Savage Love Letter of the Day: My Asexual Friend Sure Has a Lot of Sex

Comments

1
She is a slut!!! (No shaming intended.)
2
Might I posit that your queer-but-only-have-sex-with-yourself is as (in)valid as your friend's asexual-but-luvs-2-fuck-a-lot? Live by the sword, die by the sword.
3
I think the current vogue for claiming an identity with no basis in observable reality has a lot to do with (predominantly young, white, and privileged) people needing to feel special and cool.

I often wear menswear, have worked in many traditionally "male" jobs, have sex with women, and am super in touch with my masculine side. I see no contraction between my stereotypically "masculine" attributes and my identity as a woman. And yet in a certain social milieu someone who was assigned female at birth, wears dresses and pink sparkles and full makeup every day (or was assigned male at birth, goes by John, wears a beard, etc.) can claim non-binary identity and insist that others use neutral pronouns.

Asexual people, trans people, and other sexual/gender minorities deserve dignity and respect. And I'm certainly not the arbiter of others' identities. But now that there is less risk associated with being out as LGBTQ, it seems that many people who aren't ACTUALLY marginalized want in on some of the cachet of being "different."

(I am open to rebuttals/alternative explanations of this phenomenon. I harbor a quixotic longing for nuanced discourse on sensitive topics that doesn't devolve into name-calling and accusations of bigotry.)
4
As a member of GenX, this seems like the confluence of Millennials obsessive need to label everything, the eternal desire of young people to stake out unique identities, and the need to blab about your special thing to have social cachet.

If she continues to lead the conversation to her asexuality, then deflect and lead the conversation to a new topic. Once she realizes that her sexual identity isn’t getting a response from you (or her other friends) she may very well move on to something else. If not, and she continues to harp on her self-identified asexuality, and that sucks up so much of the oxygen in your conversations, than she is a bore, and your friendship is going to whither on that basis alone.
5
Asexuality is not, in fact, a "Thing" according to most psychotherapists.

That doesn't mean they're right. They're probably not.

It does mean that I'm not willing to dismiss professionals who know more about this topic than I do, even as I suspect that the asexuality deniers are indeed on the wrong side of history (just as the homophobes were and are).
6
@3 '...it seems that many people who aren't ACTUALLY marginalized want in on some of the cachet of being "different."'

This occurred to me as well. I was recently thinking something very similar about a friend of mine (not with regard to sexuality).

Perhaps, too, the friend is overly focused on the word "need". Taking Dan's vegetarian ball and running with it, it would be supremely hard not to get eye-rolly when someone says "I'm a vegetarian because I don't NEED to eat meat and would be just as happy with a block of tofu" while they're stuffing a burger in their face.

So while there's no question that LW and LW's friend are entitled to identify as they choose, I can see why LW thinks friend is being disingenuous.
7
I'm intrigued by the fact that the reason this friend considers herself asexual because she doesn't need sex. What does it mean to need sex? It means different things to different people. To some, it can mean that you need sexual release--orgasm--which you can provide for yourself; to some, it means that you really, really want partnered sex; to some, it might be the justification for lots of random, sometimes anonymous, often risky sex. None of us really need sex, though for some of us, it really feels that way. People who really love sex sometimes are forced to do without it (if by "sex" they are talking about something other than solo masturbation) by life's circumstances--but they wouldn't consider themselves asexual.

My guess is that the friend heard that asexuals don't need sex and thought, well, I like having sex, sure, but I don't need it, and assumes that she is therefore asexual.

Or she wants to be special, as SublimeAfterglow says @4. Or she wants attention. Or she likes to stir things up.

In any case, the lw shouldn't be the asexuality police; let your friend identity however she likes. If you find it too irritating to be her friend because of the disconnect you see between her self-definition and her activities (or for any reason), scale back the friendship. Identify yourself as you see fit and don't be afraid to put your self-definition and identity out into the world, which will do with it as it wants. You might even get into a respectful discussion.
8
@Mirea, our posts crossed, but we were on the same page for the most part.
9
There isn’t a lot of cachet in being asexual in our culture. I can’t imagine anyone would make this claim or choose not to have sex just to seem different or cool.

LW’s friend could be asexual, but she’s choosing to have sex because she wants attention or to feel desirable or to increase her social status. Many people have sex for nonsexual reasons. Young women, in particular, are looked down on if they aren’t sexually available.

But who knows?

I don’t think we can know the motivations for another person’s behavior without hearing from that person herself.
10
Okay, then, I truly AM asexual. It has nothing to do with being cool. I simply haven't had sex in over 16 years since my divorce, and don't miss it at all.
11
@Mischa - I've only ever met one person who really felt their gender, deep down inside. (It was my ex-girlfriend, who really felt womanly, female energy power, etc etc) In my view (a jumbled mishmash of undergrad existentialism, postmodernism and psychoanalysis), I think a big reason so many people are identifying as non-binary lately is because we're increasingly being asked to look inside ourselves to find authenticity and personal truth, but when most people look deep inside themselves they find nothingness. So instead of reflecting on the nonexistence of an essential self, they see the nothingness as a positive non-binaryness.
12
@3 "I think the current vogue for claiming an identity with no basis in observable reality has a lot to do with (predominantly young, white, and privileged) people needing to feel special and cool."

This may be a thing for some. For others I think there might also be the desire to belong to a group. White privileged people don't have an inherent group to belong to, one that has solidarity with a shared struggle, in the same way that POC or LGBTQ people do. It might also have to do with a person's group of friends and how they feel among that group. If you're straight and a lot of your friends are not, you might feel like a bit of an outsider because you don't share the experiences or perspectives that they can share *with each other*.

