiss on the mouth, 48.8% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 65.8% would like to hold hands, 18.3% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 65.8% would like to cuddle, 17.1% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 88.6% would like to hug, 6.1% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 65.8% would like to hug in public, 18.3% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 25.3% would like to cuddle in public, 43.9% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 30.4% would like to kiss or be kissed on the forehead or cheek in public, 34.1% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 17.7% would like to kiss on the mouth in public, 65.9% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 50.6% would like to hold hands in public, 25.9% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 24.1% would like other affectionate touch in public, 39% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 35.4% would like to gaze deeply into each other's eyes, 30.5% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 46.8% would like to cry on the other person's shoulder, 24.4% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 40.5% would like the other person to cry on their shoulder, 20.7% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 39.2% would like to massage the other person, 30.5% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 41.8% would like to be given a massage by the other person, 36.6% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 30.4% would like to brush the other person's hair, 18.3% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 32.9% would like to have their hair brushed by the other person, 28% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 17.7% would like to paint the other person's nails, 24.4% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 13.9% would like to have their nails painted by the other person, 26.8% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 1.3% would like to shave the other person, 65.9% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 1.3% would like to be shaved by the other person, 72% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 13.9% would like to bathe together in bathing suits, 48.8% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 12.7% would like to bathe together naked, 75.6% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 20.3% would like to see the other person naked, 53.7% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 17.7% would like to be seen naked by the other person, 59.8% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 5.1% would like to feed the other person, 51.2% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 5.1% would like to be fed by the other person, 52.4% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 24.1% would like to be tickled by the other person, 34.1% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 29.1% would like to tickle the other person, 29.3% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 39.2% would like to call or be called by terms of endearment, 19.5% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 68.4% would like to call or be called 'best friend', 6.1% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 40.5% would like to call or be called 'partner', 20.7% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 32.9% would like to call or be called romantically coded labels such as 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend', 36.6% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 26.6% would like to have other platonic partners, 23.2% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 17.7% would like the other person to have other platonic partners, 24.4% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 5.1% would like other romantic partners, 61% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 10.1% would like the other person to have other romantic partners, 53.7% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 8.9% would like the other person to do romantically-coded things with other people, 43.9% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 11.4% would like to do romantically-coded things with other people, 57.3% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 15.2% would like the other person to have sex with other people, 39% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 11.4% would like to have sex with other people, 62.2% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 30.4% would like to give romantically-coded gifts, 26.8% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 32.9% would like to receive romantically-coded gifts, 30.5% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 38% would like to dance with the other person, 15.9% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 46.8% would like to share a bed without cuddling with the other person, 17.1% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 54.4% would like to cuddle together in bed with the other person, 30.5% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 16.5% would like to tuck the other person in, 23.2% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 20.3% would like to be tucked in, 24.4% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 69.6% would like to live with the other person, 11% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 31.6% would like to marry the other person, 42.7% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 21.5% would like to raise children with the other person, 47.6% would feel uncomfortable with it
  • 60.8% would like to have pets with the other person, 13.4% would feel uncomfortable with it
It's important to note that contrary to what I was expecting, some people reported both wanting to do something and being uncomfortable with it.
Next, I assessed the extent to which their attitudes to activities were predicted by whether they experienced romantic attraction. Likelihood to say they would like the following activities differed between participants who reported 'yes' or 'no' to romantic attraction (yes vs no):
  • giving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .024) - 66.7% vs 38.9%
  • receiving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .001) - 76.7% vs 33.3%
  • cuddling (p = .003) - 83.3% vs 50%
  • eye gazing (p = .010) - 53.3% vs 22.2%
  • crying on (p = .015) - 63.3% vs 33.3%
  • being tickled (p = .035) - 33.3% vs 11.1%
  • tickling them (p = .040) - 40% vs 16.7%
  • label of 'partner' (p = .010) - 50% vs 19.4%
  • romantic label (p = .001) - 63.3% vs 2.8%
  • them having other platonic partners (p = .039) - 6.7% vs 25%
  • having sex with others (p = .036) - 3.3% vs 19.4%
  • giving romantic gifts (p = .001) - 53.3% vs 8.3%
  • receiving romantic gifts (p < .001) - 56.7% vs 11.1%
  • dancing (p = .037) - 53.3% vs 27.8%
  • cuddling in bed (p = .011) - 70% vs 38.9%
  • living together (p = .024) - 83.3% vs 58.3%
  • marriage (p = .001) - 53.3% vs 13.9%
  • raising kids together (p = .018) - 36.7% vs 11.1%
Since most of the allosexuals in my sample are aromantic, these results might be biased by greater asexuality among alloromantic participants. To test this, I re-ran this analysis with only asexuals. Tickling, being tickled, the other person having other platonic partners, the participant having sex with others, dancing, living together, and raising kids together no longer differed significantly. Most just barely missed significance, suggesting that it was smaller sample size that caused the change, but being tickled, the other person having other platonic partners and the participant having sex with others were nowhere near significance (p = .201, .316 and .361 respectively). In addition, two items reached significance - kissing on the mouth (p = .029), and tucking the other person in (p = .043).

