The Comment Section: So What? Who Cares!

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One of the most common types of negative comments were the “So What?  Who Cares!” brand of remark.  These comments are so prevalent that I’ve already written a post about why I care in response.  The essence of these comments is that asexuality isn’t anything remarkable, that there’s no point talking about it or trying to raise visibility, because “no one cares that you don’t have sex”.

Now, they’re typically not directly hostile, but they are belittling and dismissive.  What they say is that asexuality isn’t important enough to talk about, that we should all just shut up and hide in the closet our whole lives.  There’s often the implication that asexuality itself doesn’t even need to be a “thing”.

Comments such as these are usually intentionally dismissive.  They’re not innocent, supportive, “I don’t care if you’re asexual.  Whatever you are is fine by me!” comments.  Instead, they’re a direct claim that asexuality is a nothing, it’s unworthy of discussion, and talking about it is a pointless waste of time.  People who make the “Who Cares?” comments do actually care.  They have an opinion about asexuality, and they don’t like it.  If someone truly didn’t care, and didn’t see the point, they wouldn’t say anything at all.  They wouldn’t have even bothered clicking to read the article.

“Who Cares?” also tends to come with a strong dose of misrepresentation.  They’ll frequently equate asexuality to celibacy, and say that no one cares if you don’t have sex.

 

Specific Subclasses:

Don’t shove it down our throats! [#]

Examples:

  • Stop trying to force your agenda on US.
  • Don’t throw it in people’s face and no one will care.

Why these Comments are a problem:

First, it’s a strawman attack.  Instead of having an objection to some actual facet of asexuality, they are objecting to something completely made up.  There’s no forced “Two Minutes of Ace” where everyone has to stand around and watch asexual propaganda.  There aren’t any roving bands of asexual hooligans shouting gestures of platonic affection at complete strangers.  We don’t hang out on the subway handing out leaflets and berating anyone who doesn’t take one.  We’re simply not throwing asexuality in anyone’s face or forcing anything on anyone.

Second, it’s attempt to silence us by making us look excessive and unreasonable.  Just talking about how you feel isn’t some kind of assault.  Just opening up about how you navigate the world when you don’t experience sexual attraction isn’t an unreasonable intrusion into someone’s life.  Having an article written about your orientation isn’t a crime.  All we’re doing is saying, “I would like to be recognized and understood for who I am, and I’m not the only one who feels this way”.  That is not throwing something in someone’s face.

What they mean is “You’re different and I don’t like it, and I don’t like you talking about it”.  The exact same comments have been used for decades to attack gay people and religious minorities and feminists and pretty much everyone else.

How to respond:

  • Given that this is a troll-only comment, it’s probably best to avoid responding.  They’re not going to come around, and it’s such a tired and overused comment in GSRM spaces (and elsewhere) that no one is actually going to take it seriously.

Why does anyone need to label themselves?  Why can’t we all just be “human”? [#]

Examples:

  • Another label for the collectivists to place onto the scales of social justice?
  • oh for gods sake, enough with the labels. good grief
  • I don’t really see any problems with any of this but the need to define and put names on things seems kind of compulsive.

Why these comments are a problem:

Words are important.  They’re how we describe concepts.  They’re how we communicate.  I can say that I’m tall, and you understand something about me instantly.  You take that word away, and I have to fumble around for something of equivalent meaning.  “I’m greater than average height”?  Well, what’s “average height”?  And how much greater?  Not to mention that four letters has become four words.

On top of that, many identity terms are personal.  When someone says that they’re Jewish or Australian, that word is part of who they are.  It’s often deeply ingrained in how they relate to the world.  It’s a complex package of meaning in a deceptively simple container.

“Asexual” is a word that I need.  It’s a word that many others need.  For years, I had no idea what I was, what was wrong with me.  And then, one day, I found a word.  A word that described me.  A word where I belonged.  A word that meant I wasn’t broken.  If you take that away, I am lost and broken again.  Without that word, I am invisible.

To be clear, these comments aren’t people saying, “I wish we didn’t have to have labels.  I wish we could all just be ourselves.”  These are people saying “You do not need that word.  You can’t have it.”  They are attempting to dismiss and delegitimize us.

How to respond:

  • Let the person know how important it is to have a word that describes how you feel.
  • Explain that although they may not see the need for the word themselves, you, personally, need that word.
  • Explain that words are important for communication of abstract concepts.  (This response is often best delivered in full-on snark mode.)

