Archiv für Februar 2014

about asexuality and_or labels in general…

Vernetzungsnachmittag zu A_sexualität und A_romantik

Am Sonntag den 9.2. gibt es im im faq Infoladen eine Veranstaltung zu A_sexualität und A_romantik.
Ab 15 uhr gibt es vegane und unvegane Kuchen, die Filme beginnen um 15uhr30.
Der faq Infoladen ist in der Jonasstrasse 40, in Berlin Neukölln.
Der Veranstaltungsraum ist rauchfrei, der Zugang zum Laden als auch die Benutzung des Klos sind barrierearm (genauer dazu:

Feminist comeback (
Filmklub: ” Some like it hot some like it not”

Wir zeigen die 30-minütige Dokumentation „Some like it hot, some like it not“ von Nossa Schäfer und Elisa Garrote aus dem Jahr 2008, in der drei Mitglieder von Aven (Asexual Visibility and Education Network) interviewt werden und gleichzeitig nachgezeichnet wird, wie die Sexualwissenschaft im Laufe ihrer Geschichte mit nicht vorhandenem sexuellen Interesse umgegangen ist.

Den Trailer gibts hier zu sehen:

Im Anschluss zeigt Andrzej, Blogbetreiber_in von und Herausgeber_in des Zines „Wer A sagt, muss nicht B sagen“ Ausschnitte aus seinen_ihren Lieblingsfilmen und Videoblogs zum Thema A_sexualität und A_romantik, und beantwortet zusammen mit Kati, Mitbegründerin des deutschsprachigen Avenforum, eure Fragen.

Nach dem offiziellen Teil, gibt es die Möglichkeit für Menschen, die sich als asexuell*, aromantisch*, demisexuell*, greysexuell* oder wtf-romantisch* definieren, sich miteinander zu vernetzten, sich zu queerplatonischen* Beziehungen auszutauschen und/oder a_sexuelle/a_romantische events zu planen…

*asexuell: eine Person fühlt keine sexuelle Anziehung zu anderen Menschen
*aromantisch: eine Person fühlt keine romantische Anziehung zu anderen Menschen
*demisexuell: eine Person fühlt erst dann sexuelle Anziehung, wenn sie mit jemandem eine tiefe emotionale Verbindung eingegangen ist
*greysexuell: eine Person, die sich im Spektrum zwischen sexuell und asexuell sieht
*wtf-romantisch: eine Person fühlt keinen klaren Unterschied zwischen Freundschaften und Liebesbeziehungen
*queerplatonisch: eine queerplatonische Beziehung baut nicht auf sexueller oder romantischer Anziehung auf. Queerplatonisch meint, die Beteiligten basteln sich ihre eigene Beziehung, sie „queeren“ die traditionellen Vorstellungen von einer Trennung zwischen Freundschaften und Liebesbeziehungen.



On many standard demographic questions, you may be asked to select your sexual orientation from a drop-down menu or a checklist. Most questions allow you to choose among heterosexual/straight, homosexual/gay/lesbian, and bisexual. (Many mistakenly list “transgender” as a sexual orientation.) More inclusive options may also allow you to choose among pansexual, polysexual, androsexual, gynosexual, or skollosexual.

But for many of us, none of these terms seem to fit.

Asexuality, which can be broadly defined as a lack of sexual attraction or desire toward other people regardless of gender, remains little discussed both in theoretical literature and in mainstream activist circles, perhaps largely due to its defining rejection of sexual contact or desire as a necessary, fundamental, or innate component of romance or human experience.

Foucault’s claims in “Friendship as a Way of Life” trouble conventional notions of sexual intimacy as predicative of “homosexuality” or even, perhaps, of “heterosexuality.” In questioning the conflation of homosexuality with conventionally explicit sexual acts, Foucault asserts that intimacy might occupy a multiplicity of experiences, interactions, exchanges, and gestures, perhaps opening the door for a more nuanced understanding of asexuality as queer embodiment. Asexuality itself as an orientation—or lack of oriented sexual desire, as the asexual does not desire any subject—troubles notions of sexuality that predicate the sexual with the romantic, yet simultaneously offers avenues for challenging a dichotomy of sexuality and romance.

