Saturday, June 22, 2013

Comment wars

They always say the biggest mistake you can make when reading news articles is to read the comments.

And usually that's because they're full of the worst side of humanity. People, semi-anonymously, feel justified in sharing unpopular viewpoints that might get them shunned or slapped in person, and they use article comments to ramble about how this completely non-political thing is a sign that Obama is a Socialist Muslim from Kenya or whatever. If you want to be thoroughly depressed, read the comments.

However, that's not why I read them. I read them precisely because people ARE saying things they often won't say to your face, and they represent the underlying thoughts of real (though ignorant) people all over the world. I like knowing what those thoughts are. It helps me learn to be a better activist.

So, that said, part of the reason I've been so absent from the blogging world this week (not creating my own entries OR commenting on anyone else's) is that I've been engaging with commenters on The Huffington Post. This is not a common activity of mine, nor is it something I plan to continue, but I figured it'd be pretty relevant to my life, considering I was interviewed for this article series on asexuality and was personally quoted in two of the articles (as well as pictured in one of them as well as the splash page).

The front page:  Asexuality: The 'X' In A Sexual World

The individual articles in the series:
The comments I found were largely of four types:
  1. Other asexual people delighted and surprised at the unusual depth, accuracy, and sensitive handling of the material.
  2. People who had heard nothing or little about asexuality before and were excited by the material or appreciated learning about it.
  3. Ignorant people who primarily asked questions the articles had answered, said offensive things unknowingly (and defended them when corrected), or made dismissive jokes about asexual people.
  4. Very scary people who targeted individuals (including me) and trolled aggressively (though it was unclear if they were actually disgustingly hateful or whether they were just trying to get a reaction).
Wrangling these commenters plus dealing with an unusually busy work week and some fires I had to put out in my personal life ate up my blogging time. Waaaah.

(Slight content warning: About to discuss sexual assault.)

Me when I was in college
Anyway, I think the worst commenter was from Part Four--the one where I was featured prominently. You can read the article if you want the whole story, but it discussed how asexual people are sometimes targeted for "corrective" rape because people believe we can be "helped" or "fixed" by being goaded, harassed, or actually forced into sex. (I mean, sex is so great--how can anyone not want it? I'll just have to SHOW her! She'll thank me later!) This has never actually happened to me, but I was in a situation once in which it could have, and I could see which way the wind was blowing. In the article, I describe the time a man with whom I'd discussed my asexual orientation nevertheless asked to kiss me. When I said no, he responded by leaning over and licking all up on the side of my face. I got out of the car very quickly and ran back to my apartment, hearing him yelling behind me, "I JUST WANT TO HELP YOU!"

(This guy later kept contacting me, told me he'd thought we were going to have sex that night, told me he could tell I wanted it and that was why he made the move, and explained that I was "in denial," which he could tell because he had taken psychology classes in high school. My words did not matter, he patiently explained; sexual attraction is a VIBE he could SENSE coming from me, and he knew I had never had anyone in my life who could really show me what it was all about . . . until him. Yeah, I laughed a lot and blocked him from contacting me. No thank you, extremely rapey guy.)

So. Point being? My worst commenter decided to reframe what I'd said as if I'm trying to suggest that kissing is sexual assault now.

Ignoring, of course, the part where I SAID NO and the man still felt it was okay to put his tongue and mouth on my face.

Our conversation (so I don't have to paraphrase for you):


Kissing is now sexual assault. Consider the bar officially lowered. Hell, let charge every nervous high school kid trying to get his or her first kiss to jail for sexual assault. Awesome.


Excuse me? Someone leaning over and licking my face after I said no is assault. Pretty disgusting that you're trying to act like the real problem here is me overreacting, not him putting his tongue on a girl after she emphatically, verbally expressed that she did not want to kiss.
Someone jumped in and defended me to this guy, explaining what the article said and demanding to know how the hell he sees consensual relations described, and he came back with this:

I think she's exhajerating and borderline lieing in order to make her point.  How would you feel if your rejected kiss was labled as "sexually assault" by someone?

I guess I'm guilty of sexual assault.  I guess my previous girlfriends and boyfriend are guilty of sexual assault.  I guess my mom is guilty of sexual assault.

And I bet you are guilty of sexual assault.


Oh, okay, I'm lying and exaggerating. You are AGAIN misrepresenting what happened to me as "just a rejected kiss." Do you not understand that this is what happened (and this is what is described in the article as happening)?

