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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Blogaround

A cat laying on a rainbow flag on the street at a Pride parade. Image source.
1. Ancient wisdom from the neural network (posted June 22) "Death when it comes will have no sheep."

2. Toy Story Zero: The True Story Of Andy’s Dad & Woody’s Origin (ft. Mike Mozart) (posted June 22) "Woody doesn't even realize that ... the Andy playing with him now isn't the Andy who wrote his name on his boot."

3. Soap, soup, and support for Supreme Court nominees who will overturn Roe v. Wade (posted June 6) "Every medical missionary commissioned by any white evangelical mission board has had to contend with this Great Commission objection. Every mission agency that built hospitals or schools had to have an answer to it — an explanation for why they were doing that rather than building churches."

4. A groovy relic of the forbidden evangelical past (posted June 8) "In 1975 — two years after Roe — Zondervan Press published a book for white evangelicals in which Norman Geisler wrote: “Abortion is not murder, because the embryo is not fully human — it is an undeveloped person.” And nobody freaked out."

5. Behind Wonder Woman Is a Great Man (posted June 6) [spoilers for "Wonder Woman"] "But if it’s important for girls and women to see a female superhero, it’s also important for boys and men to see a man who becomes heroic by following a woman’s lead."

6. If we confess our sins (posted June 22) "It reinforces the idea that “sin” is a matter of transgression against some capricious and inscrutable list of rules — an idea that the Bible repeatedly rejects, rebuts and mocks".

7. Uber sued over lack of wheelchair-accessible cars in D.C. (posted June 28) "The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, alleges that Uber is violating both the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires transportation companies to offer equal access to all riders, and D.C.'s Human Rights Act."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

For This Asexual, Purity Culture Was All About Fear

Fear, from the movie "Inside Out", with the ace flag as the background. Image sources here and here.
They told us it would be a terrible, dirty sin which would ruin our future if we had sex before marriage. But they also told us that statistically, most people- even if they're Christians, even if they make a purity pledge- do end up having unmarried sex. Somehow, this horrible, ghastly fate is happening even to people who put great effort into avoiding it.

How? How does this happen? Well, they said, temptation. Sometimes you have this feeling like you want to do dirty sexy things, and it's so hard- maybe even impossible- to resist. No, you won't be able to resist, so your only hope is to never even come face-to-face with that kind of temptation.

But see, they said, here's how it goes: Don't kiss too much, and don't use your tongue, because if you do, then you might feel like you want to have sex, and you won't be able to resist the temptation. Also, probably shouldn't kiss at all, because then you might feel like you want to kiss with tongue, and you won't be able to resist that temptation. Also, better not be alone and cuddling with a romantic partner, because then you might want to kiss, and you won't be able to resist that temptation. Really better not hug a person of the opposite sex at all, because then you might want to cuddle with them. And probably you shouldn't hold hands, because then you might want to hug. And we can keep going, up the slippery slope, to more and more mundane and innocuous actions, which will, apparently, bring unsuspecting victims closer and closer to the horrible, life-destroying black hole that is premarital sex.

They told us stories about good, pure Christian couples who found themselves alone together and "one thing led to another" and they "stumbled" and "gave in to temptation" and sex somehow "just happened."

And there I was, asexual but I didn't know it yet, and completely unable to wrap my head around how sex could possibly "just happen." I thought, hey I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that in order to have sex, you have to take your clothes off first, and let another person see your naked body. And you have to touch their genitals, and let them touch yours. How on earth could those things "just happen"? How? Why? How? How on earth could there be any feeling or desire that would cause me to go against everything I believed in and take off my clothes in front of another person?

But, they said, don't go thinking it can't happen to you. Oh no, don't go thinking you're so pure, that you're not sinful and vulnerable to temptation. Pride comes before a fall, doncha know? And there have been Christian couples- role models in their purity and dedication to God- who were careful not to even kiss, careful to follow all the rules, and then one night they were alone and got carried away and it *happened*. Don't think it can't happen to you. Stay vigilant. Avoid any situation which could maybe lead to temptation. You never know what could happen. You never know what your body is capable of, what sinful desires lurk in your heart.

And so I did. When I was dating my first boyfriend, I made sure to never EVER lay down on his bed in his dorm room. Because what if one thing led to another, and, somehow, we had sex? When I went back to my parents' house for spring break, they said I could bring my boyfriend- and I was terrified. If we both spend the night in the same house, who knows what could happen? (He had no purity-culture background and he didn't understand what I was scared of. "Are you saying... you think I would... try something?"  No, I said, no I didn't think he would do it on purpose, I was scared that both of us would be, somehow, unable to control ourselves.) Another time, I was out really late at night and wondering if I should just sleep on the couch at this fraternity house where a lot of my friends lived, because it was too far to walk all the way back to my dorm. But no, I decided. Because some of the guys who lived there were attractive, and what if one of them showed up in the night and ... somehow, something happened? I wasn't thinking about rape; I was concerned that in the darkness I would be overcome with desire and unable to control myself. (Please note, though, how this ideology makes it impossible to understand the difference between rape and consensual sex. Apparently, if you choose to put yourself in a situation with "temptation", and then sex *happens*, it's your fault.)

