Let the Soft Animal of Your Body Love What it Loves.

After writing last night’s post, (i.e. when I should have been sleeping), I started thinking about whether or not it reads as an attack on fetishism.  Fetishism, after all, is pretty fundamentally the sexualization of things that “aren’t inherently sexual” (for the majority of people, although who defines that majority, I couldn’t tell you) and a licking fetish is apparently pretty common.  However, — perhaps because I have a bias in suspecting this really was not my intention, — I don’t think the idea of desexualizing or considering desexualizing certain aspects of culture is anti-fetish or anti-fetishist, if only because my problem, when I stop to think about it, has little or nothing to do with an individual who finds eating sexy and everything to do with a cultural message that eating is sexy.  The point I’m taking issue with here is the appropriation of an eating/ licking fetish by the larger culture, and the use of that appropriated fetish by both the advertising and pornography industries, which in itself suggests that eating and licking are universally sexy.  After all, porn or burgers marketed solely to people with a licking fetish would probably fall by the wayside pretty quickly.  It’s the “universal” nature of what our culture represents as sex, sexual, or sexually arousing with which I most take issue, if only because — last I checked — we are still largely individuals, and as a diehard queer, I find our diversity (as it relates to attraction, specifically) rather fascinating.  The effort to transform it into something uniform bothers me, not only because it seems spearheaded by corporations who are intent on establishing that uniform desire so they can guide and market to it, but also because it marginalizes those of us who don’t find those universally sexy images sexy at all.

In David’s interview with Carol Queen (which I’m quoting pretty constantly because it’s just that good), Queen points out that “the inability to get away from sex and its symbols” in our simultaneously sex-negative and sex-obsessed culture makes it difficult sometimes for an individual to even define their sexuality in the first place.  After all, if I’m constantly being told my sexuality looks like A, when am I going to find a quiet enough, blank enough space to define it as B?  And if I do manage to recognize that the method of my desire and the way it manifests looks more like B, how will I wrap my head around the idea that B is also a sexuality, and a valid one at that?  Sexuality, after all, looks like A and only A.

The problem I have is with the “only.”  If you, personally, find eating (or practically anything else) sexy, I’m perfectly fine with that.  I’m not fine with being told what I should (and by extension should not) find sexy.  My intention in that last post was never to claim eating could not be sexy; it was simply to request that it not be constructed as always or fundamentally sexy because I think it’s time that we give all people — fetishists and asexuals included — space to determine their (a)sexuality and its details for themselves.  I’m growing rather tired of being the only person in my gender studies classes unwilling to challenge the notion that we’re all attracted to the same ideal and would be even if we weren’t culturally conditioned to find that ideal attractive.  Seriously, despite the amount of variety in all our other tastes?  How does this make sense to people?  — because it does not make sense to me.

I mentioned, rather briefly, in the post on accidentally “coming out” to my mom that, in the stream of philosophizing with which she greeted that admission, there was one statement that I found not entirely irksome, and that I was even compelled to ponder further to see what kind of truth it held (for me).  Her sentiment was one Elephant echoed, actually, when I mentioned asexuality to him, which upped my reasons for considering it.  Basically, her point was that in a society where sex(uality) is constructed in such a rigid, uniform way (not to mention used and abused for some pretty bizarre purposes), a discerning person (or some discerning people), who realize(s) that this is not something that works for them or something they’re interested in developing, might — choicefully, unconsciously, or otherwise — decide to “reject” sexuality.  While I by no means intend to imply that all asexuals are antisexual or that any asexuals have made a conscious (or even unconscious) choice to blow off sexuality because it doesn’t suit them, I can say that there was some chord of truth in this for me.  I think one of the reasons I’ve not been using the asexual label, and one of the reasons the podcast with Carol Queen spoke so much to me is because I want what she was suggesting: a broad enough definition of sexuality that I wouldn’t need another label, that my experience as is would fit the word.  I wouldn’t impose that want or that word on anyone else, but I stand by it as a powerful notion, at least in my case.  If we could really examine where sex is and how sex is operating in our culture, which is ultimately what I was trying to do in the last post, and what I’m doing in this blog overall, then maybe we could dismantle, reconstruct, and expand it in some ways that would suit all of us better… whether we have a licking fetish, no fetish, or no so-called “sexuality” at all.

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3 Responses to “Let the Soft Animal of Your Body Love What it Loves.”

  1. pretzelboy Says:

    I have had a growing suspicion that many asexuals do have some sort of “sexuality,” but consider themselves asexual because what that sexuality is so defies cultural expectations of sexuality. (I personally regard the question of if asexuals, or some particular asexual, are “sexual” or not an unanswerable question and probably a meaningless one, hence the quotes.) The reason is not that they are “sexually repressed” or in denial of their desires, but that the cultural images of sexuality that we are bombarded so greatly privilege high sexual desire and marginalize (either by pretending non-existence or telling people its a disease) low/absent sexual desire. I imagine that it is quite possible that many self-identifying asexuals could enjoy a variety of “sexual” things (however you want to define that) but consider themselves “not sexual” because of the assumption of universal sexual desire as a fundamental part of what it means to be sexual (even what it means to be human.) Perhaps if we were given models of how to “be sexual” if that included having no desire to have sex at all, a lot fewer people would identify as asexual. Either that or self-identifying as asexual wouldn’t be seen as a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom pronounced against oneself.

  2. theimpossiblek Says:

    You raise some very interesting points here.

    I’m good at playing devil’s advocate against myself, and there’s one argument I came across, even before I discovered the label “asexual”: At that point, I wondered if my apathy towards all things sexual was just a rejection of a culturally constructed “sexual” standard… Later experiences, however, confirmed that there was more to this than a passive, subversive attitude towards sex.
    The more I think about it, the more I start to question these labels and words we use. How do you define “sexual” things anyway? Are we going to let the media and our peers decide- or can we create our own definition?

  3. willendork Says:

    Pretzelboy: I agree with you. I think that the limited understanding of what is sexual also influences people’s ability (or inability) to identify as sexual. I can see what you’re saying about low sexual desire (or lack thereof) but I think the model we’re given for how that desire manifests and how we’re to act on it is also problematic…

    The Impossible K: Personally, I am all for creating my own definition. That’s part of the reason I don’t identify as asexual (although I don’t particularly identify as “sexual” either… I do seem to default to that, by not identifying otherwise.) I’d rather play around with what sexual can mean, and have that definition be one that includes my experience, even if my experience is never more explicitly sexual than it is right now. …Out of curiosity (if you’re willing to share), what else did you discover of your asexuality — beyond the subversive attitude toward sex?

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