Apologies for my absence. I’ve been using a rather old, albeit reliable, Dell laptop for the last year or so and the hard drive has finally decided it’s had enough (I can’t blame it, really). So, I’ve taken my “good” laptop (quotation marks because it’s a Vaio) in to PB Tech to be repaired after all this time and it looks like the faults with this one are minor. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited a year to do this. Anyway, my internet presence will be minimal until that’s done. It should be another few days. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Auckland’s anniversary weekend.
My mother has always treated me like owing her my existence is some sort of privilege, when in reality every day I spend living in her house is another day I totally regret. I can’t fucking stand her.
“i’m so depressed,” posted the caucasion heterosexual cisgender teenage girl on her blog
“I’m so depressed” posted the person who is clinically depressed and who cannot help their depression despite their privilege because depression does not exclusively affect certain groups.
I think the reason I find geek culture so obnoxious at times to engage in is because the people are for the most part the same privileged dips that inhabit mainstream culture, but with the added detriment of a victim complex. They’re still largely white and center their race, they’re still largely straight and center their sexuality, they’re still largely cis men who center their gender. They challenge nothing about the status quo and what bodies get to be placed at the center of it, they offer nothing radically different to the typical narratives about which groups of people are and are not important and they can be just as hostile to groups who try to find a place in their space as the mainstream is, in some cases even worse. But for some reason they think the fact that they like Battlestar Galactica instead of Monday night football makes them radical alterna-gods who are too good for this sinful Earth.
Maybe. I think what I mean is that I just can’t figure out how or why I like people or enjoy their company anymore, which isn’t to say that I don’t always. I think I’m a man with high expectations and that’s unfair, seeing as I’m unlikely to be able to live up to those expectations myself, in my current state of whatever state I’m in. I ramble a lot.
I think I need to adjust my understanding of friendship and liking people and enjoying their company because I’m not really getting a lot of enjoyment out of any of these things at the moment.
On identifying as queer
My sexuality is not normative. But it looks normative. My romantic interest is primarily in men and male identified people and I’m a cis woman whose appearance is pretty femme. When I spend time with the people I date, we look like a straight couple.
But sexual attraction is a whole different story for me. Visually, I prefer stereotypically feminine bodies, though ones that are different from mine. (I’m hourglass shaped, with moderately full hips, a moderately defined waist, and very large breasts. Visually, though, I find bodies with very full hips, a very small waist, and medium breasts most attractive.)
Quite honestly, I find stereotypically male bodies kind of funny looking and definitely not sexy (sorry guys!). Those are the bodies I am most likely to be sexual with, but it’s not because of physical attraction - it’s because I form romantic attractions that lead to me wanting a physical relationship in order to please that person.
That’s what demisexuality is. Complicated. I’ve never identified as queer because I look so normative. I’m cis and can easily pass as straight even though that’s not quite accurate. But my sexuality is not normative. It’s complicated and misunderstood. It’s part of the reason I’ve struggled so much with dating. Maybe queer does fit. I’m still not sure.
I think this is basically an extremely normative non-ace narrative, tbh. Or at least, this could have pretty much been written by me (without the demi stuff) when I was 25. At the time I was in a long-term romantic and sexual relationship with a man who I wasn’t physically attracted to, but I did enjoy sex with him and as a result desired sex with him. But I didn’t find “male bodies” (using the language of the OP, referring to cis male bodies) aesthetically attractive at all. I discovered in my later 20s that I did have the ability to shallowly be sexually attracted to people - including men - based just on their looks/body but that is a relatively recent development over the time I’ve been sexually active.
This shows just how much is strange in the way a lot of demisexuals/grey-aces talk about attraction.