To assess this further, I then analyzed differences between 8 allosexual and 29 asexual participants who reported not feeling romantic attraction. The two groups differed on the following items (allo vs ace):
  • giving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .011) - 75% vs 25.9%
  • receiving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .002) - 75% vs 18.5%
  • kissing on the mouth (p = .001) - 75% vs 14.8%
  • bathing together naked (p = .045) - 50% vs 3.7%
  • seeing the other person naked (p = .027) - 62.5% vs 11.1%
  • being tickled (p = .043) - 0% vs 14.8%
  • having sex with other people (p = .015) - 62.5% vs 3.7%
  • marriage (p = .043) - 0% vs 14.8%
Discomfort differed between those who did and did not experience romantic attraction for only two items - hugging (p = .044) and being shaved (p = .019). Hugging was uncomfortable for 10.5% of those who answered 'no' and none of those who answered 'yes', and being shaved was uncomfortable for 78.9% of those who answered 'no' and 51.6% of those who answered 'yes'.

Among asexuals, hugging was still significant, and shaving was not. In addition, the following all showed significant differences between people who did and did not experience romantic attraction (yes vs no):
  • kissing on the mouth (p = .042) - 29.2% vs 57.1%
  • kissing on the mouth in public (p = .006) - 50% vs 87.5%
  • bathing together naked (p = .013) - 58.3% vs 89.3%
  • the other person seeing you naked (p = .034) - 45.8% vs 75%
  • doing romantic things with other people (p = .015) - 41.7% vs 75%
  • having sex with others ( p = .007) - 45.8% vs 82.1%
Among those who answered 'no' to experiencing romantic attraction, allosexuals and asexuals differed in discomfort with the following items (allo vs ace):
  • giving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .003) - 0% vs 28.6%
  • kissing on the mouth (p = .012) - 12.5% vs 57.1%
  • hugging in public (p = .006) - 0% vs 25%
  • cuddling in public (p = .004) - 12.5% vs 64.3%
  • kissing on the mouth in public (p = .007) - 25% vs 85.7%
  • the other person seeing you naked (p = .020) - 25% vs 75%
  • having sex with other people (p = .049) - 37.5% vs 82.1%
  • cuddling in bed (p = .001) - 0% vs 39.3%
  • living together (p = .022) - 0% vs 17.9%
  • having pets together (p = .022) - 0% vs 17.9%

