Highlight text to annotate itX
SARAH: All right, hi guys! My name's Sarah, I'd like to welcome you to QSU's second event of Pride Week, also sponsored by the LGBTQ Center. Speaker Julie Sondra Decker.
So, Julie is a writer, vlogger, and activist for the asexual and aromantic community.
She's written extensively for Good Vibrations Blog, and has also made substantial contributions to the ace community through her vlogging. She's happily asexual and aromantic, and works hard to bridge the gap between ace and *** communities because she loves them both and believes they benefit mutually from solidarity.
Her nonfiction title, THE INVISIBLE ORIENTATION, will be released this September.
So now, let's welcome Julie. [applause]
SWANKIVY: Thanks so much everybody. Can you hear me back there, I hope? All right!
I'm gonna be talking about asexual relationships today. But before I get started, I wanna tell you a little bit about the format here.
I have a camera right there, I think you probably all noticed. This recording is probably going to be reproduced on my YouTube channel for all my subscribers at home. So, if you're at all bashful about being part of that recording, you may not want to walk in front of the camera, of course, and if you wanted to ask a question, but you didn't want your voice to be on the recording, just let me know afterwards, or you can submit a question through this box.
We have a, we'll have you write down a question and drop it in the box, and you can submit those questions anytime.
But while I'm speaking, if you wanna just put your hand up if you have an anecdote, or something to share, or a question about anything I'm saying, you're welcome to interrupt me and stuff, because I think I have-- I was told I have a ninety-minute slot, but I've really only got about an hour's worth of talking, so we can stretch that out if there's anything anybody wants to say or contribute, okay? So, with that, I will get started.
This is--I'm on my title slide, I think. Asexual Relationships. And this should be me.
I'm--my name is Julie Sondra Decker, as the introduction told you, I'm also known as Ivy or swankivy in Internet Land, so my handle on YouTube is swankivy. I'm an asexuality educator, I do blogging, I do vlogging, and I have written a book: And this is the lovely cover. This may or may not be final.
The Invisible Orientation will be out on, supposedly September 2 is my new release date.
This is actually the first book about asexuality specifically from a non-academic perspective for and about the asexual community from an asexual perspective, so it's kind of the first of its kind.
And it'll be available in early September. If you want any information about that I have some little fliers here, you might have to twist my arm a little, but I'll give it to you, about how you can buy my book.
So, next, I've got--I do a lot of stuff on Tumblr, and for my blogging I have a mostly asexual-related blog, and a YouTube channel where sometimes I read my hate mail. (And other things.) I've been interviewed extensively in Huffington Post,
Salon has interviewed me, Daily Beast, Marie Claire, and I've written a few articles for Good Vibrations, and I gave a longform interview to this documentary, called (A)***. So. The fact of the matter is that I get questions about relationships a lot. I do this a lot, and the most common thing I seem to hear from people is stuff about relationships. Usually it's from someone who wants to have a relationship with someone who's an asexual person, or it's about someone who is already in a relationship and their significant other came out to them as asexual and they don't know what to do. So, that's really, I mean except for questions about "Can you diagnose me? Am I asexual if I . . . ?" blah blah blah, the questions about relationships are probably the most common thing I get.
So: Why it's important for everyone, I think, is that it's not just gonna be about whether you personally are an asexual person, or in a relationship with an asexual person. Non-asexual people might be finding themselves in relationships with asexual people here and there, and you may not know, you may not have any idea that the person that you're interested in or is dating is gonna turn out to be an asexual person. But also, even people who are not personally involved, who are not in these relationships, they need to know how to be good allies to people and they need to know what these relationships are like, especially if they are in some kind of counselor or mental health profession. I think a lot of the people who get involved
in *** communities, various support communities do end up in some kind of supportive role in some way.
So it's really important that this is something that they at least get some kind of understanding about, or else they could accidentally say something that would shut out certain aspects of these relationships.
So, also, it's not just asexual people and non-asexual people who have different desires in relationships.
I think just about everybody has been in a relationship where they're the one who wants to have more sex or less sex than their partner or partners. So, this, I think a lot of the things that I say, even though I'm gearing them more toward an asexual and non-asexual partnership perspective can be generalized to other situations where you have a mismatch of desire. So, let's go to the next one. Common misconceptions that I hear all the time when I start talking about asexual relationships, people say "Well, what do you need a relationship for?
How could asexual people need that? Asexual people don't love like other people do."
And I think most of the people in this room probably know that that's not always true.
First of all, when asexual people have relationships, they wanna know, well how does that work?
What are they consist of? What do asexual people want in a relationship? Most people will think that at least if a relationship
isn't just based around sex, it at least involves sex, and that's part of what makes it romantic.
For a lot of people, that is something that you want to be part of your relationship, but it's not always the case.
So, let's see. Are we on the aromantic slide here? I happen to be an aromantic person.