In all of these examples, I made decisions based on my fear that sex could "just happen," while completely unable to understand by what mechanism it could possibly "just happen." Wouldn't that require taking off my clothes? Wouldn't that require letting someone touch my genitals? How? How could a slide into "temptation" cause that to happen? Seems like the only way I would take off my clothes is if I chose to take off my clothes, and why on earth would I choose to do that? What kind of "desire" could possibly entice me to "lose control" and do that?

Maybe for people who experience sexual attraction, the warnings about "lust" and "temptation" make more sense. Maybe they intuitively understand what it feels like to desire sex, and balancing that desire against their desire to be good, pure Christians. Maybe they get what's enticing about taking off one's clothes in another person's presence. Maybe they understand their own desires and they know which situations are harmless and which are dangerous "temptation."

For me, though, it was all about fear of the unknown. They told me I had these desires, evil, dirty, sinful desires, deep inside, and I can't ever let my guard down or else "you never know" what could happen. They warned me about things that were dangerous, things that would lead to "temptation," and I believed them even though I never understood how on earth those things could lead to accidentally having sex.

Fear of the unknown. Fear of desires that I had never even experienced, fear that those desires were dirtier than anything I could imagine.

Here's the thing, though: I am attracted to boys. I'm a straight asexual. I experience romantic and sensual attraction- that means I have a desire for a romantic relationship, I can have crushes, I can fall in love, I like hugging a romantic partner, I like kissing and touching and being warm and comfortable together. But as it turns out, I don't have sexual attraction at all.

But they said those desires were all just steps along the slippery slope to sex. They said sexual desire is the same thing as sensual desire, but more intense. If a desire for holding hands gets out of control, it would turn into a desire for sex. And so I believed that, since I had such strong romantic attraction, of course I also really really REALLY want sex- that if I gave up an inch of ground to my romantic desires, then I would start to feel sexual desire too. And we can't let that happen. "You never know" where it could lead.

Anyway, fast forward to me and Hendrix, doing sexy things while not being married. No, we weren't having sex- I still believed it was a sin- but we took off our clothes and touched each other's genitals and such. But none of it happened because of "temptation." I was astonished at how, the entire time, I was fully aware of what I was doing. Every action was a conscious decision that I made. I wasn't "carried away." I wasn't "out of control." I was there, in reality, in the same reality I'm always in. The same laws of physics, the same bed and walls and cold air from the open window. Nobody was being carried away by "temptation." Nothing "just happened." I chose it.

And then, many months after that, when we finally decided to have sex, we couldn't even do it the first time. (By "sex" I mean penis-in-vagina sex, because that's what purity culture counts as the most impure, dirty thing you can do, that is the thing at the very bottom of the slippery slope, you do that and you lose all your purity. Even though in real life there are many other forms of sex and they're not in a heirarchy.) Yes, the first time we tried, I was still not totally clear on what a vulva was, and I had no idea that my body needed to be aroused in order to get the vagina to open. So the first night we tried, we couldn't get the penis to go in, and we gave up.

(Don't worry, we eventually figured it out.)

I look back on all that fear and I'm just amazed at how there was no way it could have ever happened like I feared it would. All those years ago, I was so worried that sex was going to "just happen", that I would "lose control" of my body and somehow do terrible things I would regret for the rest of my life. And then when I finally did try to have sex, when I actually wanted to do it, made a clear-headed decision and applied my problem-solving brainpower, I couldn't even do it then. There's no way it could have ever happened "accidentally."

All that time, I was scared for nothing.

(Really, I think all this "it just happened" language is either 1) blaming a victim for their own rape or 2) making excuses for consensual sex so it sounds less "sinful." Even for people who aren't asexual, I don't think sex can "just happen" with neither party consenting.)

I remember before I decided to have sex, I no longer believed in anything purity culture said, and I no longer believed sex was a sin. But I was still too terrified to try it. Maybe I just shouldn't, I thought, just to stay on the safe side. Just in case they were right and it really does ruin my life.

And there I was, with a partner who loves me so much, so comfortable together, so committed to each other, but with this artificial divide between us, this belief that if his penis goes inside my body, that would be THE WORST THING EVER and it would RUIN MY LIFE. Why? Why would it ruin my life? Why would this one little arbitrarily-chosen action have such devastating effects? Why can't we just try it?

The fear was awful, because there was no answer to "why". There was no reason I could think of that it would be so life-ruiningly terrible to have sex with Hendrix. Just the thought, "what if they were right?" Just fear of the unknown.

And I'm so glad we finally did have sex. It didn't change me into a completely different person. It wasn't an amazing transcendant feeling that totally changed my life. It wasn't really a big deal at all- and so, the fear vanished. All this time, there was nothing to be scared of.

