Bigoted Article: Demisexuals Are Scared Of Sex
A bigoted op-ed was recently published on UnHerd entitled "Demisexuals are scared of sex: Desire has been purged from the modern dating scene". It's steeped in compulsory sexuality, rape culture, and ignorance as well as outright lies about demisexuality.
Courtney: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Ace Couple Podcast. My name is Courtney. I am here with my spouse Royce, and right off the bat I am gonna say today is gonna be quite upsetting. So, do something kind for yourself, make a– make a little cup of tea, draw yourself a bubble bath... Do whatever you got to do, because we are coming at you with another horribly, horribly bigoted article. And it’s sure to make your blood boil. So let’s get to it, why don’t we? So I’ve picked through this article a little bit. Most of this is going to be complete news to you, Royce. So I’m going to read you some of the– I guess, some of the worst excerpts. None of this is good. None of this is good at all. This is very much going to be sort of along the same lines– We covered an article a while back by Rod Liddle attacking asexuality. This is very much along the same lines, although this is written by one, Miss Kat Rosenfield. But just– just, just get a load of this title. This, this is how we know we’re really going to be in for a ride. The title of this op-ed is called “Demisexuals are scared of sex.” Good start. With the subheading: “Desire has been purged from modern dating.” Which is that very alarmist thing we start to see. So, right off the bat I’m reading that and I’m starting to think this is going to easily transition into all the talking points that are very, like, “Oh no! Young people aren’t having enough sex!” This is very, like, fear-mongering, very weird, anxiety that people have about asexuals.
Royce: And just young people in general. It’s very weird for older people to be that involved in a different generation’s daily activities…?
Courtney: Well, you know, first of all, like, generations are bullshit, by the way. [laughs]
Royce: The lines between them are arbitrary.
Courtney: But there– there has always been juvenoia, where older generations, older people are going to look down upon the [emphatically] ‘Younger generation’, the “Kids these days.” And I mean, I feel like we’ve just, as of the last few years, gotten out of Millennials being the main target in the line of fire and now you’re starting to see more like, “Oh, those Gen Z’s! Those Gen Z’s out there!”
Royce: So, if you’re a member of generation Z, and you’re listening to this podcast right now, good luck. You have a good decade or so of stupid comments on the news coming at you.
Courtney: Oh my gosh, you’re literally going to be the younger generation, like, until you’re 40. [laughs] So very much in line with the curmudgeonly older generation looking down on the young ones. The very first paragraph of this article starts with: [reading] “For the ten years leading up to 2019, I was the author of a teen advice column, and my agony aunt inbox was often an early warning system for whatever youth-driven phenomenon was on its way down the cultural pike. This is why I knew what a – quote… in quotes – “demisexual” was all the way back in 2013.” You can already tell that this is someone who has no right running a teen advice column. It sounds like she has outright hostility toward teenagers writing in. Like, my inbox for people seeking advice from me, as an older person, was “a warning system for youth driven phenomena”…? It– it baffles me. How–
Royce: Plus you’re calling an orientation a youth driven phenomena, that kind of shows you don’t get it. It’s the conservative argument that no one in history was queer. Like, queer is a modern invention sort of thing.
Courtney: Yes… [reading] ““I just heard about demisexuality a few days ago,” read the first letter I received on the topic. “When I read the description of it, I thought to myself ‘That is definitely me, wow!’”” I feel so bad for this poor person who wrote into this particular advice column. Honestly [sighs]
Royce: Don’t write into advice columns?
Courtney: Don’t write into advice columns. The thing is when it’s something that’s more broad and vague, like you’ve got your– your Miss Manners, you’ve got your– I guess in her case, it was Agony Aunt. You’ve got these just sort of partially anonymous personas that are setting themselves up to be an expert on something, you have no idea who is on the other end of it and how they actually feel about things. And in this case, this was absolutely not the person to talk to about demisexuality. It might be a little bit different if you’re writing into a very specific column, that’s about a very specific topic, but even then, I– I’ve gotten so much more cynical about advice, just over the years in general. And I found myself, even when I was young, even when I was a child, I often found myself being someone that people came to for advice. And I would always try to give advice when and where I could, and I appreciated that people valued my opinion enough to ask. But the older I get, the wiser I become, the more I learn, the more I realized that unless you actually know the person seeking advice very, very well, it’s very easy for advice to become more harmful than helpful. Because there are just so many other factors that you just may not have all the details about.
Courtney: Someone might be talking about sexuality, for example, they might be seeking advice from someone who is queer, who is older than them. And you might think, you know, two queer people probably have enough in common, you can probably share advice. And in some cases that can be true, but there are so many other intersectional identities, like disability, like being a Person Of Color, what country you live in, whether or not you’re religious or whether or not the people around you are religious, and what religion at that. And there are just so many little nuances that unless you know the person, and you know those nuances, and you can relate to them in some way or you’re educated on them, you can miss a lot of really important details. And that’s when advice starts getting a little too vague, a little too broad, a little too– almost like, sometimes it almost feels like inspiration porn. Like you try to leave it off on a really positive note if you’re giving someone advice on a column like this. But it’s not a lot of real, detailed, practical information. It’s just a lot of, like, feel-good fluff sometimes. And it can feel good in the moment, but as far as actual practical advice, it’s normally very, very lacking.
Courtney: So that’s why even when people ask me for advice, I normally try to say I am not the advice-giving type. Because I don’t know your life, I don’t know the nuances of your life. But I’m happy to share stories from my life that may or may not be applicable. But this– this Kat Rosenfield... Let’s– let’s go to this article that she’s citing. Because first of all, even if you don’t understand demisexuality, even if you don’t understand anything on the Asexual spectrum, how are you going to come into someone saying, like, “I read about this thing and I thought to myself that is definitely me, wow!” How are you not going to see that as a positive thing? Even if you don’t understand what the thing is. Like, to me, understanding more about yourself and being able to relate to something that you read or learned about is inherently positive. That is a good thing, to know more about yourself. So, this article starts: [reading] “Dear Auntie,” You know, honestly, that’s another thing that really bothers me. A lot of these advice columns use something like, “Oh, I’m your cool auntie” And it almost inherently has a built-in, like, forced parasocial relationship in it. Even before you ask them for advice. Because if you’re reading the column in your calling them auntie...
Royce: Yeah, they’re trying to work the “close family member reliable connection” sort of angle.
Courtney: Yeah. And I don’t like it! I don’t like it. But essentially, this person says, you know, [reading] “I thought “That is definitely me, wow!” but then I also thought, “I thought everyone was that way.” And some people are saying it’s people trying to be – quotes – “special snowflakes” by putting a label on this kind of attraction. So I’m just trying to figure it out right now before I claim to be demisexual because there is always the chance that I’m not.
Courtney: Do you think you could help me with this a bit? Is demisexuality even a thing? Because I thought everyone was this way.”
Royce: Which, I think demisexuality has a special place there of a wide variety of people misunderstanding what it actually is and also leaning very heavy on stereotypes about sexuality and women.
