Friday, March 24, 2017

Crocheting Pride for my Future Child

This month's Asexual Blog Carnival topic is Pride. For me, one of the major expressions of ace pride I've been doing is this:
I've mentioned before that I want to be a mother. As I'm trying to get ready, I've taken to crocheting baby clothes. And my most recent project is a onesie with ace pride colors. It's almost completely finished now, though I still need to add snaps in the crotch area.

I used 5mm thread, picking soft textures (to the point of getting my Dad to buy me purple on a trip because our local Wal-Mart didn't have a suitable purple). I used a 3-6 month onesie I bought as a size model, although this thing somehow ended up a bit smaller, so it's probably more 0-3 months in size. It's all double crochet, switching colors every second row. The most difficult part was the crotch area, since none of my previous projects had anything like that. I don't have a pattern, because I just design as I go.

I'm currently working on a rainbow pride toddler shirt (the model for this one is a 2T minions shirt), and I'm hoping to make something with the aromantic flag colors too.

I've previously made two baby shirts playing with gendered colors.

The first one is white and pink stripes, deliberately very feminine looking, but I plan to let my kid wear it regardless of sex. The second is pink and blue stripes, with a black border around the sleeves, neck and zipper. Both are double crocheted based on model clothes, though I can't remember which ones I based them on. The zipper for the pink and blue one was added by using a darning needle to stitch yarn all along an appropriate length zipper, and then crocheting into the stitches on both sides.

Currently, I'm also working on a pussyhat, a type of pink hat with cat ears that feminists have been making to protest Trump.

I've had an interest in crafting cloth since I was young, using knitting, crocheting and some sort of technique I've forgotten the name of, which involved making a can with nails attached, and looping thread around the nails to make circular projects. But apart from a single unpaired sock, I never had the motivation to stick with a project until I was finished. Making baby clothes is the first time I've managed to consistently finish multiple projects. I don't know if it's because I'm older and more mature, because it feeds my need to feel like I'm making tangible progress towards being ready to be a parent, or because baby clothes are smaller and finished sooner, but I've been really making a steady little pile here.

In any case, someday my baby will wear my pride on their body. They'll grow up with these colors and this symbolism, just as other babies grow up with pink princess or rough-and-tough blue. I hope this will help my child grow up free of gender stereotyping and internalized heteronormativity.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Just Like Other Daughters: A Review

The 21st of March is World Down Syndrome Day, so I wanted to write about Down Syndrome for today. I don't have a personal connection to Down Syndrome (I've met a few people with the condition, but they were no more than acquaintances), but I have recently read a book starring a woman with Down Syndrome, so I've decided to contribute with a book review.

When I saw the back cover to Just Like Other Daughters, by Colleen Faulkner, I thought it looked promising. A romance between a woman with Down Syndrome and a man with an undefined mental disability, neither of whom can live independently? Finally! And having it narrated by an overprotective mother who the book strongly implied would learn a valuable lesson, that seemed interesting too.

But the ending ruined all my hopes for this book.

(Spoilers ahead, of course.)

The mother, several years before she conceived Chloe, aborted a presumably chromosomally typical embryo because she didn't feel ready to be a mother. Her marriage fell apart after Chloe's birth, and it's implied that Chloe's disability played a part in it. As a result, the mother often thinks about that baby she aborted and how different (and better) her life would have been if she had that child instead of Chloe. Very problematic thoughts for a mother of a woman with Down Syndrome to have, but I'm down for flawed characters, even if their narratives can make me flinch at times. As long as the author doesn't seem to share the character's views, and the sections narrated by Chloe made me really think that she didn't.

But I guess I was wrong. Because once Chloe and Thomas finally marry and Thomas moves in, it all falls apart - and for explicitly disability-related reasons.

Chloe needs her routine, and hates how Thomas living in her home disrupts the routine. She also clearly can't understand Thomas's feelings about the situation. Meanwhile, Thomas is experiencing separation anxiety, crying and having difficulty sleeping without his mother. Both sets of parents try to make it work, hoping they'll adjust, but then finally Thomas moves away with his parents.