They told me that I had to be on guard against the "slippery slope" so I didn't get "carried away" and have sex somehow. And I believed them even though it made no sense to me- which is a recipe for fear. I was terrified of sex. But now, all these years later, I've discovered that even though I desire other "impure" things- like kissing and being in love- I never had any sexual attraction at all. I was so afraid, but now that I've found out what sex actually is, I see there was NO WAY I ever could have done that without actively choosing to do it. There was never any chance it could have "just happened."

One might think that purity culture is easy for asexuals. For me, it wasn't. I wish I had been allowed to actually explore my own desires and find their limits. Instead, I lived in fear of desires that didn't even exist.

Monday, June 26, 2017

So I Gave My Fiance the "Letters To My Future Husband"

A notebook with the words "Letters to my Future Husband" on the cover. Image source.
Writing "letters to your future husband" is A Thing in purity culture. Girls are taught that God has destined them to get married, to a man, exactly once over the course of their lifetime, and that God doesn't want them to date anyone else besides this one predestined man. And so their loneliness and romantic desire, which is not allowed to find fulfillment in dating, gets redirected into "writing letters to your future husband."

I wrote a few. Three. Back when I was in college, in my on-fire-for-God days. Each one was probably prompted by an instance of overwhelming, unbearable loneliness, or perhaps a HUGE CRUSH that I couldn't do ANYTHING with because I believed it would be a sin to make even the slightest move in the direction of possibly starting a relationship without explicit permission from God. I wanted so bad, so so so so bad, to be in a romantic relationship, but I was following the purity rules, which said ideally I am only allowed 1 relationship in my entire life. So the only outlet for that desire was praying for "my future husband" or writing letters to "my future husband".

Anyway, last time I was at my parents' house I found the letters, and I brought them back to Shanghai and gave them to Hendrix, my fiance. And we read them together.

I gave them to him because that's what their purpose was, ostensibly. But... they weren't really for him. They were for the perfect Christian purity-culture-following husband that God destined to be with me- an imaginary person who has never existed and who will never exist. Because I've changed so much since then, and I don't believe that stuff anymore, and Hendrix isn't even a Christian.

Letters, from a person who doesn't exist anymore, to a person who never existed. And I went ahead and gave them to Hendrix because that's what past-Perfect-Number would have wanted. But the content of those letters has no relation to the man I'm actually marrying, here in reality.

And OH GEEZ it's embarrassing, what's in those letters. Oh so much cringe. Here, take a look at this actual real thing I wrote in 2009:
I love Jesus Christ more than anything in the world. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. And of course you do too. That's pretty cool, and if you're like I want you to be, then reading "I love Jesus Christ more than anything in the world" made you kinda happy. Because that's the #1 characteristic you want in a wife.
Ohhhhhhh cringe so much cringe.

I mean, you have to be several layers deep in purity culture and evangelicalism to even understand a lot of the stuff in these. One theme throughout the three letters is how I'm working so hard to fight against my romantic desires. In order for that to make sense, the reader would have to share my belief that God doesn't want me to have any romantic relationships in my entire lifetime except the one with "my future husband" and that it would be a sin to even daydream about a crush or imagine how amazing and pleasurable it would be to touch an attractive guy. Seriously, the phrase "guy-related idolatry" appears in here. That is an actual thing I wrote back then, assuming that it would be obvious to "my future husband" what that phrase meant. (It means it would be sinful and extremly disloyal to God if I do anything other than squash down my romantic desires as much as possible.) Though I didn't use these exact words, the letters basically say, "I am working so hard to be emotionally pure by fighting against my feelings of attraction, and I'm doing it primarily for God, but also for you."

Another theme throughout the letters is obsession with God. I wrote about how God is the most important thing to me, how I love God way more than I love "my future husband", how we're totally going to serve God together and chase God together and pray together, and our relationship will be defined by wild, desperate, whole-hearted devotion to God.

Yeah....................... so .................... yeah. Hendrix read them, and I know there's stuff he didn't understand, because it's written in a very advanced form of evangelicalese. And since then, I've asked him several times, "So what did you think about the 'letters to my future husband'? I want to write a blog post about it," and he always tells me he doesn't really have anything to say. Just "yeah I knew you used to believe that" and that's all. The letters didn't make a strong impression on him; they're not meaningful to him at all. And why would they be? They were written for someone else entirely.

But when purity-culture advocates talk about "writing letters to your future husband", they talk about how sweet and romantic it will be when you finally give them to him. How it'll be a deeply meaningful expression of your love, to show him that all these years you've been waiting for him and thinking about him, you loved him before you even met.

That only makes sense if people don't change. And yeah, in purity culture, you're not supposed to change. They teach little kids "here's how the world works, here's what kind of spouse you should look for, here are the rules to stay pure and the consequences if you don't follow them" (and this happens before kids are even old enough to know what sex is or why anyone would choose to do it). And since those are all the "correct answers" that everyone is supposed to follow, there's no reason to expect that one's beliefs should change. In purity culture, change and personal growth are bad. In purity culture, even if you're just a little girl, you can be certain about what kind of man God wants you to marry, because ideally you won't change much between now and than.

