Student Protests are not caused by a lack of sex...but Aces should still call for a Free Palestine

An NYU professor thinks the Pro-Palestinian college protests are due to a lack of sex which is yet another example of sex being used as a tool of control to induce complacency and sexlessness being used as a scare tactic. This episode is NOT a comprehensive educational tool on the crisis in Gaza, but it IS a call to action...

Featured MarketplACE vendor of the week: Sonia Sulaiman


Courtney: Hello everyone and welcome back to The Ace Couple podcast. My name’s Courtney. I’m here with my spouse, Royce, and every once in a while, two worlds relevant to my personal activism collide in such a godforsaken fashion that we simply have no choice but to talk about it on the podcast. And today is one such of those days. If you have been paying an abundance of attention, this should come as no surprise to you. And yet, I am sure this is going to be shocking, out of left field, totally warped logic to a lot of you listeners. So we really want to point it out because it is important. It is an established pattern. It’s relevant to very pressing matters at hand that I would like to encourage all of you to get involved in, to the best of your ability.

Courtney: And we want to hit these key notes, but I also want to try to keep this episode a little short. Because the nature of long form podcasts is thus that a certain number of you will not make it to the end, and everything we’re talking about today is incredibly, incredibly important. So I’m going to try to be short and concise. This is not going to be the most in-depth exploration in the world for that reason. But just this week we came across the profoundly migraine-inducing headline out of the New York Post saying, “College students aren’t having enough sex — so they’re turning to anti-Israel protests: NYU professor” [groans] Okay, let’s unpack that.

Royce: We see so many headlines, particularly, I’d say, in the last decade or two, that just contain obvious juvenoia, and we have–

Courtney: Yeah.

Royce: –so much recorded media at this point in time that you can find things like this everywhere. Ranging from, you know, young people are destroying the economy because they’re not purchasing something that is out of date with their generation, or...

Courtney: Or they’re purchasing too much avocado toast.

Royce: Yeah, that’s why they can’t afford houses. Not, you know, the entire housing market. But I was really curious when you brought up this article. I was already hearing comparisons between the protests going on right now and the protests that were going on during the Vietnam War. And of course, it seems like there are a lot of people in America today, who are baffled, and confused, and outraged that students are protesting. Even though college campuses have been protested at for a long time. And, you know, the past 50 or 60 years of history has shown the Vietnam War protests to be a good thing actually.

Courtney: Right. Well, the fascinating thing about that is that I have seen quotes from student organizers that directly say that they are taking influence from those earlier protests. Some of them are happening at the exact same college campuses that some of those major protests happened at. And to your point, with the juvenoia, I mean, that’s a thing that has been around for as long as humans have had a concept of generations. And sometimes it is just, “Oh, I’m going to grumble, grumble at this one habit of this younger generation,” but there’s always an underlining scare tactic, right? It’s– this younger generation is going to ruin society as we know it. And a lot of the times, it does come down to sexual habits. And we’ve seen that more and more over the last decade. It’s only more frequently that it’s like, “Oh, they’re not having enough sex.” Sometimes, it’s “They’re not having enough kids,” but the implication is still there.

Royce: The first thing I tried to search for– And this is why I mentioned how we are just so oversaturated with information nowadays, like so many things are recorded and so many things are searchable. I didn’t know if I would be able to find something going back to the late 60s and early 70s, but I thought it would be really funny if older people during that period were blaming the Vietnam War protests on too much sex during the Free Love era.

Courtney: Oh no! It’s because of the Free Love era! You know, it’s hard to say. I haven’t seen such headlines. But the common through-line to articles like this is that media has a heavily anti protest bias.

Royce: It has a heavy establishment bias due to funding, and agreements, and access. And those existing systems resist protest because they’re the ones being protested against.

