The Sex Corner: Ding ding ding, round two!

Tuesday 26 September, 2017

Sticks of card with the titles of the books written on them in black ink arranged artistically against purple and green patterned wallpapered walls. The two titles seen clearly say Under the knife and The Ben Hope Series the card obscured at the back only shows the word The

Thought I couldn’t possibly find more fault in the big land of literature? Well, you would be wrong. My reading was down over the last year because University got in the way of reading for pleasure, but when I did read for pleasure I noted down which books were good, which books were bad, and which books deserved a special mention on this here blog.

So without further ado, here we are, round two of The Sex Corner:

It’s not easy being asexual in a sexual world, and it’s even harder trying to avoid something that is always considered a selling point. (Although it isn’t really, but that’s a post for another day). Luckily there will always be more books for me to get my head into. Well, for as long as my kindle works and libraries exist, anyway.

And that is where of which I procured the new editions to the The Sex Corner from. (Holy awkward sentence, batman!).

The first is an early piece by Tess Gerritsen. You might recognise her name, she is the prolific author of the Rizzoli and Isles series, but before them, there was a Under The Knife. It start’s with a female doctor, called Kate Chesne, being accused of malpractice which leads to the uncovering a murder plot. And that sounded brilliant, I was all for that! Murder? Hospital related? So my cup of tea it was practically a family sized teapot full of Tetley Decaf.

Until the lawyer came into it.

At first he was looking into the case, and then suddenly it turned into a whirl wind romance that left me wondering the legalities of the situation. Would a prominent lawyer take such a risk by dating his client? He wasn’t only risking the case, he was risking both his and Doctor Chesne’s reputation and their respective licences to practice, if she was to be found guilty. She could have been branded as the murdering doctor who slept with her lawyer so he’d guarantee she’d be found innocent. He could have been branded as the lawyer who had sex with a murdering doctor, not caring about the evil deeds she’d done, bringing his firm into disrepute. What does that say for either of them, in character and ability to act reasonable?

It says nothing other than this is book is full of ridiculous people who can’t do their jobs. I can’t possibly understand these characters, and I certainly can’t empathise with them. I don’t know if other people can or do. All I know was that I was in it for the crime and the court case, and I left at the door by badly written, convoluted romance and unfathomable scenes of a sexual nature.

So, in the sex corner it went!

And it was followed very quickly by Shadow of the wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Initially this is a story about a lonely lad, Daniel, who, grieving after the death of his mother, is shown a library of forgotten books. The Cemetary of forgotten books.

Remembering what someone once said to him about your first book always staying with you, Daniel carefully chooses a book called The Shadow of The Wind. And he becomes enthralled by it. After he reads it, he wants to know everything he can about the author. He wants to be an author! This book has picked up this lonely lad and gave him a purpose beyond his own existence. It was beautiful and it was brilliant! I was all for that.

And then it derailed.

Daniel, the lonely boy, develops a crush on an older girl called Clara, whose father is a rare book connoisseur. And it turns out this book is as rare as you can get. Not wanting to be turned away so soon after he refuses to sell his book, which was an amazing, once in a lift time gift from the very secret library of forgotten books, he offers to return regularly to admire Clara from an up close and personal distance. Oh sorry, no, I mean, so he can read to her because it just so happens that she’s blind.

And that still isn’t where my problem was with this story. Developing crushes is fine. I remember the older lad I used to have a crush on! But one part I had a problem with is that Daniel seemed to think that Clara owed him something just because he liked her. And she wanted to see him less and less, probably because she was 6 years older than him and he was just an opportunistic child. And he gave her the book to keep. Yes, the very rare book he at one point would not let out of his sight.  He just gave it away.

There is such a mystery surrounding The Shadow of the Wind. All the other copies of this book was burnt by the author himself. Why? That’s part of the mystery. One night, fearing for Clara’s safety and the safety of the book, he sneaks in to her flat to take reposession of the book, hears, uh, noises, goes to check the, uh, noises out, finds Clara is, erm… quite happy where she is, erm, shall we say? And then he promptly gets beaten up by Clara’s boyfriend. He flees with the book, and then makes acquaintances with an eccentric homeless man called Fermin Romero de Torres.

My biggest problem with his reaction after finding out Clara’s got a boyfriend and that they seem quite happy together, is that he seems to think that she was using him. From my point of view, he was foisting his attentions on to her and imagined a whole Will They/Won’t They scenario in his mind, like a delusional fantasist, whilst she probably didn’t even think about him at all, especially considering his age. Like, in her mind, he was probably like that young next door neighbour you used to play out with when you’re both in the bracket of “under 16”, and then you’re over 16 and you go off and do your A Levels, but the next door neighbour’s just gone into year 10. Except this book is set in just after the Spanish Civil War, so, you know. No A Levels, or year 10. But ignoring the speciifcs, generally speaking, that’s life, it happens, and everybody moves on and makes friends with people their own age.

Everyone bar Daniel.

But the scenes of a sexual nature don’t go away just because Clara is no longer in his life, nooooOOoooOoooo. First you have Fermin Romero de Torres, who is never too far away from talking sexually, and then you have the very graphic sex scenes.

I was less than a third into the book but I was out. I’d powered through the Clara thing in the hopes the mystery of the book and Daniel’s plan to be an author would remain in the foreground. It didn’t. Once again, I paid the price for powering through.

Just when I thought I was learning!!

So, last but not least is a series of books I think I got into under false pretences. My friend recommended this book to me (the same one who recommended the Languidoc series. I need to stop listening to this friend’s suggestions). She said it was like Dan Brown’s books, but better written, with better plots. And I thought, well you can’t get worse than Dan Brown, surely? So why not give it a go? Hah. Why not, indeed!