And now I'm astonished that anyone would think that back in 2009 I had anything meaningful to say to Hendrix- but that's what purity culture teaches. And ... I don't know, maybe for some people it's kind of cute and funny to read something they wrote long ago, but this isn't like that for me. Because back then I was 100% serious. I worked so hard fighting against my romantic desires, and I thought it mattered.

The "letters for my future husband" were never for Hendrix, but I'm going to write him a new letter. It will be based on our actual real-life relationship, not what evangelical ideology claims my "future husband" should be like. I'll write about how I know he loves me because he helped me get out of purity culture and because he sometimes downloads little games for his phone so that "we can play it together" and that's just ADORABLE. And he'll open it the morning of the wedding day.

I'm so glad I'm with Hendrix instead of "my future husband." I'm so glad I'm not marrying a guy who appreciates all the hard work I did staying "pure" or believes that I hurt him by dating other guys before I even met him. I'm so glad I'm not marrying someone who would read my "letters to my future husband" and think they were deep, profound, and meaningful expressions of love.

---------------

Please enjoy this song:
"Countdown" Beyonce


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blogaround

The four religions. (Google search box, someone has typed "how do i convert to" and Google offers 4 autocomplete options: judaism, islam, catholicism, and pdf.) Image source.
1. The Confederate flag largely disappeared after the Civil War. The fight against civil rights brought it back. (posted June 12)

2. Philando Castile Was a Role Model to Hundreds of Kids, Colleagues Say (posted 2016)

3. "Are you sure you should eat that?" (posted June 15) "Last time I had some, I scraped all the frosting off because I think it tastes bad. But you know what I was worried about? Having someone think I was scraping it off to try to make the cake 'healthier.' That’s a thing I’ve been complimented for doing in the past because I’m assumed to be 'counting my calories.'"

4. John Piper’s Best Tweets (posted June 15) This is a masterpiece.

5. Wonder Woman: When Gods Come of Age (posted June 5) "Among other things what this film is saying is that gods, like the people who create them, evolve over time."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"America Never Was America To Me"

Protesters holding signs and a flag that says "Black Lives Matter." Image source.
So the police officer who killed Philando Castile was found not guilty, and ... I don't know what to say. How could this happen?

Growing up white in the US, I always heard people say "we live in the greatest country on earth" and how we have "freedom" unlike other countries, that the US was founded on "equality", the idea that all of us are "created equal", and we have "rights", "innocent until proven guilty", "no cruel and unusual punishment", "rights of the accused", etc.

Yeah, none of that is true.

The US has NEVER had "equality." The founders talked a lot of talk about "all men are created equal", but they had slaves. In school I learned that thank goodness Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr fixed those racism problems and now we are all equal- but it's not true.

People say "he didn't obey the police officer's instructions" or "the cop thought he was reaching for a gun" as if that makes everything okay- is that really the kind of world you want to live in? You think a world where not following directions carries the death penalty is just completely fine, move along, nothing to see here? You think if a police officer has a feeling like someone is reaching for a gun, then it's totally fine to kill them, even if that feeling turned out to have no basis in reality? No, when white people make these kinds of excuses, what they're really saying is, "well I know it won't happen to me, so I don't really care, but I need to give some kind of excuse to blame the victim and justify my not-caring." (Please note, though, the similarity between "he wasn't 100% calm and polite and following instructions, therefore he deserved to be killed" and "all people deserve to go to hell for their sins- no matter how small those sins are.")

And white people bring up stuff about "he was on drugs" or "he was a suspect in a robbery"- like, what happened to all those lofty ideals about "innocent until proven guilty" and "America is the greatest country on earth"? So if a police officer suspects that someone committed a crime, they can totally kill them and it's FINE? Since when? You really want to live in a world where that's totally FINE?

There's never been "justice for all" in the United States. There's never been "equality." As Langston Hughes said, "America never was America to me." Instead, we have white supremacy. We have racism built into the system at all levels. And it's deadly.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Blogaround

A snow leopard holding its tail in its mouth. Image source.
1. Common Christian Miracles, Explained and Translated. (posted June 4) "It’s the most amazing thing to me that the people who make this particular claim don’t wonder who lost that money or why their need was obviously so much greater than the need of the person who their god stole from." Very good article about genres of "miracle" stories that Christians claim happened to them.

2. James Comey and the Predator in Chief (posted June 8) "The victim of sexual harassment is constantly haunted by the idea that she said or did something that gave her persecutor encouragement."

3. Harry Potter Theory: Why is Ravenclaw's Mascot an Eagle?! (posted June 13)

4. Shanghai Pride 2016 Here's a post I wrote last year about what Pride month is like here in Shanghai. (Note that this was written before I started identifying as queer.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

3 Reasons I Need To Identify As Ace

Ace flag with a pirate-style skull and the words "Asexual Pirates are not interested in your booty." Image source.
I'm asexual, but also straight. And engaged to a man. And I do have sex with him. So, someone might ask, what's the point of identifying as asexual? Like why does it matter? Society will see me as heterosexual, and I'm not celibate anyway, so ... so what?