I actually understand that. However, I have the self-awareness to know what I am, what I am not, and would never claim to be something I'm not just to fit in with any group.
13
LW needs to be reminded that there's no requirement to stay friends with people who annoy you.
14
Since we’re talking about her sexual identity, it’s your friend’s right to be completely full of shit, and you have absolutely no right to call her on it.

Good luck!
15
I had a friend who claimed to be asexual. Personally, I thought she just needed to put the anime down for a bit and she'd re-acclimatize to human attraction. However, since it wasn't any of my business, I stayed out of it. When mutual friends expressed their doubt of her asexuality I'd just say, "well, that's her business. How's about that other subject we were talking about?" If she brought it up, I'd be like "mh-hm," and then talk about something else.

Stop trying to defend her choice and just ignore it, and it'll bug you far less.
16
Your friend is an idiot. I mean it's cool, I've been an idiot about things before and I'll be an idiot about things again... but she's an idiot. Follow Dan's advice. Let her be an idiot. People can and will see it. Don't defend. Don't engage. Move the conversation on. Maybe someday she'll be less of an idiot. Maybe not.
17
Sporty @2: "Queer" is a shorthand for the Venn-called "alphabet soup" that includes the letters LGBTQIA. "A" stands for asexual. So ACE can be both asexual and queer. (She may be homoromantic.)

As for ACE's friend, her "constantly" talking about how she doesn't need sex is the big bullshit indicator. Most actual asexuals just get on with their lives. She struck me as possibly greysexual, as Dan says, or, as she's actively seeking out sex partners, perhaps she just wants to present herself to these potential partners as someone who's making a very special exception just for them -- and who wouldn't want that? (Kind of like the recent Tinder "gold star lesbian" who'd recently got her girlfriend's permission to "try" sex with a man.)

Despite my fervent defense of millennials, I must say I agree with comments @3, @4 and @6 as they relate to this particular individual. @12, you said it in a more sympathetic way.

Two other observations: (1) Everyone Friend knows is as dubious of her professed orientation as ACE is; and (2) I'm assuming she's a similar age to the LW, and therefore, this is a phase -- by "this," I mean either her belief that she can simultaneously call herself asexual and have an active sex life, or her "constant" talk about it, or, ideally, both.
18
This makes me think of Loitering With Intent and Fleur's ruminations on her friendship with Dottie (who at least served to inspire Fleur's third novel, The English Rose), which at one point she compared to a serviceable old coat or jacket that one doesn't throw out just because one doesn't like it.
19
Something I've seen from time to time is "asexuality as dating defense".

Basically what happens is that a woman(though I could see it happening with a man, it's always been women when I've seen it) who is conventionally attractive doesn't want to become sexual with anyone she knows. She says she is asexual as a way to refuse all of them without hurting anyone's feelings.

This usually works really well until the woman finds someone she actually wants to have sex with and then it gets real awkward when it is revealed that she was sexual all along, she just didn't want to be with anyone in her social circle.

Which, though I do have a great deal of sympathy with people in that situation(I would imagine that being hit on by people that you aren't interested in would get old quickly) I have yet to see that gambit end well.
20
Ghost @19: Hmm, interesting theory. It certainly would be more efficient than having to turn down suitors one by one.
21
@20

Yeah. I've heard of it second hand a few times and actually saw the entire cycle happen once(it, for the most part, ended ok as the social circle she was a part of was pretty understanding about this sort of thing).

I just wish for the sake of others that we didn't live in a world where this was a perfectly reasonable(if not super smart) tactic.
22
19-GhostDog-- Yes, interesting. It makes me realize how there's no word in our language for the difference between an orientation and an attraction. I'm straight so you could say that I'm attracted to men, but I can think of whole swaths of men I'm not attracted to including extremely old and infirm ones, extremely stupid ones, and most guys I just met. That also might just make me shallow.

It seems ordinary to me not to be attracted to someone until after I've gotten to know them, so ordinary that it doesn't seem necessary to have a word for it, but maybe that's the void that "asexual" is filling in this instance.

This whole thing is reminding me of vegetarian and vegan. They're useful words when a friend is coming for dinner and I want to know what to serve. For that purpose, I don't mind if a friend says "vegetarian except for xxx" if xxx is something I wasn't going to serve anyway. It does become obnoxious if they throw around how they're vegetarian when they regularly eat meat. I'm not sure if they're hypocrites or messing with the language until a perfectly good word no longer has meaning.
23
ACE doesn't mention how long she'd been best friends with this woman; it would've helped. Obviously, she felt a kinship with her when they met and felt that they had a lot in common. Fast forward to a couple years ago when ACE began to think she might be asexual. Her problem is that she doesn't have someone around to provide a feeling of solidarity - something most of us like to have so that we don't feel we're the odd one out - because her friend's "definition" of asexuality is so opposite of hers.

My advice would be to keep the best friend (if the relationship provides satisfaction in other areas) but avoid discussing asexuality or sex in general. With the best friend, just stop the discussion from starting. Wouldn't it be great to ask, "Why do you need to talk about all the sex you're having so much, if you say you don't need it? Let's talk about something else." With other friends, just say, "I can't speak for XYZ, you'll have to ask her yourselves."