The series was the Ben Hope series, by Scott Mariani. I started in the order Mariani recommends on his website, with the prequels first. The first one, Passenger 13, was flawless, filled with violent action, mystery and a little bit of back story. I couldn’t fault it. The second one, Bring Him Back, similar on the violent action but the mystery involved a child with “special” telepathic powers. I could see the Dan Brown comparison. And yes, it was still very well written. Then I read his real first published Ben Hope book (if we talk chronologically by published date), The Alchemist Secret, and I didn’t think it was as good as the prequels. Mariani seemed to be suffering from a case of “Plot strong, writing weak” itis. I figured, that’s understandable. My writing wasn’t as good in my first chapters than it was in my 10th chapters of a multi-chaptered story I’m writing, I can forgive tired tropes and poor narrative in the early days of his career. I can’t forgive the James Bond-esque poor treatment of female characters, though, making them look bad so men look good. I had a watchful eye out but ultimately, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Then there was The Mozart Conspiracy, which again had a decent story but the narrative style really started rubbing me the wrong way. Some chunks of purple prose here and there, and the romantic elements on the up, and then as usual with male writers, using female character’s suffering to drive a male character’s story onwards. This is irritating and insulting to the point where I thought I’d draw the line there and then. None of the bad elements were what I was reading this series for!

But then I got an email from my local Library. The next book in the series was available. So I thought, I’d give it one more chance with The Doomsday Prophecy and if it’s the same, I’d give up. It was the same, and a little bit worse. In this story, he starts off so torn up about his dead wife that he plans to finish up his theology degree from years before, and reconsiders going into the priest hood. We get one woman chatting him up and he turns her down, though it seems more begrudgingly because of appearances of propriety and the prospect of a job rather than earnestly out of mourning. And then he spends the rest of the book having a sort of “will they, won’t they” type romance with the next woman he meets. I’m not saying he should have been donning mourning suits for the next three years, but the timeline in the book means it’s only about 4 months since the apparent love of his life is dead before all of this happens.

Some of the dialogue meant to be enriched with romantic tension is so convoluted I felt like I was reading bad fanfiction.

I ummed and arr’d over reading the next lot. I thought, “this isn’t as bad a decline as the Oz books, and I’ve not faced anything overly sexually graphic, just the romance really pulls the stories down” and planned to go on. Then I was hit by a snag. The library didn’t have the next two books on audiobook and had no plans to stock them. I couldn’t afford to buy them, especially if I didn’t like them, so I just waited it out and put Ben Hope to the back of my mind. Probably for the best, considering.

Then I found out something unrelated to this which has made the decision once and for all about whether I should continue reading or not. There was a promotional campaign for the latest Ben Hope novel in The Sun. And then I found out that HarperCollins is related to The Sun. I did not know that before then.

So now I will have to pick my books carefully because there is no way I’m supporting anything in relation to The Sun.

But, all in all, that doesn’t change the fact that these books will be going in The Sex Corner. And then after that, I might throw all Ben Hope novels in Mount Doom.

I may be slow to update, but as long as there’s good books ruined by unnecessary romance plot lines and sex scenes, there will be The Sex Corner, so watch this space!


Who Says No To Mentos? Sensible people, that’s who

Wednesday 30 November, 2016

I’ve been meaning to write about adverts for a while now, but I’ve struggled to pull a post together in a coherent manner. I can’t stand most adverts and some of them just make me want to rant and go off on one, and I can’t see that being a worthwhile read, so you can understand my problem.

Until now. Now a new advert has come out and this post all fell in place.

It’s about an advert for Mentos: the lovely sweeties that are not quite fruity softmints that actually had a mass recall about 10 years ago now because of import related reasons. They taste lovely and they are great to put into bottles of coke.

It starts with text on the screen saying “When did we forget how to connect with each other?” and follows up with children directing adults in conversations. It’s meant to be cute! It’s meant to remind us how easy it was to connect with strangers when we were all children!

You know, when we were all ignorant of how terrible people of the world could be.

There’s one guy going up to a woman who is sitting down, asking if he can sit down and tell her a story. There’s a woman asking another woman if she wants to go with her to her house, and it ends with one guy asking another guy for cuddle, and that same guy asking two other people if they want a mento.

The problem is, in this world of children communicating with a child’s mind with the view that adults work like children, it sort of works. In real life, these things are big No No Klaxons. These are the exact things we should be telling children “If someone says this to you, you shout as loud as you can and go to the nearest familiar face.”

This does not work out of the world of children.

In real life, women already have men sitting down when and where they are not wanted and asking if they can “tell them a story”, with the belief that they won’t be told no. If women are asked as politely as “Chris” asks his target and are turned down, the scene can change from nice stranger to Nice Guy (TM) who demands to know what is so wrong with him that he’s not allowed to sit down and be nice to someone and engage them in a Nice conversation.

In the case of the two women, where one thinks the other is hitting on her, it is no wonder considering what we can expect from people in this society today.

And the third one involves one man asking another man if he can have a cuddle. Are you kidding me!? Are we only meant to be weary of this question of it’s asked by someone wearing a trench coat!? If someone came up to me and said “can I have a cuddle” and they weren’t Tom Fletcher from McFly, I would tell them where to go and what they can do with that cuddle.

And lastly, if a random man came over to me and offered me a sweet, I have enough reasons in today’s society and social climate to be weary of such a question to just flat out turn it down and move away. I don’t know where that sweet has been, I don’t know if there is an ulterior motive at play or a catch if i except. Call me paranoid, but if women can’t even allow men to open doors without there being repercussions afterwards, and the potential blame put on them should something happen in a bad turn of events, then  nobody should be shown accepting anything from others they don’t know in this sort of context, whether it’s food or contact or otherwise.

And the very fact that this advert includes children, I can’t believe nobody has thought this through! The defence is that these adverts are on late at night when there’s less chance of children seeing them, but I don’t believe these measures truly work.

Who says no to mentos? Hopefully everyone, if it’s from someone you don’t know or can’t trust.

In other advert-related rants: For similar reasons, I really dislike the Avon advert where women get a mystery package through the post. Let’s think this through. Treating this advert in earnest, this mystery package is supposedly full of make up items but the models don’t know where it’s come from, and they don’t know what the items contain.And yet, throwing caution to the wind where the products might be filled with dangerous chemicals due to the items possibly being fakes, possibly having an allergic reaction to the new mystery products they don’t know the origins of, and forgetting the anthrax scare we had about 20 years ago (and if I’m old enough to remember it, so are the people on the advert!), they cake their faces in the stuff. And only afterwards is it revealed these are Avon products.