Which means I don't experience any kind of romantic attraction to other people. Sometimes people who are aromantic may still want some kind of partner, just not in a romantic sense. So, there are alternate kinds of relationships that don't involve romantic attraction that sometimes aromantic people have. But some of them, like me, I don't have a primary partner, and I'm happy that way. But most of the relationships that we're gonna be talking about today are the romantic ones, primarily between asexual people and non-asexual people. Now what I should say before I go on is that I will be talking about some hypothetical situations where I might talk about coercive situations, pressured situations, and I will be discussing consent, just a little bit. Nothing graphic or anything, just so you know, just a trigger warning there.
And that is because, as my next slide says, "asexual" and "abstinent" are not synonyms. There are actually people who are asexual who have had sex, who do have sex, and may even like sex. That may sound like kind of a contradiction--I think some people have a hard time getting their mind around that--but it is true that you can like sex itself and not necessarily feel attracted to the person you're having it with. So asexual people are not exempt from that.
So in a situation where you have an asexual person and a non-asexual person, relationships with asexual people are not necessarily going to be all or nothing. So it's not necessarily my way or the highway. It's going to involve compromise, like any relationship, on many different kinds of issues. Sex is just one of those. So the really important thing in understanding asexual relationships is that we are talking about different desires; we're not talking about one person wants sex too much;
we're not talking about one person doesn't want sex enough. So as long as you can frame the discourse when we're trying to come to an agreement of how to work out these relationships, then framing it as different desires, nobody's the problem child, then you can usually actually get--you can come to agreements that might surprise a lot of people.
So, are we on "Common Question" here? Okay. This is something that I hear a lot about.
Because when I talk about asexual people and non-asexual people trying to finesse their relationship around one person wanting more sex than the other person wants to give, I hear a lot of "Why don't asexual people just date each other?" And I have a lot of reasons to give you guys for why that's really uncommon.
So, what you see first is a lot of people who are asexual don't know they're asexual when they get into a relationship or they didn't know for a long time before they came out. So that can cause a lot of issues when you're already in some kind of relationship and then you find this out about yourself. You say, you know, "I didn't know I was gonna have to deal with this." The next thing that you run into is that if you're not calling yourself anything, you don't have a word for your experience, you're not gonna know what to call yourself, and other people who might identify that way, they don't know what to call themselves either. So it's really hard to find each other when you're in that kind of situation.
So, what else do I have here. Oh yes. They may already be in a relationship that they don't want to lose what they already have over a difference in their desires. So my second reason, which would be the small and scattered dating pool.
There's some disagreement as to how common is asexuality. The percentage you hear tossed around a lot is one percent.
That comes from something that Anthony Bogaert was involved in, this sexuality survey, and he came up with that figure.
And actually, even though it's been criticized, he said in a recent radio interview that he believes that's actually pretty--that's actually still close to what is accurate. I'm sure those of you in this room who are--who identify as something other than straight know that it can just multiply the issues if your dating pool is much smaller.
So, asexual people have that too, with one percent of the population. So they are often the only one in their whole social group.
If you have a hundred people and one of them's asexual, I mean, how many of us hang out with a hundred friends? So.
It can often be very difficult just to find someone by chance who's your same orientation, if you're asexual.
And then, similarly, there's no "Asexual Night" at the club. There's--I wonder what that would look like, actually. [Audience Laughter]
Ace bar. Meetups are sometimes starting to happen, but I think that that's, that's just getting started.
I think that we'll see more of that as time goes on, but most of us who are part of larger organizations, like LGBT outreach,
and again, we'll find that we're the only one. So, what else. We have a third bullet here. Have you ever heard this?
"Oh, my cousin's gay. I should introduce you." You know. What are the chances, right?
I mean, it's so unlikely that just because someone is the same orientation as you, that they will make a perfect mate.
And then so, all of that leads to long-distance relationships are usually the most likely.
Some of us get lucky and find somebody else who happens to live in the same area or is willing to move into the same area,
but long-distance relationships are a lot more likely, and those have their own challenges, obviously I don't have the time
or the scope to go into why long-distance relationships have their own issues, that is one of the things that contributes
to asexual-and-asexual dating being really uncommon. My third one is other factors often matter more.
Sometimes if you have things that you agree on, you may not be so fixated on whether you have to compromise on sex.
So, there's living arrangements like if you're gonna have kids, where are you gonna live, those things are just as likely
to be really important to people. So, sometimes if that's something that you found compatibility on, you might be okay with
your *** orientation not being a perfect match if you have that, if that's more important to you.
