So these are my three main bind-y getups (I have a 3rd sports bra that’s looser that’s not pictured). For reference, I have a C-ish cup.
A discussion on my tumblr about how tighter doesn’t necessarily make more of a difference got me thinking about it, and that’s when I decided to take these pictures to figure out if that was true for me, lol.
#1 is the loosest one of the bunch, and not all that useful as you can see. Obviously, it follows that it’s the most physically comfortable.
#2 is noticeably tighter, and helps a little with the profile. However, it does a better job when I bend over or move around a lot.
#3 is the #2 sports bra with my binder on top of it. It’s the most uncomfortable out of the three, but as you can see… it’s the best for binding out of the options I’ve got.
I love this podcast to pieces because I’m a big supernatural/UFO/occult buff (my belief or lack thereof in any of it is actually irrelevant to my fascination and enjoyment), but yesterday an episode was posted called On Giants and the Boy Who Cried Bigfoot, the first half of which is an interview with the author of On Giants: Mounds, Myths & Man, or, why we want to be small. (The book is actually available in PDF form here for free until June 3rd, courtesy of the author!)
I love this stuff. And by “this stuff”, I mean hearing about people in the anthropological roots of, well, my paraphilia and why we have the cultural narratives about it that we do. So I’ve got the book downloaded, let’s see what it’s got to say…
My three primary internal identities are all bound up in ways that I’ve found to have made them grow into more or less a single, unified identity. I have no word for this singular identity (other than, I guess, “me”, if I want to be corny and completely useless about it), but it can be approximated by terms like “pet” and “cute”. But it makes absolute, perfect, seamless sense to me in my head, and I found myself having to describe it in words for the first time the other day when my husband, in a bout of confusion and frustration, asked me to explain how my gender presentation could have so little impact on, well… the rest of the stuff. (He’s cis and hetero and is struggling to embrace my desire to sometimes pass as male or just be masculine-of-center.)
It was then that I realized just how much my identities have been informed over the course of my adolescent development by the visual language of cartoons and children’s media. It’s more than just this, I discovered: the visual language to describe those kinds of characters and those kinds of realities has an enormous impact on how I see myself and how I interact with the world around me. Growing up, I identified with a lot of girl characters, sure–and none of what I’m saying here is based on anything I consciously understood at the time, or anything I affirmed to myself, but are rather based on gut feelings I remember having, inclinations and fascinations towards certain character archetypes and narratives–but what I can recall feeling towards them was markedly different than how I identified with animal/non-human characters that exist, for the most part, without gender being part of their list of character traits.
(I know this sounds like it’s going to be a post about gender and not asexuality thus far but like I said, these things are all one in the same for me.)
How I felt toward girl characters (and human characters I strongly identified with in general), in retrospect, probably had a lot to do with my attempts to figure out how I wanted the world to see me. I never had a very good grasp of the concept of gender growing up (I still haven’t internalized a lot, but now I celebrate it instead of try to cover it up by mimicry!), so presentation was an all or nothing thing to me. During the times that it mattered immensely, I’m sure that what I was feeling was social dysphoria and wanted to fit into the world in a way that was suitable to me and my self-image. But during the times that it didn’t matter, I think I could say that I felt more in-tune with something that ran way deeper than presentation, and those were the times that I most strongly identified with genderless characters.
I think there’s definitely some underlying subtext about the trope of the genderless, asexual animal sidekick character that I think can be summed up by a single, really strong word: dehumanization. I mean, just look at how negatively charged the pronoun “it” is. To not have a discernible gender entails Otherness and a certain lacking of humanity (and the respect that goes with that). To take a quote from a tumblr post I saw this morning that really made me think about this subject:
Read as queer, read as straight, read as cis or as visibly trans. It doesn’t much matter for me because the cane, the visible disability erases all of that and replaces it with a sexless, genderless, romance less, loveless blob of personal medical questions, hallmark looks and sad faces from others over my “sorry state”
The subtext that I’m talking about is made super plain here. Being agender, asexual, and aromantic strips you of your perceived humanity, right to autonomy, and right to respect in the eyes of other people. Being thought of as these things (when you aren’t them) is a soul-crushing and enraging experience because you’re being viewed as subhuman. This isn’t something that I wish on anyone.