It’s pretty normative for hetero/bi women to enjoy sex with men, particularly men they like/are in love with, without finding themselves turned on by their bodies alone. Because the mainstream elements in Western culture hypersexualize (certain types) of bodies, objectification, commodification, etc. All of us are really programmed to see women’s bodies (at least some of them) as at the very least, aesthetically pleasing, if not also inherently sexual. (Which is one reason I can be skeptical of some women who ID as bi but their only interest in women seems to be limited to finding Angelina Jolie or other such icons hot. It was a reason I’ve waffled on IDing as bisexual myself on and off for a long time. I wasn’t sure if I could separate an aesthetic/sexual attraction to women that was part of how patriarchy trains us to view women from a genuine desire on a sexual and romantic level. I’ve mostly figured that out now but I still think a lot of women uncritically take their aesthetic attraction to idealized women as a signifier of sexual orientation and I’m not really sure it is? Tangent.)
So much of demisexuality in a concept is this very….limited attempt to separate in a very literal, boring way all the weird complex things that make up “attraction”. They say you can be sexually aroused via having sex with someone but that doesn’t mean you have sexual attraction to someone, because you don’t get sexually aroused just by their body alone. That is extremely common for a lot of people to the point where separating it off as a unique way of interacting with sexuality is pretty much meaningless. And this explanation above seems to think that finding womens’ bodies aesthetically pleasing someone gives one same-sex attraction even though they admit they are not romantically and thus not sexually attracted to women.
The OP’s sexuality is actually, in my experience, very normative and yet she insists it’s not. And goes one step further to imply it’s queer. There’s no winning that argument because she’ll say, “But I don’t feel normative.” Hey that’s sexuality in general? Or being human in general? Most of us don’t see ourselves as normal. Being cis and straight can still feel really fucking weird, particularly if you’re a woman, because our culture has all these unrealistic and bizarre messages about what sexuality and sexual attraction is. I used to think my sexual attractions/sexual orientation was totally bizarre and unique and special too, until I started talking really openly with a lot of other people who identified in all kinds of different ways and realized, “Wow, they’re just like me too!” So maybe the problem is not that demisexuals are unique or non-normative but that how our culture talks about sexuality is just not diverse enough to make a lot of people feel included. But the response to that shouldn’t be “Here’s this new thing and it’s totally unique” but instead a broadening of how we understand sexuality in general.
Bolding mine. But I love everything else freibiergesicht says above as well.
Also — not to sound like a broken record or anything — it really speaks to the problem with mainstream and sex-positive discourse about sexuality that practically the only places that self-identified demisexuals are able to share their experience of sexuality and feelings of alienation are in ace/demi spaces on the Internet.
I’m still not sure where I stand on the use of the descriptor “demisexual”, but this is all interesting reading nevertheless.
Having freakishly large feet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. You don’t know true sadness until you find out that a pair of shoes you really want only goes up to size 12.
Here’s my evidence that it’s not “normal”:
- I’ve never had a crush on a celebrity, ever (and yes, I’m ages past puberty).
- I’ve never found anyone “physically” attractive….just aesthetically so. This means I literally do not experience sexual attraction.
- What I DO experience is emotional attraction…as in, if I’m not emotionally connected to you, I’m not going to be attracted to you, and I CERTAINLY won’t be desiring to have sex with you.
- Now, people say, “BUT THAT’S NORMAL!” No…it isn’t. […] The reason it’s not normal is because:
- Your attraction to someone isn’t just emotional (though our society places value on that), it’s multi-faceted: you probably find them physically attractive, you probably have an emotional connection to them, you probably find them sexually attractive, etc, etc.
- I don’t have this. It’s emotional connection or nothing. I literally do not feel attraction to other people unless it is of the aesthetic kind, or REAL attraction of the emotional kind. To limn my point: say you see a really cool looking car, and you say, “Damn, this is one sexy car!”….but would you have sex with said car (well, unless you’re an objectum-sexual)? Now, sure, some people would, and that’s all fine and dandy, but that’s what it is with me — I can find people aesthetically attractive and appreciate that, but it doesn’t make me sexually attracted to them.
- And it’s been like this since I was kid. I remember being 5 or 6 (and surprisingly enough, my puberty actually did start this early), and having my mom and grandma pointing girls (and later boys when they were realizing I wasn’t all that straight) out and going, “Awww, isn’t he/she so cute?!?!” and I’d go, “Uh….sure. I don’t see it that way, but whatever works for you.”
