Natalie Wynn AKA ContraPoints recently tweeted about Asexuality in a seemingly less than favorable light. On this inaugural episode of The Ace Couple Podcast, we're going to dig into it to explore what she did right, what she did wrong, the asexual community's reaction, and our thoughts on the matter.
Our discussion covers a variety of related topics including gatekeeping in LGBT communities, Gen Z & Millennials, the antiquated concept of a "gold star" lesbian, the split-attraction model, and so much more!
[dog lightly snoring in background throughout]
Courtney: Hello everyone, welcome to…whatever this is.
Courtney: This is our very first podcast. My name is Courtney, and I am here with my spouse…
Courtney: I assumed you’d introduce yourself. No?
Courtney: Okay. I am here with my spouse Royce. We are an asexual couple, and we have been married for over seven years now… Can you believe that?... We had been planning, at least in early talks, to start a podcast. And we thought, we have time, we don’t need a strict deadline. We can come up with a lot of different topics, get several episodes recorded before we start posting. All that good planning stuff that you should do when you’re trying to build a platform from the ground up. But today we decided, let’s just throw all of that out and jump in right now.
Courtney: And why is that, you may ask? That is because today there has been some drama on The Twitter. [jokingly] The Twitter. Oh my goodness, I’m gonna sound so old. People are gonna call me an elder ace again!
Courtney: Today Natalie Wynn, a.k.a. ContraPoints, did a tweet that was heard ’round the AceVerse. I really want to talk about it, and I feel like we should talk about this together because...there’s definitely some bad. There’s a little bit of good! But overall I think there’s a conversation that needs to be had. And that’s exactly what we’re gonna do here today.
Courtney: I personally consider myself to be a bit of an internet introvert. I don’t love social media. In fact, speaking to people online gives me tremendous anxiety. And Royce. [jokingly] You are what we call “highly intelligent.” You don’t have any social media, do you?
Royce: Oh, I thought you were going to say a…traditional introvert. Who doesn’t engage with people in real life OR the internet.
Courtney: That too! That too. So, I thought it might be fun if I shared with you what went down today on the internet, and why I think it’s so important to maybe have a more long-form conversation about this. Because Twitter’s very bite-sized pieces. A lot of knee-jerk reactions as well. So I wanna get into it and have a real good conversation about this.
Courtney: For those of you who do not know of Natalie Wynn. She is a very popular trans woman who has a YouTube channel called ContraPoints. How exactly would you describe her channel, Royce? I mean, she is a former academic philosopher, so that’s a bit of her educational background. She does a lot of content revolving around queer culture. A lot of culture critiques, in general. And, just like all of us, she is human, and will sometimes write something on Twitter that people don’t take very well to.
Courtney: The tweet in question here– and, full disclosure, when I was pulled into this situation, I did not see this original tweet. I only saw the response after this original tweet had been deleted– @ContraPoints on Twitter allegedly wrote “Gen Z queer people are hard to figure out. They’re like ‘I’m an asexual slut who loves sex! You don’t have to be trans to be trans. Casual reminder that heterosexuality doesn’t make your gayness any less valid!’” End. Tweet. Right off the bat, I don’t love that as just an individual tweet. Perhaps rightfully so, a lot of people in the asexuality community were really upset by this. Because, of course, “I’m an asexual slut who loves sex”...it’s being posed here almost as…well, I don’t know. I’m horrible at reading the tone of tweets, so maybe I’m way off base here. But it sounds almost like she’s making light of it? It’s being said as a joke?
Royce: Well, it was…the whole chain of thoughts in the tweets were…the intention was to try to put logical inconsistencies together. To show why modern interpretations of sexuality and gender could be confusing to people who aren’t used to them. But the asexuality community has been on this whole thing recently about trying to show sex positivity, or trying to fight against the notion that asexuals don’t have sex. So the attempt to show a logical contradiction is exactly what the community has been trying to push against recently.
Courtney: Yeah. Exactly! I think a lot of the issue is that it does seem like she’s trying to make this out to be a logical inconsistency. She does not say they are logical inconsistencies, but she does say they’re “hard to figure out.” If you read this as ‘this is coming directly from someone who is a famous queer educator.’ That could be really invalidating, if you’re in one of these minority sexualities. So I can absolutely see the concern there. Although I’m almost more concerned about the fact that she’s posing this as ‘this is a Gen Z queer thing.’ I absolutely deplore when people make this a generational argument. I believe she’s a millennial, and she’s saying, ‘Gen Z queer people are weird,’ basically. That almost rubs me the wrong way more than the content of the rest of what she said. But we’ll get around to that!