Courtney: Oh, gendered stereotypes.
Royce: Gendered stereotypes, as well as very Hollywood or storybook romantic stories. But even outside of demisexuality, with– within the broader Ace spectrum, I feel like a lot of aces have had a moment where they realized, “Oh, I am actually experiencing things differently than everyone else.”
Royce: “I thought– I thought everyone else was just exaggerating or joking, or that we were actually on the same page here. But no, they actually feel very different about things.”
Courtney: That’s honestly the same way with, not even just, sexual or romantic attraction or orientations. It’s anything that is so personal to you, that has just always been this way. You sort of, by default assume that it’s normal and other people are also experiencing the same thing until you’re proven otherwise by time and time again.
Royce: Until you're called out by a TikTok.
Courtney: Until you get called out by a TikTok. [laughs] So, for context, right before we sat down to record this, I pulled up a TikTok of a girl with autism, who’s like “My autistic-ass every time I’m standing.” And it was just her putting up these like T-Rex arms, if you know, you know, [laughs] to the beat of a song. And I had to put that in front of Royce’s face to be like, “Look, it you!” [laughs] But yeah. So, for me, for example, one of my earliest examples of this was actually one of the symptoms of my disability before I actually had a diagnosis. Before I understood myself to be a disabled person, was a lot of the– like, the weird little party tricks I could do with my hypermobile fingers, and my hands, and my overextending elbows. Like, I just thought that was normal. This is just how people’s joints function. But then you move a little oddly and someone gets a little grossed out and they’re like, “Ah! Oh, what did you do? How did you do that?” And then you start doing it for everyone and they realize, like, “Oh, look at these weird things you can do with all your joints!”
Courtney: So, it’s like no one ever thinks things about them are weird until society tells you they’re weird. And that’s what being queer is, right? Like in a perfect world, free from bigotry where people had the freedom to just live the life that they felt most fulfilled in, none of this would be weird. We wouldn’t necessarily need labels or Pride, because we could just be and we could just exist. But the reason why we need Pride, the reason why we have queer communities, and why we have these labels and this vocabulary to describe it, is because of the fact that we do experience things differently from what the society we’ve grown up in tells us we should be feeling and how we should be experiencing it.
Courtney: And demisexual does have certain unique challenges in that regard. And some of them, as you mentioned, are very gendered and everyone’s going to have their own different experience. Some people will live in an area, or be surrounded with community where maybe it’s a little more obvious that not everybody’s demisexual, but you hear a lot of demisexual women say, you know, “I did just think that this is how women are.” Because of various things that you’re told. Because the– the very, very gendered stereotype is, you know, men are just horn dogs. They– [emphatically] that boys only want one thing and, and they just want to get in your pants. And– But like, women want a romantic relationship and they want to take it slow. And they don’t just want to have sex. They want to find their future spouse, and have a love story. Kind of a thing. But a lot of that cultural preconception can sort of be traced back to, in some ways, purity culture. I don’t want to say that it is the same, because it’s not, but a lot of people have sort of normalized the, like, you know, saving yourself for marriage, kind of a thing, or saving yourself for the right person. And that’s where you get a lot of harmful misconceptions because someone might say, you know, “I’m demisexual,” and people will be like, “Oh well, that’s basically just– you’re saving yourself for marriage.” No, it’s not the same thing. It’s the way in which people who are demisexual relate to sexual attraction.
Royce: I mean, the same miss-comparison could be attributed to the idea of asexuality and celibacy.
Courtney: Yes, exactly.
Royce: It’s a practice versus an orientation.
Courtney: Yeah, because demisexuality isn’t a choice, it is the way people experience attraction. And so the answer to this letter back when it was published in January of 2014. The author either already knew, or at least googled it, because she – not incorrectly – says: [reading] “A demisexual is most commonly defined as a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they first form a strong emotional connection.” Which, that is probably the most common definition that I see floating around, even to this day. Some people will sort of conceptualize it as there is a type of primary attraction and a type of secondary attraction, where a primary attraction would be like, immediately readily available information. You know, how does the person look aesthetically, how– what can you take in with your senses? How do they smell? What do they look like? What is their attitude? How do they move? How do they carry themselves? And are you able to actually become attracted to them based on that readily available information, is– is how some people might conceptualize primary attraction.
Courtney: Secondary attraction would be more like you have gotten to know the person, you actually know more intimate details about their life. You know how they– how they interact with you. How they interact with the world. You can kind of learn the more, like, “beautiful on the inside” type things. And that could be a secondary attraction. You’re attracted to who they are as a person, not what is necessarily sensual or aesthetic, or immediately available if you just saw someone across the room, for example, or saw someone on television.
Courtney: And the people who conceptualize it in this way will say, you know, “As a demisexual person, I do not experience primary sexual attraction whatsoever. I only experience, in certain situations, or in rare or conditional situations, secondary attraction after I have developed a bond with someone.”
Courtney: And this author goes on to say like, yeah, [reading] “And sure, that’s a thing—as in, some people feel that way and it’s perfectly normal. But no, not everyone requires emotional connection to feel sexual attraction. Some people can feel very attracted to someone who they feel only a little emotionally in tune with; some people prefer to have casual sex without any emotional connection at all; some people catch the merest glimpse of Channing Tatum and feel like their undergarments are about to burst into flame.” [laughs] I think the author just proved that not everyone is demisexuals! [laughs] One would think, one would think. See, I’m so asexual I cannot even fathom that. There is nothing about my experience that can in any way help me relate to those latter examples.
Courtney: Here’s where I think, even in this first article, the author starts to wander astray. She says, [reading] “And even among those who require (or at least prefer) serious emotional intimacy to want or enjoy sex, some will also end up feeling differently as they get older, and grow more comfortable with the idea of having sex without an emotional safety net.” That is way too close to, “That’s just a phase,” for me. She goes on a little bit to say things that, outside of the context of the rest of it, aren’t incorrect or wrong. For example, she is saying like, until recently terms like demisexual or panromantic to describe sexual proclivities weren’t a thing, and that the current generation of teens and twentysomethings, etc, etc, have created a whole new vocabulary to explain their sexual identities. I mean, that’s true. The phrases themselves are new, that doesn’t mean the orientation is new.
Courtney: But the author even here admits that lately people have started to talk about this more in depth because previously it was socially unacceptable to be anything but straight and frowned upon. [reading] “But lately, sex and sexuality have become just another venue in which you can safely express and explore who you are.” And she even says, and of course, being a teenager is like, part of that is figuring yourself out. That on its own, removed from the rest, I don’t have an issue with, but she starts to wrap it up by saying [reading] “That said, because all this sexual labeling has come about as a direct result of the greater visibility of LGBT and queer folks, it is important to think about the implications and the usefulness of any labels you might adopt—and personally, I think that “demisexuality” is a label that requires more thought than most. For one thing, this is a word that describes your sexuality. It is not a sexual orientation, and it doesn’t have a public component the way sexual orientation does. The only people who ever need to know about it, or to whom it could possibly matter, are people you might be romantically/sexually involved with. And if you’re going to use the word, it should be with the understanding that public declarations about your sexuality are not necessary, or always necessarily appropriate.”