Desired Activities and Desired Relationships


First, I divided people's attitudes towards personally being involved in a romantic relationship into three categories - people who wanted romance ("I really want that" + "I would be open to it"), people who felt indifferent, and people who didn't want romance ("I would probably not like it, but might with someone special" + "I would never want that"). I compared people who wanted vs didn't want romance and found the following differences in desired activities (want vs don't want):
  • giving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .003) - 71.4% vs 38.2%
  • being kissed on forehead or cheek (p = .001) - 78.6% vs 32.4%
  • kissing on the mouth (p = .005) - 51.2% vs 20.6%
  • hand holding (p = .005) - 81% vs 50%
  • cuddling (p = .001) - 83.3% vs 47.1%
  • hugging (p = .048) - 95.2% vs 79.4%
  • cuddling in public (p = .033) - 35.7% vs 14.7%
  • kissing on forehead or cheek in public (p = .027) - 40.5% vs 17.6%
  • hand holding in public (p = .012) - 64.3% vs 35.3%
  • eye gazing (p = .028) - 47.6% vs 23.5%
  • crying on the other person (p = .018) - 59.5% vs 32.4%
  • being tickled (p = .013) - 35.7% vs 11.8%
  • tickling the other person (p = .001) - 45.2% vs 11.8%
  • using terms of endearment for each other (p = .002) - 54.8% vs 20.6%
  • calling each other 'partner' (p = .001) - 57.1% vs 20.6%
  • calling each other by romantically coded terms (p = .001) - 59.5% vs 2.9%
  • having other romantic partners (p = .044) - 9.5% vs 0%
  • giving romantically coded gifts (p = .001) - 50% vs 8.8%
  • receiving romantically coded gifts (p < .001) - 52.4% vs 11.8%
  • dancing (p = .016) - 50% vs 23.5%
  • bed sharing without cuddling (p = .031) - 57.1% vs 32.4%
  • cuddling in bed (p = .001) - 73.8% vs 29.4%
  • living together (p = .021) - 81% vs 55.9%
  • marriage (p = .001) - 50% vs 5.9%
  • raising kids together (p = .002) - 33.3% vs 5.9%
For activities that would make them uncomfortable, the following differences emerged between people who wanted or didn't want a romantic relationship (want vs don't want):
  • hugging (p = .044) - 0% vs 11.1%
  • bathing together naked (p = .048) - 67.4% vs 86.1%
  • calling each other 'partner' (p = .045) - 11.6% vs 30.6%
  • doing romantic things with other people (p = .040) - 46.5% vs 69.4%
Next, I assessed whether desired and uncomfortable activities differed depending on whether the person wanted a queerplatonic relationship. Note that since only 10 participants said no, statistical power is poor for this comparison. Still, I found the following differences in desired activities (yes vs no):
  • giving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .017) - 61.1% vs 14.3%
  • receiving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .023) - 58.3% vs 14.3%
  • cuddling (p = .001) - 75% vs 14.3%
  • hugging in public (p = .001) - 77.8% vs 14.3%
  • kissing on the mouth in public (p = .006) - 19.4% vs 0%
  • hand holding in public (p = .041) - 52.8% vs 14.3%
  • eye gazing (p = .001) - 47.2% vs 0%
  • crying on the other person (p = .041) - 52.8% vs 14.3%
  • giving a massage (p = .031) - 55.6% vs 14.3%
  • bathing together with suits (p = .012) - 16.7% vs 0%
  • bathing together naked (p = .044) - 11.1% vs 0%
  • the other person seeing you naked (p = .001) - 27.8% vs 0%
  • labeling each other 'partner' (p = .001) - 61.1% vs 0%
  • having other platonic partners (p = .001) - 36.1% vs 0%
  • the other person having other platonic partners (p = .001) - 25% vs 0%
  • the other person having other romantic relationships (p = .044) - 11.1% vs 0%
  • the other person having sex with other people (p = .012) - 16.7% vs 0%
  • dancing (p = .001) - 47.2% vs 0%
  • bed-sharing without cuddling (p = .001) - 61.1% vs 0%
  • cuddling in bed (p = .001) - 61.1% vs 0%
  • tucking the other person in (p = .001) - 27.8% vs 0%
  • being tucked in by the other person (p = .001) - 27.8% vs 0%
  • having pets together (p = .009) - 66.7% vs 14.3%
I didn't find any significant differences between those who wanted or didn't want QPRs in terms of what they found uncomfortable to do.

And my analysis ends here, for now. I still have a lot more data to analyze, but it could be a very long time until I get the chance. I need to go to the university to use SPSS, and I live in a rural area and don't have a driver's license, so I'm dependent on public transportation to get there. Unfortunately, the Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall has decided to cut the government-run intercity bus company, STC, and services end today. This decision is causing a great deal of problems for people and businesses in rural Saskatchewan, and I've been meaning to write a blog post about it. For this survey, the net effect is that the rest of the analysis will most likely have to wait for next fall at the earliest, unless my Dad can drive me in sometime when he's not working.