Courtney: In some ways I know exactly what she’s talking about, ’cause I do see this all the time. I do see a lot of asexuality activism that sort of…centers?...asexuals who do have sex. For me?– Of course, asexuality is a spectrum. This is something we definitely want to talk more about in the future. Especially if you’re listening to this, and you’re not in the ace community yourself, some of this might be…we’re really digging in deep here, for our very first episode! Bear with us– For me, in the umbrella that is asexuality, I personally lean a lot more toward what we would call, in the community, “sex-repulsed.” More of…I have a lower libido than the average person would have. What the conversation here is getting at is that some asexuals do actually have a libido. Some might even have a very high libido. The crux of this issue is that this is very hard to talk about to people who don’t understand asexuality.
Courtney: So, after some amount of backlash had happened, Natalie decided to delete that tweet, and replace it with a much, much longer spiel. I do wanna read some excerpts from this follow-up tweet. Natalie states, “The discourse is about Gen Z queer people online saying things like ‘I’m a horny asexual who loves to fuck’ and ‘casual reminder that heterosexuality doesn’t make your gayness any less valid,’ and my claim that these statements are ‘hard to figure out.’ Note, I am not saying they aren’t ‘valid.’ I’ve never been big on deciding what is valid. If you’re a horny asexual who loves to fuck, by all means continue…”
Courtney: Yadda yadda…Skipping forward here a little bit... “But surely you see that, to most people, the statement ‘I’m a horny asexual who loves to fuck’ is, at face value, confusing, contradictory, and, in so many words, hard to figure out.” That’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow. But, considering the fact that most of the people I interact with in my day-to-day life do not even know what asexuality IS? She’s not wrong. I don’t know that this is the best way to handle this, but I do not think that that statement is wrong. To a lot of people, yes. They are looking at statements like this and thinking it’s contradictory. If you are knee-deep in the ace community, if you follow a lot of asexual activists, if you’re an asexual organizer yourself, this is going to seem very…Asexuality 101. And we’re, of course, going to be thinking, “but that’s not right! That’s not what this is!” And with such a misunderstood sexuality, it is very easy to get defensive of these identities and these definitions.
Courtney: Natalie goes on to say, “Sometimes I get the sense that people say these things in part because they enjoy the provocation of the seeming contradiction. But maybe I’m wrong. Just to be safe, I’m going to Use My Platform to explore why these seemingly contradictory statements might, in fact, make sense.” I do not think that the average person says that for the sake of being contradictory, or for the sake of provoking others. I really don’t think so. I think the people who are very vocal and very terse about these cases are people who, for a very long time, just have not seen themselves represented. Or they have met with staunch gatekeepers to the community, time and time again. So I definitely think that a lot of these tweets that are in question come from a source of defense. Possibly anger, hurt. I don’t think most of them are for the provocation of it.
Royce: I haven’t really gotten that impression either. Some of that could be the platform itself, and just the general need, as a person communicating a lot, to be brief and terse.
Royce: The larger issue… I’m not exactly sure how to interpret some of those statements either. I don’t think I would be able to without an in-depth conversation with one of the people making the comments. Because there’s a lot of language, or feeling, lost in translation. Even if you’re speaking the same language. Even if you are using words that have long been established, and have very definitive definitions, there’s connotation to everything. So, to take some of the things that were mentioned, like…“Asexuality” has a somewhat vague definition because it’s a spectrum, and it can be difficult to articulate. What does “horny” mean? What does it mean when you say you “like” something or you “love” something? What does that actually FEEL like? And how could two people having a conversation understand the differences in what they’re actually experiencing in day-to-day life?
Courtney: That is such a good point. Especially when you pair that with the fact that language evolves? And changes? We’re talking about language that’s evolving and changing around what is, in truth, very abstract ideas! [playfully] What is “love”?
Royce: A lot of it is changing within a single generation, if not a shorter span of time [crosstalk][12:29] as things are progressing.
Courtney: And a lot of that is, in large part, due to the internet itself. More people are talking with each other from all over the world. Which is, on the whole, a very good thing! But yeah, these are terms that can, in and of themselves, be very hard to define. Royce, you mentioned that the definition of asexuality has evolved to try to meet the fact that it is a spectrum, and I’ll give one clear example of that. I don’t recommend Googling the term “asexual,” because you’ll get a variety of definitions, most of which are not pertaining to the orientation. You’ll get the definitions of a creature who reproduces asexually. Something that is lacking, or devoid of, sex or sexuality. Which is not the definition that any of us in the asexual queer community use.
Courtney: One of the big sort of ace organizations that we all kind of– at least most of us– turn to for our definitions and our conversations on this, is AVEN: the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network. And they actually recently changed the definition. They tweaked it a little bit. Up until recently, the definition was “an asexual person is someone who does not experience sexual attraction.” They tweaked that a little bit to say, “someone who experiences little to no sexual attraction,” and that is trying to accommodate for the umbrella that is asexuality. And not everyone in the ace community was really excited about that. Some were very, very upset. But that goes back to the rampant gatekeeping in not only our community, but all queer communities.
