Explaining Away Difference

For much of my life there has always been a major thread that I have felt links the way we feel about difference. We always want to understand it, to know why it exists but also to place it in a box that we can put it as far away from ourselves as possible. When we come across someone that is different from ourselves we have this irrational need to put labels on it. Often times this leads people into a pretty harmful discussion where we don’t accept that difference but we rationalize it away as the cause of something else, even when that isn’t the case.

I don’t talk about my sexuality often on this blog, over the past 6 years I have written about my virginity and what it means to me as well as a post about being socially acceptable. What I haven’t written about is why my sexuality is the way it is. This is something I have been thinking about in different a context this past week because of some discussions that hit a little too close to home in a class I am taking. The discussion itself centered on a certain form of sexuality and developed into a discussion about the reasons why people identify that way. What came out of it was language that has been used against me in my own life.

The last date I went on ended when the guy I was out with was told about my lack of intimate partners. His response is one that I have gotten often when people are told, “But you’re so normal.” Later via text he told me that I am ‘hyper-functional’ which were probably the harshest comments that I have ever received. Over the years people have told me how sorry they are, have tried to find a root cause for why I’m ‘damaged,’ etc. Most of the comments have centered on the idea that I should be pitied, I am mentally ill or the trauma in my past has caused it. At no point has there ever been a rational thought that maybe it just happened.  That it isn’t the cause of some strange sad horrible thing but that it just is.

Some of the most harmful discussions we can have about people who are different from us are ones where we try to pathologize or imply mental illness as the root cause. We place our own beliefs and judgments on those that are different than us because they have a different set of standards for how they live their lives. We imply that they are somehow defective, unhappy or not functional without taking the time to understand that they are people.

Some simple ground rules, don’t tell me you are sorry, don’t assume I am missing out on life, don’t act like my sexuality doesn’t exist, don’t reinforce normative standards of sexuality, and don’t assume that I have something wrong with me or that there is a cause for my sexuality. Above all else, don’t try to cure me or tell me why you think I am the way I am.

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2 thoughts on “Explaining Away Difference

  1. Good post! I am a male virgin myself. I’m wary of the virgin shaming and sexual normativity that is allowed in polite company. When it’s not directed at anyone in particular, I try to just take it in the spirit of humor, but the truth is it makes me feel uncomfortable. You’re so right about the notion of people marginalizing people’s sexuality if their virgins. It’s upsetting. I don’t usually mention my virginity to people because I’m not soliciting their opinions on my life, but I’m not ashamed of it. A person’s sexuality is as is.

    The messed up thing is that society’s tendency to stigmatize lack of sexual experience or relationship experience is that it makes it harder to find like-minded people to compare notes with. It’s cool that everyone is having sex and relationships and all, but where is the place where I can go to discuss what’s up with others who will understand? Anyway, thanks for the post.

  2. In how most Americans track things, I was a virgin until I was nearly 30. In how I tracked things, I started having orgasms with other people when I was in my late 20s. I made choices that worked well for me, and I think that’s the most important thing.

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