Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Sinopharm vaccine, 1st dose

Aww yeah, I got my first dose of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine!

In China, there are 2 different vaccines being given to the general public- one developed by Sinopharm and one developed by Sinovac. Seems like some locations here are giving one and some locations are giving the other, and you get whatever you get. Both of them use the inactivated virus, and both of them require 2 doses.

In late March, Shanghai started encouraging the general public to get vaccinated. Here's what I wrote about it in my April 3 blogaround:

Good news- here in Shanghai, starting around March 29 there's been a big push for people to get the COVID vaccine. I saw a bunch of articles on social media (WeChat) about how to register, there was a flyer posted on the 1st floor of our apartment building, somebody came door-to-door with the flyers too, and HR at work sent an email. (There is a separate system for foreign passport holders to register, because the main system requires a Chinese ID number.) I have an appointment in a few weeks for the first dose! Woo I love vaccines!

They are saying everyone who is age 18 to 75 and healthy should get vaccinated. Right now everyone in that range can go ahead and make an appointment, it's not broken down into different risk categories or anything like in the US. (People who are higher risk because they come into contact with international travelers etc have already been vaccinated.)

Only some of the vaccine locations have been designated as accepting foreigners. I assume it's so they can make sure they have someone who speaks English there, and a place where you can pay for the vaccine if you're not on Chinese social insurance, and whatever other weird edge cases they might have to deal with to accommodate international people.

Ah, so about that Chinese social insurance: It's kind of like how in the US, you get money deducted from your salary to pay for social security and whatever else. If you are paying into the system (which I am), then you get benefits related to health care, maternity leave, unemployment insurance, pension, etc. (When I was on maternity leave I got paid 100% of my salary for the whole 4 months I was off work.) And, if you are in the system, you get your COVID vaccine for free. If you're not in the system, it's 100 rmb, which is about $15.

Oh, another fun fact: I am still breastfeeding my little toddler son. There was a lot of talk in the mom groups (on WeChat/ social media) about "should I get the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?" Some moms did, some moms didn't, some moms went to the vaccine site and were told they weren't allowed to get the vaccine because they were breastfeeding. The latest recommendation in China is that pregnant and breastfeeding people can totally get the vaccine, but this is the kind of thing China is super-cautious about (in my opinion, way too cautious), so sometimes the staff at the vaccine site still don't allow it. I am all about that natural immunity being passed on to the baby through the milk though. :)

Anywayyyyyyy I took pictures for you, blog readers, so here they are:


You have to show your green QR code (to prove that you haven't travelled to any medium-risk or high-risk places in the past 14 days), and this security guard is taking everyone's temperature.

新冠疫苗接种人员入口 = COVID-19 vaccination entrance

Taking temperature on the wrist

Yeah he's taking everyone's temperature, but like not very accurately.


(The above image is a sign that says: 疫苗接种 Vaccination 预检登记处 Pre inspection registry)

Then you have to go to the registration desk and show them your passport, then on to the next window where you fill out the consent form. It asks questions about if you are allergic to any vaccines, etc.

This is the page you have to sign to confirm that they gave you the consent form.

Turns out the vaccine site I went to is a vaccine clinic that normally sees children. They had very cute animals on the walls, and charts about what vaccines babies need to get. But that afternoon they had the place set up to only do the COVID vaccine.



After the vaccine, you have to sit in the "observation area" for 30 minutes in case you have a reaction. This is standard in China- every time I take my son for a vaccine, or if I have a flu shot, or whatever, have to wait around for 30 minutes.

The vaccine I got was the Sinopharm one. Here's an image I found online that shows what the box looked like:

Box for the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine. Image source.

The box says:

新型冠状病毒灭活疫苗(Vero细胞) 

SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine(Vero Cell), Inactivated

The small print at the bottom says the vaccine was made by CNBG/ Beijing Institute of Biological Products (China National Biotec Group, which is owned by Sinopharm).

After the vaccine, my arm was sore for about 1-2 days, but I didn't have any other side effects.

They said the next dose should be 3-8 weeks later. Really looking forward to being fully vaccinated!

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Good news~ My Patreon account reached its goal of $20/month! I said I would publish posts about my life in China when that happened, so here is the first one! Many thanks to my Patreon supporters and to all my readers. <3

Friday, April 30, 2021

Blogaround

1. The TRUTH About Polyjuice Potion | Harry Potter Theory (posted April 14) "Let's say you're an adult, and you have the hair of another adult from when they were a child. In that case, would you transform into the adult version of them, or the child version of them?"

2. Birth Control vs J&J Vaccine (posted April 15) A video from an actual gynecologist, here to tell us that all the people on twitter going on about "they stopped the J&J vaccine because of a 1 in a million chance of blood clots, but birth control has a higher risk and nobody cares about that" don't know what they're talking about.

It is so important to do the actual work of checking sources and understanding what specific things are being measured in each statistic. But usually people just retweet things that line up with stuff they already agree with, without doing any of that work, and it spreads misinformation. And I have definitely done this too, retweeting things without actually thinking "is that true?" :/

3. Sapphira is a model of "complementarian biblical womanhood" (posted April 15) "Peter gives her a chance to come clean - to do the right thing by not going along with her husband's plan, by refusing to uncritically obey his spiritual guidance - but instead she opts to be a good 'complementarian,' demonstrating her unwavering commitment to submissive 'biblical womanhood,' and the same young men who buried her husband carry her to her grave as well."

(The follow-up post, 'Biblical families,' an index, is very good too.)

4. The Universal Never-Nude Art Museum Tour Map. (posted 2016) Lololol!

5. The coronavirus is ravaging India. Here's how you can help (posted April 29)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Blogaround

1. ‘Millions of Souls’: the Manipulation Tactic Christian Predators Love (posted February 14) [content note: sexual abuse coverup] "Keep quiet, or else people will go to Hell and it will be your fault for revealing the truth about me."

2. DoorDash Drivers Game Algorithm to Increase Pay (posted April 6) "They urge members to reject any delivery that doesn’t pay at least $7, more than double the current floor of $3."

3. Marvel Studios' Loki | Official Trailer | Disney+ (posted April 5) Very excited for this!


Saturday, April 3, 2021

Blogaround

1. Afterlife: How Captain Cassidy Let Go of a False Belief (posted January 22) [and follow-up posts here and here] Captain Cassidy wrote a few posts about no longer believing in any kind of "afterlife", and I wonder if she's right. One of my big things is "I believe in resurrection" but what she is saying makes sense.

2. The future of the middle class depends on student loan forgiveness (posted February 25) "It’s not about my loans, or your loans, or your lack thereof. It’s not about your personal stories or anyone else’s. It’s about restoring the path from education to financial stability and wealth building — and, this time, actually maintaining it, no matter who decides to start the journey."

3. Well, yes:

4. Beloved children’s author Beverly Cleary dies at 104 (posted March 26)

5. Lil Nas X - MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) (Official Video) (posted March 26) This is extremely satanic and gay. I love it. It's like I said about Katy Perry in 2015: "Make a video that's as satanic as possible, and it's okay! Nothing can separate us from the love of God."

Lil Nas X has this to say:

He knows EXACTLY what he's doing. PREACH.

6. Good news- here in Shanghai, starting around March 29 there's been a big push for people to get the COVID vaccine. I saw a bunch of articles on social media (WeChat) about how to register, there was a flyer posted on the 1st floor of our apartment building, somebody came door-to-door with the flyers too, and HR at work sent an email. (There is a separate system for foreign passport holders to register, because the main system requires a Chinese ID number.) I have an appointment in a few weeks for the first dose! Woo I love vaccines!

They are saying everyone who is age 18 to 75 and healthy should get vaccinated. Right now everyone in that range can go ahead and make an appointment, it's not broken down into different risk categories or anything like in the US. (People who are higher risk because they come into contact with international travelers etc have already been vaccinated.)

7. Is China Really Ready for Black Stories? (posted March 29) "Black-themed films can succeed in China — as long as their Blackness remains in the background."

8. Sentenced to death, but innocent: These are stories of justice gone wrong. (posted February 18) "Bloodsworth bore little resemblance to the suspect in the police sketch. No physical evidence linked him to the crime. He had no prior criminal record."