Then, ACE, start looking for people whose definitions of asexuality seem more closely aligned to yours, so you'll have a tribe of your own, especially if you're close to coming out about it, without feeling as if your identity is going to be lumped in with your sexual-but-I-didn't-need-it friend's unorthodox definition. Look for online support groups and then possible meet-up ones where you live.
24
Ghost @21: You've reminded me of a woman I once knew, the only female math major at her university, who bought a cheap "engagement ring" to ward off her amorous classmates. I agree, it does seem sad that a person would claim to be something she's not because "sorry, I'm not interested" is still too difficult to say.
25
I am an Opossexual (meaning I like to have sex with opossums). It took me many, many years to finally find a label that fit my particular sexual niche, and now I find someone else who also identifies as an Opossexual, but wouldn't you know it, they don't practice possum sex in the way that I have defined it! This is driving me crazy, because with possums, everyone knows it's all about the tail, and this other person couldn't care less if they even have a tail (which would basically make them just a rat-like, slobbering version of a Guinea pig). This is driving me to distraction, because I think everyone should fit neatly into the world as I want it to be. What to do, what to do?!
26
@24
It's not that "sorry, I'm not interested" is too difficult to say, it's that saying it to some dude can get you stalked/ostracized/assaulted.
27
Really? Angst and trauma over a friend's identification as 'asexual' because it tramples on your own tribal identity as 'asexual'?

Who has time to dream up an imaginary 'problem' like this?
28
Algorhythm99 @26: It's both. It's difficult to say partly because the person who should say it knows that saying it to the wrong dude can get her stalked/ostracised/assaulted.
But also because the person who should say it knows that saying it to the right dude could hurt a nice person's feelings. And women are -- yes, still -- socialised to avoid hurting people's feelings. Even by lying, if that's what it takes.
So either he's a nice guy whom she doesn't want to feel bad, or he's a Nice Guy who will make her feel bad. Schrodinger's Guy. It's no wonder this is a strategy for some.
29
@24, 26, 28: And sometimes just plain old "I'm not interested" doesn't get listened to. It's not always about not wanting to hurt feelings, and there are many men who aren't necessarily going to stalk/ostracize/assault you, but there are a ton that simply don't respect "I'm not interested" and keep trying. And trying. Women do what they gotta do.
30
My bff didn't have a boyfriend till she was 40. I started dating too early at age 15 by going out with all the wrong guys, continuing into my twenties. Sometimes it really bothered me that she didn't date, because I wondered what was wrong. Was she asexual or lesbian? (which I would've supported as a liberal friend) I also had some misguided attempts to help or suggest therapy, all while dating the worst men possible myself. Not to mention how her virgin ways made me feel like a big slut.

So in answer to the question, are you being a gate keeper? Yes. But it's a somewhat normal reaction to having a friend who seems self- contradictory or troubled. However, it's codependent and crazy to try to fix your friend. That's what I wish I knew years ago. Leave your friend alone unless she asks for help. Don't lean in her for emotional support either, because that will feed her ego and make her think you're weak.

My advice is to mind your own business, because being codependent is like hanging out with alcoholics who will all tell you what a fuck-up addict their friends are, but insist that they have their drinking under control. Your friend not only doesn't want your help, but you probably don't even want to know what she really thinks of you. The urge to control her comes from an unhealthy power struggle in your friendship. Go work on your own life and let that shit go. Don't judge her or look down on her. Be completely neutral. Live and let live. Make new friends. You will be much happier for it!
31
I'm sure asexuality is a thing, since everything is a thing. But I think one would be well-advised to explore alternative possibilities such as psychological or physical issues first.
32
Claiming asexuality while having lots of sex makes me think of people who say their pet is a service animal, claim to be allergic to gluten at a restaurant but takes a bite of their date's pasta, or other acts where they co-op people with special needs or lifestyle restrictions.
33
what a hassle!
34
If "asexual" as a label for human sexuality can mean anything you want it to mean then its a pretty useless label.

Personally, I don't think people get to assign their own labels to their sexuality. We have words that have meanings and if those words apply to you then you can call yourself that. If you have sex with people then you aren't asexual. If you have sex with the same sex then you aren't straight. It's really, really simple.
35
I'm of the mind that sexuality is a wide spectrum of physical preferences (men-women), kink preferences (vanilla-edge play), frequency preferences (never-constant), etc... I identify as straight, but I hooked up with a guy once and am not necessarily opposed to doing it again under the right circumstances. But identifying as straight is easier to do considering it represents 99.9% of my sexual experience, past and very likely in the future. It's not really a denial of other tendencies so much as not really feeling like getting into the depths of my sexuality with most folks.

That being said, some people definitely fake the funk with their identities. For attention, for acceptance, etc... i know people who I'm 99% certain do. In this day and age they just have to live with the fact that everyone knows they're full of shit and won't say anything to them.
36
@34

Words don't have static meanings anymore, dummy. They mean whatever the speaker feels like they mean. And if you disagree than you're clearly a cis-het-white supremacist.
37
To distract herself from the annoyance, the LW could always have some fun with it:

Friend: "... ...since, as you know, I am asexual."

ACE: "A sexual what?"

Friend: "No, no. *A*sexual"

ACE: "But what kind of sexual?"

Friend: "Just that I don't *need* sex."

ACE: "Well, whether you knead it or not, it sure is baked into your lifestyle!"
38
"According to the Protocols of the Elders of Tumblr, we're no longer allowed to express doubt about someone's professed sexual orientation, ACE. So if Larry Craig says he's straight, then he's straight." And this is why Dan's still the master.
39

Some people here expressed their disdain for elaborate labels, especially when those who claim them don’t always follow up with the corresponding action/s. And yes, the friend in question may indeed qualify as “full of shit.”

I’d still like to offer a kind word for millennials nevertheless. I think the many alt lables we are flooded with lately are acknowledging the flexibility of gender and sexuality, and also a rebellion against the hard wired male/female, gay/straight.

Full of shitters exist in every category of our lives. In our case, older, experienced, sophisticated SL commenters can easily spot them among the young and the restless as they navigate their way and attempt to fit in, or in some cases try not to.
I still think this phenomenon in general is a positive one as it allows many to be who they are, as well as plenty room to experiment to so many others.
Yes, it’s trendy nowadays and can be annoying at times. It’s still a much better environment than the one I grew up at.