Again, I can’t think of any woman who would just open a mysterious box that was posted through the door if they haven’t ordered anything, and I certainly don’t know anyone who would be as careless to actually use make up that they can’t put a name and ingredients list to.

A few years ago there was that spree of “Should have gone to Specsavers” adverts which really got my goat. Specifically, the one set on a rollercoaster.

In the scene, we have two pensionrs, apparently walking down a pier and then sitting down to have a rest and eat some food. Except they’ve sat down on a rollercoaster, they still have their bags with them, they have sandwiches in their hands, and then the chest strap comes down before the rollercoaster speeds off.

I had so many problems with this advert that I couldn’t believe such glaring oversights would be ignored to save face.

First of all, you can’t just accidentally wander on to a rollercoaster! It doesn’t matter how blind you are because you don’t have glasses on or the right prescription, there’s sounds, there’s people, there’s staff members. The design of a fair ground just doesn’t allow for it.

Secondly, they’re holding their bags and their sandwiches when the chest guard comes down. I know rollercoasters and engineers have had some well deserved negative press lately, but I don’t know anyone who has ever sat on a ride without someone going down the row of seats to make sure everyone is strapped in safely and correctly and ready to go. If by some freak happenstances that led to two pensioners sitting on a rollercoaster in the belief it was a park bench, staff would see them with their sandwches and their bags, see them trapped uncomfortably by the chest guard, and (knowing of the staff that I do and not the poor quality staff who have led to terrible tragedies) sort the situation out before it went further.

And then perhaps the biggest insult to my intellect was the pensioners going from trapped by the chest guards to holding them in a safe fashion like you are meant to. How could that happen!? In real life, it certainly wouldn’t have.

It wasn’t your sandwich, mate, it was poor story boarding!

And finally, I pretty much hate every perfume advert out on the market.
Why are scantily clad women writihing on silk and satin sheets holding perfume bottles?! What have those elements of the advert got to do with perfume? These adverts are clearly for the male gaze and they tell me nothing about the product.

It’s not so much “Sex Sells” because if sex really sold, women wouldn’t have to put up with adverts for products aimed at them, aimed at men. It’s that the sexualisation of women sells… to men, and tells women that they need to be like those women on screen… for reasons I don’t understand…

Do you know what would make sense for perfume adverts? Exploring what scent can mean in the greater sense. Scent can be a great memory reminder. Imagine, instead of women draped in figure-implying sheets, glowering at the camera, we have happy smiling women spraying perfume into the air to ground a memory into their mind, and then at the end of the advert, them spraying perfume into the air and the memory being recalled.

That would be lovely. That’s what I want out of perfume adverts.

But I suppose until women are in charge of broadcasting and asexuals in charge of advertising, the television will continue to concentrate on the male gaze, people (mostly women) will continue to be sexualised, and adverts will be made which do not share themselves well to real life circumstances.


The Sex Corner Or: How One Asexual Has Got Fed Up With The Usual Romantic Tropes and Sex Scenes In Books

Tuesday 20 October, 2015

Well, this is a post that goes well with Asexual Awareness Week!

I’m thinking of calling one corner of my room “The Sex Corner”.

No no no! Not like that! I’m not going all 50 Shades of Domestic Abuse Grey on everyone!

No. It’s one corner of my room where, in theory, I would throw, fling, chuck and lob books for containing Sex Scenes in otherwise interesting novels. Of course, I say “books”, but I can’t actually read physical books anymore, so I split my reading between my kindle and Audiobooks these days, and I can’t do anything to them because they’re expensive. And I doubt the insurance for the former includes “Damage by Asexual Rage”, and the latter belong to the library. And you should Never do anything to harm items from the library. (If you believe in such a place, there’s a special level of hell for people who damage items from the library, and it’s worse than the level reserved for people who talk at the theatre)

So anyway, instead, when applicable, I’ll write the titles down and then throw the them in the corner.

Why?

Because that’s where bad things belong, in the Naughty Corner. (You can groan if you life, it is a very tedious build up to a pun)

The first to go in there will be Solar by Ian McEwan, whose regular bouts of Sex scenes are jarring and off-putting. I get it, despite the main character (Michael Beard) not having much to offer, the man’s a womaniser and he had women eating out of his  hand, and everyone loves him. And how else was the author to prove that but with graphic descriptions!?

But, despite any contrived exposition that lead to these scenes happening, I don’t really get why the Sex scenes themselves are needed for the reader. Was it so the reader could believe these things happened to the character? A sort of “pics or it didn’t happen” thing, but in literary form? The first few felt like they were thrown in there for the Shallow Shock Value. Here’s an ageing man still having Sex. La gasp shock!! Surely a sum up line confirming that fact could have done the same job, if it was really, really needed. What I’m saying is, this went in to the Nth degree… and I’m not quite sure why.

Michael Beard is a scientist failing at his job, which is what caught my attention in the first place, so I’d have much rather it focused on that aspect. But, Oh no! We need a one hundred word description of what he looks like naked and, not to put too fine a point on it, failing to go? Really? Repeatedly through the book…? Okay then…

I know. I know what you’re thinking. I should have pitched the title across the room when I first ran into problems. I would have saved myself from having to hear the graphic description of indigestional distress, and then much later, sitting puzzled after the rushed epilogue-styled ending, if I had.

I just don’t get what McEwan thought it added to the story. I skipped as much as I could (a feat that deserves a medal when you’re dealing with audiobooks), and it made no difference to what I felt was the essence of the plot development. I still saw and understood how Michael Beard was a failure of a husband, father, scientist, lover, and an all around human being. And if, despite taking out the over-tired scenes of a sexual nature, those things remained obvious, then having them in, in the first place, obviously added nothing.

Right? So, belatedly in the Corner it goes!

###

The second to be thrown in the Sex Corner is Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Like Solar, there is a Sex Scene early on in the story. I compelled myself to skip on by and carry on. This book was recommended to me by a friend, so it can’t be all bad, right?

Wrong! From there, there was then the poor writing and narrative, and a pretty ridiculous romance. I should have given up whilst I was ahead!