In challenging recent trends and models of sexuality in the mainstream LGBT movement, Michael Warner’s caution against normativity simultaneously concerns both the insistence of many conventional LGBT activists that to be gay does not mean to be hypersexual and unabashedly promiscuous, and the “acceptability” of the non-sexually active gay as non-threatening (“a gay movement they can take home to Mom”). This including the homophobic anxiety of homosexual practice that seeks to normalize and civilize the homosexual through celibacy, an anxiety articulated by the revolutionary Gay Liberation Front as attempts to psychiatrize the homosexual into “an asexual vegetable.” Yet in so doing, Warner’s critique also presumes sexuality as normative for gays. While he positions his theoretical work in opposition to respectability politics and heteronormativity, he still operates from within a framework that requires and presumes sexuality as a necessary component for what he terms “the gay and lesbian movement.” Is this in itself limiting?

Certainly there are many ways to experience sexual desire and orientation beyond heterosexuality, gayness or lesbianness. Yet further complication of friendship and love suggests transcending the boundaries imposed by a framework of sexuality as normative embodiment for bodies and desires. Asexuality transgresses the conventions of sexuality as a necessary precondition for full human agency. Asexuality demands a reconceptualization of the boundaries of queer—does conventional queer theory predicate itself on the presumption that all humans experience sexual desire or themselves as sexual beings, thus creating its own normative sexual existence? Given such contentions, laying claim to asexuality complicates the boundaries of queerness by suggesting new ways for bodies and desires to orient themselves through destabilizing sexual normativity. Asexuality creates more space for new modes of conceptualizing desire and love, by interrogating sexuality as a necessary condition for romance and complicating the boundaries of friendship. As both Western and non-Western LGBT activists resist the urge to pathologize queer sexuality, so asexual activists struggle against the normativity of sexuality, whether homonormative or heteronormative embodiment. Can asexuality, then, be construed as queerness?

Few mainstream LGBT organizations recognize or acknowledge the existence of asexuality. (Some homonormative activists even insist that asexuals are actually repressed gays using asexuality as a more socially acceptable closet for homosexuality.) Elsewhere, asexuality is largely reduced to a pathological inhibition of normal human sexuality—and this even and only when asexuality is recognized as a separate experience from the (in)voluntary celibacy of an ordinarily sexual person. But if gay or lesbian can exist as identities or names for experiences in sexual embodiment, then it must also be possible to position asexuality as a locus of intimate experience and way of doing relationships.

The call for inclusion and affirmation of asexuality and all its varied lived experiences and practices has given rise both to communities like AVEN (The Asexuality Visibility and Education Network) and smaller, local collectives of asexual-identified activists. Yet so prominent within asexual communities is the process of disability disavowal—a practice so familiar to those of us who identify as disabled, neuroatypical, or chronically ill, but never any less painful or exclusionary, never any less removed from the hegemonic ableism that pervades mainstream society and supposedly radical, transformative spaces alike.

Sexual normativity is intricately intertwined with the hegemony of disability, as well as the mainstream LGBTQ movement, which tends to privilege white, upper-class, cisgender, abled perspectives without acknowledging an intersectional queer politic. The typical body is presumed to be sexual, and sexuality conflated with health and wellbeing. While heteronormative standards uphold heterosexual encounters and experiences as ideal, noble, natural, and basic while exiling non-heteronormative experiences and encounters to the margins, sexual normativity upholds sexual experience itself as normative and fundamental to the human experience. (Simply consider how deeply embedded celebrations of sexuality as a core, innate component of womanhood and queerness have become to feminist and queer theory and culture.)

Asexuality has long been pathologized as evidence of disease or defect, or else reduced to psychiatric difficulties, much in the same vein as non-normative sexualities and gender expressions have also been de-legitimized and dismissed as mental health problems or other medical issues. Is it surprising at all, then, that much of the asexual community is riddled with disavowal of disability? For many asexuals, staking a claim in asexuality as a legitimate and valid identity and way of life requires the rejection of the idea that asexuality is evidence of weakness, debility, disease, deficit, or defect. The idea that there is nothing wrong with me so easily translates to there is nothing wrong with my body; there is nothing wrong with my brain, and these are profoundly ableist proclamations.