Here are 3 reasons:

1. To find people who have similar experiences

Having the word "asexual" allows me to search for and find information that relates to my experiences and feelings. I can find other people who are ace, talk to them or read about their experiences, and it's really helpful to know that there are people who have gone through the same things I have.

Also, the vocabulary I've learned from the ace community has been extremely helpful in understanding my own feelings. Different types of attraction- sexual attraction, romantic attraction, sensual attraction, aesthetic attraction. Sex drive and arousal are actually separate from sexual attraction. A romantic orientation and sexual orientation that don't match. Without this language, my understanding of my own feelings would be a nebulous cloud of "well I'm really really attracted to boys, and Hendrix in particular, everything about him is great, his body is great and I love to touch him, but ......... why is sex so weird?"

2. It grants legitimacy to my "naive" questions about sex

I have a lot of questions about sex, and I feel weird asking them because people will be like "you're joking, right?" For example, I heard that, for people in regular-land rather than purity-land, it's normal to have sex sometime around the third date. Is that true? I mean, even if you tell me a statistic and it's true, I need more of an answer than that because it just does not make sense to me at all. Why would people have sex after just dating for that short amount of time? And what about casual sex, where, apparently, people are going to bars and finding a stranger to have sex with just once? Is that a real thing or just a stereotype used for fearmongering about how "immoral" our culture is? And even if you tell me "yes it is a real thing," that's not good enough, I still don't get it. I'm not judging at all, if you want to have casual sex with people, go right ahead, but I just cannot fathom why. Like what is the thought process there? Not judging at all, I am really genuinely curious.

(Other "naive" questions include: Why do people watch porn? I mean, like... what's the point, I watched a little and I was so confused. On sitcoms where some character has like 4 sexual partners in 1 year, that's like, not realistic, right? That's just one of those things where they make it more dramatic for TV, right? Like would anyone in real life actually have that many sexual partners? And when people say they want sex, do they realize that sex means stimulating one's genitals with another person? They want that?)

I have so many "naive" questions, and without the asexual label, I feel really weird asking them- like people won't treat them as serious questions. People will think I'm pretending to be clueless as a joke, or to make some kind of point, or... something? But if I first inform them that asexuality exists, it's like "proof" that I really am this clueless, I really am asking as a 100% serious question. ("I grew up in purity culture" probably also works, if you're not ace but you are still totally clueless.)

In general, when people talk about sex, there's a lot of euphemisms and "if you know what I mean" and giggling, and for real, I don't know what they mean.

And on that note, this is THE MOST USEFUL sex-ed material I have EVER seen: An Asexual's Guide To ... It doesn't use any euphemisms or jokes which assume that we all already understand what sex is or why it's pleasurable. It explicitly and directly tells you what things are. Seriously. Cannot recommend it enough.

3. To improve our sex life

[content note: in this section I talk about me and my partner having sex. maybe TMI]

A few months after Hendrix and I started having sex, I thought to myself, "wait, isn't this supposed to be, uhh, pleasurable?" The biggest immediate benefit of sex was that it completely freed me from the fear I had internalized because of purity culture. Years and years of believing that premarital sex was THE DIRTIEST SIN and it would RUIN MY LIFE, and then even after I decided I don't believe it's a sin, I was still terrified. I'm so glad we started having sex and I found out it's not some kind of life-destroying big-huge-deal. But. After a few months, I realized, "oh hey, but isn't this also supposed to be pleasurable, like, in and of itself?"

Anyway, I ended up talking to 3 different doctors about this problem. (Why does it hurt? Why do I basically just like it because I'm in love with Hendrix and any activity I do with him makes me happy, but I don't feel pleasure specifically from the act of sex itself?) None of them were that helpful. They all told me "just relax" and other equally vague and useless bits of advice.

But when I found information about asexuality online, it all made sense. That's the answer, that's why sex is so difficult for me. It's because most people have this thing called sexual attraction, and I don't. And I love Hendrix and I want to have sex with him- if I didn't know these facts about my own orientation, it would be so much more confusing and difficult.