40
@39 I don't think most folks here have issues with the myriad of identities themselves so much as the inability to ask reasonable questions or express reasonable doubt without being labeled as a bigot.

It's not the identity or small variances from the confines of that identity. It's the pretentiousness and indignance that's creating negative views of these types. This is why we read the story of the emperor's new clothes as children.
41
@17 What, in that case, does queer even mean, if it's distinct from het/homo/asexual? It's not an orientation, it's not a gender... it seems more like Q = [L/G/B] [T/|/A]. What does queer "mean", that isn't already represented in the soup?
42
@34 i've made this point before, in that labels exist *only* due to the presence of other people in the universe. IE, they're an inter-social construct, and should not be unilaterally defined. Trump says no one is a better friend to the gays/the blacks/the women than he is; for all intents and purposes that's part of his self-applied identity. It's plain BS from an outside perspective, and whatever he thinks about himself (or ACE's friend thinks about herself) doesn't really matter if no one else would possibly agree.
43
Frankly I just don't understand any of it and so I just don't worry about it and just refer to whoever however they want me to refer to them, and then I get on with my life. I find the obsessing over someone else's identity as baffling as the larger conversation. But this is a Gen X perspective, probably.

The main source of my confusion is that I get saying you don't identify with gender roles and therefore find it oppressive when one is applied to you. I get that gender roles are socially constructed. What I don't get is the conclusion from there that you are born as a particular gender (whether or not it's compatible with your birth sex). I don't see how you can be born into a socially constructed role. If you feel that your own personality/tendencies/lifestyle match better with a particular socially constructed role and want to identify as such, fantastic I will respect that. But I don't see how that means you were born into it or why that's even relevant to your rights or how much respect you deserve.

As for asexuality, likewise I don't really understand it and it's one of those things that the more people explain it to me and the more I read, the less I understand it. But it appears that all someone else's asexual identity requires of me is to respect that they want to call themselves asexual and that they do not need to be involved in a sexual relationship. Fine, no sweat off my back, and I don't see why this bothers the LW either. The LW seems personally bothered because she sees herself as asexual and doesn't feel that she has anything in common with her friend's definition of asexuality. I guess I'm just of the wrong generation to see why this would bother anybody? So long as no one is trying to convince the LW that she's abnormal for not wanting to be in a sexual relationship, I don't see what the problem is.

I don't really know what "queer" means anymore either as I've heard plenty of straight people describe themselves this way. Again, I think in the long run, all of this is a part of a mass rejection of rigid gender and sexuality roles, and we are going through the growing pains of that rejection in an attempt to build a new norm. This will change- next generation's understanding of these identities will be different and they will be the olds that don't understand what's going on. In terms of an overall trajectory, I think it's all for the better rather than the worse, though I think there are a few things going on that are overcorrections that are damaging a very small minority of people, but I think it will work itself out.

I've found myself that it's easier to deal with all these changes if you restrict yourself to how you treat people on an individual level rather than trying to create a cohesive worldview in your mind in which all the messiness fits together in a clean ideology. What should the asexual LW do? Well that depends more on the dynamics of their friendship, what they like about each other, how they communicate, how much energy it takes to hang vs how much she enjoys the experience, etc. It does not require her to actually take a stand on what the CORRECT definition is of asexuality. Understanding human behaviors and tendencies (that have always existed throughout time) in the current context of individual identity is a relatively new way of understanding all of this in the first place. It's not like we are grappling with objective truths here. In a different era, they would've been understood differently (for better or for worse) and in the future they will as well.
45
People who say "there's no such thing as asexuality" are as bad as people who say "there's no such thing as not having a religion". Both kinds of people are wrong.
46
As someone who identifies as asexual, I'll just say, "Hey, we do exist. It is a real thing." For those still recommending visiting a psychologist before coming to terms with one's identity/life, maybe stop that? Unless that's something you say to your gay, bi, lesbian, trans buds too, and then you should still stop it.

Agree with all the advice above about not gatekeeping. If it's really bugging you, reduce your proximity to the issue for a while. Distance, even emotional distance, can really be helpful.

For those looking for local resources, there's a large group on Meet-Up for here in Seattle. (There's also one in Portland, Vancouver, BC, SF, other cities, etc.) Just do "Seattle" and "Asexual" in the search box and it will pop right up, and if you're like ACE, and want to find a broad spectrum of people with similar experiences to have community with, then there you go.
47
@42

Exactly my point too. Labels exist so we can accurately and concisely relay information to other people. If you choose to use a label and then qualify it with a bunch of explanations, changes, and comments then your label is worthless.

It doesn't change anything about the speaker to use the correct words to factually represent your traits.
48
"Agree with all the advice above about not gatekeeping. If it's really bugging you, reduce your proximity to the issue for a while. Distance, even emotional distance, can really be helpful."

@46 Honestly, this is why(regardless of if it's sexuality, religion, diet, etc) when people's actions don't align with their words at all(some variation is to be expected) I tend to keep them at arm's length, even if I am sympathetic to their motivation.

Think about it. If you can't trust them to describe themselves accurately, what are their words really worth?
49
We all have delusions about ourselves and we all have values/belief systems that we fail to live up to. I've found it best to avoid judging others on those issues unless their behavior strays into my life or my convictions in some way. And it's a fascinating and intimate thing to discuss with close friends, but if you discuss it with people who are more casual friends, it's bound to lead to confusion and hurt feelings rather than any productive outcome. On the other hand, it's extremely beneficial to have close friends hold a mirror up to you from time to time, but that requires a lot of trust. There isn't an answer to the LW's question because the appropriate responses range from "just ignore it and get on with your life" to "sit down with your friend and have an honest conversation about your differing points of view" and the correct choice of action depends on their relationship with one another, not on a correct understanding of asexuality.
50
somethingsomething Tower of Babel somethingsomething
51
Why does LW feel compelled ‘to come out’ as asexual? Just live your non sexual life. And enjoy the hecknoutbof rubbing one out every now and then. Its no one eleses biz. I long for the days when oversharing was considered a negative trait in humans.
52
LW I think you're friend is full of shit, but is this the hill you want to die on? I mean if you don't like this friend then just end the friendship, no reason to bring her sexuality into it.