Courtney: Exactly. So– Like, no matter how history looks at an older protest, like your example, at the time, there is media, there are powerful people, there are politicians who are condemning any and all protests, because there is a heavy anti protest bias. And that’s something to keep in mind with every single headline that we’re seeing coming out of the latest news. Because I want to make very clear these students who are setting up encampments at their college campuses, calling for a free Palestine, calling on these governments to let Gaza live, calling on their academic institutions to disclose any and all investments with companies and organizations linked to Israel and the war in Gaza, and to divest from those investments, these students are incredibly brave. They could use as much support as they possibly can, because we are witnessing a genocide unfolding right before us and these protests are not new.

Courtney: These protests have been happening for months now, but we are seeing a very clear and sharp escalation. Especially– And this is part of why I’m also afraid to make this too long and say too much because we were going to record this yesterday, and in the 24 hours that we could have already recorded something, there are already escalations, there are already things changing. So by the time this goes out next week, there could be a lot more happening that we aren’t privy to yet. But the thing that makes me so sick now is that heavily militarized police units are coming in and arresting students, tearing down encampments, utilizing violence, and actually causing the escalation.

Royce: Speaking of news reporting bias, that is a very common thing that has become more apparent in the era of personal cell phones, where videos shown on mainstream news don’t tend to show the point that violence escalates, but they almost always blame it on the protesters.

Courtney: Yes.

Royce: But then, if you look, you’ll see dozens and dozens of, on the ground, cell phone videos of the police instigating.

Courtney: Yes. And I have seen that repeat itself here. And we saw it with the Black Lives Matter protests. We saw it with Ferguson. This is the nature of protest and militarized police in this country. And they aren’t all students either. I’ve seen professors involved in these protests that are completely peaceful up until the point that a police officer grabs someone and forces them to the ground. I’ve seen this happen to professors. Not that that is any less excusable, I mean, violence against anybody is inexcusable.

Courtney: But you don’t see as many headlines about the campus employees who are also supporting this. You’re seeing this as, “These young people. How dare they?” And the headlines and conversation things I’ve heard on local talk radio saying, “Oh, these students are too young to even know what they’re protesting. A lot of these are just anarchists who don’t even have any politics and they just want to fight with the police.” Or even saying, like, “Oh, funny how this is happening near the end of the school year when finals are happening,” and just telling them to get back into the classroom, get back to school, put your head down and fall in line.

Courtney: And that is where we get these, “Students just need to have sex. Young people just need to have sex.” I know to a lot of people this sounds like a big leap, but we see headlines like this all the time actually. When– One example that I know we’ve mentioned on the podcast before was during the GameStop, like short stocking debacle. Like, people were blaming bored kids for not having enough sex, so they just have to meddle in the economy, I guess? And that’s not even the only example, that’s just one I remembered that made several headlines. We’ve covered articles before that’s just telling everybody to have more sex, because here’s all the reasons why society needs it and why it’s important. And a couple of things happen with these articles. First of all, it frames sex as a duty, something you need to do. And we’ve covered this time and time again from the religious conservative angle in this country, where they literally think the nuclear family will solve all of society’s ills.

Royce: That’s a really weird stance to take on college campuses, though, because that is intentionally not procreative.

Courtney: Yes, and that’s why two things are actually at play here. Part of it is: be straight, and cis, and have children, and get married. Get married first, then have children. And then all of a sudden we won’t need food stamps or Medicaid! Or any social safety net at all because the family will just take care of itself and each other. Right? Like, that’s– That’s what we hear them say. But aside from a duty, a duty to the empire, a duty to the country, a duty to– I mean, when you take it to the extreme racist side of things, we see like, “Oh, the great replacement theory,” like we need more white babies. Like, that gets very racist, it gets very antisemitic, it gets really awful really fast. But it’s a duty to your people, right? But then it also becomes, in a situation like this and in a situation like what we saw with GameStop, they’re using– Like, idle hands are the devil’s workshop. They’re using sex as, like, a way to calm and sate younger people.