Royce: So they are saying that anything other than the gender orientation, like, the person that you’re going to be seen in public with is TMI.
Courtney: That’s basically what she’s saying here in this instance.
Royce: Which would include all oriented aces.
Courtney: Which– Yes, correct. Which also tells me that this person just, like, fundamentally does not understand the usefulness of labels. Because immediately this tells me that she thinks labels are for the purpose of finding a partner. Because she’s saying, well, it’s not– telling people publicly available information it’s not helpful, like, they don’t need to know this unless you’re already so– so many steps into a relationship with someone. But it really does, because this is how you relate to another person. Just because demisexual on its own doesn’t necessarily say, “Oh, I’m attracted to women, I’m attracted to men,” or any variations thereupon, it’s still telling you how you can or might relate sexually to someone. And that is important information if you are going to explore a relationship in any facet. But also I don’t think labels should be for the sole purpose of, like, marketing your sexual or romantic availability. A gay person is still gay even if they aren’t actively seeking a relationship. That’s still an important part of who they are. Right? Like–
Courtney: And that is why some people who are demisexual might put a sort of a split attraction modifier on top of it. And they might say I’m homo-romantic demisexual. So, there’s– they are still using that romantic orientation aspect to sort of explain their orientation toward gender. But not everyone even relates to gender. And I think that’s one of the biggest flaws about the current state of LGBTQ vocabulary, is that so much of it is based around a binary concept of gender. Because we have homo-, hetero-, we have bi- and pan-, but there are still very few widely adopted labels for people who are non-binary, for people who are agender, who fall outside of those things. So, here’s where the author doubles down and says, [reading] “Particularly, you should avoid like the plague any notion of – quote – “coming out as demisexual”” Are you kidding me?! Because, she says, [reading] “it appropriates the language and cheapens the struggle of LGBT people who’ve faced persecution, discrimination, and an ongoing battle just to be treated like human beings”
Royce: Okay, so more of the “aces don’t face discrimination.”
Courtney: Yes [laughs]
Royce: Our label should just be avoided like the plague.
Courtney: Yeah, “you should avoid like the plague any notion of coming out.” That is, like, the most disgusting thing you could possibly say to any queer teenager. It is– Is utterly repulsive. Like, you right now are actively trying to suppress a part of this teenager who is coming to you and seeking advice. While you’re saying, “you’re not actually discriminated against.” And like, I’m not gonna go fully into all the ways aces, or particularly demisexual people might be oppressed because I think we have already covered that time and time again on this podcast. You can– You can go back and listen to some of our previous episodes on the matter and will no doubt talk about it again, but we’ve hardly even scratched the surface of this latest article that came out. So, we’ll be here all day if we talk about all of those ins and outs. But that’s also– we just, we’ve got to stop playing the oppression olympics, you guys! We’ve got to stop! We’ve gotta stop.
Courtney: This is also just a situation where people just won’t believe it unless they see it, but they don’t have enough curiosity or empathy to try to find it and to try to understand. So she wraps up this initial advice column by saying, [reading] “I know this is a lot to think about, and some of it may feel like I’m telling you not to call yourself – quote – “demisexual”” That’s a thing too. She uses a quote every single time she types the word demisexual. That is so passive-aggressive, and I hate it! “I’m not telling you not to call yourself [emphasis] quote, demisexual” Like, I don’t like it. It’s so icky. [reading] “But I promise you, that’s not the point. You can use the word if you want to, if it’s helpful to you, and as long as it makes sense to do so. The point is only to be thoughtful about why you’re using it, to be considerate when you use it, and to be aware that the labels you apply to yourself now won’t necessarily stick with you forever.”
Courtney: And like I don’t like the way that advice is used in this, because with the already, very clearly looking down on demisexuality, not respecting it as a real orientation, she’s very much using it as “This is just a phase.” Like, it might feel good now, but you’re gonna grow out of it. This isn’t gonna be this way forever. And that’s not a good way to use that. I do think there is something to be said about, you know, sexuality can change and evolve and it can be a very fluid thing for some people. But talking about the ways in which sexuality can be fluid and treating it as a phase that you’re going to grow out of are two very different ways to have that conversation.
Courtney: So to return to our latest article here, she claims to know where the term for demisexual first popped up without citing the source at all, which gotta love that. [reading] “The term originated on a role-playing forum back in the early Noughties, where a teenage girl assigned it to one of her fictional characters.” Hmm? Citation needed. Citation needed! Which– which role-playing forum, how do you know it was a teenage girl if it was a role-playing forum? And then said, [reading] “But after it migrated onto Tumblr in 2011, it was adopted in earnest by extremely young and terminally online users who collected identity markers like they were baseball cards.”
Royce: What was the year used?
Courtney: When it migrated to Tumblr, it was 2011.
Royce: Okay, did you look this up? Did you find a better source?
Courtney: I mean, it’s been my understanding that the word demisexual has been used on AVEN since 2006.
Royce: I know I had a conversation with someone who was demi on OkCupid probably around 2012. They were older than I was, I think they were late 20s, early 30s. To just push back on the teen part of this.
Courtney: The teen part of it.
Royce: Now, I can’t remember if they expressed any interest in TTRPGs but– [Courtney laughs] but there is another little data point. I assume, like with a lot of areas of the ace spectrum, it goes back further than Tumblr.
Courtney: Yes! Well, and a lot of these terms, like, I don’t– She doesn’t even say which role-playing forum this was supposed to be. So it’s not linking anywhere, I don’t know where she got this information but demisexual was discussed on AVEN in 2006. And the reason why there was a need for a term like that to develop was because there were people who found themselves on AVEN who did not feel completely allosexual. They related to many parts of the asexual experience, but they were also admitting that there were some rare or conditionall situations where they did experience sexual attraction. But their relationship to sexual attraction was distinctly different from people who are just allosexual beings, and therefore their experience was also a little different from people who are asexual more on the side of the spectrum, like, where I am. Where I’m like, I just don’t experience it, period, at all.
Courtney: So they wanted to find a word to bridge the gap, and that’s where we get the gray area. Some people– some people specifically like demisexual as a term, some people will say, you know, I’m grey-sexual, or I’m a greyace. Because it is its own type of experience, and if you don’t have a word, it can be very difficult to find community and to relate to others. So people talk about new words coming up as if, like, it’s just some flipant thing, people are just making up words all over the place because they want to feel special. But it’s because there’s a gap in the language that needs to be filled. You know, if this was some capitalist tech startup founder with a new business saying, “I’m filling a gap in the market. I’ve noticed a gap here and my product is going to fill it.” People would be, you know, throwing investor dollars at him and calling him a genius. But because it’s a word, it’s just [mockingly] terminally online kids who don’t know what the real world is like.