The ridiculous romance went like this: Female Character (Alice) meets Male Character (Will). They’d met once before and  spent four hours or so in each others company working on a mutual project. Later in the evening of the day they meet again, danger hits. Alice tries to ask if they’re safe, once it looks like the danger has passed. What does Will do? He doesn’t actually answer the question, be just strokes her face. And then the danger returns.

A similar thing happens later on in the book, too. What does Handsy McRomeo do that time? Oh he just kisses her whilst she’s mid-question.

Yeah, Juliet, sod your safety concerns. His need to kiss you comes first. Sorry love. I’m sure you don’t mind!

Bonus? He spends days after those four hours being knocked out, waking up pining over her, and then getting knocked out again. What a guy! What a Romance!

Then there’s the sex scenes. Were they necessary? I mean, were they really necessary? I know i’m biased here, but considering there’s other parts of the story were the author just skimmed over a summary when more detail would have been appreciated, I really don’t see why a sum up of an extra marital affair couldn’t have done the same job.  It’s not just that her writing was all over the place, the decisions she made on what was kept in and what was skimmed over made no sense.

So, belatedly in the Corner that goes too.

###

Thirdly, a book I actually gave up on, lest I repeat the same mistake a third time.

Dead Air by Ian M Banks. Different Ian, virtually the same protagonist. Or antagonist, really, seeing as the main character describes himself as Professional Contraryman. This is the story of a “Shock Jockey” who gets paid to go out of his way to offend everyone. I attempted to skip through four Sex Scenes, but I got fed up of playing “Guess The Plot Beyond the Minefield” , and imagined myself pitching the CD Case across the room.

And that’s what I’m going to do from now on. You know, people say to people like me “Don’t like, don’t read”, and I don’t think people appreciate how much we would remove from our everyday life if we sex-repulsed asexuals intentionally went out of our way to avoid or removed all things Sex related.

Well, to show just part of it:

TSC1

I don’t like, so I’m not going to read anymore.

Watch this space for more Sex Corner Updates.

AFJ: Arranging titles artistically so that you don’t have to.

 


Asexuality Awareness Week – Day Four (Entry #1)

Thursday 30 October, 2014

First let me say that I know that I’ve let this ship sink somewhat, but I did not abandon it. I’ve been trying to update for months but between problems accessing my own computer and health problems, it’s been impossible to start and finish a post. By the time i can get back to it, the thread had been lost or the post was made completely irrelevant.

But I planned sticking to Asexuality Awareness Week. I had many ways for all areas of my life to celebrate it, but just before Monday, I came down with a flare up of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome in my left hand, and accessing my computer became even more difficult. It also made using my phone in it’s place even more difficult. There is no good angle to position the phone in place whilst I type and I couldn’t hold the phone with one hand and type with my right. And the less said about dictating to my phone, the better.

Or as my phone would say: The best head about the taking, the fatter.

But as my hand has improved and my determination increased, I am sat awkwardly in front of my laptop.

So let the Awareness Week belated begin (Around these parts!)

Just a reminder of the basics: Asexuality is the lack of a sexual attraction towards other people, and/or the lack of sexual desire. It’s an umbrella term which also covers Grey A, which is a term for people who have fluctuating sexual desire or do find people sexually attractive, but barely and minimally; And it also covers demisexuality, which is when people have to have a romantic foundation with a person before finding them sexually attractive.

It also covers people who are aromantic, which is when people don’t have a romantic drive.

Not every asexual is aromantic, and not every aromantic person is asexual. Asexual people can also be heteromantic, biromantic and homoromantic. And, some asexuals do have sex, though I myself don’t nor do I understand how that’s possible.

The important thing is, is that even when we don’t understand something, sometimes we just have to accept it anyway.

So, them’s the basics! If you didn’t read any of my previous posts over the years, hopefully that sums it up for you.

Now, I have been an active participant in Asexual Awareness Week for three years, now. I’ve seen an increase of awareness and acceptance, I’ve kept track of celebrities who have labelled themselves asexual, and characters who were brought into pop culture as seemingly asexual. I then saw a shift in attitude towards asexuality. As acceptance for asexual people who have sex, for whatever their reasons or circumstances, increased and became the expected norm, acceptance for asexual people who don’t have sex plummeted.

People who have fought against ignorant questions and attitudes themselves turned to other people and did the same thing. I’ve seen plenty of asexuals who have sex state that there must be something clinically wrong with those of us who don’t.

I don’t understand why. If I’m meant to accept people who, to me, have changed the diameters of a term to include them, then why can’t they accept people who, to me, were the meaning of the word? Asexual. As in lack there of.

I said all this last year, and unfortunately, it’s either the same or even worse, depending on your point of view.

Popular Culture has very much taken a dive for the worst. Lady Gaga is no longer asexual. Though I did predict that as soon as she declared herself to be. All popular fictional characters we once undoubtedly knew were asexual have been put through the sexual desire mangler. I do realise that I am on the cusp of the controvercial fault line, because I know demisexual people who can relate to Sheldon Cooper. Unfortunately, I can’t see it the same way as they seem to do.

If the creators had said “This is a character who is asexual. He might discover, somewhere down the line, he’s demisexual, and it’s a struggle for him.”, well, I’d take it with a pinch of salt but I’d have no foundations for an argument. They didn’t do that, though. Almost from the start, creators and actors alike talked around the issue, never used the words or terms, and have said in many different ways that one day the character might grow up and find a girlfriend. But of course, that can’t possibly insult an asexual person, because they’ve never explicitly used the word “asexual”.

But, what can be an asexual’s struggle has become the butt of their punch line. I feel like any relationship between Sheldon and Amy is for a build up of Will They/Won’t They, although knowing how sitcoms work, it’s probably more “Of course they will, but when!?”.

I feel like this entire relationship is just a way of “normalising” Sheldon. It’s saying, “People who aren’t interested WILL become interested if the person is persistent enough” It doesn’t do any favours for asexuality or asexual people at all.

I’ve said before about the problem with giving any label to Sherlock Holmes. It’s only open to interpretation due to the lack of explicitness, and hardly anyone seems to be taking into consideration the times the books were written in. The telly shows don’t just interpret Holmes’s orientation in their own ways, they seem to interpret Asexuality in their own ways as well.

