Musings On The Law

I recently did a cursory survey of anti-discrimination laws in the US and whether or not they cover asexual and aromantic people. Only one state (New York) explicitly mentioned asexuality. No states explicitly mentioned aromanticism. Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico have wording that mentions “affectional”, “emotional”, or “romantic” attraction. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico have wording that is vague, unclear, or has technicalities that may support an interpretation that protects asexual and/or aromantic people. Many states have anti-discrimination laws that protect people on the basis of sexual orientation, but then go on to narrowly define sexual orientation in a manner that excludes asexuality. Very few states recognize the concept of romantic orientation, and most of those have definitions that may exclude aromantic people.

It is clear from this survey that there is a lot of work to be done.

It is also clear that laws are very freaking complicated… You have federal law, state law, county law, municipal law, then you have executive orders and court rulings and commission interpretations, all with varying degrees of applicability and supremacy.

This post is meant to spur discussion and possibly action, but it should not be taken as The One True Way™ to get there. I’m not a lawyer, I haven’t even particularly researched this in any great depth beyond collecting state laws and skimming parts of the Compulsory Sexuality paper by Elizabeth Emens (Which itself is sort of strange in a couple of sections, but I won’t get into that…). This post is just a collection of thoughts I had while looking at this, and they may not be particularly good thoughts.

This post will assume the following premise as given and proceed from there: Asexuality, aromanticism, and related identities are worthy of protection under the law. If you do not agree with that premise, go away, this post isn’t for you. I’m not going to spend any time justifying that premise here.

Where Asexuality And Aromanticism Are Relevant In Law

There are a couple of different areas that came up during my review where asexuality and aromanticism are relevant to legal proceedings and protections. The most obvious are anti-discrimination statutes: Employment, housing, education, denial of services, etc. Then there are marriage laws, including tax laws and laws regarding consummation which may still be on the books. Tangentially related to that are other “family” laws like inheritance, hospital visitation, etc. Hate crime/bias crime enhancements are another area where asexuality and aromanticism would be relevant. We probably all could have benefitted from aro and ace inclusion in sex ed programs. I know some people who have been subjected to what they would consider to be conversion therapy. And I’m certain that there will be other areas I’ve missed that will be noted in the comments.

In some of these cases, it’s not specifically being asexual or aromantic which is relevant, but rather the singleness, childlessness, or non-traditional relationship forms that apply to many asexual or aromantic people which become relevant. In those cases, protections for marital/family status become important, as well.

In this post, I’m mostly going to talk about the anti-discrimination laws, although it would undoubtedly be worthwhile to examine all of these areas with an aromantic or asexual eye.

Lay Of The Law Of The Land

I can separate the current state of legal protections into three primary classes:

  • “Friendly”: These are the states which have protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation specifically, but don’t necessarily cover asexuality or aromanticism, whether explicitly or implicitly. About half of the states fall into this bucket.
  • “Indifferent”: These are states which do not have specific sexual orientation protections. In these states, protection on the basis of sexual orientation may be granted through a technicality (Such as the interpretation of “on the basis of sex” to include sexual orientation) or through interpretive guidance from a human rights commission or something similar, or if those areas are silent, protections would come from the federal level. About half of the states fall into this bucket. At a federal level, protection is currently granted to the entire country on the basis of sexual orientation due to the interpretation of the meaning of “sex”, although that the details particular interpretation may not protect asexuality.
  • “Hostile”: These are states which have language to deliberately exclude sexual orientation from protection. These states include North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming. While current interpretation of federal law would provide protection in those states, this codified hostility is still noteworthy.

Ironically, some of the “Indifferent” (typically more conservative) states offer greater protection for asexuality (although typically not aromanticism) than some of the “Friendly” (typically more liberal) states. This is because the “indifferent” states will occasionally mention “sexual orientation” as part of their hate crime statutes or other laws, but don’t give a definition, whereas many of the “friendly” states have a definition for sexual orientation which excludes asexuality in some way.

What about Romantic Orientation?

Most antidiscrimination laws completely ignore any concept of romantic orientation, sometimes referred to as “affectional” or “emotional”. In the case of New Jersey, the laws mention “affectional or sexual orientation”, but then proceed to define that phrase in strict terms of “male or female heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality”, thus negating the distinction between “affectional” and “sexual”.

Obviously, overlooking romantic orientation is concerning for aromantic people, as aromanticism would not be a protected characteristic. But, going deeper into the potential Dark Future Of Increased Awareness, as the concept of romantic orientation becomes more well known, one could envision attempts to get around existing protections by claiming something like “I didn’t fire him because he’s sexually attracted to men, I fired him because he’s romantically attracted to men. There’s nothing that says I can’t do that.” Now, clearly that example seems contrived, but don’t underestimate the ability of horrible people to do horrible things and try to get away with it. So language that’s inclusive of romantic/affectional orientation isn’t just of value to aromantic people.

Defining Sexual Orientation

One thing that I noticed in my survey is that many states define sexual orientation in a very specific way that ends up excluding asexuality (along with pansexuality and others). Most states which have a definition use language that boils down to “heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality”. New York adds asexuality to that list, while Arizona leaves out bisexuality. Some states have an odd conflation which buckets gender identity under sexual orientation. (Presumably this is for convenience: If you change the legal definition, you only have to change one part of the law. But it’s still strange.) Some of these definitions reference “actual or perceived” status. Some definitions are explicitly ciscentric and end up being exclusionary on that front. Some definitions are worded to be general, but then presume an “attachment” or “attraction” that may not be there for ace or aro people, therefore they may not apply.

Clearly, defining sexual orientation isn’t easy…

But is there even a need to define sexual orientation? As I mentioned in an earlier section, some states which don’t define sexual orientation end up having more protections for asexual people than states with broad laws and a narrow definition. Can we just leave the definition out entirely and rely on a common understanding of the phrase?

Well, maybe, but… In Compulsory Sexuality, there’s a bit of a behind the scenes discussion of this topic from the lawmaker responsible for New York’s state law. He remarked that a definition was necessary to defend against “slippery slope” objections. In other words, without laying out clearly what “sexual orientation” meant, other lawmakers would raise frivolous objections about the law. For instance, someone could raise the specter of some yahoo filing a discrimination case claiming they were illegally fired because they’re sexually attracted to dogs, which could lead to public outcry over the legalization of bestiality. Surely, that’s political nonsense and such a case would be laughed out of court. But imagine a different case, where sexual orientation isn’t well defined, and an asexual person has to prove that asexuality is a sexual orientation in court. A spelled out, inclusive definition would be useful in that case.

So, if a definition of sexual orientation would be useful, what should it look like? Here are a few thoughts I have:

  • Not a list. The solution is not to just add “asexuality” to the Big Three. That would be great for us, but not great for those who come after us. For instance, pansexual people would still be excluded from most definitions. A specific list would just lead to the same kinds of gatekeeping and club membership debates that exist around the LGBTQIAA2P++* acronym AND it would get just as long and unwieldy.
  • Does not conflate. Presumably for convenience, some states have jammed gender identity in their definition for sexual orientation. That’s inaccurate and out of step with reality. Sexual orientation, gender identity, and romantic/affectional/emotional orientation should be first class characteristics, not shoehorned afterthoughts or inferred from the context.
  • “Or lack thereof”. Some states give a general definition of sexual orientation which does not give a hard and fast list of club members, but instead defines it in terms of attraction or attachment. Unfortunately, they mostly appear to require that attachment to be present. Any definition along these lines would need to recognize the lack of such attraction or attachment. New York City’s statute is an example of this.
  • Not ciscentric/binary. Some states explicitly reference things like “male or female”, etc. There’s really no need for that, when something like “without regard for gender (or lack thereof)” would work in most cases.
  • Inclusive, with an eye on the future. We don’t know what sexuality will look like in the future. New terms will pop up, old terms will get new meanings. I don’t think that any of these states deliberately said “No, we don’t like those asexuals”, I just think we weren’t on their radar at all. Any definition should try to avoid those sorts of traps going forward. I like Puerto Rico’s statement that the definition should be broadly interpreted. That’ll help cover the unintentional holes in the wording and help to make it future proof.
  • “Actual or perceived”. I like this clause, as it can prevent discrimination cases from being dismissed by saying that unlawful conduct wasn’t technically unlawful, as the person wasn’t actually whatever protected class the perpetrator thought they were.
  • Protects actions as well as feelings. There’s a common refrain, particularly in ace circles, that “action is not attraction”, that people can engage in behaviors that don’t always align with their orientation. Anti-discrimination laws should protect that. This would be necessary in the Dark Future Of Increased Awareness, where one of those “It’s alright if you’re gay as long as you don’t act on it” people tries to use “action is not attraction” as a weapon.
  • Default for state law. The states are split between having a central, single definition, and having the definition scattered across multiple acts or statutes or chapters. Having a default definition means that the definition would apply anywhere a phrase is used. Otherwise it’s possible a term might not be defined or the definition might not get updated, and that can lead to confusion and technicalities.