Friday, May 26, 2017

101 Ways To Teach Social Skills - Neurodiversity Comments (Activities 60 - 76)

This is the fourth part of my review of 101 Ways to Teach Social Skills.

Section 5: Problem Solving

Activities 60 - 66 focus on identifying things people do that bother others, describing yourself positively, brainstorming, finding alternative solutions, picking the best solution, learning from mistakes and thinking before acting. These activities all look pretty great.

Activity 67 is about making wise choices. This is mostly good, but I have two concerns. First, they claim that "rules are made for a purpose". Sure, but some rules don't have a good purpose, and principled disobedience is sometimes the best course of action. A rule should be disobeyed if following that rule will cause harm to yourself or others.

Secondly, the worksheet example featuring a theft doesn't include the best option. Rather than running after the thief yourself to get the book bag back, the best solution is to tell an adult.

Activities 68 - 69 focus on accepting consequences and group problem solving. These activities look pretty good to me.

Section 6: Listening

Activity 70 discusses the difference between hearing and listening. This activity looks great, but it's important to acknowledge that not listening can be unintentional. If they realize they have missed something, they should apologize and ask the person to repeat it.

Activity 71 is about listening during a conversation. Unfortunately, they list eye contact as part of listening. Eye contact should be optional, especially when the child is trying to pay close attention to what someone is saying. Many autistic people find it harder to process language when they make eye contact. Apart from that issue, this activity looks good.

Activities 72 - 74 focus on listening for information, following instructions and reflective listening. These activities look great.

Activity 75 is about active listening. Eye contact should be optional, but otherwise this seems fine.

Activity 76 is about giving positive feedback. This one doesn't make sense to me. Specifically, I don't get what they mean by giving positive feedback to a negative statement.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Survey on Romantic Attraction - Part 1

The current carnival of aces topic is "kissing, hand-holding, bed-sharing, etc!", and this has given me a kick in the pants to get finished analyzing the results from a survey I posted awhile back, which has data on this very topic. Part 2 of this survey has now been published here.


Introduction and Demographics

The survey was posted to the AVEN and Arocalypse forums, and focuses on the respondents' romantic orientations and related factors. I received 86 responses in total. Ethnicity was mostly white (86.2%), with 5.8% identifying as mixed race, and other ethnicities representing only 1-2% of the sample. Gender identity was female for 48.8%, male for 17.4%, non-binary or other for 23.3%, and 10.5% declined to answer. Sex assigned at birth was female for 77.9% of the sample, male for 19.8%, and two participants declined to answer. Among the participants with binary genders, 4.8% of the women and 13.3% of the men reported having been assigned the opposite gender at birth. (An additional participant, assigned female at birth, was questioning but leaned towards male. This participant was counted under 'other'.)


I also asked about neurodevelopmental disabilities or differences, and found that 43% of the sample were neurotypical, 14% were uncertain or suspected a condition, 29.1% were neurodivergent, and 14% left the question blank. The most common neurodivergence was autism spectrum conditions, with 17.4% of the sample being autistic and an additional 9.3% being uncertain. The next most common condition was ADHD, with definite ADHD reported by 3.5% of the sample and possible ADHD by 2.3%. The remaining conditions reported represented only 1-3 participants each (maybe or definite), and included anxiety, auditory processing disorder, giftedness, depression, OCD, dyslexia, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, and bipolar disorder.


Sexual orientation was reported as asexual by 75.6% of the sample, with 5.8% identifying as heterosexual, 4.7% as bi or pansexual, 3.5% as homosexual, and 10.5% as other (most didn't specify, but one identified as possibly demisexual and one as grey-bisexual with a preference for the same gender). Romantic orientation was aromantic for 50% of the sample, with 14% identifying as heteroromantic, 14% as bi or panromantic, 3.5% as homoromantic, and 18.6% as other (7 didn't specify, 3 were demiromantic, 2 didn't understand romantic orientation, 1 was hyporomantic, 1 was possibly recipromantic, 1 was aroflux, and 1 identified as bi/panromantic with a preference for feminine people - also, 4 greyromantic participants identified gender orientation as well, with 2 bi/panromantic, 1 possibly heteroromantic and 1 possibly homoromantic).