1. I had a conversation with the guy during the night about my asexuality, so he knew.
2. He still tried to kiss me. I said no.
3. After I said no to the kiss, he deliberately ignored my "no" and put his mouth on my face and began licking.
4. When I left immediately, he called after me "I just want to help you!"

Does that sound like "a rejected kiss" to you? Does that sound like he is the victim and I am the aggressor? Does that sound like I'm trying to get sympathy for something that wasn't bad at all?

Especially considering that this man followed up this encounter by sending me messages about how he knew I wanted it, I think it's pretty clear I'm not making things up. But here you're sympathizing with a dude who licks people after they said "no, I don't want to kiss you." That's nasty.


"Does that sound like I'm trying to get sympathy for something that wasn't bad at all?"
Yes, it does. You are a drama queen.  Get over yourself. 


Better a drama queen than a rape apologist.


Why didn't you lean away?
Sounds like you are making this whole thing up.  What's his name? Let's get him on the record. 


REALLY? It's "why didn't you avoid unwanted touching" rather than "he shouldn't have touched you when you didn't want him to"?

REALLY? It's "you have to prove that it happened before I even consider that it might have (and disrespect you in the meantime regardless)" rather than "whether a particular incident happened is irrelevant because we live in a culture that condones this?" (While you're condoning this?)

REALLY? It's "let's badger the person who experienced unwanted LICKING ON HER FACE after she verbally asked not to be touched and try to make her feel like it was her fault" rather than "let's acknowledge that people shouldn't touch each other without permission and ESPECIALLY not touch each other when the other person already said no"?

His name was Ken Mayor and the incident happened in Gainesville Florida in the late 1990s. It's been public for years. I recorded the IM conversation we had after the fact and it is posted on my website. I also read it in a YouTube video. But you'll continue to not accept that any of this helps my case because you have already said you believe I'm a liar, so what's to stop me from making up a name and creating the entire conversation out of a desperate need for attention and a desire to be special and seem coveted?

You're nothing new to me. You're just another rape culture apologist dismissing evidence as lies.
He didn't respond to that. He just started a new thread specifically mentioning me by name and claiming that I am not attracted to men or women but only to GETTING ATTENTION. (The same person who'd defended me above said "If anyone's looking for attention here, it's you, my friend.") He continued to post on the articles about how asexuality is made up and is nothing but a disorder.

I must say it was very peculiar seeing those comments amidst other commenters saying "I don't understand why you need awareness over this. No one is persecuting you. No one is hurting you. No one CARES if you want sex. It just isn't anyone's business. Why are you wasting everyone's time and attention talking about something soooooo useless?"

With people like that guy in the world--along with others who kept saying we need doctors to check our hormones, need to accept that we're gay, just need to find "the right person," need to stop being so afraid of sex, must be psychologically damaged or abused as children, are all actually autistic, don't deserve to be in relationships because being in a relationship means you owe your partner sex, and any number of invalidating statements claiming we "can't" be asexual if blah blah blah--yes, we need awareness over this.

Especially since anonymous comments on news articles is far from the only place I have encountered these attitudes. (Start with the guy who tried to fix me by licking me, right?) People demonstrate these attitudes to my face, and they're not significantly less hostile when they do it in person. When the semi-anonymous opinions are nearly identical to things people are willing to say to me while looking into my eyes, there's a problem. That problem is that they don't even feel they NEED to hide behind anonymous comment sections to say these things. They're completely unashamed of informing me with no qualms that I am not qualified to describe my experience and that they are now going to explain what's wrong with me.

Let's hope my book gets picked up good and soon. I'm definitely on board trying to help get to the point where these ignorant and violent attitudes will be so unpopular that people who want to hurt us usually won't risk it.


  1. Wow. Kudos to you for telling your story & thank you for sharing this. I am repeatedly disturbed at how much judgment goes on in this world, how many people think they need to "fix" others who don't think the way that they do. I'm glad that you love yourself - you should. Everyone should. Be who you are and keep getting the word out. I hope your book is picked up soon, too. I definitely want to read it. Best of luck to you!

  2. Wow. I have so many comments about your post, I don't know where to start.

    1. I like to read those article comments sometimes because it reminds me of the idiots out there. Luckily I don't run into those types of people on a daily basis, otherwise I might not be so interested in seeing what they're saying.

