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.


Blogger Unknown said...

Respect cuts both ways. Your partner shouldn't force their kink on you, but neither should you be shaming it. "That's disgusting!" is harmful regardless of whether it's about menstruation, same-sex relationships, gender transitions, or kink.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

What about pedophilia? Would you be OK with me calling that disgusting? Not all fetishes are equal.

4:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There's a simple line in the sand, and that's whether someone gets hurt / consent gets violated. If you cross that line, it's sexual abuse, not a kink. If that line has NOT been crossed, then I can't see that you have any business being any more judgmental than you would be about menstruation or gay folk.

Every sexuality is plagued by people who cross that line. As far as I can tell, the majority (quite possibly the VAST majority) of sexual violence is committed by straight men with no particular kinks. None the less, we manage to separate "rapist" and "straight man" as two distinct concepts, even though they both get off on straight sex, even though they both have the same orientation.

So, if, by pedophilia, you mean someone who actually hurts children? Yeah, they're a disgusting pervert and words cannot describe how much I despise them. That's not a kink. That's not a fetish. That's rape.

But if you mean someone who gets off on cartoons, or does RP with their consenting adult partner, or prays every night that the horrible thoughts will finally stop, then no, they don't need any more stigmatization.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

I agree. And I see incest the same way.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Then... why call that episode of Dexter disgusting? From the way you described it, Dexter's sister doesn't violate his consent, doesn't abuse him, doesn't really end up acting on the attraction at all - she might intend to try and start a relationship, but it ends up going nowhere, and thus no one ever gets hurt, right? (And, I mean, it's a show about a serial killer, it's not like it's selling itself as a moral parable where you should strive to be like these virtuous, wholesome people)

2:58 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

Because incest repulses me! Did you seriously read this post you're derailing with your incest comments? Separate from my moral objections to incest, I also find it disgusting!

Plus, she tries to act on the attraction. The fact that her intentions got derailed by discovering he's a serial killer doesn't negate the fact that she was planning to confess her feelings to him. (Feelings which I don't buy her even having - up until then they basically acted just like close siblings, and reverted to acting that way by the next season. Hence why I blame amatonormativity, for thinking that their level of closeness required romantic feelings.) Intent matters even if it comes to nothing. And openly stating "I'm attracted to you" changes a relationship even if the other person says it'll go nowhere and you agree.

And regarding consent, non-consensual sex is harmful, but not all consensual sex is fine. A 14 year old can be genuinely attracted to an adult and have consensual sex with said adult, but they'll still be harmed by the power differential between them. A sex-repulsed asexual can consent to sex, but will probably find it harmful to do (many aces I know have experienced this).

Anyway, I find discussions of incest triggering. A post detailing my opinions on incest is now live, and any further incest comments on any other posts (including this one) will be deleted.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Apologies for the triggering. Feel free to delete my past comments if you want. And thank you for engaging with it and giving me a different perspective to think about. I'm pretty well estranged from my entire family, so the weight that others place on "family bonds" is a fairly opaque topic to me, and I never thought about it from that perspective.

Uhm, and sorry if this reply is unwelcome.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

No, it's OK. I wish more people approached disagreement the way you do.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Ettina said...

No, it's OK. I wish more people approached disagreement the way you do.

12:59 PM  

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