Royce: To my point on language, the definition of asexuality that I have sort of had on hand, or have felt most comfortable using, is “the lack of desire to have sex with another person.” But I don’t think I can give a meaningful definition to the word “desire.” To go to AVEN’s definition, I don’t think that I could reasonably define what attraction feels like in a way that another person could reliably empathize with.
Courtney: That’s definitely a conversation that I feel like we have more in the asexuality community than other queer communities do.
Royce: Well…asexuality…as soon as you begin talking about it, you have to start talking about something like Split Attraction Model, which I don’t think hardly any other community uses.
Courtney: That’s very true. The Split Attraction Model is something that not all, but many, ace people use. An example of split attraction would be, ‘I am not sexually attracted to anybody, but I am romantically attracted to the same sex.’ Someone like that might consider themselves to be “asexual homoromantic.” That would be a case of someone who does want a romantic relationship, not necessarily a sexual one. A lot of people find the Split Attraction Model in the ace community to be very, very helpful. That helps them articulate to other people, as well as themselves, exactly what it is that they do want. They may experience romantic attraction, even if it’s not sexual in nature. And of course, there’re aromantic asexuals also, who don’t even have the romantic attraction. So, very multifaceted. It all goes back to the umbrella yet again.
Courtney: That may be a good point to jump back into where Natalie continues with this, because she does go into a little more of what it actually means to be asexual. She says, “One thing I see a lot of people saying is that asexuality means ‘lack of sexual attraction’ rather than ‘no libido.’ Meaning that asexual people might still desire sex, even absent any specific object-oriented attraction. If that seems counterintuitive, consider that people often have sex for reasons other than sexual attraction. To feel attractive, to sustain a marriage, for money, etcetera. And that sex might even still be enjoyable. I myself have had sex with people I wasn’t attracted to, and occasionally even enjoyed it.”
Courtney: What I think is very, very important to understand here is that Natalie is not talking to us, as asexuals. We in the asexuality community, we know that. That is Ace 101. That is old news. Thank you, next. Everyone else needs to understand this. WE already know. So, that right there tells me that she is trying to educate outsiders. Which is very difficult to do. Everyone in the ace community can attest. I myself, when I have tried to delve into more public conversations about asexuality…making Twitter threads, making YouTube videos, writing…I very often feel like I am preaching to the choir. Because other asexual people like to see themselves represented in the conversation online, a lot of them follow this discourse. But I do not attract a lot of allosexual people– allo being the opposite of ace– so I do not have a lot of straight people tuning into those conversations. I don’t have a lot of allo GAY people tuning in to those conversations.
Courtney: It makes sense, given Natalie Wynn’s broader platform, and the way she uses it. I think, right from the beginning, she has tried to sort of reach across the aisle and talk about more left-leaning ideas, more queer identities, to more conservative-leaning people who probably don’t have these conversations with people who are patient and ready to have that conversation with them. But all in all, in that bit? I don’t think anything she said there is wrong. I think that is absolutely spot-on, and it tells me that she is not talking to aces right now. Which is fine! But it’s also important to remember that the ace community, being as misunderstood as it is, we are a very sensitive community. We get misrepresented all the time. Badly! So, anytime an outsider to the community talks about us…or for that matter, anytime someone WITHIN the community talks to us!...it is met with heavy scrutiny.
Courtney: I’ve even seen that myself, trying to talk about my own personal experiences as an asexual woman. I have been heavily scrutinized by other people in the ace community, because we are so hyper-sensitive to what is being said about us. Because, honestly, there is more bad representation out there than there is good. At least, of the representation that’s being seen on a larger scale. Natalie Wynn having a very large platform, I would definitely put in that category. So, we’re definitely going to have the sensors on high alert when someone with a massive platform…who– as far as we know– is not asexual, who is a known queer educator, in certain online communities…Sensors are going to be high. And I think anyone wishing to engage in this conversation should be aware of that, right out of the gate.
Courtney: Skipping along a little ways, she later goes on to say that “Of course it is not just Gen Z that uses a cryptic, provocative discourse style.” She goes on to explain that she started her channel ContraPoints partially out of frustration with other millennials who were using the similar communication style, which she describes as “...extremely inarticulate, arational, sloganeering, dogmatic, no-I-will-not-elaborate-on-that-and-if-you-disagree-you-are-the-enemy rhetorical mode that was off-putting to almost everyone.”
Royce: To that point, I have occasionally found threads that you would need a pocket dictionary to be able to navigate. Because of how many new terms that haven’t been established, are being used only within this community.