Stephen Moffat has said Asexual people are boring, that’s why his Sherlock isn’t asexual. The people behind the american version seem to confusing asexuality with celibacy (The conscious decision Not to have sex rather than a lack of desire). How are we meant to normalise asexuality if people keep going out of their way to give the mass media the wrong idea?

And there really hasn’t been anything else, that I know of, to bring asexuality out of the niche of internet and into the general public.

And I can tell this because, in the past six months, I have filled in two Equal Opportunities-like forms and there still isn’t an Asexual tick box for the Sexual Orientation question. That’s how invisible we are. People who are meant to be in the know about these sort of things either don’t know, or don’t care.

And that, yet again, is why this week is so important.

I’m sad that all my plans fell apart right before it started, but hopefully I’ll be able to do some catch up today.

And hopefully I’ll be back with more Awareness tomorrow. For more information and ranting, please feel free to look through my previous Asexual Awareness Week posts.

I’ve been your Asexual Failed Journalist.

Good day!


Belated Asexual Awareness

Tuesday 21 January, 2014

If there’s one thing I’m mostly disappointed with myself about, during what I’ll call The Absence of 2013, it’s that I missed Asexual Awareness Week. It’s something that I never wanted to miss, even if I had nothing new to add, because spreading awareness and understanding is that important. But I did miss it, and now I want to fix that.

Better late than never, as I say.

As it happens, I don’t really have anything new to say about what being asexual means or what asexuality is, that I didn’t already say in 2012, or in 2011. From what I know about the asexual community, in all it’s little coves that it’s found in, it’s unfortunately just the same as it was when I last spoke about it. There’s civil unrest and quite a few short tempers. Asexuality is not being helped by those people who have this wacky idea of what acceptance is, as long as you accept what they say and belittle others who disagree with them until they either go away, or agree.

Why yes, I am talking about Tumblr.

Anyway! What I want to talk about today, is friendship.

There’s nothing much more important to me than my friends. Whether that’s because that’s just the sort of person I am, or because I’m disabled, or because I’m asexual, a sum of all those things, I don’t know. But it’s a fact.

My friendships make my life worth living.

To me, my friends are my first port of call. I imagine my life’s priorities to be in a rucksack with as many pockets as I need, and everything I need fits into this rucksack, and only things that fit into this rucksack are what I need. There is an order to this rucksack, and they are ordered by priority.

Sometimes my priorities change a bit. Sometimes my friends do go from being in the main big chamber to being in the smaller chamber of the bag, like for when my health gets too bad and dealing with it swallows up all my time and energy by no choice of my own.

But these things that are in my rucksack, they might move around a bit, but they remain in my rucksack. Hell, even education, which I’ve not attended since I dropped out of university and became a failed journalist, remains a priority. It’s placed in the little scratchy Velcro pocket at the very front of the rucksack. It hurts to put my hand in there, it usually takes more effort than what I get out of it deserves, but it’s in there.

Are we all following my rucksack metaphor for life?

To sum up: I’m asexual, I have friends in my rucksack, and I don’t have a boyfriend pocket, because my friends are mostly all I need in life. As well as food, sleep and good medication.

Ok? Ok!

So. Now that I’ve made myself sound like a wierdo…

These days, there has been a slip of how important friendships are for people. There is something out there teaching our society that, at some point in life, friendships should be put on the back burner for romantic and sexual relationships. Trying to keep a friendship exactly the same as it was before at least one party enters into a relationship is seen as, at best noble but unsustainable, and at worst pointless and childish. Having a third wheel at the side of a romantic relationship is not good for the relationship, but let me tell you, it’s no fun being that third wheel either.

The solution is almost always for the party who doesn’t have a romantic other half to get a romantic other half. Or other friends. Other friends hardly bode well for the friendship, if they care at that point, where as an other half at least evens the score.

Or that’s what my observations and partial experience has taught me.

But when you’re asexual, or when you’re an asexual who doesn’t want sex or a romantic relationship, or like me, an asexual who wouldn’t mind a falling into a non-sexual relationship but don’t plan to go looking for one because there’s a minefield of sex out there and really, I don’t need anything extra in my life than the friends I have… (rucksack is full) That solution is not a solution. It’s like asking me to grow an extra spleen. Why? To make it easier for everyone else?

But very recently, as understanding as my friends are, one of my friends – the friend behind the idea of me signing up to a dating website, even – who is very happy in her relationship and, I consider myself very lucky here, isn’t one of those people to put aside friendships for romantic relationships, said something which upset me regardless of how she meant it.

Happy in her relationship, she asked me if I had any news about anything romantic in my life, and I told her my usual answer. No, and I doubt there will be, and that’s fine.

And she said “I don’t want you to end up alone, though, do you?”.

Now, let’s ignore the fact that we’re in our twenties and have plenty of time to not be alone before we’re both old and grey, and hopefully sometime after that too, and focus on how those words hurt. What I think she meant was, “We’re young and we’re lively people, you need to get out there now and meet people. I’m happy, I want to make sure that you’re happy too.”

But unfortunately, I can’t help but take those words differently. To me, those words said “Friendships only go so far and last so long. When we’re older, you won’t be able to depend on mere friendship to get you through life. We’ll all have something more and more is better.”

It gave me this mental image of something like the ballroom scene from Labyrinth, except everyone is dancing with everyone else, there’s no David Bowie, and I can’t cut in because in this weird world I’ve imagined, nobody dances with friends anymore.

I’m aware that sounds more bizarre than the rucksack metaphor, but that’s what came to mind.

What my friend said, which so many other people think and automatically say as well, it makes me feel like everyone who isn’t asexual imagines that being asexual is what leaves you lonely and alone. Where as, from my point of view, it’s other people who don’t see how important friendship can be that can make me feel lonely and alone. Other people deciding for me that not having a romantic relationship will make me lonely, upsets me.

This isn’t universal for asexuals. Many asexuals have romantic relationships, some have sexual relationships and they’re happy.

But for those of us who need friendships in our lives, this is how a modern hyper-sexualised society, where two is a couple and three is a crowd, can make us lonely and alone.

Friendships are enough for me, if my friends can be around to be in them.