Thursday, March 25, 2021

How Pregnancy and Childbirth Changed My Asexuality (or, actually, A Post About Vaginismus)

 

A diagram showing the baby inside the pregnant person's body, at about 9 months pregnant. Image source.

[content note: it's about my genitals, sex, and giving birth]

I recently announced the birth of my perfect son, Square Root. I want to write about how, umm, my sex life has changed due to pregnancy/ giving birth/ taking care of a baby.

Basically, it is WAY EASIER to have vaginal sex now than it used to be, and also I want sex more than before.

And why is that? Well I think there are several factors, and the most important one is vaginismus-related, so I mainly want to talk about that. But there are a few other smaller factors I'll just touch on real quick here:

  1. Hormones. Wowww oh my goodness, pregnancy hormones. There were times during the pregnancy when I really wanted to have sex- in a way that I hadn't felt before. Pregnancy hormones, breastfeeding hormones, all the hormones.
    As an aside: I did my research and the experts say it's fine to have sex during pregnancy unless you have a high-risk pregnancy- BUT if it's painful, that's a sign that maybe something's wrong and you should stop. And ... well isn't it effed-up that I never thought my own pain was a valid reason to completely refuse sex, but now that we add a vague "but what if it hurts the baby", suddenly I feel like I'm allowed to say no. (And no, fortunately it's not my husband who's treating me that way- it's what I learned in church.)
  2. Due to the fact that we have a baby, we barely ever have time to have sex. So let's say before I got pregnant, I felt like "I have a responsibility to have sex with my husband at frequency x" (because I very much internalized this teaching from purity culture/ complementarianism- "men need it" blah blah blah) but perhaps I actually would have preferred frequency y, where y is less frequent than x. And now that we have a baby who always needs something, we only have time to have sex at frequency z, and z is less than y, so I feel like it's not enough. 

So I'm mentioning those things real quick, but they are not the point. Really I want to talk about vaginismus.

Healthline.com defines vaginismus thusly:

For some women, the vaginal muscles involuntarily or persistently contract when they attempt vaginal penetration. This is called vaginismus. The contractions can prevent sexual intercourse or make it very painful.

In the past, when I happened to come across blog posts about vaginismus, I was very excited because finally someone was talking about sex in a way that felt realistic to me. 

Still, I thought to myself, no, I don't have vaginismus. Because some of the details in other people's accounts didn't match my experience. Yes, it was the most relatable thing I had ever read about sex, a hundred times more relatable than any sex ed material or erotica or anything else I had ever encountered (with one exception- I once found an asexual sex ed guide which was very helpful and relatable for me)- but I still thought "no, I don't have vaginismus."

However, my thinking is different now- instead of getting stuck on the details that didn't match, I think it's more useful to say that yes, I have some kind of something that is like vaginismus, but maybe not vaginismus exactly, who knows, I'm not a doctor. See, that is a way more helpful description than just ... like... always being confused about why sex doesn't work.

Or basically, I probably have vaginismus but I don't feel like I can really diagnose myself? Something along those lines.

Anyway, let's switch gears now and I'll give you a basic overview of the story:

Gynecologist appointments: Always hurt like hell, and now I'm mad at how purity culture didn't allow me to know my own body and understand what was going on. I'm mad about how I just trusted doctors, and they hurt me and didn't really seem to realize there was a problem, that there was something very very unusual in how I was reacting and how painful it was, and I needed help. I'm mad about how I believed all of that was normal- surely it was normal, surely my body was perfect because I had never had sex and that meant I was pure and would have absolutely no sex-related problems. I'm mad because it was ... let me see ... I think maybe 8 years after my first gynecologist appointment, I read on Planned Parenthood's website that the pelvic exam is not supposed to hurt- and I cried. I had no idea.

My sex life: So I've only ever had sex with 1 person- Hendrix, who is now my husband (but I am VERY PROUD to tell you we had sex BEFORE MARRIAGE). The first time we tried to have PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex, we tried and tried and couldn't figure out how to get the penis to go in, so we gave up. Had to try again a different day; we were successful the second time. At that time, I was very happy that we had finally had sex, because it disproved all those warnings from purity culture about how sex was totally going to ruin my life and turn me into a completely different person, worthless and unable to ever have a happy marriage. Hooray, I had lived in fear of sex for so long, but all of that wasn't true! Sex was way less of a big deal than I thought. It's just, like, doing stuff with your genitals. Not completely changing your whole identity.

So yes, happy about that, but physically it was painful. There was a lot that felt good- the cuddling, kissing, being with him, making him feel good- but the actual penetration part was physically painful. Nothing but pain. PIV sex was like a whole huge task that I needed to steel myself to endure. And I'd been taught in church that that was normal. I had read the Christian marriage books about how if sex is painful for women, well that's not an excuse, you need to have sex with your husband anyway. I knew I didn't 100% believe that- in recent years I had started reading feminist stuff about how sex should feel good for women too and it shouldn't be all about the man. (Also, OBVIOUSLY queer people exist- you can have sex without any men at all actually.) But mostly, the "you have a duty to your husband" stuff is how I conceptualized it in my mind.

And when I went to my gynecologist appointments, I told them sex was painful and asked what I should do. And they were totally useless. I talked to at least 2 different gynecologists about this (and also mentioned it to the psychologist I was seeing back then) and they were all totally useless. They all said "just relax" and gave other bits of advice which I now see had absolutely nothing to do with my situation. I now see that they didn't understand the problem at all. I now see that my experience is very much NOT normal, but I didn't know that back then, and so I wasn't able to communicate it to the doctors. I assumed they would know what I was talking about. And also they were awkward and seemed to not want to talk explicitly about sex- the most direct and explicit it ever got was "is the pain on the outside, or deep inside?" We completely failed at communicating. Useless.

And then I found the asexual community.

Finally, finally, finally people are talking about "sex doesn't make any sense, why would you want to do that?" Finally! 

I researched and wondered for a while, and eventually concluded, yes, I am asexual.

And that was so good, because it was my starting point for learning about my body, learning about masturbating, learning about how to have sex with my husband. Before, I had always been so confused and disoriented by the idea that this is supposed to be natural, this is supposed to be easy, but when I accepted that no it's not natural or easy for me because I just don't have sexual attraction, then I could actually start doing the work of learning it. I accepted that it was something I would need to learn. (Maybe "need" isn't the right word here- certainly if you're asexual then it's totally fine to just not have sex; you do NOT "need to learn" it. But for me personally, I was very interested in learning about how to have sex in a way that feels good, and learning about my body.)

So I did the work. Bought sex toys. Lube. Masturbated. Communicated with my husband about what feels good and what doesn't. Tried different positions. All of that. I made FANTASTIC progress. I figured out ways to get my vagina to open, and I always always always put my fingers in to check the openness before attempting PIV. And every time we had sex, it took time, it was a process, but yes, I was able to do it in a way that physically felt good for me, despite the PIV. Most of the time. A difficult and delicate dance that was (most of the time) successful in avoiding (most of) the pain.

And then I got pregnant.

Fast forward 9 months, and I pushed a whole entire human out of my vagina.

And then gradually in the months after, we started having sex again. Not very often, because with a newborn baby, nobody has time for that. 

Gradually.

And then, months later, I realized, wait, this isn't hard any more.

It's NOT hard to do PIV any more. I don't have to go through a whole multi-step process to get my vagina to open. It just ... works.

Wait. 

Wait. Is this what sex is like for other people normally?

Wait. Wait. 

Like, if you want to put your consenting partner's penis in your vagina, you can just GO AHEAD and put your consenting partner's penis in your vagina? WHATTTTTT? That easy?

And- get this- sometimes the consenting partner can even be the one to put it in. 

WHATTTTTTTTTT

BUT LITERALLY THAT'S HOW IT IS NOW FOR ME. It's easy! It just goes in! Like sometimes we need a little lube, but like, there is a known solution to the "we need lube" issue, which is "buy lube." Not like how it was before, when I had a whole bag of tricks for trying to get PIV to work without pain, and could never be sure if I would be successful.

And- get this- now PIV can actually physically feel good for me. Before, I felt good in sort of a symbolic way, related to the society-defined meaning of sex in the context of a long-term relationship, etc. Feeling like, I'm good enough, I'm able to do what I'm supposed to do for my husband. But there was nothing inherently good in the physical act itself- it was either painful or not painful and that was it. (Oh hmm, actually there were a *few* rare occasions PIV did feel good physically.)