Courtney: You’re not wrong about that! Language is not as clear-cut or easy as we think it is, especially if we find ourselves in a very niche community. Some of us can take for granted that we use vocabulary that is second nature to us, that many people have never heard of if they haven’t engaged in our community before.
Royce: How antiquated is the term “pocket dictionary”?
Courtney: Incredibly! I think you’re dating yourself a [crosstalk][22:01] little bit.
Royce: I have never…HELD a pocket dictionary. I [crosstalk][22:05] thought that was just the turn of phrase!
Courtney: You haven’t?
Courtney: Oh, I definitely had some pocket dictionaries when I was a kid. But yes, speaking of antiquated language. Pocket dictionaries!
Courtney: I don’t think a pocket dictionary would have the definition of Split Attraction Model printed in it.
Courtney: Or, many of the words we’re discussing here today.
Royce: [playfully] I read that the kids these days don’t know what Files and Folders on a computer system are anymore.
[Courtney gasps exaggeratedly]
Courtney: The kids these days!
Royce: The kids these days. So they probably are also not aware of pocket dictionaries, or encyclopedias, or [crosstalk][22:45] things of that nature.
Courtney: Oh, you’ve gotta give them a little more credit than that. I mean, encyclopedia? Of course they know. Like, that’s what Wikipedia comes from! I…
Royce: I don’t think that’s common knowledge. We grew up in households that would have dusty encyclopedias that no one would open.
Courtney: Well you’re not wrong about that. Look, Royce. Don’t make us seem old on the internet!
Royce: Part of this whole conversation is about feeling old on the internet, because Natalie’s comment was ‘oh no, the kids are saying things I don’t understand.’
Courtney: Yes? But also no. I’m going to give Natalie the benefit of the doubt here, and say that Natalie Wynn knows what those mean. But I think… I don’t know. It’s hard to to assume motives on other people that you do not know. But if we give her the benefit of the doubt, and say, “yeah, she probably knows that these are not inherently contradictory things.” But I do think she’s very aware of the people outside of these communities who are just lost. And yes, they absolutely are. I know that from first-hand experience. I have had friends who I have been close to for YEARS– for almost as long as I’ve been married to you, in our little, very asexual marriage– who I just assumed, by nature of knowing us and talking to us for years, could at least define asexuality. And boy, was I wrong! So there are outsiders to the community who need a type of activism that is going to be very patient. Be willing to slow things down. Be willing to bust out the pocket dictionary…
Courtney: …and define things, word by word.
Courtney: And I do think that’s what Natalie is TRYING to do here? But she does, I think, fall flat in a couple of key ways. First of all, she is outright admitting that this is not new and exclusive to Gen Z. That she saw this from millennials years ago, when she decided to start her platform. And that was a big issue I had. I don’t like it when people of ANY generation go, “Oh, those kids!” “That Gen Z!” Personally, I can’t wait for Gen Z to just rule us all. I think they’re great! I think they are powerful. And they are sassy, and they are intelligent, and they are progressive. And I honestly can’t wait. Gen Z, I am ready for your domination of this world, personally! So making this a generational difference, first of all, helps no one. Especially– and I don’t know if Natalie’s tuned into this, but– asexuality is one of those orientations that you will constantly see online being attacked as an “internet sexuality,” or a made-up identity, or something that didn’t exist before Tumblr. Which is false! That is absolutely, one hundred percent wrong. But that is what you will hear people saying. So to make it out to be a generational thing, first of all, is really not okay in that sense, I think. I think that’s one key way that she fell flat in trying to articulate this.
Courtney: There are a couple more key points in this response that I do want to talk about. If we skip forward a little bit, to her sort of last page of text here. She does say that “...a lot of queer community discourse online has been so addled by excess gatekeeping that the backlash to the gatekeeping has now taken center stage, with some weird consequences. So much discourse is about the rights and ‘validity’ of, for example, lesbians who are attracted to men, trans people who don’t transition, asexual people who desire sex.” She then goes on to say, “It’s weirdly at odds with the broader purpose of these communities, which is to support women attracted to women, gender transition, and people who don’t experience sexual attraction. I get that combating excess gatekeeping is necessary, I just find it a little alienating how much of the discourse centers these issues.”
Courtney: I have mixed feelings on that, because she’s saying a lot of things…well? Well, I think she’s saying a lot of things that are in some ways correct, but I don’t think she’s saying it well…
Courtney: …if that makes sense. Gatekeeping is a thing, it is a capital-t Thing, in all queer communities. And definitely in the Ace community as well. And naturally, there is a lot of backlash to it.