The End of 2012 – Wordle

Monday 31 December, 2012
And now we’ve come to the end of 2012.

This blog suffered this year, didn’t it? Well, art follows life, as I’ve just made up, and this art definitely followed this here life of the failed journalist. First there was the project that ran away with my time, then there was ill health. Then there was more ill health. Then the old SAD kicked in on top of ill health. And between the ill-health, the ill-health, SAD and everything else, it was just very hard to keep this blog afloat.Trust me, the last thing people need to read are my apathetic reviews and rants. And what’s a rant when it’s fuelled by apathy anyway? It’d be a contradiction, an oxymoron, a paradox! Apathy can’t fuel anything, that’s why it’s called apathy.

So anyway, it was a year long absence with bouts of focus in between. 2013 will be better! I said so on Christmas and I meant it. Because there’s a bunch of pre-written entries 😉

Anyway, on to Wordle. I loved the one from last year, it didn’t represent the blog much at all. I found out why after much googling. Apparently it just takes from the most recent entries, and last year that was a steady stream including the ones for asexuality awareness.
This year with a clever bit of fudging on my part, in which I mean I copied and pasted every single entry into a word document and copied and pasted that into the wordle text block, we have true blog representation! From the beginning.
And there we have it! People have been the focus of this blog up until now.
What will 2013 bring, I wonder?
Happy new year, people!
-AFJ-

The Terrible Twos!

Thursday 22 November, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me
Happy Birthday To Me
Happy Birthday to I Once Was a Twenty-Something Journalism Student!
Happy Birthday To Me

Image

Now, like I said last year, it’s not actually my birthday, it’s the blog’s birthday. Two years ago today, I started this blog so that I could throw all of my journalistic-styled stuff somewhere that didn’t belong on my personal blog. This year has been a bit of a stop-start station, because of that project that took up my free time, health problems and all the rest in between.

I had planned to get going again in October, but health problems got in the way and continue to get in the way. It was a miracle I was able to stick with Asexuality Awareness Week, and even then you’ll notice the absence on the wednesday.

But here marks the start of a new year, on the blog’s 2nd birthday.

It’s been a good two years so far, and despite all obstacles that might get in the way, I don’t plan to abandon ship just yet.

So here’s to many more years filled with asexual awareness, disabled awareness, your run of the mill ramblings, reviews that may or may not actually qualify as reviews and so much more.

You’ve been a good reader and I’ve been A Failed Journalist!

-AFJ-


Unofficial Asexual Awareness Week 2012 – Part 4

Friday 26 October, 2012

So I know I’ve kept comparing this year to last year, to give a clearer idea as to what’s going on in the asexual community and how attitude shifts outside of it have affected the dynamics within, or maybe it’s the other way around. This last entry will be no different, except this time the topic is about me specifically.

When I first delved down this path, I was still struggling to get my head around it all. I had some idea I was asexual around 2007 thanks to that friend of a friend bringing it to my attention, but I never said anything. I kept the label tucked at the back of my mind. I found people aesthetically pleasing, I liked the idea of being in a relationship (as long as sex was not involved) but knew it was very unlikely that I’d be in one at that point, so there was no big reason to mention anything.

And even though I’d end up lurking on the AVEN forums every once in a blue moon, I knew what it meant for me and me only. I didn’t know the rest. I’d only really just started to learn all of that in early 2011 and even on my blog entries last year, I still had more to learn.

Well, a years gone on and I’m still no spokesperson, but I am more confident that I know what i’m talking about, especially when it comes to myself. I’m no longer afraid of being backed into a corner by someone asking questions and pointing out the variety, as if a different person’s answer to the question negates my own.

When I wrote the last entry, I’d only ever said to three people that I was asexual. As I’ve said before, it’s never a case of me coming out that’s important, it’s not the aim. Raising awareness so that other people know that Asexuality exists is the aim. Since my last entry, though, things have changed.

During the last Asexual Awareness Week, one of my friends saw my daily twitter posts about asexuality and without even addressing it, accepted that I was asexual. I wasn’t even aware he’d put two and two together, because I had used very impersonal language to raise asexual awareness. A few weeks later when he was talking about his relationship, he stopped talking and chastised himself for “making the asexual uncomfortable”.

Two months after Asexual Awareness Week, I redesigned the blog but I wanted opinions first before I finalised it. Despite me using a clone blog rather than redesigning and linking out the real one, my Good Friend remembered the Blogger address and checked up on that. He ended up reading all that I’d said about Asexual Awareness and about me being asexual. All in all, both very positive experiences with “coming out”, even though I didn’t really intend to.

This year I’ve mentioned a few times about being asexual in various corners of the internet, so more people do know that I am asexual. But these aren’t people in my “in person” life. I tend to keep groups of people separated, because I don’t have much experiences with worlds colliding like that, so although two very dear friends of mine particularly did know, the rest didn’t. Until yesterday.

I did the twitter/facebook posts again and again stuck to impersonal language, but my friends are apparently more intelligent than I give them credit for. It took just one person to comment on me being asexual for others to follow suit, including the friend whose friend it was that first introduced the concept of Asexuality to me.

I have effectively outed myself to all of my friends, and although it wasn’t intentional, although I felt very awkward and wanted to hide under my covers until they all went away… there was not one single negative comment.

There were questions. Of course there were. I was even geared up to answering these questions, in an impersonal way, but they were directed towards to me and my experiences. Nothing too personal, nothing to the degree I’ve seen. Just along the lines of “and what does that mean to you?” which was nice. It allowed me to talk of my own experiences and throw in how another asexual might answer that question without feeling attacked. A bit under scrutiny, but not attacked.

After seeing a year of the asexual community change, after witnessing more and more ignorant comments be thrown at the asexual community as visibility has increased, after being made to feel like we, on a whole, are making a bigger issue out of it than it needs to be, I needed a good positive experience like that. It did make it feel like a non-issue, but due to the fact that it was accepted, not because others were telling me that my experiences, my opinions, my own feelings on how I identify are incorrect due to their experiences being different.

So yes, I am asexual. It is not an orientation that negates your orientation. What asexuality means to me does not negate what another asexual might feel or do in regards to their relationship, and vice versa.

