Thursday, July 3, 2014

My article in The Toast

Some of you know (or noticed) that I had an article published in The Toast the other day.

"'Enjoy Your Houseful of Cats': On Being an Asexual Woman"

This was my little ramble about not just asexuality but its intersection with femininity--how the world often perceives women as existing primarily or partially for the pleasure of men, and how the harm that causes asexual people in general and asexual women in particular actually manifests in the world.

But I don't have to go into detail because, well, the link is right there. You can read it.

What I DO want to go into is a publishing experience I've never had before.

An active comments field on an article I wrote . . . that isn't a cesspool of invalidation and mocking.


I know, chibi Julie. I know. It seems unbelievable. But. Go look at the comments, even if you're not a comments person. Read the freaking comments.

THERE ARE ASEXUAL PEOPLE AND NON-ASEXUAL PEOPLE ALL AGREEING THAT THIS IS AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE and offering sympathy, reflections, thoughts, personal experiences, and cheerleading, along with a few nuanced discussions of how sex positivity can help and can hurt or how women were treated before the sexual revolution as opposed to after.

It's all incredibly refreshing and is enough to make me cry.

People who read The Toast are a socially sophisticated bunch in terms of progressive ideals and feminist perspectives, but even considering that, this is monumental for me and for my community. For the first time, a large group of people who read an asexual perspective did NOT converge in the comments for the primary purpose of dismissing it.

No demands that I try harder to figure out "who I really am" (which is code for "we just didn't like your answer; find another one"). No impersonal quandaries about how much bad sex I must have had or whether I've ever considered that I'm probably a lesbian. No angry people screaming about the misogyny inherent in "rejecting our sexuality" (as if claiming disinterest is by definition repression or internalized oppression). No armchair psychologists wondering where the abuse is in my past and whether I'd get fixed with therapy. No pseudo-intellectual doctor wannabes wandering in to tick off the hormones or brain centers that have to be malfunctioning for a person to feel this way.

I'm delighted that finally, for the first time, getting something published about or by me regarding asexuality did not come with an inevitable side effect of negative attention. I always bite my lip when I get an interview request or a publishing acceptance, because I know from experience that public life as an asexual woman always, always leads to emotionally draining harassment, badgering, and unwanted attention. It almost always leads to positive experiences too--I frequently receive private e-mails thanking me for giving a voice to the issue because I've helped them find themselves, or asking for advice on how to be a better partner to a person who's just found out they're asexual, etc. But those are quiet, behind closed doors, and they are from people who are politely asking for connection with me. I can choose to engage them or not (and I always do; they're very sweet, generally). The other side of that coin consists of disgusting, hateful, PUBLIC messages (and sometimes really creepy private ones), and if I complain about it, even people who are on my side sometimes tell me it just comes with the territory. I need to suck it up and deal with it, because this is some natural consequence of trying to change the world.

I am dealing with it. You see me dealing with it. But if I want to call them out, critique their behavior, expose their ignorance, I should be able to do that without people suggesting it's inappropriate. Really? Me pointing at jackasses and saying "Look at what this jackass said!" is the behavior we should be criticizing here? Not the fact that we live in a society that creates people who are comfortable saying these things in public?

The last time I was part of a major news piece, it was recycled all over the world, which resulted in a bunch of irate Nigerian men private-messaging me to explain that my purpose on the planet is to "please" men and offering, as if to take pity on me, a marriage proposal. It resulted in public comments on my body--some of which insisted I look too young to be "mature" and claiming I would drop the "ruse" when I finally grew up, and some of which claimed I look way older than mid-thirties because I must be all "used up" due to lacking vital contact through sex in my life. One guy tweeted a sex request at me. One man sent me FURIOUS messages on OKCupid about the national tragedy perpetrated by my refusal to invite men into my vagina. One man sent me his phone number and DEMANDED that I call him immediately so he could "help" me (while calling me wonderful names like "sweet meat"). Every single video I've ever posted on YouTube on the subject of asexuality has snotty invalidating comments on it (with the occasional rape threat or death threat).

Once a guy decided my YouTube videos meant I think I'm better than everyone else and he spent a full two weeks going on 4chan every single night impersonating me (complete with a profile picture), asking the /b/ participants to "ask an asexual anything" and proceeding to answer them in the most elitist ways possible. He literally told them that I'm so transcendent of human filthiness that my bowel movements have no odor. Funnily enough even the 4chan jerks noticed his spelling was horrible and exposed his ruse because my videos sometimes point out that I'm an editor. He'd have a temper tantrum and leave, then come back the next day to troll the trolls and generate hate mail for me. And I once had to pursue legal action because someone found my asexuality so puzzling that they made a post on a public site claiming I "must like little boys" and put my full legal name on it, calling me a pedophile. (I won, and it went away, but the lawyer was expensive.)

I've gotten thousands of hate messages. Thousands.

So I can hardly even express in words how much it means to see a place where my writings were lovingly received and maturely, sensitively discussed without a down side, especially since for me the down side generally involves violations of privacy and violent threats. It's just such a relief to publish a fairly high profile piece and not have a single person e-mail me to propose I get tested for autism, or ask me if I've ever had an orgasm, or demonstrate familiarity with my entire gallery of photos while scolding me for wearing such revealing clothing (you know, because that constitutes false advertising, making men who want me grievously wronged parties).

I don't know if this is the turn of the tide or if The Toast is just one peculiar oasis of reasonableness on the Internet, but either way, I'm so happy to have finally had my say on this topic without gritting my teeth over what I've had to sacrifice to do it.

I spoke and it didn't hurt.

It's nice.


  1. !!! I completely missed this while wallowing in my own back injury drama haze, but I'm so, so happy to hear you had a good experience sharing. Off to go read the Toast piece now!

    1. Yay thanks! And you don't need a special reason to miss things, I miss things all the time for, like, no reason. . . .