And then, here's another one, this is sometimes sort of a dicey issue, but sometimes asexual people describe sex as, "it's just something I'm not all that interested in, it's just something to do." It seems to be really important to a lot of people,
but some asexual people that I've heard in the community say, "It's kinda like watching a TV show that I don't like, just to support him." And I think that some people are insulted by that, like, "Really, that's how they view it, just something they humor me about?" and I can understand why some people don't like that, when someone says it, are taught that relationships are not actually romantic relationships unless you're doin' it. So, here's--they may, they may be dealing with these common misperceptions that your relationship isn't really actually romantic, they may do it to themselves, and say, well, "If I don't wanna have sex with this person, I guess it's really not a relationship," and they may be affected by the internalized shame that comes with that. My conclusion, on asexual relationships is that most asexual people who have romantic relationships end up saying, "I'm gonna end up having a relationship with a non-asexual person." And a lot of people are totally fine with that. So, what we have to do, when we're in these situations, is . . . A COMPROMISE!, the C-word. And again, it's really important to view it as, this is not how we "fix" one of the partners involved.
So, here's an overview of the ways that mixed-orientation relationships have succeeded. And this is stuff that I've actually heard from successful couples or groups that involve at least one asexual person.
And this is gonna be just kind of a broad brush, but I'll go into some of these points more later.
So this is my "Successful mixed-orientation relationships" list. Number one, I have a partner with *** needs gives up sex. And that is one extreme end.
The other extreme end is this one, which is the partners agree to regular or occasional sex. So, somebody gets their way.
The third one is slightly less common: Open relationship. In most cases if somebody agrees to an open relationship, it's the person who feels that they want to have *** satisfaction in their marriage or their partnership that they will be allowed to go outside of their relationship to do that. That's not always how it works, but that is one common open relationship that works. And then, similarly, number four would be that the partners are polyamorous.
And some people don't know what that distinction is, but that's different from an open relationship in that the person who,
there might be a couple, and then there's a third or a fourth person that's brought in but they're all together, rather than that a person is dating or having sex outside. And then the fifth one is the most common; and probably the most successful, is that the partners will agree to physically or emotionally intimate experiences that don't violate anybody's boundaries and do satisfy intimate desires that all of the partners may or may not have.
So, these are usually--these usually involve compromises, so I'm going to get into that a little bit later.
But one thing I should say before I go on is sometimes you can't make it work.
And that's not always a terrible thing. Sometimes you do have to look at your differences and say "This is just not gonna work for me." Asexual people: A lot of times they'll say, "Well, I'm a terrible person because I can't make myself, I can't make myself do it, to make my partner happy," but you're not a terrible person if you can't deal with that. And non-asexual people are not--you're not the devil if you say "No, I just can't be with a person who doesn't desire me, that's what I--that's my ideal mate is someone who desires me the way I desire them. I can't deal with this." So, it's painful, but sometimes the best thing to do in an incompatible relationship is to say, you know, "Our differences are just, they're too great. And we'll both be happier if we go our separate ways."
So, now I'm gonna go on to the question I get all the time. "Help! My long-time partner has come out as asexual and now wants to change things!" So that's the one that I get the most when I hear about relationships.
And it's usually from the person who has had an asexual partner come out to them rather than from the asexual person.
So this is one thing that they say, "But everything was fine before! What happened? I mean, they didn't say anything, all these years, we were happy, but everything was fine!" Well, chances are, no it wasn't.
The truth of the matter is that consent under pressure even if it's not from the partner isn't really consent.
And there are a lot of reasons why a partner who has been having sex that they didn't want might not tell you.
That's the one about even if a partner doesn't pressure directly, they may still possibly feel dysfunctional, they may feel that they're--the world says that this relationship's not--there's something wrong with us, there's something wrong with me, I can't talk to my partner about it. And also, they may have been ashamed to say, like, "Look, I love this person so much, but I'm not attracted to them." So they may have had a really hard time saying that to somebody that they love and care about, knowing it might hurt them. So when you say everything was fine before, that means that you're refusing--you may be trying to refuse to work with their needs. Saying, "My needs are the ones that are most important in this relationship." So, if they're bringing this up to you, it's probably something that you need to come to an agreement in the middle on. So, and here's another one that I hear a lot, so. Like, "Am I really bad at sex? I mean, my partner came out as asexual, and I must be, just like, not sexy, or bad at sex, or were they lying to me about how they felt?" So, the answer to that is--this is something you hear a lot, "It's not you, it's me!" but in this case it's true. And it's not something that you can do differently, if your partner just isn't sexually attracted to you and still wants to be with you, there's nothing you can do different. It's their *** orientation.
So, and the reason that this sometimes happens is the partners often confuse their *** and romantic attraction.
Society often says they're kind of the same thing. And in the asexual community we of course, we talk about our romantic attractions separately from our *** attraction most of the time, because they are separate for most of us, so they may have said, "Well I love this person, I'm attracted to them in some way, that must be *** attraction, I just don't know quite what's wrong." They may not have the words to express that. And then, so, the non-asexual person in this situation didn't--they didn't fail, they didn't mess them up. And they didn't "turn the person asexual."