I seriously don’t have time to respond to all the “I don’t have celebrity crushes, therefore I am asexual” stuff (in short: lots of non-ace people prefer real people they know to celebrity images on the TV, including me; it is not particularly radical or “abnormal” to not have crushes on / want to make out with random famous people you don’t know), but to the stuff in bold:
What do you think “physically attractive” actually means? When you find someone physically attractive, it means you like how they look physically. As opposed to their personality or intelligence or musical skills. It does not mean that they literally arouse a physical response in you. Finding someone physically attractive does NOT entail having an erection or getting wet looking at them. It means finding their physical appearance attractive. You call this finding them “aesthetically” attractive. Most people happen to use the term “physically attractive.”
And just to make sure that I’m not totally off base here, I checked with the Internet. Here is Wikipedia:
Physical attractiveness refers to a person’s physical traits which are perceived to be aesthetically pleasing or beautiful. The term often implies sexual attractiveness or desirability, but can also be distinct from the two; for example, humans may regard the young as attractive for various reasons, but without sexual attraction. There are many factors which influence one person’s attraction to another, with physical aspects being one of them. In many cases, humans attribute positive characteristics, such as intelligence and honesty, to physically attractive people without consciously realizing it.
In other words, physical=aesthetic, which may or may not cross over into sexual and include factors like emotion, personality, etc. — which you also happen to include when you find a specific individual sexually attractive.
I also have to ask: When your mother and grandmother pointed out five- or six-year-old girls (and later boys) to you as “cute,” do you think they were sexually interested in these children? Because I’m pretty sure they weren’t. So why do you assume that that was what was expected of you, and that you somehow failed because you didn’t want to have sex with them either?
Certainly there are points at which “aesthetic” can cross into “sexual” (and no one is prescribing that this happen in an emotionless void), but the suggestion that non-ace people experience some kind of wild, wet carnal lust towards everyone they describe as “cute” or “hot” is absurd. I’m not going to say no one does ever, because of course some people do, and sexuality is diverse! — but a lot of people say, “Damn, that is a sexy person” in the exact same way as in your example about the car — to mean aesthetic appeal without active sexual desire. And it is perfectly normal to not desire sex out of the blue.
Sex, love, and attraction are complicated… not the binary, clear-cut categories that I see suggested in practically everything I’ve ever seen about demisexuality. That’s why I get frustrated by this. Almost every explanation of demisexuality I’ve seen makes patently false claims about “normative” sexuality. As I’ve said before, the discourse on sexuality is incredibly screwed up, both in the misogynistic, sex-negative-yet-sex-obsessed madonna-whore paradox–espousing culture at wide but also in the similarly racist, thin-centric, ableist, if-you-don’t-have-orgasms-you-don’t-know-the-true-meaning-of-life sex positivity that’s supposed to counter it. Demisexual discourse takes the myths promoted by these cultures as Ultimate Facts about human sexuality and then claims a political identity in opposition to a few aspects of this bullshit. …instead of calling out the whole thing for the bullshit it is.
There are many ways of being sexual, “normal” isn’t a mold to cram the diversity of human experience into, and sexuality is complicated. This is why we desperately need a new discourse on sexuality and a hell of a lot more of the intelligent, inclusive sex education that wouldn’t leave people feeling like they’re broken for not experiencing sexuality the way their TV shows and peers tell them they should.
Agreed with the commentary by mikroblogolas. The final paragraph especially is something I feel strongly about.
Sexual attraction: When one desires to have sexual relations with another specific person or persons. Sometimes it is felt along with other forms of attraction such as, romance, friendship.
“That guy is so damn sexy, I could take him to bed and shag him all night long.”
Romantic attraction: When one desires to have a romantic relationship with another specific person or persons. Many people who’re asexual may experience romantic attraction even though they do not experience sexual attraction.