But at the same time… I’ve thought of myself as a blob before. And a thing. And pretty casually, too.
So what does this say about me? I don’t hate myself, I don’t see myself as subhuman and inherently unworthy of respect, love, friendship, happiness, et cetera. In fact, I think I’m a pretty rad person that has some interesting things to say and some nice art to offer the world. But at the same time, too, I see myself as pretty darned Other and that my identity isn’t something that can be recognized at a glance, let alone understood by, well… pretty much everyone I will ever meet.
In my marriage, I fill the role of “cute one” way better than I do “wife” or “domestic partner” or whatever. In bed, I am “cute one”. Out and about, holding hands, I am the “cute one” still. Like a beloved pet, I am sexless, genderless, and even ageless to a degree. I’m his best friend and staunchest ally. I get a lot of enjoyment and fulfillment playing the role of sexual partner and wife, and it’s something I want to do for the rest of my days, but at my core I’m… a lot less than that? More? Something else entirely?
Basically how it all fits together is this: I am a blob. A cute, funny, talented blob that has ups and downs, joys and sorrows, dreams and aspirations. I know what it’s like to get mistaken for a gender, but I don’t know what it’s like to be one– I play at gender like a child plays doctor. Gender and sexuality are also projected onto me. Statistically speaking, this is always nonconsensual, aside from a single anomalous presence in my life, which is my husband. In the surreal cartoon-speak of my mindscape, my husband is hyper-gendered in comparison to myself, is steeped in that extra dimension of reality so thoroughly that he can see right through me when I pretend to be a gendered person because I lack a certain intrinsic quality that I can’t even begin to fathom. My play is encouraged, entertained, but always however mocked and derided. In the world of BDSM, humiliation sometimes has an enormously cathartic effect on the subject of the humiliation scene; I’ve heard that being made fun of for being something that you aren’t is an incredibly empowering and cleansing experience, and it’s something that has sometimes been present in my aromantic, asexual fantasy relationships. Another aspect is that my “blobness”, that which makes me inherently subhuman to the rest of the world (and is an absolutely negative experience for the vast majority of people) is ultimately celebrated. Acknowledging my lack of gender (and sexuality) and my inability to pretend to be a gender (or to be sexual) is celebrated as that which makes me special and worthy of love and care. In this dynamic, which has essentially reached the level of archetype in my own head, I am constantly being validated for being something they can’t know, which allows me to engage them in a way that I don’t truly understand either but they do and need.
The concept of smallness and physical diminutiveness obviously permeates this entire conception, but that’s a whole different essay on its own, to be honest, and it’s a theme I’ve touched on in previous essays concerning macrophilia.
But I guess I’ve yet to answer the prompt questions: What does my appearance have to do with my asexuality? My presentation? My physical looks?
And the best I can really do to answer them is to say “everything and nothing”. Playing with the concept of Otherness through my presentation gets me one step closer to making my self-image a reality, as nebulous and impossible as it may be. The further I distance myself from common conceptions of “normal human”, the more genderless and sexless I become, and the less social dysphoria I feel even at the potential expense of my right to respect and autonomy. When I am gendered, though, my sexuality unfortunately becomes a public concern. If I look like a tomboy, I’m obviously a lesbian. If I perform normative femininity, I’m obviously straight. There is no looking like an asexual, an agendered person, a non-libidoist, a macrophile, a BDSM pet and bottom.
I can, however, look cute.