Courtney: So the fact that the rhetoric has shifted from…sort of the Ace 101, a pleasant tweet about ‘here’s the definition of asexuality. Did you know that asexual people don’t experience sexual attraction?’... It is now the more terse, more– I almost want to say clickbait-y? It’s not quite an article, so it’s not exactly clickbait-y– the very attention-grabbing ‘asexual people have sex!’ and ‘yes, I’m asexual. But I’m horny!’ Those tweets do exist. They are not wrong. They are not contradictory. At. All. Do not get me wrong, that’s not what I’m saying. But a lot of that is because some of those people have felt left out of the community before. So they are naturally going to feel..frustrated and not seen, and they’re going to want to push to have their own experience witnessed by the larger ace community. And outsiders to the ace community!
’Cause nobody wants any, ANY of the allos to get the wrong definition of asexuality. Because, asexuals? Look. We gatekeep ourselves enough. We don’t need the allos to gatekeep us, too. [laughs]
Courtney: So, where I think she went wrong with that last statement… And I’ll give her a little grace, in mentioning that she ended this by saying, ‘maybe I should keep this to myself. Maybe this is a mistake.’ She says, “...maybe there’s something more to discuss here. I don’t know honestly. I’ll think about it some more.” Which I think is honest. When you get into a conversation that’s this heated, sometimes you do need to take a step back and think about it. But I truly think– and this is based on my own introspection, my own observations and thoughts on the ace community over the years– I think there’s a common thread here that Natalie has not connected. And this common thread, I think, is really, really important to talk about.
Courtney: Let’s look at the three things that she sort of compares here. She compares lesbians who have sex with men, trans people who don’t transition, and asexual people who have sex. I think the common thread here is that we are no longer talking about sexual orientation and self identity. We are now talking about behaviors. And actions. I think that can get confusing, but I think it’s really, really important to talk about. I feel like ace people do talk about this, because we very often say, ‘just because we don’t experience sexual attraction doesn’t mean, necessarily, that we don’t have sex.’ That’s kind of always the qualifier that a lot of ace activists lead in, when they’re defining asexuality. The ace community knows, very, very well…because of trial and error, because of the gatekeeping…that your sexual attraction, and your sexual activity, are not always going to line up. And that is okay.
Courtney: When you say, and when you compare it to, a trans person who doesn’t transition, I’m sure she means…in a physical sense. Whether that means hormones, whether that means some kind of surgery, whatever that means for the individual trans person. We’re talking about an action. They are taking steps to transition. But that doesn’t mean that their IDENTITY changes.
’Cause a trans woman who undergoes whatever transition she feels right is no more a woman after transition than she was before. The action, the behavior, does not change the internal feeling.
Courtney: I think the same could be said for asexuality. You could be someone who does not feel sexually attracted to anyone, but you can still have sex. And if you do still have sex, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically attracted to that person. It doesn’t change your orientation, or how you feel on the inside. I think it’s really, really vital that, in ace conversations and all queer communities, that we start to really identify ‘what is the orientation, and what is an individual behavior?’ And we need to accept and realize that they aren’t always going to match with our preconceived notions of…how a gay person acts. How a trans person looks. We can’t have these boxes that we put everyone in, because in the broader queer community, everybody is going to have their own individual experiences. That’s what we’re getting at here.
Courtney: It really reminds me, actually…
Courtney: Speaking of feeling old on the internet! I started a TikTok, not too long ago. I did not really make a lot of TikTok videos, but I delved into watching TikToks, very late to the game. This whole conversation kind of reminds me of this TikTok that went viral earlier this year, by an account by the name of Dr. Joe Kort. I saw– not his original video, but I saw– lots and lots of reaction videos, because what he had to say got people feeling really, really heated. His video said something to the effect of ‘did you know that a straight man can have sex with another man and not be gay?’ As perhaps you can well imagine, a lot of the gay men on TikTok had a field day with that. They were stitching that video. They were doing duets. A lot of them were claiming internalized homophobia. A lot of people, also assuming that this was how this creator inherently felt, saying, ’oh, so you think you’re a straight man? And you just wanna have sex with other men, but you still wanna call yourself straight? That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works! You’re gay, or at the very least, you’re bi.” Some people were just straight-out calling it bi erasure, saying, ‘if you think you’re straight, but you have sex with a man, you’re bi. You can’t do bi erasure like that.’ So, a lot of knee-jerk reactions. A lot of very, very angry people.