“Oh wow, that girl is so beautiful, I would really like to get to know her better and show her off. She’s the type of girl I would love to get into a romantic relationship with.”
Aesthetic attraction: When one sees another person or persons as attractive, nice looking, handsome or beautiful, but does not feel any desire to be in a romantic, sexual or sensual relationship with them.
“Oh my gosh, that man is quite attractive, I appreciate how handsome his face is and how lean is body looks. If I could, I would hang him up on a wall and look at him all day”
Sensual attraction: When ones sees another person or persons and desires to do sensual (but NOT sexual) things with them. Such sensual things may include, kissing, hugging, holding hands.
“Look at that woman, she is quite a sight for sore eyes. I would very much love to cuddle with her, kiss her forehead and perhaps hold her hand as we walked through the park.”
Squish: When ones sees another person or persons and desires an aromantic friendship with them.
“Look at how cool that boy is, I would love to get to know him more, I bet he’s a great person to hang out with and talk to.”
Especially when they’re men and they do it for the express purpose of common ground by objectifying women.
This topic has been discussed to death, and yet it continually comes up in tumblr discussion. So let me establish once and for all (I swear, I will never discuss this again) that “bisexual” is not an oppressive identity.
Bisexual is not binarist.
The argument that it is binarist posits that (1) bisexuality is attraction to binary-identified (sometimes people throw in “cis” too) men and women, and that (2) not being attracted to someone means you deny their gender or actively hate them. Clearly, these are both fallacies.
(1) There are many uses of the term “bisexual.” Some take the “bi” to mean “two genders” and don’t specify which. Some take it to mean “same gender and different gender.” Some take it to refer to the two different social spaces they occupy in a binarist world when they are read as straight or read as not straight based on their partner. And many people disregard the constraints of etymology and use it to mean “more than one gender.”
The language police on tumblr have a really unhealthy relationship with etymology. Don’t get me wrong — I adore etymology, and I think it’s important to critique how language reinforces prejudices. But it can only get you so far. The origins of a word do not demarcate the only ways it can be used. Almost any word that we use frequently can be picked apart to justify an argument that it should be banned from our vocabulary. (“Vocabulary,” for example, is ableist, because it is related to the Latin “vocare,” from which we have “vocal,” and who’s to say only people who can speak can use language? We shouldn’t use the word “rape” to refer to nonconsensual sex, because “rape” originally meant kidnapping, and this reinforces the idea that “real” rape involves brute physical force. And so on.)
It is suspicious that people jump on the word “bisexual” so easily, when there’s a multitude of words used frequently in SJ circles that could be branded oppressive based on a quick glance at their etymology. “Lesbian,” for example, is cultural appropriation, because, as we all know, it derives from the name of a Greek island, and, before this appropriation, people from that island were naturally called “lesbians” (and some are trying to reappropriate the term). “Feminism” connotes femininity, and as we all know not all women are feminine, not all feminine people are women, and not all feminists are women. “Straight” is homophobic, because it conflates heterosexuality with correctness, properness, and honesty; it implies that those who are not straight are “crooked”: immoral, dishonest, and improper. The “trans-” in “transgender” and “transsexual” is cissexist, because “trans-” means “across” or “beyond,” and it implies that trans people necessarily “cross” gender or occupy a space beyond the binary. However, these arguments do not dominate tumblr (yet — I hope I didn’t start anything terrible), because even though their etymology is “problematic” (and it some cases, it really is), these words have meaning and power beyond, and sometimes despite, their etymology. The question is “Does their value outweigh their harm?” They are useful terms and to discard them because someone with a Greco-Latin roots dictionary can find fault with them would be silly. And the same is true of “bisexual.”
(2) Some people do use “bisexual” to mean “men and women.” And that is OK! You have the right to be attracted to whomever you like. You are under no obligation to be attracted to any particular person or group. That is your right as a sexually autonomous human being. Identifying your attractions (or your identity!) along the binary does not make you binarist.