And furthermore, sex is often still special even if the person who's asexual may not have thought of,
"Oh, I wanna, sex is how I wanna express my love and my care for this person." It may have still been special.
It's probably something they don't do a whole lot outside of the relationship unless you have an open relationship that you were already knew about. Okay, so, the next one would be, "Why not keep having sex if they had sex with me before?
What's the big deal about continuing? What's different now?" So, it IS a big deal if they're bringing it up, if they wanna change something, then it IS something that you need to deal with. Sex shouldn't be any kind of obligation.
So, if you're in this situation where you feel like, "Well, it's not a big deal, you should just--we should keep the things the way that they were, what was wrong with it before?" what would happen if we turned that around, like this, like "Just go without sex! No big deal!" That would be a really big deal to a lot of people, so. For asexual people, sometimes it's a very big deal to have sex. And I think my last point in this section is "Can we see a counselor?"
And that's not a bad idea. It's not totally out, but one thing that you should remember if you do decide to bring in a mental health professional, a relationship counselor of some kind, some professionals don't acknowledge asexuality yet, even though there are a couple of exceptions written in the DSM-5, which is, that's kind of a victory for us.
So, and then, also, this, I would say this doesn't happen very often, but sometimes an asexual partner WANTS to learn to be more sexually active. They're like, "I wanna--this is not something that comes naturally to me, but I wanna be intimate in a way that will make my partner happy." Sometimes a sex counselor or a marriage counselor, somebody in that neighborhood can help with that, but it should absolutely be something that everybody's on board with.
It shouldn't be somebody's idea that we're gonna convince this person. That can be kind of a hairy issue, so, but I just wanted to throw it in there. So, before I go on, does anybody want to ask or say anything on this subject?
I saw a couple of things go in the box, I think, but we'll--we'll look at those at the end. Should we look at them at the end?
Yeah? Okay. So, I'm just gonna go on to this next part, which, this is "Your Relationship with an Asexual Partner," right?
Suggestions? Okay, great. I can't see the screen. So, this is where I'm gonna get into more specific aspects of if you are a person who is not asexual and you wanna have an asexual partner--you do currently, or you wanna date someone and that person turns out to be asexual, here are some things you might wanna keep in mind.
So, number one would be discuss your dealbreakers and your must-haves. I think this is the key one, really, this is the key one.
And of course, by dealbreakers, it means like, "I won't--it's--I'm out of this relationship if I have to do this," or "I'm out of this relationship if I have to go without that." And then of course must-haves, is the opposite of that.
Relatedly, number two would be using a checklist. I don't know if any of y'all have ever seen this, but the next slide is, you probably can't read this but it's just an example of, there's a Yes/No/Maybe checklist at a site called Scarleteen.
Another one would be the Want/Will/Won't checklist at SmartHotFun. Sometimes they're really explicit and in-depth.
But using these as a guide, like "This is what I will do, this is what I kinda wanna do, this is what I won't do."
You can get an idea. Do it with your partner, partners, and decide what you'll accept and what you really desire in your relationship, and see where you meet in the middle. Another one would be communicating about your signals for intimacy.
This is sometimes, this is more difficult for people who are outside of the realms of traditional, I think.
And that is a lot of asexual people. Some asexual people's signals for intimacy are different than they might expect.
They might be more subtle or they might be more explicit. And then the non-asexual person will say "When I say this, or I do this, or when we do this activity together, it makes me want to engage in this kind of intimacy."
You wanna communicate what your personal signals are. So, also focusing on what makes your relationship different from people you're not in relationships with. Sometimes that can really help make it more--make it more special, say like "I never do this with my friends, this is something that's reserved for us only."
And really just try to bring that more to the forefront, so you can focus on the specialness in your relationship.
Another one is acknowledging *** needs don't always outrank all the other needs. There are a lot of emotional needs that everybody in a partnership will have. And focusing on those can--it can kind of downplay some of the places where you don't match. Next, how 'bout discussing the sensual? A lot of asexual people talk about "I like cuddling, but it can't go past such-and-such place or else I get uncomfortable, but I really like kissing, or I really like massage," or something like that. They may be very sensual people. And that can be the source of a lot of--a lot of intimacy between people who may not be having traditional sex. How about, the next one would be sharing how does sex connect to romance for you? Some people say, "It's our anniversary, and when it's our anniversary, that's what I'd like to do to celebrate it." Sometimes they say, "I wanna, I'll go to bed with you because I really appreciated something that you did." Sometimes, you see a lot of people like to say "I can't believe that it was my birthday and they didn't--they didn't wanna have sex with me for my birthday, I feel really offended."
You know, that's a real example from my life. And the person was, confused, like "I didn't know that that person wanted sex
on their birthday," so. Sometimes--sometimes that is--it needs to be explicit. Next, this is another thing that comes from my real life. Respecting if they think something is "***" even you might not think that.