I think a definition of romantic orientation would have many of the same characteristics. On that front, I think I prefer terminology like “emotional” or “affectional”, as that would likely also cover people and relationships for whom “romantic” doesn’t really apply.

Allies In The Cause

We are not alone.

I’ve already mentioned that in some states, the definition of “sexual attraction” was expanded to include gender identity. Sure, that might have been convenient for lawmakers, but that doesn’t make it right. Gender identity should be its own, separate protected class. (Personally, I worry about whether or not an definition that’s out of step with the conventional meaning of a phrase would be grounds for getting a law thrown out in court.) And in some cases, gender identity isn’t a protected class at all. Trans groups in those states are probably fighting to change that.

Many states use a definition that includes bisexuality, but not pansexuality. You can dive into a semantic argument over whether a pansexual person could be legally considered as bisexual for the purposes of the law, but the point is that those sorts of semantic arguments shouldn’t even be a question. Pan groups in those states are probably fighting to change that.

Other states don’t have any protections for sexual orientation or gender identity at all. Queer rights groups across the rainbow are probably fighting to change that.

Intersex people are overlooked by almost every state anti-discrimination law. Maybe they’d fall into “medical condition” or “gender identity” or even “disability” protections, but they shouldn’t have to figure out which demeaning or inaccurate bucket they have to fall into for protection. Intersex groups are probably fighting to change that.

The point is, other people are trying to change these laws, too. So we can partner with them get these changes made at the same time we’re pushing for an improved definition of sexual orientation and inclusion of romantic/affectional orientation.

By joining our voices, we can all be heard.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Ideally, we can get laws passed everywhere which are inclusive of aromanticism and asexuality, and which consider sexual orientation, romantic/emotional/affectional orientation, and gender identity as separate protected classes. But we’re not going to get there tomorrow…

Your first step would be to dive into the laws in your area to better understand what’s covered. Don’t rely on my analysis, after all, what the hell do I know? I’m not a lawyer or legal scholar, I just cranked up a synthpop playlist and ran a bunch of searches one afternoon.

From there, I think we can discuss more specifically what we’d like to see. People would be more likely to listen if we go to them with suggestions or even some boilerplate language, rather than just a demand to include aces and aros. (One thing that was clear in the survey is that lawmakers love Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V…)

After that, I think the next step would be reaching out to local activist groups and legislators and get a sense of what’s already in the pipeline. For those “friendly” states noted above, there may not be much going on, because there may be a sense that the battle has already been won. But in those “indifferent” and “hostile” states, I can almost guarantee that there’s a state legislator or two out there who submits an anti-discrimination bill every session. Whatever is happening, it would be worth getting in touch with the people doing it and getting involved in the process to whatever extent possible, and try to piggyback our changes on theirs.

(I should also point out here that while it might seem as though groups like AO, TAAAP, or AVEN might be well positioned to take up this kind of charge, it’s possible that none of them really can. I believe those groups are currently or are planning to become registered non-profits of a type that would prohibit substantial lobbying of this type.)

We have a lot of work to do. Time to get busy.

A Survey of Laws

This post is a survey of anti-discrimination laws in the United States, with respect to aromantics and asexuals. It is a snapshot in time as of 4/16/2019 and may not reflect changes. This page should not remotely be taken as legal advice. I should also point out that I have no legal training and therefore my interpretations and understanding of these laws could be completely wrong. I may have also missed laws along the way. It should also be noted that I did not review executive orders, which could add protections beyond what’s listed here. Furthermore, some states have multiple sets of laws and regulations, and I may not have searched through both. I will have made mistakes, so please do your own research where relevant, and please correct me if you find mistakes or omissions.

I wanted to get a sense of the state of legal protections across the country for aces and aros. Many people believe that sexual orientation is a protected class and that asexual people cannot be fired or denied housing, etc., on the basis of their orientation. While that is the spirit of many of these laws, it is not always the letter of the law. In many cases, as you’ll see, “sexual orientation” is defined very explicitly and in a way that excludes asexual people. Aromantic people aren’t even considered in most of these laws, as romantic orientation isn’t even a concept most places mention at all.

For this post, I’m only looking at the US at the state level, but you are free to post details about your local laws in the comments. Also, beyond the initial discussion regarding federal protections, I am specifically looking for state (+DC/PR) laws that explicitly mention sexual or romantic orientation, asexuality, or aromanticism. (Specifically: “sexual orientation”, “romantic orientation”, “affectional orientation”, “asexual”, “asexuality”, “aromantic”, “aromanticism”) These limited search terms mean that I may miss things, particularly cases where a state may have an umbrella interpretation of a law which does not use those phrases.

This post is mostly the survey of the laws. For commentary and possible action items, see this post.

tl; dr:

  • Explicit protection for asexuality: NY
  • Explicit protection for aromanticism: Nowhere
  • Mention of romantic (affectional, emotional) orientation: MN, NJ, PA, PR
  • Unclear/vague protection status: MA, NJ, PA, PR, entire US
  • Asshole states that deliberately exclude sexual orientation from anti-discrimination laws: ND, OK, TX, WY

US Federal Level

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the primary anti-discrimination law covering employment in the US. It does not specifically mention sexual or romantic orientation. However it has been interpreted by various courts and government agencies to afford such protections indirectly. The thinking goes that since Title VII protects against discrimination based on sex, and since the only difference between a straight relationship and a gay relationship is the sex of the participants, that discrimination based on sexual orientation is fundamentally a violation of the protection against discrimination based on sex. The Fair Housing Act provides a similarly vague blanket of coverage regarding housing.

Employment Law (42 USC 2000) | Housing Law (42 USC 3604)

The good news is that these Federal laws apply and override any local laws anywhere in the United States. So, it is currently considered illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation for the purposes of employment or housing in the entire United States. The bad news is that this protection is based on an interpretation that sexual orientation discrimination is fundamentally discrimination on the basis of sex, and that interpretation could be wiped out by a single court decision. That is where state and local laws come into effect. If the federal protection vanishes one day, the state laws will take over.

Furthermore on the “bad news” side, it’s unclear to me that discrimination against asexual or aromantic people would even be prohibited under this protection. I don’t know that it could be argued that it’s discrimination on the basis of sex, when sex (the characteristic, not the activity) isn’t necessarily a factor. And federal law does not seem to have a “marital status” protection that could potentially be used in some cases.

Bottom line: No explicit protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual or romantic orientation exists at the federal level.

Alabama

No laws found.

Alaska

No laws found.

Arizona

ARS 41-1750 talks about collecting information regarding crimes that relate to sexual orientation and ARS 41-1822 discusses police officer training regarding crimes relating to sexual orientation, but they both appear to explicitly deny any protections related to sexual orientation. Additionally, they define “sexual orientation” as “consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality.”

ARS 20-1632 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in the renewal of car insurance. A definition of “sexual orientation” does not appear to be provided.

Bottom line: Asexual people are protected against having their car insurance cancelled. Hate crime reporting requirements do not necessarily include aces. No direct protections for aromantic people.

Arkansas

ACA 6-18-514 includes sexual orientation (without an explicit definition) in a list of attributes in an anti-bullying statute that protects public school students and employees.

ACA 9-6-106 requires DV shelters getting state money to have a non-discrimination policy which includes sexual orientation.

Bottom line: Asexual people are protected against bullying in public schools and are protected from discrimination in domestic violence shelters that get state grants. No direct protections for aromantic people.

California

California has wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation. Unfortunately, everywhere that “sexual orientation” is defined, it’s explicitly defined as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.” It is unclear the extent that these definitions apply, as some sections reference them explicitly, some are covered by virtue of being in the same title, however, it’s possible some sections of state law are not covered by these explicit definitions and may use a more general, non-legalistic definition. I did not find an overarching default definition.

Bottom line: When “sexual orientation” is defined, asexual people are not included. This definition may not cover all parts of state law, leaving protections for ace people murky. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Colorado

Colorado has wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation. CRS 2-4-401, which seems to be a default definition for all of Colorado state law, defines “sexual orientation” as “a person’s orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status or another person’s perception thereof.” Asexuality is excluded from that definition. (This is also the first case where gender identity and sexual orientation are conflated into a single definition. We’ll be seeing more of that as we go…)

Bottom line: Asexual people are excluded from the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections likely do not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Connecticut

Connecticut has a specific section dedicated to protections based on sexual orientation. In that section, 46a-81a defines “sexual orientation” as “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such preference or being identified with such preference”, leaving out asexuality. It’s unclear whether other sections of state law would use this same definition, as this definition appears to have a limiting scope and I do not see a definition elsewhere.

