The Asexual Agenda is adding new writers! Welcome Queenie. Queenie is graduate student in the U.S. studying Japanese religion. She is asexual and in a long-term romantic relationship with another ace. She also blogs over at Concept Awesome. She is never quite sure what to write in these introduction things, but this one time she accidentally got a short story on asexuality published in an erotica magazine.
A lot of you have probably seen the saying, “Don’t yuck my yum” by now. If you aren’t well-acquainted with it, it basically means “Don’t tell me that what I like is bad/gross just because you don’t like it.” I’ve seen it most commonly used in discussions of sexuality–if you decide to tell someone that their love of bondage, [insert sex act of your choice], or masturbation is gross/immoral/bad, you’re yucking their yum.
I really like the saying “don’t yuck my/someone’s yum,” because I think it captures a lot of my personal philosophy about sex and sexuality–we may not all be into the same sorts of things, but we should still all respect each other and each other’s boundaries.
That said, I’d like to propose a second item in the yum/yuck philosophy: don’t yum someone’s yuck. What do I mean by this? Well, this is probably easiest illustrated with an example.
Let’s say L and D are friends. L is sex repulsed. D is not.
If D mentions their sexual exploits and L says, “EW, GROSS, HOW CAN YOU DO THAT? UGH, I’M GONNA VOMIT,” that’s L yucking D’s yum. L shouldn’t do that, because it’s rude.
But let’s say L is cool with other people having sex, but uncomfortable with listening to sex talk. When D starts talking about sex, L excuses themself from the conversation. D realizes what L is doing, and still keeps talking about sex in L’s presence–not trying to drive L away, but rather trying to get them over their “sex problem.” Or maybe D decides to bring up sex more, because they think L’s uncomfortable face is adorable. Or maybe D talks about sex because if they stop just because they’re making L uncomfortable, they feel like they’re letting L yuck their yum.
I would say that in that context D is yumming L’s yuck (especially if D is doing it because they enjoy seeing L being uncomfortable).
I think it’s really important to respect both sides of the yum/yuck dichotomy. If you’re seeking out something that makes you uncomfortable just to tell the people who enjoy it that they’re terrible people, you really shouldn’t do that. But, on the other hand, if someone expresses to you that something you’re talking about makes them uncomfortable, if you then keep bringing it up around them, that’s not only rude, it could be construed as harassment. I have, unfortunately, seen this happen several times both in real life and on the internet. A while back, someone on tumblr wrote about not enjoying reading erotica because of their sex repulsion (without attaching any sort of stigma to people who enjoyed erotica) and got spammed by people who thought it would be funny to drop pornographic prose in their inbox. I’ve also seen people in real life talk about extremely personal sexual topics despite knowing that they were making other people uncomfortable because “[his/her/their] uncomfortable face is so cute!” (There have also been people who, once they found out I was asexual, started talking about sex around me all the time, and then seemed disappointed that I wasn’t grossed out. Seriously, guys, are you trying to make me uncomfortable? What the heck?)
Obviously, context matters. If someone who is uncomfortable with listening to people talk about BDSM goes to a panel on BDSM, it would be absurd to make everyone else modify their behavior to accommodate the individual who came to a discussion on a subject they weren’t comfortable discussing. But if someone who’s uncomfortable with listening to people talk about BDSM invites you to a dinner party and you decide to start talking about BDSM just because you feel like it, even though you know it will make your host uncomfortable, that’s not terribly respectful of your host. On the other hand, if L came up to a table where D was having a discussion about sex with other people, I don’t think that it’s necessary for D to change the conversation just because of L’s presence. D could say, “Hey, L, we’re talking about ____; would you like to join us?” and then L has the choice to back out of the conversation gracefully if it’s not a discussion they’d like to be part of.
I was talking to Effi about this topic earlier this week, and she suggested that it’s also important to keep in mind how easy it is for someone to excuse themselves from the conversation if you’re making them uncomfortable. If you’re all milling around together in a huge auditorium, it’s pretty easy for them to excuse themselves and join a conversation elsewhere. If you’re over at their house, they can…hide in the bathroom, basically. Going back to my earlier example, it’s very easy for L to excuse themself if they’ve just gotten to the table, but if they’re already sitting down and eating lunch and then D decides to tell everyone about What They Did This Weekend If Ya Know What I Mean Wink Wink Nudge Nudge, it’s much harder for L to gracefully excuse themself.
I think that a lot of the time people who are uncomfortable around sexual topics aren’t treated with as much respect in certain sexually liberal spaces as people who have non-normative sexual proclivities. When I was younger, I was more sex repulsed than I am now, and people (adults included!) called me a prude and would talk about graphic sexual topics just to watch me squirm in discomfort. Strangely enough, their sex talk did not make me less sex repulsed! (What did make me less sex repulsed was realizing that I didn’t have to turn in my Human Being Card if I decided not to have sex.) Honestly, if you’re not making a moral judgment about other people’s sexual activities and/or proclivities and you’re not mistreating other people or making them feel bad about themselves, I don’t think you should be treated badly for not wanting to listen to sex talk.
I guess my point is that respect should go both ways. Being uncomfortable listening to That Time Bits of My Genitals Fell Off Haha It Was Gross doesn’t make you a prude or antisexual or a bad person, and enjoying talking about The Kinky Things I Do in the Bedroom (and Other Rooms of the House on Occasion) doesn’t make you [insert derogatory epithet for people you feel are too sexually liberal] or a bad person. If you decide to hunt down the folks who like [sex act of your choice] to tell them what awful people they are and how immoral and bad and icky they are, well, you’re yucking their yum, and honestly I feel like you could spend your time less destructively. If you decide to hunt down people who are sex repulsed to tell them what prudes they are and how they’re putting the sex-positive movement back five thousand years and that they need to stop being so puritanical and just watch some porn, you’re yumming their yuck, and also doing basically the same thing you don’t like people doing to you.
In summary, respect people’s boundaries and respect that what you’re into might not be the same as what they’re into, and that’s okay. Try to be aware of if you are making other people uncomfortable (and, obviously, the easiest way to do this is to listen if people say you are making them uncomfortable!). If you are talking about a topic just to make other people uncomfortable, take a step back and consider your choices.
Don’t yuck someone’s yum, and don’t yum their yuck.