Diversity & Media

(A)Sexuality and Queerness

The documentaries we viewed this week were about sexualities, and how people identify based on their sexual orientation, whether it be lack of a sexual expression or activity, as in (A)Sexual, or the object of their sexual drive and attraction, as with Married to the Eiffel Tower. Both of these concepts, asexuality and objectumsexuality, are things that I have very little experience with or knowledge on, and so the documentaries were compelling while also being helpful in the sense that I was able to learn more about these topics. In relation to this class, part of what I found so interesting about (A)Sexual was the varying opinions and perspectives about sexuality from the individuals interviewed and followed by the documentary. Two of the portions that still stand out to me after viewing are the scene where the AVEN group attends San Fransisco Pride, and another where the potential connections between asexuality and autism spectrum disorders, such as Asperger’s, is discussed and debated by various documentary participants. I choose these two moments as standouts from the film and discussion points for this blog because of their importance to the overall discussion of asexuality, and especially because of their relation to queerness and the queer community– an exercise in intersectionality within this realm of identity “politics” (if you will).

Cohen describes queer as: “multi-sited resistance to systems (based on dominant constructions of race and gender) that seek to normalize our sexuality, exploit our labor, and constrain our visibility; potential of queerness to challenge and bring together all those deemed marginal and all those committed to liberatory politics”. Through this understanding, and within the context of (A)Sexual especially, what stands out to me in this definition is the last part: “potential of queerness to challenge and bring together all those deemed marginal and all those committed to liberatory politics”. I believe that AVEN’s involvement in the pride parade illustrates this point quite well. Although I do find some validity in the perspective of some of the comments made in the film about the lack of oppression faced by the asexual community, I’m not sure if that means that AVEN didn’t deserve a spot to walk with everyone else in the parade. It’s true that the film showed some of the more confrontational moments at the parade, but most people responded with a form of “Asexuals rock!” or, “Good for asexuals, happy pride!” While these are positives, and I believe the group’s motivation for attending was a solidarity and standing together of a whole queer community (although some reject or question their involvement or activity in the queer community)– point again to Cohen’s potentialities of this organizing. 

Aside from class readings, I think that the film, as with Married to the Eiffel Tower, does an important thing by discussing the overlap of some individuals who are asexual and also on the autism spectrum. I am not a medical professional, and do not have experience living as an asexual or as someone on the autism spectrum, so I cannot speculate on any potential or compelling links between these two phenomenon. However, I do think that sexuality, mental health and how disorders are labelled are all important conversations, and conversations where some people are often marginalized, stigmatized, or otherwise harmed. I found the comments by the woman who has Asperger’s and is in an asexual yet committed companionship really interesting. Seeing the perspectives of these individuals, and having their voice platformed and raised up, is of the utmost importance, and prompts important conversations about what society deems as normal, and how so many aspects are judged against standards. The DSM-5, which I’ve been studying because of another class, is something that psychiatrists need to use in order to diagnose patients who are experiencing impairment in their lives because of various causes, and sexual disorders are included as well as developmental ones like autism spectrum disorders. One really important and I think really helpful thing my professor of this class emphasizes is that the DSM is often debated, and it is difficult to come to consensus on a variety of “diagnoses”. It is not an end all, be all, decision maker. People create the criteria, and this is based on normative conceptions made through culture. Diagnosis is helpful in many scenarios, for instance for people experiencing disorders such as depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia, in order to receive insurance coverage or benefits that are helpful and necessary for their everyday life. On the other hand, something my professor (and our textbook) has also pointed out, is that controversial diagnoses have been, and still are, included in the DSM- and this is something that I think requires cultural discussion, deliberation, and some kind of consensus that will help us understand what is considered normal, and when differences from this become something that is a “disorder”. I think pointing out this aspect of the film is important to highlight, just as we did in class.

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