Royce: If it was part of his tech startup venture, the word would also have fewer vowels in it.
Courtney: And so, this article talks about how outside of Tumblr, everyone else was skeptical about this new term in particular. And it’s like, this is also ignoring the places where demisexual people found each other outside of Tumblr. I know a lot of people on the A-spectrum did find each other on Tumblr, but we did have forums like AVEN, where a lot of this language developed in the first place. Like you said, you found someone on a dating site who was potentially 30 in 2012, and was using the label like there– Just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. She says, [reading] “But if the whole thing seemed frankly silly and, okay, snowflakey, it also seemed pretty harmless.” Which [sighs] like, why are you coming so hard for it if you actually think it’s harmless? Why even say that? You clearly don’t think it’s harmless. You very clearly don’t think that.
Courtney: Because for me, if there’s something I don’t understand, or if I come across a new term, a new identity, even a new interest, just like a hobby or someone really likes something that I just don’t understand the appeal of, I always tried to approach it from a sense of curiosity. And even if I myself am not going to fully be able to relate to it, I want to know what it is that makes that important to this person or this group of people. And like, if you aren’t going to approach something from a– from a place of curiosity like that, you could just ignore it. That’s what I don’t get from people like this. Why do you care so much?
Courtney: She goes on to say, [reading] “Gender and sexuality were just the latest lens through which young people were trying to understand their place in the world;” again with the quotes, [reading] “ quote – “demisexuality” was to 2013 what being a little goth-curious was for a teen in 1995, more or less.”
Royce: Goth-curious? I just–
Courtney: [cackling] It’s– I think–
Royce: I’m trying to envision goth-curious like, how– how do you not go all in?
Courtney: [laughs] I think that’s– Like, there are lifelong goths. There is a Gothic subculture that is loud and proud and strong, and I have friends twice my age who have been goths since before I was born. And it’s– I think goth-curious is almost trying to go back to the, like, like, this is just a phase. Like, there are undoubtedly, like, some people who might have, like, a tiny little goth phase. Like, rebelling against your parents for a short period of time, but then you find it doesn’t work for you and you don’t keep up with the subculture, you don’t engage with the community, you don’t find the music, things like that. And like, there’s nothing wrong with that. You can– you can try on different clothes and see what fits you. That is okay. But like– It’s just the, like, comparing goth-curious to a sexual orientation… Which I mean, maybe this is also offensive to goths, is she also saying that there aren’t lifelong goths? Like there are no lifelong demisexuals, there are no lifelong goths? I beg to differ. I also know demisexual people in their 50s and above. Like, why– why we have this obsession with making things a young generational trend. I do not know.
Courtney: But just– just the tone of this whole thing, she goes on to say, [reading] “except that with so much of life happening online, this identity – meaning demisexuality – was less about how you moved through the world than about finding just the right flag to affix to your social media profile.” Which, demisexuality is all about how you move through the world. How– how you relate to sexuality. And I don’t understand how someone else can care this much, but still not actually care enough to try to understand. [reading] “But unlike shopping at Claire’s Accessories,” which, is that where the goth-curious were shopping in 1995? [laughs] At Claire’s?
Royce: Is that pre Hot Topic?
Courtney: I mean, it was pre Hot Topic but not not relevant to ’95. Like Hot Topic existed in 95. It was founded in ’89, so. [reading] “But unlike shopping at Claire’s Accessories, demisexuality didn’t stay a teenage conceit; a combination of creeping identitarianism in mainstream culture plus a general obsession with – every word here is capitalized – What The Youths Are Into eventually made the concept irresistible to adult millennial women.”
Royce: Is ‘what the youths are into’ an alternate title of this person’s, like, column? Their general writing topic.
Courtney: I would love, like, a ‘what the youths are into’ but actually from a place of curiosity where it’s not just like a crotchety person of an elder generation. And like, I don’t think this author is particularly old either. Like, I don’t know if she’s a Millennial, I don’t know if she’s Gen X, we can look it up in a minute if we have to. But like, it’s just steeped in juvenoia and just– a contempt toward younger people, which I don’t understand. But imagine how precious it would be if you just had like a 90 year old like Grandma or Grandpa type, who genuinely, like, loved the youngest adult generation and, like, was so curious and fascinated by them that they were just like jumping into the– the Millennial culture, the Gen Z culture. I almost want that to be like a podcast or a video series. I think that would be precious. If it’s from a place of curiosity and not from a place of contempt.
Royce: Now, we’re gonna spend some time scrolling through some ticking toks.
Courtney: Yes! I’d almost love it to be like a type of investigative journalism too, like, let’s find out exactly why this is so appealing. Sometimes I feel like that’s how I go about things when I learn of a new hobby or interest or identity that I don’t know. I’m like, let’s– let’s go full investigation here. Let’s– let’s find the appeal. What is it that makes these people tick? But also the “this made it irresistible to adult millennial women,” again branding demisexuality just a woman thing. First of all throughout the entire A-spectrum, we as a community are way more likely to just reject the concepts of gender, or to play with the concepts of gender, or to fall outside of the binary of gender. Statistically, we are way more likely. But also the user who first used the word demisexual on AVEN in 2006 was a guy. That was not a woman! The word demisexual, as far as I know– If anyone else has seen it pop up pre-2006, let me know. But my understanding is that that term was coined by a guy on AVEN.
Courtney: So she cites an article that was posted on XOJane in 2015, someone who was saying, “IT HAPPENED TO ME: I’m A Demisexual.” And I don’t have much of an interest going into read that at this particular moment, because we have just so much more nonsense from this author. But she cites that essay as a means of saying, like, “Oh, it was meant– it was met with ridicule.” And people– the obvious reasons, like, “they want to be oppressed so bad.” Honestly, I’m so sick of that one sentence. Everyone who says that one sentence still to this day thinks they’re saying something revelatory and brilliant, a witty observation about the state of the world these days. You are not unique. People have been saying that exact same thing for years.
Royce: I mean it’s basically a twist on hypochondria.
Courtney: Hmm. Which is very interesting because there are a lot of ableist undertones to that as well. There are a lot of invisible disabilities. There are a lot of hard to diagnose or under-diagnosed illnesses, or chronic illness, that is another thing where people don’t see it, they don’t believe it. And people will just say, like, “Oh, you’re faking it for attention,” or that’s not real.
Royce: And if we go back through the history of all sexual orientations, or really anything that– any sort of human experiences that diverges from the norm or the average, there has been a point in history where that has been medicalized or pathologized.
Courtney: Absolutely. Yes.
Royce: So, I think you can sum it up with that sentiment, it’s that to be different is to be wrong somehow and people make up things that are wrong with them for attention. I think it goes back to misconceptions of hypochondria.