Just don’t talk about it and it will solve all your problems! [#]

Examples:

  • Don’t tell anyone how seldom you have sex and no one will know. Boom. Instant equal standing with your fellow straight people, or gay people, or bi people who have lots of sex.
  • But why talk about it if you’re asexual? And open yourself up to discrimination?
  • Keep it to yourself and it will be a non-factor in your relationships.
  • If you keep who you are to yourself and avoid the wrong people or the wrong expressions of who you are. You shouldn’t have a problem with you are or with other people.
  • If you don’t want to have sex, don’t have sex.  If you don’t go around announcing you are broken, people are much less likely to try and fix you.
  • There’s no excuse for sexual assault for any reason, but as my Mom used to council “Why invite trouble”?
  • I’m curious – how would anyone even know unless an asexual broadcasts it?  They would look like anyone else who is “just not interested” so what provokes the corrective rape?

Why these comments are a problem:

In some sense, these comments boil down to “shut up and go away”.  The people who say this sort of thing aren’t that far away from the “Don’t shove it down our throats!” people mentioned above.  Someone in this camp often will pretend to be more interested in your welfare, but generally, they’re far more interested in keeping you quiet.

In another, far more disturbing sense, these comments are victim blaming.  Whatever bad things happened to you as a result of being asexual, well, you brought them on yourself because you told someone you’re asexual.  Discriminated against?  Well, you shouldn’t have talked about it.  Someone try to “fix” you?  Well, you shouldn’t have announced it.  Were you raped?  Well, what did you think would happen when you went and broadcasted that you’re asexual?

It is not your fault.  You did nothing wrong.  If someone did something to you after you told them you were asexual, they are the ones to blame, they are the ones who did something wrong.  You should not have to hide who you are out of fear of how anyone else will react, and you are not responsible for how they react.

These sorts of comments also incorrectly assume that it’s possible to avoid any kind of issue related to your asexuality, if you just shut up and stay in the closet.  That’s simply not the case.  Problems can crop up whether or not you mention asexuality.  People who make this claim seem to believe that no one ever talks about sex under any circumstances outside of a bedroom.  They completely ignore the potential for awkwardness, exclusion, or even hostility that may arise if someone does not adequately take part in a sexualized discussion.

How to respond:

  • Call out the victim blaming.
  • Talk about problems you’ve encountered because you remained silent about asexuality or withdrew from a conversation about sex because you were asexual.
  • Explain why you need to talk about asexuality and all the benefits you’ve gotten from talking about it.

Why do you need a community about not having sex? [#]

Examples:

  • this asexual stuff annoys me. how can you be a “community” of people who DONT do something. its a bit ridiculous. i dont do indoor wall climbing. im looking to join a club of non indoor wall climbers. its silly
  • If someone chooses not to have sex, that is their prerogative, but are they really a “group”? 
  • I don’t get why this is a thing. Some people aren’t interested in the weather, either.

Why these comments are a problem:

People who question the need for an asexual community invariably try to reduce asexuality to “Not Having Sex”, so they’re flat out wrong to begin with.  Keep in mind that these people cannot be classified as uninformed about asexuality.  In order to click to post a comment, they had to scroll past an article on the subject.  An article that almost certainly stated how asexuality is different than “Not Having Sex”.

From there, they try to minimize or erase any issues that we might face as being absurd, often making a remark like “I don’t knit sweaters, should I start a group for people who don’t knit sweaters?” (Or something equally silly.)  This is an attempt to make us look petty and unreasonable for wanting to talk about ourselves and the issues we face with other people facing similar issues.  They often try to say that not having sex or not being interested in sex isn’t a big deal, that it won’t impact how you live your life or interact with others.  They completely miss how pervasive sex and sexuality are in everyday life, and therefore completely miss how living outside that bubble can affect virtually everything, from trying to find love to watching TV, from interacting with friends and coworkers to going to the doctor.

And underlying all of it is the bizarre misconception that it is fundamentally impossible for people to find a community with others based on something they don’t do.  Apparently, they’ve never heard of vegans, atheists, or people who are straight edge.

How to respond:

  • Remind the commenter that asexuality is not equivalent to “Not Having Sex”.  Directly quote from the article if possible.
  • Talk about why you need a community.  Talk about how it’s helpful to discuss how you feel with others who feel the same way.  Talk about how alienating it is to feel broken and alone because of the way you experience sex and sexuality differently from other people.