Royce: There’s also sort of an aging up of the infantilizing “let kids be kids” things. Like, anytime a high school person gets involved in local politics, or something like that, or sometimes even younger people having outspoken opinions on the way that the world is, there’s a refrain that you’re too young for this. You should just be focusing on having fun and not thinking about broader society. Because in their minds you shouldn’t be burdened with this thing, even though the older people are not doing anything to fix the problems. And the aging up of that to college age is this idea that college is just about having fun in that brief time period out of high school before you settle down. And that’s, I think, where you get that weird contradictory statement of you’re in a place of higher education where you’re trying, you’re in the most concentrated learning portion of your life before you start a career, but yet at the same time you don’t understand what you’re protesting. Seriously?

Courtney: Right! [chuckles] Yeah, it’s– It’s fascinating too. Because there really becomes a moral panic around a lack of sex. We see it in all areas of our life. We really do. And I mean, sex as a tool to suppress people is something that I don’t think gets enough discussion. Because maybe a more common, more recognizable to more people example is like, think about a really uptight woman and think about the really sexist, grotesque remark of like, “Oh, she just needs to get laid, then she’ll calm down.” Like that should hopefully be an aha moment to people who are like, why are people saying these students need to have sex? Where is this coming from? Sex is used as a tool to control and suppress people. And it’s not just on an individual basis, it’s on a societal level. And that’s why we get these news articles like this. So let’s dig a bit into what was actually said past the headline itself.

Courtney: So this is NYU professor, Scott Galloway: [reading] “We need to enjoy sex. I think part of the problem is young people aren’t having enough sex so they go on the hunt for fake threats and the most popular threat throughout history is antisemitism.” So he’s also clearly putting aside the fact that a lot of the demonstrators are themselves Jewish. We have organizations, Jewish Voices for Peace is one I’ve seen quoted a number of times. We just recently had large scale “Seder in the Streets” for Gaza. This widespread labeling of anyone calling for the end of the genocide of Palestinians is inherently antisemitic, is atrocious. And I think it’s going to have a lot of long term ramifications that we’re going to be dealing with for a long time. And it’s not going to help the fact that there– there is widespread antisemitism, and there is an uptick in antisemitic hate crimes. And that is something we do need to be aware of and vigilant of.

Courtney: And he takes it a step further, though. We start at: kids need to have more sex. If they don’t have sex, they’re going to become antisemites. Yikes. He then goes on to say: [reading] “iIt’s easy to poke fun at these kids, but history has a way of repeating itself, and this is how it starts. In ’30s Germany, a progressive community, a thriving gay community, excellent academic institutions. And how it started, was it was fashionable to wear a brown shirt and mock students at the University of Vienna.”

Courtney: And the thing is, like this is– If you were not at an encampment, if you were not listening to any students at this encampment, if you were not listening to Palestinian voices, if you were not seeing the cell phone footage from people on the ground, people who are there, then this next comment would be really, really alarming, because it paints such a false narrative of what’s actually happening at these demonstrations.

Courtney: It says here: [reading] “Galloway repeated his observation which went viral this week that if students at terrorist encampments were chanting slogans calling for the death of black or gays they would be swiftly stamped out.”

Courtney: So he’s making the implication that students at this encampment are in fact calling for the death of Jews, which is just very much not the case. There have been– I mean, I can’t be at every single protest, but there have been times where I have seen posters for a demonstration that have had really antisemitic dog-whistles. And we’ve had Jewish activists who are protesting on behalf of Gaza, who are pointing those things out. And so you need to seek out those people, so that we can learn from them and get on the same page. Because we do need to be vigilant of anybody who may be disguising ulterior motives. But that is the extreme, extreme minority. In fact, in any situation where I have seen a video of someone coming and saying something wildly antisemitic at one of these protests, they get kicked out. The protesters are not standing for that.

Courtney: But if you’re only reading articles like this, where they’re using this language, you’re going to think– And “terrorist” encampment. Terrorist is such a loaded word that is so often only used against People Of Color and the people who are standing alongside them. You’re going to look at this and say, “Oh my gosh, there are terrorists on college that are calling for the death of people.” And that’s– They want the death to end. They want the death to end. They want a ceasefire. They want less war, not more.