And then Chloe turns out to be pregnant, because she and Thomas didn't understand how to use birth control. And Chloe's mother is primarily concerned that she'll have to look after a grandchild with Down Syndrome, as well. But her fears are unfounded, as the child turns out to be chromosomally typical. (Doesn't mean the child couldn't have the same condition as her father, but this isn't acknowledged as a possibility by the story.)

And then the worst twist - Chloe dies in childbirth, leaving her mother to raise her (assumed NT) child. And rather than being devastated by grief, as I'd have expected from a mother who's just lost her child, Chloe's mother seems completely fine, and delighted to raise her grandchild, who she sees as a replacement for the child she aborted. It's as if she sees Chloe's life, love and marriage as existing solely to bring her grandchild into this world, a perfect child to replace the flawed one she was saddled with. The narrative reads with the feeling that this is intended as a happy ending, or at least bittersweet, rather than the tragedy it would be normally for a story to end with a woman in her twenties dying and leaving her mother to raise her grandchild alone.

It also strikes me as odd, because while women with Down Syndrome aren't immune to dying in childbirth, it's not particularly common, either. As far as I know, it's no more common than a chromosomally typical woman dying in childbirth, and this story is set in a modern setting, so that's pretty rare. It seemed a bit overly convenient to the plot, rather than a believable event.

Overall, I would not recommend this book. I liked it at first, and I especially liked the bits narrated by Chloe, but it left a bad taste in my mouth when it ended.

Friday, March 17, 2017

My Thoughts on Incest

Recently, I got called out in the comments on a blog entry for calling incest disgusting. The person said “just because it's not your kink doesn't mean you can call it disgusting”. True, it's not my kink. And I know full well that you don't choose your kinks, and won't judge anyone for what their fantasies are. (I don't judge people for being pedophiles, either.) But I stand by what I said.

I think incest is morally wrong.

Note: by incest, I'm referring to sexual and/or romantic activities between individuals who were treated as part of the same nuclear family when one or both were children. I don't care if you get involved with your cousin, or even your long-lost sibling separated from you at birth. I do care if you get involved with your adoptive sibling, stepsibling or foster sibling.

I also don't care if you have kids with recessive genetic disabilities. I don't think deliberately choosing to have a child with a high probability of disability is wrong. After all, I'm hoping to have an autistic child. It would be pretty hypocritical of me to judge someone else for the same thing that I'm OK with doing myself.

I will admit that, as a survivor of incestuous child sexual abuse (they were both my cousins and my foster siblings), I'm not entirely rational about this issue. I will also admit that the particular situation I experienced would have been abusive regardless of the relationship between me and my abusers, simply because they were 10 and 13 years older than me and I was under the age of 5. But even if the situation isn't like mine, I still can't approve of incest.

I'm 27 years old, and when I'm with my parents and my brother, part of me still feels like I'm a kid, he's a younger kid, and those are our parents. And I know this is a common experience, because I've heard people talk about it before so many times. I even saw a very funny dedication in a book co-written by siblings, where they wind up arguing over who to dedicate the book to, calling their mother to mediate, and then dedicating it to her. If you knew someone from childhood, the patterns of relating formed then will linger on in your relationship with that person.

All non-twin siblings have a power differential in childhood. Even a year or two can be huge when you're both children. This puts the older sibling at an advantage, and although this advantage will lessen, it'll never truly go away. And power differentials in romantic or sexual relationships are a toxic combination.

In addition, there is the Westermarck effect – reverse sexual imprinting. For most people, this effect inhibits the ability to find people attractive if you were raised in a close relationship with them. Obviously, this doesn't work on everyone, but it does mean that most people who have sex with siblings or parents do so for reasons other than being attracted to them. And many of those reasons, too, are dysfunctional.