Courtney: Yep, I see no difference. You, you hit the nail on the head there. But there was something about the way the essay in question lamented [reading] “– quote – “the many struggles of living in such a sexually charged culture” that spoke to the anxieties of digital natives trying to navigate a post-sexual revolution dating scene. Hookup culture, dating apps, the endless sorting and filtering of potential suitors in a manner that resembled online shopping more than human connection: it’s no surprise that people struggling in this system jumped on a term, a hard-wired identity, that offered an explanation as to why. The young women who adopted a “demisexual” label as a means of opting out were less angry than their closest analogue, the young male incel, but both shared a sense that the system was broken.
Royce: That was a twist I wasn’t expecting.
Courtney: Yep! Incels, but women, and not as angry.
Royce: So one thing I’ve been tired of, for a long time, is all of the– I guess just snark or general negativity to the aspect of dating online, because it’s different than pre-internet meeting through friends or in the workplace or walking into some stranger.
Royce: I feel like certain people have consistently dunked on the aspect of dating online. And a lot of people who are on dating sites, well, their entire bio would be like, “This is stupid. I hate this.” [Courtney laughs] And I mean, that’s a red flag if there is one, like clearly they’re not taking this seriously. But I just don’t get belittling an idea that you clearly don’t understand.
Courtney: Which this one, in this case she’s almost not necessarily attacking online dating. She’s attacking people who can’t handle online dating. Although she’s just assuming that that’s the case without those people actually saying that.
Royce: There was a line about approaching dating like you’re shopping.
Courtney: Mmm, Yeah. “more than human connection”.
Royce: Instead of something with actual, like, human connection, and that’s– that’s belittling. The same thing goes into, like, you can have a very in-depth personal conversation with someone remotely–
Royce: –through words. I mean, this person wrote an advice column and if they are incapable of connecting with people through text, they should not have been in that position.
Courtney: Yep! It’s just everything about this is steeped in snark, right? Like, she’s being snarky to online dating but simultaneously being snarky to people she perceives as not being able to effectively online date.
Royce: Yeah. I think the underlying theme that’s– that’s bugging me is: person doesn’t understand something, so instead of trying to understand it, they take the first thought of what could be wrong with the situation that comes to mind and goes, “that must be what’s going on here.”
Royce: [sarcastically] Clearly, if they can’t handle online dating, they’re manifesting an entire identity and trying to find a culture around it, as a coping mechanism. Which makes– it makes no sense.
Courtney: Yes! Which– everything about this is ‘holier than thou’, right? It’s “I know more than you.” Because you’re listening to what these people are saying, and you’re saying, “I don’t believe you. Actually you have this problem.” And it’s like, why can’t you just meet people where they are? If they’re telling you something about themselves. Even if– because sure, there’s something to be said about how nobody is as self-aware as they think they are. Like, that’s just– that’s the case of it. But even if you’re saying, like, “Oh, maybe this person is lacking some self-awareness.” If they’re telling you something about themselves, that is important to them for some reason, and you’re just choosing to ignore it and not believe them. And make up all these different stories in your head. You’re making up stories about these people that you don’t know, which is just weird. And what kind of person does that? Someone who writes an advice column. [laughs]
Royce: Well, the thing is, so if you’re taking a few paragraphs and trying to construct a person around it, chances are you’re filling in the gaps with a lot of projections.
Royce: Because what else do you have? What else do you have to come off to fill in that information?
Courtney: So she wraps up this thought by saying, “If male incels were made miserable by the spectre of the sex they wanted but couldn’t have, the demisexuals were perhaps equally tormented by the pressure to want, full stop.”
Royce: I can tell that they thought that was a good line but I’m not even sure what they’re trying to say.
Courtney: [laughs] It’s not nearly as astute as I think she thinks it is. So, I think she’s saying that demisexuals are tormented by desire. She says the pressure to want. But in the context of demisexuality, I think she’s talking about sexual attraction and sexual desire. But I don’t see that as being equal, even if you take her word for it, and try to see what she’s saying. “Male incels are miserable by the specter of the sex they want but couldn’t have, then demisexuals are equally tormented by the pressure to want.” Who’s putting the pressure on them?
Royce: What was the title of this article?
Courtney: “Demisexuals are scared of sex.”
Royce: So, okay, so this is why I was confused because tormented by the pressure to want actually sounded sort of validating to aces. Like, it’s the pressure to want something that you don’t actually feel that is traumatizing. But given the article–
Courtney: That’s what I’m saying! Because, it’s like–
Royce: – the title, “being afraid of sex.” It sounds like the author is saying–
Courtney: So you admit it, there is a pressure to want. [laughs]
Royce: Well, it sounds like what they’re trying to say with that sentence that was cut off too short, that this person does feel a desire and they don’t know how to, I guess, choose or direct it, in like an online body marketplace as it was described.
Courtney: I don’t know, I don’t know.
Royce: I don’t know, this one’s past me.
Courtney: Well, we’ll read on. We’ll– we’ll get the fullest picture here. [reading] “Seven years after the XOJane essay, demisexuality remains a contested notion but also a far more visible one, in everything from beer marketing to dating guides, as with this recent dispatch from the dating app Hinge.” And it links to an article on Hinge called, “I’m demisexuality–”
Royce: I am demisexuality?
Courtney: [emphasis] I am demisexuality! [laughs] “I’m demisexual. What’s the best way to set expectations around waiting to get sexual.” Which I think is a very valid question in the modern dating landscape. Although the only people here that are cited, by the way, not women. Which is again, the obsession with making this a thing that young Millennial women are doing and yet the places you’re linking to, aside from that one XOJane article from 2015, it’s– it’s not even women you’re linking to. So you’re just hoping people take your word for it, without citing things properly or adding any level of nuance.
Royce: Yeah, they had an– an internal thesis, an idea of how this all works, and actual evidence be damned. That’s the way the world is.
Royce: By the way, you said that was Hinge?
Courtney: It was Hinge, yes.
Royce: I think Hinge is the dating site that I got banned on when I tried to do dating site research.
Courtney: [laughs] That’s probably for the best. They did their job. Yeah, by the way, little– little sneak preview. We might be doing an episode about online dating as an asexual featuring a variety of dating apps. Which is also just so interesting, because like I said, when you’re actually trying to state facts like ‘this is where the word demisexual came from’ there’s not a citation in sight, there is not a name or a place that’s even google-able. But then you link to an advice column on Hinge, which is fine. But then you link to– it was, what was that line, from beer marketing. “Demisexuality remains a contested notion but far more visible, in everything from beer marketing,” and that links to an also exceptionally snarky opinion article on The Guardian from 2019 called, “What have Budweiser’s ‘demi-sexual’ drinking cups got to do with Pride?” Which isn’t even specifically demisexual. All it does is cite a Budweiser Pride in London cup that has the stripes of the Asexual Pride flag, it’s like the black gray white purple. And in a Twitter post where they’re showing the picture of this asexual cup, they go down like, “Oh, this is what the different stripes mean.” And they mentioned that the gray stripe on the flag is for grey-asexual, and this includes demisexuals.