In this sample, 46.5% had matching sexual and romantic orientations, of which 85% were aroaces, 3 were allo/allo (1 bi/pan, 1 hetero and 1 homo) and 3 were other/other. Of the variooriented participants, 41.3% were alloromantic asexuals (47.3% heteroromantic, 42.1% bi/pan and 10.6% homoromantic), 26.1% were greyromantic asexuals, 17.4% were aromantic allosexuals (44.6% heterosexual, 33.3% bi/pansexual, and 11% homosexual), 10.9% were alloromantic with a sexuality of other, and 1 was homosexual with a romantic orientation of other.

Activities in Close Relationships

Three questions in the survey focused on which activities the participants had done, would like to do or would feel uncomfortable doing in a close relationship with a non-relative. The same lists were used for all three questions.


For the question of what the participants had done, I received useable responses from 90.7% of my sample. Of those individuals, in close relationships:
  • 43.6% had given kisses on the forehead or cheek
  • 52.6% had received kisses on the forehead or cheek
  • 50% had kissed or been kissed on the mouth
  • 66.7% had held hands
  • 57.7% had cuddled
  • 88.5% had hugged
  • 80.8% had hugged in public
  • 30.8% had cuddled in public
  • 37.2% had kissed or been kissed on the forehead or cheek in public
  • 29.9% had kissed or been kissed on the mouth in public
  • 52.6% had held hands in public
  • 37.2% had experienced or engaged in other affectionate touch in public
  • 37.2% had gazed deeply into each other's eyes
  • 29.5% had cried on the other person's shoulder
  • 35.9% had been cried on by the other person
  • 26.9% had given a massage
  • 21.8% had received a massage
  • 14.1% had brushed the other person's hair
  • 14.1% had had their own hair brushed by the other person
  • 5.1% had painted the other person's nails
  • 10.3% had had their own nails painted by the other person
  • 2.6% had shaved the other person
  • 5.1% had been shaved by the other person
  • 5.1% had bathed together wearing bathing suits
  • 14.1% had bathed together naked
  • 21.8% had seen the other person naked
  • 21.8% had been seen naked by the other person
  • 10.3% had fed the other person
  • 7.7% had been fed by the other person
  • 32.1% had been tickled by the other person
  • 30.8% had tickled the other person
  • 28.2% had been called or called them by terms of endearment
  • 53.8% had been called or called them "best friend"
  • 15.4% had been called or called them "partner"
  • 39.7% had been called or called them by romantically coded words such as boyfriend or girlfriend
  • 16.7% had had other platonic relationships at the same time
  • 15.4% had the other person having other platonic relationships
  • 5.1% had had other romantic relationships at the same time
  • 6.4% had the other person having other romantic relationships
  • 10.3% had the other person doing romantically-coded activities with someone else
  • 6.4% had done romantically-coded activities with someone else
  • 7.7% had the other person having sex with other people
  • 2.6% had had sex with other people
  • 23.1% had given romantically-coded gifts (eg flowers, chocolates)
  • 29.5% had received romantically-coded gifts
  • 26.9% had danced with the other person
  • 38.5% had shared a bed with the other person without cuddling
  • 32.1% had cuddled while sharing a bed with the other person
  • 6.4% had tucked the other person in
  • 6.4% had been tucked in by the other person
  • 11.5% had lived together
  • 3.8% had been married to the other person
  • none had had children with the other person
  • 5.1% had had pets with the other person
To get a sense of which of those activities were most likely to happen in romantic relationships, I used another question, which asked if the person had ever been in a romantic relationship. In my sample, 30.6% had been in a romantic relationship, 62.4% had not, and 7.1% had a relationship that was unclear (5 were aromantic people who were involved with alloromantic partners and 1 reported that he thought the relationship was more significant than his partner did). In addition, one person who reported a failed queerplatonic relationship was classified as not having been in a romantic relationship, and one person failed to answer this question.