Courtney: I was very curious to see more about this fellow, so I went to his TikTok account, only to find out that he is a PhD psychotherapist, and he specializes in male sexuality. He very openly said, ‘no, I am an out and proud gay man. I have been married to my husband for almost 30 years.’ What he started saying was something that I think really needs to be brought to the forefront of conversation in other queer spaces, like the Ace community. He was saying,
“the sexual behavior does not always align with the sexual attraction.” As an asexual person who has seen all these conversations of all of these Aces saying, ‘I’m not attracted to other people, but I still enjoy sex,’ this, to me, seemed like yeah! Of course! Of course you can apply that to any other gender or sexuality out there. It makes all the sense in the world. Asexual people are not the only ones who sometimes have this orientation-behavioral disconnect. I don’t even want to call it a disconnect, because it’s not wrong. You aren’t being a “bad lesbian” if you sleep with a man. It’s just…I think human behavior and sexuality is a lot more than the boxes we put it into.
Royce: I did want to run through a couple of those things on the basis of language. To take that example of a lesbian woman who has sex with a man. When you say “lesbian,” do you mean a woman who is…homoromantic, and potentially bisexual? Do you mean a woman who is biromantic and homosexual? Do you mean a woman who is some combination of the two, but very closely identifies with lesbian culture as a point of identity, and less so a personal practice? Because all of these things are variable.
Courtney: That’s a really good point. That’s a conversation that you and I have just had at home in the past. Part of what we’ve thought about talking about on a podcast like this. The asexual community is the only community I’ve seen that, on a very large scale, frequently uses the Split Attraction Model. But I honestly think there are maybe some allos who could stand to learn a thing or two from it. Not everyone has to use it…if you don’t think it’s useful to you, if you don’t identify with it…but do I think that there could be a biromantic homosexual woman? Absolutely, I think that that could be a thing.
Royce: I have almost certainly been friends with someone who was most likely heteroromantic bisexual and struggled with reconciling that attraction. That sexual attraction.
Courtney: Mmhmm. At the time you were friends with her, was the Split Attraction Model part of the conversation? Or, do you think that might have helped, if she had been exposed to it?
Royce: Quite possibly. I mean, that was early on in me trying to figure out my own orientation, so I was not familiar enough with it to use that.
Courtney: Mmhmm. And the point of having all of these definitions, all of these identities, is not to confuse everyone. It’s to understand yourself better, and to use what makes sense to you. If you explore the Split Attraction Model, there can be just as much power in saying, ‘no, this doesn’t work for me’ as there is in saying, ‘yes, I like this. And it makes sense for me to use this,’ because…the more language, the more vocabulary, the more identities and diverse experiences you’re exposed to, the more likely you are to understand yourself a little better.
Courtney: I do want to talk about that a little further, in the gatekeeping sense. That was something that Natalie mentioned here in the post. And that’s what I said, right out of the gate, as a reason why the online ace community is very sensitive to having these educational conversations in the “Right Way.” And…
Courtney: …even if we take a lesbian example, too. There is this– horrible, don’t use it!– antiquated concept of a “gold star lesbian.” A gold star lesbian is a woman who has ONLY had sex with women, and only intends to have sex with women. The gold star inherently implies that, ‘good job! You did it! You get a reward.’ You are somehow better than the other lesbians, ’cause you get that gold star. There is a concept of a “gold star asexual,” as well. Or, there at least used to be. I haven’t seen it as much lately, since the discourse has changed to, sort of, centering sexual activity. But in the past, I would see ‘the gold star asexual hasn’t had sex. The gold star asexual does not want to have sex.’ Horrible. Same concept, it’s not good, don’t use it, it’s not useful for anybody.
Courtney: But along with the concept of the gold star in any minority community, there’s also this concept of the “perfect activist.” The one that we want the outsiders to learn from. The one that we want to be visible outside of our community. And it seems to me, having existed in online ace spaces for as long as I have, that has shifted drastically. I feel like– and these are all unspoken rules. No one’s coming out here laying down the law, saying ‘this is who we need to talk to people’– it’s all kind of this weird, unspoken concept of who is the “right” activist. In the past, it was the ace who had no interest in sex. None at all. Now, with the conversation shifting, I am feeling more that the ace community is more comfortable with the “ideal activist” being an asexual person who does not experience sexual attraction, but does still enjoy having sex. I just generally– no matter which direction it’s swinging– I just generally detest the idea of having an ideal activist, but it’s something I’ve definitely felt existing in these places. I feel that the way that manifests is that, if you are in this community, but you don’t fit that unspoken standard of the ideal activist? People in your own community will shut you down. They will argue with you, they will cannibalize you. That is a gross overcompensation for the gatekeepers. But it almost, in turn, makes more gatekeepers? If that makes sense?... I don’t know if that made sense. However!
Courtney: I will say this. The larger asexual community did not love this set of tweets. A lot of people are very, very angry about it. A lot of people are responding to it, either directly with quote tweets, or just making their own separate posts that everyone secretly knows this is what it’s about. And a lot of people are very very angry, and very very frustrated. And, although I think it wasn’t perfect, I think there are a few things that are worth examining and talking about. That’s why we’re here today.