Lastly, romantic relationships create strong feelings, which, if the relationship breaks up, can easily ruin the bond you had before. It happens very often with friends – of the people who were friends before getting romantically involved, if they break up, how many are still friends afterwards? Many people choose to create distance between them and their exes, because to do otherwise hurts too much. This effect also leads many people to deliberately avoid seeking romantic relationships with a close friend, because if it fails, they'll probably lose the friendship.

Well, your immediate family has a bond with you that can never be fully erased. I've seen from my parents how it hurts to have to sever those familial bonds, even when the reason is abuse. If family members get romantically involved, and it breaks up, then they'll have to deal with their ex being their family member. And they'll have damaged what I personally consider one of the most important bonds in their life. And as for having sex, for most alloromantic allosexuals, having sex with someone strongly predisposes them to fall for that person romantically. It's why swingers tend to deliberately create distance with their sexual partners, by only sleeping with strangers and not with the same person more than once.

So, even when it's between two consenting adults, without too large an age difference, there are still plenty of reasons that incest is likely to harm them.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Asexual Attitudes Towards Sex and Why They're Relevant to Fetishes, Kinks and BDSM

Personally, I think fetish/kink communities would really benefit from learning about how asexuals react to sex.

Asexuals don't feel sexual attraction to people. That means that the biggest draw to sex for most people is completely absent for asexuals.

But that doesn't mean that all asexuals hate sex. In fact, it opens up room for a wide range of reactions to sex, many of which have been given labels.

Sex-repulsed asexuals (also known as apothisexuals) find sex gross, scary, or otherwise extremely unpleasant. Some apothisexuals are fine with sex being discussed or even with watching porn, but draw the line at actually doing anything sexual themselves. Others find that various degrees of exposure to other people having sex (ranging from viewing porn, viewing scenes that hint at sex, hearing people describe sex, engaging in academic discussions of sex, etc) also bother them. And many are in between - personally, I'm a sex-repulsed ace who is fine with academic discussions of sex, have varying reactions to descriptions of sex and to viewing scenes that hint at sex, and am consistently grossed out by porn.

Sex-indifferent asexuals have an essentially neutral reaction to sex. Generally, they describe sex as boring, pointless, or tedious, but not actually repulsive. Essentially, the same way I feel about washing dishes (assuming the sink is reasonably clean). It doesn't bother me, I don't find it upsetting, but there's really nothing appealing about it, and I'll only do it if I have a good reason to.

Sex-favourable asexuals, on the other hand, find sex enjoyable. Even though they don't feel an innate draw towards sex, they might find sex fun because of the sensations, the physical closeness, their partner's reaction, or other reasons. Essentially, they like sex for non-sexual reasons. Some sex-favourable aces find sex an amusing pasttime, but not something they need to actively seek out. Other sex-favourable aces want to actively seek out sex for non-sexual reasons (this latter group are called cupiosexuals).

Why is this relevant to fetishists and kinksters? Because people who aren't turned on by your fetish or kink can show the exact same range of responses.

People who seek out kink for non-sexual reasons ('cupio-kinky', if you wish) often identify as kinksters themselves. I have heard from a number of BDSM practitioners who say that BDSM is completely non-sexual for them, that it appeals to them on an entirely different level. There are also people in many fetish communities who are motivated by non-sexual factors, such as ABDLs who wear diapers for comfort or security rather than arousal, or crossdressers who like the feel or aesthetic of the outfits instead of being turned on by them.

Other people don't actively seek out a kink or fetish activity, but find it enjoyable nonetheless if it comes up. Often it only comes up because they have a kinky partner. This woman who dated a foot fetishist, for example, is like the foot fetish equivalent of a sex-favourable ace. Feet do nothing for her, but she seems to have enjoyed doing foot-related stuff with her partner.

There are also people who are meh about a fetish/kink. With regards to feet, this is where I'd fall. I don't really care if I can see someone's feet or if they see mine. And if someone wanted to give me a foot massage, my reaction would be just as meh. (I wouldn't want to do a foot job or have my foot licked, but those are more extensions of me being repulsed by sex and other people's saliva rather than anything foot-specific.)

