My beetle is an elephant

This post was cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.  Yes, I finally found a way to pass off straight-up analytic philosophy as ace blogging.

Sciatrix once created an influential metaphor for attraction: it’s like everyone has an invisible elephant that only they can see.  These invisible elephants are apparently very important in society, but hardly anyone can be bothered to describe them because it’s assumed that everyone has their own elephant and can see for themselves.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, once described a thought experiment: Suppose that everyone has a box with a “beetle” inside it, but each person can only see their own “beetle”.  Wittgenstein argues that when we talk about “beetles”, we are only referring to that which is in the box.  It doesn’t matter if the boxes actually contain different things, or if the things change over time, or if the boxes are actually empty.  (watch this video)

That feeling when philosophical thought experiments become directly applicable to your daily life.

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SJWs, and those who mock them

One of my Facebook friends follows a page devoted entirely to mocking Tumblr SJWs (social justice warriors). There are many such pages on the internet, basically functioning as humor pages. I present an example purely for illustration purposes:

A5w9egCSee footnotes for transcript.1

Many people who follow such pages don’t think of themselves as opposing social justice. Rather, they oppose “SJWs”, who are supposedly a subset of social justice advocates so extreme that they cross into the absurd.

I think following these anti-SJW sites is unwise. Of course, people aren’t even trying to follow the rule of wisdom, they’re following the rule of funny.

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What is normal: An analytic approach

This post has been cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

In an earlier post, I touched on a particular problem: not only do I not conform to what is “normal”, it is far from clear what “normal” is, or if “normal” even exists.

I think this is particularly a problem for aces. Aces must often identify what is normal in order to resist it, but at the same time they don’t have direct experience with what is normal. If aces are too confident in their perceptions of the normal, this could lead to offensive views of allosexuals (e.g. the notion that allosexuals are constantly horny). If aces are insufficiently confident in their perceptions of the normal, this can lead to crippling self doubt. So here I outline my analytic approach to the problem.

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Evolution is an asshole

If evolution were a person, that person would an asshole. That person is literally Hitler. More than ten thousand Hitlers! Evolution wants us to be “adaptive” and “fit”, but why should I want that? Why should I want evolutionary adaptability? At best, evolutionary adaptability aligns with my interests, and at worst, adaptability amounts to cooperation with an evil and uncaring god.

So when someone suggests that being asexual or GLB isn’t evolutionarily adaptive, my response is “So what?”

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Which expectations am I confounding?

This essay was written for the Carnival of Aces, which is this month themed on “relationship stages”.  It has also been cross-posted to The Asexual Agenda.

There are strong cultural norms regarding the proper trajectory of a romantic relationship. In my mind, they start with initiation: one person asks the other person out. The couple has a few dates, and then they “go steady”, whatever that means. Eventually, they meet each other’s parents, they start living together, they get engaged, and get married.

Since these are cultural norms, you’d expect them to be everywhere. You’d expect to find lots of popular articles describing them as the way “all” relationships work. But when I recently searched “relationship stages”, I found something different.

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Beyond character representation in video games

I’m lucky that the Queerness and Games Conference is right by where I live, and has many fascinating talks on the subjects of queer theory, games studies, and game design.

QGCon logo

A major theme at the conference is the idea of going beyond mere character representation.  That is, a queer game doesn’t just mean having a character who is queer, or giving the player the choice of who to romance.  It could be about having queer themes, such as the theme of rebelling against the status quo.

Of course, me being me, I have a rather different style of thinking from most people at QGCon.  At QGCon, no one ever voices disagreement, and everyone is happy and constructive.  Who would ever want to discourage all these awesome but anxious creators by saying anything even mildly critical? But personally, I don’t feel like I have properly engaged in any subject until I have cast a critical eye upon it, and listed its disadvantages.  So this is the critical discussion of non-character representation that I wish I heard.
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A theory about queer/ace politics

The politics of whether aces “count” as queer is a tiresome subject for many people in the ace blogging community.  People have been arguing about it since 2012.  And you can’t treat it as a dry factual question, because it’s very emotional and raw.  It’s not just a linguistic debate about the definition of “queer”, it’s about whether people acknowledge our lived experiences, or dismiss them as if we’re straight people trying to downplay our privileges.

But I have a different perspective, having participated in these arguments since before 2012.  To me, these are not the same tiresome arguments we’ve been having forever.  The arguments have changed.  They are completely different from how they used to be.  And I have a theory why. Continue reading

Hear me on Bi Any Means podcast

Trav Mamone, who is a blogger for Queereka, interviewed me for their podcast, Bi Any Means.  The podcast is about the intersection of humanism and social justice, and the interview was primarily about my personal experiences as an ace and atheist.

Go listen!

I haven’t listened to the edited version of the podcast yet, and I’m afraid that I always experience dysphoria when I hear recordings of my voice.

From what I recall, my biggest regret was that I kept on using “asexual” as a synecdoche for the asexual spectrum, which is a quirk I know many people dislike.  Also, I neglected to mention demisexuality at the appropriate time.  It went pretty fast!  I look forward to the day when everybody just knows this stuff already and I don’t feel bad about any particular omission.

The Extremely Simple Model of Orientation

When it comes to models, simplicity is a value. The point of a model is not to tell you everything, but to isolate the information that you actually want to know. When people try to model human sexuality, they often undervalue simplicity, leading to such misguided attempts as the following:

Everyday-Equation
The Universal Equation Model of Orientation (TUEMO). Image borrowed from Sean Carroll.

Proponents of this model argue that they are making simplifications, and far too many. For instance, they already graciously ignore quantum gravity, under the assumption that black holes aren’t involved in most human relationships. But I say it still doesn’t go far enough. I propose a bolder simplification…

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