Bottom line: Connecticut is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Delaware

Delaware has wide ranging protections for sexual orientation, but like California, it has a definition that does not include asexuality, which may or may not apply to every usage of the phrase. In several sections, such as 19-710, Delaware Law says “sexual orientation exclusively means heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.” The use of the word “exclusively” makes the omission of asexuality more emphatic. Sexual orientation is the only definition on that page which uses the word “exclusively”.

Bottom line: Delaware is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Florida

Florida law primarily references sexual orientation when talking about hate groups, criminal gangs, and hate crimes. There are also a few mentions of it in relation to HIV screening and charity law (saying that the state can’t force a charity to be inclusive of sexual orientation). The only explicit anti-discrimination clause I see that includes sexual orientation is in regards to hospice care (400-6095).

Bottom line: Asexuals in Florida are protected against discrimination by hospice facilities, and crimes against asexual people motivated by their asexuality could potentially be treated as a hate crime. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Georgia

No laws found.

Hawaii

Hawaii is similar to California: Wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation, but no central default definition. Where defined (such as in HRS 489-2), Hawaii says “sexual orientation” is “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality, having a history of any one or more of these preferences, or being identified with any one or more of these preferences.”

Bottom line: Hawaii is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Idaho

The only reference to “sexual orientation” in the Idaho statutes is a requirement that student educational records should not include it. (They’re also not allowed to include a student’s gun ownership records.) Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Illinois

Illinois is similar to California: Wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation, but no central default definition. Where defined (such as in 775 ILCS 5), Illinois says “sexual orientation” is “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth.”

Bottom line: Illinois is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Indiana

Sexual orientation is only mentioned a few times in Indiana law. It is referenced in the hate crime statute, it is part of the required training for a marriage and family counselor, and it’s mentioned twice in the “religious freedom” statue, which says that the statute does not permit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, nor can it be used as a defense against a lawsuit if someone claims discrimination.

Bottom line: Indiana does not have protections for asexual or aromantic people.

Iowa

Iowa has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section (Chapter 216) which defines “sexual orientation” as “actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Kansas

Kansas law only mentions sexual orientation in its hate crime statute. No definition is provided, therefore asexuality would be covered. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Kentucky

Kentucky law mentions sexual orientation in its hate crime statute, as well as relating to HIV testing for insurance purposes. No definition is provided in either case, therefore asexuality would be covered.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Louisiana

Louisiana law mentions sexual orientation in its hate crime statute, including in training to recognize hate crimes and in reporting requirements. No definition is provided, therefore asexuality would be covered.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Maine

Maine has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section which defines (5-4553) “sexual orientation” as “means a person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, homosexuality or gender identity or expression.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Maryland

Maryland has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section which defines (20-101) “sexual orientation” as “the identification of an individual as to male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts law has wide ranging protections for sexual orientation. However, from there, it gets confusing. The definitions section of the anti-discrimination chapter does not include a definition of “sexual orientation”. That could imply that asexuality is protected under MA law. However, in the section on the duties and organization of the Commission Against Discrimination, which is set up to handle discrimination complaints, there is an inexplicable definition of sexual orientation in the middle of an unrelated paragraph. That definition reads “having an orientation for or being identified as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality. ” It is possible that definition applies to the entire chapter, in which case asexuality is not covered by the anti-discrimination laws. It is possible that definition applies only to the activities of the commission, which puts asexuality in a weird limbo state, where discrimination against asexuals is illegal, but the commission who would take action against such discrimination is unable to interpret sexual orientation to include asexuality. Or it is possible that because of where that definition is placed, it has no relevant scope, therefore the definition is irrelevant, which would mean asexuality is covered.

Bottom line: I have no idea. And aromantic people aren’t mentioned.

Michigan

From what I can tell, the only anti-discrimination protections in Michigan law that include sexual orientation are in a couple of clauses which prevent regional convention authorities from discriminating in employment or contracting matters. No definition of sexual orientation is provided, so asexual people would be covered. Good for you if you wanted a job with the regional convention authority.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Minnesota

Minnesota appears similar to California, with wide ranging protections, but no default definition. Most of the protections are in a chapter which defines sexual orientation (363A.03) as “having or being perceived as having an emotional, physical, or sexual attachment to another person without regard to the sex of that person or having or being perceived as having an orientation for such attachment, or having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness.” This wording would protect against discrimination on the basis of romantic orientation, however, as it is predicated on having an attachment, it would not protect aromantic or asexual people who do not have such an attachment.

Bottom line: If a homoromantic asexual person is discriminated against based on their being homoromantic, that would be covered, but if they’re discriminated against for being asexual, that would not be covered. And although this definition calls out “emotional” orientation, it does not provide any more protection for aromantic people than other states which do not have such a clause in their definition.

Mississippi

Mississippi only mentions sexual orientation in regards to “conscience exemptions” for health care and health insurance providers. These laws permit providers to refuse services on conscience grounds, but they carve out a restriction in that a provider must not refuse on the basis of sexual orientation and other characteristics. “Sexual orientation” is not defined, so asexuality would be covered. There are no other anti-discrimination statutes which reference sexual orientation.

Bottom line: You cannot be refused medical treatment because you are asexual. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Missouri

Missouri has a hate crime law that includes sexual orientation, as well as a provision for a civilian review board to look at complaints of police mistreatment on the basis of sexual orientation, however, both of those protections appear to be covered by the definition of sexual orientation in 556.061, which reads “male or female heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality by inclination, practice, identity or expression, or having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s gender”.

Bottom line: There do not appear to be any protections for asexuality or aromanticism.

Montana

The only reference to sexual orientation in the MCA seems to be an anti-discrimination clause related to certain transfers of life insurance policies.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Nebraska

Nebraska includes sexual orientation in its hate crime statute, and does not provide a definition, so asexuality would be covered. There is also a clause that states that any university getting money from a particular fund cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Nevada

Nevada has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections list a definition (For instance, NRS 613.310) of “sexual orientation” as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, there appears to be a default definition of “sexual orientation” that applies to the entire body of New Hampshire law in 21:49, which defines sexual orientation as “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.” As with the many other states using this definition, it does not include asexuality.

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

New Jersey

New Jersey has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of “affectional or sexual orientation”. On the face of it, this is amazing, because it recognizes a difference between romantic orientation and sexual orientation and explicitly protects both! Unfortunately, as is the case is so many of the other states in this survey, everything falls apart in the definition. When defined, such as in
NJAC 6A:7-1.3, “affectional or sexual orientation” is “male or female heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality by inclination, practice, identity, or expression, having a history thereof, or being perceived, presumed, or identified by others as having such an orientation.” Which… Completely leaves out any distinction regarding the “affectional” part and leaves out asexuality. But, those definitions seem to be limited in scope and may not apply to all of the anti-discrimination protections, and if those definitions do not apply generally, then asexual and aromantic people are protected by most of the anti-discrimination policies.

Bottom line: Honestly, I have no idea. Swing and a miss? Home run?

New Mexico

New Mexico has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section which defines (28-1-2) “sexual orientation” as “heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, whether actual or perceived.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

New York

New York has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The definition used for sexual orientation by most, if not all of these provisions, is in Executive Law 292 (which I can’t link to because the website is from 1997 and doesn’t work like that.): “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or asexuality, whether actual or perceived.” Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Finally, a state which explicitly includes asexuality in the definition of sexual orientation it uses.

However… There’s no mention of aromantic people or the concept of romantic orientation. (Or pansexual people, etc.)

Bottom line: Asexual people are fully protected by New York’s anti-discrimination laws. Aromantic people are ignored. Again.

North Carolina

The only mention of sexual orientation is in an anti-bullying statute (115C 407.15). Sexual orientation is not defined, so asexuality would be included. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

North Dakota

North Dakota’s only mention of sexual orientation comes in a line specifically designed to make it clear that sexual orientation is not a protected class in its housing discrimination statute.

Bottom line: Fuck you, North Dakota.

Ohio

Ohio only mentions sexual orientation in its hate crime statute and in HIV-related sections regarding insurance. Sexual orientation is not defined, so asexuality would be included. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma mentions sexual orientation in the same way as North Dakota: As a means to deliberately exclude sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination statutes. Oklahoma law also notes that judges must not allow bias or prejudice around sexual orientation to take place in court, either through their own actions or in the actions of others in the court. So that’s something, I guess.

Bottom line: The courtroom thing is nice to see, but still, fuck you, Oklahoma.