    2. The perfect example of idiocy is that jtrobs123 comment and his last 2 sentences: ‘Your view is the view you want others to have. That itself is wrong. ‘ I assume this person is not a politician because they spend their whole careers, wrongly-in-his-eyes, trying to get people to have/accept their views. His statements are total eye rollers.

    3. Facelicker guy obviously has (had) a problem. As a heterosexual woman, the face lick would've grossed me out, turned me way off, and pissed me off. Yuck. After you got out of the situation and had time to consider it all, did it scare you to think what could've happened?

    I have many more reactions, but I’ll quit there. :)

    1. Yeah, the jtrobs guy was obviously confusing "education" with "recruiting." Yeah, I want people to share my views--that asexuality isn't wrong, that asexuality doesn't mean you're sick, that asexuality isn't a disorder or a cover for homosexuality or an excuse for not being able to find a partner. For some reason he seems to think explaining it to people means I'm trying to get people to convert, like it's a religion. But people REGULARLY misrepresent asexuality as "not having sex" or "being against sex," so that doesn't really surprise me. They wrap their minds around it incorrectly, and then attack the perspective they believe me to hold. Too bad they're too busy yelling to listen.

      Yes, it definitely scares me to think what could have happened if I hadn't gotten out of the car fast enough or if Ken had been more determined. His follow-up comments definitely indicated that he prioritized his desires over my words and honestly believed I was attracted to him. He also believed that my own stated perspective on the subject was irrelevant next to what HE saw as sexual interest. (Some people interpret any friendly attention as sexual interest.) It was very clear to me that he was NOT open-minded about my orientation and believed he was just the person to fix me, and the article I was in discussed "corrective" rape that has actually happened to asexual people. I could have been one of them and I was lucky to escape with only a grossed out reaction and a desperate need for a thorough shower.

  3. Congratulations on a succinct summary and well written article. I've often found myself guiltily thinking- maybe I shouldn't feel so upset about erasure, after all, I'm not persecuted so openly as others. But then I have to remind myself, that, even as a highly intelligent person, I honestly believed at seventeen, that on my wedding night I would just have to close my eyes, pretend I was somewhere else, and hope it would be over quickly. And hope my partner would only ever want sex for children. I rationally believed some people must just not be as fond of sex as others- you see it joked about in comedies of- oh, maybe I'll do that thing for him tonight to keep him happy, in a sort of reluctant voice. And I just presumed it was a fact that some people just didn't like sex but you put up with it if you loved somebody. At one point homosexuality was considered a disease and doctors recommended etc. I guess it will just take time for people to understand. Well done you for standing up for yourself.

  4. while it's possible to tell if someone wants to be kissed without saying it, and some people don't mind being spontaneously kissed, what ken did to you was gross. you told him you weren't interested in kissing and yet he did anyways.

    1. I agree. And usually it's a much safer bet to assume you know someone's communicating that they want you to kiss them if you have any experience with them at all. Ken did this the day I met him. And actually I think he KNEW I would not enjoy it, but had a fantasy that somehow it would shock me and then melt me, or maybe that I would fantasize about it later and come to him for fixing. It was gross.

  5. I'm not ace, but I have read a lot of articles, yours and from other asexual people, and I consider myself an ally, even a well informated one. When the teacher who come to my high school to give a sexuality class said that asexuality doesn't exist, I raise my hand and tell her that there were a community, a very important one. The next day (she came 4 days), she told me that she have asked in the national LGTB website and they told her that asexuality wasn't exist (that didn't surprised me), so, the third day, I gave her a two pages long letter I wrote about it, I named studies, and some activist like you, and one of the points I made was that machist, racist and homophobes have to hide and disguise their bigotry behind "critical" or "politically incorrect" thoughts, or saying "i'm not machist/racist/homophobe, but"... They know there are something wrong at it, but acephobes can say it in your face. I said to her that "Obviously, you can believe whatever you want, and, given that you believe the official version, everything it's gonna be easier for you that it is for other todays bigots who need to put "but" in front of the tolerance". I very proud of that letter, and, the fourth and last day, she went to me and told me that she found it interesting, and she said thank you to me, so I felt happy. And don't worry about the trolls, some people reveal the worst part of their sad lives behind a keyboard, and changing that will need decades, but the official favorable version is comming!