The equation of sexuality with wellbeing and the ideal body, combined with the rampant desexualization of disabled people, perpetuates a particularly vicious oppressive system that privileges those whose are abled in part by virtue of their presumed sexual competence and experience while contributing to the disablement of those whose selves diverge from ablenormativity, neuronormativity, or sexual normativity.

Where sexuality is upheld as an innate fact of human existence or a necessary precursor for complete wellbeing, people on the asexual spectrum are necessarily relegated to marginalized status by virtue of the assumption that a healthy, well person must be sexual. How does this apply to disability? When those whose bodies/minds are disabled are then presumed incompetent and nonsexual, this assumption serves both to disenfranchise the disabled by denying us agency and to further the oppression of sexual normativity against asexuals, both those otherwise considered non-disabled and in particular, those already considered disabled.

In the course of disabled oppression, disabled people have long been presumed incompetent and asexual as a product of prevailing notions of sexuality as the norm and as a requisite factor of humanity. Even in recent history, there have been many legally enforced and socially condoned practices for the purpose of controlling, surveilling, or eliminating disabled sexuality, from forced sterilizations to disability-selective abortions, from laws and policies prohibiting the marriage—and therefore, presumably, the sexual union—of the disabled to broad denials of sex education, particularly for the intellectually and developmentally disabled. Why? Service providers, caretakers, and other agents of the social structures that perpetuate ableism have long held that disabled people are either incapable of existing as sexual beings or do not possess the competence or agency required to make decisions about sexual experiences and encounters. Michel DesJardins, in an essay for Sex and Disability, notes that there are two prevailing trends in how disabled sexuality is conceptualized—we are presumed to be either entirely nonsexual, lacking desire toward others as well as desirability as sexual beings, or else, wildly, uncontrollably hypersexual, impulsive, reckless, and dangerous.

In attempting to assert ownership and agency over disabled sexuality, many disabled activists and scholars have likewise come to the realization that the push against ableism must rely upon the disavowal of asexuality. If disabled people are fully sexual, autonomous human beings, as human as abled (sexual) people, then the notion that disabled people are asexual is ridiculous and wrong. The move from disabled people can exist as sexual beings, desiring others and being desired to disabled people are not asexual; we are sexual just like everyone else is also subtle, but incredibly different, and, in its final form, rather oppressive toward asexuals. In centering disabled sexuality as normative, asexuality receives the short end of the stick.

For those who are both disabled and asexual, the dual, parallel mechanisms of disavowal are particularly powerful and particularly painful. Of course it’s wrong to assume that all disabled people are somehow innately incapable of existing as sexual beings. Of course it’s wrong to assume that asexuality is a pathological condition that can be fixed with the right therapy—or, in the most egregious (yet not uncommon) cases, corrective rape. But it is perhaps just as damaging (both on individual terms and in how our communities function) to continue the disavowal of disability as necessarily bad, negative, or undesirable, or the disavowal of asexuality as necessarily inhuman. The oppression of asexuals has often used the constructs of disability and madness as the vehicles for maintaining sexual normativity. And disability oppression has often used the idea of asexuality and the presumption of sexual normativity as vehicles for maintaining ablenormativity and the pathology paradigm of disabled existence.

But if asexuality can lay claim to queerness, then we need to reimagine how disability and asexuality can constitute each other and question how ablenormativity and sexual normativity have been used to pit our communities against each other. We have such long histories of throwing each other under the bus in the rush to claim our stake in humanity. Intersectional social justice doesn’t work with single-identity politics. My humanity as a disabled person should not come at the expense of my humanity as an asexual.

What’s R(ace) Got To Do With It?: White Privilege & (A)sexuality

What’s R(ace) Got To Do With It?: White Privilege & (A)sexuality

In this series of pieces I hope to develop a new grammar to talk about asexuality outside of the ways in which it has been co-opted by neoliberal identity politics. I am interested in reclaiming and developing an analysis of (a)sexuality in our collective efforts toward racial justice and anti-capitalism. These pieces are motivated by an absence of dialogue around asexuality and all of its associated critiques from many queer spaces I’ve been a part of.