Oregon

ORS 659A includes wide ranging anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation, however ORS 174.100 provides a default definition of “sexual orientation” which says “an individual’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality or gender identity, regardless of whether the individual’s gender identity, appearance, expression or behavior differs from that traditionally associated with the individual’s sex at birth.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state law does not include an explicit protection for sexual orientation within its state law (except for stating that people can’t be kicked out of racetracks due to their orientation), however, much like at the federal level, PA authorities have interpreted the protections against sex discrimination to include sexual orientation. That guidance can be found here. Of note is their definition of “sexual orientation”, which states: “An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people, including but not limited to: heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual”. This definition recognizes romantic attraction, and “including but not limited to” does not slam the door on asexuality, both of which are good, however, there is ambiguity in the “to other people” clause. That puts Pennsylvania in a similar zone as Minnesota, where attraction is protected, but a lack of attraction may not be.

Bottom line: Protections for asexual and aromantic people may exist, but they are ambiguous and based on an interpretation of the word “sex” which could change without legislative action.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Where defined, such as in 29 LPRA 151, it is defined as “the ability of any person of having an emotional, affectional, or sexual attachment to persons of the other gender, the same gender, or more than one gender.” While this recognizes a difference between romantic and sexual orientation, like Minnesota, it requires an “attachment” toward one or more genders, leaving out the case of not being attracted to any genders. However, there is an additional clause which states “this definition shall be interpreted as broadly as possible to extend the benefits thereof to any citizen who is a victim of discrimination, whether it is a one-time event or a pattern.”

Bottom line: Unclear. There is no specific mention of asexuality or aromanticism, and the definition seemingly rules both out, but there is also a clause directing a broad interpretation, which can be interpreted in an inclusive manner.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island is similar to California: Wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation, but no central default definition. Where defined (such as in 11-24-2.1), Rhode Island says “sexual orientation” is “having or being perceived as having an orientation for heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality.”

Bottom line: Rhode Island is similar to California, in that the definition given does not include asexuality, but the scope of the definition may not apply to all anti-discrimination provisions regarding sexual orientation. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

South Carolina

No laws found.

South Dakota

No laws found.

Tennessee

Tennessee law does not appear to have many protections based on sexual orientation. It has a similar law to Florida regarding behaviors of certain charities, it has a hate crime enhancement, and it prohibits polygraph operators from asking questions about sexual orientation.

Bottom line: Sorry, Tennessee.

Texas

Texas mentions sexual orientation in the same way as North Dakota: As a means to deliberately exclude sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination statutes.

Bottom line: Fuck you, too, Texas. (Except San Antonio.)

Utah

Utah, surprisingly, has some wide ranging anti-discrimination policies which include sexual orientation. (It also has a number of policies which say it’s A-OK to discriminate if you hide behind your religion…) However, where defined, as in 57-21-S2, “sexual orientation” is defined as “an individual’s actual or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual”.

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Vermont

Vermont has wide ranging protections based on sexual orientation. 1 VSA 143, which seems to be a default definition for all of Vermont state law, defines “sexual orientation” as “female or male homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Virginia

No laws found.

Washington

Washington has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections are in a section which defines (RCW 49.60.040) “sexual orientation” as “heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Washington DC

Washington DC has one of the most terrible law search features I’ve seen. Somehow, it manages to be worse than New Mexico’s, which was flat out broken. Results show up five at a time in a tiny column and can’t be opened in a new tab, so I have no way to cross reference or keep my place. So I have no idea what DC law says. I did find this definition for “sexual orientation”: “male or female homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality, by preference or practice.” Unfortunately, I have no idea how widely this applies, because I can’t figure out what’s going on.

Bottom line: Hell if I know.

West Virginia

No laws found.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin has wide ranging protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, most of these protections list a definition (111.32.13m) of “sexual orientation” as “having a preference for heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality, having a history of such a preference or being identified with such a preference.”

Bottom line: Asexual people are not included in the definition of sexual orientation, therefore protections may not apply. Aromantic people are not mentioned.

Wyoming

Wyoming mentions sexual orientation in the same way as North Dakota: As a means to deliberately exclude sexual orientation as a protected class in its anti-discrimination statutes.

Bottom line: Fuck you, too, Wyoming.

Honorable Mention: New York City

In NYC, there are wide ranging anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation. Administrative code 8-102 defines sexual orientation as “an individual’s actual or perceived romantic, physical or sexual attraction to other persons, or lack thereof, on the basis of gender. A continuum of sexual orientation exists and includes, but is not limited to, heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality and pansexuality.”

Bottom line: NYC’s anti-discrimination protections explicitly include asexual people and implicitly include aromantic people!

Bottom Bottom Line:

There is only one state which explicitly recognizes asexuality in its anti-discrimination statutes. About half the states don’t even have a protection for sexual orientation at all, and almost all of the ones that do use a definition for “sexual orientation” which excludes asexuality in some way. Romantic orientation is barely protected anywhere, and most of those places appear to exclude aromanticism.

Only a handful of cities have protection for asexuality (NYC, Albany, NY, and San Antonio, TX are the only ones I’m aware of), and I don’t know of any that specifically include aromanticism.

We have a lot of work to do. Time to get busy.

Is Sex Not Really Your Thing?

Are you not all that interested in sex?  Maybe there’s a reason for that.


Transcript:

Do you have little to no interest in sex?
Is your sex drive stuck in neutral?
Are you not straight, not gay, not bi, not really anything?
Do you think sex is dull and boring?
Haven’t slept with anyone in years and that’s not a problem for you?
Do you never consider anyone “hot” or “sexy”?
Do you feel like you’re “straight by default”?
When people talk about sex, is it almost like they’re speaking a foreign language?
Are you more interested in sex as a scientific curiosity than a recreational activity?
Is your right hand all the sex life you need?
Ever feel like you’re supposed to like sex because everyone else does?
Have you ever been asked who you think is hot and needed to make up an answer?
Does sex feel like a sport you’re not a fan of?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions…
You are not broken. You are not alone.
You may be asexual.
Asexuality is a sexual orientation.
It is not a disorder. It is not a disease.
It’s just the way we are.

For more information, please visit WhatIsAsexuality.com or AsexualityArchive.com

Things You Should Know About Asexuality Video

A short video, covering the basic things anyone should know about asexuality.


Video Transcription:

Things you should know about asexuality:

Asexuality is a sexual orientation.  Asexual people don’t feel sexual attraction.

There are at least 75 million asexual people in the world.  That’s more than the population of France.

Asexual people are called “aces”.

Aces are part of the LGBTQ Community.

Asexuality is a spectrum.  The ace spectrum includes demisexuality and gray-asexuality.  Demisexual people require a strong emotional bond before feeling sexual attraction.  Gray-asexual people rarely or situationally feel sexual attraction.

There are ace spectrum pride flags:

Asexual: [Black, gray, white, purple horizontal stripes.]
Gray-asexual:  [Purple, gray, white, gray, purple horizontal stripes.]
Demisexual:  [Horizontal white and gray rectangles with a thinner purple stripe between them, and a black triangle on the left side, pointing to the right.]

You can have sex and be asexual.
You can be in a relationship and be asexual.
You can want kids and be asexual.
You can be a man and be asexual.
[The words begin to flip faster and faster, becoming unreadable and giving the impression there are far, far too many things to list.]
[The flipping suddenly stops on a frame that reads:]
It’s about attraction, not action.

The asexual experience is individual and personal.

Asexuality is natural.
Asexuality is normal.
Asexuality is valid.

The most important thing you should know about asexuality:

Asexuality exists.

[The text lingers, then fades to white and the credits appear.]

For more information, visit whatisasexuality.com or asexualityarchive.com

 

Asexuality and ARFID

The theme for this month’s Carnival of Aces is on asexuality and mental health.  Now, ordinarily, I don’t have much to say about the topic of mental health.  I’ve never been to a therapist.  And that whole undiagnosed lethargic fog of depression or anxiety or whatever it is that’s going on, well, I never have much to say about that, primarily because it won’t let me say anything about it other than recurring vague posts about how I should do things that I never end up doing.  But this month, one of the subprompts was to talk about eating disorders and asexuality.  Now that is something I can talk about.

But before I begin, a bit of housekeeping…

Because I’m going to be talking about a topic outside of my regular subject matter, I expect this post will get some readers who are not all that familiar with asexuality.  So, what is asexuality?  It’s a sexual orientation characterized by a persistent lack of sexual attraction to any gender.  Essentially, it’s the “none of the above” option on the sexual orientation form.  You can learn more about it on this site, or over at WhatIsAsexuality.com.

And second, I am not implying that asexuality is related to any eating disorders, nor am I implying that any eating disorders are related to asexuality.  I’m going to be talking about both here, and how they impact my life and how that impact is similar in some ways, but I don’t want to give the impression that I think they’re connected to each other.  I also want to make clear that I’m speaking for myself here.

Also, this post is a bit…  venting and angry…  disordered and unfocused…  That’s by design.  This isn’t meant to be an in-depth exploration of what asexuality and ARFID are, or a detailed survey of the way people experience them.  This is about me.  And I’m angry and unfocused about this topic.