Courtney: So the cup itself is not specifically demisexual, but the author of this incredibly snarky op-ed just really digs into the demisexuals saying– saying like, “Oh, that’s not the only cup. There are eight more cups in about eight million more colors to go, but let’s just stop there for a second so I can shake my homosexual head in confusion. Perhaps I’m overlooking the widespread persecution of demisexuals and gray-asexuals in society. Perhaps, though, I am being cynical.” Yes, you are. Yes to all of these things. And it’s like, you found a snarky article that name-dropped demisexual and for some reason fixated on demisexual when the cup isn’t even the Demisexual Pride flag. The Demisexual Pride flag that’s been most frequently adopted still uses the colors of the asexual pride flag, but it’s three stripes and a triangle on the side and that’s not what the cup is, even.
Courtney: Someone just got so upset that Budweiser so much as mentioned grey-asexuals and so much as mentioned demisexuals in a Pride campaign, when discussing asexuality as a spectrum, that it’s like, technically, not even correct that demisexuality is visible in beer marketing. Because, where? Show me where? But she uses this, for some reason, to claim that [reading] “Demisexual visibility seems to have less to do with a grassroots shift in human sexuality, and more to do with its corporate profitability.” Name one person who is profiting, wildly, off of demisexuality. [reading emphatically] “In a world of identity-driven marketing, a massive piece of the pie awaited any advertiser who figured out how to make young, male-attracted women feel special and seen — and, of course, not quite heterosexual, thus saving them from the curse of being just another basic cishet bitch.”
Royce: I’m really curious if basic white cis women are really concerned about being basic white cishet women. I think that part of the whole deal with being basic is that you probably don’t understand that you’re basic.
Courtney: [laughs] Or you do and you own it. Usually, from– from what I’ve gathered on social media, the– the basic cishet white women who really own who they are and just brand their social media accordingly, tend to profit a lot more than anybody who’s demisexual.
Royce: Well, yeah, their– their market is the majority.
Royce: Like, if basic wouldn’t– If basic wasn’t the majority, it would not be called basic.
Royce: It would be some sort of abnormality, would be weird or eccentric.
Courtney: …or queer. But yeah, it’s so weird because– Also like, citation needed again. What is this massive piece of the pie? And there’s something–
Royce: Did they contact Budweiser to ask about their revenue after this ad?
Courtney: Yes, how much money did you make off of that picture of an asexual cup?
Royce: How many requests did you get [Courtney laughs] for people wanting to purchase demisexual branded cups? Considering the best estimate for aces in general that I’ve seen so far is like two percent of the population, and demisexuals would be a fraction of that, I’m going to say most advertising companies aren’t going to spend much time on that. Hell, it’s hard enough to get companies to follow basic accessibility measures to hit whatever percentage of the population have accessibility concerns.
Courtney: Yep, there’s that. But it’s just– So, sure there is something to be said about, like, rainbow marketing and rainbow-washing and all these companies that jump on board during Pride Month and do try to profit off of that. There’s a– there’s an argument there. But why are you attacking the actual queer people that have nothing to do with those companies making that decision? And usually those criticisms of the– the– the rainbow-washing, the Pride-washing is because of the fact that they’ll pretend to be all buddy-buddy with you to make a buck off of, you know, Pride themed merchandise during Pride Month. But then they’ll be, like, spending a lot of money lobbying politicians that are actively making legislation that harms us. And it’s like, very false allyship, very performative. Like that’s– that’s the critique.
Royce: Plus look at how many random people they really inexplicably piss off by putting an Ace Flag on something.
Courtney: Oh yeah, in fact if you google like, ‘Budweiser asexual’, like, you’re getting a Spectator article, go figure. That’s where our last article we covered was from. But you’ll get all these articles talking about “Budweiser’s asexual ad didn’t go over well on Twitter,” “Budweiser UK’s Pride campaign raises flags and not just rainbow ones.” Like, you’re getting all these snarky articles. Like, most people don’t like when companies do this.
Courtney: [reading] “At the same time, the allure of demisexuality as a label clearly reveals something about the inadequacies of the contemporary dating landscape, particularly as experienced by young women.” Again, the young women! [continues reading] “Taking it slow, assessing your feelings, and perhaps requiring a commitment before sex enters the picture: the tenets of demisexuality are fundamentally conservative, and more or less indistinguishable from the advice your grandmother would have given you about when and whether to have sex. But affixing the demisexual label dresses up these traditional values as a form of queerness, making them not just more palatable to younger folks but rhetorically unassailable. “I don’t want to have sex unless we’re emotionally connected” is a statement open to criticism;” – Is it? – “demisexuality is an identity that cannot be questioned.” But is it?! [laughs in disbelief] That’s– I want to say this is rape culture…?
Royce: Was the line, the idea that you don’t want to have sex can be called into question?
Courtney: “‘I don’t want to have sex unless we’re emotionally connected’ is a statement open to criticism.”
Courtney: No! Demisexual or not, that sounds like a boundary. That sounds like–
Royce: That is a consent violation.
Courtney: That is– yes! There’s nothing open to criticism about that statement in any context. Period. Full stop. And this is why we’re not, at over an hour into this at this point, we’re not going to make this a conversation fully on sex positivity. Although, we’re gonna put a pin in that because I want to talk about sex positivity. I want to have a really brutally honest conversation about sex positivity.
Royce: That’s going to be a whole episode, I assume.
Courtney: It’s gonna be an episode and a half.
Royce: The first ‘one and a half’ parter. [Courtney laughs] You’ll get a special episode that’s half length on Saturday.
Courtney: [laughs] So, the thing is, I’d venture to guess that this author fancies herself sex-positive. And I’d venture to guess a lot of people, especially on the A-spectrum, especially demisexuals, other queer folks reading this, are probably going to say that’s not what being sex-positive is. Because sex-positive is about consent and what you’re saying is calling into question some fundamental, like, truths that we must respect about consent. But saying that you are fundamentally conservative for just the way you experience attraction is so warped. Because that’s also, again you’re turning this into an ideation, a choice, a way you choose how to have sex with someone as opposed to the way you experience attraction.
Courtney: Because there are demisexual people who might not be particularly sex favorable. And even if they do experience an emotional connection with someone that isn’t going to automatically mean, “Oh, well, you’re allosexual now.” Like, the– their connection to sexuality is going to be different, because they’re demisexual and that’s a real thing. What a concept! But there are people who do see sex positivity as something that I cannot relate to, and sex positivity is one of those things that has been so ingrained in feminism that it has made it very difficult to critique. Because if you critique sex positivity, or at least certain forms of sex positivity, or the way some people use it, well, now you’re just not being feminist, that’s not very feminist of you now, is it?