The first time I ever saw someone like me having sex was in a spam internet advertisement in India. “Hairy Mallu Boys.” And I may have followed the link. And I may have gawked at the spectacle of it all: brown hairy men fucking each other. I want to tell you about the validation, how affirming it was to finally see someone who looked just like me having an orgasm, but that would be misleading. I was too shocked to feel validated. Too surprised to see a body like mine fucking in this city where my gay Indian friends ask me if I’ve ever slept with a white men because “they are cleaner than us” because they’ve “seen it on porn.”

Growing up in the US I never really saw brown people engaging in public acts of intimacy. From a young age I remember feeling jealous of the Suzy, the Michael, the Patrick and their parents who kissed them goodbye. I remember getting jealous of the Tom, the Dick, the Zach and their parents who hugged when their child scored a goal at soccer games. My parents never touched one another in front of me. In fact, we never really spoke about sex. So I remember always thinking that sex was something for white people. I understood that our parents must have ‘done it,’ but I couldn’t imagine them enjoying it. Pleasure didn’t belong to us. That’s why we moved to this country, right?

When I looked to the media for representation of brown sexual boys all I got were spelling bee champions, gas station owners, and that one guy from Mean Girls – that archetype of the brown boy being forced to overcompensate to compete for the attention of white people. Indeed, the brown body was usually depicted as engaging in emotional, physical, or mental labor for white interests. And as I got older and the other male assigned people around me had voices that got deeper I witnessed the many ways in which they felt compelled to overcompensate – by either adopting the aesthetics of white patriarchy in all of its J Crew JP Morgan finesse or by adopting and exploiting blackness to seem more ‘cool’ and ‘masculine.’ The plight of the South Asian American male lied in his effort to grapple with a culture that did not, and continues to not, recognize his body as beautiful and worthy of receiving and transmitting desire.

Which goes to say that it has always been difficult to fantasize with sexual scenarios that involve my own body because I have never had a reference point for my own pleasure. Voyeurism here becomes less of a choice and more of a position of coercion: feeling like I’ve been set to watch sex occurring, always at a distance. Queerness here becomes less of a destination aspired toward, but rather one dressed on a body without its consent – a type of otherness that is not only about not seeing one’s face reflected on the screen, but about experiencing one’s difference inscribed on skin. Wearing it close and lethal, like a weapon.

Over the years I have stumbled on several words to articulate this distance: gender-non conforming to express an inability (and perhaps unwillingness) to identify with the masculinity I was assigned at birth and ‘asexuality’ to articulate an inability to feel authentically ‘sexual,’ capable and worthy of wanting. But these terms never really felt adequate to articulate that conglomeration of anxiety, power, histories, stories, and paradoxes that come to mind when I think of my gender and sexuality. Like all identity markers they are shorthands we have been prescribed to halt conversation: we can retreat into our identities like we retreat into our apartments not asking how and why we got there, who we gentrified to get there, not being able to have a conversation about how this place will never fit all of our idiosyncrasies.

And this ‘distance’ has been something I have been trying to reconcile for years: how to articulate that mixture of power, shame, desire, and fear that makes me uncomfortable thinking about myself as a sexual body. And, simultaneously, how to challenge the onslaught of dogma from so called ‘sex radicals’ who claim that we have just internalized ‘sex shame’ and that shame is something we can be emancipated from.

So when I talk about asexuality I don’t mean some sort of sanitized model of identity politics invested in being recognized and affirmed (by capitalism) – I’m talking about that distance. That absence of wanting. That anxious condition of not being able to differentiate trauma from truth – that peculiar position of never being able to divorce ourselves from the power that continues to shape our every want, desire, and action.

Why Asexual Identity Politics Isn’t Enough

As a queer South Asian I don’t feel comfortable ascribing the identity of ‘asexual’ to my body. Part of the ways in which brown men have been oppressed in the Western world is by de-emasculating them and de-sexualizing them (check out David Eng’s book Racial Castration). What then would it mean for me to identify as an ‘asexual?’ What would this agency look like in a climate of white supremacy? Can I ever authentically express ‘my’ (a)sexuality or am I always rehearsing colonial logics?

The dilemma of this brown queer body is its inability to see itself through its own eyes. The mirror becomes a site it which we view what white people have always told us about ourselves. Regardless or not of the status of my libido, I’m not sure I will ever feel comfortable identifying as asexual because it seems like I am betraying my people.