I'm guessing she wasn't raised in a very sex positive house and probably thinks that needing sex is 'bad' and 'wrong' hence why she clings to asexual label. That way she doesn't have to admit to 'needing' sex, which is bad, but she can have it, just as long as she doesn't need it.

Basically it'd do her some good to go a few rounds with therapist. And it might do the LW some good to come out of the Asexual closet.
53
FMLOL@36 ~ "...Words don't have static meanings anymore, dummy. They mean whatever the speaker feels like they mean...
Well, that's a disheartening, Trumpian take on words. No. You do not get to make up your own meanings! Of course, some words have multiple, evolving meanings, but a dog is still a dog even if you say it's a cat. An idiot is still an idiot even if he calls himself a "stable genius".
54
@53 You fell for it.
55
Perhaps there's a reason LW's friend self-identifies as asexual, eventhough she does have sex occasionally, that LW doesn't know about. I'm a vegetarian because I don't agree with the cruel practices of our commercial meat industries, and also because my grandmother was Buddhist, and our family all refrained from eating meat out of respect for her (probably also because we don't like the taste of meat). However, many of us work for the diplomatic corps, or in professions that requires us to occasionally eat at foreign embassies. At these dinners, we did and will eat whatever is served, to avoid insulting our hosts. We still consider ourselves vegetarian, as we would prefer not to eat meat if we had the choice. Perhaps LW's friend has reasons for the sex.

Whatever the case is, I don't see how this would bother LW enough that she'd written to Dan. Her friend's sexual activities are not hurting anyone as far as she knows. LW should focus on her own sex life, and let her friend do the same with hers.
56
@54 ~ "...You fell for it...." Probably. It's so hard to hear the sarcasm in written words, and the Commentariat has more than our share of trolls posting stuff like that in earnest.
57
Back in my day, friends used to talk to one another about stuff.
58
@29 nocutename: Yep. You gotta do what you gotta do, all right. Thus my sad, mercifully past situation (further elaborated on back in the November 30, 2017 week of SL) with an obsessed old male college friend who just couldn't take "No, I am NOT the least bit interested in ever marrying you and bearing 10 kids so that the Catholic Church, your mom, and older siblings will finally get off your back about your being unmarried and childless at age 40" for a legitimate answer over two decades.
59
@46
Take this (as an example of why I above recommended that someone consider "alternative possibilities such as psychological or physical issues first"):

An acquaintance is on antidepressants known to suppress sex drive. They identify as asexual. Do you think they would be ill-advised to explore the possibility that a combination of talk therapy and/or a different depression med might restore their sex drive? If you think that, stop it. If I were a friend instead of a mere acquaintance I'd *be* a friend to them and say something, because they need someone to, they DO NOT see the obvious for themself.

Honestly the same advice would also go for people who make choices to literally harm themselves, including suicide. In other words, if it's really right for you, cool buddy, really totally cool. But first people should consider whether they might be missing an opportunity for more before choosing less. That is not too effort in such important situations, we only get one life.
60
p.s.
speaking of "consider whether they might be missing an opportunity for more before choosing less":

It will be a glorious day when sex reassignment surgery is vastly closer to perfect than it is now. But when last I heard, post-SRS one's physical pleasure isn't likely to be even close to as good. So before choosing less physical pleasure, I wonder if it might not be prudent to consider whether one is doing so for oneself (instead of doing so because of the prejudices/hangups/BS gender norms of others and our dysfunctional culture; in such a case some not giving a shit about what other people think might be worth it).

And as I wrote above, if it's right for *you*, absolutely 1,0000,000% totally cool. But don't tell me everyone is evolved enough to, on their own, always look deeply before making important decisions.
61
There are definitely a lot of wrong ways to talk about this and it would take a major investment of intimacy to be worth trying to talk about it. If she's not someone you deeply care about it, I'd recommend leaving it alone and if you're not comfortable with her, then let your friendship ebb. If you really care about this friendship though, there might be a way to talk to her about it. I'd probably say something like, "Friend, I've got some personal stuff I'd really like to talk to you about, and normally I would just go for it because we're friends and we do that, but it lines up in funny uncomfortable ways with some of your personal stuff. That's a big part of why I want to talk about it but I also want to make sure it's a conversation you want to have too. Can we do that sometime?" Which might be over the top but that's how I talk. The important thing is to ask permission to talk about it and keep giving her outs and really try to keep everything you say grounded your own feelings and understandings and make that really visible to her. Don't set out to have a conversation about her sexual identity. Set out to have a conversation in which each of you share and learn something about how you each understand what sexuality and asexuality are and how they manifest themselves in your lives.

And actually, I guess there's one other thing you could do. I see two problems you might have with what she's doing 1) that you feel like she's appropriating an identity that belongs to you but not to her and that she got there first and it's weird 2) that she is publicly saying that the standard for being a sexual person is that one *needs* sex and that has some really disturbing implications. If you're perfectly happy risking the friendship and don't want to get into all that, you could address #1 much more bluntly. Just something like "Friend, every time you say that it makes me think about all the people who justify horrible things because they think someone *needs* sex and is entitled to get all their needs met. I'm sure you know sexual people don't exactly need sex. I'd really appreciate if you found a way to talk about your asexuality that doesn't make it sound like you think they do."
62
Nocute @29: Yes, that too.