So I convinced myself it felt good, but now I see that was kind of a "if you really squint you can sort of make yourself believe it feels good." But now it REALLY DOES feel good, no question. Now it's like "wow that was nice, do it again" and I actually look forward to having sex. Look forward to it because it feels good physically, not like before when I looked forward to it because I wanted to get away from the guilt because the church told me I'm a bad wife if I don't have sex with my husband often enough.

Well this is just WILD. This is ... WOWWWW. Is this how sex is for y'all?

This is just mind-blowing. Like all along, when I've tried to talk to people about sex, we've actually been talking about ENTIRELY DIFFERNT THINGS. And in writing this blog post, I have emphasized the pain part, whereas before I wouldn't really focus so much on that when describing my perspective on sex, because I thought that was obvious and didn't need to be said. 

Like, of course it's very important to do penetration at EXACTLY the right angle, because if you get it wrong then it hurts so bad that you're better off just giving up on sex and trying again another day.

Right?

Is that ... not normal?

I really thought that it was this way for everyone with a vagina- that as you go about your normal life, you are not physically aroused, and therefore your vagina is shut like a steel trap and penetration is basically impossible. But then when you want to have sex, you do foreplay or whatever, and that gets your body aroused and your vagina open. And I concluded that my issue was I'm asexual and therefore my being attracted to my partner has no intrinsic connection to my body getting physically aroused. So I have to very deliberately stimulate the outer parts (clit, etc) physically in order to get my vagina to open, whereas for other people it would naturally open just because they are sexually attracted to their partner.

But, uh, turns out not. Turns out the "shut like a steel trap" thing just ... is not at all what most people experience.

And I'm sure I wasn't even consciously aware that I wasn't properly communicating how painful it was. That's all I had known. That was my entire experience of PIV sex- of course I didn't have any kind of reference point to show me that my pain was not normal. That's why it's so important to me to write this blog post now- having experienced this from both sides, so to say.

And wow. Wow. I just CANNOT BELIEVE how easy it is to have PIV sex now. (I guess after you push a whole big-headed baby out of your vagina, you no longer have any problems with some small thing like a penis.)

And we can do missionary position now! [TMI?] Before, we very very very rarely tried it, because the pain made it basically impossible. But now missionary position feels good. This is so different, it's unbelievable.

All right. Now we need to talk about my asexuality. Because this kind of calls my asexuality into question, doesn't it?

One interpretation is that I wasn't "really" asexual, that it was "actually" vaginismus. That I was wrong to claim to be asexual. It wasn't an issue about sexual attraction and sexual orientation; it was an actual physical problem with my body. And I should have gone to more doctors until I found one who could give me the correct treatment for vaginismus.

I don't believe that.

That would mean I shouldn't have had access to all the benefits that asexuality has brought me. I should have just continued to "try to be normal", paying money to more and more doctors and letting them hurt my vagina, in hopes of finding an authority figure who can tell me what I need to do to "be normal."

Let's be real, the only place a "you weren't actually asexual" argument can come from is the idea that asexual just isn't a valid thing to be at all. So no. I don't buy that.

Also, let's say, hypothetically, that I'm heterosexual, but vaginismus makes sex with men nearly impossible, and there is no practical way for me to even figure out what the problem is or get treatment- isn't that functionally the same thing as being asexual?

So... maybe it's like this: One possible explanation is that I do have that feeling that people call "sexual attraction." And yes, it's true that before I had ever attempted anything sexual at all, I was sure I would find sex really great. But then, I tried PIV and it wasn't anything like I'd expected. It felt all wrong and painful. So I concluded, "oh, if this is what sex is, then no I don't have a desire for that, so that means I'm asexual."

Then the issue would be the definition of "sex." "Asexual" means I don't have sexual attraction, and "sexual attraction" means I am attracted to someone in such a way that I have a desire for sex with them. And no, I am not attracted to anyone in such a way that I want to painfully stab my vagina with them. So have we been talking about different things all along? There is some other experience that people call "sex", which I had never had before I gave birth, and it is pleasurable for me and I do have an attraction for it?

Like... yes, I know PIV is not the be-all-end-all of sex. There is sex that is not PIV. I have been aware of that for a long time, for years, but maybe subconsciously I do still think "sex" means "penis in vagina." And when I decided to identify as asexual, I know I did consider if I have attraction for other sex that's not PIV, and I still concluded that I don't. But it's hard to untangle all of this... coming from that patriarchal purity-culture you-have-a-duty-to-your-husband background, was there even a possibility that I could have said "yes I enjoy sex, just not PIV, I hate PIV, but yes sex is great!" And knowing what I know now about how IT REALLY IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THAT PAINFUL, it makes me think I need to untangle it differently than I did in the past. 

So maybe. Maybe now that PIV is going so well, I will discover that I do have sexual attraction, and then I will conclude I'm not asexual. But even if that happens, I still believe I was right to identify as asexual up til now, and I am very grateful for my time as an asexual. It allowed me the freedom to explore and know myself, and accept that whatever desires I did or did not have were all okay and normal.

At the same time, though, I think about how even before I ever attempted anything sexual at all, I just ... didn't really have sexual desire at all? I never masturbated, never even considered if I might be interested in masturbating. The boys I dated before Hendrix, I never ever EVER considered the question "would it feel good to have sex with him?" The idea that one would have sex with one's boyfriend was just nowhere on my radar at all, except in the warnings I got from purity-culture Christians about "CAN YOU BELIEVE how gross and sinful THE WORLD is- some people think it's normal to *GASP* have sex with your boyfriend OH NO THE HORROR." (I've blogged before about times I was completely clueless about the reality that other people actually do experience sexual attraction- and that was all before I had attempted PIV, so vaginismus was not a factor.)

But maybe I was just repressed, and if my first PIV experience had gone better, then things would have gone way differently. Maybe. Who knows.

Imagine that, though, imagine how different that would be. What if I had tried PIV and it worked? Or at least, I was able to do it in a way that's satisfactory to my male partner. Then I would have had no reason to learn about my body the way I did. I would have just continued having mediocre sex, and thinking it was good because a man liked it. Also, I would have felt like it was normal if the man has an orgasm and the woman doesn't. 

And I would have just gone on like that and felt like it was fine. Hey... it just occurred to me that maybe a lot of women do that, and that explains the baffling advice I read recently in a book about how having a baby changes the relationship between the husband and wife. In this book, it was talking about how sex is all different and confusing since the baby was born, and so you have to communicate and do this and that, etc... And I'm like, so confused, because for me sex was confusing FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, and I worked hard to figure it out, and what I read in this book was just incomprehensible- like some couples are having sex and it's going along fine but they haven't done the work of knowing their bodies and communicating and all that, and then having the baby forces them to do that work in order to have any kind of sex life at all. Hmm.

(Yeah does anyone's sex life get better right after having a baby? Just me? Okay then.)

So yeah, in a way I'm grateful for vaginismus, because without it, I would never have taken control of my own sex life. I would still have thought everything I do sexually has to be focused on my husband. I would still have thought masturbating was basically cheating. I would still have thought there was something a little wrong about looking at and being familiar with my own body. And I would still not be having orgasms.

Because I was taught that a wife has sex as a duty to her husband. And I found I couldn't fulfill that duty. I needed to masturbate and learn about my body in order to be able to fulfill that duty, so that's what I did. I still think it's a little messed-up that this whole thing begins and ends with a man, but at least in the middle I learned that my body is mine, I am in charge, I belong to me.

The idea that I "wasn't really" asexual, and it was "actually just" vaginismus... I think about what would have happened if it had gone that way. What if I did find a doctor who knew what vaginismus was, instead of finding the asexual community? Then no, I wouldn't have been able to take charge of my own body and sex life. I would have viewed the doctor as an authority figure telling me what standards I am supposed to meet, and what I had to do to be good enough to meet those standards. I still wouldn't be able to actually learn about my body.

I wouldn't have asked myself, what do I want? It would have been only about getting my body good enough for a man to enjoy.

Yes, certainly it is possible for a doctor to help with vaginismus in a way that keeps the patient informed about what their situation is and allows them to set the goals. Yes. But I wouldn't have been able to do that, because I always viewed doctors as if they know everything and get to tell me what I'm supposed to be. Now I see it differently- now I see doctors as a very good resource I should use to further my own personal health/body-related goals. I'm responsible for my own health. I rely on the doctors for their knowledge and advice, but I belong to me.

