#2014

Odd Woman Out, or: Sex-Repulsion and Queer Media

If you spend any time around me, either online or offline, you know I am out and proud. I wear a rainbow bracelet every day; my purse has a button that says “crystal queer” on it; I wear flannel as much as humanly possible; I have a sidecut; and you can bet I’m going to mention my wife at every possible chance. Online, I’m an avid Creampuff, Fannibal, and Amedot shipper, and I run my own asexuality blog. Hell, even my Twitter name is “Queer as Hannibal”. What I’m saying is, you can sense my queerness from a mile away no matter how you encounter me. And that’s on purpose. I don’t want you to have to see me holding my wife’s hand to know I’m queer – I want my very self to radiate so much queerness you can see it from space. It’s an important part of my identity and I spend a lot of time keeping up on trends, issues, and news in the community. I try to spread positivity and inclusiveness, and to learn how to be a better ally to my fellow community members. In short, I am all about queer pride.

I say this so you have some understanding of why I feel conflicted about queer media. See, I’m asexual and definitely vary between sex-indifferent and sex-repulsed. I’m sex-positive in the sense that I think two or more consenting adults can do whatever they want with each other, but I don’t really want to see or hear about it. However, I’m also part of the wlw (women who love women) community, and I feel incredibly invested in positive representation of queer relationships. I’ve been reading the webcomic Band vs Band as long as it’s been running and was dying for the two main characters to get together. Likewise, I watched The Legend of Korra with a hungry eye for anything Korrasami, and always swoon a little when Laura and Carmilla waltz or flirt. As for Steven Universe, well… Amedot is the hill I will die on.

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I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP

In short, I absolutely put my attention, money, and support into queer relationships in the media and will always defend narratives that help broaden our understanding of relationship diversity. And yet, when my wife warned me there’s a sex scene in the Carmilla movie, I sighed a little in my head. See, being asexual/sex-indifferent and also a part of the wlw community can put me in an uncomfortable position because I tend to lose interest in a fictional relationship when it becomes sexual. It’s not that I think sex is immoral – it’s just not something I can totally connect with, and so it feels like I’m being alienated by something that becomes the focus of the relationship. I love Laura and Carmilla, but there are times in Carmilla season 2 when I get a little uncomfortable with how often they make out. Same with Band vs Band, even though the interactions are chaste and, for heck’s sake, just drawings. Yet while I know that response isn’t logical, fair, or healthy, I still feel this weird twinge of… something. Jealousy? Disappointment? Resentment? It’s hard to pin down, and I usually feel too guilty to examine my emotions.

Therein lies the problem. See, the closer to a sexual relationship two characters get, the less comfortable I am. However, I also know how important representation is, and so at the same time I’m cheering for this couple and what they represent in our changing culture. It leaves me in a weird gray area where I feel like I’m the bad guy for wanting a relationship to remain chaste, but not because I hate queer people being sensual or sexual; I think I just want to see more people like me, and it’s hard each time to lose a connection with a character once they become canonically allosexual. I know a lot of my own issues are wrapped up in this conflicting feeling – my longing to be a “normal” allosexual queer woman versus my simultaneous desire to stand up for people like me – but that doesn’t make the burden easier to bear.

Being sex-repulsed or sex-indifferent in the queer community can be a very fine line to walk. We want, and deserve, more representation and yet we have to be so careful that we don’t come off as sex-shaming or heteronormative. But with so little representation currently, it’s no wonder those misconceptions are rife in our community and so easily cause little sparks to rage into huge fires. Queer people have always been shamed for acting on their sexuality, and that will never change unless we normalize all forms of consensual intimacy. We just need to also remember that for many in our community, sex isn’t what makes them queer – and that’s just as valid. The more we vary what “real” relationships look like, the more everyone in the community will feel comfortable with who they are and what they want.

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20 thoughts on “#2014

  1. What a really good post! Its very interesting to read how conflicted this situation makes you, and how the representation causes that. We really do need more representation of asexual relationships. There is just so much diversity out there and we’re shown such a narrow slip of it… Gah! Thanks for sharing your perspective and experiences, its very brave of you! Creampuffs unite! And haha, even as someone who enjoys sex that carmilla sex scene was long. Have you watched the movie yet?

  2. *smashes the like button*

    I have similar conflicted feelings. I root for a couple to get together…then they jump right to sex and my first thought is ” can’t you just cuddle?”

  3. I feel like this should definitely be a submission for the Carnival of Aces this month about fandom. :) I relate to the conflicted feelings for sure. I really have to write my post that touches on some of this stuff!