CMD @39: Standing and applausing, and a hug for good measure.

Sporty @41: You could just think of "queer" as meaning "not straight." This LW is not straight. QED (Queer Erat Demonstrandum).

Emma @43: My take is that LW is bothered by her friend's identifying as asexual despite her behaviour indicating otherwise because she wants to come out as asexual but is worried that she, too, will be seen as an attention seeker/bandwagon jumper rather than a genuine ace.
As for straight people who call themselves queer, I'm guessing these are either kinksters or poly folks. So their definition of queer is "having a non-traditional sexuality." If kinky or poly is an inherent, important part of one's identity, I'm not going to be the one to kick these folks out of queer club.

Captain Pants @46: Thanks for your helpful comment. Borealis @61: Gold star for your final paragraph, really insightful.
63
@59 Do you recommend that straight people see a therapist before committing to that identity, as they're choosing less by rejecting sex with people of the same gender? Similarly for monogamous people, or people who see themselves as non-kinky? Or really, anyone who declines to do any activity ever, or decides to take on any risks?

Or do you perhaps accept that sometimes people know their own desires, and do the amount of introspection they feel is appropriate?
64
I'm not going to kick anyone out of any club. But the whole point of coming out was to prevent people from being marginalized. A person who is gay or bi or even asexual to a lesser extent could not live an open ordinary life in regular society as his/her partner and relationships and lifestyle would constantly be a source of danger or judgement. I don't see how the existence of a kink or fetish has anything to do with your marginalization in regular life. Like, in the very recent past, you could not be gay and take your partner to your kid's school play or live with your partner as a couple or tell an anecdote about your weekend. I don't see how having a kinky sex life, even if it's your main hobby and an important part of your relationship or lifestyle, has anything whatsoever to do with your regular life so is the calling yourself queer in this case an announcement to the world that you are kinky? If so, why do we need to know that? But maybe not being a part of a kink scene myself, I don't understand what barriers exist in society for these people? What I mean is, we all have important things in our lives that we do with our partners and that we could not have fulfilling relationships without. I personally could never be in a relationship with a conservative person or a person who doesn't do outdoor sports, and while these things are an important part of my identity and life, they don't have anything to do with society's acceptance of my partner. If you are a straight person in a straight relationship who is hardcore into the BDSM community for example, I don't see how that makes you queer or what that has to do with society's acceptance of your relationship.

As for poly, that makes more sense, but I'm not talking about poly people. I'm talking about straight people. But even for poly people, I think it's funny to hear people talk about "nontraditional" relationships when poly arrangements are actually quite traditional and exist in most conservative cultures and always have. It's like people are reinventing the wheel there. But I totally get how it's not an acceptable lifestyle in mainstream culture- it would still raise eyebrows if you brought your girlfriend and your boyfriend to your kid's school play.

But straight people who call themselves queer? I just think they are saying "kinky sex stuff is my hobby" or "I'm open-minded" which, whatever, I'll call them whatever they want but I do judge them for it deep down, ha ha. I do have that feeling that they are trying to be super special instead of just admitting they are straight people having straight sex like millions of other straight people plenty of whom are also kinky. It makes me think of white people saying they are 1/12 cherokee or whatever as Auntie says.
65
"As for poly, that makes more sense, but I'm not talking about poly people. I'm talking about straight people"

Meant "straight couples" not "straight people".
66
What is the LW's actual concern?

The most narrow concern is that her friendship with this soi-disant ace will become strained because, frankly, she doesn't accept her associate's designation.

A concern that comes nearer to her sense of herself, and her need to project in a satisfyingly self-representing way, and with integrity, is that she will find it hard to 'come out' as asexual, to have people regard her as ace, and to accept and like her on that basis, because she has another friend (or there's another person in her friendship circle) who's ace in an entirely different way. In terms of whether people will accept her as an asexual, perhaps she has needless misgivings; it's likely that some, at least, will accept her on her own terms, or privately or publicly think that she's at least more of an ace than her friend. But it seems more likely to me that she feels it will be difficult to there 'to be two aces' in this particular 'friendship'; and that a constraint has been placed on her development by her friend's insistence--and fairly shrill or unrelenting insistence--on a certain self-conception. I think the priority here is that the LW feels able to claim for herself the social and personal identity she feels appropriate. She will be able to read her friendship better than us, but there should be no reason that she should not start describing herself as ace and working out what that means for her. Nor, in fact, any reason why, 'ace' or not, she should deliberately hold herself aloof from partnered sex if she turns out to want it--if she surprises herself--and it becomes available.
67
@22. Fichu. You are what the millenials call a 'demisexual'.
68
@43. EmmaLiz. 'I don't see how you can be born into a socially constructed role'. Because you're not the first person to be born into a given gender? Because how people will relate to you as a gendered person will be shaped by expectations they have of what is normatively 'male' or 'female'?
69
Borealis @61 sets out sensitively how ACE might begin to open a discussion about how her, ACE's, emergent identity can be respected.
70
@68 You misunderstand me I think. I completely understand that gender roles are mostly socially constructed and that a person's tendencies/identity/personality will sometimes not conform with the gender role that they are born into. The whole problem is that gender roles are restrictive and people who are non-conforming will have trouble. What I don't get is how you can be born as another gender if gender is a socially constructed thing and not an inherent biological thing. If gender is socially constructed, then you are just born as a person in a society, and some of those society's gender roles will fit you better than others, and I agree that you should be able to choose which one or else create your own or else reject them all. What I don't understand is people who claim that gender is a social construction and then at the same time claim that they are born as a particular gender. Now I'm likely misunderstanding the situation, but not in the way you think I am. At least I don't think so.
71
@70. Because invariably as a child and teen you live in the gender in which you were born--both you internalize aspects of what is taken as a male or female disposition (boys--dominant; girls--accommodating etc. etc.) and you are seen as male or female and build up scripts for social interaction that presume gendered identities. Then you begin to disidentify from your gender. Or begin to articulate or act your restiveness with your assigned gender. This may be conscious--mentally you realise it never felt quite 'you', and you don't agree with, or can't understand, the central normative gender roles--and also unconscious, as it was in my case; there is something wrong or 'off' about you in your birth-assigned gender--you couldn't be a man or woman in the ordinary acceptation if you tried.

