Monday, January 02, 2017

Asexuality and Feminism - What Are Women For, Anyway?

OK, so the blog carnival topic for January's Carnival of Aces is pretty broad - "Many Ways to be Ace". They suggest several ideas for how to approach this topic, and I'm choosing the first one:

How your asexuality intersects, or doesn't, with one of your other identities (ethnicity, religion, romantic orientation, gender, background, career, etc.)
My first thought was to write about autism, but I've written about being autistic and asexual before. And recently I've been thinking a lot about how my experience of oppression as an asexual woman very much feels linked to oppression experienced by allosexual women as well. In particular, my experience of pick up culture in practice is one of the primary ways in which I encounter prejudice for identifying as asexual.

Several years ago, while taking the bus to university, I had several guys try to pick me up. (I still regularly take that bus, but for some reason I haven't had pick up attempts in a while. No idea why.) I also got a pick up attempt in an MMO I play. From my own experience, I've learnt that saying I'm asexual only seems to encourage these guys. Disturbingly, so does saying I'm a sexual abuse survivor who's afraid of sex.

In general, most of these guys only seem to be deterred by the idea of me being 'taken' by another man. Or as the 'gallant knight' put it, whether I had a boyfriend who would be angry if he knew I was hanging out with another man. (Which, given that I did nothing inappropriate with any of those men, implies my imagined boyfriend is a possessive asshole in their minds.)

I've never been involved with another woman, but judging from this thread and this story I'm guessing that wouldn't count as 'taken' enough for them to back off. No, I have to 'belong' to another man, because they only care about other men's desires, not about my desires.

And this highlights a broader misogynist view of women. In the eyes of many men, we are here for the purpose of having men to have sex with us. What's the point of a woman who's asexual or a lesbian? We're not fulfilling our purpose. We're not giving men sex.

The flipside to this is that if a woman isn't lesbian/asexual or taken, she couldn't possibly be selective about which man she chooses. Especially if she's unattractive or undesirable in some way (which is the reason PUAs neg, to tap into women's socialization and make her feel undesirable so she'll be less choosy). An illustration of this can be seen early on in The Walking Dead TV show, when Merle is trying to convince Andrea to undo the handcuffs used to restrain him. He makes a crude sexual advance at her, and when she looks disgusted, he says she's a 'rug-muncher'. In other words, either she's interested in him, or she's a lesbian. (Andrea, by the way, is clearly portrayed as heterosexual. She's just not interested in misogynist redneck racists who pick stupid fights with other survivors in a zombie infested city.)

As an asexual woman, I'm seen as a challenge. Rather than being someone with no interest in men, I'm someone who needs to be cajoled into sex, to convince me that I actually do want it. I need a 'real man' to show me what it's all about.

Because that's what women are for, right?


  1. Hi, I'm working on a book collecting voices from the Ace community and am desperately looking for a column that talks about feminism and misogyny. This column is perfect. Would you allow me to use it in the book?