But back then, when I was letting gynecologists hurt me because I had no idea what my own anatomy was? Nope, no way a doctor could have helped me.

(I guess I should throw a disclaimer in here: doctors are great, there are totally good gynecologists out there. I am very thankful to all the doctors and midwives and nurses who helped with the birth of my son. Especially the anesthesiologist who did the epidural. He listened to all my concerns about it, answered my questions, let me make my own decision about if I wanted to do it or not. And also then all the pain from the contractions went away.)

Asexuals, though. Asexuals said whatever desires I have or don't have are fine. Whatever amount of sex I want to have or don't want to have is fine. Asexuals told me I can know myself, and that nobody else can override that.

So none of this nonsense about "I wasn't really asexual." I firmly believe that if identifying as asexual helps you personally, then it's right for you to identify as asexual. I still don't know what sexual attraction is- now that I've found out I can just go ahead and do PIV and it's easy, I might have to completely rewrite my understanding of what sexual attraction is. Maybe it will turn out that I actually do have sexual attraction. But yes, it was right for me to identify as asexual. It has helped me so much.

And I don't want someone to read this and think "we need to have more awareness about vaginismus, so that people don't mis-identify as asexual and then get themselves all messed up." Yes, I definitely wish I had known about vaginismus earlier, but at the same time maybe it's good that wasn't the lens I viewed my "I don't understand sex" problem through. Instead of "I have vaginismus and I need a cure so I can be normal," I believed "I am asexual, and I accept myself as I am, and I set my own goals about what kind of sex I want to have." Which turned out way better.

So where am I now, then? Sure, it was right to identify as asexual in the past, and I keep saying that maybe in the future I won't be, but what about right now?

Well I'm definitely straight, so, am I heterosexual? Lolllll lol can you imagine being heterosexual? Like, that would mean that sex actually makes sense to me. Like, I would have to understand what people are talking about when they mention sex. Ha, no.

Well how about demisexual? Because I only want to have sex with my husband- that sounds sort of demisexual, right? Well, no I don't think I'm demisexual. The reason I only want to have sex with my husband isn't because I'm not attracted to other people, it's because sex is just SO WEIRD that I just can't wrap my mind around the idea that like, any random man on the street could theoretically do it. Like it feels like a weird inside joke that's just between me and him.

How about graysexual? No... I kind of always felt like "graysexual" was for asexuals who thought "but how can I be sure I've never experienced sexual attraction, if I don't even know what it is? I don't think I'm allowed to ID as asexual, I'd better say graysexual just to be safe." And, hey, no, there is no asexual police, you are allowed to ID as asexual even if you can't prove that you have never experienced sexual attraction. Yes, I bet that for some people it is very good and helpful to identify as graysexual. But not me.

So what's left then? Asexual? Well, yeah that fits, that feels right. Okay then.

So. In conclusion. Big changes. Ever since I pushed an entire baby out of my vagina, PIV sex is no longer the whole ordeal it used to be, where I needed to use all sorts of techniques to get my vagina to open or else the whole thing was unbearably painful. Like wow, it's night and day; it's just astonishing how easy it is now, and it made me realize that all that pain I had before was not normal and most likely was vaginismus (even though I don't feel I can actually diagnose myself). So I am having more sex now and it's very exciting. And all of this has me reconsidering my asexuality. Yes, I firmly believe I was right to identify as asexual, though maybe the context of it was sort of different than what I thought back then. Maybe in the future I won't be asexual any more. But I am grateful for all the benefits asexuality brought me. It allowed me to accept myself and be in charge of my own sexuality, instead of trying to fit society's / some man's / a doctor's idea of what "normal" is.

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Appendix:

So it turns out that every time I've blogged about sex in explicit terms, it was coming from a perspective where PIV is very painful for me and I had NO IDEA that that wasn't the case for everyone with a vagina.

I wrote the advice I wish I had had. But now I feel like... for most people, this has nothing to do with their situation at all. And for the people that do need this advice, how do I even find them to tell them? What keywords to use- I guess "vaginismus" is the only one? And how do I write it in a way that they would be able to tell their unusual situation is the same as mine?

Anyway, here's an example, an old post with my maybe-actually-not-useful advice on how to have sex:

3 Reasons I Need To Identify As Ace

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.)

And currently my advice on PIV sex is this: Don't let anyone put their penis in if you've never put 2 of your own fingers in. Ugh, even as I write that, I question myself, like people are going to say "eww no", people are going to say it's normal to have ANOTHER PERSON put their penis in your vagina, but it's dirty and shameful to put YOUR OWN fingers in. WHY? WHY? 

Yeah I know in church they said my husband owns my sexuality and I do not, but that's wrong, that's so wrong.

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Related:

My Husband Is Not The Entire Focus Of My Sex Life 

Doctors (part 3 of Autism & Teaching Kids to Protect Themselves)

They said it was about "valuing our bodies." That was a lie.

I Wanna Preach the Good News of Masturbation

And also a big thank-you to all the bloggers who came before me and wrote about vaginismus. Here are a few of the posts that had a big impact on me:

TMI: Vaginismus, Me, and Why We Need to Talk Abut Female Sexual Dysfunction

The Kind of Sex I Thought I Wanted

The Other Side

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Top 15 posts from 2020

A computer with the word "BLOG" displayed on the screen. Image source.

Hi readers! Here's a roundup of my most read/ favorite posts from 2020. This year 2 of the big themes on the blog were COVID-19 and the birth of my little son. 

I am in China (have been in China for the entire pandemic), so I experienced all the lockdowns and panicking about a month earlier than most of my readers. Then after 2-3 months we were more or less "back to normal", except we have to wear masks, and can't travel. (It's been a very different story in the US...) 

And I announced the birth of my son! He is amazing and perfect. So I've had a lot to say on the blog about pregnancy and babies and being a mom.

Anyway here are the top 6 posts with the most page views:

1. The Babylon Bee Completely Misunderstands Boundaries. I Am Shocked. (note: not actually shocked) "The Babylon Bee is trash."

2. An Invisible Virus and an Omniscient God "In particular, why aren't Christians in the United States using 'discernment' to make up for the lack of COVID-19 testing? Surely in the US there exist some Christians who are close enough to God that they're that good at 'discernment'... right?"

3. What Pregnancy Taught Me About Being Pro-Choice "Now I know how hard pregnancy is, and I understand the importance of 'my body, my choice' in a way I never did before."

4. Bathsheba's Son "Bathsheba spent 9 months nurturing and loving the child that grew inside her body. David spent 9 months covering up a rape and a murder."

5. Dance, Those Who Dance Upon Injustice "Someday we will tell our children about how people danced in the streets after the 2020 election."

6. Welcome Baby Square Root! 

And here are some other good posts I wrote:

1. What I Wish I'd Known About Breastfeeding "Because I now see that there are lots of good reasons [to give formula]. But 'the mom is right here and wants to breastfeed the baby, but her husband's family is telling her 'no, you can't, you don't have enough milk'' is NOT one of them. That's effed-up."

2. I'm SO HAPPY I Won't Be Praying During Childbirth "What if something went wrong, and I thought it was my fault because I didn't pray the right way?"

3. Yes, I Want Justice (A post about white evangelicals and #BlackLivesMatter) "In this ideology, the idea of 'helping the victims' makes no sense- the so-called victims are sinners too and deserve to go to hell just as much as those who hurt them."

4. Breastfeeding: Take and Eat; This is My Body "It's interesting to me that, from a cis man's perspective, language about eating another person's body and shedding blood is about violence and murder and death. Not the case for me. I have a uterus; I use my body to create a new life. I bled for him. I nurse him from my own breasts."

5. An Update on Whether or Not "Marriage is Hard" Now That We Have a Child "Having a newborn child (and my mother-in-law living with us) brought a lot of stress and conflict into our relationship for about 3 months, but that's a completely different thing than saying 'marriage is hard.'"

6. China Bans Foreigners (Like Me) From Entering the Country "This isn't like the travel bans in other countries, affecting tourists and business travelers. This affects long-term residents who uprooted their whole lives a month ago because of the virus, and were prepared to spend 14 days in quarantine in order to come back."

