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All the oppressive things we already have to deal with in our material world only become amplified in the virtual world.

I quit, y'all. I put in a solid few years on dating apps and I’ve decided that I'm not carrying them with me into 2019. This isn't to denounce dating apps as being completely useless or frivolous or anything of the sort. Plenty of people enjoy this method of meeting others and have had successful experiences with it. I am not one of those people, and it goes beyond the struggles I wrote about when I covered why dating while on the asexuality spectrum is so complicated and difficult. I was never in this to seek out romance or a long-term, committed, monogamous relationship. I was also never in this for one-night stands or casual hook-ups. These are positions that I make abundantly clear in my profile, but it still seems to confuse the vast majority of people—that is, the ones who even bother to read it. Dating is not a monolithic experience or set of goals. Some people date with the objective of finding a lifemate, some date because they like starting and ending relationships, others date for consistent access to sexual escapades, others date because they enjoy meeting new people, and the worst people are nothing more than emotional vampires, parasites, and predators who use dating as a way to carry out their abuses on as many people as possible. I want dating for myself to be about genuinely connecting with someone, enjoying their company, and being intentional about cultivating intimacy in an ethical, healthy, reciprocal exchange that is not monogamous or romantic (at least in the rigid, traditional sense), but queerplatonic in nature. I recognize that this is not the way most people want to date. This is not how we have been socialized to think about dating, and this is why I am always upfront about it and it's why I always leave room for an open conversation about my wants, needs, and boundaries, as well as theirs. The issue is that, I'd say 98% of the time, we never make it to the point where this conversation can be brought up because a huge percentage of the people I've interacted with on dating apps are absolutely abysmal at the art of conversation to begin with. I'm visible to, have interacted with, and sought out people of all genders, sexualities, and orientations, as well as those without gender, who are interested in people of my gender, but the vast majority of the harassment, abusive messages, inconsiderate treatment, and traumatic exchanges I've had have been with cis straight men. Surprise, surprise. Sometimes, people just don't click, and that's not at all what my complaint is about. Even though things with numerous people who aren't cis straight men have fizzled out in one way or another, these people have at least been nice to talk to for as long as it lasted. Who do I talk to about conducting a sociolinguistic study on how gender impacts the way we approach texting and online messaging? I can't be the only one who recognizes that cis straight men are notoriously bad at it. There have been studies about gender differences in verbal communication, including ones which debunk the myth that women talk more and highlight just how much men interrupt other people. However, these studies and the psychology articles I've read on this subjects are cisnormative, heteronormative, and biological essentialist, with most attributing any findings to the differences in how men and women are “hardwired” to interact with the world rather than considering the impact of gender cultivation and environmental factors. A recent study has reinforced what had long been speculated by people of color, that dating apps amplify sexual racism, but as far as I can tell from my own Googling, there isn't anything that comprehensively analyzes how gendered expectations and permissions play out in online messaging and texting, and particularly how it impacts our experiences on dating apps. I know my visible identities as well as how I describe myself in my profile impact my experience. I am unambiguously Black, fat, and formally educated with my Masters degree listed, as well as my relevant interests. There are many other things that describe me and that I have included for users to see, but I believe these three things have been the major factors in my experiences because they are usually the things that are focused on in the unsavory messages I've received and interactions I've had. Allow me to enumerate them for you in an extensive, but far from complete, look at many of the initial messages and brief interactions I've had throughout the years.
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Dating as asexual is hard because it is incredibly difficult for allosexual people to understand a sexual identity that does not center sex.

