A Confluence of Little Things

Content note for asexual erasure and invalidation.

Sometimes the little things are what really gets to you. The way they just sneak themselves into an experience and jump out at you when you’re no looking. The way they all tend to happen at the same time. A confluence of annoyances.

* * *

A week ago, I am at the Bentley Blockade in Northern NSW, where hundreds of people have been camping in a field for weeks in order to stop gas companies arriving with their coal seam gas drill rigs and destroying the land and the water. This is a progressive place of passionate people.

As I walk through the camp to the makeshift kitchen to drop off my baked goods (a donation, as I can’t be there myself), I say to some older women camped out there how wonderful it is to see so many people stepping up. They look at me and smile. ‘We’re doing it for your children, love.’ I reply. ‘Well, maybe not for my children, but for those of my sisters, definitely.’ They gaze back at me, as if they know something about me that I don’t. ‘Oh, you’ll want children one day. Everyone does.’ Again, I reply, slightly more firm this time, slightly more on edge. ‘I don’t want children.’ One of them points to the t-shirt I am wearing: a large tree with leaves made of music notes and roots stretching into the ground. ‘But your shirt has the tree of life on it. It’s the natural way of things.’

I shake my head and leave. Suddenly, the place has become menacing.

* * *

Yesterday, I read a short story set as required reading for my creative writing course. An Arthurian tale, of a girl, Dindrana, who is forced to leave her lover (a lowly stable boy), before they can consummate her love. She follows her brother’s wishes, remains chaste, remains a resentful virgin. The story goes on, and she finds herself captive in a castle, her virgin blood being used to restore the life of an old woman, a half-monster. In her cell awaiting death she is reunited with her former lover; they have sex out of necessity, to save her life. She gains no pleasure, no satisfaction. But because she is no longer a virgin, she manages to save herself and destroy the monstrous old woman, and goes on to live her life.

The story leaves a bad aftertaste in my mouth. There is a statement on sex and power and identity here, but it is one that is distinctly not mine. One that tells me (like every story before it) that being a virgin is something that makes me weak, passive, unripe. I am not a girl in a medieval fantasy. But the real world is sometimes not so different.

* * *

Today, I am procrastinating by reading Role Reboot. The about page describes it as a contemporary culture magazine for people who live their lives ‘off script.’ I think great – this sounds like me. Let’s see if there is anything about asexuality.

I enter ‘asexual’ into the search bar. Many articles come up; none of them sound particularly ace-focused. I click through a couple, scan the text. The first one is about being alone, but not being lonely. The only reference is to how people think that being single as a man means to be ‘either oversexed, perpetual teenagers, sad, asexual creatures, or creepy perverts.’ Sounds about right.

The second is written by a woman who has become bored of sex. She wishes she had an asexuality button she could just press, and then deactivate again when she wasn’t bored anymore.

The third talks about polycystic ovarian syndrome, and how it left her unable to have sex with her boyfriend for a long time. The article ends with the realisation that a healthy, intimate relationship could work without sex. I want to like the piece, I really do. But I can’t get over the way she describes her feelings of anxiety, how she asks how could he want to be with me, this disgusting, unsexy, asexual thing I had become?

I didn’t read a fourth article.

* * *

They are all little things – little things that did not upset me terribly when I experienced them on their own. I have read worse, people have said worse. But little things pile up, invisibly, and before you notice, you’ve disappeared underneath that pile.

And then you pick your way out and get on with your life. And let the whole process start again.

19 thoughts on “A Confluence of Little Things

  1. It can be disheartening to realise the invisibility or the misrepresentation of asexuality. That’s why I’m glad that there’s a number of blogs here and on Tumblr that are willing to discuss it. Chin up, Jo, we’ll get there one day. 🙂

    1. I tend to surround myself in so many positive, ace-friendly spaces that I sometimes get shocked at how invisible asexuality still is outside my bubble. It’s the little bit of everyday, almost casual invalidation that are the hardest to deal with sometimes, because they’re just so pervasive and insidious! That’s one of the reasons I do all this writing and speaking and activism-ing. But I’m ok, and yeah, we’ll get there. I just wish it was quicker! 😀

  2. Imagine me pointing vigorously at the screen and whispering, “This” (whispering because my roommates are still asleep and yelling is probably a bad idea), because that is what I am doing right now.
    Actually, the thing I’ve been struggling with most recently is people’s insistence on calling me gay or saying I’m “essentially gay” even when I’m out to them. A couple of weeks back a friend told me I was lucky, because even if I might have a SLIGHTLY harder time finding people to day me (being gay and all), “gay couples stay together longer and have a higher chance of working out!” Definitely one of the weirder conversations I’ve had, especially since I’m out to him. On one hand, I would rather be mistaken for gay than straight, but on the other hand, I’d really like it if I didn’t have to keep coming out to people over and over and over for them to get it? *sigh*

    1. Aww, Queenie, that sucks. In the kinda opposite way to you, I worry about people reading me as straight when I say I have a partner who is a he. Those people I can tell I have a partner, anyway, which is mostly strangers and people I don’t know that well. Just because you’re in a relationship with a certain person doesn’t give people the right to stick you in a box that isn’t right!

    1. And they just didn’t seem to want to drop it, either. Most people are content to do the whole patronising-smile-and-nod thing, but no, they had to set me straight. (Haha, literally and metaphorically.)

