Monday, October 25, 2021

So this is new

The word "new". Image source.

[content note: talking about sex]

Attraction is... different now... and I don't know how to talk about it, or maybe I do have words but I don't know if I should publish them. Because it's personal and intimate now in a way that it wasn't before.

All right, the general overview is: I'm asexual, I'm married, and having PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex with my husband was always a whole huge difficult task, because it turns out I had vaginismus (or something similar). And then I gave birth to our baby, and that cured the vaginismus. Now sex is completely different than before, so completely different, it's astonishing how big the difference is. Sex is a totally different thing now- it's easy, we can just go ahead and do it just because we want to do it (okay realistically though, we have a baby and therefore hardly ever have spare time). It's not like before, where I had to go through a whole long process, which I developed myself through trial and error, to get my vagina to open- and if I didn't do that process, PIV would be incredibly painful or even impossible. And no, the process didn't always work, so sometimes we just couldn't, and that was that. But now, oh wow it's so different, it's so different, I cannot overstate how different it is. Sex is a totally different thing now- better, definitely better.

So that's the physical side of things, but it turns out there's also an emotional/ attraction/ desire side. Which I will, maybe, I guess, talk about in this post. 

But... should I? Because it's personal in ways that it never was before. It was easy to blog about "I'm asexual, I don't have sexual attraction", but now I want to tell you I do have a desire for sex with my husband, in ways I didn't before... is that too personal to post on the internet? Or, actually, the answers to the questions "How is it different? Why is it different? What is it like?" maybe that's what's too personal. Because I could answer those; I think I do have the words to describe it. And asexuals everywhere are asking each other "has anyone figured out what sexual attraction is???" and the allosexuals are like "well I can't really describe it, but, like, it's just, you just know." And now here I am with an asexual background and I can actually describe the sexual feelings I have now, in a way that's accessible for an asexual audience. I think?

And... I want to write the post that 4-years-ago Perfect Number would have needed. But... is it too personal to post on the internet?

Or, is someone going to say "Having sexual desire for your husband is not really news... That's like, the most normal and boring thing. Why would you blog about that?" But for asexuals, it's not "normal and boring"; for asexuals, it's one of life's biggest unsolved mysteries. And now I have something to say on it.

Where to begin?

Okay I'll start with this: If I had any doubt before that asexuality is a real thing, or any doubt that I was asexual, well that's obviously gone now. The feelings I'm having now are really totally different than before; I very much did NOT have these feelings before, so I can say for sure I was asexual. (I also say I still am asexual- maybe I'll talk about that more in another post.) 

Way back years ago, when I was questioning, trying to figure out if I was ace* or not, I always wondered if maybe I do have all the same feelings as a "normal person" but I'm just so confused and therefore categorizing them wrong. I thought, maybe I do feel sexual attraction, but I'm just such a loser that I can't even recognize that's what it is. And maybe this is common for asexuals- you never really get a good answer to the question "what is sexual attraction, anyway?" and eventually you just have to conclude, "well, I don't really understand what it means, so, uh, I guess that means I don't have it... surely if I had it, I wouldn't be spending this much time confused about it" and that's how you come out as ace.

You never get an answer, and eventually you decide that's your answer.

But now, now I have new feelings, new desires for sex. And it's not like "I felt this a little bit before, but now I feel it a lot"; no, it's something I really have never felt before. Specifically, well maybe this is TMI but here goes- specifically, I mean occasionally daydreaming about the feeling of PIV, the actual physical feeling of it in one's genitals, and wanting that feeling, and therefore wanting to have sex. That. I'm calling that "sexual desire", I guess. 

Wait, let me rephrase it, I want to say this clearly. If I was had a time machine and was explaining it to myself-from-a-few-years-ago, here's what I would say:

Okay, yeah, I know when you hear "I like the actual physical feeling of PIV" you're confused as hell. You're making a list in your mind of all the physical feelings you have during PIV, and you're trying to figure out which of them is the one that has people so excited. No, that's not it at all.  

The feelings on your list- which range from pain to neutral to "yeah it's good but nothing to write home about"- no, it's not any of those. You really don't have this one. You really are asexual.  

