Monday, September 19, 2016

Consensus

Over on my author website, someone in the comments is kicking up some dust over the dangers of non-asexual people being "trapped" into relationships with asexual people.

Some interesting (read: kinda awful) quotes (bold mine):

The ace partner doesn’t really understand what it means to expect a comprehensive sexlife and to have a hundredth of that in quantitative terms, a thousandth of that in qualitative terms.

Within our western society a sex life of 2 or 3 times a week, between 20 and 60 minutes each time, is a given. Again, “unless specified otherwise”.

[If not discussed otherwise, it is expected that] both members of a couple will carry out a certain amount of work, either inside or outside the home, so that there is a balance. A sentence like “I’m not doing the household chores because we never agreed on that” is not acceptable. Of course if before sharing a flat or a house they “agree otherwise” then it is different. But if they don’t, a sound and reasonable assumption is that they will share the burden. The same holds true for having children within a marriage, for listening to music below 40 dB, for getting dressed before opening the door to the neighbor and for having sex. [Denying your partner this standard of sex without them agreeing is on the same level as] accepting that your partner does not work either inside or outside the house, does not get dressed before opening the door, does not use the toilet when nature calls and so many other conventions that are just part of our daily lives[.]

Interesting, eh?

In the ensuing discussion, this person doubles down on quoting norms and expressing a right to expect a certain amount of sex in a relationship. The commenter gives a lot of lip service to the idea that other arrangements can certainly be agreed upon--and they're playing the "I'm not against you, I'm on your side" card--but bringing up consensus over and over again as a defense of sexual expectations is reflective of one of the major attitudes that marginalizes asexual people.

I can certainly admit and understand that if you were a non-asexual person and you married an asexual person with no idea they were asexual, and then you found out they weren't into sex, that could be hurtful and disappointing. But to spin that as if the non-asexual person is "trapped," you ignore that asexual people (and less sexual people, and people who just happen to have a lower threshold of how much sex they want in general) are often pressured with this same status quo into a "trap" that demands sex they don't want to have. This is consistently used against asexual people in relationships to make them feel like the problem, and the fact that we are 1% while "they" are 99% does not mean partners have a right to forgo negotiations and discussions over sex, imagining themselves simply entitled to their desired level of sexual intimacy. You cannot expect that your partner will be giving you what you want without asking them. Every relationship participant should discuss this if they find it vital, and no relationship participant should enter a relationship believing there's a minimum amount of sex they are owed.


If something is necessary to your well-being and the well-being of your relationship, you damn well need to talk about it. The entitlement that oozes out of someone who thinks they have a right to expect sex as a matter of course is mind-blowing. Yes, it's pretty typical for all of the members of a relationship to want sex. But even when they do, you still can't treat it like a clause so taken for granted in the contract that you assume it's there and don't read it. It's also not a fine-print gotcha that asexual and less sexual people are sliding in there to get what they want from a relationship without having to compromise at all. And having less sex than "expected" certainly is not a breach of decency along the lines this person is implying. It's amazing that they compared it to refusing to get dressed or use the toilet. [Not to mention that some people are nudists, though obviously there are laws about clothing in many places, and some people with certain disabilities or alternate situations do not/cannot use the toilet.]

A big part of what I do in my activism is attempting to eradicate expectations of this nature. Your sexual appetites being common does not entitle you to their satisfaction. And though, again, this commenter is saying disclosure by the possibly asexual partner would "excuse" them from this duty if the non-ace partner agreed, they're also saying that their standards automatically apply if no agreement is made. Really, it just happens to be what you want and expect unless someone specifically brings it up and wants something else? Convenient. And ultimately wrong. Sex does not have a default measurement you are allotted or promised. No matter how many studies you quote about what's common, these are designed to be descriptive--they are designed to illustrate what is happening in relationship participants' sex lives. They are not designed to illustrate what should be happening in yours, and they are certainly not designed to make a less sexual or disinterested person feel like they didn't get a memo everybody else got.

Relationships, and what we do for intimacy inside them, are highly personal. There is no default you are entitled to expect. I don't care if no one in a particular relationship is asexual; every member still deserves to be free of predetermined expectations extracted from a study that wasn't designed to enforce normativity. And since this issue of compulsory sexuality affects my community especially negatively, I've taken up fighting its roots as part of my message. That doesn't work too well if you claim to make exceptions for asexuality (BUT ONLY IF THEY DISCLOSE IT BEFORE THEY "TRAP" YOU!), while still insisting that the "standard" applies everywhere else.

No comments:

Post a Comment