And this paragraph is going to be explicit [NSFW], but I'm going to write it because this is the secret I've discovered that has improved our sex life SO MUCH. Like, I'm just going to go ahead and say this explicitly because NOBODY EVER SAID IT TO ME EXPLICITLY AND THAT'S WHY I'VE HAD SO MUCH TROUBLE: So if you want to do penis-in-vagina sex, the important thing is that first the vagina has to open. Like, in regular life, it's not very open and so it would be incredibly painful to try to push something in. As it turns out, when people use the term "arousal", they are referring to when the vagina becomes more wet and open (or, if you have a penis, "arousal" means getting an erection). (I think? Correct me if I'm wrong on the vocabulary. As I said, I'm kind of clueless.) Furthermore, when people talk about "foreplay", what they mean is doing things to get the body aroused. See, before, I assumed "foreplay" meant "kissing and touching each other in pleasurable ways before you have sex." But it turns out it's more than that- if you're going to do penis-in-vagina sex, the foreplay NEEDS TO accomplish the task of getting the vagina to open. I had NO IDEA. Really. I thought foreplay was just about feeling good and maybe making yourself *want* sex (in an emotional sense)- I had absolutely no idea it was also supposed to include tangible genital-related bodily reactions. And that if it doesn't, then penis-in-vagina sex will be painful or maybe even impossible. LIKE THIS IS A BIG HUGE DEAL, NOT SOMETHING YOU CAN JUST SKIP or be like "eh I guess we've done enough of that, what comes next?" Like seriously, before you try to put a penis in, use your fingers and check if the vagina is open or not. Because usually it's NOT. It's only open if you're aroused enough. Sooooo anyway I figured out that if I use a sexy toy and stimulate the clit before we start actually having sex, and get an orgasm that way, it will make the vagina open and wet. And then we can put a penis in way easier. I don't know if that falls under the category of "foreplay" or not, because it's pretty much just me doing it, not my partner, but WOWWWWW that has helped our sex life SO MUCH. (Also: Use lots of lube.)

But anyway. The point is, if I didn't identify as asexual, I would have no answers to the question of "Why is sex so difficult for me? Why do I feel like I don't *get* sex?" I want to have a good sexual relationship with Hendrix, and having this information about asexuality is a necessary starting point.

-----

I need the term "asexual." Even though I'm straight, even though I do have sex. Without the language and concepts I've learned from the asexual community, everything would be so much more confusing. And it would be way more difficult to have a good sexual relationship with my partner.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My Chinese Marriage License

A pair of 结婚证 [jiéhūn zhèng]- marriage licenses. Image source.
So we did it~ we got our marriage licenses. Woo very exciting, but I'm not counting us as really married yet, because we haven't had the wedding yet. We just chose to do the legal part of getting married in China instead of the US, because of visas and paperwork and legal things.

I'm not going to go around telling our American wedding guests that we're already legally married, because they might think it means our wedding isn't a "real" wedding. Come on. The US goverment, with its laws about visas and green cards, does not have the power to make our wedding any less "real." Even though we're already legally married, I decided for me it doesn't count as married married until the wedding.

In China, actually, getting legally married is always a totally separate event from the wedding itself. Typically a couple will get their marriage license a few months before the wedding. For this reason, "wedding" isn't really the exactly right translation of "婚礼 [hūnlǐ]". Every dictionary will tell you that "wedding" is "婚礼 [hūnlǐ]" and "婚礼 [hūnlǐ]" is "wedding", but, not really. If we're coming from the context of American culture, we understand the word "wedding" to mean "a big celebration where people become legally married" and there really is no such thing in China. You become legally married, and you have the big celebration (婚礼 [hūnlǐ]), but not on the same day. But that doesn't make it any less of a "real" wedding, and it doesn't make our wedding any less real.

[Related: Getting Engaged Isn’t Exactly a Thing in China]

Here's what we had to do to get our marriage license:

First of all, we had to get a photo taken. It was pretty much the same style as a passport photo, except with two people, and the background is red. (Because red is the color for celebrating weddings.) Hendrix and I actually went to a photography studio that has fancy clothes and does photo editing so it comes out really nice.

Here's what Chinese marriage licenses look like inside. Image source.
Also, I had to go down to the US embassy in Shanghai and get a document that says I'm not already married. And wow, you guys, going to the US embassy, as a US citizen, you feel like a VIP. There's like tons and tons of Chinese people waiting in line, probably applying for visas, but you get to cut the line and go past everyone, to this special room. Also, fun fact: If you are white and show up at the US embassy and then talk to the security guards in Chinese, they will think you are weird.

So anyway, I got the "Single Status Certificate." It was really easy- the US embassy gave me the form, and I filled in my name, fiance's name, etc, checked off the box that says I've never been married before (there was also a box you could check if you were married and then divorced/widowed) and then some official at the US embassy signed it. I had to raise my right hand and swear that all the information was true, I guess because they're not actually going to check. So anyway I got that.

Then we had to go back to Hendrix's hometown to get the marriage licenses. See, China has something called the "hukou system." A 户口[hùkǒu] is a very official document that says the address where your residency officially is. Whatever city you're officially a resident of, you have to get the marriage license there. (Or rather, at least one of the partners has to be a resident of that city.) A lot of things like buying a home, where you can send your kids to school, etc, are related to the 户口[hùkǒu] that you have. And you can change your 户口[hùkǒu], but apparently it's a huge pain, and it's hard to get one for Shanghai because EVERYBODY wants a Shanghai 户口[hùkǒu]. So the point is, we couldn't get the marriage license in Shanghai; we had to go to Hendrix's hometown, because that's what his 户口[hùkǒu] says.

So anyway, we went back to his hometown, and we weren't 100% sure if the government official would be in the marriage license office that day, or if they would suddenly tell us we needed some other paperwork, so we added an extra day to our trip, just in case.