My "list of physical feelings I have during PIV" is now completely different from before (before I gave birth vaginally). And now the overall experience actually is the sort of thing that one would desire, like inherently desire it for itself. Not like I used to desire it, like "here is a complex explanation of the reasons I want to have sex." No, it's nothing like that any more, because now it's the kind of thing that is actually desirable in and of itself.

So, yeah, that. And other new emotions too besides that. Maybe I'll blog about them, maybe not.

Before, I wanted to have sex with my husband for other reasons- and even years and years ago, before I met him, and I was attracted to other boys and I conceptualized it as "lust"... Other reasons. Reasons about wanting my partner to feel a certain way about me. Or more "transactional" sorts of reasons. Or curiosity.

Anyway. And all of this is very much caused by the physical side of things- the fact that apparently childbirth cured my vaginismus. Because of that, the physical aspect of PIV sex is now "it feels good" rather than "ughhhh I have to spend a long time trying to get my vagina to open"- and so it makes sense that now that I've experienced sex in the "it feels good" way, now that it's happened often enough to change my understanding of what sex is, well yeah it makes sense that now I would start having the desire for it.

And also, wow I have a lot to say about this, and I feel like it's all tangled up- maybe I can't write it all in one post. (I feel like I should also address the fact that I'm just talking about PIV in this post... I know that it's problematic to claim that PIV is the only real sex or whatever, but based on my own experiences I have reasons for specifically focusing on PIV here, but I can't get into all that, it's complicated.) Let me just say one more thing though:

I now feel like there is something intrinsically special or intimate about sex/genitals. I never thought that before; it always felt like society had arbitrarily assigned all this meaning to this one specific activity. Take a look at what I wrote in this 2017 post, Sex is Like an Inside Joke (Thoughts from an Asexual):

And now I see sex as a hobby. You know how, if you're dating someone who's really into board games, and they always want you to play board games with them, so you do, and it seems weird at first but after a while you end up liking board games too. It's like that. My partner is into having sex, so I've gotten into it too, and it's enjoyable, though if it were totally up to me, I would choose to spend my time on a different hobby instead.

And I find it very weird that sex is such a popular hobby. Sure, I guess it feels good, but, really? It's not like, that good.

And this post from 2016, Boundaries in Dating: #stillpurityculture:

And this stuff about "100 percent of your body" is also ridiculous. When they talk about "sex" in this chapter, I'm assuming they're referring to vaginal intercourse (though other sexual acts are also not allowed, obviously). To be clear, "Boundaries in Dating" does not offer an explicit definition like this- I'm assuming it because that's what purity culture/ society in general typically means by "sex." It's so weird that they're using language about "100 percent" when they're talking about something that, in its most basic form, just involves a penis and vagina and no other body parts. If you have vaginal sex but not anal sex, does that mean you haven't "given away" "100 percent of your body"? If you have vaginal sex but your partner never rubbed the back of your head with their hand, does that mean you haven't "given away" "100 percent of your body"? If you have vaginal sex but never show your partner any ultrasound images of your internal organs, does that mean you haven't "given away" "100 percent of your body"?

If you have sex with one partner, then break up, then have your appendix removed, then have sex with a new partner, does that mean that your ex got "100 percent of your body" in a way that your new partner never can, because they can't be anywhere near your appendix? What if you start dating the surgeon who performed the operation? Wait, does a surgeon have "100 percent of your body" in a way that a sexual partner never can?

My point is, "giving away your body" is a euphemism for performing acts which stimulate certain areas [genitals, skin, tongue, etc], which definitely ARE NOT "100 percent of your body". And as a math person, I believe it's utterly ridiculous to attach actual numbers to a euphemism which doesn't literally describe the act to which it refers.

Back then, when I mostly chose to have sex because of how other people viewed it, or "transactional" kinds of reasons like that, then it didn't matter very much what the specific activity was. Oh, people are interested in playing with each other's genitals? Okay sure whatever I guess. If "sex" instead meant going outside and making bear sounds while patting each other's heads, it would be all the same to me. Okay sure whatever I guess. And I thought it was ridiculous how apparently society had decided that playing with each other's genitals is the activity we will use as a symbol of love and intimacy- like, why that, and not something else? Like yeah there's orgasms but I still don't think that's enough of a big deal to really justify it.

Same thing with euphemisms about "giving your body away" and stuff like that, stuff where you're supposed to hear the term "body" or "self" and interpret it as "genitals" and no other body parts. Just utterly ridiculous. Your ear is just as much a part of your body- why does nobody hear terms like "explore each other's bodies" and picture (fully clothed) poking around in your partner's ears?