The examples that I have seen would be walking around naked after the shower. I know somebody who was bothered by that, and they said, "You know, it really bothers me when she gets out of the shower and walks around like that."
And the other one was I knew a guy who would always smack his girlfriend on the butt. And she was, she felt that was too intimate to do in public. And he said, "That's not intimate, that's not *** at all."
But what you need to do is listen to--if that person feels that that was more intimate than you meant it to be, so you gotta communicate about that. And similarly, being willing to be specific about your desires rather than relying on innuendo.
It's kind of a stereotype in the asexual community that some of us are oblivious to sex jokes and *** references, some of us are, some of us aren't, but I think it's safe to say that a lot of us are not thinking about it as much as the rest of the world, so we may not catch it if that person was flirting with us or that person was making an offer.
So, sometimes if you happen to be dating someone who's in that situation, you may have to be explicit.
Next I have, if--sometimes asexual people like to be the one to instigate. And sometimes--I know someone who says
"I always wear a certain outfit to bed if I would accept my husband wanting to have sex that night, and he knows that."
So, wearing a certain thing, saying a certain thing, there's a lot of, I think, comfort that some asexual people
that some asexual people take in being the initiator so that they don't feel surprised or overwhelmed by it.
And this next one ties in. Asking if they'd like to schedule sex, or have forewarning.
I know someone who does this by texting in the morning, and says, "You know, do you want to be intimate tonight,
would you like to," and then they have a day to process it. Because this particular person that I knew said
whenever their husband came onto them, it would seem so sudden, it would seem so out of the blue.
Where the husband had been thinking about it all day. So, this person said, "I say yes so much more often if I know it's coming."
And that's one possibility. Next, I have, make sure that you don't get sulky or give someone the silent treatment
or something if they said no, because that will actually lead to more no. Nobody likes to disappoint each other,
but that is a really common thing. Next I have--this situation is when some asexual people enjoy sex,
I know I mentioned that earlier, and just because they may have vocally enjoyed it or said it was really good
doesn't mean that if you had some kind of agreement, like "Hey, we'll have sex twice a week," that they must be indicating
that they want it more. Sometimes you need to look at your agreement with that person and say "Okay, this is something
that we need to--we need to stay with unless we have discussed changing it." And here's another one, this has
a few bullet points here I think. Understanding nuances. So, a lot of people have trouble understanding that an asexual person
might not like sex--might LIKE sex but not feel *** attraction. They may really like getting someone else off
but not experiencing it themselves. And there's actually a pretty big subsection of the asexual community who likes--
who's ***, who likes BDSM. I wonder how often that's been said in this room. [Audience Laughter]
I'll say it again, BDSM. [Audience member cheers] Just for fun.
But there's actually, as an aside, there's on FetLife, I think, there's specifically asexual groups
because there are a lot of asexual people, they don't want, they may not want sex as part of their BDSM experience,
but they like BDSM experience. So understanding the nuances of those with your particular partner can really help connect.
Next I have gleaning the partner's possible "outness." I'm sure most of the people in this room understand that some people
are out and some people are totally not, and that it's really important you don't out people. But if your asexual partner is out
and proud and on the Internet all the time talking about not-sex, then it's really helpful and really supportive
and usually really appreciated if you can work as an ally within that relationship. And relatedly, is this 16 here?
Yeah? Okay. Educating others on asexuality. I know someone who when--he has a boyfriend, and then when he wasn't there
his boyfriend got a whole bunch of questions about asexuality--'cause they didn't feel comfortable asking him,
but they asked his boyfriend. And he felt--the boyfriend actually felt really uncomfortable with that.
He answered a little bit and then he just said, "You know what, you'll have to ask my boyfriend, because, you know,
I'm not asexual, I don't know." So, unfortunately that sometimes involves them asking really personal and sometimes shaming questions,
so a part of being a supportive ally for your partner if you're a non-asexual person dating an asexual person is educating others
on this. If you don't feel comfortable in that role, then, I think, somebody wrote a book, I heard it's good.
[Audience Laughter] Hint! No, but I have, there are YouTube videos, and there are articles, and blogs out the ***,
there's lots and lots of resources if you don't feel comfortable educating specifically on this but you wanna be supportive.
And then next, I have reassurance. For, if you're dating someone and you're not gonna leave them, then telling them,
you know, "No, we're not gonna break up over this, it's okay," that really does wonders. However, lastly,
if you do decide to break up, it can sometimes be, you know, in the heat of the moment things will come out.
But try to avoid saying things like "Somebody like you will never be able to deserve a partner" or something like that,
because asexual people already think that a lot of the time. And so if you do decide to break up over your differences,
make sure you express that it's your own preferences and stuff, not because asexual people can't date non-asexual people.
Some of them can. So, and then, I want to say a few words for asexual people and those who wanna support them.