Courtney: And when it’s someone like this saying you can criticize someone for saying, “I don’t want to have sex, unless we’re emotionally connected” because that’s a fundamentally conservative view. Well, that’s not very progressive of you. That’s not very feminist of you. Where’s the sexual liberation? And because it’s become so ingrained in feminism, and consent and sex education– Which like, consent we’re all for, sex education we’re all for. I don’t think it needs the aggressively positive spin that some people put on it. And that’s why I almost need other people to explain to me exactly what you mean by sex positivity, if you say, “I’m sex positive.” Because not everyone uses it the same way and some people use it in a way that does not serve me and does not serve a majority of asexuals. And it’s hard to say that because then people will be like, “Don’t you believe in consent? Don’t you believe in sex education?” Like, I do believe in those things but that’s not how everyone’s using this.
Royce: Yeah. The– the plus sign is overloaded. Positive does not mean more. But I think the nuances of that are for another day.
Courtney: Well, because Wikipedia, for example, [reading] sex-positivity is “an attitude towards human sexuality that regards all consensual sexual activities as fundamentally healthy and pleasurable, encouraging sexual pleasure and experimentation.” I guess I agree with that, if you take it a little more neutral, like if someone’s encouraging me to experiment with sex, I’m just gonna be like, “No.” If you want to, yeah.
Royce: I think that is written as a reaction to traditional conservatism.
Royce: It doesn’t take the idea that not wanting to have sex is a part of the human experience as well into account.
Courtney: Exactly. Because it’s erasing asexuality as a valid way to be. And that’s where you get really reactionary nonsense like this, because a lot of people use sex positivity and the sexual liberation as an opposition to conservatism. So, therefore, if people who utilize sex positivity in this way deem that any way that you are behaving appears, even at a surface level, to be a little conservative, they’re– they’re taking this as something that needs to be fought. Because they are in opposition to it. So this person is using what they see as sex positivity to oppose demisexuality, and that is so monumentally fucked up. But that is exactly what is happening here.
Courtney: The article continues, [reading] “This was clearly part of the allure for the teens who first gravitated toward the term. Demisexual may have been a snowflakey word but there was safety in it, especially if you were young, inexperienced, and a little afraid of sex. The kids who wrote into my advice column not only constructed elaborate identities around the type of sex they didn’t want to have, but also an elaborate consent framework in which any negotiation of one’s sexual boundaries constituted a violation of consent. The notion of pushing the limits of one’s own comfort in the spirit of experimentation, let alone for the sake of a partner’s pleasure, was horrifying to them, even if that meant (to use a provocative example) letting young men off the hook for being serial non-reciprocators of oral sex.”
Royce: Oh, okay.
Courtney: Like, did you just make that story up in your head, or…?
Royce: That– That sounds like something you’re very passionate about.
Courtney: Well, yeah, unreciprocated oral sex isn’t very feminist! [laughs]
Royce: We’ve talked before about how, like, sex between people is– is a form of play. It’s something that you do for mutual enjoyment. If someone doesn’t like doing something, why would you make them do something that they don’t enjoy?
Royce: Like, find something else. Find something you both like.
Courtney: Exactly. It’s– it’s also so weird because this is also clearly someone who has never spent any time in asexual or demisexuals spaces. Because, first of all, like, why are you derogatorily saying, “They created an elaborate consent framework”? Like, consent is good actually. But– but also, “the notion of pushing the limits of one’s own comfort in the spirit of experimentation,” which, that experimentation word, I pulled directly off of the Wikipedia for sex positivity, ‘encourages experimentation’.
Royce: Well, that’s the line that aces get all the time. That’s like, “Well, how do you know you don’t like it if you haven’t tried?”
Courtney: Yes, exactly. Which I think is just so weird, even if you took sex off the table and said anything. If someone, like, very specifically does not want to do something that is not required for them to live and exist, why is your reaction to try to make them do it?
Royce: Yeah, I mean, you can– you can circumvent that very quickly if you actually challenge someone on it. Like if it’s a– if it’s a straight person, the obvious quick answer is, “Well, have you tried to have sex with someone of the same gender?” If you want to throw sex out of the equation, how do I know that I wouldn’t like skydiving? Well, if I go four rungs up on a ladder, I feel like I’m gonna die.
Courtney: [laughs] Four? Is that– is that your magic number?
Royce: I can do three.
Courtney: [laughs] Well, and– and then to say, like, “to push the limits of your own comfort for the sake of a partner’s pleasure was horrifying to them.” That is something that is so heavily discussed in asexual spaces. And the fact that this person doesn’t know it tells me that– Like, I don’t know why you think you’re an expert on this, or why you have a valid opinion to be talking about this. But the conversation of, I am asexual or I’m on the A-spectrum, and I either have or I might acquire an allosexual partner, and how do we communicate boundaries and how do we negotiate. And there are plenty of ace people who do have sex for their partners’ pleasure almost exclusively, and that’s not a bad thing for those people. Because that is within the realm of their own safety and their own willingness to do something. But not every ace person is going to be that way, because we do all have different boundaries.
Courtney: But talking about still having sex with an allo partner is such a huge on-going conversation in the Ace community. We talk about that all the time. All the time! So, she goes on to say– And she doesn’t link to this, so I can’t read the article in question, but this is apparently from the advice column again. [reading] “When I suggested in one such scenario that a couple in a committed relationship might revisit and revise their boundaries, and even compromise them in the name of mutual satisfaction, the response was outrage. To these teenagers, a no in one context was meant to be understood as a no forever, and any further discussion or negotiation was, if not rape, then somewhere on the same spectrum.”
Courtney: Yes! [laughs]
Royce: You figured it out.
Courtney: Yeah, she just doesn’t like it because that’s not very sex-positive. That’s not very feminist. Where’s the experimentation? Where’s the eroticism?
Royce: Where is the forcible experimentation?
Courtney: [laughs] [reading] “Identifying as demisexual may offer a coveted membership in the “queer” community” – queer is in quotes, by the way – “but it does nothing to forestall the consensual-but-not-desired encounters that so many young women find themselves engaging in.”
Royce: Calling membership in a marginalized community coveted…
Courtney: [laughs] It’s extremely warped.
Royce: It shows such a distortion from reality.
Courtney: Yeah. That is the truth. [reading] “To posit the possibility of seduction, of a no that becomes a yes, is seen as akin to rape apologism.” Say it with me: Yes! It’s utterly baffling! And this [sighs] this is exactly the kind of thing we talk about when we talk about compulsory sexuality. We live in a world that does see sexuality as a compulsory thing, and asexuality challenges that in a way nothing else can compare to. And people who see this compulsory sexuality as something that they’ve conceptualized as good, because they’ve put it under the umbrella of sex positivity, they put it under the umbrella of feminism and sexual liberation, they fail to see the issues with that and how it doesn’t serve everyone. And it very quickly becomes rape culture.
Courtney: [reading] “We don’t like to talk about the complex alchemy whereby indifference might give way to fondness, even lust — or how the flattering, exciting sense of one’s own desirability can sometimes stand in so fully for desire itself that it’s impossible to tell the difference.”
Royce: Kind of seems like the author has a specific kink. [Courtney bursts out laughing] That they can’t separate from their own personal human experience enough to actually relate to other people. I used the word projecting earlier.