But everything went well. ^_^ We filled out a form and showed the guy all our documents- passport, hukou, singleness form- and he typed it up and printed forms we had to sign. Signing that form felt incredibly anticlimactic (I mean, I've signed lots of things in my life, you guys, it didn't feel special...) but that's the moment we became legally married. The government guy printed the marriage licenses for us and we had to glue the photos in. In China, a couple gets 2 marriage licenses- one for each person. Also, you can't get married to a same-sex partner- Taiwan is super close though, so hooray~

Later that day, I was talking with Hendrix about how we each had to glue the photo into our own marriage license. We used a gluestick that had liquid glue inside. I said, "Wow I don't think I've used a gluestick since I was like 10 years old!" and Hendrix said, "oh, good, because I was thinking you use a gluestick like a 10-year-old kid but I didn't want to say anything." See, in the US a gluestick is generally used for arts and crafts projects, and most of us only do those kinds of projects as children, but in China it's seen as an office supply item, and when you submit receipts or whatever, you have to use a gluestick to stick them all onto one sheet of paper. See also: my confusion when I went to the post office and bought stamps and stared dumbfounded at the little jar of glue on the counter, like apparently I'm supposed to glue the stamps on myself? What if I put too much and my postcard gets stuck to 6 other pieces of mail? And then the post office employee just did it for me because I obviously had no clue. ANYWAY the point is I definitely put way too much glue on my marriage license.

The fee for the marriage license was 9 kuai, which is about 1 or 2 US dollars.

Hendrix and I spent the rest of the day scrambling around to find a place that would give us a notarized English translation of the marriage licenses (just because we'll probably need that in the US in the future) and periodically looking at each other and exclaiming "we are MARRIED!" Then we went out to dinner with his family.

After we got legally married, I started referring to him as "老公 [lǎo gōng]" (which every dictionary will tell you means "husband") when I'm speaking Chinese. Before, I referred to him as "未婚夫 [wèi hūn fū]" (which every dictionary will tell you means "fiance", but it seems to me that Chinese people don't really use this word much, because, as I said, getting engaged isn't exactly a thing in China.) In English I still use the term "fiance." After the wedding I'll say he's my husband.

Hendrix, on the other hand, has been telling people I am his "老婆 [lǎo pó]" (which every dictionary will tell you means "wife") since we got engaged, or maybe even before. Seems like in China, people are less strict about using exactly the corrent term?

Update: OKAY I just asked Hendrix why he was calling me "老婆 [lǎo pó]" before we got legally married. He says "老婆 [lǎo pó]" and "老公 [lǎo gōng]" are informal/slang terms for "wife" and "husband." In something more official, like a news article or important paperwork, the words "妻子 [qīzi]" (wife), "丈夫 [zhàngfū]" (husband), and  "爱人 [ài rén]" (spouse) would be used. But if you're just chatting with your coworkers at lunch, you would definitely use "老婆 [lǎo pó]" and "老公 [lǎo gōng]". So, he claims, since "老婆 [lǎo pó]" and "老公 [lǎo gōng]" are for informal conversation, it doesn't really matter if you're literally legally married, you can still use those words.

The point is, translation is hard.

To sum up: Hendrix and I got our marriage licenses. This is very exciting, but I'm not exactly sure how to feel about it, because in China this works so much differently than in the US. When we got legally married, there were no vows or intense emotional moments of love, it was just writing down our names and passport numbers and signing it. And for me, at least for the American/English-speaking part of my life, I'm not counting us as really married until the wedding. I hope nobody thinks our wedding isn't a "real" wedding.

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Please enjoy this adorable Chinese song, "Marry Me Today":


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Blogaround

Queer umbrella, with the words "Lesbian", "Gay", "Bi", "Trans", "Intersex", "Pansexual", "Asexual", and "All Others" under it. Happy Pride Month! Image source.
1. A Progressive Christian Conference With an All-White Lineup: What Could Go Wrong? (posted May 30) "The organizers claim that they took seriously the concerns raised about the lineup, but if racial and ethnic diversity were important to them, it would not be an afterthought."

2. Evangelicals Who Link Evolution and Racism Forget Christianity Was Used to Defend Slavery and Segregation (posted June 6) "I should note that this belief predated even the idea of evolution. In other words, the “curse of Ham” was not based on evolutionary ideas about race."

3. Where Do Ex-Evangelicals Come From? (posted June 7) "In order to leave fundamentalism, something within you has to be powerful enough to make you willing to leave despite the intense social, psychological, and often economic costs of leaving, and the effects of years, often decades, of gaslighting."

Monday, June 5, 2017

We Don't Need Anyone's Permission to Love

A bride and groom dancing. Image source.
Growing up in purity culture, everyone always wanted to know "how far is too far?" What are we allowed to do when we're dating? What things aren't allowed til we're engaged? What things aren't allowed til we're married?

They taught us that the wedding day was a massive dividing line in the timeline of a couple's relationship. It marked the exact moment in time when they would finally be allowed to fully give themselves to each other, to completely and totally love and not hold anything back. Most importantly, you can FINALLY have sex. And live together.