If you are not attracted to non-binary people, that does not mean you hate non-binary people. One of the most harmful messages of the current trend of sex positivity is that support=sex. There are many ways of supporting people without sleeping with them. Indeed, showing your support for non-binary people/trans people/women/men/POC/whoever by sleeping with them is creepy, fetishizing, and gross. It reminds me of this meme:
[Image text: “How can I be misogynist if I love having sex with women?”]
Moving on. Biphobia is a thing.
A lot of smart people I really respect have been talking about how we need to discard the term “biphobia” because it suggests an axis of oppression in which bisexuals lose and gay/lesbian and straight people win. Obviously, such an axis is just as ridiculous as so-called “sexual privilege,” in which straight and LGBQ people wield power and privilege over straight and LGBQ asexuals alike.
So let me get this clear: I don’t mean biphobia with the checklists. Monosexism is not an actual axis of privilege/oppression. Instead, it’s the reluctant extension of a heterosexist model to gay people: Gay men are pretty much women, just confused about their gender, and lesbians are practically men, just with gender issues. Bisexuals, silly things, are just confused or way too into sex. What sluttysluts.
People who are gay or lesbian do not wield institutional power and privilege over bisexuals. However, there are widely held and firmly entrenched prejudices against bisexuality among both straight people and lesbian/gay/queer people. I like the term “biphobia” because it summarizes those prejudices in one easily recognizable word. I don’t think “-phobia” should be limited to situations of privilege–oppression — for example, “biophobia” is a very useful word, and we don’t need to write up the living things privilege checklist — but if anyone has anyone good arguments to not use the word “biphobia,” please let me know. I have heard the term described as “appropriative,” but I don’t think this is necessarily true. (Privilege checklists, yes.) We can talk about misogyny as a real thing, and yet “misandry” doesn’t automatically assume male oppression by women, unless it’s, say, an MRA using the term. (cinnamonwheel and others have been rocking the “misandry for life” tag, and I’m pretty sure they’re not MRAs.) (This is a shitty analogy, because bisexuals are not analogous to men in terms of power or privilege, but the point is that morphologically similar terms do not have to carry the same SJ framework.) I find the term “biphobia” useful, and it’s what I’m going to use until I hear a sufficiently convincing argument against “biphobia” and a decent alternative to it.
Here are some examples of what I mean when I talk about biphobia:
- The hate that reality-TV star Krisily Kennedy got on Autostraddle when she came out as bisexual
- Dismissing bi women as straight but slutty and bi men as closeted gay liars
- I attended a “queer” event by the LGBTQ group at my school, and when a guy and girl (each, as far as I know, gay) were talking to each other for too long and being too (platonically) affectionate, they were told — as a joke!!111 of course — that they’d better not “turn straight” or they wouldn’t be welcome in the group anymore
- When I wrote an article on homosexuality in high school, and in order to cut down the story to fit the space allotted, I simply deleted the section on bisexuality, because “bisexuals don’t really count” or deserve representation
- When the only Hungarian “LGBT” YouTube show includes comments like these in their “best of” video and otherwise, mention of bisexuality is completely lacking: “Bisexuals are those who can’t decide whether they like boys or girls” (offered as a definition of bisexuality); “Yes, I usually date guys” “Well, in today’s world, who knows?!” (applauded by commenters as a hilarious joke)
- When “bisexual” is the label high school kids would put on their myspace as a joke, along with “divorced” and “salary: over $200,000”
- When people who would otherwise ID as “bisexual” prefer “pansexual” and “polysexual” and “queer” and “heteroflexible” instead because “bisexual,” like “lesbian,” is a word that leaves a bad taste in your mouth
In gay people, biphobia tends to come from internalized homophobia (why would you be gay if you have the chance of being straight?) and insecurity (s/he’ll leave me for a woman/man!). It also intersects with misogyny and phallocentricism and straight people’s homophobia. But I don’t think it’s enough to simply call it the intersection of those factors and leave it at that. The way people revile the very word “bisexual” and leap to banish it to the box of oppressive terms speaks to biphobia being a phenomenon that, even though it doesn’t deserve the checklists and axes of oppression, should at least have a name, if we are to talk about it. It doesn’t have to fit the same framework as homophobia.
