i don’t want to have sex

This is the first part of 2 posts on hypersexualisation within the queer scene. This part outlines a general feeling that in order to be queer, you have to be sexual and the second explores specifically attitudes around polyamory. Look out for part 2 next week!

At the moment I am reading this wonderful zine I picked up at the Zinefest Berlin this weekend. It’s called ‘Wer ‘A’ sagt, muss nicht ‘B’ sagen‘ (‘B doesn’t automatically follow from A’) and it’s about asexuality. Asexuality. A word that I have been aware of for a while – it was always included in the breakdown of queer I used to do at high school workshops on homophobia (LGBTTSIQQA, phew!) – but, to be honest, we never really addressed it. Reading about asexuality, and asexual folks touched me because it reminded me of similar thoughts I have been having about socialising in the queer community.

I don’t want to have sex. I don’t want to have a lover. I am not an asexual person, but at the moment this is how it is.

“Deciding to be single for a while has been one of the most self-loving things I have done for myself this year”

A few weeks ago a friend asked me whether I have had a lover since moving to Berlin. When I said no, she said ‘oh, that’s tragic.’ And I thought, why would you assume that it’s tragic? It’s not. Deciding to be single for a while has actually been one of the most self-loving things I have done for myself this past year. She assumed that as a ‘normal healthy queer’ I will want to have a lover and I will want to have sex.

I have spent years trying to fit in. When I was at school I spent a lot of energy trying to become part of the crowd. To have the normal style and normal opinions. Then, when I was 14, fully a teenager, I realised I didn’t want to fit in anymore. I wanted to be one of the freaks. Where I belonged. And I worried, is it too late? Have I lost my own individuality? I think I am coming to the same place in the queer community.

At a queer festival I attended this summer I was excluded from ‘the most exciting party of the week’ because it was a sex party and I don’t want to go to sex parties. I had fun decorating the sex spaces with UV reflective string, but I ended up spending the evening by myself in my bedroom. There should have been another option.

“I would like us to examine the difference between sexpositivity and feeling obliged to have sex because it’s cool”

In a community which defines itself by alternative gender and sex expressions, not wanting to have sex makes me feel like an outcast.

There is a huge pressure to have, and to want, sex all the time. This pressure is not exclusive to the queer community. I have felt it ever since I was a kid; when am I going to get my first boyfriend, when am I going to lose my virginity, when am I going to fall in love? It is a truism that we live in a hyper-sexualised society and I would like us to examine the difference between sexpositivity and feeling obliged to want/have sex because it’s cool. The question of where sex belongs in the queer community is a really interesting one. The queer community as I see it has emerged from lesbian and gay communities which historically defined themselves by the sexual desires of their members. Although our queer community is now based on alternative gender as well as sexual expressions, I imagine, non-history-major that I am, that this sexual root is where our scene today comes from.

Living in a queer community whose members are mostly girls and guys who were assigned female at birth (cis guys are in the minority at the spaces I frequent), I totally get the feminism of asserting our right to own our sexuality. We have been told that as ‘women’ we are naturally frigid, naturally monogamous. All we want to do is settle down and have babies. Erm, actually, not everyone, no.

So we have asserted our right to fuck who we want, when we want, however we want. I get where the sex positive movement has come from and I love the fact that BDSM is out of the closet, as it were. However, poly and kink and sex have become undeniably cool. And that’s where the problems start. Because it creates a hierarchy. Many queers assume that poly and kink are inherent to being queer. If you’re not into them, then you’re not queer. Not cool.

Working against such stark cultural assumptions – women are naturally frigid and monogamous – leads us to take the opposite position – we are slutty and naturally polyamorous. However, I don’t think the answer to sexist assumptions is to just flip the coin. Things are always more grey, more nuanced than that.

Now, as someone who is working some shit out, I need to not have sex or a relationship for a while. This doesn’t mean that I have lost my sexuality, rather that I am prioritising finding out other stuff about myself. I am sure that my experience is not unique. People go through less sexual times in their lives and I think it’s important that we recognise this too. Sometimes sex is not okay.

An old colleague of mine from Canada has recently been involved in an art exhibition in London called ‘The Flipside: When Sex Is Not Okay.’ They define not okay experiences as

“times when someone has felt unsafe, unable to say no, threatened, misled, or pressured into something, as well as experiences of sexual abuse or assault.  It also includes times when people have had distressing emotions or states of mind during sex – which might mean feeling dirty, guilty or ashamed; having flashbacks; or disassociating.”

Although this group is more focused on survivors of sexual assault, it does highlight that sometimes people cannot or do not want to have sex.  That sex isn’t always a positive experience. I, still, feel pressured to have sex in the same way that I felt pressured to lose my virginity when I was a teenager. I still have a hard time saying no.

The friends and acquaintances I know in the queer community seem to be fairly aware of the fact that sexual assault exists and of the need for safer spaces. Although I do not want to appropriate other people’s experiences, maybe we can extend this understanding to an awareness that some people don’t want to have sex at times for whatever reason. I am not sure how to do this but let’s put our thinking caps on. Maybe just keeping this in mind next time you ask me which sex party I am going to on Friday (where you assume that I will of course want to go to a sex party) would help.

I would really like to live in a community which recognises that my decision to be single for the next while is actually a really positive thing. That celebrates the fact that I am able to do this for myself. It takes a lot of guts to sit down here and write my personal story. But I hope that in outing myself, other people will also feel able to say, actually, I don’t want to have sex today, this year, whatever. Not everything revolves around sex.

