I’ve had the lovely experience of being targeted by her twice for my asexuality activism. The first time, she sent me an ugly little letter begging me in an extremely condescending way to get myself to therapy because my orientation is NOT NORMAL. I answered her with a request that she educate herself about asexuality, including information about the support for asexuality in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (since she seemed to think therapists would agree with her, when in actuality their “Bible” agrees with US).
At that point I was thinking she was just a typical jackass instead of, like, a notorious bigot who is not listening whatsoever—if I’d known her history, I would not have answered her at all. She sent me repeated e-mails after that, shaming me, screaming at me in what I’m sure she thought was professional-sounding language, rambling about how liberals have infiltrated the psychology community and are not to be trusted. (I’m confused as to how I’m supposed to fix myself with therapy if it comes from such a thoroughly corrupted institution!)
I did a search for her name and she’s everywhere—sneering at activists, barking shame at them for being poor role models and teaching people Wrong and Ungodly Things, lecturing us all to get ourselves to therapy and let someone psychologically abuse the gay out of us or whatever. Really disgusting, but only unusual in that she is so devoted to this one obsession and has been harassing us with her vileness so consistently for such a long time.
The latest encounter I had with her was this past weekend. I was recently mentioned in Slate’s “Dear Prudence” column, where Mallory Ortberg recommended my book to an asexual mom. (Fun fact: Mallory’s magazine The Toast bought my short work on asexuality when they were still doing that. Cool to see she remembers me.) But anyway, the steaming trashcan that is Sharon Kass decided to write a letter about this latest—in her mind—obscene mockery of advice, in which Mallory basically told the mom she shouldn’t blame herself for her daughter being asexual and gave her advice on where to find great resources to help them both. Sharon, as you’ll see, made sure to bleat that the mother SHOULD feel bad and SHOULD blame herself, and that everyone, as always, needs lots of therapy.
This is most of the original part of her letter (the part that is not just her reprinting Mallory’s advice, though she also made sure to shame Mallory herself as “an out lesbian”) . . . which she not only sent to ME, but CARBON COPIED TO MY FRIGGING PUBLISHER.
Because MY PUBLISHER apparently needs to know how corrupt I am and how much I need therapy, and how dysfunctional my family is.
Subject: Asexuality–More Advantures [sic] in Political Narcissism
Wrong. So, so wrong.
The trust-your-feelings idea is intellectually and morally bankrupt. It works against the self-objectivity and responsibility-taking that is so needed when one is faced with psychosexual problems.
Both Mother and Father here grew up dysfunctional, whatever they understood their home “cultures” to be. Mother isn’t well grounded in her own body, and it isn’t surprising that her eldest child, a daughter, never got the quality or quantity of touch and holding from her mother that any young child needs. People who carry neurotic emotional pain sometimes find that touch triggers it, which is not the same thing as causing it. Babies can tell when their mothers aren’t fully present to them, and they tend to adopt the same inhibitions.
Mother’s intuitive sense that she is to blame is right on. Noted psychoanalyst Glen Gabbard said it well: "[T]he experiences of infancy and childhood are crucial determinants of the adult personality.“ Author Decker, elsewhere, has revealed dysfunction in her own family system, with a homosexual relative on her mother’s side and a [sic] unfamilied one on her father’s.
Fortunately, damage can be undone by depth [sic] psychotherapy. This is what I would recommend to both parents and daughter.
And columnist, come to that.See that, y'all? I’ve "revealed dysfunction” because I had a gay uncle (he died from AIDS in the 90s) and one of my aunts is UNFAMILIED (my dad’s sister, unforgivably, did not have children). She thinks she has DUG UP DIRT on me by revealing these things, and I have to wonder how much of my website and body of work she had to read to find out these relatively obscure things about my family. You’ll note that she seems to think my aunt not being married and not having kids is just as dysfunctional and worthy of therapy as my uncle’s being gay. This is something she thinks she should write to the publisher of my book about, as if she’s got a legitimate complaint about me instead of, you know, that she’s a raving hatemonger.
The fact that the majority of psychotherapists today would find this woman’s views hateful and would not attempt to “heal” us through changing our sexual orientation does not seem to be important to her. YOU NEED THERAPY. BE ASHAMED. THERAPY. SHAME.
The worst part of this is Sharon never seems to be recommending therapy in a loving fashion. Every single time she speaks on this, it’s accompanied by this crowing tone, this “I found out something is WRONG WITH YOU, time to REPENT” perspective. The first time I got harassed by her, I made a joke on Twitter about how she advised me to “see a psychodynamic psychotherapist” for my asexuality, and an acquaintance who IS a psychodynamic psychotherapist replied to me saying her views would be laughed out of the room in her practice. This information caused Sharon to point out that, you see, the profession has been hijacked by liberals. Because you know, an entire profession primarily moving toward a progressive understanding of human sexuality means the world is going to hell. It’s not something that should be a wake-up call for her or anything.
I’d say perhaps Sharon should consider some therapy herself for the obsession she clearly has with hurting as many queer activists as she can, but ultimately it’s hard to say something like that without sounding a lot like her. I don’t know if her obsession could be addressed in therapy. I can’t bring myself to say “ugh, your views are terrible, get thee to therapy,” because the OH MY GOD YOU NEED HELP refrain is so often repurposed as hateful that I have trouble hearing it in a kind way anymore.
I also think some people are just assbags, hateful frigging fountains of bullying essence, and it’s not because they have a mental illness or a curable condition. Terrible people aren’t terrible because they’re mentally ill, and we need to curb this idea that unchecked awfulness is probably mental illness rather than privilege and entitlement.
These folks are just awful, mean-minded people who aren’t able to accept the beauty inherent in diversity in this world, because anything that doesn’t look like themselves must be an aberration. It’s a really limiting, back-asswards view and I can’t imagine someone who spends this much time shaming other people can have a happy life.
Regardless of that, though, the world will be a better place when this model of human is made obsolete.