  3. i recently learned about asexuality and it was a light bulb moment of, “oh, that’s me! finally it all makes sense.”
    unfortunately as i’ve been trying to learn more, most of the things i’ve been finding have been pretty depressing. seems like most talk stars etc. who discuss it in the popular media are so cruel. it feels like a personal jab every time i hear that, just adds to the hurt from every time i’ve tried to tell somebody and they give one of the common responses that indicate something must be wrong with me, or worse tell me that asexuality just isn’t possible or real.
    not exactly what you were talking about, sorry. just started typing and that’s what came out….

    1. No worries at all! It’s probably best to stay away from most of the mainstream media stuff until you’re a bit more comfortable and confident with everything. Stick to the nice, ace-friendly places like The Asexual Agenda and their blogroll! (Blogs are a lot easier than places like tumblr for avoiding crap.) And if you want to chat at any time, feel free to drop me a line. 🙂

  4. ‘Oh, you’ll want children one day. Everyone does.’
    ‘It’s the natural way of things.’
    Sounds like the things people around me always say 😀

  5. The little things really do add up and bother you. All of those things would bother me, too.
    For me, this week has had similar small things piling up on me… On Wednesday I went to a Bachelorette party for my virgin Mormon friend, and it was a celebration of female heterosexuality at its highest, and I mainly had fun, it wasn’t supposed to be about me, but a part of me felt more invisible than ever as I played all the penis-themed games and then they got to the part of the evening where her 2 sisters and 1 sister-in-law in attendance wanted to dish out some sex-advice, and my virgin friend was told some… generalizations that I wanted to contradict, but I was afraid it wasn’t really my place. Then for all of us who were “not married” in the room, these women asked us if we just “still looking” or what, and I awkwardly (and very quietly) said “not exactly”, knowing at least 3 of the people in the room should’ve remembered that I’d come out as asexual at one point quite a few months ago but not sure if they would remember.
    Then on Friday, I attended my friend’s wedding and on my way there I stopped by my aunt, uncle, and 17-year-old cousin’s house for a brief visit. During that brief visit, my uncle informed me that he’s still in touch with quite a few male friends of his from his high school days, and oddly, he’s the only one of all of them who had a child. Then his wife chimed in: “You know who else probably won’t have children?” And she pointed to her daughter, my 17-year old cousin, Elizabeth. And Elizabeth confirmed that she feels sure she doesn’t want kids. I was a little surprised, I guess, that she’d made that decision at all, and that she’d made it while so young, but I think I’m understanding and accepting of people’s choices to be childfree enough that hopefully my reaction didn’t come off too much like “the whole patronising-smile-and-nod thing”, but I worry maybe it did. I don’t know why I would react that way, but idk. I tried to be positive in my reaction though, and accepting, not patronising.
    I later told my friends at the wedding about how I’d just found out my cousin didn’t want to have kids (because we were low on topics to discuss after hours of chatting both at the Bachelorette party and then again at the wedding lol, lol, not for any other reason like idk, gossiping – I swear it wasn’t like that), and they did the “she’s still young, she’ll probably change her mind thing”, which… I guess might be true, but it kind of did really bother me, for some reason. I didn’t like how non-accepting they were of the idea that a 17-year-old might be able to be sure now that they don’t want kids in the future, and my cousin really did seem sure. It felt unfair. I also announced at some point in that conversation that I wanted to adopt or foster, and not a newborn baby either but a kid who really needs me (or multiple kids), one day, hopefully, and that I did not want to do the pregnancy thing.
    In a way, I feel I relate strongly to those who wish to live their lives childfree, because I see no need to pass my own genes on/go through the experience of pregnancy. Still, I do desperately want to be a mother one day, but I know that not everyone shares my desires.

  6. Ah, the women at the protest site. I probably would have lost my cool and yelled something like, “Gee, maybe if far fewer people in rich, Western countries didn’t think childbirth was inevitable, we’d be sucking up fewer fossil fuels, and wouldn’t have a need for this protest in the first place?”

    That probably would have really pissed them off, but at that point, I wouldn’t have cared. Go ahead, stomp your feet in anger, you pronatalist hypocrites.

  7. Jo … It’s true that a lot of the older women at the Bentley site are doing it ‘for their grandchildren’, but many are simply there for broad environmental and social reasons. (Actually, the whole grandchildren reason thing annoys me, as it’s very human-centric. I’m a bit more inclined to think of the birds and wallabies and creeks etc).
    I think that more women without children should speak up, (nicely, because these ones are at heart, good people) because sadly, even women who call themselves feminists think that a woman isn’t complete without children. (email following soon … ) X

  8. What are your thoughts on some within the asexuality community wanting to including “A” in the LGBTQI (intersex for I) acronym?

    1. From what I’ve heard, most aces would be very happy to see A included in the alphabet soup acronym, and most queer groups I have experience with have no problem with it. I think it’s just a minority who think that the A should stand for Ally and aces shouldn’t be allowed to be part of the queer community.

  9. It is the little things that build up.
    Worse was when a girl at work was talking to a friend about her boyfriend then turned to me and asked hey are you having sex with your boyfriend? and her friend says what’s the point of having a boyfriend if you aren’t having sex? She laughed and agreed and assured her friend that I must be. I just turned away and didn’t answer. She doesn’t know I’m ace so I don’t know if she would have asked if she had known but its still disturbing to know this view of relationship exists.

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