Don’t forget to check out part 2 on polyamory next week!

a big thank you and a little self-promotion

For all of you who are new here and have followed the pages of the zine to this, my other creation, welcome! It’s great to have you here. This weekend, I and some dedicated friends staffed a Dressed Like That table at Zinefest Berlin. It was a wonderful occasion with the promised vulva cupcakes causing quite a stir (see pic below). I believe they have now gone viral on Twitter. Oh deary me, so many joke possibilities…

From the feedback I have had about the zine, most of you thought it was pretty darn awesome. With 18 kick-ass contributions, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks to all of you who bought it / traded with me and happy reading! For those of you who are monolingual and wondering how the hell you are gonna read some of the German texts, or have non-English-speaking German friends, there will be a fully bilingual edition coming out in January 2012, to premiered at our fantabulous release party. Details up here soon…

Vegan Vagalicious Cupcakes photo by Stadtpoetin (Berlin @nders)

And now for the cheeky self-promotion. Well, it is my blog so I guess I can do what I darn well please. The lovely folks from Bildwechsel have invited me to be part of the Zine Action Day in Hamburg this weekend. For those of you who don’t know, Bildwechsel in an awesome charity which promotes feminist art and artists. (For folks reading this in the UK, there is a branch in Glasgow so check that out!) Along with another zine-maker from Finland, I will be conducting a workshop slash panel discussion on sexism in the queer community. I ran a similar workshop at the Queer Festival in Copenhagen earlier this year and I fully expect this one to bring up as much food for thought. If you happen to be in this small corner of Europe, come check it out! I will also have copies of the zine up for grabs.

zine world premiere TOMORROW!

Tomorrow is the long-awaited world premiere of the Dressed Like That zine: feminine voices on sexism in the queer community/feminine Stimmen über Sexismus in der queeren Szene! Come check out the stall tomorrow, Saturday, at Zinefest Berlin. We will have beautiful, freshly-minted copies and VAGINA CUPCAKES to sink your hungry teeth into. If you are new to the zine, check out the details here: https://lipstickterrorist.wordpress.com/media/

So, here’s the lowdown
Dressed up, fancy stall with awesome ladies and vagina cupcakes
SATURDAY 26 NOVEMBER 12-7pm & SUNDAY 27 NOVEMBER 12-6pm
@Zinefest Berlin
Werkstatt der Kulturen: Wissmannstraße 23, 12049 Berlin 

For more info on the fest, check out their website.

(provisionary) zine deadline now announced!

I will be debuting the zine on sexism in the queer community at Zinefest Berlin on 26 and 27 November 2011. The zine is a collection of writing and art on sexism against femininity from feminine queers across Europe and beyond! Find out more info here.

I will be staffing a stall with freshly pressed copies of the zine for sale, along with beautiful vagina cupcakes and extravagant femme antics. Be there or be, um, straight?

Ms Laura Lipstick’s Zine Premiere

Zinefest Berlin

26- 27 November 2011

@ Werkstatt der Kulturen: Wissmannstraße 23, 12049 Berlin

Sat/ Sams 12:00 – 23:00 Sun/ Sonn 12:00 – 18:00

complicated

James had long curly brown hair and a beard – he looked like a musketeer. His curls were carefully brushed out and fluffy, longer than most people’s hair; well onto his chest. Once he flicked it in an affected way back over his shoulder. I had consciously avoided doing this with my hair when it was long. The girls at school and on American teen shows, with their long dyed blonde hair, used to flick it to prove how light-hearted and playful they were. I hated it. To me it was a sign of conformity, of being forced to be something that I wasn’t. A sign for boys to watch them.

James had 2 piercings, one in his ear and one in his nose, which made him look more beautiful. I assume that a man who is comfortable enough to wear a nose ring is comfortable enough in his masculinity to play with femininity a little. I like that.

Meeting James tied in with a lot of questions I have been having recently, about whether or not I am attracted to straight, cis-gendered (non-trans) men. He was certainly beautiful, and his beard made him masculine in an old-fashioned dandy way that made me expect to find an Épée in his belt. I appreciated his caustic sense of humour, which was a match for my own. He responded to my intellectual challenges with word games until we were fencing, flirting around the ideas of gender and sexuality. James had been strongly criticised, my friend Claire told me, by some of her lesbian feminist friends, for producing a dance which was orientated, as far as I understood, around BDSM and straight sexuality. James and I talked about whether a ‘mostly straight, mostly cis-gendered’ man could understand the feminism that comes from living, or having presented, as a woman. That maybe he was also overcriticised because he was a straight man – that these women wanted to attack him for making any kind of sexual performance that involved both a man and a woman.

Such conversations as these remind me of the complicated nature of things. Of everything. I am standing here, talking to a man I have just met, flirting as a lesbian with a man who has a girlfriend. Flirting as a feminist with a man who has been called misogynist and who I think is really lovely. The world turns on such delicate axes.

An older man walks into our conversation, pushing past James to the bar, suddenly coming into my field of view. He is dressed in normal, scruffy clothes and looks completely out of place, like he has wandered off the street into this party which is trying to convey an atmosphere of sexual decadence. James makes a face. Both of us are annoyed by this typical intrusion by a seemingly-straight, white guy into our personal space. The intervention of the sexist, again, in our safe haven. The man takes up so much space at the bar, it’s as though he is asking us to challenge him. He stares at us. I step backwards to let James come forwards and move out of the other man’s aura. James flicks his hair back in a diva move that says, eurgh, thank God we got rid of him! And I think, does he really get it, this straight German guy? Does he really feel what I am feeling? Acknowledging the different dynamic, the intrusion of the sexist into this party. And do I, a lesbian, really want to fence, flirt, fuck this man or is it only a game to me? A game of intellect and power? It’s so hard to tell. It’s complicated.