But now I'm like, wait, something about this is special and intimate in a way that's not like other things. That's a new feeling for me. And maybe there is some sense in which your genitals feel more representative of "your body" than other parts are? I don't know, I'm still confused about euphemisms like "give your body away"- is it simply a euphemism that people use because they're too squeamish to say "sex" or "genitals", or do they truly feel that your genitals are "your body" in a special, intrinsic way that's different than your other body parts?

And, maybe it was "intimate" before, in a sense- in the same way that you might have a splinter that's so bad that you need somebody to help you get it out, and it's a huge act of trust to allow someone to do that. Yes, for me, sex always required a lot of trust and love and so it never made sense to imagine it with anyone other than Hendrix (my husband). But now it's intimate in a different and better way, not the "help me with my splinter" way.

And this is all swirling around the question "am I sexually attracted to my husband?" and I don't have an answer to that yet. Maybe yes? But I still want to ID as ace, for a bunch of reasons.

It's all new and different- in a good way- and I want to talk about it because I'm a blogger and that's what I do. And the world needs descriptions of sexual feelings that are accessible for asexual readers. And... there's a lot here, a lot that I could say. Maybe I'll write more about it in future posts.

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* ace = asexual

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Related:

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

I'm Still Asexual 

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This post was written for the October 2021 Carnival of Aces. This month's topic is "attraction."

Friday, October 22, 2021

Blogaround

1. Colin Powell, first Black US secretary of state, dies of Covid-19 complications amid cancer battle (posted October 19) 

(Also, in case you forgot, the orange antichrist is THE WORST.)

2. How Taylor Swift (Legally) Changed Music Forever ft. Rick Beato (posted September 28)

3. The Extremely Simple Model of Orientation (posted 2015) "For those not mathematically inclined, that means a single orientation consists of a complete mapping from every circumstance to a feeling."

Saturday, October 16, 2021

US Immigration and the Definition of Marriage

An image showing a US immigrant visa, social security card, and green card. Image source.

So my husband and I are working on applying for his US green card, so we can move to the US. There are a few different ways that one can be eligible for a green card; in our case, it's because he's married to me, a US citizen. And since our marriage is the entire reason that it's possible for him to get a green card, the US immigration system is very interested in making sure it's a "bona fide marriage."

The US government provides this list of evidence you can submit to prove you have a "bona fide marriage":

Evidence of the bona fides of the marriage, if petitioning for a spouse:

  • Documentation showing joint ownership of property;
  • A lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence, meaning you both live at the same address together;
  • Documentation showing that you and your spouse have combined your financial resources;
  • Birth certificates of children born to you and your spouse together;
  • Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by third parties having personal knowledge of the bona fides of the marital relationship. Each affidavit must contain the full name and address of the person making the affidavit; date and place of birth of the person making the affidavit; and complete information and details explaining how the person acquired their knowledge of your marriage; and
  • Any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union.

In our case, we have some of these things but not all. We have a whole child together, don't have joint bank accounts (joint bank accounts are not really a thing in China). I have been told that if you have kids together, then that's pretty much all the evidence you need, no worries that the US government will think your marriage is fake.

I also submitted photos of us together, going all the way back to when we started dating. And affidavits from some family members about how me and Hendrix are totally married. (And I joked about submitting a statement about that time we had a whole discussion in Ikea about what kind of brush to buy for cleaning the bathroom- that's basically the most married you can get.)

Looking around on websites about immigration, I read a lot of advice for how people in more tricky situations can prove their marriage is "bona fide." What if you have never actually lived together? What if you are currently living in different countries? What if you don't speak the same language? What if you have been in a relationship for a while, but the timing of when you rushed down to the courthouse to get the marriage license was very much forced by immigration laws?

Overall, when USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) talks about a "bona fide marriage," what they really mean is that you actually intend to make a life together, as opposed to just acquiring a marriage license for the immigration benefits. And apparently the best way to show that is kids, living together, and joint bank accounts- though if you don't have those, there is plenty of advice about what other things might work. I found it surprising, to be honest, because I always assumed that if you have a marriage license, then you're married, and that's that- but no, for the US immigration system, that's not enough.