7. When the Teacher Says, "Don't Look at Your Report Card" "I thought there were things about myself that I shouldn't know, but that other people- people more qualified than me- should know. That's bullshit."

8. Homesick "The short version is, I'm ready to be done living in China, right when the US is ... how shall I put this ... not livable."

9. Taking My Kid To Church (Blog Series) "In other words, I don't want to approach this from the negative side, 'warning' him about religion. I want to teach him positive things about morality."

Thanks again to all my readers! I really love writing the blog and I love when people write to me to say they can relate to it and my posts are helpful for them. <3

Also I have a Patreon! A big thank-you to my Patreon supporters- it really does make a big difference. If you enjoy the blog, maybe consider supporting me on Patreon sometime in the next year.

So, what are my plans for the blog in 2021? Well, in general I have been posting way less than I want to, because of my high-maintenance child (okay, I guess all toddlers are high-maintenance) and my mother-in-law who is always here judging me. There are so many things I want to blog about. Lots of draft posts and partial ideas. It will all get posted eventually.

There will be a big post on asexuality sometime in the next few weeks. :) I've got it almost 100% finished, so I feel confident about promising it to you all. Stay tuned.

Anyway, thanks so much, and looking forward to lots more blogging in the future~

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Blogaround

1. And the world will be a better place (posted February 17) "Ebenezer Scrooge eventually chose one path. Rush Limbaugh consistently chose the other."

2. Ministry leaders’ rush to empathize with Ravi Zacharias is beyond alarming (posted February 19) "Connecting the refrain 'it could’ve been me' with the abuser rather than with the victim is a massive red flag to the vulnerable and is a profoundly unhealthy outlook on the part of those with power." PREACH. This is what happens when you teach that "we are all sinners" and that the reason sin is a problem is it "separates you from God", not that it hurts people. 

3. I’m All For Letting the Free Market Decide Things Unless It Decides to Stop Publishing Racist Children's Books (posted March 3) "I’ll go full-on socialist if it means protecting what really matters — that my six-year-old can still find illustrations mocking Chinese people in their local Barnes & Noble."

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Blogaround

1. Britney Spears Was Never in Control (posted February 23) "I have spoken with an affirming and disheartening number of people who described experiences of predators who, to borrow phrasing from my friend Suzy Exposito, 'weaponized sex positivity.'"

2. A Blogger's Farewell (posted February 28) From Libby Anne.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Blogaround

Poster for the show WandaVision. I really love this show! Image source.

 1. PREACH.

2. Talk Show Host Rush Limbaugh, A Conservative Lodestar, Dies At 70 (posted February 17)

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Taking My Kid To Church: God Loves My Son

A children's book called "Jesus Loves Me!" Image source.

Part of the Taking My Kid To Church blog series

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It's Lent now, so I'm thinking to myself, "Maybe I should buy some books about Easter for Square Root." He loves books. He likes to point at the pictures and identify what they are- he says "moo" and "mama" and Chinese words for "fish" and "cat" etc. He can say so many words; he's just amazing.

So. Easter books. Well, I don't know, I am thinking he's not ready for the bible story about Easter. Too much torture and death, and honestly I think it's effed-up how we show children pictures of Jesus on the cross like it's no big deal.

So for now I'm not getting him any books like that. But as I was browsing around online, I did see some books about "God loves you." And I feel like, yes, I do want to get him a book like that.

I believe God loves him. I mean, just look at him, look at this little sweetheart, his beautiful eyes, his little precious feet. He's a toddler now, which means he runs around everywhere and he "helps" us with housework. Carrying a container of laundry detergent all over the apartment, getting all of Daddy's socks out of the drawer, opening and closing the kitchen cabinets over and over, yep so helpful. He found 3D glasses that we bought at a movie theater and now he insists I wear them while breastfeeding. How could anyone not love him? Yes, God loves him.

I want to tell him God loves him. But it's fine if he doesn't believe in God. My husband doesn't believe in God, and that's fine- actually, I think it's good for Square Root to see that people have different opinions about religion. So what I really want him to believe is this: If there is a God, a good and loving God, then Square Root deserves God's love.

That's it. That's what I want him to know. He deserves God's love. If he doesn't believe in God, okay that's fine too. But the idea that we don't deserve anything, that God is so "merciful" for stooping down and holding back feelings of disgust and loving us- no honey, no. You are wonderful and amazing and you deserve love and happiness.

God loves you, honey. But more importantly, you deserve God's love.

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Related:

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

My Little Niche in the Asexual Community

 

A set of 5 asexual flags, with a few other small pride flags pictured under them. Image source. 

The topic for this month's Carnival of Aces is "Comparing Ace Spaces." This has got me thinking of the diversity of asexual experiences, what types of ace experiences I've seen represented in ace groups, and what I want to see more of.

Specifically, I am an asexual straight woman, married to a man. And I think there are a lot of women in that same situation, but they don't even know what asexuality is- the concepts and the language would be so helpful for them, but they just don't know it. 

This is the little niche I am in, in the asexual community- I choose to be in a "normative" relationship structure- married, monogamous, opposite-gender partner, expected to have sex. I am interested in how to navigate that as an asexual, and I want to reach out to people (especially women) who are in the same situation. 

Also, I grew up in Christian purity culture, so my writing about asexuality comes from that perspective. I've actually had a lot of comments from readers saying they also have that same background, and my perspective on it is very helpful. It's not something I've seen many bloggers talking about, the intersection between purity culture and asexuality. Maybe you would think that purity culture would be no problem for asexuals- isn't the entire point to not have sex? But no, purity culture is much more than that- it's "men want sex all the time, and women don't really want sex ever" (which taught me to be afraid of men, and also made me unable to recognize my own asexuality). It's "don't be alone with your boyfriend, because one thing leads to another and before you know it, you've had sex and ruined your purity" (which made me afraid of my own desires, which turned out to NOT ACTUALLY EXIST). It's "we are all sexually broken." (Note: this "sexually broken" is not referring to the common ace experience of feeling "broken" because we don't have sexual attraction. Purity culture's use of the term "sexually broken" means that everyone has sinful sexual desires- so first of all, it erases the existence of asexuality, and on top of that, it makes everyone feel like there's something wrong and shameful about completely normal desires. Fun!)

And I want to see more people talking about things like this in the asexual blogs and online spaces. Really I want to see representation from the whole diverse range of asexual experience. We need the single aces, the married aces, the poly aces. We need straight, gay, bi, and pan aces. Aro aces. Demisexuals and gray aces and people who wonder if maybe they're asexual, people who hope they can identify as asexual but aren't sure if they fit all the criteria (spoiler: if it would be helpful to you to identify as asexual, then yes you are allowed to identify as asexual). We need the aces who have sex, the aces who have never had sex, and the aces who are still trying to figure out what they want. Trans aces and nonbinary aces, aces of every gender. The aces who knew something was different when all their middle school friends were having crushes, and the aces who didn't figure it out until years after they started having sex.

I don't know, maybe I'm not looking in the right places- but a lot of asexual discussion I've seen online centers around singleness. And yes, that's good and important! Definitely we should talk about that! But the asexual world is so much bigger than that.

The set of people who identify as asexual, or who would identify as asexual if they could see themselves represented in asexual spaces, is extremely diverse. I want to see ace spaces where all of this is more accessible. And the way that will happen is for all of us to keep talking about our experiences and keep lifting up each other's voices.

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Related:

Miss me with your "we are all sexually broken" hot takes. I'm asexual. 

On Purity, Asexuality, and Timing

For This Asexual, Purity Culture Was All About Fear 

My Husband Is Not The Entire Focus Of My Sex Life 

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This post is part of the February 2021 Carnival of Aces. The topic is "comparing ace spaces."

Friday, February 12, 2021

Thank you, Libby Anne

Butterfly logo from the blog "Love, Joy, Feminism". Image source.

I was sad to see Libby Anne's announcement that she is retiring from blogging. Her blog, Love, Joy, Feminism, is one of my favorites. I have learned so much from her; she comes from a similar background to me (though her family was definitely more conservative than mine), and writes about a lot of the same ex-evangelical feminist issues that are important to me.

So I want to visit some of the topics she's blogged about, and the posts that have been meaningful to me:

Marriage/ sex/ dating from an ex-purity perspective

Probably the biggest impact for me is seeing what a good marriage can look like for ex-purity-culture women. 