I marathon-watched season five of “Bojack Horseman” in a single day because of who I am as a person. It's been a couple months since the season dropped on Netflix, but it's still on my mind, especially Todd's story. Despite the show’s issues with white actors voicing characters of color (and the, ya know, normalized beastiality), it's still one of my favorite things Netflix has ever brought to life—a guilty pleasure, more or less. One of the reasons I keep watching it is Todd Chavez. Not because he's an incredibly well fleshed out character, in fact, it's quite the opposite. Todd is a habitual couch-surfer and self-saboteur, an accidental genius who stumbles his way into various powerful, decision-making roles, a regular Captain Obvious who somehow simultaneously takes an inordinate amount of twists and turns to monologue his way to simple point of truth that everyone else in the room already arrived at eons ago. The most interesting thing about Todd, for me, is his place as one of the few asexual characters visible in the media, and his asexuality is explicitly stated. It's not something left ambiguous for fans to speculate about, the way many have done with Dexter Morgan, Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance of Sherlock Holmes, Sheldon Cooper, The Doctor, and Jessica Rabbit. In fact, Todd's most compelling storylines revolve around him reckoning with his asexuality, coming out, and navigating the dating world as someone on the spectrum. In the most recent season, Todd is dating a fellow asexual, Yolanda. When she takes him home to meet her family in episode three, “Planned Obsolescence”, it's revealed that Yolanda’s father is a best-selling erotic novelist, her mother is world-renowned adult film star, and her twin sister is a sex advice columnist. Her family is obsessed with sex. So much so that her father exclaims things like “As I jizz and breathe!” and tries desperately to gift Yolanda and Todd an obscenely large barrel of personal lubricant, a family heirloom, her great grandmother's recipe, with hopes that they will use it to have sex in the family home that night. Eventually, this absurdity culminates with the entire family covered in lube and Yolanda screaming, “I'm asexual!” in the midst of a slippery fight with her twin sister who is determined to seduce Todd. But Yolanda’s coming out doesn't happen where we can see it. Immediately after this is a time jump, indicated by a title card that reads: “One thorough but respectful dialogue later.” If only coming out as asexual were this easy and headache-free. I assure you, it is not. In the end, they break up. The only thing they have in common is their shared asexuality, Todd notes, with a sadness in his voice. He knows they shouldn't resign to dating each other simply because they are the only asexual people they know. That is not how human connection, emotional investment, and relationship-building work. Todd assures her that there is a guy for her who is smart and accomplished and impressive. “Who also doesn't want to have sex?” she interrupts. “Yeah, probably,” he responds. “...But what if there isn't?” [caption id="attachment_50218" align="aligncenter" width="800"] courtesy of Netflix[/caption] This is a fair question from Yolanda, and one that I can absolutely feel the weight of. Meeting other asexual people is not nearly as simple as meeting allosexual people. We're only about 1% of the population, as far as we know. The thing is that asexuality is still such an obscure topic to most people, to the point where some people don't even know that it even exists, there are a significant number of people who are on the asexuality spectrum but are simply unaware because of this glaring gap in discourse about sexuality and orientation. So, yes, it can be exceedingly difficult for us to meet other asexuals, and it is even more difficult for us to meet allosexual people who are interested in dating us and also willing to respectfully accept that we do not experience normative sexual attractions and/or normative sexual desires. Cultivating the kind of comfortability, intimacy, and trust with someone that I need to truly be able to enjoy sex is exhausting, especially if I have to explain my sexuality to them a dozen times in the process, and the mere thought of going through this is often anxiety-inducing. Dating as asexual is hard for a lot of reasons, largely because so many people don't understand what it is to begin with, and because of that misunderstanding, many people see it as a challenge. This, among other acephobic sentiments, unfortunately leads to asexual discrimination and sexual violence, such as corrective rape. Dating as asexual is hard because we are supposed to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ acronym, but we often aren't even considered as part of the queer community. Gatekeepers continually try to push us out, and if they say we don't belong here, then where? Dating as asexual is hard because living in a sexually repressed society that is also constantly throwing sex in our faces (much like Yolanda’s family) causes most people to view asexuality as an unnatural impossibility, even a rude position to take, unable to comprehend the fact that it is not a choice, anymore than anyone else's sexuality is. Dating as asexual is hard because it is incredibly difficult for allosexual people to understand a sexual identity that does not center sex. Dating, for us, involves nuances that the vast majority of allosexual people simply do not have to think about on the level that people on the asexuality spectrum do. Some asexual people still engage in sex acts, for valid reasons that are our own, but many of us have no desire for sex at all. For people who fall on this end of the asexuality spectrum, trying to navigate the dating world often leaves us in unsafe spaces, in which we are coerced or pressured into sex, pressured into presenting as and performing a sexuality that is not natural for us. We get accused of being “a fucking tease” for simply being ourselves and have our boundaries disrespected by people who we thought we could trust. It is true that many people experience this pressure on some level, especially non-men, but experiencing this while asexual adds another layer. In the same way that my Blackness and my fatness create additional layers to my sexualization.
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Violence is so normalized that we often don't even recognize sexual abuses in the moment.

[TW/CW: discussion of sexual violence.] I recently realized that sex is unhealthy for me. Not sex in theory. No, of course not. Sex is healthy for our bodies and even our hearts and minds.When I say that sex is unhealthy for me, I mean the kind of sex that I have experienced — an experience that I share with many women, femmes, and bottoms. The sex where my needs are neglected and my boundaries are ignored in favor of whatever desires my partner may have. Not everyone experiences sex and the things surrounding it in the same way, for various reasons. Some of those reasons might include gender cultivation, (a)sexuality, choice of sexual expression, knowledge of self/knowledge one's own (a)sexuality, or relationship with one's own body. Some of those reasons might include how certain body types are deemed "normal" and acceptable while others are only ever fetishized or demonized. Some of those reasons might include the fact certain folks are told that they should be grateful that anyone would even be willing to look at them, let alone touch or love them, while others are expected to always be available for sexual contact. Some of those reasons might include the fact that some people are afforded certain permissions to make decisions about their sex and love life without being eternally scrutinized, while others are nearly always assumed to be sexually irresponsible. Some of those reasons might include past or current trauma and abuse. And a host of other reasons not mentioned here, or reasons that you or I have never even considered because they're not a factor in our personal story. I'm not straight. I'm just an asexual with a libido—infrequent as it may be—and a preference for masculine aesthetic and certain genitalia. Most of the sex that I have had is what we would consider to be “straight” sex, and I am fairly certain that I would enjoy the act more and have a healthier relationship with it if more sexual partners were willing to make the experience comfortable and safe for me. Instead, men seem to want to make sex as uncomfortable and painful as possible for their partners, whether consciously or unconsciously, regardless of whether or not that is what we want. Many men seem to judge their sexual partners abilities the same way that they gauge how much we love them and how deep our loyalty goes — by how much pain we can endure. I say this based on my personal experience, as well as the experiences of many of the people around me who have been gracious and trusting enough to share with me their testimony. Many of us have been conditioned to measure ourselves in the same way, using our ability to endure pain as a barometer for our worth.
Related: STEALTHING NEGATES CONSENT AND IS RAPE

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