If somebody can’t accept that, then the problem lies within them.

This has been the last entry of The Unofficial Asexual Awareness Week 2012. Comments are welcome and encouraged!

-AFJ-


Unofficial Asexual Awareness Week 2012 – Part 3

Thursday 25 October, 2012

Last year when I blogged about asexuality, I talked about how much representation we do and don’t have in the media, and how the portrayals could potentially and actually do affect the asexual community.

I used Sheldon Cooper, Sherlock Holmes and Lady Gaga as examples, because those at the time were probably the most visible to a mass audience and fan base. A year on, and, well, hmm… Let’s start with Sheldon, shall we?

Sheldon Cooper is a fictional character from The Big Bang Theory. Now, I’ve not seen the show since before the last time I blogged about this exact same thing. I saw up to where Amy came into it, and Sheldon kept stating that she wasn’t his girlfriend, she was a friend who was a girl. Sounds ridiculous, but can make all the difference in the asexual community.

It was never explicitly said that Sheldon was asexual. The closest we got was when his friends talked about “His Deal”, meaning what he was ~into~, gender inclination wise, and his best friend Leonard said he didn’t think he had a “Deal”, implying asexuality. But it was enough to go on for the time being, because it’s the closest a show had got to saying “This character is asexual”.

The thing is, and this is where it gets a bit muddy, asexuals do have relationships. Asexuals have sexual relationships, even. But a year on, they have Sheldon in a relationship with a character who isn’t asexual and any changes in the nature of their relationships seem to be played for laughs. It’s no longer just a question of whether this character is asexual or not, it’s a question of how many of this characters oddities affect his romantic life. As I’ve said, I’ve not seen the episodes, but if TV Tropes are anything to go by, he’s getting more and more romantically and sexually involved with his now more-of-a-girlfriend-than-just-a-friend and is more likely just repressing that side because, well, in-show reasons are probably down to scientific reasons. Hygiene, cleanliness, waste of time when he could be figuring out the higgs-boson particle.

Out of show, though, in Meta Land, it’s probably just to make fun of the character by saying “Oh look how weird he is”.

It leaves those of us who are asexual and don’t have sex and so on and so forth in the dark with a bit of a sour taste in our mouths. Now, of course, he could be demisexual, he could be a grey-A, his sexuality could have changed due to sexuality being fluid. But this isn’t reality, this is Chuck Lorre land where things aren’t that complex. It wouldn’t surprise me if Sheldon having sex was treated as a phenomenal event as he finally transcends from Wierdsville into Normal Land.

I was never too happy with Sheldon being a portrayal of an asexual in the first place, just because of the way they treated it as a part of his quirks and characteristics. It was like the icing on the cake. But it was better than nothing. Now if people were to use him as an example of an asexual, I don’t think many asexuals would be happy about it.

Next up is Sherlock Holmes. Now, given the time and era that the stories were originally written in, it was also never said outright whether the character was asexual, just that he had no interest in relationships. There probably wasn’t even a word back then for asexuality,  they barely understood homosexuality, so the description leaves a gap for people to fill. It might mean he had his heart broken pre-canon and it left him disinterested in trying again, it could mean he wasn’t interested in relationships but used, erm, women of service if you get my drift. It could mean anything if you didn’t want to go for the flat, straight forward meaning of the words “not interested”. The lack of a known and defined term isn’t proof that he wasn’t asexual.

Nobody can say for sure, but there’s plenty of reason to believe ACD was trying to portray a man who didn’t care about sexual relationships with men or women, only the work and his enemies and of course, his dearest friend John Watson.

There’s also plenty to go on in the canon to suggest he’s gay. Maybe he’s not interested in relationships because homosexuality was a punishable crime during that time. You look for something and you’ll find it in some nook or cranny of one of the stories. Is it likely that Conan-Doyle intended to write a gay romance story incidental to a detective series? Again, there’s enough there to suggest yes as there is enough there to say that’s a ludicrous suggestion.

Last time, I talked about the BBC modernisation of the stories, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. There were many reasons to believe that the BBC version was portraying an asexual Sherlock. Even after series two aired. The problem is, of course, are the writers.

They’ve written scenes that imply he’s asexual. The awkward dinner at Angelo’s with the awkward “married to my work” conversation being the first that comes to mind (which I also mentioned last time), followed with the un-aired pilot’s version of that scene where it’s made even more clear that he doesn’t do relationships. Even the Irene Adler episode, which was turned into a story about a dominatrix blackmailing people to save her own life.

Many might say that, due to the chemistry and the nakedness and Sherlock’s interaction with her, and the way John treated Sherlock’s interaction with her. that he felt something for her. He certainly gained some respect for her, even if it wasn’t really how it went in the canon, but even if he did care for her on some level, caring doesn’t automatically mean a sexual interest. Maybe to sexuals, but not to asexuals, and that’s the problem. That’s the very nature of asexuality, caring for people without a hint of a sexual connection.

Personally, I don’t see it. She was a clever person who got into a bad situation who gave Sherlock the run around, but I can’t see him being interested in her beyond a case the same way I can’t see him being interested in Moriarty beyond a case. He didn’t do anything to encourage her interest, and as we know from one scene, he didn’t even reply to her texts.

I think there was more in that episode to further the asexual possibility, or the gay rumours, than there was for romantic interest in Irene Adler.

But then the writers say “Oh, well, you know, we didn’t intend for that to be the case. He is a sexual person, but he’s too busy to be interested in it.” and interviews that suggest that asexuality might just be a bit too weird for Sherlock Holmes.

Well, I know plenty of asexuals who say that exact thing. Yeah, they could have sex if they wanted to, but there’s better things to be dong. It, for them, is exactly what makes them asexual. I’m a bit offended by this brush off, when scholars and literary fanatics have plenty of source material out there that suggest that is also exactly what makes Sherlock Holmes asexual, and that the only reason we don’t know for sure is because ACD never said. (And we’ve come full circle)

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Cumberbatch and his acting, but he has a hell of a case of verbal diarrhoea, and Moffat can be just downright offensive with his opinions of the asexual community.