Kind of from an asexual perspective. Some suggestions. So . . . if you are an asexual person and you wanna date
another asexual person, there are actually some social networking possibilities. Is there some pictures there?
A bunch of dating sites, and matching sites, believe it or not. Acebook! Did you know about this?
I have a list of them if anybody wants to grab one after. But, it's, some of them are not necessarily asexual sites,
they're maybe where somebody doesn't want to have sex in a relationship for any reason, but they're usually asexual-friendly.
So, and the AVEN forums, asexuality.org, does have meetup forums. It's really cool. So, next, when,
if you're an asexual person and you're dating a non-asexual person, negative reactions are really common,
and it's not personal. Try not to internalize it. Also, next one is if you're feeling guilted, or coerced,
or, you know, pressured, it's really common to feel bad, and if somebody is using that against you, that is abusive.
So you don't have to put up with it. The reason I mention this is that I've met so many asexual people
who said that their partner told them "I have a right to expect this in my marriage, so you have to."
And that's, you know--I think you do have a right to expect that that's probably going to be part of your relationship,
but if it isn't, then you need to go on from that, accepting that as your new normal, I guess, or go your separate ways.
And also, for asexual people, your desires and your needs are equally important. Sometimes the people in your life
will tell you that you need to be, you're an asexual person, you need to be the one to back down and compromise,
but somebody else's needs shouldn't always outrank yours. And I think my last one here for asexual people
is when you're negotiating your intimacy, there are a whole bunch of categories that you can examine your interest in,
your tolerance for, here's my bulleted list. There are asexual people who like and don't like all of these.
Obviously kissing, petting, foreplay, sex--as in, what kinds--sometimes there are certain kinds of sex that some asexual people
will have and not others. And again, I mentioned earlier, BDSM, oops, I said it again, in a church. [Laughter]
You know. Touching of various sorts. Sleeping in the same bed. That could be really intimate.
Again, open relationships, polyamory, watching a partner, and also watching ***. Sometimes you watch it together,
sometimes you say, "It's okay with me if you watch it but I don't wanna watch it." And then using toys.
I actually know several asexual and non-asexual partners that they use toys on each other, and they like that,
and that's what they do for intimacy. And for whatever reason, that's what--that's totally fine with both of the people
in the partnership. And before I move on to this last section, which is non-romantic relationships, does anyone wanna say anything,
or ask anything? Okay. I'll read the questions at the end that were in the box, but. This is my last very short section.
Non-romantic relationships. This is my favorite: Friendships. We know what friendships are, but this bullet here,
"'Just' friends?" As a person who doesn't have a primary relationship in a romantic sense or like a domestic partnership sense,
my friendships ARE my relationships. They're the most important relationships that I have. And I'm really happy with those.
I really hate it when people say "just friends," because there's nothing "just" about it. You know.
And also, aromantic AND romantic people often want their friendships, and sometimes, even if you do like romantic relationships,
your friendships may sometimes outrank some of those romantic relationships. Though I don't like to put a "rank" on things.
You know what I mean. And then my second category is queerplatonic partners. Also sometimes called second family,
or domestic partners, or companions. Basically, there are types of relationships that function very much like romantic partners,
that don't have romantic attraction in them. So they may be partnered like romantic partners, and they may live together,
may often be mistaken for dating each other, but they in this relationship are saying they don't feel romantic attraction
to each other. And sometimes it's more than two. They may actually own property together, and I actually know an asexual couple
that is not sexually, not romantically attracted to each other, but they're raising children together.
And they may be intimate in other ways. And then, finally, based on the sex, or the gender, or the perceived gender
of the person's partner, they're often judged as being the *** orientation that you would assume based on that.
So a lot of times they can be misinterpreted from outside, like, "That's a gay couple" or "That's a straight couple"
but inside the relationship they don't necessarily, they don't act like that inside of the relationship.
So, and then, this is my question slide. I've come to the end of the presentation. So, does anybody wanna talk?
Anybody wanna say anything? [AUDIENCE MEMBER:] Yeah. [SWANKIVY:] Yeah?
[AUDIENCE MEMBER:] So even for people who aren't in these relationships, what are the best ways to, I guess,
support someone in one of these relationships? Especially one that's non-asexual/asexual?
Like if you have friends or acquaintances that are in these relationships that may be struggling to get over, like,
something related to asexuality?
[SWANKIVY:] So, you're saying as a person who is not part of the relationship, but you have a friend or a close person in your life, who is struggling?
[AUDIENCE MEMBER:] Yeah. [SWANKIVY:] And they're an asexual person?
[AUDIENCE MEMBER:] Yes, or, say it's a couple that has an asexual and non-asexual partner together, right?
So, how can you be a support network for them, as a friend? Like, how involved are friends usually in those relationships?
[SWANKIVY:] That's a good question. As you might imagine, it's pretty individual, I think.
