Thursday, October 27, 2011

Look, Ma, I'm in a Category, a haphazard meditation on something, Part 3 of 5

This is the third part of a sprawling, 5-part reflection started by what I found at this link.  Last time I thought a bit about about Religion and Diversity.  I challenged the integrity of people and the fiction they're willing to accept.

Speaking of acceptance, I have this other blog where I talk about my cheerful acceptance of my lack of desire to have sex with anyone.  I jokingly refer to myself as pretty much asexual.  I had no idea I was part of an actual acronym.
Nurul says: September 13, 2011 at 10:19 am

"Ooh, is that A in your QUILTBAG stands for asexual? Because if yes then thank goodness, someone remembers us! It seems like the world refuses to acknowledge that we exist."
Simple as that, apparently I have been categorized.  Now that I know the category exists, I cannot unknow it, so maybe I should find out about it. 
S.O. says: September 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

there’s a few discussion communities on this topic:
There's even a Facebook group.  Hmmmm.  Is this a sign of the Apocalypse?

As amazing as it is that I am suddenly in a category with a Facebook group, I was more amazed when one of the commenters said there was actually a YA book or two with a prominent asexual character (Kevin from Guardian of the Dead and the protagonist of Elizabeth Bear’s Dust).  Honestly, I never thought there would be a YA book with a prominent asexual character if I didn't write it.

Who would have thought it?!  Aren't YA books (and our culture) so driven by the idea that sex is a biological necessity (and that hormones rule all when one is a teenager) that one might wonder what teen would want to read a book where there was no possibility of sex at all?  I mean, what would be the point?  I think I'll have to read these books to find out whether the other characters provide the requisite sexual lust.  I promise I'm not really this cynical; I'm exaggerating a bit.

It's true there are plenty of fictional examples of teens making good and bad lust-related choices.  What was missing were fictional examples of people who didn't even play that game as teenagers.  I sort of assumed they didn't exist except as the "broken" characters this commenter below described.
T. Arkenberg says: September 13, 2011 at 2:26 pm

"As an asexual reader I’d feel most recognized if a character specifically identifies as not having sexual attraction to anyone, or as not intending to have any relationships and as being satisfied with that. Sometimes you’ll get a character who doesn’t want romance, but they’re often portrayed as ‘broken’ or coming down from a bad relationship, and they’ll be turned around by the right potential lover. An asexual character doesn’t need to be ‘healed’."
You know, that would have been kind of nice for me to read about when I was younger.  I never really had any role models of contented celibacy, real or fictional.  All the single people I knew considered themselves to be in (the sometimes long) transition to a state of non-singlehood.  (Or else they considered themselves utter failures as human beings despite the fact that they were wonderfully amazing people.)  I watched some of those people and wondered if they were just going through the motions of what was expected by their various cultures, like, maybe they didn't really want to have a boyfriend/girlfriend, but the culture had conditioned them to think that they were broken if they were not half of a whole, that if they did not feel this need, it was because of something they lacked that they needed to seek out, which created a false sense of longing.  I still wonder that.

I personally spent too much time combating those sad, sympathetic looks from otherwise intelligent folks who pitied me the brokenness they perceived even as I rejoiced in the freedom I had from certain kinds of drama they endured.  The idea of someone else being contentedly celibate never crossed our radars.

I wonder what (if any) difference if would have made for me if I had encountered anyone like me in the fictionverses.  I wonder if it really would have made any difference to be given permission to exist as I did.  I mean, I never really asked for permission.  (Or forgiveness, for that matter.)  But teens who aren't quite as self-assured/self-contained as I was, maybe they need a fictional trailblazer to lead the way.  Maybe they need to know that they actually have options other than the one they've been given in order for them to consider their situations and decide for themselves what option to choose . . .

What do you think?  Do you know any other folks who are in my category?  Do you know any who might have been if not for peer and societal pressure?  Do you think the existence of an asexual fictional character would have given them some sort of permission?

Stay tuned for Part 4 Who's Giving Your Kid Permission next week . . .

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