Aren’t there more important things to talk about? [#]

Examples:

  • Why do people have to “join” or “celebrate” any type of sexuality?  Just live your lives….aren’t there more important issues to be concerned with?
  • May I offer two solutions, if indeed the asexuals find themselves “harrassed” by us?  Mount Athos is one, and a Carmelite convent, another.  Let us work, in the meantime, on far more important rights.
  • Maybe if people stopped trying to shove it down other people’s throats with parades, rallies, blogs, bumper stickers, etc., we could all focus on more important things than who wants to have sex with whom. Or, in this case who doesn’t want to have sex with whom.

Why these comments are a problem:

People who say things like this are trying to make themselves the one true arbiter of what is worthy of discussion.  If you’re going to be allowed to talk about anything, you have to run it past them first.  If there’s something More Important™ to talk about, you don’t get to bring up what you want to talk about.  And because asexuality isn’t important to them, we have to shut up and go home.  This is simply another silencing tactic, designed to shut us down.

In many cases, these commenters will point to something More Important™ that needs to be discussed.  They make it seem like there’s a limited number of words that can be used, and that if you’re not talking about something More Important™, then you’re wasting those words.  They also make it seem like only one thing can be discussed at one time, and that everyone in the world must only discuss that one thing until it is resolved.  These claims are, of course, ridiculous.

By talking about asexuality, you are not making an implicit claim that it is the Most Important™ thing in the world.  You’re not restricting yourself and others to only ever talk about asexuality to the exclusion of anything else ever again.  You are simply saying that it is worth talking about, because it is worth talking about.

How to respond:

  • Talk about why talking about asexuality is important to you.
  • Remind them that the number of words is not finite.  Talking about one issue does not prevent another issue from being discussed or being considered important.
  • Remind them that just because something is not important to one person, that does not mean cannot possibly be important to anybody else.
  • Avoid comparisons or claims that say that asexuality is More Important™ than something else.

TMI!! This is too personal to talk about.  Can’t you keep it to yourselves? [#]

Examples:

  • I admit I did not read this whole article.  But just from the headline alone, I can see this is TMI.
  • Gay, straight or non-sexual, KEEP IT TO YOUSELF!  I don’t want to see it on the 5:00 O’Clock news.
  • Why does anyone have to share so much about their “personal” stuff?  Keep it to yourself and go about your business….no one needs to know.
  • What ever happened to modesty, humility and self respect?  Why do some people have such a need to air their sexuality, or lack thereof, especially if it’s outside of what’s considered “normal” by a majority of humans? 
  • Why should anyone other than the one you meet who is like minded even know that you are asexual? That’s personal business.

Why these comments are a problem:

These are just another variant of the “Don’t Shove It Down Out Throats” comments.  In this case, however, they add another layer of shame, with their faux “Oh my stars!  How dare you use those words around my pure ears?  I was almost overcome by the vapors!” protests.  They carry the implication that your identity is not fit to be seen in public.  Like many of the other comments in the “Who Cares” group, this is simply an attempt to keep us quiet.  If they were actually offended or thought that it was too much information, they would not have clicked on the article, and certainly wouldn’t have hung around for the comment section.

How to respond:

  • Ignore the claims of “TMI!”.  Those people are generally beyond hope.
  • Tell them that it is up to you to decide what is “too personal” to share with others.
  • Talk about how important asexual visibility and being open about who you are is to you and others.

Why define yourself by your sex life? [#]

Examples:

  • Why has what people do or don’t do in their sex lives become the main identifier of their personality in public?
  •  it’s weird for people to define themselves by their sexuality
  • Your sexual preference does not define who you are as a human being and shouldn’t be the focal point of your existence and primary source of your happiness.

Why these comments are a problem:

Because we don’t define ourselves by our sex lives.

How to respond:

  • Inform the commenter that you don’t define yourself by your sex life.
  • Talk about how asexuality is a part of who you are, but it is not who you are.
  • Condescendingly and snarkily, explain that in an article where asexuality is a focus, you’re obviously going to focus on asexuality, because talking about volcanic arcs related to subduction zones would be irrelevant.  Explain that’s how articles work.  Then start talking, at length, about volcanic arcs related to subduction zones.

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