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Sorry I lied about posting George Takei's story on his conversation with his dad on being complicit in the Japanese American internment camps, but I swear I will do it once I'm done with all these papers. (Please tell me why I can come up with a rough draft of a policy research paper on fall prevention and home modifications due at the end of the month but not a paper on Gandhi due this Thursday.)

Before I get back to work, I'm quickly reposting this entry I wrote a while back for The Asian Women Blog Carnival. This was originally published in a past issue of the Asian American campus magazine for which I write.


Although it’s estimated that only 1% of the population at large is asexual, the Facebook group Asians Against Asexuality wants you to “band together to [e]rectify this grave epidemic of asexuality” that apparently afflicts the APA community. The group’s leaders lament that “the sad, sad truth of the matter is that many Asians are asexual. It's sort of pathetic, really. Even though all humans are sexual beings, some of us (especially Asians!) insist on taking our sexuality, locking it up in a safe, and dumping it overboard into an ocean of taboo.”

As an Asian American asexual who has yet to meet another APA asexual, I am delighted to have random strangers label me as pathetic and tragic. Don’t get me wrong - I have nothing against people becoming more in touch with their sexuality and have always been against abstinence-only sex education. What disturbs me, though, is this largely male group’s denial of the oversexualized image of Asian American women. The dragon lady and lotus flower stereotypes so prevalent in popular culture perpetuate the exploitation of women at a physical and psychological level. I understand that the social emasculation of Asian American men has very real repercussions in the dating scene, but this Facebook group marginalizes those of us who don’t identify with traditional notions of sexuality.

Across cultures, we’ve become accustomed to thinking about sexuality within two limited dimensions. One is either attracted to the opposite gender, the same gender or both. The transgendered and the genderqueer, whose gender identity isn’t necessarily same as their biological sex, are acknowledged by the more liberal as exceptions, but even their sexual preferences are assumed to fall within this categorical construction of sexual attraction.

Discussions about sexuality rarely include the possibility of a fourth alternative, that some people don’t experience sexual attraction to either gender. Our debates about evolution vs. intelligent design, gay marriage and stem cell research assume that human beings are inherently sexual beings. Regardless of where one stands on the issues, it’s widely recognized that the drive to procreate and perpetuate our genes is biologically imperative to the survival of any species. The lack of a sex drive and thus the lack of desire to procreate is so contrary to our fundamental self-interest that it’s difficult for us to imagine that people exist with such a “handicap.” The negative sexual stereotypes about Asian Americans of all genders put even more pressure on us to resist these social classifications by others outside our community. These stereotypes can even provoke a defensive show of sexual bravado as demonstrated by Facebook’s Asians Against Asexuality.

Most of all, I am offended that asexuality is equated with sexual dysfunction and repression as well as social ineptitude. “Denial” of sexuality for non-religious reasons is all too often the kiss of death for one’s dating prospects.

Although some asexuals have no desire for romantic relationships, there are many asexuals who are looking for love with people of the same, other or any gender; I happen to be a straight asexual. Many of my most liberal and sexually open friends, who happen to be of non-Asian descent, assure me that someday I’ll be turned on to the wonders of sex when I’m old enough. It’s all too convenient to subvert the “sexuality is fluid, so why can’t you be more like everyone else?” argument on sexual minorities. They tell me that it’s great that I’m fighting against Yellow Fever, but think that I’ll change my ways when I finally find a nice Asian boy who’ll really appreciate me and then “ravish” me (their words, not mine).

I find it fascinating how they all assume my future partner’s race to be Asian, as if non-Asian guys are hopelessly brainwashed by the sexual stereotypes and that Asian Americans don’t buy into them as well, however unconsciously. I genuinely appreciate their good intentions, but asexuality is a facet of my identity that I cannot and would not change even if I could.

Increasingly, I find myself trading one Asian American stereotype for another – China doll for model minority classmate. Not that I’m a perfect student by any means, but I’ve found it much easier to establish relationships of any sort with males if they see me in totally desexualized (and correspondingly de-romanticized) terms, as a strictly platonic, pseudo-sisterly confidante who’s willing to edit their papers. I’ve asked out Asian American, hapa and non-Asian American guys, and funnily enough the Asian American guys, who know that I’m asexual, were the only ones who politely turned me down. Granted, my sample size isn’t that large, but it’s frustrating to often feel like I’m pigeonholed by my Asian American peers who know I’m asexual.

Sometimes I wonder if there’s such a pressure for my high-achieving Asian American guy friends to prove their masculinity that subconsciously they couldn’t imagine having a romantic relationship with an asexual even if they aren’t having sex.

I might be terribly naïve in making this plea, but surely we’re progressive enough to accept our Asian American peers of all sexualities?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-04 06:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] buongiornodaisy.livejournal.com
Many of my most liberal and sexually open friends, who happen to be of non-Asian descent, assure me that someday I’ll be turned on to the wonders of sex when I’m old enough. It’s all too convenient to subvert the “sexuality is fluid, so why can’t you be more like everyone else?” argument on sexual minorities. They tell me that it’s great that I’m fighting against Yellow Fever, but think that I’ll change my ways when I finally find a nice Asian boy who’ll really appreciate me and then “ravish” me (their words, not mine).