    Thank you for sharing all this. I’m not actually “in” any of these fandoms but I saw on tumblr the excitement over the Carmilla sex scene, I’m familiar with aspects of all of these fandoms and knowing there’s canon femslash in something does make me want to watch it more… But yeah what you said largely rings pretty true. Thanks for writing this.

  4. I’ve felt the same way, at times. The inherent sexualization of LGBT relationships (especially sapphic ones) can be just as damaging as not having that representation at all. If we view all LGBT relationships as inherently sexual, it turns them into a fetish. Fetishization leads to dehumanization. It is also extremely infuriating that society continues to conflate romance with sex.

    I agree that representation matters and I don’t want to take anything away from allosexual LGBT people. But, I’m also concerned about the message we send when a LGBT relationship is only “confirmed” once it becomes sexual.

    **Note: I say LGBT in place of “queer” because I know not everyone is comfortable with the term “queer.” Also, I want to clarify that, though I include the “T” in my comment, not all trans people in relationships consider their relationships to be “queer” in this sense–there are plenty of trans folks who consider their relationships to be straight. But, I wanted to include trans (and nonbinary) relationships in my comment because a) some trans people do consider their own relationships “queer” simply because they are not cis (and that’s fine if they’re choosing that for their selves) and b) transgender people in relationships (especially happy relationships) is extremely rare in mainstream media, whether they’re gay, bisexual, pansexual, straight, etc… Trans and nonbinary relationships definitely deserve representation, too.

    Ah… this has gotten very long and out of hand (and I don’t even know if it makes sense!!), so I’m going to slink back to my anxiety corner, now.

    • I totally agree – and don’t worry, I always have a long thought process behind why I did or didn’t use the Q word, or the acronym, and if so WHICH acronym, too. I want to be inclusive but it’s hard sometimes! There are so many new terms for identities that I feel like someone will always get left out unless you use the biggest umbrella possible.

  5. While I am not asexual, I do feel that the LGBTQIA+ community is over sexualized and is often painted as hyper-sexual. I imagine this makes it very difficult to enjoy and support queer content, when it makes you uncomfortable. I really like reading queer YA fiction novels, but even in those there are a ton of sexual scenes, and it gets to be a bit much even though it doesn’t necessarily make me uncomfortable. I hope to see more asexual representation, especially within LGBTQIA+ content.

    I am also an avid creampuff and love the whole series! I really enjoyed the movie, and honestly I’d watch anything with Natasha Negovanlis in it. When you watch it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    • I finally watched it, and I really liked it! I think it had a few of the flaws that Season 3 had, but I was immediately won over by Mel’s role (she’s such an underutilized character… and also super hot) and her romance with Charlotte. Like, ugh, that is my new starcrossed OTP for sure. And the OUTFITS. Yes please.

  6. i have similar feelings sometimes. I’m not a fandom participant, but I have such feelings of disappointment over asexual forums and blogs when one after another users write about trying sex. And I do feel bad to an extent about it – anyway, nobody has a right to deny other aces the right to make their own choices. But every time an ace girl tries sex, I feel like: …here goes one more chance for positive representation of sex-free relationships…
    I’m not in any relationship – have never been – but I also double-identify as ace and lesbian. And my dream of a relationship is close to the already dead ideal of “romantic friendship” (I was very impressed by Lillian Faderman’s “Surpassing the Love of Men” – not even just the stories of relationships such as the famous Ladies of Llangolen, but first of all a panorama of cultural changes, which in late 19th century suddenly deprived women-loving-women of any positive model – with all its brutality it’s fascinating how fast and how *recently* it happened…) – I adore intensity of experience, but couldn’t bring myself to have sex. And so I had the same feeling of disappointment over a scholarly article about nonsexual relationships between women – unfortunately, all were “secondarily nonsexual”, so could be framed as typical “lesbian bed death”… No examples at all of women who decided at the beginning that they love each other, but don’t want sex. …And here goes… – once again we are told indirectly that our feelings are Impossible, that we don’t exist. I’m not going to be pushed off my path by such claims, I’ve been training myself in non-conformism for years. But I always feel empathy for others who may have similar preferences to mine – and get thrown away, get told that their thoughtfeelings are invalid and that they are just in denial…

    • I agree. I once read a book about the phenomenon of “Boston marriages”, or basically what you described but (I think) more specific to early America. The first half of the book was really interesting and validating…. until the second half, where they had testimonies from women in those situations and it almost always came down to “I’m a lesbian in love with my best (straight-ish) friend and so I guess I’ll forgo sex for her but it really sucks”. :\ I was so disappointed to see how many of those great examples were actually just dysfunctional relationships where one person had to deny who they were to be with the other. .

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