And now, the main event…

As you’re probably aware, I’m not really part of the sex fandom, as some have put it.  But you may not know that I’m also not really part of the food fandom, either.  I have something called “ARFID”, which stands for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder.  This used to be called “SED”, or Selective Eating Disorder, but I think they changed the name because it’s less about selecting food and more about avoiding it.  ARFID isn’t like one of the eating disorders you’re probably thinking of, like anorexia or bulimia, where weight or body image is at its core.  Instead, it’s more of a fear of most foods, or a sense that most foods are disgusting.  It’s not a matter of “I don’t really like tacos”, it’s more a matter of “Tacos are not food and that substance is not going anywhere near my mouth so don’t even try it.”

People with ARFID typically have a very limited range of foods they’ll eat.  And it’s not “These are my favorite things so I eat them all the time”, either.  It’s “These are the only things I am able to eat.”  Things like grilled cheese sandwiches, plain pasta, macaroni and cheese, or pizza with limited or no toppings are some common (though not universal) safe foods.  Sometimes it can even be very specific brands or restaurants, even though the foods are fundamentally similar between them.  Like, I can’t explain why, but I love Arby’s roast beef sandwiches, but a roast beef sandwich anywhere else is not gonna happen.  And it’s not always about taste.  It can be about texture or presentation or some inexplicable aura of loathing.  For instance, I can eat orange flavored candy and drink orange juice (no pulp), but if I try to eat an actual orange slice, my body will physically shut down in response.  Rationally, I know that it tastes like orange, and I can tolerate the taste of orange (not my favorite, but it’s doable), but when I get in that situation, OH HELL NO AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN.  And then I have no problem eating apples.

So, what does this have to do with asexuality?  Well…  Nothing.  And everything.

Sex and food are two pillars that society constantly swirls around.  They form the basis for the enjoyment of life for many people.  Often the two are intermingled in some way (see: Hooters).  And both of them are things that I am not into and that I cannot understand other people’s obsession with.  But that means that I can see similarities between them, how society looks at them, and how other people treat aces and people with ARFID.  That’s what this post is going to explore.

“Just try it!  Maybe you’ll like it!”

This phrase is the bane of aces and … um … ARFIDers?  When I talk about this in regards to asexuality, I usually make some comment about Green Eggs and Ham.  In fact, my copy of Green Eggs and Ham is in with the asexuality books on my bookshelf for this very reason.  But in the context of ARFID, that literally is what the plot of that book is about.  Some guy does not want to eat something disgusting and gets harassed by a stranger for over 50 pages about it.

Me, when it involves food.

The worst part about the book is that at the end, he tries the green eggs and ham and he likes them and starts eating it on boats with goats.  And so everyone thinks that’s how it works.  You just try something strange and alien and you discover how fabulous it really is, and then you go around holding up signs and riding vaguely dog-like creatures and shouting at people just trying to read the newspaper about how wonderful this thing you tried is.  And you shove it in their face to convince them how great it is.  But that’s not how it works.  That’s not how it ever works.

When I tried sex, I found it mostly boring and dull.  It wasn’t some earth-rattling, life-changing transformative experience.  It was repetitive, I had an orgasm, and what’s the big deal?  Trying it didn’t make me like it, and certainly didn’t make me want to ride around on a dog-thing and shout at people about how great it is.  But when it comes to food, it is a totally different story.  New food is a nightmare.  Always.  It never works out.  The process is something like this:

  1. Inexplicably decide that Food Item X is something I might actually be able to eat, despite all past experiences to the contrary.
  2. Food Item X sits in my freezer for weeks while I work up the courage to give it a go.  50% of new items stay at this stage until there’s an annual freezer cleaning and they get thrown out without being opened.
  3. I tentatively prepare Food Item X, according to its instructions.
  4. Food Item almost always looks or smells repulsive in some way and I wonder what in the hell I’m doing.
  5. I get the appropriate utensil and use it to acquire a small portion of Food Item X.
  6. I stare at the small portion of Food Item X on the utensil.  I am paralyzed, unable to move.  I typically remain in this state for ten minutes.  50% of the items which have made it this far are discarded at this point.
  7. I eventually work up the nerve and overcome the paralysis just enough to try tasting Food Item X.
  8. Food Item X is as terrible as expected.  100% of the items which reach this phase are discarded.
  9. I feel terrible for wasting that food.
  10. I feel terrible for wasting the time and energy to prepare that food.
  11. I feel terrible for having to waste more time and energy to prepare something else that I can eat.
  12. I feel terrible for generally being a failure of a carbon-based biological engine.
  13. And, in some cases, I feel physically terrible because Food Item X made me physically ill in some way.  Sometimes for hours.

That is what happens when I “just try it”.  EVERY.  DAMN.  TIME.  So fuck you, Sam I Am.  Take your signs and your weird dog thing and leave me the hell alone.

“You’re missing out!”

No.  No, I’m not.

You might think that sushi is the best thing since sex or that sex is the best thing since sushi, and that there’s no way my life can be complete unless I enjoy those things equally as much as you do.  But I assure you, I am not missing out on either sex or sushi.  I’m not interested in those things.

We do not all have to have the same preferences.  I really enjoy playing Rayman 2 for the Nintendo 64, but at the same time, I can accept that you might be living a happy and fulfilled life even if you haven’t played it.  If you express an interest in video games, I might suggest that you play it.  But if you tell me that you’re not interested in video games or that 3D games make you sick, I’m not going to insist that you are missing out on a fundamental piece of the human experience if you don’t play it.

So you keep your sex and your sushi and I’ll keep my Rayman 2, deal?

“It’s Just A Phase”

One of the more common dismissals of both asexuality and ARFID is that “it’s just a phase”.  “You’ll grow out of it.”  The idea being that pretty much everyone isn’t interested in sex or is a picky eater when they’re a kid, and that everyone will grow into a fully-developed, sex-loving, haggis-eating adult in time.

I’m pretty sure I’m old enough to know that I’m not going to start craving sexy times or Thai curry any time soon.  And you should probably believe me about that.

The insidious corollary to this is that it makes people like me out to be immature and childish and objects of worthy of ridicule.

“Well, I Don’t Like XYZ Sometimes, Either”

People use this line about both sex and eating.  Sometimes it’s a matter of dismissal, a way of saying “Oh, everyone’s like that, you don’t need a word for it”.  Those people can just go stand on an anthill.  I’m not going to waste time talking about what’s wrong with that kind of thinking.  But sometimes it’s a matter of attempted sympathy, like they’re saying “well, I understand where you’re coming from, because I’m like that, too.”

Except…  No, you don’t understand me.

You think sex with your husband is boring once in a while.  Great.  That doesn’t mean you understand what it’s like to be constantly bombarded with messages about how great sex is and how everyone loves it and should do it all the time and end up feeling broken because you can’t relate to that at all.

You don’t like lasagna.  Great.  That doesn’t mean you understand what it’s like to be hungry because you’re on vacation and there is literally nothing you are capable of eating at any of the restaurants in the town you’re in.

Pretty much everyone has food that they find disgusting and refuse to eat.  (In fact, most people have a very limited diet, compared to what’s available in the world.)  Pretty much everyone has some sexual act that they’re not into.  (In fact, the majority of people automatically rule out about half of the sexual activities they could take part in, right off the bat.)  But that’s not what ARFID is.  That’s not what asexuality is.  It’s not a “some of the time” thing, it’s an “all of the time” thing.

Unless you’re asexual or unless you have ARFID, no, you don’t understand me.  So spare me the “I’m like that, too” nonsense.

“You Can’t Be, Because…”

You can’t be asexual because you masturbate!  You can’t have ARFID because you eat Doritos!  You can’t be asexual because you’ve had sex!  You can’t have ARFID because you’ve had poutine!

Gotcha gatekeeping bullshit isn’t limited to just talking about sex or just talking about eating.  I get it from both sides!  People who don’t understand what something is have a way of deciding that they’re experts on a subject and feel that they need to tell me that my existence is wrong because they Know Better™.

Social Situations

Both ARFID and asexuality impact my life when it comes to social situations.

Is she flirting with me?  How do I explain how I am?

Are they going to suggest dinner?  How do I explain how I am?

The conversation has turned to sex.  Do I have to come out and explain how I am?

The server has come by and I didn’t order anything.  Do I have to come out and explain how I am?

It’s hanging out there.  Everyone can see it.  I’m withdrawn.  I’m hiding that I’m broken.  Is it safe to tell them?

