(Snipped for brevity and sanity cause whoah)
You are most welcome! I really like bouncing ideas around on the internet, at least so long as it doesn’t end up escalating into massive drama mode where everyone’s too invested in winning the argument to actually think about the other sides of it.
Hope you had a good yesterday, too. Mine was more fun than I expected: it turned into Shameless Campy Femme Day, which involved Bollywood films and chocolate and icecream. And then comparing Bollywood cliches with Restoration/Victorian romance novels because isn’t it interesting how much of the cliched romance tropes involve needing your partner to be suitable for marriage and accepted in a new community? Yeah, I should switch off feminist media critic mode more of the time. Or spend longer hunting for queer stuff in media.
Yeah, good point about celibacy. And I guess Platonic Life Partner is a pretty good term for that in terms of how the word platonic is used nowadays. I wouldn’t wanna use it myself, because the kind of platonic relationships the Greeks were all about were sexual, they were just about choosing to fuck pubescent boys and idealise them instead of women. Because pederasty was spiritual and good for you, but you’d only want to sleep with your wife so you could have kids who looked like you! (this link and also Wikipedia explain how the model worked better or at least less flippantly than me, if this is news to you and you care.)
but then again, being a cynic, I wonder if a casual abuse of the power dynamic isn’t more prevalent in het relationships, simply because of the potential for power disparities?
…By cynic, do you mean feminist? Yeah, that is exactly what I believe. I think asexual het women are really likely to trip up on all the underlying cultural assumptions and power dynamics in their relationships, especially stuff about sexual consent, because the normative relationship structure isn’t really built to have nice constructive kinds of communication about sex that don’t work on the assumption that both partners want it. Have you seen the things A Radical Transfeminist wrote about how education about sexual consent works? She points out that it all hinges on how it’s meant to be okay to just say ‘no’ to sex but how in the real world that comes with consequences, and isn’t how we’d refuse an acquaintance in any other request for any other kind of friendly interaction:
I’d like you to remember the last time you found it difficult to give an explicit “no” to somebody in a non-sexual context. Maybe they asked you to do them a favour, or to join them for a drink. Did you speak up and say, outright, “No”? Did you apologise for your “no”? Did you qualify it and say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it today“?
I reckon that kind of stuff must really screw over lots of heteroromantic women. Maybe some dudes, too, but I bet not nearly as many and not nearly as badly. Fucking patriarchy, if only it didn’t do so much fucking so much of the time…
It’s always fun, presuming that you don’t turn it into a sort of virtual pissing match wherein OMGSERIUSBIZNESS or whatever.
Frankly, most of the time I can’t be arsed to argue; it really does take extenuating circumstances to get me to snerk at someone. If there was an Anti-Confrontation Octopus meme, it’d be my face on the colour-wheel, for sure.
Nooo, feminist critique of media is awesome and a tonne of fun. I actually got to critique Moulin Rouge! for an essay (which was mostly just a shameless excuse to watch Moulin Rouge! over and over because really why the hell not). But I did get to code Nini as a woman-of-colour (a Basque Spaniard, by my estimation) and posit that she was basically the distaff counterpart to Satine’s Virginal Hooker trope, which actually got me a pretty good grade. Go figure. I think I spent most of that essay sort of blowing smoke, as it were.
But yeah—I’ll confess to a bit of a secret love for really, really trashy Harlequin novels; it’s always fascinating to sort of examine them from an academic perspective and see what sort of messages they espouse. Some of them can be surprisingly feminist. (“The Spymaster’s Lady”, for example, has a very accomplished female hero who basically runs circles around the male lead.) Not to mention, if you like more mainstream stuff, Nora Roberts’ later works tend to feature powerful kick-ass female characters.
One even features a female hero who leads a team of Zulies, which is basically the nickname for firefighters who specialize in PARACHUTING INTO FOREST FIRES.
The male hero? Some dude she’s -training-.
Anyways, WOW TANGENT.
Happy Valentine’s Day, basically. Today is Cheap Chocolate Day, soooo… even better!
In other news!:
I agree completely that Platonic in the classical sense has a bit of an.. interesting history, especially in regards to what we would now consider a ‘queer’ sexuality. (Of course, asking an ancient Athenian if they were gay would probably get you laughed at, but go figure).
However, in the modern usage of Platonic, it does sort of fit—I’ve also heard the term described as ‘Heterosexual Life Partners’, but I prefer Platonic for the obvious reasons.
That being said, I think that the audience who would pick up the classical history of ‘Platonic’ is pretty slim; I mean, the common vernacular of the word does tend to mean a sort of…agape friendship?
There’s a word that could be used.