(this is inspired by a discussion in the most recent asexuality journal club meeting; you can find a transcript and summary here: http://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/asexuality-journal-club-yule-brotto-2013/)
Below is a copy of the Inventory of Interpersonal Problems (IIP) - 32 Item short circumplex form, one of the measures used in the Yule et al. 2013 study on mental health in asexuals, heterosexuals, and non-heterosexuals.
Figured out what bothers me so much about AVEN and a lot of the wider ace community.
It seems to behave far more like a subculture or fandom than not. This is why I’m not interested in ace pride events, meet-ups, or anything else. It’s a huge turn-off. (Identities and their associated groups acting like a bunch of fanbutts is what drives me away from many communities I should otherwise be interested in.)
My asexuality doesn’t give any craps about cake.
That is all.
After some consideration, I’ve thrown together a tentative list of possible terms in response to a previous post, Language Barrier:
I still feel that they’re all pretty insufficient in a number of ways, the first being, however, the obvious implication in many of these pairs of a dominance/submission dynamic. “Self/other” might suffice if those terms weren’t already as heavy as lead weights from being so extensively used in psychology and sociology. Not to mention that it implies that the fetish/paraphilia must be an external thing, excluding the possibility that the fetishist or paraphile has an interest pertaining to themselves (such as needing or preferring to wear a certain kind of material or garment for a/sexual pleasure, or even simply being autophilic).
I’m partial to the first pair of words, to be honest. Of course, it’s probably because I’m a fan of the astro- sciences, and I’m also a macrophile. So obviously I would see a set of terms that imply a Big/little dyamic as neutral. Though, interestingly enough, I can also see it pretty nicely illustrating the social dynamic of a fetish and fetishist or paraphile and paraphilic focus (the discrepancy between the way those two terms are used in describing roles also interests me): the subject of interest is rarely directly affected by the actions of the fetishist, except for maybe a small wobble as the orbiting body goes around. The bigger the body gets, the stronger its incessant pull, and both the orbit and the focus both end up becoming active players in the dance. And, of course, there’s always the risk of collision; if the orbiting body gets too presumptuous and too close, or if they both close in on each other mutually.
In a system of co-orbits, the focus rests in neither of them, but rather between them, the point around which they’re both revolving.
So in other words, I could see it being used almost universally, but I’m not particularly impartial, so I can’t really know. What I’m trying to get at, more or less, with these labels, is that of a person or thing whose existence a/sexually inspires another. The fetishist is someone who is essentially inspired to react to a given stimulus that, in most others, does no such thing. For a sexual person, the stimulus usually inspires sex or masturbation; for someone like me, I usually get inspired to… draw, or daydream, or just plain think about HOW COOL the thing is and how much I want to be around it. (My focii are fictional inanimate objects for the most part, fyi.) On the occasion that my other fetishes enter into it, I’ll envision the thing being sentient and entertain brief scenarios involving myself or someone else engaging in a Master/pet relationship with it. Sometimes it’s asexual, most times it’s completely aromantic, and sometimes it’s both.
Things are mostly pretty simple when speaking in terms of fetishes, which are more or less auxiliary extensions of an individual’s sexual orientation, an has the right-of-way in most cases, I’d wager. This relationship can be pretty nicely illustrated using the “if-then” conditional statement: “If A, then B.” If the orientation qualifications are met, then the fetish may be explored.
But where paraphilias are concerned, things get a little more complex. The conditional is reversed or simply complicated: “If B, then A.” Or: “If A and B, then C.” The line, as it might be called, between heterosexuality and non- seems to get blurred for those on the more paraphilic end of the spectrum. If the focus hits all the right buttons with the orbit, then the gender identity of the former is likely to matter less because the paraphilia is part and parcel with the orientation, if not dominating it completely.
Anyways, these are just some considerations for developing meaningful language.