It’s a big problem that people who are bisexually identified (or engage in bisexual behavior) are dismissed and mocked by gay/queer/lesbian people. I honestly don’t think I need to spell out an explanation of why it’s important for spaces that call themselves “queer” or “LGBT” to be inclusive. In short, anyone who is bi (in name or behavior) is still queer and may need support as a queer person. Biphobia also makes it difficult for anyone who is gay-identified and experiencing sexual fluidity (Lisa Diamond’s research on sexual fluidity (pdf) is super interesting, btw). It also means that gay people who are in “straight” relationships for whatever reasons (family and religion are two examples) are dismissed by the queer community. Biphobia is part of a culture of identity-policing, where if you don’t adhere closely enough to the requirements delineated by the official bureau of gayness you’re out of the club.
But. If we’re going to talk about biphobia, there’s something else we need to talk about. And that’s bisexual access to straight privilege. (You don’t have to call yourself bisexual to experience this — all you need is to be read as straight, especially due to the way you and a partner are read — but it something that certainly some bisexuals experience.) I recommend this excellent article, which covers the topic better than I could: “Bisexuals and straight privilege.”
There are many bisexual people who have access to straight privilege. If you only partner with people of the gender that is socially normative for you, or if you’re in a long-term relationship with such a person, if you’re in an “opposite marriage,” you definitely benefit from heterosexual privilege. I’m not bisexual, but I was in a “straight” relationship recently, and the straight privilege was everywhere. Walking around in public together. The only time I ever tried being (discreetly) affectionate in public in Hungary with someone read as my gender, it barely took half an hour, if that, for a man to yell, “Ew, lesbians!” at us. Of the countless times my ex and I were together in public, we never got harassed once. And then there’s family. My relatives knowing — and approving. My mother sending him presents. My father offering me advice on “the battle of the sexes” (his phrasing and horrible gender essentialism made me scoff in disgust, leading him to get very hurt, and we ended up in a fight, as always — but it was quite different than the epic disowning that would have ensued had I ever gone to him with “girl trouble”).
There’s a myth I saw going around tumblr earlier: Passing privilege is not privilege. I want to dispel this immediately. Passing privilege is absolutely privilege. You may not be accessing that privilege all the time, but when you are, the privileges afforded you are real. Being invisible is shitty, but it doesn’t cancel out the privileges you gain in the meantime.
Bisexual access to straight privilege is complicated. Some people are bi and experience no homophobia for it. Others may experience just as much as, or even more than, gay- or lesbian-identified people. If you’re read as gay or queer from your appearance or gender presentation, it may not matter that you’re in a “straight” partnership when homophobes itching for violence come up to you as you walk down the street alone. If you’ve been in dozens of “straight” relationships and get kicked out your home for your first same-sex relationship, accusations of straight privilege may not mean much to you. Laws targeting homosexuality don’t make exceptions for the bisexuals who are caught having sex or relationships with members of their own gender.
Bisexual access to straight privilege is individually conditioned, depending on your personal circumstances. How much biphobia you experience too may depend on who you are and where you are. But on a group-wide level, they both exist and need to be discussed. I’m tired of the reductionist tendencies on tumblr to either hold up biphobia as the new most oppressed group evar!!11 or dismiss it entirely.
So, they performed the surgery to remove the blood vessel cluster, which has been sitting there idle her whole life, and they did a brain scan to check for other clusters and didn’t find any. The doctors are holding a conference in about an hour because there’s apparently a “big story” behind what has happened to her. Otherwise, the next 24 hours are crucial in determining what happens to her from here on out. She’s in stable condition but not out of the woods yet.
I’m still freaked out a little bit, but I’m feeling a bit better. The above is being taken as good news, seeing as a few hours ago a neurosurgeon was standing with my mother and aunt saying that if they weren’t able to operate immediately, my cousin would die.