If we look at the types of love according to the Greeks, we can divide it into three:
Agape: the love commonly felt for spouses and family
Philia: generally denotes brotherhood, friendship and non-sexual love (somewhat more fraught with meaning these days, since the most common usage tends to be associated with paraphilias, and that’s a bit not good for our purposes)
Eros: sexual love and/or carnal desires
So, if you wanted to get really technical, you could say that someone was your Philic Life Partner, or even your Agape? Which okay, brings to mind unfortunate goatse mental images, but Agape Life Partner has some potential. “Oh, I’mma hang out at my ALP’s”.
As for calling myself a feminist, it’s an identity that I’m a bit hesitant to accept for myself—there’s so many schisms in feminism that I feel a lot of it is bogged down in issues of politics, and since my politics are all over the map, I don’t know that I’d fit in any one place. So it’s something I’ve always been hesitant about claiming— if my ideals fit with feminist ones, then excellent, but it’s not something I go out of my way to identify as.
Navel gazing aside, I do believe that asexual het women are at something of a disadvantage, because as you say: it’s pretty much the party line that women aren’t really taught to utilize their own sexual agency. I mean, it’s a pretty common message: “If a man asks nice, you say yes”. Women’s sexual availability is sort of the cornerstone of the patriarchy, and that can really mess with an asexual, for pretty obvious reasons.
The link you gave me raises a very good point. I don’t know if it’s because of conditioning or just a Canadianism, but I apologize for everything. Saying no is an actual challenge, and I can imagine that it’d be risky for someone who is already on the disadvantaged end of a skewed power dynamic.
But I am also hesitant to say that asexual women suffer from this—-I’m hesitant. I want to give credit where credit is due, and this focus on ‘women always victims’ sort of sounds a bit Dworkin to me. (Also, I’m not asexual, so I’m a bit leery of arguing for/against any perspective. I’d lose my mind if someone purported to speak for ‘lesbians’ en masse.)
I’m finding all this discussion to be pretty fascinating. Personal bias disclosure: I generally identify as ace, though not as queer, even though I’m not hetero-romantic. Partly it’s that even though I do sometimes say I’m biromantic/panromantic, I’m not entirely sure if those are the best terms for me to use (the short form is that I definitely do not identify as straight, for many reasons, but it’s difficult to explain without getting into a lot of detail, so I’ll just leave it as that for now), and I’ve never been part of the queer community in any significant way anyway.
So, disclosure aside, I do think a lot about whether or not the privileges I do or don’t have ever come from being asexual over simply being femme. Usually it seems pretty clear-cut to me that it’s primarily being perceived as female that is what makes me disprivileged in situations. When I’m out with a man, wondering if he’s taking my enjoyment of our conversation the wrong way, it’s not because I’m worried he won’t respect my rights as an asexual to leave me alone if I say no, it’s that I’m worried he would see me as female-presenting, with all the disprivileges that presentation comes with.
Thing is, I don’t think anyone really targets asexuals specifically because they’re vulnerable, even though we are, because it’s not what’s visible. There’s definitely an element of pressure to have sex in a relationship, whether you are male/female/other in a straight/gay/queer/otherwise relationship, that says if you don’t do this, you’re not doing the relationship right. It’s assumed, you’re in a relationship, if not now, at least at some point you will be having sex, because sex is normal, and sex is supposedly what you do if you want to be the closest to another person that you can be. And this is a disadvantage to aces, especially those that can’t do compromises on sex, because telling someone upfront you’re not interested and never will be tends to have unpleasant consequences.
But in general, if one person tells another person they’re not interested in sex, the other person will think, “Well not now,” and if they tell that person, “No, not ever,” that person either doesn’t believe them, forces it, or gives up on the relationship. It is especially common with women, because of the way they’re sexualized and objectified, but happens to men, too, and it’s certainly not something that happens only to asexuals. Probably happens more frequently to aces, but it’s not surprising since if your frequency of being not-interested is higher, the rate of incidences where someone refuses to acknowledge your disinterest goes up? Which is different from being targeted for being disinterested alone. Correlation, not causation.
As a side note, while I was writing this up and tangenting off in other directions that I didn’t feel like merited posting in full, I ran into a reason why “platonic life partner” is a terrible term: they are not always life partners. I was pseudo-dating a guy for three years, my relationship with whom I would be more inclined to consider “queerplatonic” since it was clearly more than friendship, but not a romantic/sexual relationship the way anyone else would define one, but at no point were we at a stage I would consider we were constant enough that “life partners” would have been appropriate, especially given I no longer speak to him since we pseudo-broke-up and he’s since (real-)dated other women from what I’ve heard. But that said, I still don’t like “queerplatonic” either. I just can’t say “platonic life partner” is a good substitute when I’ve had a number of relationships that could fall under what the former is defining but not the latter. (Or vice versa, since I can think of a couple “platonic life partners” that don’t fall in my category for people I’ve had the more complicated relationships with.)