I’ve been thinking about this one for a number of weeks now. It’s a weird thing to try and talk about, and potentially something that could be picked apart by armchair SJ warriors, but I thought back to a story I read a while ago that made a case for the use of slurs and -phobic insults to defend oneself in very real, day-to-day situations where the formalities of online SJ work falls apart when provided with an alternative that gets more reliable results. Sometimes playing by the rules of tidy liberation is a luxury not everyone can afford, especially when faced with the possibility of abuse, violence, or assault. People do what they can to just get through the day.
If you didn’t catch it written off to the side over there, then go over there and read it (yes, all 250 words of it). I am not a woman. I am agendered, and I have felt varying levels of uncomfortableness in gendered spaces for as long as I could remember. Not to mention that sexual talk generally skyrockets in single gender groups too, which is less reliably unnerving for me, but usually is to a degree.
This agendered person is demanding women’s spaces be open to me. At a glance, that seems presumptive and problematic. But let me explain.
I currently work in a heavily male-dominated field that is pretty famous for it’s blatant celebration of misogyny, sexism, and homophobia. If I am counted among them (and I am), then that makes all of 4 women currently working in our company of 30+ men; I’m not even sure if two of them are full-time employees. My hobby of choice is also in a male-dominated medium that’s famous for it’s blatant celebration of misogyny, sexism, and homophobia, which I’ve been working in for more than 5 years, dabbling in for 10, and plan on building a career as an independent in. I’m also married. On the sidebar over there, I make a jab at myself and call it “heteromarried”. What I mean by that is that I’m a female-bodied person married to a heterosexual, cissexual man. Even though I currently claim no benefits from being married (we are long-distance and currently live in two separate countries), the fact that I had access to this privilege due to the nature of this relationship is enough.
What I’m basically trying to say is that society sees me and thinks “woman”. For the reasons listed above, and a whole host more, but the fact of the matter is that I sufficiently pass as a cis woman 95% of the time. So I’m being read as female, being treated as female, and sometimes I’m being dragged through the mud as though I were female too.
And sometimes I really need other women to talk to, because we have shared experiences despite our differences in gender. Sometimes I really need to talk about my body among a group of female-bodied people whose physical selves match their identities because sometimes my body is something I want to work with instead of against. Sometimes I need to be able to talk about harassment based on what I am perceived to be because my first reaction isn’t dysphoria, it’s hurt.
Though that’s not to say that I’d have no use for trans* spaces, as I’m sure they’d be beneficial to me. (Right now, I wouldn’t know either way– I’ve never been in one or even just known another trans* person in meatspace.) But truthfully, not that beneficial. Most of the trans* narratives and experiences are things I can’t relate to at all. There’s no such thing as passing for me, I barely experience dysphoria, I have no preferred pronouns, and my gender isn’t anywhere near being legally recognized, let alone being something I could socially transition to. The trans* experience, by and large, is as alien to me as the cis AMAB experience.
So what I would really benefit from is a genderless space. Unfortunately, we are so few and far between that every genderless person in the state of California could probably find a seat around my dinner table. Online, there are barely enough of us to populate forums, carry on discussions, and I think many of us are young– we haven’t lived long enough to share as diverse a range of experiences as other trans* identities have been able to. How many of us are married? How many of us have kids or hold down day jobs? Are any of us grandparents? Mentors or educators? Do any of us hold leadership positions in our offline lives? I think it’s too soon to figure out where we’ll go in the years to come. But right now, many of us only have the same things to bring to the table.
Women, though, have tens of thousands of years worth of lives lived, and while there are only a few kernels of truth to be found for me in that, they’re kernels I can’t really get anywhere else. At least, right now. It wouldn’t be a safe space, but it would be safe enough.
I’m a person whose gender isn’t known to exist, let alone understood, by most people out there, but my existence is still lumped in with that wide swath of “not cishetero male” that catches flak more often than not for daring to be what it is, especially in male-dominated spaces. And if I’m going to be accused of appropriating cisfemale-ness (just typing that out sound ridiculous) in order to infiltrate a space that isn’t rightfully mine, then so be it, if that’s what I need to do in order to survive.