I compared the group that had been in a romantic relationship and the group that hadn't been using a t-test, and found the following 26 activities showed significant differences between the two groups (all more common in the group that had had a romantic relationship):
  • giving kisses on forehead or cheek (p = .001) - 68% vs 28.3%
  • receiving kisses on forehead or cheek (p < .001) - 80% vs 34%
  • kissing each other on the mouth (p < .001) - 92% vs 23.9%
  • hand holding (p < .001) - 96% vs 47.8%
  • cuddling (p < .001) - 92% vs 32%
  • cuddling in public (p = .044) - 44% vs 19.6%
  • kissing on forehead or cheek in public (p = .027) - 56% vs 28.3%
  • kissing on the mouth in public (p = .001) - 54.2% vs 13%
  • holding hands in public (p = .001) - 76% vs 37%
  • other affectionate touch in public (p = .036) - 56% vs 30.4%
  • eye gazing (p = .001) - 64% vs 23.9%
  • being cried on (p = .038) - 52% vs 26.1%
  • giving a massage (p = .003) - 52% vs 15.2%
  • receiving a massage (p = .044) - 36% vs 13%
  • bathing together naked (p = .010) - 32% vs 4.3%
  • seeing the other person naked (p < .001) - 52% vs 6.5%
  • being seen naked by the other person (p < .001) - 52% vs 6.5%
  • feeding the other person (p = .022) - 24% vs 2.2%
  • being tickled (p < .001) - 64% vs 15.2%
  • tickling the other person (p < .001) - 60% vs 15.2%
  • exchanging terms of endearment (p = .007) - 48% vs 15.2%
  • describing each other by romantically-coded words (p < .001) - 80% vs 13%
  • giving romantically-coded gifts (p = .035) - 40% vs 15.2%
  • receiving romantically-coded gifts (p = .012) - 48% vs 17.4%
  • cuddling together in bed (p < .001) - 72% vs 13%
  • having pets together (p = .043) - 16% vs 0%
On average, the participants who had been in romantic relationships had done 14.96 of these activities, with a standard deviation of 5.09. In contrast, the participants who hadn't been in a romantic relationship had done only an average of 5.02 of these activities, with a standard deviation of 5.21. (The 'other' group was in between with an average of 10.83+/-7.17 activities.)


It's important to note that several other activities might have shown a significant difference if I'd had a larger sample. For example, of the 3 participants who reported being married, all reported having had a romantic relationship. In addition, it's important to consider that all but one of the activities that were linked to romantic relationships were also found outside of romantic relationships, at a lower frequency.


Further analysis should be coming soon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

101 Ways to Teach Social Skills - Neurodiversity Comments (Activities 45-59)

This is the third part of my review of 101 Ways to Teach Social Skills.

Section 4: Caring About Yourself And Others

The intro to this section demonstrates generational prejudice, reporting that 80% of adults believe children today are ruder and less respectful. They neither provide any references, nor question whether those adults' perceptions are accurate. Rudeness and respectfulness are subjective, and different norms may result in the perception of rudeness where none is intended. Just as different cultures have different standards, so do different generations - for example, it's no longer acceptable for an older person to insist on preferential treatment simply because of their age. Plus, many people are likely to try to present themselves in a more favourable light, including claiming they behaved better as a child than they actually did. More objective measures of caring actually suggest that people are getting nicer - crime rates, including violent crime rates, have declined dramatically in both Canada and the US over the past 50 years. It's simply not justified to make claims like this without evidence, especially if you plan on working with a younger generation.

Activities 45-46 are about asking adults for help and understanding how your actions impact others. These activities both look great.

Activity 47 is about understanding that others have reasons for their behavior and trying to figure these reasons out. This is a valuable lesson for everyone. In my opinion, many adults working with neuroatypical kids need to learn this possibly more than the kids do. Never assume the child is only acting a certain way because they don't know any better. Always consider whether there may be a more pressing reason, such as sensory issues, why they specifically behave in that particular way.