(And I have heard anecdotes about going to the visa interview and being asked questions about your sex life, as evidence that the marriage is real. I don't really expect any questions like that in our case, because we have a child so I don't think they will doubt our marriage fits their definition of "bona fide"- ie, we are not just faking it to commit immigration fraud. I also heard an anecdote about an asexual couple having trouble because their marriage was seen as not real due to not having sex- no idea how common that is, or if that was in the US or another country.)

This is FASCINATING to me, because when I was an evangelical, there was always such a big deal made about "the definition of marriage." "Marriage is between one man and one woman." Apparently this is "the biblical definition of marriage"- though I very much believe that anyone who thinks the bible is a dictionary deserves to be mocked. Really, though, this "biblical definition of marriage" stuff is solely a response to same-sex marriage and polyamory. That's it. It doesn't address any other aspects of marriage at all.

And now that I think about it, I have heard a lot of different "definitions of marriage." There are people who aren't interested in marriage, who say "marriage is just a piece of paper." Maybe they are in a long-term relationship but don't see any reason that they need the "piece of paper" in order to make their relationship more "real" or whatever.

And in purity culture, there is such a big deal made about "don't have sex before marriage," that it made me imagine that marriage was basically about sex. What a surprise when I did get married and found out it's actually about inside jokes and buying the kind of yogurt your spouse likes.

And one time I read a blog post from a polyamorous person; she already had a boyfriend, then she met someone else and "I knew right away that I would marry him" and indeed she did marry this new guy while still in a relationship with the boyfriend, which is fine if everyone knows what's going on and they're not sneaking around. I read that blog post and I was so fascinated and confused about why she would say "I knew right away that I would marry him"- clearly she has a different definition of marriage than what you see in the kind of Disney-style romance stories where people "knew right away that I would marry him."

Here's a thought: What if it makes sense to use different definitions in different circumstances? And people from different backgrounds have different understandings of what marriage means, and that's fine? Though I do have a problem with purity ideology pushing their "marriage is about sex" message on naive teenagers (okay they don't phrase it like that, but that's basically what I took from it). 

And... I don't know, maybe it's a problem that the US immigration system privileges certain family structures over others, and puts limits and waiting periods on different categories of visas and different countries. (There are no limits on the number of green cards issued to spouses of US citizens.) I don't really have a whole opinion about it... I understand that maybe for practical reasons we can't just "let everybody in." But I am just thinking about how easy it was for me to come to China and find a job teaching English, way back in 2013, and I had absolutely no idea how hard it is for non-US-citizens to go in the opposite direction. That's privilege.

So. Anyway. Applying for my husband's green card has introduced me to a definition of marriage I'd never considered before. Realizing that different definitions make sense for different situations kind of makes the whole "marriage is defined as one man and one woman" seem a bit silly.

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Related:
What My Marriage Is Actually About (It's Not Sex And It's Not Jesus) 
4 Biblical Definitions We Need to Defend in the Culture Wars 
On Immigration and Double Standards

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Chopsticks for Babies

I live in China and I have a little toddler son. I thought you all might be interested to see the chopsticks they sell for little kids who are learning how to use them. Here are some photos I took at the baby store:


These are imported from Japan- see all the text on the packaging is Japanese. (Except the 右手用 which means "right-handed use" in Chinese; I guess the characters for it in Japanese are the same?)



Basically one chopstick has 2 loops for your fingers, and the other has 1 loop for your thumb. Some of the chopsticks sets (like the bear and My Little Pony, above) let you attach the 2 chopsticks together at the top. Also you may notice the pointy end which picks up the food is a little bit flattened or has a grippy texture, to help with that.

I have heard some moms complain that the design of the loops only works for right-handed people. (In China traditionally people think you should teach left-handed kids to be right-handed instead...) Apparently you can also get training chopsticks without the loops; some moms think those are better.

Little Square Root has a pair of chopsticks with the loops, but he hasn't used them yet. So far he mostly uses a spoon, or a fork for fruit. Even though forks aren't traditionally used by Chinese people, they are easily available to buy for babies. (And also he eats with his hands of course, being a baby and all.)

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Hey readers! My Patreon reached a goal of $20/month, which means I am writing some posts with photos of life in China for you all! The previous ones are: 

If you would like to sponsor me on Patreon, link is here! Thanks readers, you are all great!

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