What? I find that rather hypocritical, assuming they would also shun arguments stating that homosexuals are only homosexual because they haven't been loved correctly by someone of the opposite gender. If you're going to make a point of being open to and tolerant of all sexualities, then you need to, you know, be open and tolerant of all sexualities.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 08:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theladyrose.livejournal.com
Rereading what I wrote, it struck me that I sound overly critical of my friends in retrospect, which wasn't my intention to sound like I was accusing them of being hypocrites. What I was trying to convey was that we've been conditioned to view sexual desire and behavior as something innately human and the expression of one's sexuality, regardless of the gender(s) to which one's attracted, as a fundamental right. (Well, the latter's more of a liberal ideal, but it ought to be the general one). Lack of sexual desire has been pathologized and tends to be viewed as an impediment to expressing romantic love in committed relationships between sexual beings. The idea that actually, there are some outliers who simply have no interest in being sexual is so mindboggling that many have difficulty acknowledging, let alone validating, its existence.

There are a lot of sex positive asexuals out there, who have no problems with however others express their sexuality; they themselves just don't have any interest in it. I count myself as one of them. Learning how to behave around "sexuals" is somewhat like how people with Asperger's expend extra effort in learning how to behave in typical social interactions. Many of us can intellectually understand what sexual attraction is and what motivates people to engage in sexual behaviors, but there's an emotional disconnect.

I'm rambling; I apologize if this doesn't make any sense. I do appreciate that you're so supportive.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-04 10:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lifeisacookie.livejournal.com
Nice title, by the way. That group sounds so strange. I mean, i think i've know of....1 other person who defines themselves as asexual, and they are caucasian.

I've had some of the same issues as you have stated(without the being Asian factor, though) with people being unable to cope with someone who doesn't fit into the regular categories. I...don't know exactly what i am. I'm not sure if asexuality is the correct label for me, but i'm not sure that it isn't, either. But i have been told again and again that i am repressed or that, like you have been told, one day i will be turned on to the wonders of sex. I had one friend who liked to talk about this all the time, and i finally realized that it made her uncomfortable that i was different. She couldn't handle someone who didn't see sex like she did, so she was convinced that i was just repressing it all. If i had been keeping it in as much as she said i was, i should have exploded by now. Then people always say what about having kids - you want to have kids, don't you? And i get practically shunned when i say no.

It's so frustrating that everything has to be black and white. And it's funny that people can accept someone who is gay or transgender and understand that - but they can't comprehend someone not having an interest in sex. Doesn't it seem like something is a bit backwards, there?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 08:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theladyrose.livejournal.com
Thanks for sharing your experience; it's nice to know that there's someone else who can relate. Heck, a lot of us who identify as asexual, myself included, struggle with understanding what that term even means. It's really shocking how uncomfortable can be with even the concept of asexuality, isn't it? Some asexuals handle those kinds of remarks by joking that they have significantly more time on their hands to do more important things and have freed up their minds for more intellectual endeavors. My tendency is to make awkward jokes about being a human amoeba.

We've been conditioned to view sexual desire and behavior as something innately human and the expression of one's sexuality, regardless of the gender(s) to which one's attracted, as a fundamental right. (Well, the latter's more of a liberal ideal, but it ought to be the general one). Lack of sexual desire has been pathologized and tends to be viewed as an impediment to expressing romantic love in committed relationships between sexual beings. The idea that actually, there are some outliers who simply have no interest in being sexual is so mindboggling that many have difficulty acknowledging, let alone validating, its existence.

I can see where people are coming from when they say that "you can't know that you're asexual unless you've tried out this sexuality stuff." As asexuality's inherently based on a negation, any sexual experience seems to automatically void asexual identity.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-04 02:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lehah.livejournal.com
Keep in mind that American views on asian sexuality (such as they are) seem to be split into two "popular" catagories: the sexually-repressed and the sexually-obsessed. I've heard all sorts of explainations for this, usually as some type of culture clash ala the "traditional" asian world versus modernization via the likes of Douglas MacArthur's work as SCAP in Japan for five-and-a-half years.

I'm no sociologist and my views on asian culture are as narrow as my understanding of asexuality - so if this sounds glib, I apologize but for a woman who identifies herself as asexual, you sure do have a lot of pictures of Patrick McGoohan and James Bond all over your journal.
Edited Date: 2009-03-04 02:05 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 08:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theladyrose.livejournal.com
I'm definitely not an expert on the subject, either, but the general view seems to be that Asian sexuality is expressed at extreme ends of the sexuality spectrum, with repression characterized as its own brand of sexual obsession. You could argue that Western media portrayals of Asians tend to embody these extremes as a reflection of Western capitalistic imperialism, yadayadayada. I'm honestly not familiar, though, with explanations for all really kinky stuff primarily produced for Asian consumption; some of that media has deep historical roots.

I am somewhat distracted by pretty things, whether they be people or things or nature; being asexual doesn't mean that I'm not superficial. And I'm magpie-ish in screencaping things featuring favorite actors and collecting photos of things that interest me. I took 300 photos of Venice alone after a daytrip there this past summer.

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