Because sex is largely a taboo subject, it doesn’t come up nearly as often as food does, and that means that I’m not subjected to the same relentless taunting that I get about my eating habits.  People seem to take my pulling back from conversations about sex as some sort of personal or religious objection to the topic, and they leave it alone.  But when it comes to eating, it’s open season.  “We’ll go somewhere they have grilled cheese for you.”  “Oh look, they have cheese pizza here.”  “Should we ask for the kids menu?”  For some people, this is the only conversation they ever have with me.  Let’s all point and laugh at the eating disorder!  Fuck you, dude.

If your boss mocks you for a lack of interest in sex, you can file a complaint with HR and hopefully have that taken care of.  But if your boss mocks you for an insufficiently varied diet by their standards, all you can do is laugh along through the pain.

My eating habits were also a source of extensive friction with my ex-girlfriend.  I remember once she told me that she was sad that if she married me that she’d never have Vietnamese food again.  So not only was I depriving her of sex, I was also depriving her of pho.  Way to make me feel doubly worthless.

All this can tie back into the DSM, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (basically the psychiatrist’s bible).  One of the diagnostic criteria for ARFID is “Marked Interference With Psychosocial Functioning“.  One of the diagnostic criteria for MHSDD is “Clinically Significant Distress“.  You could say that ARFID has caused “marked interference with psychosocial functioning”, sure.  And you could say that in the past, asexuality has caused “clinically significant distress”.  But you know what?  Most of that interference and distress has had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the fact that people around me are assholes about it once they find out.

(And yeah, MHSDD is not asexuality, but that’s a different story…)

Alienation

Asexuality and ARFID share a sense of loneliness, of isolation, of brokenness, of being the only person like that in the world.  No one understands you, there’s no way to explain it, you just don’t fit in anywhere, and trying to fit into the world at large is awkward.  I’ve only met one other asexual in the wild, outside of ace-specific gatherings.  And I’ve never met someone else with ARFID.  I’m constantly on the lookout for others like me in the world, to know I’m not alone.  I cling tightly to stories like Tim Gunn’s three decades of celibacy or Anderson Cooper’s encounters with pretty much any kind of food, desperately hoping that they are like me, that they understand, that I’m not the only one.

Cultural Prevalence

Much has been written about pointless, gratuitous sex scenes appear in practically every movie or TV show.  Well, food does the same thing sometimes.  Don’t believe me?  Watch pretty much any travel show.  Do they focus on the beautiful scenery and quaint villages and all the landmarks and vista points that I should be sure to see?  No.  It’s smug assholes like Anthony Bourdain telling me that I’m practically inhuman if I don’t want to wander the planet eating Scorpion on a Stick or drinking Peruvian Spit Beer.  (And you know what?  There are places in the world that I would love to go see, but I’m afraid to go because there is a very real chance that I will actually starve to death if I try.)

And don’t get me started on “food porn”…

Missing a Permission Slip

[Content Warning: Discussion of masturbation and sex and stuff.]

Not too long ago, over on Asexual Activities, there was a discussion about aces having trouble masturbating in one way or another.  So I started writing about the problems I encountered learning how to do it.  Along the way, I realized that there was something else getting in the way that I’d never really thought about too much.  It’s always been there and the strength of it comes and goes, but it touches pretty much every interaction I have with sexuality.

I don’t feel like I have permission to have sexuality.  It doesn’t feel like it’s mine.  It’s like I stole it from someone else and I’m going to get in trouble if someone finds out that I have it.  And I’ve never read the instructions, so I have no idea how to use the thing anyway.

I know that sort of sounds like guilt or shame, but it doesn’t really feel like that’s what it is.  Guilt or shame implies that I think I’m doing something shameful or that I’m guilty of doing something wrong.  I know it’s not anything that’s wrong and I know it’s not anything that’s shameful.  It’s like one day I discovered that there was a mysterious $1000 deposit in my bank account.  It’s not mine, I don’t know where it came from.  I should tell the bank that they made a mistake, but everyone else says that they got the same mysterious deposit, and they’re going around spending it, with the bank’s blessing.  But I don’t know what to spend it on and it doesn’t really belong to me, so I keep it in the account.  I check on it once in a while, and it’s always still there.

Let’s start by getting some terminology out of the way.  I’m not using “sexuality” as a synonym for sexual orientation.  I am asexual, and that’s not in doubt.  It’s likely even a large contributor to why I feel this way.  I’m using “sexuality” to refer to my feelings, thoughts, interactions, reactions related to sex and other stuff in that general neighborhood.

Now, some statements of fact which feel relevant to what I’m going to talk about:  I own a penis.  I experience physical arousal.  There are external factors which sometimes cause physical arousal.  I masturbate.  I enjoy it.  I have sex toys.  I look at porn.  I have had sex twice.  Fifteen years ago.  I live alone.  I am asexual.


When I hit puberty and first learned how to masturbate, it was something beyond top secret and fraught with peril.  Messages from all over were telling me how terrible it was.  You’ll go blind!  You’ll grow hair on your hands!  You’ll go sterile!  It’s a sin!  It was something only losers did.  My ultra-Christian neighbor from an American Taliban household even gave me a mixtape that had a Christian Punk song about how “Masturbation is artificial sex” that probably detailed the eternal fiery horrors that awaited those who went downtown.  (Fun fact:  The pervy neighbor kid mentioned in the other post?  Same guy.)  Of course, none of those messages were coming from my parents.  They never talked to me about it, but I suspect their thoughts would have been “Lock the door and clean up after”.  But those messages were so pervasive from other places that they absolutely tainted how I felt, even though I didn’t believe most of them.

And it tainted what I did.  No one could ever find out.  I would take precautions worthy of an undercover agent.  Only in the shower, where the evidence will be washed away and if someone walks in, I can say I’m just cleaning it, nothing else going on.  Eventually, that expanded to being willing to do it while sitting on the toilet, but in that case, I had to use toilet paper to wrap myself and catch every drop.  (Not sure how I was going to explain that if someone walked in…)

Either way, securely locked in the bathroom was the only place I was willing to do it for years.  On extremely rare occasions, I would grab a bit of hand lotion from the front room, but that felt like a mission behind enemy lines.  The house had to be vacant and expected to remain that way for hours if not days, all the doors were locked and checked, all the rooms were cleared, and then I’d make my move, grabbing a bit of lotion and running to the safety of the locked bathroom.  I was terrified that every milliliter of lotion was being tracked and that I’d be discovered, so I did not do this often.

Eventually, I worked up the courage to try it in my bedroom.  I think my parents were going to be gone for the weekend, and I was home alone.  I triple checked the house to make sure it was empty, closed all the curtains in the house, checked the garage to make sure their car was gone, locked all the doors, then went into my bedroom and locked that door, too.  I didn’t strip naked and get comfortable on my bed in order to have the most relaxed and pleasant experience possible.  Instead, I was kneeling in front of my bedroom window, watching the driveway through a crack in the blinds, just in case.  I kept my clothes on and did the deed through my fly.  Not only was it all wrapped up in toilet paper, I added a layer of paper towel, to be extra special sure that everything would be contained.  That happened maybe twice, total.  Too risky.

Masturbation was something I did, but not something I felt I was allowed to do.  It felt good, but it really wasn’t something I was able to enjoy, because I constantly had to be on guard or taking steps to hide the evidence.

I mention all of this, not to tell funny/embarrassing stories of my youth, but to detail how secret and forbidden I felt the whole thing was, and the lengths I felt I had to go to to conceal it.  And certainly, I’m sure that other teenagers went through the same sorts of cloak-and-dagger routine to hide what they were doing.  But some of that never left me.


Fast forward, years later.  I have my own place.  I knew by then that masturbation was common and that it didn’t cause random hair growth, etc.  It had, by then, largely turned into something I was able to enjoy.  But there were still limits.  It was still done in the shower most of the time.  I was able to occasionally work up the nerve to do it naked and relaxed in bed, but that was rare.  I lived alone.  No one would catch me, no one would know, but still, it somehow felt like the locked bathroom was the only truly private, safe place I had.

I had moved beyond using toilet paper and had discovered that various lubricants worked much better.  But those had to be purchased.  At a store.  Where I had to get them off a shelf.  Where I had to walk around the store with the item in my cart.  Where a checkout clerk had to scan them.  They are going to know.  They are going to know why I’m buying hand lotion.  They are going to know and they are going to report me.

Buying sex toys was a multi-faceted operation.  First, finding the toy involved a lot of false starts and cleared search history.  When I finally found something, it was probably a couple of weeks before I actually made the purchase.  I used a second browser and completely cleared out the history when I was done.  No one else ever used my computer, but you could never be too careful.  (Not to mention the fear that the computer would somehow glitch out and start forwarding the order receipt to everyone I knew, or that it would set a picture of the item as my wallpaper and not let me change it.)  Then, when the item arrived, it was dropped off at the leasing office, so I had to go in to pick it up.  They have x-ray eyes or the box broke open so they know somehow.  They know.  They’re all going to laugh at me and I’m going to get evicted now.  I even remember thinking that my new job would find out about it somehow and fire me.

