Welcome to this Tuesday’s Question of the Week! Feel free to leave your two cents’ worth and get some discussion happening.
Last week I did an interview about asexual relationships for a story on asexual relationships and how asexual people find companionship. The writer doing the story said that they were really interested in going beyond Asexuality 101 topics in the mainstream media, because that had already been done frequently.
Do you think there is enough 101-type knowledge in the mainstream? Is it time for the media to move from ‘asexuality exists!’ to ask some broader questions (or conversely, more specific ones)? Or is asexuality still too invisible?
Personally, I think there should be both – I don’t think that we’re quite at the point yet where asexuality is common knowledge. But I’d also like to see media stories tackling more diverse and detailed aspects of asexuality, as well as some of its intersections.
I think it is easy to surround ourselves with people who all get the 101 already, and forget just how clueless most people are. I think I do this myself sometimes.
That said, asexual relationships are not too advanced for the mainstream in my opinion. I think there is also space for talking about gray-As/demis, asexual media representation, stereotyping, coming out (or not coming out), the DSM, interaction with queers. All the stuff that appeared in Huffington Post, that stuff’s fine.
I agree with Siggy that we need both still. The 101 aspects cover visibility which still needs boosting but we do need some that start to cover aspects of asexuality and the challenges faced to start getting recognition (I consider recognition and visibility two different things but are related).
Many of the asexual elements could also be broadened/presented to include benefits for most of the mainstream. And a single paragraph describing asexuality (possibly with link) should be enough to set context before going into the subject if the writer feels it is required.
Honestly, when I do 101, I generally go on to more 201 subjects pretty quickly, past a brief introduction to what I’m talking about. “Asexuality exists!” by itself is not only simple, it’s boring. It’s easy to understand why people sometimes go “…so?” at first response, if all they’re getting told is “people who don’t experience sexual attraction exist!” If you then go on to talk a bit about how relationships work, or any of the other topics Siggy mentioned, I find people are much better about grasping why it’s worth being aware of asexuality in the first place. It’s much less abstract, and when I’m doing visibility work, I always focus heavily on trying to personalize things so that people grasp we’re talking about actual people here. It’s easy to dismiss an abstraction, less so to dismiss an actual person talking about their experiences.
I agree with Sciatrix here – “asexuality exists!” is boring, and most of the time comes across as, “lookit, freaks!”
I’ve had the misfortune to be questioned for one of those once, non-knowledgeable “expert” for second opinion included.
To go beyond that level and make people see why the topic is relevant is ultimately a necessity if a writer doesn’t want to repeat the same kind of condescending bull that’s been done so often before.
I think 101 is still important, but, yeah, it would be nice to move beyond, “Look, these people exist.” It’s not…actually that hard to do so? At least, when I’ve done 101 stuff, that takes maybe 5-10 minutes (depending on whether my audience cares about whether our genitals are functioning or not *loud sighing*) and then I move on to more 201 topics.
As well as what Sci said (I agree, asexuality has an original ‘so what?’ response; ‘why do I care what you’re not doing?’ which we need to push past), there’s a tendency in the media to argue both sides or to ‘have your say in the comments’ (a la BBC News old “_____ country has just imposed the death penalty for homosexuals” ‘debate’ thread, which they put up in spite of the fact that anyone who argued in favour of one side of the debate would be breaching their comment policy). There’s a rule that there have to be two sides, so where the piece is ‘asexuals exist’ the ‘conversation’ is ‘do asexuals exist?’. Where the piece is ‘asexuals should be made an explicit exception to HSDD in the DSM’, the ‘conversation’ is ‘should asexuals be made an explicit exception to HSDD in the DSM’, which is a conversation which (largely) pre-supposes the existence of asexuality.
Ok, I can post comments again now. Excellent.
I think that there is definitely still a need for 101 in the media because outside of certain small circle, most people I meet still know next to nothing about asexuality (and what they “know” already is often wildly off the mark). Still, Covering basic 101 and taking steps into those more advanced 102 subjects are hardly exclusive. What I would be interested in seeing especially would be stories on say, specific segments of the community (other than just romantic asexuals in partnerships, which tend to be the media’s favorite), or on specific aspects of the community (community history? our own theories of sexuality? etc.). These may need to start off with an “asexuality exists” spiel but they can certainly continue to more detailed topics as well.
This is also something where I find linking to AVEN, or AAW, or previous asexuality articles useful – you can direct people to somewhere else if they need more of the 101 so you can focus on your particular topic of interest.