Unfortunately, like I said in my first post this week, more visibility has led to a lot more anti-asexual comments thrown around. I still think Sherlock Holmes, in most formations, comes across as asexual. Maybe not aromantic, but definitely, in my eyes, asexual. Even if Gatiss, Moffat, Thompson and Cumberbatch don’t agree, I hope they’ll remain just as respectful as the canon not to screw with it too much in the third series and aim for a romantic interest for Sherlock. It was never in the books, and Moffat and Gatiss are Canon fanboys, so there’s hope. But there’s also an audience to please and there’s plenty of people hoping for romance between Sherlock and Molly…

Sherlock Holmes of the Elementary series, however, apparently made it very clear that he was not asexual. I won’t go on to comment as I haven’t seen it for myself, also I don’t want a comparison between the two versions of Modern!Sherlock to take over.

I think the worst hit to the asexual community this year was probably the episode of House. I’ve not seen the episode because I gave up on House a few years ago, but I know the outrage it caused.

This was the first time Asexuality was brought up on a hit television show that hits a very wide audience across the world. It would have been the first many people will have even heard of asexuality. Television shows, whether they mean to or not, do help shape some people’s opinions about things. They’d already seen the effect it had on the medical profession, whether it was people self-diagnosing themselves with conditions they’d seen on the show and being wrong, sometimes being right, or influencing the level of standards patients expected from their doctors. Even some research facilities reported a demand for tests and equipment that worked the way they do on the show and actually aiming to create/recreate them (the same way Star Trek invented CDs).

Given all of that, which they are aware of, you’d think it would have aimed to treat it with respect, but no.

The asexual characters were disbelieved, mocked and then proven to not be asexual, just as House had said all along. It showed asexuality to be caused by a brain tumour, and his wife just lied to make him happy. It furthered the opinion that people can’t possibly know they’re not interested in sex until they can try it properly, it furthered the opinion that asexuality was something to cure and most importantly, it portrayed asexual people as not really existing.

Now, people say it’s just television. No one in their right mind would believe or take anything away from that episode, but I am telling you as a member of the asexual community that it did have an effect. It validated all those people who don’t believe in asexuality, and I know it because I’ve seen comments that say so.

And worse, when people of the asexual community complained and demanded an apology, the response from the general public was “I don’t know why they’re so upset.”

If that was any other minority, there’d be outrage in the general public too. But no, because asexuality still isn’t understood, this portrayal was allowed and worse, accepted.

No apology can reverse that.

So, who do we have left who may or may not be asexual in the mass media, hitting a wide audience?

Well, Lady Gaga’s suspiciously quiet as of late but at least she hasn’t announced she’s no longer asexual.

Castiel, the angel from Supernatural is apparently asexual. He’s an angel. I don’t know much about the show, but it is a big hit so that definitely counts if it’s true. There’s not much else out there.

There’s plenty around in the small corners of the internet but as for reaching the masses? We’re once again left wanting.

Thank you for reading!


Unofficial Asexual Awareness Week 2012 – Part 2

Tuesday 23 October, 2012

When I wrote last year about Asexuality, I didn’t know where to begin or where to go. Asexuality is just as complex as the rest of human sexuality. It’s an overall term for many subheadings, and I only had my own experiences to go on. It’s very hard representing a group of people when there’s so much variety within, and any time someone explains asexuality, there’s always going to be one person who slips through the descriptions.

When I first heard about asexuality, the definition that seemed to be the most agreed on was “A lack of interest in sex”. Over the past year, as I’ve learnt more and as the sexuality has grown in visibility, the definition has changed somewhat. AVEN has grown in visibility and from what I understand, their definition is and always has been “A lack of sexual attraction to other people.”

When I first entered the world of the asexuality community, I found more people accepting of all the terms under the one big umbrella term. Over the past year, I’ve found that acceptance has waned. I come across people like me, who have no interest, resenting those who do have interest but lack sexual attraction, because it overshadows their personal definition. I’ve read blog entries from those who lack sexual attraction but have sex anyway saying there needs to be another term for the rest of us, because we’re making them look frigid.

And outside the community is getting worse too. The more visibility we’re getting, the more dismissive people are getting. I read the term “Special Snowflake” every single time asexuality comes up. I read people saying “If you don’t want to have sex, just don’t have sex!” as if that was ever the main issue being discussed. That’s of neither use nor ornament to someone who says they feel lonely because they can’t keep a boyfriend/girlfriend because they’re asexual. They know they don’t have to have sex, but their partner didn’t seem to get the memo.

And then of course there’s people who think that we can’t make up our minds and get unreasonably angry, because we have all the subheadings. I can see where they’re coming from, if we “can’t decide” on what asexuality is – whether it’s a lack of interest or attraction, then all the extra information just come across as bizarre. Asexual Aromantic, Asexual Biromantic, Asexual Panromantic, Asexual Heteromantic, Asexual Homoromantic, Grey Asexual, Demi-sexual.

But anger? Really? We’re not trying to be “Special Snowflakes”. As much as I’m not sure whether labels are a good thing or not, we are humans and as humans, we categorise. We put people into boxes for our own selfish reasons, and we put ourself into boxes for the sense of community.

It’s not that we “can’t decide”, it’s that all of those things can and do make us asexual. But explaining that doesn’t seem to go down well either. It’s as if we regard everyone else as not being as varied. They’re the progressive ones, because everything’s cool with them and they don’t need no stinking labels. Except the experience of a person who is heterosexual is different to that of an asexual, and that’s what we’re saying with the whole label thing. It doesn’t negate their experience, but it does negate ours when someone says “I had the exact same thing happen…” when it is different.

And there’s still people who don’t accept asexuality at all. Even those who accept that some people just have no interest in sex or experience attraction, will not accept that it’s a valid orientation.

Lately, thanks to the visibility and subsequent growth of acceptance against the growth of refusing to accept, it’s a bit like being in a very busy room with lots of people shouting. Some will be right, some will be wrong, and even if those who are wrong are in the minority, their words seem to be the only words they’re hearing.

But there’s no way around it. Asexuality exists and people are asexual. At least 1% of the whole entire world identify as such. What that entails will be up to them to decide and explain, all I can do as an asexual is describe my experience, explain what other possible experiences might have occurred for other people and hope for the best.