Sex and Respect "Here was a man who wanted to have sex with me and didn’t have any convictions about waiting for marriage, but he wasn’t pressuring me to have sex with him? What was this?!"

CTBHHM: Divine Lovers and Desperate Castration "Look, if Debi wanted to talk about female pleasure she could have. She could have said things like 'you have this thing called a clitoris' or 'lube is your friend' or 'try some more foreplay' or 'if it hurts, there’s something wrong, and you should go to the doctor.'" I am pretty sure Libby Anne's blog is the first place I ever heard that it's a good idea to use lube during penis-in-vagina sex, to make it less painful for the partner with a vagina. So THANK YOU.

Hey Focus on the Family: Masturbation Is Actually Important YES! And Libby Anne's post inspired my post, I Wanna Preach the Good News of Masturbation, which I am very proud of because I definitely want to preach the good news of masturbation.

The Purity Culture and Trust "For one thing, I found out that he had had sex with a previous girlfriend, and when he wasn’t regretful for it, I did everything I could to let him know how much this hurt me in an effort to make him feel guilt and regret."

Purity culture 

Evangelicals Said Having Sex Before Marriage Will Ruin My Life. It Didn’t. PREACH.

Checklist: An Evangelical Approach to the Marriage Market "Look at the list above again and note what’s missing. There is nothing in there that covers warning signs of abuse. There are, in contrast, a million questions about whether the pair has had sex yet." And what has really stuck with me is how Libby Anne says her mind was blown when a relative gave her a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT set of questions: "Do you love him? Does he love you? Does he treat you right?" (See also my post: The Checklist: Purity Culture's Alternative to Actually Getting to Know Someone)

Purity Culture and Staying in Abusive Relationships

Louisiana Lawmakers Want to Marry Off Pregnant 15-Year-Olds Libby Anne has written many posts calling attention to child marriage in the United States and the purity rhetoric used to support it. (Which inspired this post from me: What do you mean by "sexual immorality"?)

The pro-life movement

How I Lost Faith in the “Pro-Life” Movement Last I heard, this was the #1 most viewed post on her blog, BY FAR, and wow yes, it is an extremely good post.

Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Abortion Wars About volunteering as a clinic escort at Planned Parenthood.

The Anti-Abortion Movement’s Fetal Imaginings About how the "pro-life" movement uses imagery of 8-month fetuses/ pregnant women, and literal already-born babies, which is extremely dishonest because most abortions happen during the first trimester. 

Josh Duggar (wow, I have a whole category for Josh Duggar)

When the scandal with Josh Duggar came out (2015), Libby Anne's blog was a very good source for information and analysis:

What You Need to Know about the Josh Duggar Police Report 
What Did Josh Duggar’s Counseling Look Like?
Anna Duggar and the Silencing Power of Forgiveness
When the Perpetrators Matter More than the Victims
How Christian Culture Excuses Sex Offenders 
Josh Duggar’s Lies, Damn Lies, and Half Truths
It Took This for People to Listen?
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s Interview with Megyn Kelly: Minimize, Deny, Obfuscate
Are the Duggars Victims of Christian Persecution?

Answers in Genesis

On Answers in Genesis’ Portrayal of Noah’s Son’s Wives "I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that maybe—just maybe—Answers in Genesis should have taken more proactive steps to avoid perpetuating nineteenth century American race theory in their portrayals of Noah’s son’s wives."

How Did Judas Die? Why Evangelicals Seek to Explain Away Contradictions. (which inspired my post- The Bible Stories As I Read Them Were Never Actually In The Bible)

Misc

Progressive Piety and Conservative Politics: On Kaepernick, Tebow, and American Christianity

Evangelical Blogger: Christian Leaders Need Extra Protection against Allegations of Sin A response to an extremely bad article by Tim Challies.

Christianity Today Goes Full Pick-Up Artist About creepy evangelism.

About That Viral Modesty Video, “Virtue” I will never get over the absurdity of this music video about modesty- with boys in SUITS and TIES being total STUMBLING BLOCKS as they sing about the importance of girls dressing modest. Dayyyammmm.

My guest post

And I am very proud of this guest post I did: I’m Really Really REALLY Glad I Had Sex Before Marriage. About purity culture, asexuality, facing my fear that sex was going to change me into an unlovable person and ruin my life, and discovering there was nothing to fear at all.

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And I could keep going- she has also written A LOT about homeschooling in the United States, and how conservative organizations fight against any sort of regulations regarding homeschooling, and this can make it easy for abusive parents to hide the abuse. She has written about Josh Harris and his role in purity culture and impact on her own life. She has written about politics and Trumpism and immigration and how evangelicals have become unrecognizable since selling their soul to Trump.

So thank you for all your hard work blogging, Libby Anne. We will miss you. <3

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Blogaround + Happy Chinese New Year!

Chinese New Year design with a cow, "2021", and "新年快乐" [xīn nián kuài lè]. Image source.

Happy Year of the Ox, everyone! Tonight (February 11) is Chinese New Year's Eve. (Chinese New Year is also called Spring Festival.) 2021 is the year of the 牛 [niú] which is a cow/bull/ox/buffalo/etc but seems like everyone's translating it as "ox" in English. *shrug* (I contend that "Year of the Cow" is equally valid.)

This year is weird because the Chinese government strongly encouraged everyone not to travel for the holiday (the biggest holiday of the year). There are rules about "if you travel, you need to have a covid test within 7 days before your trip." So the 春运 [chūn yùn], the largest annual migration of people in the entire world, is way down this year. ("春运 [chūn yùn]" is the Chinese word for "the massive phenomenon that is everyone's Chinese New Year travel", see, there's an actual word for it.)

I am in Shanghai, and usually Shanghai is fairly quiet during new year holiday because a significant proportion of Shanghai residents aren't originally from here, so they all leave. Not this year though. This year we are staying.

However, in China there are tons of migrant workers- which means they come from a poorer area and go to big cities to get better-paying jobs- and it's common that they leave their children back in their hometown to be raised by the grandparents. Typically migrant workers only get to go home and see their families/kids once a year- at Spring Festival. So seems like a lot of them are traveling anyway, even though this year it's much more difficult and they run the risk of getting stuck in a lockdown or quarantine somewhere along the way.

Anyway that's the situation here. Hope the Year of the Cow is better than the Year of the Mouse. 新年快乐! [xīn nián kuài lè]

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And here's the latest blogaround:

1. Disney Parks To Revamp Jungle Cruise Attraction, Responding To Racism Charges (posted January 25) Okay, yes, that ride is definitely racist.

2. I’m Sorry, What Is Going on With GameStop and AMC? (posted January 27) Yep, I had the exact same question. (About recent happenings with reddittors buying ridiculous amounts of GameStop stock, to screw over the short-sellers.)

3. These Creationists Learned a Weird Lesson from Sloths (posted January 29) LOLOLOL

4. On the Trail of COVID-19 in Shanghai (posted February 4) In January/February there have been something like 21 locally-transmitted COVID cases in Shanghai. This article is about how disease experts did contract tracing in response. At this point it seems like that outbreak has petered out and that's that.

5. Christopher Plummer, Actor From Shakespeare to ‘The Sound of Music,’ Dies at 91 (posted February 5)

6. How Isaiah converted Israelites to secularism (posted February 8) "Prayer, worship, and stomping through the doors of a church are all dismissed here as meaningless, wholly insignificant in comparison with the paramount duties God enumerates and describes — all of which seem to be things that white Christianity perceives and portrays as 'secular.'"

Thursday, January 28, 2021

What If I Dated In High School

High school couples at prom. Image source.


So recently I had a dream where I found out that my high school crush actually did like me, back in the day. And my reaction, in the dream, was "ah I missed my chance!"

To clarify the timeline: In the dream, I was my current self. Married to Hendrix. And I found out, hey you know that dude that you were totally in love with in high school? (In this blog post we'll call him David.) Well he liked you too, in high school.

Well CRAP, missed my chance.

Like, ah man, turns out we both liked each other! There was potential for some fun romantic things to happen, instead of all that endless pining I did. We could have dated for a short period of time, and then moved on with life and then years later I would marry Hendrix. Man, I missed out on that.