But you can never--I think you can never care too much. It's just a question of how you express your care.
Sometimes people can be, they can feel really secure if they have a group, and you might say, "Hey, you know,
do you wanna come meet with our group," like, it might be specifically a *** support kind of group,
or it might just be friends, but other than that I would also say, "Do you wanna talk about it?"
Like ask them to kinda take the lead in showing you what kind of support, because I think that the best advice I can give
to anybody who wants to be any kind of ally is to learn to be a good listener, and I think that works for any kind of ally.
So I would say make yourself available to listen, anything more specific than that?
[AUDIENCE MEMBER:] Um, no, that's just mainly--
[SWANKIVY:] That's a good question, 'cause I actually see that a lot on the asexuality forums, that people say
"I know somebody that's going through this, how can I help?" And most people just say what I said,
and also maybe do some learning about what they're going through so that you don't accidentally say something odd,
like, I have an asexual friend who went through a breakup, and everybody kept saying "There's other fish in the sea!"
and it just really upset her, a lot. 'Cause "other fish in the sea" just really didn't work for her.
Does anybody wanna say anything before I look at these? Anybody else? Okay. I'm wetting my whistle here.
Okay, I'm gonna guess, is it okay if--if you put a thing in the box, I'm just gonna read out what you wrote,
so everybody knows what I'm seeing here, and then I'll address it. I have "As someone who identifies as ace aromantic,
I'm actually pretty terrified of ending up alone as friends and others settle down or move.
Could you speak a bit to your experience with platonic relationships?" Um, first I have to say I feel like I've been really lucky
in my life. As a person who's in that same situation--I'm thirty-six years old.
And most of my friends are married or partnered. And the ones that have mattered to me the most are the ones
that I have continued to have communication with and who didn't dump me for their significant other. And . . . they are out there.
Like, sometimes it seems like they aren't, but I really believe, just from my own experience,
I have been very fortunate to forge really in-depth and long-lasting relationships with my platonic friends.
My best friend since high school is married with two children. Her first child is named after me.
And we celebrated twenty years of friendship with a road trip two months ago. So, it was wonderful, we ate cupcakes every day.
[Audience laughter] It was awesome. And I have--I actually have a--two male friends that I've had for a really long time.
One of them I met on the Internet in 1996. He's quite a heterosexual man, but he has always accepted me for who I am,
never shamed me or pressured me or anything, and he's always been there for me, and he was actually my temporary roommate
for a while at the beginning of last year before he found a job and moved out, it was great.
And my friend Jeaux is a--he's frequently misinterpreted as my boyfriend, and--because, ya know,
there's a straight guy, and there's a girl who's, I guess reasonably passably hot or something [Audience Laughter],
and what else could he be doing at her house? Well, we answered but they didn't listen.
And you know what he told me one day, which, it almost made me cry, honestly. He said, "If I ever had a girlfriend
and she had a problem with you, I would dump her first." And, that's just so wonderful,
you know, just--so I feel like I've been lucky. I don't know how to tell other people how to be lucky like that,
but for me, my relationships have survived on communication and honesty, and there's some really good people out there.
So, I think that's the best I can do in offering--in answering your question, but I will also say that that is a very real fear,
because we see the world the way it is. We see what people--the emphasis that they place on their romantic relationships,
and how they disappear sometimes, and they just think that their friends and the people they used to pay attention
to are not important anymore. And that's not just asexual or aromantic people. But, as an aromantic person I'm always--
I'm never the one who does it to someone else. So I guess it seems worse when it happens. But not everyone will do that to you.
And I had three really good examples there, I think. Um, anybody wanna say anything before I go to the next one?
You guys are quiet. [Audience Laughter] Okay.
"What's the best way to approach a potential significant other who isn't asexual to tell them that you might be asexual?"
That is hard. Because it's so individual. But, I actually have a video on this, I think I called it "Letters to an Asexual #16," and somebody asked me that same question, like "How do I come out?"
And there are a few ways I go over in that video, but some of them involve getting the other person to ask a question
or start a conversation. That can be done with either something goofy like wearing a shirt that has a message on it
that someone will ask you about that has something to do with asexuality, or a button on your bag, or you can post something on a social networking site that's an article and say "What does everyone think of this?"
That can start a conversation. Sometimes you can send, you can send an article or a video or a documentary--I was actually in a--I think I mentioned earlier, a documentary, (A)***, it's available on Netflix, and you can watch that with someone. And sometimes it's really hard to say it out loud, so some people had luck writing a letter, but sometimes it's also better to just bring it up in a conversation more naturally. You don't have to feel like you have to sit them down and say "Okay, I'm gonna come out to you now." I mean, sometimes that works, but uh, honestly, I think the most successful ones I've seen are the ones that developed out of a natural conversation, where they said "Ya know, I never had that with anyone," or something like that. With a significant other, it can be a little hairier, I think. But I do recommend that it is brought up fairly early in the dating process.