Courtney: It actually reminded me a bit about a Twitter thread by a prominent, fabulous, asexuality activist named Yasmin Benoit. If you do not follow her, you absolutely must. On Twitter, she is TheYasminBenoit. She is a black woman based in the UK. She is a prominent ace activist. She is also a model, and she does a lot of beautiful alternative modeling photographs. You’ll see a lot of her work posing in lingerie. She is asexual, and she is aromantic. So, if anyone has been told that ‘you are a contradiction. You can’t be asexual,’ it’s Yasmin Benoit. She’s heard it all. I want to mention this Twitter thread, because it was more well received. As someone who is an insider in the community– I think that’s a big component of it, she is in the community, but– I think it was just overall more well thought out. More articulate. It came from a much deeper understanding of the community. And when Yasmin posted this, I truthfully just about fell out of my chair, because I had been thinking the same thing for years. For the last few years. However, I was too. Afraid. To say it.
Courtney: I am– and maybe we’ll get into this in another episode, but– I am asexual, but I’m also a disabled woman. So a lot of my public discussion is about the intersections of asexuality and disability. That has been met with its own unique challenges, and I have been shut down by others in the ace community more times than I can count. So, this particular line of thought was something that I was like, “I will keep this to myself. I don’t need to say this publicly, because it will not go well.” But Yasmin had the guts to do it. She said it beautifully. It’s a bit of a long thread. I’ll read at least the first couple of tweets, but please do go follow her if you don’t already. You can see the whole thread, you can see all of her latest work in activism.
Courtney: A couple months ago– this was in July 2021– Yasmin Benoit said, “Emphasizing the sexual habits of asexuals when talking about asexuality, especially in headlines, isn’t as helpful as you think it is. It isn’t boundary pushing or stereotype breaking, it’s usually minimizing, potentially alienating, click-baity, and increases acephobia. Yes, it is a common misconception that asexual people can’t have sex, are all sex-repulsed, would never have sex, etcetera. But most asexual people still aren’t interested in having sex. That’s what usually comes with not experiencing sexual attraction, although there are exceptions. So when you constantly introduce the topic with ‘asexuals do still have sex/want sex’ in a bid to make us seem more palatable and relatable to a non-asexual audience, you’re emphasizing the one thing that our community does not– our desire to involve others in our sexuality.” That’s not the end of the thread, but that right there. She said it better than I could. I’ve been thinking about this for years, and she just– I was blown away when I read that. I was like, “yes!” I wanted to cheer loud, alone, at home.
Courtney: The reason why I bring this up is because I think that, perhaps…the motives, and that weird feeling, and the something’s a little weird about how prominent and loud and center stage these conversations are…I think may have come from a somewhat similar place in Yasmin’s thread, and in Natalie’s thread. But Yasmin, for many reasons, just did it better. Because Yasmin understands her community, ’cause she is a part of the community. So, first and foremost, that’s a huge one. Yasmin also actually took that step to identify WHY it felt weird. Natalie, I think, just sort of left it hanging. She was just saying, ‘you realize that people don’t always understand this? You realize this seems like a contradiction to people who don’t get this?’ Yeah, that’s true, but when we’re livin’ in our truth, we’re gonna be a little defensive of that. But Yasmin actually took that step to say, ‘it is because you’re emphasizing the behavior, as opposed to the identity and the orientation,’ which I think is very, very true, and sort of the key factor– or the “missing sauce,” as you will– that that was lacking from Natalie’s thread.
Courtney: For those of you who have maybe made it this far, but do not have personal experience living as an out-and-proud asexual, I want to leave off with just a couple of stories of this gatekeeping, which I think is a big heart of the issue. A lot of the way we react is…because we have BEEN gatekept ourself [sic], or we FEAR that gatekeeping, or we’re just angry about how prominent gatekeeping is. I do want to share just a couple of personal anecdotes, because… Goodness knows, if you scroll through the comments and the retweets on Natalie’s thread right now, it is rife with gatekeepers. And no, I don’t necessarily blame Natalie for that. I think there are just a lot of acephobic people who are responding to that. I really do.
Courtney: And so, in my personal experience, a lot of the gatekeeping I felt from the ace community pertains to my identity also as disabled. Because asexuality has been such a heavily medicalized and pathologized orientation, a lot of us have often heard– or feared hearing– ‘Oh there’s just something wrong with you. There must be something physically, mentally, psychologically bad,’ because ‘everyone has sex!’ And because of that, there’s been this weird overcompensation in the ace community that sometimes bleeds into ableism.