Who did I think was going to find out my dark secret?  Why did I think it was a dark secret?  I knew there was nothing wrong with it, but why did it feel wrong?

But no, not wrong.  Not bad.  Not in itself.  It wasn’t about someone discovering that I masturbate, it was about someone discovering that I was in possession of something that didn’t belong to me.  That act, those feelings, that glimmer of sexuality, I wasn’t supposed to have that.  I could pretend that it was mine, I had learned how enough of it worked to get by, but in the end, it wasn’t mine.  And any time I tried to embrace a part of it or expand on what I knew, that put me at risk of the whole thing falling apart.  Changing routine is what gets you caught.


I’ve been talking about masturbation a lot, because that’s my primary interaction with the world of sexuality, it’s not just that I feel like this about.  Anything remotely sexual seems to set off the same alert buzzers in my head.  I remember agonizing for a month about whether or not I should stop by the Student Health Center at college to pick up a free condom, because it seemed like a good idea to know how they worked.  Even when I went to the health center a couple of times for something unrelated, I couldn’t bring myself to grab a few, because someone might see me.  For years, any sort of undressing had to be done within the protection of the locked bathroom.  I couldn’t change at the closet where all the clothes were.  If I didn’t have a towel after a shower, I would have to dart to the hall closet to get one, after carefully peeking my head out the door to make sure no one was around. Sleeping in the nude was right out.  Hell, sleeping in anything less than full clothes on even the hottest nights wasn’t something I felt I could do.  (And this is all when I lived alone in my own apartment and there was no reasonable expectation that anyone would be there.)  Whenever coworkers or friends talk about sex, I tend to shut off and pull back into my shell.  Certain types of sex scenes in movies make me uncomfortable to watch.  Beaches in Hawaii were unpleasant because of the amount of skin present.


While things have changed and gotten better over the years, this still comes up even today.  I rarely go downstairs in my house unless I’m fully dressed.  I still think that the mail carrier and neighbors will know what’s in certain packages I get, or that some package thief will grab one and blackmail me over what’s inside.  Any book that’s remotely sex related (Even a general anatomy reference guide) doesn’t get put on the bookshelf, it gets hidden.  So does any movie with “too much sex” in it.  I’ll clear my clipboard if I ever copy/paste something remotely sexual.  I’ll hide the hand lotion whenever someone comes over.  Sex toys are removed from the closed cabinet in the headboard (that no visitor would ever open) and hidden in the closet.  I even feel weird about having a box of tissues near my bed, because of the potential association it might have, even though I really do only use them to blow my nose.  And I’ll censor what I talk about or feel weird about posting on Asexual Activities, even though that was deliberately designed to be an uncensored place to talk about those sorts of things.

And it’s not a general “Sex is bad, run away” reaction, either.  When I’m in a scenario where I have permission, where sexuality is expected, it’s fine.  When I had a girlfriend, we did sexual things.  I was awkward and I had no idea what I was doing really, but I didn’t feel like I shouldn’t be doing any of it.  At work, I had to test the adult filter settings on a service we ran, which basically meant searching for porn all day and making sure that the nudie pics showed up in the results or were blocked, depending on the settings.  That was just doing my job.  And I can dive in and research all sorts of random things for people who have questions on Asexual Activities, without any issues at all.  But if I want to know about those things personally, I get a bit nervous.

So, what’s going on?  Why do I feel this way?  Why do I have so many blocks and caution signs put up around so many expressions of sexuality, even when they’re completely private?  Well, the two broad areas that I think are coming into play here are society’s views on masturbation (specifically male masturbation) and the fact that I’m asexual, and the way those two things interact.


Society basically requires men to masturbate.  If you don’t, you’ll be a two pump chump, your balls will fill up and explode, you’ll become a slobbering ball of horniness, and you’ll get cancer.  But masturbation is only permitted in very specific scenarios.  It must only be done when there isn’t a suitable partner available, and when it is done, it must be done while fantasizing about an acceptable person.  And regardless, you’ll be mocked and ridiculed for doing it.  You’re a pervy loser who can’t get laid.

Masturbation is seen as a replacement for “real” sex.  You’re not supposed to do it if real sex is available.  If you are forced to do it, due to a lack of real sex, you must be imagining having real sex with someone while you do it.  It is not to be done within the context of a relationship, unless it somehow involves your partner, because the involvement of your partner allows you to claim that you’re doing it for them.  It’s never permitted to be pursued in its own right, it must always be a substitute, never the main event, and any pleasure you take from it must be surrogate pleasure that’s being provided on behalf of your fantasy.

You can use porn to help, but not too much of it or the wrong kind of it.  Oh, and by the way, any amount is too much and any kind is the wrong kind.  Possession of nudity in all forms makes you a pervy loser worthy of mocking and ridicule.  (Unless it’s an oil painting, a sculpture, or soft-focus photograph, then that’s art and therefore perfectly acceptable.  But you’re not permitted to be aroused by that in any way.)

Sex toys are an absolute no when you’re alone.  If you’re a pervy loser for masturbating, you’re an especially pervy loser if you use a toy.  If you’re using a toy, you’ve given up hope of ever getting “real sex”, so you’re trying to find a second-rate simulation with a sleazy blow up doll.  You’re so perverted that you’d rather fuck a rubber pussy than use your hand.  And if the toy gets you off, you must have the hots for an inanimate object.  It doesn’t help that sex toys for men have a stigma of being creepy and weird (likely because so many of them actually are creepy and weird).

And finally, look at how it’s portrayed and discussed.  If it’s ever brought up in a movie or a TV show, it’s a punchline.  When it’s mentioned in the news, it’s universally negative.  It’s a peeper at a window, a creeper in the bushes at the park, or a movie executive abusing his position.  It’s never a positive sexual health piece about how it’s normal and safe and fun and here’s these awesome toys to try.  There are dozens of examples of where masturbation for women is held up as an empowering act, an important skill to learn.  Hell, there’s one movie where it literally brings color to a dull black and white town, with so much energy that it sets a tree on fire.  But when it’s a man involved, he’s invariably a dirty, pervy overly horny creep who can’t control himself.

 

That sort of constant stream of negative messages will really mess you up.


Being asexual adds a number of complicating layers on top of an already complicated situation.

I mentioned earlier that I felt like I didn’t have permission to have sexuality.  Well, a huge part of that is that it feels like my own body never gave me permission.  It physically responds when prompted, yes, but that’s all mechanical.  It seems like other people will start to become interested in sexual things, and think “Am I allowed to do this?  Do I have permission?”, and their body will respond with a resounding, hormone charged “YES”.  Yes, you have permission to think you’d like to have sex with that person, in fact, why don’t you think about that when you touch yourself and it’ll make the whole thing better.  My body doesn’t do that.  My body’s all “What are you on about?  I don’t understand what’s going on here.  Do you need something?”

Sexuality in our culture is supposed to be directed at someone.  You can only wear “sexy” clothes when you’re trying to attract someone, not because you like how they look or because they’re comfortable on a hot day.  You can only masturbate if you’re fantasizing about someone and you’re treating it as practice for the “real sex” you’d rather have, not because you just want to get off.  You can only have sex because you find someone attractive and want to share a moment with them, not because you just like the way orgasms feel when they’re provided by someone else.   Your sexuality is never really yours.  Even when it’s entirely in your imagination and private, there’s a part of it that’s directed outward, and it’s that part that makes it acceptable.  But I can never do that.  I can’t include anyone else.  My sexuality isn’t directed at anyone, my asexuality won’t let that happen.  My sexuality can never be acceptable.

And when an expression of sexuality isn’t directed outward, it’s treated as if there’s something being hidden.   Touching yourself while imagining being with your partner, that’s fine.  Jacking off to nudie pics, that’s fine.  Pleasuring yourself to a fantasy about the person that was in front of you at the coffee shop that morning, that’s fine.   Using a toy supposedly modeled on a porn star, that’s fine.  But masturbating to nothing?  Well, come on now, you just can’t do that.  What are you thinking about?  If you can’t say, then just what kind of dark, depraved secrets are you hiding?

I can’t even look at porn right.  Porn is supposed to be fantasy fuel.  I’m supposed to want to be there, I’m supposed to put myself in the scene, I’m supposed to imagine what I’d do with the person featured.  Everything is supposed to be a stand-in for my penis.  The cock on that guy is supposed to be mine.  That toy is supposed to be my disembodied penis.  Those fingers, are they supposed to be my fingers or my penis?  I can never tell.  And if there isn’t a surrogate penis in the scene, then I’m supposed to mentally introduce my own into the picture.  Every shot, every angle, every position, they’re all designed to indicate that the surrogate cock or imaginary penis is being worked on.  That seems to be how everyone looks at porn.  That’s why that sort of porn is so prevalent, that’s how everyone describes their reaction to it, that’s even how people frame their objections to pornography, that it encourages lustful thoughts, because you’re imagining committing adultery and/or fornication.