Courtney: Yes, you did. That was probably correct. Because this– this isn’t even a kink. It doesn’t even have to be a kink. This is just someone who sees sexuality as such a fundamentally good, inherent truth, and it’s also talking about, like, your own desirability. Like, some people don’t want to be desired. Some people might like that, that might be a stand-in for desire for you. You might be so thrilled that the concept of someone desiring you that– that’s– that’s enough, that’s enough for you to want to engage in some sort of sexual situation. But that’s just not everyone’s experience. And it’s like, you want people to have your experience. And that’s just not how people work. Because it’s not an insult to you. I– I would like to consider myself– Although I’m constantly re-evaluating this word every time I see nonsense like this. I would consider myself in the line of sex positivity where I’m like, good for you. If that’s how your sexuality works, go forth and do with it what you will, as long as it’s consensual. But now I have some serious questions for this author in particular.
Royce: I mean, that’s specifically why I mentioned kink. Because this– the way they are describing the way that they find social sexual interactions appealing is treading the line of a crossing of consent. And if they are naturally submissively-minded, yeah, it might be alluring to you. It could also be a little dangerous.
Courtney: Well that also in the context of a kink scene needs to be heavily discussed and negotiated, and still needs to be done safely. Like there are safe mechanisms in place for you to be able to explore that.
Royce: But that would be too elaborate of a consent framework.
Courtney: “And these kids are making these elaborate consent frameworks”! Which is just so weird. Because also the “exciting sense of one’s own desirability” like, if you want to play the part of a femme fatale and you just want to, you know, experience some type of arousal because of your own sexual attractiveness, go on and go forth, I guess. But like, I don’t want people to desire me sexually. I want to be able to wear a low-cut dress and not have people see that as a sexual thing. I’d rather that be a purely aesthetic preference. But I happen to have a figure that a lot of people find to be very sexual, regardless of what I’m wearing. And I can’t stand that.
Courtney: And she goes on to cite a short story called the Cat Person. I’m not going to go into all the details of that, will link it in the show notes if you want to read it. But she says, [reading] “The protagonist of “Cat Person” doesn’t want the man who wants her, but oh, the thrill of being wanted:” – and pulls the quote – “Imagining how excited he would be, how hungry and eager to impress her, she felt a twinge of desire pluck at her belly, as distinct and painful as the snap of an elastic band against her skin.” Which is that would sexual attraction feels like?! [laughs] Is that what that is? That seems like such a weird descriptor.
Royce: I’ve never heard anyone say the snap of an elastic band before. So I think we need more– We need more descriptions.
Courtney: We need– We need more data points. But it’s also like you have completely changed the conversation. Like, we were discussing demisexuality and now you’re discussing something that is distinctly not demisexuality. You are like, here’s an unrelated story, a short story, of someone who doesn’t want this person, but she really likes feeling desired by this person, and that’s close enough. And it’s like, that’s not what demisexuality is. So, you– But it’s– that’s gonna give the air of like demisexuals are missing something, you’re lacking. You should be able to experience this. And that’s only so many steps removed from you are broken and you are wrong, which is something that is all too common of a feeling and an experience in the A-spectrum.
Courtney: But instead of this, instead of that specific situation, [reading] “Instead, we instruct young people that sexuality is mainly a matter of identity, one in which the main concern is choosing not a partner but a label.” Oh! I called that! When we– when we were reading the advice column and the way she was talking about labels, I distinctly said that she seems to be treating labels as a method of choosing a partner. That– that is exactly what she’s doing here still, so many years later. So your understanding of queer labels has not evolved. But nobody wants a label just to have a label. That’s– that’s not what’s happening here.
Courtney: But [reading] “Indeed, adopting a term like demisexual is a way to sidestep the question of desire entirely, along with the fraught and frightening process of learning by experience what kind of sex you want (which, inevitably, requires stumbling uncomfortably against the kind you don’t). But the result is less safe than it is strange, a funhouse-mirror version of sexuality that has very little to do with the physical act itself, or the good things associated with it. And what’s under the surface of this label? Not self-knowledge, but fear: of intimacy, of heartbreak, and of being naked.”
Royce: Oh, okay.
Courtney: Yeah, the whole thing’s kind of trash, huh?
Royce: Yeah. It’s not very good. I mean this is clearly a person who believes that there is one way that humans are and if you are saying that you’re different than that, you’re wrong.
Courtney: Yes, this is someone who’s saying that sexuality is such an innate part of you that if you aren’t experiencing it, you are willfully holding that part of you back. You are being conservative, you are not being sex-positive and it’s just utterly repulsive. This– this is also clearly someone who, like, I want to know how many times people have actually called you out for rape apologizing. Because you put right in your article like, “Uh, the no that becomes a yes, is seen as akin to rape apologism?” Like, yes... What– What– Ah… Is– Also, is that what seduction is? Is seduction inherently turning a no into a yes? Because if that’s what you actually think seduction is then you need to throw the whole thing out. Now, I’m not a sexual person, but I can only imagine there’s a way to do seduction that isn’t, uh, rape.
Courtney: It’s just– it’s so utterly baffling to me. The entire article is trash, the entire mindset is trash. And the thing is, we could have just ignored this. We could have just posted about it on social media. The reason why I want to cover these things, and why we’ve covered a couple of other articles in the past, is because I feel like we’re just going to get more of these. I feel like articles specifically targeting asexuals, people on the asexual spectrum, is only going to increase. I think it’s going to get a little worse before it gets a little better. Although this is pretty funny. I wasn’t gonna do a whole deep dive into this writer and we’re not, we’re going to wrap it up here in a minute, but recently, she also put out an article called, “Why I keep getting mistaken for a conservative.”
Royce: Mistaken, huh?
Courtney: “I’m a lifelong liberal, but my team now thinks I’m the enemy.” I think there’s some serious self-awareness issues there. So, yeah, to– to be continued. We’ll talk more about sex positivity and how and why it does not always serve us. I think that’s an important conversation to have because for as many things that are beneficial, like consent and like reproductive rights, that often get molded into the sex positive movement, there are very much overly sexualized components of it that can be used to harm asexual people and the Ace community.
Courtney: And I don’t like it because even within the Ace community, because everyone holds on to the consent and the reproductive rights and the feminism, we are so often forced to be like, “I’m asexual, but I’m sex-positive”, like, “I’m asexual, but I’m sex positive!” And it’s like, I believe you too. I don’t think anybody’s saying that is incorrect, but I do think our ideas of sex positivity do not always line up with everybody’s. Any– any of these big social movements, these philosophical movements, it’s not one homogeneous thing, right. There are so many different fractured communities that see it differently. And I want to examine that a little critically. So, we’ll– we’ll do that here in the future. For our– what did I say, one-and-a-half episodes? [laughs] But until that time, reach out to the demisexuals in your life. Tell them that they are awesome. Tell them that you love them. And we will talk to you all again next week.