Courtney: I have definitely heard from others in the ace community that I am an imperfect asexual activist. Because, ‘it is better to present ourselves as someone who is asexual, but doesn’t have anything physically wrong with them. We are perfectly healthy, we are mentally well, and we are still asexual.’ That can be really, really difficult to reconcile with. I would love to do a full episode on asexuality and disability. Please reach out to us and let us know if that is something you want to hear more about. But that is definitely some of the gatekeeping that I’ve experienced. That because I’m disabled, I’m not the right one to be speaking for the ace community. That kind of also goes back to the theory of the unspoken ideal activist. The “ideal” ace activist, both then and now as it’s evolved, has been physically healthy. Not disabled.
Courtney: So, Royce you had one instance in memory– and, keep in mind, this was all ME conversing with other people online– but the conversation very much revolved around whether Royce was allowed to the party. Whether he was allowed in the “club.” That was several years ago, when Pokémon Go…
Courtney: …was a new thing. We were trying to find some groups to do different Pokémon Go activities with, and there was a local group that was supposed to be for… Originally, I thought it was supposed to be a women’s-only group– which is fine– but then they started to expand. Women AND trans men. And then they said, women, and trans man [sic], AND gay men, and queer people, and they kept expanding who they would allow in. The point of this group was that– so when you’re going out in public in this group, the original idea was that– women and minority sexualities would feel comfortable, and feel like they are in a group that they won’t be discriminated against. [jokingly] They won’t have A Violence done to them because of who they are. Which is understandable, when you’re meeting people online for a group activity like this. But the circle of who is and is not allowed eventually evolved to be pretty much everyone except straight men. It was like, ‘yeah, we’ll take women. We’ll take anybody who is gay. We’ll take anybody who is trans. Yeah, we’ll take you if you’re bi,’ all of the minority orientations. No one had ever mentioned asexuality. And, asexuality is often gatekept out of the greater LGBT community, also. There are definitely people in the LGBT community who says [sic] ‘no, aces don’t count. You are not in our community.’ Which, hello! That is what the “A” stands for. That is one of the a’s, right there– LGBTQI. A! Asexual, aromantic, agender– and I just, sort of, asked the question. Because I did not know if this was growing to be a queer-centered group, and whether or not they were going to be the kind that was gonna be receptive to asexuals. And I said, “are you going to be…ace-friendly? Are you friendly to asexuals?” The response I got back basically came down to ‘Yeah, you as the woman can come, because you’re a woman. But no, you can’t bring your straight husband.’ [strained] And that wasn’t really okay!
Royce: Well, I feel like, you were having this conversation online. And I feel like you continued the conversation past the point where it was…productive…and eventually got someone to say, ‘yeah sure, that’s probably okay’ because…[annoyedly] yes, if I need to present my credentials, I am a card-carrying member of the LGBT community, and thus would gain entrance to the club. But…that’s not the point? If people are uncomfortable with people who seem heteronormative…if you and I walk down the street, it’s not like we loudly proclaim our sexual orientations everywhere we go. So I am going to “pass” as cis-het probably.
Courtney: Except to…pre-COVID waitresses in restaurants.
Royce: I have long hair…
Courtney: Very long hair. It’s beautiful. Luxurious.
Royce: …and, generally speaking, if my back is to the restaurant employee they will address the table with feminine pronouns [crosstalk][55:59] which is not a surprise.
Courtney: [teasing] Ladies?
Royce: It’s not a big deal! But it happens.
Courtney: Mmhmm. So yeah, that was just an odd little gatekeeping moment where they kind of, right out the gate, said, ‘No. Being ace is not queer enough,’ and… ‘Royce is basically a straight man.’ Which is not true, but people still feel this way.
Courtney: This was, again, years ago, when Pokémon Go was new, but if you scroll through Natalie’s tweets right now– I don’t recommend it, if you are in the ace community. Save your mental health– but if you can handle it, and you’re ready to see it, there are a lot of people saying the same thing. Saying, ‘Yeah, if you’re gay and you have straight sex, you’re not gay. You don’t get to join the club.’ A lot of people saying, “Asexuals don’t count. Especially if you’re asexual and you like sex, you don’t count.” A lot of blanket statements like that, so, the gatekeeping is strong.
Courtney: I at least think we had some interesting conversations today, that I would like to continue carrying on into the future. Stay tuned. I have no idea where we’re posting this yet! Like I said, we decided to record TODAY.
Courtney: So, if you liked this, please let us know in whatever way you’re consuming this. We will figure it out when we’re done recording for the night. And hey! Maybe let us know what other topics you want to hear us talk about. As I said, we are a married ace couple. We’ve been married seven years. There are not a lot of very visible asexual couples out there! So, if you are curious? If you have any questions? Feel free to send them in. Maybe we’ll do more of these, and maybe we’ll address them. Until then, we will talk at you guys next time.