In defense of “sex-favorable”

Some time last year, the term “sex-favorable” came into use for asexuals who might be willing to have sex in at least some situations. There were also several people who said the term had a few problems, and advocated against it.

The main concerns were as follows:

  1. It confuses the indifferent/repulsed distinction. The difference between indifferent and repulsed is a matter of comfort, either with sex itself or with thinking about sex. The difference between favorable and not favorable is a matter of willingness to have sex.
  2. “Sex-favorable” people aren’t willing to have sex all the time. The existence of the term appears to make people forget that.

I think these are valid points, but for me they haven’t stuck. The reason is that critics of “sex-favorable” did not propose any alternative terms. They didn’t think any alternative would work.

I remember what it was like to have no terms. What I remember is lots of in depth discussion of sex-repulsed and sex-indifferent aces. And even though everyone obviously thought about the issue a lot, and even though there’s an extremely obvious extension from negative to neutral to positive, nobody would even mention the possibility of aces who like sex. At best they merely tolerated sex. It was all rather invalidating.

I mostly agree with what Talia wrote on the subject. Although “sex-favorable” elides many details, having a term is preferable to not having a term.

Furthermore, I believe “sex-favorable” didn’t create problems, it merely revealed pre-existing ones.  The fact that no alternative words would suffice is a major sign that it has nothing to do with the words.

For example, you are probably already familiar with the tendency of asexual people to turn allosexual experiences into a platonic ideal. Allosexual people are described as incapable of living without sex; sexual attraction is described as seeing someone and thinking “I’d like to have sex with that person.”

Part of me wants to use a sex-favorable identity as leverage against the idealization of allosexuals. After all, you’re not just caricaturing people outside the community, but people inside the ace community too.

About Siggy

Siggy is a physics grad student in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and makes amateur attempts at asexual activism. His interests include godlessness, scientific skepticism, and math. While not working or blogging, he plays video and board games with his boyfriend, and folds colored squares.
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24 Responses to In defense of “sex-favorable”

  1. Oh god, thank you for this. I’ve been so frustrated lately with this pervasive notion that allosexual people are all sex fiends who want to pressure their partners into sex. Every time I argue against that, I get treated like I’m promoting allosexuals over asexuals, or saying it’s okay to be pressured into sex. As an asexual who enjoys sex with one and only one person, the term “sex-favorable” is certainly problematic, but like you said, it’s better than nothing. When I think of the term, I think of it more as “I’m in favor of people having sex if that’s what they want, and I’m in favor of myself having it in specific situations.”

  2. Aqua says:

    I understood “sex-favorable” as someone who is favorable towards the idea of having sex under some circumstances, as opposed to someone who isn’t favorable towards it under any.

    After all, no one is favorable towards it under all of them. Contrast that with sex-repulsion; some people who identify as repulsed say they do, because they’re indifferent under some circumstances, repulsed under others, while other repulsed individuals are repulsed by it under all circumstances.

    Saying that allosexual people can’t live without sex also bothers me for the reasons mentioned; it erases that they each value sex differently too, including those who never want it. It also isn’t fair for us to use blanket statements and enforce misconceptions on them, when we’re fighting against our own misconceptions, and blanket statements shoved on us.

  3. Arf says:

    I like this post and really feel this: “Part of me wants to use a sex-favorable identity as leverage against the idealization of allosexuals. After all, you’re not just caricaturing people outside the community, but people inside the ace community too.”

    You might find the terminology used by the ARC resources Tumblr interesting/relevant. They use the term “procarnal.”

    http://arcresources.tumblr.com/Terminology

    • Elizabeth says:

      Huh. Wow. Thanks for linking that! I like those terms quite a bit better than sex-indifferent/repulsed/favorable, because they’re way more specific and can actually cover whatever the hell I am at any given moment.