And then there are the people who are repulsed by a fetish or kink. They might be OK with discussions of the fetish, but have strong negative feelings about the idea of engaging in it themselves. (This is how I feel about being a bondage bottom - it would be absolutely terrifying for me, but I don't mind hearing others talk about it.) Or they might find that even mentioning it really bothers them. (Scat play is this for me. Ugh.)

If you have a fetish or kink yourself, keep in mind that the people you discuss your fetish with could fall anywhere on this spectrum. And it's important to respect the needs of people anywhere on this spectrum, especially if you're in a relationship with them.

For someone who is repulsed by your fetish, it's important that you respect their limits and refrain from trying to involve them in your fetish. Make sure you know what their limits are - maybe the fetish not be discussed unless absolutely necessary, maybe it's OK to discuss the fetish as long as you don't expect them to engage in it with you, or anywhere in between. Know their limits and respect them. You don't have the right to force someone else to be involved in your fetish.

If you're in a relationship with a person who's repulsed by your fetish, you need to accept that most likely, your fetish will never be a part of that relationship. You'll either have to meet your fetish needs elsewhere, suppress your fetish, or end the relationship. Just like an allosexual involved with a sex-repulsed asexual, your sexual needs are not going to be met by that person. Don't expect that you can 'turn' them - better to assume it's not going to happen.

If the person is indifferent to your fetish, then you can probably safely discuss it with them, as long as you keep in mind that fetish-related discussions will almost certainly be far more interesting for you than for them. If you're in a relationship with them, you might be able to talk them into doing a fetish activity, but remember that you're getting way more out of it than they are. You should be willing to do stuff that they enjoy, too, sometimes. This might be vanilla sex, or a different kink that you're not interested in, or something else entirely. But if you're getting way more out of the relationship than they are, the relationship will not function very well. And again, if your fetish does nothing for them, then you probably won't be able to turn them.

If the person is favourable to your fetish, great! But do keep in mind that they might not want the same things out of it as you do, or may not enjoy it quite as much as you do. In addition, some people who strongly like something for non-sexual reasons will still find it gross or unpleasant if you mix sex with it (for example, my brother is a Pokemon fan, but Pokemon porn squicks him out). Even if they like that thing, and they like sex, they might not like both together, just like you might not like steak with icing on top. (Although I probably would enjoy that!) As with the indifferent folks, if you have someone who likes your fetish less intensely than you, you need to consider doing the stuff they enjoy more, too.

Overall, remember that everyone has different likes and dislikes, and just because something is amazingly exciting and awesome to you doesn't mean that everyone else will like it if they only give it a chance. This is true for everything, including fetishes.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Just Because You're A Victim Doesn't Mean You Can't Be A Perpetrator

My cousin figured that the world owed him something. He'd had an awful life, passed from home to home, neglected and physically and sexually abused. And he figured that his past excused pretty much anything he did, no matter who he hurt.

By all measures, he has had much less privilege than me. I'm white, he was Metis passing for white. I grew up in a household on the borderline between lower middle class and working poor, he grew up mostly in households dependant on welfare. And most importantly, I had two parents who loved me, consistently cared for me, and never abused me. He had been abused by several different caregivers, and had no one he could count on to even be there consistently - much less actually care about him.

But none of that excused his choice to sexually abuse an innocent child. No matter how rough his life was, no matter how much better I had it, none of that changes how wrong his actions were.

Because that's the thing - being a victim doesn't make you any better than someone who was spared the same suffering. It doesn't give you more rights than they have. And it certainly doesn't give you the right to drag them down with you.

And this is why I believe that 'reverse discrimination' is a real and important thing to discuss. This is why I think that just because you're part of an oppressed group doesn't mean you get the last word on what is and isn't oppression. And this is why I think the argument "I have no privilege, I can't oppress anyone" is terribly, terribly wrong.

People make excuses for their behavior. People falsely accuse others to shut them up or deflect attention away from the issue. And people generally do rotten things to each other. None of that depends on having privilege over someone else.

We should listen to oppressed groups. But we shouldn't listen to bullying and manipulation, no matter who it comes from.