Anyway, this was my reaction in the dream, and I was very surprised because it's so completely the opposite of the purity ideology I used to believe. In purity land, the ideal case is that over my whole entire lifetime, my husband is the only person I ever do ANYTHING romantic or sexual with. Married people look back on their previous relationships with regret- "oh if only I had waited! I wish I hadn't dated this person, I wish I hadn't kissed that person!" Those previous relationships damage your purity and damage your marriage, and your spouse is so wonderful and amazing in comparison- you wish your past self could have known that you didn't need any of those short-term things and you should wait for "the one."

But no, in the dream my thinking was more along these lines: I liked David, and he liked me, so logically there must have been some level of romantic closeness we could have had that would have been enjoyable without causing long-term heartbreak. Logically, there must have been a way we could have had some fun, with proper safeguards in place in terms of being honest about our expectations for the relationship and not imagining it to be something it wasn't.

It would be fun for high-school Perfect Number, and it wouldn't affect my marriage in the present. Purity culture says that's impossible, so I was quite proud of myself for thinking these things.

But ... realistically, thinking about who I was back in high school and what I believed about dating, could David and I have found that "logical" path where we have fun and love each other just for the short term? Like, I didn't have a CLUE about ANYTHING back then. 

There were so many BIZARRE MISCONCEPTIONS I had about how dating is supposed to work. And maybe every teenager has wildly bizarre misconceptions. Maybe that's unavoidable. And you can only learn how wrong you are by getting into a relationship, which will then be full of problems caused by all your wrong ideas about how dating works. Maybe that's unavoidable, and everyone's first relationship has those problems? Maybe I'm ridiculous for thinking "if only I had been taught a better ideology of how dating works, then I could have successfully had a fun short-term relationship in high school." Like maybe no one successfully has a fun short-term relationship in high school. Maybe it's just not possible to date in a healthy way when you're so young and inexperienced.

Here are a few things I was completely wrong about:

1. I felt like "I would do ANYTHING he asked me to do [except sex, of course, because that's a sin], in return for him being my boyfriend."


Yes, I totally believed this. Imagined all sorts of scenarios where he would offer me a deal- if you do XYZ for me, then we can be boyfriend and girlfriend. And I loved him so much, I was absolutely willing to do it, whatever it was. Except sex, of course, because I learned in church that that's a sin. But anything else, yes definitely.

What if he wanted to kiss? Yes, I would have done it. If that's what it took for him to agree to be my boyfriend, I would have done it. And this is an extremely messed-up line of thinking... did I ever ask myself if I wanted to kiss him? I don't remember ever having a desire for that. I saw it as a bargaining chip. That's all. 

I was warned so many times about "boys are gonna tell you 'oh if you REALLY LOVE me, then you'll have sex with me' but you need to say no because they're wrong because it's a sin to have unmarried sex." I thought the "sex" bit was the part that was wrong- I didn't even think about the coercion/ emotional manipulation aspects. In reality, those are the things that are wrong. 

"If you love me, you'll have sex with me"- I was warned to watch out for this, because sex is a sin. "If you love me, you'll do XYZ thing that your pastor thinks is totally fine and not sinful but you don't want to do"- I would have seen nothing wrong with that. 

Nobody ever told me "in a healthy relationship, people don't say 'if you love me, you'll do XYZ thing you don't want to do.'" No matter what the "XYZ" is, it's bad and wrong to coerce your partner like this. They taught me it was wrong when XYZ=sex. But no, that completely misses the point. 

And if David really had said to me "here are the things you have to do, and then I'll allow you to call yourself my girlfriend" I would have been so excited. It would have felt like success- as long as sex wasn't on the list- hooray, these are all things I can do! 

I wouldn't have seen how it was a giant waving red flag. In a healthy relationship, that's not how people talk. 

And even if, in this hypothetical, I held up my end of the deal, there would be no mechanism to make him hold up his end. A boy who mistreats me in this way is going to mistreat me in other ways too. He thinks that just because I'm in love with him, it's totally fine to coerce me into things I don't want to do (but hey, none of those things are sex, so it's okay!). There is no real-world scenario where I fulfill the requirements on his list and then in return, he is a good boyfriend who loves me that way I deserve to be loved.

But back then, that's what I wanted. Wanted it so bad. I would have done anything.

2. I believed that some desires were more correct than others


I believed that these are the correct things to want: You date someone long-term. You love each other deeply, before you ever kiss. You don't have sex til you're married.

I believed that the correct way for physical desires (for sex, kissing, etc) to come about was to grow out of a very close emotional connection. It's only correct to feel sexual desire for someone you're already in love with.

If you want something different than that, well, you're bad and wrong. Sure, we are all sinful so maybe it's understandable that occasionally you might have a desire for something you're not supposed to- like maybe you feel sexually attracted to a stranger. But if you are a good and godly person, you will of course fight back against those wrong desires.

They warned me to watch out for boys who have those incorrect desires and are so incredibly sinful that they- gasp!- pursue them instead of trying to repress them. Watch out for boys, they are interested in terrible, dreadful things like having sex without dating. Like kissing even when they're- gasp!- not in love with you. Oh how awful! Oh how evil! 

I thought emotional and romantic desires are supposed to come first. And then, after a long time of doing that emotional and romantic stuff, you would desire the physical and sexual stuff. That's the way it's supposed to be.

They warned me about the evils of "hooking up" and "friends with benefits" and "making out with a stranger at a party." I believed these things were bad and wrong because the correct desire to have is for a long-term, loving, romantic relationship- and then after that, you desire sex.

Okay, the reality is, it's fine if people desire sex outside of a long-term romantic relationship. That's totally fine and normal. Everyone's desires are different. And hey, turns out I'm asexual. (Hmm it occurs to me that, just from reading this post, you might think I sound more demisexual than asexual. So, yes, demisexuality is a thing, but no, I don't identify as demisexual. For a bunch of reasons. Maybe I should write a post on that.)

Everyone's romantic desires and sexual desires fit together differently, and that's fine. Also, it's fine to not have romantic desires or not have sexual desires.

And since it's fine for people's desires to be different, you need to COMMUNICATE with your partner. Don't assume what each other's desires are, or what kind of relationship you want to have. You have to TALK TO EACH OTHER.

I was warned about boys who would want to have sex with me, and then when they finally got what they wanted, they would vanish from my life. And I believed such boys were bad because the only correct way to desire sex is in the context of a long-term romantic relationship. You should only desire sex with someone when you intend to spend the rest of your life in that relationship.

Umm, okay, no. In reality, the "boy has sex with a girl, and then he disappears" is a problem because they had different expectations about what the sex meant and what kind of relationship they had. And if everyone honestly communicated, this wouldn't happen. Or maybe the boy lied about being in love in order to coerce the girl into having sex- in that case, the problem isn't "he is interested in having sex with someone he's not in love with, oh the horror"; the problem is the lying.

But if I had dated David, I would have assumed that since he seems to be a good person, of course he wouldn't be so incredibly perverted as to, say, kiss me without being in love with me. I wouldn't have realized we needed to communicate about what we wanted and what kissing meant. Only an evil monster would, say, try to initiate sex if he didn't intend to marry me- the kind of monsters they warn us about in church, but sound so perverted and evil that I can't imagine I would ever encounter one in real life. If I was dating a boy, and I truly trusted him and truly believed he loved me, and he told me he wanted to have sex, I would have understood it as him saying he intends to marry me. If you're a good person, then that's what sex means, right?

I believed that there was only one correct way that physical intimacy connected to romantic intimacy. If I had kissed David and it made me feel like he loved me and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me, I would have literally believed that he really did feel that way. Without actually talking about it. I believed that was the sort of thing that could be reliably communicated just through a kiss.

Wow, that's ridiculous. No, you can't assume your partner interprets physical stuff the same way you do. Everyone is different, and that's fine. So you need to COMMUNICATE.

(And actually, coming out as asexual has helped me understand this much better. Learning that not everyone has the same outlook on sex and romance that I do, and that's totally normal.)

At the same time, though, I worry about the effectiveness of teaching kids "communicate and make sure you're on the same page about what things mean and you're not assuming your partner's feelings." Isn't it easier to just say "don't have sex with a boy because he'll disappear and he won't value you"? In an alternate universe, I can imagine little teenage Perfect Number, considering having sex with her boyfriend as a way to manipulate him into being more committed to her. It's clearly a bad idea and going to backfire. At that age, though, I don't think I would have been capable of honestly understanding my own desires and motivations. I might have fooled myself into thinking "yes, we did communicate and understand each other, therefore it's okay to have sex."