      [tw: mention of corrective rape, invalidation]
      My problem with sex-favorable was only that it was an extension of an already broken framework, basically. That people (already) see this framework as being “this is how you are all the time,” and already use it to categorize others based on whatever they read. I would tend to get categorized as generally sex-favorable (without necessarily using those words—because this started way before “sex-favorable” was coined), and seen as being that way all the time regardless of context, based on the things I’ve written about. I saw some kid assuming that about me just last night, even—and going so far as to say I can’t “really” be asexual and I don’t understand how “promoting sex” leads to corrective rape. And you know… I know it’s just a kid, but I’m really sick of people assuming I’m not actually a SURVIVOR of corrective rape just because I’m capable of sometimes enjoying sex, and the posts where I talk about that get more attention than anything else. So even if I wouldn’t use “sex-favorable” to describe myself… any extension of the repulsed/indifferent framework doesn’t make sense to me, and doesn’t include my experiences—even if it does include a part of them that I am often attacked for, a part that’s used to invalidate me already. I don’t want “sex-favorable” taken away from people or anything like that. It might be a step forward if people would actually accept it, but it still doesn’t cover everything. And that omission is what makes me uncomfortable with ALL of those terms.

      So basically, I agree with Siggy that it revealed problems that were already there. I could probably word all of that better, but hopefully somebody somewhere gets what I’m trying to say.

    • rynwin says:

      I really love those terms!

    • elainexe says:

      I have some similar feelings to Elizabeth on not wanting to be assumed to want sex, except I find myself really not liking these terms based around “carnal”.
      I always find it curious to hear people talking about sex-averse/neutral/favorable as identities (not bad, per se…just not how I see things). Because….they’re really not mutually exclusive. I am sex-averse, sex-indifferent, AND sex-favorable, in different ways. So I approach these terms as just descriptions for feelings.
      And this is why I don’t like those terms, “procarnal” and the others. It not only sounds the opposite of their “anticarnal”, but is explicitly stated to be mutually exclusive on that definitions page.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I should clarify. I don’t necessarily like the use of “carnal” and I especially dislike “procarnal”—I just think these terms are way better than the repulsed/indifferent/(favorable?) framework. A step in the right direction, but I don’t know if I’d actually adopt them. There are too many religious connotations for me, though at least they’re differentiated from sexual orientations with a different suffix.

  4. mintythings says:

    “Furthermore, I believe “sex-favorable” didn’t create problems, it merely revealed pre-existing ones. The fact that no alternative words would suffice is a major sign that it has nothing to do with the words.”
    This is a really good point.
    I feel like people get used to the idea that the way to fix problems is to define them better, to create new, more specific, better-focused words. And sometimes that really helps, I don’t want to downplay that, but no amount of fixing your language will make it *impossible* for you to unintentionally imply something bad, or for people to misunderstand you or twist what you’re saying.

  5. epochryphal says:

    Hmm. I like your arguments — and I still can’t get behind “favorable” (or procarnal).

    I think because the very first context I saw it in was “aces who will have sex!” Like, stripped down to that level of compulsory sexuality off the bat. And primarly used by repulsed aces to say “favorable aces are privileged! sit down and shut up!”

    Which. Probably wouldn’t change even with a different word. But I’d at least like our word to be coined by the people who id with it yeah? And hopefully built into a more-compulsory-resistant base before being released into the wilds?

    Come to think of it who coined this thing?

    And yeah I haven’t given much thought to coining a replacement because
    1. everything I coin gets taken way way out of context (goodbye quoi),
    2. I’m kinda repulsed at the moment (yay arcflux stuff),
    3. I don’t have the energy to mount a campaign to properly define/disseminate a new word.

    Good to get the convo going again at least.

    • Siggy says:

      Oh no, what happened with quoiromantic? I like the term, though I’m not in the relevant group.

      I don’t know where “sex-favorable” came from, or even when. It’s one of those sneaky words that you start using before you realize it’s a term.

      • epochryphal says:

        Eh. Quoi has turned into
        – “there’s only quoiromantic, not quoisexual that’s not a thing” which excuse y’all, and
        – “can’t tell the difference between romantic and platonic attraction” which, no. Maybe as one definition, alongside others like “the concept of x attraction Does Not Apply” — but not as the Only def. Yet, there it is.

        And of course it went viral and is rarely attributed to me, and my posts about it get around 50 notes versus “definition” blogs and icons with tens of thousands.

        It’s been exhausting, even without the “this is cultural appropriation from French people” from random folks with no idea I’m goddamn French Canadian. Argh, coining.

        • Sciatrix says:

          Welcome to my feelings on the way “wtfromantic” took off. I think this is a general problem when coining words in general, and I think it’s something you just have to let go of with time, unfortunately.