But that’s not what it does for me.  I never picture myself in the scene.  I never teleport my penis onto another body or into the plastic shell of a toy.  That doesn’t work for me.  That sort of emphasis is dull and boring and leaves me confused, wondering whether people really like that sort of thing.  This is supposed to be a turn on?  That’s supposed to be hot?  Doesn’t that chafe?  Isn’t that tiring?  I’m pretty sure I can’t bend that way.  For most people, porn is a way for them to explore their sexuality, to let their fantasies wander.  But for me, it’s a big wall.  My body and my mind are just standing there saying “Nope, you don’t belong here.”  I don’t have permission.

(And honestly, even when it’s a video I’ve taken of myself, I can’t put myself in the scene…)

That’s not to say porn never works at all.  It does.  Sometimes.  Rarely.  It’s best when the performers seem to genuinely be having a good time, doing things they actually want to be doing, instead of trudging through a script for the camera.  My response feels more empathetic than sexual.  They seem to be having a good time, doing things that feel good, so I can have a good time, doing things that feel good.  But a lot of pictures and videos have to be clicked past to get to that sort of thing, and all that clicking and clicking feels like a chore, especially when I know that almost all of what I’m clicking past is going to be more than adequate for other people.

And I seem to be repulsed by the stereotypical “porn star” look.  I don’t know if it’s the glossy fakeness of it all, or the overt, deliberate sexuality of it all, but something about it is a quick ticket to the land of “nope”.  It’s not appealing and I don’t even remotely understand what is supposed to be appealing about it.

There are some people who I find pleasant to look at, but pretty much none of them would be considered “sexy” by a jury of my peers.  And while it’s pleasant to look at them, it’s not a sexual pleasantness.  Sex isn’t in the picture.  If I try to fantasize about doing things with them, it all falls apart.  In the rare event that there’s someone in porn that I find pleasant to look at, that certainly helps things, but I don’t understand why.  I don’t think it’s anything about the pleasantness that’s subconsciously sexually enticing to me, because if that were the case, I’d be able to get the same enhancement by thinking about someone I find pleasant to look at that’s not in a pornographic context, but that doesn’t work at all.  Maybe it’s that because it’s pleasant to look at them, I’m able to look at the images for a longer period of time without getting bored?  Maybe I feel more comfortable?  I don’t know, but the whole thing feels like there’s some sort of neuron in my brain that would normally be responsible for sexual attraction, but it’s confused and not wired up correctly, so it just spends its time taunting me.  It’s arousing, but why?

The world of sex toys was not made for asexuals in mind.  So much of it is driven by fantasy and an attempt to convince someone that it’s fine to use sex toys.  It’s not a rubber tube that’s getting you off, it’s an anthropomorphized rubber replica of some porn star’s anatomy of choice, and so therefore, it’s really her that’s getting you off.   Here are some direct quotes from the marketing of a few sex toys:

“Ever wondered what it would be like to bone me? Now you can screw me in the nastiest ways!”

“Let her love tunnel’s ribbed Cyberskin grip you so good as you slide home.”

“Flip this cheerbabe over and dive under her skirt for some steamy anal play!”

“Stop dreaming about your hot neighbor… and start doing everything you’ve fantasized about with her!”

To be clear, these were talking about 4-6 inch long rubber tubes.  It wasn’t hard to find marketing copy like this.  Pretty much every toy has something like it.  That sort of thing does not enhance the experience for me at all.  It just feels creepy and sleazy and misogynistic and makes me less interested in the product.  Does that sort of thing even work for non-ace people, or are they just as skeeved out by it?

Most toys have some sort of anatomical features.  Most common are labia, to resemble a vulva.  But there’s also mouths and butts and breasts and feet.  There’s even some that have mouth-breasts and foot-vulvas.  Some toys claim to have a G-Spot or a cervix, neither of which ever resembles those actual structures.  (Anatomy lesson for sex-toy makers:  The cervix does not get penetrated during sex and it would likely be excruciatingly painful if that happened.)  And for the more adventurous, there’s double-clitted aliens, zombie mouths, dragon cocks and mare vulvas.  But whatever features they have, they all have a few things in common:  They can’t be seen when the toy is in use, they have little to no effect on the sensations of the toy, and they usually drive up the price of the toy for no reason.

And even non-anatomical toys aren’t very ace friendly.  One toy mentions that it’s great for use with a partner, another that its open ended design allows “added oral thrills” with a partner, another has product photos where it’s placed on a naked woman.  And pretty much any toy that doesn’t look like a vulva is sold as a “blow job simulator”.  When you try to buy a toy, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some sort of genital depiction somewhere in the storefront.  If you look up lists of the best sex toys of men or look at male sex toy review sites, it’s pretty much guaranteed that cock rings and vibrators will be on the list, and it’s always about how “you’ll drive her wild” when you use them.  All of that is useless to me.  There’s never anything about the softness or stretchiness of the toy.  Dimensions are rarely mentioned.  There’s never anything about how a ring changes sensations or how to effectively use a Magic Wand style vibrator on a penis.  (I’m still trying to figure that last one out…  Nothing I’ve tried is reliable.)

I masturbate because I like the way it feels.  I use sex toys because I like the way they feel.  It’s all about the physical feelings.  It’s not about cleaning the pipes or about practicing for the Real Thing™.  It feels good.  Almost everyone else does it because it feels good, too, but no one’s allowed to admit it.  So they pile up a wall of excuses and rationalizations made up of desires and fantasies and imaginary health concerns to justify it and protect themselves from having to admit that they do it because it feels good, because that would be wrong.  And I don’t have any of those desires and fantasies, I don’t have anything besides the way it feels, so I’m all I’m left with is the feeling that it’s wrong.

And because I’m ace, I feel like I can’t talk about these things.  In a non-ace context, everything about sexuality is foreign to me.  I don’t understand the feelings, motivations, or goals that are in play.  If I try to read about masturbation techniques or look at sex toy reviews, it usually ends up with someone talking about how they just thought about “the girl from the bar I fucked last week” or that the toy “feels just like a blow job”, neither of which is remotely useful for me.  Every once in a while there’s something I understand, but it’s buried under an overwhelming mountain of stuff that just fundamentally does not make sense to me.  And in an ace context, these things just don’t get discussed.  All of these things are “sexual”, therefore they can’t be associated with an asexual person.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they think it makes them “less asexual” to do it.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they’re not comfortable talking in a semi-public arena about such things.  Some aces are reluctant to talk about it because they don’t want to offend or alienate other aces.  When I talk about it, and there’s little response, I can’t tell if no one’s paying attention, no one understands what I’m saying, no one feels comfortable talking about it themselves, or if what I’m talking about or the way I’m talking about it is dirty, pervy, and creepy, so it drives people away.  So I feel like I’m not allowed to talk about any of it, even in the place that I created to talk about it.

 

There’s no place where the way I feel is allowed to exist.


What if I’m not averse to sex, but averse to sexuality?  And not because it’s gross or disgusting, but because I can’t understand it.  Maybe I feel like I don’t have permission because none of it makes sense, so it’s obviously not something I’m supposed to be a part of.  It’s like I snuck into the field trip for the wrong class and we’re all at the planetarium of naked people, but asstronomy was never covered in my class.  And it’s frustrating that I don’t understand it, because everyone else knows what’s going on.  And so I play along because maybe there’s something out there which will unlock my sexuality, that somehow I’ll find my permission slip.

 


ETA:

On deeper reflection, it feels like a large part of it is that my sexuality is not typically desire-linked, yet the general cultural conception of sexuality is.  So all these desire-linked concepts are being layered on my experiences by external forces, and I’m not comfortable with that.  I’m supposed to be feeling sexual desire for someone, I’m supposed to be able to connect that desire to my actions, I’m supposed to be able to kindle that desire through surrogate objects.  But that’s not what’s going on, don’t assume that’s what’s going on, don’t make me feel like I have to correct the record, don’t make me feel like I have to play along.

This outside overlay of desire-linked sexuality on top of what I’m feeling is alien, unwanted, invasive.  I don’t really see masturbation as sexual in the way other people mean it.  And so there’s a fundamental disconnect there which I keep trying to reconcile.  It’s just something I do that feels good, but other people/society/whatever keeps trying to layer meaning on it, interject their own analysis and inferences and innuendo or whatever.

It’s not so much that I don’t have permission, it’s that in a fundamental way I don’t recognize the concept of sexuality as it exists for most other people.  They’re using a different file format for sexuality, and I’m incompatible with it.  I don’t know what to do with the data being passed to me and just end up throwing a bunch of internal exceptions.