3. Loyalty and jealousy


Wow, my views on loyalty and jealousy were EXTREMELY messed-up.

My understanding of loyalty was "I'm in love with him, and so I will be devoted to him, and not consider dating any other guys, even though this is a one-sided crush and I don't have any sort of commitment from him." I thought being "loyal" in this way was inherently good. 

I thought it was more good and moral to have one long-term crush that lasted for a year than to have 10 short-term crushes that each lasted a month or so. Because, I was "loyal." If I moved from one unrequited crush to another, well that would be "shallow." Okay, in reality, why on earth would a long-term one-sided crush be more "moral" than a bunch of short-term ones? Like how on earth would that be some sort of indicator of whether I'm a good person with integrity?

(Well, because purity.)

But in reality, no. If it's a one-sided crush, then there's no commitment from him, and so why would I owe him anything? Makes no sense.

No, there is nothing inherently good about "loyalty", if "loyalty" means wallowing in my one-sided crush long-term. (In fact, you could argue that's not emotionally healthy for me.) It's only good to be loyal to someone who's trustworthy and committed to you.

Loyalty is not a good thing in and of itself. Same for obedience. Same for trust.

And what about jealousy? Well basically I thought jealousy was good and normal. I remember how jealous I would always get when I was dating my first boyfriend (after I finally gave up on David)- let's call him BF1.

I was jealous about BF1 kissing his ex-girlfriend, back when they were dating, before I had met him. I made such a big deal about it that eventually he told me he regretted it. And I thought my behavior was completely normal and healthy.

I was jealous about him talking to other girls. I remember one time, he was telling me about how he had to drop off some paperwork at some college administrator's office, and the administrator was a woman, and I felt very proud of myself for not being jealous about that, for being able to reassure myself that there is no romantic interest going on when one drops off paperwork. Because normally I was so jealous whenever BF1 told me about any interaction he had with a woman.

BF1 was interested in dancing, and he used to go to events at our college about learning to dance. One time I went with him and I saw him dancing with other girls and I just ... I cried and cried for hours that night. And he kept trying to reassure me, tell me "it doesn't mean anything!" and that he only wants to be with me. I was so jealous.

And I thought all of that jealousy was completely normal. I'd heard a lot of purity-culture teaching and Christian marriage advice about "having an ex means you'll never be able to fully love your spouse" and "men and women shouldn't be alone together because one thing leads to another" and "men and women can't really be friends" and the Billy Graham rule and "protect your marriage by never emailing anyone of the opposite gender." I thought it was all normal and healthy, how jealous I was.

BF1 tried to tell me it didn't seem healthy, and I told him "well the bible says God is a jealous God." Thinking about it now, maybe God isn't emotionally healthy either.

I don't remember being that jealous about David, because we were never dating and so I knew I didn't have any actual claim on him. Of course I was unhappy when he talked to other girls, but I didn't have the "it is good and right and normal for me to be unhappy when he talks to other girls" belief that I had with BF1.

4. Breaking up


I guess, knowing what I know now, I can explain my situation this way: I am the kind of person who falls in love so hard, and the idea of breaking up is just so unimaginable, so devastating, that I can't even think about it. All the dramatic "how can I live without him", all of that.

I use the term "knowing what I know now" because back then I would never have put it in those words. I never would have said "I am the kind of person who falls in love so hard" because I had no idea not everyone is like that. I had no idea I would have to actually spell it out like that in order to communicate and give you all a clear idea of how I felt. Isn't that just how it works for everyone?

Of course breaking up is totally devastating and feels like the end of the world. I remember thinking of it as some kind of disaster that suddenly comes out of nowhere... it didn't occur to me that breaking up happens because one partner CHOOSES to break up. Chooses???!!! How? Why? How could anyone choose to break up?

I gave up on David loving me, and yeah that felt like the end of the world, and I now realize that I had depression because of it. 

BF1 broke up with me, and yes of course that felt like the end of the world. 

Years later I was dating another boy (BF2) and that relationship stretched on for over a year, when it should have ended much sooner because he wasn't valuing me, and I was unhappy. But all I could think about was how to manipulate him into being the kind of boyfriend I wanted. I didn't think "hey maybe I would be better off if I broke up with BF2." I had no concept of "breaking up can be GOOD sometimes. It can be the RIGHT CHOICE sometimes." And indeed, in church all I had heard was purity teaching about how breaking up will ruin your life because now you've lost part of your heart and you can't fully love your future husband. And marriage teaching about how if your husband mistreats you, you need to pray for him more and submit to him more, and keep waiting for him to be a better person. There was never a hint of "sometimes you just need to get out of that relationship."

Or, actually, there was a little bit of teaching about breaking up. There were testimonies about "God told me to break up with my boyfriend." Or like, if you did something really bad, like having sex, or dating a non-Christian, then at some point you'll need to do the right thing and end that relationship, even though it's devastating.

With BF2... I eventually told him we would "take a break." I guess I never broke up with him; technically we're still "on a break." (Note that I am literally married to someone else now.) I ... I just couldn't break up with him, I just couldn't. I loved him, and I believed in always putting him before myself. Always being more self-sacrificing, always giving him another chance. Isn't that what love is? Isn't it selfish to care about my own needs?

So the point I'm trying to make, about naive high-school Perfect Number in love with David: Maybe it's not good to get into a relationship without any kind of understanding of how to get out. Maybe you shouldn't date if you haven't given any thought to "where is my unhappiness threshold that will mean it's time to break up." It doesn't have to be specified exactly, and I'm not saying you literally have to commit to it and follow it exactly once you're in the relationship, and yes of course if you're unhappy you should try to work with your partner to solve the problem, instead of immediately taking the nuclear option- but at least you should have the idea that breaking up is an option. Don't get into a relationship if you can't imagine choosing to break up no matter how bad things get. Don't get into a relationship if you're so terrified that a breakup will ruin your life, that you're not able to seriously realistically think about it.

Actually, that's what I did when I married Hendrix. I am not "unconditionally" married to him. We talked about it, and if somehow we get to a point where we can't both be happy and healthy being married, then divorce is an option. In church I heard that when you get married you need to be like "divorce is not an option" but I don't believe that.

But in high school, I imagined this is how it goes: You fall in love so hard. Then you date. Then you break up, and it's like Beyoncé says in the song "If I Were A Boy"- "and everything you had got destroyed." (Thinking about it now, I think maybe she meant everything you had *together*, everything you did *for the relationship*. Not literally you feel like your entire life is over.) And you're devastated, can barely get out of bed in the mornings, can barely put one foot in front of the other to go to class and get things done. What's the point of eating? What's the point of brushing your hair? And you vow to never fall in love again. But then, after a long time, it doesn't hurt as bad anymore. And you notice a new boy. And the cycle repeats.

Seriously, that was the only way I could imagine a breakup could go. I remember when I broke up with BF1, one of my friends mentioned that I "had a really bad breakup" and I felt like, no, that was a normal breakup. How could it have gone any other way?

So yeah, in that dream I had, where David liked me back and there was potential for some kind of fun short-term romantic thing- ha, no, high-school Perfect Number definitely could not have done that.

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So, is this just the nature of being a teenager with a crush? Everyone has extremely wrong ideas about dating when they start their first relationship? Maybe it's not possible to teach kids some sort of "healthy perspective" that avoids all this- maybe the only way they can really learn is through experience. (Which is kind of funny, because purity culture literally tries to teach everything to set you up to have a perfect marriage with exactly 0 experience. In purity culture, experience means you're "impure" and can't have a good marriage.)

What if I dated in high school? Well, it wouldn't have been good overall. Certainly would have had some fun parts, but also some very unhealthy parts. But isn't that what happened with BF1 and BF2 anyway? Not dating in high school didn't spare me from that.

But actually, those experiences aren't really the reason that I have a healthier perspective now. Really, it was getting out of purity culture, getting out of evangelical Christianity, getting out of "consider others better than yourself", learning about feminism, learning about asexuality.

Maybe it's impossible to ensure that inexperienced kids don't have any bizarre wrong ideas about dating. But surely it's possible to do a better job than what I had. At least for the 4 points I've outlined in this post, we can teach kids the opposite.

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