"Wait," you may be saying, "they really said that's what a wedding is? That's the meaning of marriage?" Well they didn't say it directly- of course purity culture advocates would deny all day long that they believe marriage is basically a hoop you have to jump through in order to have sex. But go and look at what they teach, and what exactly they say about marriage. Most of the time, marriage is mentioned in sentences like "It's sinful to have sex before marriage." The entire premise behind purity culture is that having sex before marriage will RUIN YOUR LIFE, but very very rarely did I hear any warnings about rushing into marriage too fast. They didn't teach anything like "marriage is a really really big deal, so definitely take your time and decide if it's actually something you want to do." Nope, they pretty much just talked about sex, and only mentioned marriage as a requirement you must meet before you can have sex.

After the wedding, they said, you are officially allowed to have sex. A wedding is, apparently, a Grand Bestowing Of Permission. You stand before the government and your wedding guests, and make vows to your partner, and when everyone has witnessed how sweet and romantic and loving and committed you are, then you officially have permission to have sex, live together, and totally love each other.

Having sex before the wedding is bad, apparently, because you have a duty to stand up before a large group of people in fancy clothes and make a big announcement about it before sexy times can commence. To have sex without first notifying the public that you're going to have sex is bad, apparently.

Yeah, you have probably guessed that Hendrix and I don't buy that. We don't need anyone's permission. We are in charge of our relationship, and our wedding is not going to be a Grand Bestowing Of Permission. We already love each other and are fully committed to each other, and we want to celebrate that with our family and friends. We invite them so we can all celebrate together, not so they can be there to witness our relationship changing into one where we can finally fully love each other. And have sex.

Not that it's any of anyone's business, but we already do have sex. And we live together. (Please note that those are 2 completely unrelated things, though.) We're not going to say anything about our sex life at the wedding, because that's incredibly weird. Yes, I know at purity-culture weddings, the ceremony often includes an indirect or euphemistic reference to the fact that the couple hasn't had sex yet. That's weird, okay? All you ex-purity-culture people might not realize how bizarre and weird that is. In regular-people-land, whether or not a couple has had sex isn't public knowledge. (Related: You know that whole "white dress means virginity"? Yeah, not actually a real thing.)

I've heard a lot of purity-culture Christians talk about how terrible it is that young people nowadays are "acting like they're married." I guess this is a euphemism for having sex and/or living together? Pretty weird phrase to use though... if marriage is a good thing, then shouldn't we be glad that people are so interested in it that they're "acting like they're married" even if they're really not?

In our case, Hendrix and I have been acting like we're married since before we got engaged, I would say. What I mean is, we've been committed to each other, we've taken care of each other, we've made plans together and talked about big life decisions, we've worked together on housework, etc. It's been a gradual process of getting to know each other more and more, slowly becoming a better team.

In fact, just a few days ago we found ourselves at IKEA picking out a toilet brush, soap dish, and some other household things. It doesn't get much more "married couple" than that. Yes, there we were, having such scandalous and sinful conversations as this:
"Let's get this brush."
"Would it be for washing dishes or, like, cleaning the nasty stuff on the edge of the sink?"
"Let's get two- one for dishes and one for bathroom."
"Yeah, and let's get different colors so we don't mix them up."
Steamy.

And another thing: How weird is it that pastors talk about unmarried couples living together as if it's the most sinful, selfish thing, as if it's all about being lazy and irresponsible, being disobedient and taking the easy way out instead of getting married first like you're supposed to? I mean, seriously, living in a small apartment with another human being- even if you love them- can be hard. But listening to Christians talk about it, it sounds like some kind of endless sex party that's all about pleasure and avoiding responsibility. COME ON. When you live with someone, you have to have all sorts of conversations about housework, about money, about how they can't stand it when your cat leaves hair all over their clothes. You need to be a responsible adult in order to make it work.

But anyway. Hendrix and I don't need anyone's permission to love and be a couple. We decide what our relationship is. And now we've decided we want to invite a bunch of people to celebrate our love and commitment because it's such a beautiful thing. But that celebration doesn't somehow grant us permission to love.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Blogaround

An adorable fat kitty sleeping. A sprial based on the golden ratio has been superimposed on the photo, because that's the shape the cat is here. Image source.
1. The original Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith ending had Padme founding the Rebel Alliance and almost killing Anakin (posted May 15) "While in the final film, Padme flies to Mustafar and just kind of cries at Anakin, the original version had her pull a knife on the fallen Jedi."

2. 11 Years Old, a Mom, and Pushed to Marry Her Rapist in Florida (posted May 26) [content note: rape] This is terrible.

3. Evangelicals Are the Ones Obsessed with Sex (posted May 30) "Evangelicals often decry the “sex obsessed” world, but frankly, they’re the most sex obsessed group I’ve ever come in contact with." AMEN TO THIS.

4. writing bilingual characters. Lolololol yes! I live my life in both Chinese and English and stuff like this happens all the time.

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