I think this is my take on it. My account is unsatisfactorily broadbrush but still basically plausible--or it feels true to me. I did misunderstand you before. Sorry; I think I wasn't reading close enough.
72
Or ... are you addressing the faultline in the trans community between 1) those like me for whom discomfort with binary gender only illustrates everyone's (or just some people's) underlying transsexuality and 2) those who claim to 'be', in sometimes quite primitive and unreconstructed terms, the gender they were not (not born as)? The drag queens on one side and the striving, sometimes painfully earnest and admirable trans people (really, trans women) on the other?

Insofar as I have a bitch in this pen, it's with the dragsters.
73
@72 Yes, I'm referring to your #2 which is (as far as I can tell) a recent thing in the mainstream understandings/conversations around this topic and (again as far as I can tell) in contradiction to other cultures' understanding of gender nonconformity -India for example or other traditions with third genders. (As for your @71, that all makes perfect sense to me, and even I'd include very young children who have this sense even long before they are really even aware of what gender is.)

This has nothing to do with how I relate to people or show them respect or advocate for their rights, etc, but I don't understand at all how you can be born as a gender if gender is a social construct. If this is a fault line, I did not know it.
74
I read that as "pin in this bitch" and spent so much time puzzling over the meaning of this grenade metaphor. Ha ha ha.
75
@73. I guess something can be both 'made-up' and 'made-real'. Just because something is 'made up', is a matter of people's associating certain features and then _saying_ those features are immutably conjoined, doesn't mean it, doesn't mean the mental associations making up gender, are not real. Gender, and gender expectations, gender assumptions, scripts, roles, will be real in this way. I don't think the force of constructionism as a set of arguments is to say that they're _not_ real; that they can be wished away or undone or blown away in a great big puff of happy smoke.
76
@74. ;)
77
@75 Yeah that's all true in practice which is why I said this theoretical confusion doesn't actually have any impact on my real life interactions or how I treat people, what rights people should have, etc.

The whole thing bothers me (as relates to this conversation) in a theoretical way for a couple of reasons. First off, the "I'm born like this" argument was a response to homophobia. It is also true that many people of any sexual orientation have just always been of that orientation, nothing made them gay or straight or whatever, but the reason we all harped on about that "I was born like this" was a defense against homophobes who wanted to blame people for being gay or damage them with conversion therapy, etc. It's true for many people and it's also a civil rights strategy that was perhaps a necessary step, but I think as a strategy, it's really dangerous to link human rights to biology. So you've got all these people looking for clusters of genes now that make people gay or whatever. What happens if you find those things? What happens if you don't? How does that affect people's rights if their rights are based on being born a certain way? The fact is, you have the right to be gay whether or not you were born that way or whether or not you could be happy living any other way.

So I see the trans movement now linking their right to exist to similar "I'm born this way" arguments and I think it's especially slippery for them- all this talk of scanning people's brains and finding correlations with one gender or the other. The fact is, you have the right to be whatever gender you damn well please- whether it's felt that you were that gender from birth or if you slowly discovered it over the decades. But in other cultures (India being the one I'm most familiar with) there's a concept of multiple genders which I think is starting here in the US with NBs and all that. So you can identify as a third gender- when you check census boxes you have three choices: M, F or T. The idea then that a person who identifies with the female gender is also born that way in some inherent sense (born with a female gender somehow baked into their brains or DNA or body in a biological way) means that you are proving the existence of this socially constructed female gender in the first place. As you said, the fact that it is socially constructed doesn't make it less real for the people living it so people might very well feel they've always been female and then this more theoretical talk is irrelevant to daily life practices. But the insistence that it's biological and then linking that to a concept of rights troubles me even more than it did in the case of LGB rights. Not only does it set your rights up on a foundation that might change as science changes (same argument we can make about viability being linked to the rights of abortion) but it also makes a female gender something that is biologically determined- and that's going to lead me to wonder then what gender roles we are associating with that and what implications that has.

In short, if you are claiming that gender is a social construction that is nontheless real in people's lived experiences and therefore people will feel more comfortable as one gender or another (or a third, or none) and that they have the right to live that way, I'm down with that. If you are claiming however that there's some inherent thing that makes you biologically a gender and that this is separate from biological sex, then you are giving a biological basis to social constructions which I think is troubling both from the point of view of a foundation of human rights as well as for the implications that means for all of us- I mean, that argument seems to contradict itself- it actually promotes the existence of rigid gender roles based on biology, they just aren't based any more on sex organs. Yikes.