Courtney: And yet that consistent anti protest bias that the media has– To your point about coverage of Vietnam era protests, I haven’t seen anything specifically that’s talking about sexual habits of those protesters, they may very well have been, but I did see headlines calling them militant and using very aggressive language. And it’s just baffling to me that people think unarmed students, wearing keffiyehs, are the dangerous ones. When–

Royce: When there are police in full riot gear?

Courtney: Full riot gear. Pepper spray, weapons, guns, batons. And so many of these tools that they use against protesters are also tools of violence that have been used against Palestinians for years. During Ferguson, there were Palestinians who were tweeting at Black protesters, and trying to connect and help cross organize, by giving them tools and advice on what to do when you’re tear gassed. There were Palestinians saying, “Hey, we get tear gassed all the time. Rinse your eyes out with milk,” and sending this to the Ferguson protesters. And then these headlines have the audacity to say, “Oh, these protesters are trying to silence us. They’re trying to silence anyone who dares disagree.”

Courtney: ’ve seen headlines calling protesters, like, totalitarian. And it’s like, they’re the ones getting arrested, they’re the ones getting tear gassed, they’re getting led away on buses with their hands zip tied, they’re being beaten and thrown to the ground, injured and dragged by police. And they’re the ones forcing everyone else to submit? Are you kidding me?

Courtney: So [sighs] Here’s the thing, though. Every time we have an article like this that’s presenting a moral panic around a lack of sex, the Ace Community justifiably becomes enraged. Ideologies like this disproportionately impact us, whether or not they’re actually naming asexuals, and usually they are not. We can see the insidious talking points that are all too common in our society. But here’s the thing with this one, though. I want us to prove them right. I want all of the aces to do everything you can in your power to speak out, to show up at demonstrations, to donate money, to volunteer, to educate yourself.

Courtney: Ever since October 7th, it has been a tumultuous time for our group, A-specs Committed to Anti-Racism, or ACAR. It has been a very difficult time. It has not been easy, but many of our members have been trying to do as much as we can in way of, not only furthering our own education and that of the community around us, but also acting and encouraging others to act.

Courtney: We have been digging into the work of Edward Said. We have been reading Orientalism, watching documentaries on the concept of Orientalism, reading the work of Palestinian Ace fiction writer, Sonia Sulaiman, whose work is influenced by Palestinian folklore.

Courtney: But we’ve also been putting together, and acting on, an Action Doc for Gaza that is complete with a lot of different links that anyone anywhere can open and go through. It has resources for finding local demonstrations, phone banking organizations to donate to. Even means to find local organizations to you, which I would personally recommend first and foremost. If you have a local Free Palestine organization, please do find them, reach out, see how you can help, follow their lead.

Courtney: I know this is a very daunting issue, but we do not need to reinvent the wheel. There are people who have been advocating for this for years, for decades. Find the experts, find those with lived experience, listen to Palestinian voices, and help out however you can. So I’m going to put a link in the show notes to our Gaza Action Doc. I know there are other folks within the Ace and Aro communities who have shared that on social media, who shared that on their respective platforms, who shared it on Discord and Twitch, in their newsletters. Feel free to use it and share it widely, however you can as well. But we’ll also try to put some other resources in the show notes that you can check out. For example, specifically when we can, finding others within our community who are already doing this work. One example, Scalawag magazine last year – long before October – put out a series for their Abolition Week 2023. The theme was: The bars we can’t see. And there were articles about imprisoning Palestine. Gaza’s open-air prison. These are great resources for understanding the oppression of Palestinians long before this latest escalation.

Courtney: And Sherronda J Brown, author of Refusing Compulsory Sexuality, was actually an editor for Scalawag for this Abolition Week series. And as a queer community, when we’re calling on other Aces, when we’re calling on other Aros to join us in solidarity, please be mindful of oppressive tactics like– My gosh, I can’t even tell you how many comments I’ve heard or seen that’s like, “Why, as a queer person, would you support Palestine? Don’t you realize they would murder you?” Like– We’ll, we’ll see those things, and we’ll hear those things, and it’s a really insidious tactic. I’ll put a resource about this. This has been called pinkwashing, which is another tool to try to keep people complacent, to try to scare folks away from advocating for what’s right. Because we can’t lose sight of the fact that there are queer Palestinians. There are Palestinians who are allies and support queer folks.