    • queenieofaces says:

      I actually thought Talia coined the term? But I could be wrong.

      • Talia says:

        I’m pretty sure I did – the idea was definitely around before me, but I first used the term in 2012 in an AVENues article that finally got published in 2013. It was originally based off of a reaction to one of Mark Carrigan’s articles. I did a lot of searching and couldn’t find anyone using the term before I did, although people were definitely referencing the idea without the term.

        Although, that being said, the term seems to be used in ways that don’t reflect my original ideas, which might have something to do with the fact that I never see the article where I first used the idea cited; sex-favorable is doing very different things now and language is fascinating!

  6. For what it’s worth I think most of my problems with sex-favorable can probably be limited to when it’s used to label other people (as opposed to its use by someone who identifies with it)- because I think the problem is that people caricature sex-favorable aces.

    Which brings me to an interesting point: I agree that the term was merely revealing pre-existing problems, but I’m a lot more pessimistic about it’s usefulness in combating those. In the uses of the term previously, I think we were already seeing that spill-over of caricaturing allosexuals into caricaturing people in the community- and no one cared; that was the problem. At worst, this ended up feeling like people wanted to effectively kick sex-favorable aces out of the community (for example, by assuming sex-favorable aces could fit in with allosexuals, or that sex-favorable aces don’t really need the community). That in itself may be a repeat of the same instinct behind the non-libidoists (is that the right name? I forgot), in a weird way.

    On the other hand, as you point out, there isn’t a better term. I think if it saw more use by people who identify with it, it wouldn’t be such a caricature, and a lot of the issues might work themselves out. But I’m still not sure what, if anything, one can assume about someone who identifies with the term (very little, I suspect)- so I would caution everyone against trying to make broad statements or divide up the community through the use of the term.

    • Elizabeth says:

      “But I’m still not sure what, if anything, one can assume about someone who identifies with the term”

      Yeah… with you on that. It feels a lot like “sex-positive” to me. Which, I used for a while to express something specific (political values), but it hasn’t really helped because there are too many different things I could possibly mean by it, so now I don’t say that anymore except as a description (not identity) in very specific contexts. (And I need to make a blog post about it because I keep getting quoted by people who aren’t even reading what I wrote, and just nominally want to “include” ace people in their arguments—or more accurately, use us to support them.) So like… I can totally understand the value in using “sex-favorable” to the people who choose it, but it has too many possible meanings for me to feel comfortable with it EVEN IF it did fit me nearly 100%.

    • Z says:

      Agreed.

      I’d been using sex enthusiastic instead of sex favorable, though for the life of me I can’t remember when I started (it was at least over a year ago) or why I chose enthusiastic instead of favorable, but now I like it more because it feels like more of a feeling about sex, they way repulsed, averse, and indifferent are (I think connecting it to feelings rather than willingness is majorly important, but I never really saw any of them as “willingness levels” so I might be off the mark). I’ve also simply explained that there are asexuals who like sex and there are asexuals who have sex (different, overlapping groups) (instead of using a “label”). But unless I go through a whole explanation about how and why some asexuals might like and/or have sex it doesn’t matter what labels I use, it’s the same sort of hostility and push against the whole idea.

      So, if people out there doing the 101 (particularly ones who don’t id this way) don’t define things the way they should be defining them (the best laid plans won’t stop anyone from defining it as “down to fuck” as I recently saw it put) or understand what the words actually mean/are able to provide background info (saying things like “there are asexuals who like/have sex, but I don’t really get it/get why they’re still asexual”) it’s the same problems all over again, no matter what. But I don’t know if the community is ever in a spot to go further. (particularly with something that many are probably not that hot on)

  7. Quinoa says:

    I haven’t put much thought into this, but I like having a word like that because it’s a word that’s the opposite of sex-repulsed. A lot of people think sex-positive is the opposite of sex-repulsed, so I think it’s good to have another word to clear things up.

  8. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    I’m more on the repulsed spectrum. Both sides of the argument make sense, and I’ll be a bystander in this, given how my opinion isn’t relevant to those who desperately need a term. Anyhow: “sex-considering” came to mind instead of “sex-favorable”, even though it feels kinda unwieldy.
    (Feel free to hate.)

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