And that you try to avoid feeling like you're confessing something terrible. It's just something about you.
So, I don't know if I really answered that question well enough, so if whoever asked that wants to talk about it in e-mails
or something like that, I have my contact information available if you need it. I have a couple more questions here
and then I think we might be done. Okay. "Are there any legal protections that asexual people would benefit from?"
You know what, there is actually some overlap with some of the LGBT rights that we have. There are, I think it's two states
that mention asexuality in their anti-discrimination laws, which is really neat, and believe it or not Texas is considering it.
Uh, Texas. Very odd. But--putting asexuality as one of the--one of the protected classes of *** orientation against discrimination or hate crimes is, would be helpful. And of course marriage, marriage-related rights between the asexual people who are same gender, same sex, as well as people who are not romantically attracted to each other, they would benefit from also the same-sex marriage being legalized everywhere. And there was actually recently a law paper
published in Stanford Law Review, Elizabeth Emens is the author, about--called "Compulsory Sexuality," it's about how asexuality is reflected in and affected by laws. I think getting rid of any existing--I forget how many states still have consummation laws, if you can believe that. That--it would really help to get rid of those.
But as more asexual people are coming out of colleges, 'cause we're a pretty young population--myself excluded--I'm not the only over-thirty person who's asexual, but there's a lot of college people who are coming to realize that this is their identity, and they're going out into the world, into the job market, and there's probably going to be more discrimination cases as well because asexual people are often thought of as not fitting into the culture--in certain ways.
Not all of us. But that can mark you as an "other." And it can cause some problems. Like, legally. So.
And I'm gonna look at this last one, which says, "What would you say to someone who doesn't feel 'ace enough'?"
Oooh, this is--ooh, this is something that doesn't get talked about enough in asexual circles, actually.
There are people who identify as demisexual, people who identify as gray-asexual, who are somewhere on the spectrum.
They're not completely without *** attraction--thank you!--but they experience it so rarely or in such specialized situations that they might as well be asexual, and they have a mostly asexual experience in their lives, and I think that is the kind of person we're talking about here. What would I say to them?
I would say that most of the people who oppose asexual inclusion of gray identities are just loud. They're not the majority.
I think most of us are really accepting, and that you do have a place under the asexual umbrella. I think that you belong.
You belong if you feel that you belong there. You share almost all of your experiences with other people in the asexual community.
And other than that, I don't know what else I would say except that I think--I think it's a real shame that anybody on any side of this argument makes somebody feel like they're not--they're not "ace enough." But it's pretty common, I think, in certain stripes of the various *** communities that there are certain groups, especially like, say, maybe bisexual people get, they're with a perceived-to-be or actually-is opposite--DIFFERENT gender partner, they get told they're just straight, so they feel "not *** enough." That's--I think that that's really common, and that's it's a shame.
So, I think--it's the rest of our responsibility to try to be more inclusive, I think. And I'm really sorry that you've had that experience of feeling excluded. I have another question that has appeared.
"If one person who's really *** and one asexual, how often do they break up or not?"
Oh, I don't have statistics, unfortunately. I think in that situation, it probably matters what you mean by "really ***,"
because sometimes if you're really very, very, like--very sexually attracted, very aroused often, and you have an asexual partner who doesn't wanna deal with it, the question is, well, what counts as intimacy for you?
Like, would you be okay with it if they were intimate with you, but it wasn't penetrative sex?
Or it was only a massage? Or it was only using a toy, or something like that. Would that still be okay with you, could that work out?
I think when people are on opposite degrees of this spectrum it can be a lot harder to meet in the middle, but it really just depends on what does it for you. But I'm afraid I don't have statistics on how often they break up, because I don't think anybody's done a study on that. So anything that I would say that pretended to be definitive on that would probably be just me talking out of my butt, which hopefully I haven't done too much of tonight.
So if anybody has anything else to say, you can. And if not, I'm probably gonna shut up. So, is that it? [Laughs]
All right, well thank you so much for coming. [Applause]
That was loud, thank you!I have my list of asexual social networking and dating sites if anybody would like to get one. And things with my book on 'em. And I think I have a business card if anybody wants to e-mail me or go to my website. I'll grab those, I'll bring them down. Thank you again, everybody!
[OFFSCREEN SPEAKER:] Hi everyone, I just wanted to announce a few more things that are happening in Pride Week, so tomorrow's gonna be National Day of Silence, and everybody should be able to find our table tomorrow, all day, but it is a perspective I've seen. And then finally, my fourth point is asexual people, well people in general, and the next day is going to be the paint war, it's going to be at 3 PM [ . . .] thank you all for coming again, and Julie's gonna be here a little while longer if you wanna talk to her or get some resources, so thank you again.
[SWANKIVY:] Thank you for having me! [Applause]