Courtney: The fact that Palestinians are not only severely dehumanized, but then further painted as inherently violent, inherently hostile, inherently opposed to queer rights or equal rights is just incredibly harmful. And I know for us, we have a local Palestinian deli that before you even get inside and see the Palestinian flag, there’s a progress flag in the window that says “Everyone welcome” repeatedly. And please speak up if you see hateful and bigoted comments towards Palestinian in our community, because you better believe I have seen them. I have absolutely seen horrible, horrible comments in Ace spaces. I have seen jokes and memes being made about the death of Palestinians in Ace Discord servers. I have seen Aces make comments like, “Wow, can’t wait to have a beer on Gaza beach after we drive out all the Palestinians.” Horrible. Like, that is a call for genocide, that is a call for the death and or displacement of all Palestinians. And I have seen it in our Ace spaces. And I’ve seen it go a good long while before challenged by anyone. That is repulsive.

Courtney: I’ve also seen negative comments leveled specifically at Palestinian aces, who are just existing on social media and sharing their thoughts, sharing their opinion, sharing their family history. I’ve seen people tell Palestinian aces that they shouldn’t be talking about Palestine while using asexual hashtags, or using Asexual Pride days or weeks or celebrations. And we should not stand for that. Nothing about that is okay. So I said I wanted to keep this short, and I do, so please check the show notes for further resources for our Gaza Action Doc. That’s something that I and several volunteers in ACAR have put together, and I will continue to edit as we get more information.

Courtney: There is a strong likelihood that we will talk about this more in the future. I know over the last several months we have made side comments or minor points about this, whether it be attending a protest or the general state of things. But I know that we are all somewhat within our own respective social media bubbles. It is hard to know where each and every listener is in your own personal journey on education when it comes to this issue. So please check out the show notes for a variety of resources and, of course, please share that Gaza Action Doc far and wide. And please use it yourself. Hopefully it should be diverse enough that, whatever it is you can contribute, whether it’s time, your physical body, your money, whatever it is you can contribute, I’m sure you can find something there.

Courtney: And we like to end our episodes by featuring a shop owned by an ace and or aro small business owner. Today I want to feature Sonia Sulaiman, as I mentioned previously, a speculative fiction writer inspired by Palestinian folklore. And just a brilliant writer. We have purchased many books and short stories from Sonia. I have not gotten a chance to read all of them yet, but she’s got a beautiful narrative style and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read so far. We recently had a book club for ‘Handala, The Olive, The Storm, and The Sea’ as one brilliant example. I will put links for all the places you can find Sonia, also in the show notes.

Courtney: And our final point to round out this podcast is going to be one of privilege. I’ve thought long and hard about what my life would theoretically look like if I were a student at one of these college campuses right now. I was someone who was systemically gatekept out of college. I probably haven’t shared that whole tragedy of my past, at least not in too much detail, on the podcast before. But I know that not every student, not every person, not every adult has an equal footing when it comes to privilege and your position in this world right now. Some are more precarious than others. And all of these student protesters right now are just so, so brave because they are, to varying extents, willing to risk losing some of their privileges. Some of them are risking suspension, expulsion, not getting their degree. These are huge things to risk. And the more privileges you have, the easier it will be to risk them. It’s never going to be easy.

Courtney: If you are going to be a true ally, if you are going to stand up for anti-racism, if you are going to stand up for what’s right, if you are going to stand up for antiracism, if you are going to stand up for what’s right, you have to be willing to lose some privileges. But a student who has money, even a one-time expense for bail money, a student who has money, a student who has parents who love and support them, who have a family they can or do live with, are inherently going to have a bigger safety net. And so I really want all of you listening to just take stock of your own life, and your own privileges, and your own safety nets, and sit with that and reconcile it for a good long while. And then ask yourself how you can use those privileges to stand up for what is right.