I am invested in South Asians and all other Asian Americans being able to reclaim, re-affirm, and be recognized for their sexual selves. I am invested in brown boys and brown gurlz being able to get what they desire. I am invested in the radical potential of brown (queer) love in a society where so many of us grow up hating our bodies and bending our knees for white men. I want to be part of this struggle. Sometimes I get angry at myself for not being able to eliminate the distance, not being able to join in solidarity. To fuck and be fucked, to publically claim and own my sexuality. I understand that there is something (as Celine Shimizu reminds us in her book Straightjacket Sexualities) radical about Asian American masculinities being displaced from patriarchal masculinities rooted in hyper-sexuality and hyper-masculinity and the reclamation of ‘effeminate’ and ‘asexual’ representations of our bodies as a political refusal of the very logics which have rendered those bodies numb.

But at the same there is a difference between theory and practice. Theories don’t matter when you find yourself always defaulted in the category of ‘friend.’ Theories don’t matter when you grow up being turned on by ghosts of all of your internalized shame. Theories don’t matter when you find yourself buying button up shirts and shaving your beard and trying your best to look more white so they will even have the courtesy to look back to you. Why do theories always put the burden of change on the oppressed and not the systems that oppress them?

There is some part of me that will never be able to overcome the desire for ‘more.’ I want to be able to be in a bar and to not just be the object of desire, but a subject of desire. Part of white supremacy as I understand it is the privilege of being a subject of desire: one who can feel in control of one’s desires and one who has more agency to act on said desires. The ‘distance’ I experience around my sexuality makes me often feel unable to be a subject of desire. This distance makes me feel out of control, jealous, and in a perpetual state of lack. It feels like I’ve just internalized white control of my sexuality and my body.

So when I read this piece about how folks involved with the asexuality community feel as if they are post-race I’m pretty well, flabbergasted. Asexuality has always been a carefully crafted strategy to subjugate Asian masculinities. Asexuality has everything to do with race. Which goes to say that what if the very act of articulating a public asexual identity is rooted in white privilege? Essential understandings of being ‘born’ ‘asexual’ and loving my ‘asexual’ self will never make sense to me. In a world that continually erases Asian (male assigned) sexualities I was coerced into asexuality. It is something I have and will continue to struggle with. My asexuality is a site of racial trauma. I want that sadness, that loss, that anxiety to be a part of asexuality politics. I don’t want to be proud or affirmed – I want to have a serious conversation about how all of our desires are mediated by racism and how violent that is. My pleasures – or lack thereof – are not transcendental and celebratory, they are contradictory, confused, and hurt.

I want to envision and build communities where we can discuss and heal together from the traumas inscribed in our flesh. I do not think that declaring an asexual identity is the best strategy for me to pursue this. What I am asking for is an acknowledgment among all people – not just people of color – of the ways in which colonialism has and continues to map itself on our bodies in different ways. My story of distance is only one of the legacies of the ways in which racism has shaped our desires. I do not mean to suggest that all South Asian male assigned people are asexual nor do I mean to suggest that asexual identity is necessary oppressive for South Asians – what I am sharing is the story of a body that has found and continues to find ways to cope. Which means that my ‘asexuality’ can never been seen as outside of the saga of racialized violence against people of color. I want a space where I can claim that with those folks and discuss the ways in which white understandings of relationships, intimacy, desireability, beauty, progress, and happiness have made us always feel a certain sense of lack and how we have built our entire lives constructed around that lack. For me sometimes I feel like escaping from asexuality would mean one way of escaping from colonialism – would mean finally having the ability to self-identify to really know who “I” (whatever that is) am.

The idea of an identity politics around asexual identity scares me in the same ways that any other single issue politics anchored around a (sexual) identity does. It operates in was that are racist, classist, and colonial. It assumes particular bodies with particular histories and particular political interests. What I am calling for is a departure away from asexual identity politics toward a frank conversation of trauma and sexuality. How can we move our understandings of sexual politics away from anchoring them in essential narratives that reproduce biological essentialism (born this way) to narratives that name specific moments of historical and personal trauma that inform our sexualities. Which means that I am not as interested in the words that you affix to your body – I am interested in the journey that it took for you to get there.

What inhibits you still?

What makes you tremble?

What would it mean for you to feel free?

(is that even the goal?)