Siggy: What ace communities are you involved in?
Dragon: The ace-tumblr/blogging community. That’s basically it.
Fox: We’ve tried to find NZ ones (albeit not very hard) but we’ve not had any success, and we don’t really like forums.
Siggy: So you end up seeing a lot of Americanized internet culture?
Fox: That would be accurate. In fact, we were talking amongst ourselves about how Americanised everything was before the whole international voices thing started being talked about.
Siggy: Does American culture seem strange to you in any particular way?
Fox: Yes but it’s hard to explain how. I don’t know, the focus on guns and religion and stuff?
Dragon: America’s so big, and has lots of different cultures within it, and all of them are slightly different from what we’re used to.
Fox: America’s ‘left wing’ is pretty centre-right here. And you kind of have the redneck uber-religious stupid American stereotype. Which I hasten to add isn’t necessarily reflected in people we encounter on the internet. But you can see the influence on the way people act a bit.
Dragon: Even when it’s just backlash against it. Things like, people saying ‘sexuality is a gift from god’ is a wrong argument they get thrown at them, but that kind of strong religious feeling isn’t so big here.
Siggy: So it seems like there’s a lot of backlash against guns and religion?
Fox: Religion more than gun-control, because religion has a lot to say about sexuality. Though there are certain quite religious groups who popped up when we had our same-sex marriage debate last year.
Siggy: Does religion have less to say about sexuality in New Zealand?
Fox: It’s not that religion has less to say, it’s that there are fewer extremist religious groups here. We’re a pretty secular country. Urban legend has it that ‘Jedi’ is our third most common religion.
Siggy: What’s it like growing up in New Zealand?
Dragon: What’s it like growing up anywhere? New Zealand culture is quite outdoorsy and sporty, so you tend to get a lot of that in your upbringing.
Fox: For the record, I’m a first-gen immigrant (from a quite small age) so I wasn’t raised in Kiwi* culture the same way Dragon was. So I guess I can offer some outside perspective.
Sex isn’t really a thing that gets talked about much. We went to a panel on sexuality our university had on a little while ago, and a lesbian there basically said, ‘Coming out involved telling the world I was a sexual being, and admitting that I was sexual.’ And what Dragon has told me about her own upbringing matches up with that. So there’s this assumption that everyone is sexual BUT also no one ever really talks about it growing up.
Dragon: Until you get to the kind of upper teenage level, at which point a lot of people start drinking and partying and presumably having sex? Not really our scene.
Siggy: So what does coming out as asexual mean? Does it draw attention to a sexual assumption that no one wants to think about?
Dragon: I think it would, to be honest. Neither of us have come out, but I think people assume that we’re sexual due to the fact that we’re dating. Before I came out as lesbian and started dating Fox, I didn’t express any kind of attraction so my family just kind of ignored it. But as soon as I did, my mother really uncomfortably told me that we weren’t allowed to share a bed, and we’re lucky to be allowed to sleep in the same room. I honestly have no idea how they would react to my coming out as asexual.
Fox: I do think NZ shares compulsory sexuality with America, so there’s that.
Siggy: Is the compulsory sexuality more of the “Everyone must like sex” kind, or the “Everyone needs to start a family” kind?
Dragon: I think it’s slightly more ‘everyone is expected to like sex and is having sex if possible’. There is pressure to have families as well. That might be one of the reasons people pushed so much for same-sex marriage, actually. The family is still the basic unit of social life, you know? Unless you want a flat or live in an apartment in the city or something, I can imagine it would be hard for a single person to get an appropriate house.
Fox: Yeah, politicians are always talking about ‘mum and dad investors’ and suchlike. Though maybe a bit less about ‘traditional family values’ than in America, though the phrase is still thrown around sometimes. We’re not necessarily as different as we think, but there are lots of ways in which we are different. What I have observed is that people sometimes use these differences to ignore the similarities when the similarities are problematic. Like after the Elliot Rodgers thing, being like ‘ha ha ha those Americans and their stupid gun laws, that would never happen here’; and then ignoring that fact that we also have a rape culture.
Siggy: Do you think the similarities between NZ and America are there because of influence from America, or because those issues are inevitable?
Fox: I think it’s a mix of both, to be honest. Also we’re both ex-British colonies so maybe it stems from that common influence?
Dragon: Some things are in imitation of America, no doubt, because it’s so much of our media. Or else they were things that developed simultaneously.
Fox: Yeah, America permeates our media. I find it weird and ‘unrealistic’ when I hear Kiwi or even Aussie accents in fictional media. Which is really stupid and annoying, because it’s like the media is saying that people who speak like us don’t deserve our own stories.
Siggy: When I think of New Zealand, I think of several fictional asexual characters that came out of there, in Shortland Street, The Bone People, and Guardian of the Dead. What do you think of those?
Dragon: As for the latter, before the ace community we hadn’t heard of them.
Fox: Honestly, when I heard that Shortland Street was being noticed by non-Kiwi people I had to double-check that it was actually locally produced. And then we found it hilarious, because Shortland Street is synonymous with ‘terrible soap opera’ here.
Dragon: Shortland Street is kind of the local soap opera that everyone’s heard of but no one really watches. Or no one we know, anyway, except for my parents on occasion.
Although Shortland Street portrays an ace meetup group, we do not in fact have any ace meetup groups that we know of.
*Kiwi is slang for someone from New Zealand, and is derived from the native bird.