But then I might be misunderstanding this. I've only tried briefly to talk to anyone about it and I made a mess of it because it's confusing to me.
78
Ah sorry I see I rambled and never circled back around. My point was that I think part of what we are seeing with the current multitude of identity and their increasing disassociation from lived experience is a break with the idea that you have to be born into a certain set of circumstances/genes/societal roles that dictate who you are. And this split is going to be messy and confusing at times and allow people to claim to be any number of things for any number of reasons, but over the long run, I think it's a good thing to blow all these roles wide open and give people the rights and acceptance to basically live however they want with whomever they want as relates to gender and sexuality. I think we're going to step on a lot of toes along the way, but overall, I think it will end up being better for most people.
79
@63 re: "Or do you perhaps accept that sometimes people know their own desires, and do the amount of introspection they feel is appropriate"

I just think that while sometimes they do, the amount of introspection people feel is appropriate is frequently less than optimal.
80
Emma @64: Straight kinky and poly people have been marginalised because of their lifestyles -- they risk losing jobs if they are outed, particularly if they work with children. I admit the marginalisation is nowhere near what GLT people have experienced*. But it is nevertheless a fear. Also, many of these folks label themselves as queer to show solidarity with other marginalised groups, which I personally feel is positive.

"I'm not talking about poly people. I'm talking about straight couples." Correction noted. I guess I can't speak to that because I haven't experienced any straight people calling themselves queer, with the two exceptions I mentioned, straight kinky people and straight poly people.

(*I omit the B because it is so often argued that bisexuals have the "option" of staying in a straight-acting closet, so in that aspect they are more similar to kinksters and poly folk than they are to GLT people who have less "choice.")
81
msanonymous @52 said exactly what I was thinking - I wondered if the friend grew up in a sexually-conservative house and/or culture, where girls showing any interest in sex immediately gets you labeled as a slut and therefore not just undesirable but un-marry-able. So she uses asexuality as a shield against such accusations: "I can't be a slut, because I don't NEED sex."

Harriet_by_the-bulrushes @66 - "What is the LW's actual concern?"
I kind of wonder if it's not so much concern about the friendship, as concern for ACE herself if/when she decides to come out. If her friend has already set the standard for what an asexual person is like in their social circle and their other friends are calling BS on her or think that that's what typical asexuality looks like, ACE might be worried that the same standards will apply to her if/when she comes out herself. The best analogy I can think of is the fake gamer girls trend - people used to say "what's the harm if girls pretend to be into video games when they're not?" Being an actual lifelong gamer girl, it didn't hurt me, but it certainly made my life a lot more difficult. I generally got an eyeroll and could practically hear people thinking "yeah, sure, you're probably just one of those" when I mentioned my interest in games. The other side effect was that, once guys realized I genuinely am a gamer, I got all sorts of pushy and unwanted attention, of the "oh my god I can't believe I found a REAL ONE" variety.

All this is a long way of saying that perhaps ACE is concerned that if she comes out as asexual, people will say "yeah right" or keep pushing her for a sexual relationship, because her friend has already shown that asexual people totally enjoy sex and pursue sexual relationships. I can see this becoming a huge strain on their friendship, since ACE will probably be expected to be like her friend, and people will be less likely to respect her boundaries because "so-and-so does this, why don't you?" On top of that, it sounds like her friend's behavior is driving her deeper into the closet, which, even if she didn't plan to come out any time soon, can build resentment because she feels like her choice to do so is being limited or taken away.
83
@77. EmmaLiz. I'm not always sure that the claim of people transitioning, or asserting some variety of genderqueer status, is that they 'were born this way'. Yes--some people do say that. But these same people would probably also agree with 'I didn't feel any of the options out there particularly represented me'. And 'it doesn't have to be this way--gender doesn't have to be this way'; gender can be more of a pick'n'mix, or more of a performance'. Or--especially, for many people, if they're being open, 'there are some things about being a (e.g.) man I jibe with, that sit well with me, but other things I hate or find repellent and think just aren't me'.

For me, the theoretical side of the genderqueer movement, the writing about performativity in Judith Butler and also the social psychology, isn't 'theoretical confusion'. It's theoretical specification--something being spelled out that wasn't explored before. So--all GQ people like me had to live with, and struggle with, oppressive, untheorized forms of gender normativity. At times in my life the theory has been quite personally urgent. But this doesn't at all mean that every AMAB/AFAB trans person has the same personal need of the theory. People have a need for some kind of vocabulary and the terms for some self-understanding, but these can draw on pop culture and subculture and a vernacular moral understanding, not on feminist and queer academic theory.
84
77. 'If you are claiming however that there's some inherent thing that makes you biologically a gender and that this is separate from biological sex..'

This wouldn't be my personal claim. But a person is gendered through society, through a society's embodied and conceptual versions of what it is to be gendered or to do (perform, enact) gender. This is not something that can be 'taken or left', or dissociated from personally.
85
@81. Gina. yes, I thought much the same--though perhaps her friends will have an easier time accepting her as asexual than her 'sexual' ace friend.
86
@81. Sorry--'Jina'.
87
@83 That's a fascinating conversation and somewhat over my head. But it speaks to the issue I was talking about I think though maybe I'm misinterpreting. I'm looking at the different ways gender is understood here (a transwoman is a woman period) vs how it's understood in other cultures (including third genders- being trans as its own gender) and I guess what was bothering me was this idea that the current Western way is somehow "biological" or "scientific" which seems to reinforce gender rigidity. But I think you are correct that this might be more about having to create the language along with the theories in the first place- what labels we give experiences and how we theorize about them, I guess? People who've lived in India anyway (probably plenty of other cultures too) already have a framework in place for transgender identities- transwomen anyway are very visible and has been for centuries though people didn't use that term so much until recently and they include a pretty wide range of gender/biological experiences that fall under a larger third gender umbrella. That's not to say it's not also a restrictive framework and within that community and the larger Indian LGBT community there's a lot of change going on there too including plenty of people who identify with as F and not T (which is now a legal third category). But there is a framework in place already in which everyone understands what it means to be transgender (even if it's narrow and does not include everyone's experiences) that people can start to work with. In the US, or in the West generally, I guess that didn't really exist until recently right? Even in the 90s, I don't remember people making a difference between drag and trans unless they were referring to surgery, but that might be just because people didn't talk about it.