Activities 48-52 focus on showing empathy, showing interest in others and helping others. I have no problem with any of these activities - they all look great!

Activities 53-54 are about giving and getting advice. I have a big objection to their portrayal of unsolicited advice as a well-intentioned act that you shouldn't object to. Personally, I see unsolicited advice as often being harmful and used to enforce social conformity.

This is especially true for disabled people. Visibly disabled people get assumed to be incompetent and given advice on how to manage their disability and on regular everyday tasks. Invisibly disabled people get advice from people who don't know they're doing something unusual because of their disability, or in some cases flat out refuse to believe that this behavior is due to a disability even when told. And both kinds of disabled people get constant advice about quack cures they should try. Not only is this advice unwelcome and annoying, but it frequently reveals hurtful assumptions, such as that the disabled person is incompetent, inconsiderate or really desperate for a cure. In short, much of the unsolicited advice disabled people get end up being microaggressions. Good intentions don't mean your actions can't hurt others.

Instead of teaching kids that they should receive unsolicited advice positively and dish it out to others, children should be taught to only give advice if they have explicit consent or if there's an immediate risk of harm ("don't touch that - it's hot!"). If someone asks for advice, that's consent. You can also ask "would you like some advice?" and don't push it if they say no. Very often if someone is complaining, they don't want advice, they just want empathy. Comment about how it made them feel, not what they should do.

Obviously, many people these children will meet won't follow these rules. They should be taught to respond to unwanted advice two ways. If it's a stranger, or someone who has been a poor listener to them in the past, they should simply say a one-liner like "I will take that under consideration" or "I have my own reasons for doing it this way, which I'd rather not get into". If the person tries to push for more response, they should simply repeat that same line until the person gives up, or seek help from a supportive person. If the advice comes from someone they trust to listen and learn (everyone makes mistakes), on the other hand, they should explain why that advice isn't helpful to them, and possibly also challenge the hurtful underlying assumptions (for example, if someone I trust is offering me a quack cure for autism, I will explain that I don't want a cure because autism is part of my identity).

Activity 55 talks about being a good friend. Most of this advice is good, but I do have a concern with the item about keeping your friend's secrets. This is usually a good idea, but if your friend tells you about something that is hurting or could hurt you, your friend or someone else, you should tell a trusted adult. Many abused children, children with serious psychiatric issues such as eating disorders, or children contemplating violence either tell their friends or drop strong hints about what's going on. Breaking your friend's confidence in those situations can save lives, or prevent someone getting badly hurt. This lesson is especially important for teenagers, because they're more likely to face really big secret problems, but even younger children might know about abuse going on - or even be recipients of abuse from a 'friend'.

When he was about 8 or so, my brother was playing with a friend of his and one of her friends, and her friend talked him into letting them tie him up and try to French kiss him. He got uncomfortable and asked to be untied, and when they refused, he pulled free (he's always been extremely strong for his age) and ran home. He told us right away, and my Mom relayed the story to his friend's mother, who decided to limit her daughter's contact with this troubled friend. By telling, my brother did the right thing and enabled the adults to protect him and his friend from a girl who was engaging in mildly sexually abusive behavior.

In addition, the attached worksheet is not really suitable for a child who doesn't have any friends.

Activity 56 is about borrowing and lending. Their advice is fine for kids with normal executive functioning, but for children with executive dysfunction, borrowing and lending is a lot more challenging. Discuss strategies for making sure they remember to return a borrowed item (such as storing it in their backpack so it's handy when they next see that person), warning the owner before borrowing that they might forget and asking for a reminder, or using an electronic device to remind them. If they can't be certain of success using those strategies, they should avoid borrowing things.

Activity 57 talks about respecting others. This activity is pretty good, but it's important to keep in mind that "treat others the way you want them to treat you" doesn't always work out well for kids who have atypical desires in social situations. For example, just because you hate surprises doesn't mean you should tell someone else what their birthday present is!

Activity 58 is about offering people help, and it's great! I especially like that they listed asking if the person wants help as a crucial step before helping them. Unneeded help can be intrusive and problematic, especially for people with visible disabilities.

Activity 59 discuss asking others for help. This activity looks great to me.