Why I’m branching out

Another thing that motivated me to restart blogging, getting involved in the asexual blog community, and try to get back into the tumblr community was the recent realization that by spending all of my asexual community involvement on AVEN, I’ve forgotten about some less-represented viewpoints and experiences, including those that I fall under. I created, with the help of some other AVEN members, the mixed relationships pamphlet that was handed out at the asexual events at the 2014 World Pride. I wasn’t able to make it to World Pride, but I was glad I was able to contribute something to the asexuality events. From what I was told, it was pretty well-received overall, but still had its problems.

One criticism is that it prioritized able, indifferent or favorable, alloromantic asexuals over the more marginalized, which I didn’t intend. When I saw these criticisms, I regretted not asking the tumblr asexual community for input, because from having perspectives different from AVEN’s as a whole, they would’ve caught details that were overlooked, and helped my group avoid mixed messages, and unintended implications. My first response on tumblr was to give clarification to some points in the pamphlet, while asking for clarification on what others said.

Part of the problem was using the word ‘compromise’. When I first found the asexual community through tumblr, I learned that it can be a loaded term, especially for asexuals who felt pressured to push themselves into sex in a mixed relationship. This issue was going on right around the time I found the asexual community, which was 2 years ago, right around this time, but some time after joining AVEN, I forgot all about that issue. Nextstepcake’s response alludes to that major conflict between AVEN and tumblr that was happening at the time.

On the other hand, on AVEN, talking about ‘compromise’ (using that wording) in mixed relationships doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal, because there are plenty of asexual members in mixed relationships who’ve talked about it with their partners, and allosexual members in mixed relationships asking for advice on how it can work with their partners. These are mostly people who unlearned, and challenged the societal assumption that relationships are sexual and romantic by default.

The pamphlet was handed out mainly to people who are new to asexuality and mixed relationships, and these are people who may not have yet unlearned the assumptions about relationships that can pressure asexuals and/or repulsed people into sex, while their partner compromising by not having sex, isn’t seen as a possible or thought-about option. Because of that pressure, an asexual compromising by having sex, and an allosexual compromising by not having sex, aren’t equivalent. That’s something I overlooked, because from the discussions I’ve seen on AVEN, they look to be equivalent.

I understand that giving up sex as a compromise can be difficult for some allosexuals, because of what significance sex has to them, but societal expectations about relationships put more pressure on the asexual partner to compromise by having sex, and the possibility of the allosexual partner not having sex doesn’t cross a lot of peoples’ minds.

The points that were made on the pamphlet only implied that relationships shouldn’t be seen as sexual and romantic by default, but that’s not good enough. I should’ve said it outright, in order to more effectively challenge assumptions. Unlearning the societal assumptions about relationships should be the first step in navigating a mixed relationship, or any kind of relationship for that matter!

My second response on tumblr is admitting how terrible I feel about messing up the way I did. I’m sex-repulsed, voluntarily celibate, and an abuse survivor, and not a very romantic person (not aromantic, but close to it), and I’ve been in an unhealthy mixed relationship. From personal experience, I should know how difficult the topic of ‘compromise’ can be for many people in the asexual community!

How did I disregard that? I didn’t realize until it was too late that the voices of the more marginalized asexuals are still under-represented on AVEN. I thought AVEN as of 2013 and 2014 is more balanced than it was in 2012 (while in 2012, things seemed to be strongly skewed towards sexually active, sex-indifferent and favorable asexuals). Even if it is, there’s still ways to go. The more marginalized groups’ voices are still under-represented, even the sex-repulsed/averse, who make up about 55% of the asexual community!

Don’t get me wrong, I still like AVEN. I like answering questions and meeting people there. I won’t be leaving, but I realize now that I can’t have it be my only source of information on asexual community politics, because so much of it tends to be left out. I didn’t realize until recently that I had shut myself off from a large part of the asexual community. I shut myself off from a lot of under-represented viewpoints, and issues that I only thought were resolved. I shut myself off from a large portion of the under-represented groups, including those that I’m part of. No wonder why I’ve had a hard time talking about some of my experiences. I just thought I’d been feeling isolated because I consciously rejected sex (I saw it as a deliberate decision, and this is actually unusual for an asexual person), and am not originally from the asexual community.

I think that AVEN, and the asexual tumblr+blog community both have their own niches and goals, and it was a mistake for me to see my time spent on AVEN as a replacement for the time I used to spend in tumblr+blog community.

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9 thoughts on “Why I’m branching out

  1. Ace in Translation

    hi Aqua! Hooray for creating a blog! I’m looking forward to what you’re going to post next.

    You make some valid points on the differences between AVEN and Tumblr, and how only participating in one community shuts you off from different perspectives. Both communities tend to be very inward-looking, without taking much notice of what’s happening on the other side. Keeping your ear to the ground in both communities is a great way of gathering different perspectives.

    (also: I find your estimation of 2012 AVEN being very skewed towards sex-positive aces exactly how I experienced it back then)

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    1. Aqua

      Hi, and thanks!

      I’m surprised how few people are involved in both communities. I wonder why that is. Some people preferring blogs over forums, or vice-versa? Political differences between the communities? Personally, I prefer forums, because I’m more used to them, but seeing that there are a lot of advanced discussions on the blogs, but aren’t widely talked about on AVEN, I had to take the plunge and create my own WordPress blog.

      I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who remembers 2012 AVEN that way. I found AVEN circa August or September 2012, and I remember not feeling welcome there at first. I thought it was just because of the glaring terminology differences, and I took a lot of things the wrong way, which led me to think I wouldn’t be welcome there.

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      1. Ace in Translation

        I think the reasons why someone participates in one over the other, vary from person to person. I don’t mind either medium, though I love that (wordpress) blogs allow for longer posts and thus more indepth reflections. I don’t think it’s so much political differences, as cultural differences that made me take to Tumblr and the blogosphere. I like that the Tumblr community seems much more interested in discussion intersectional issues (ie. asexuality and gender/race/lgbt/etc.etc.), so I guess I joined Tumblr (and later on WordPress) for much the same reasons as you: having access to a wider varienty of indepth discussions taking place.

        Looks like we found AVEN at roughly the same time!
        Thinking about my time on AVEN in 2012 (and my burning question of that time: “but what about the relationships??”), I just had to add my own thoughts about the word “compromise”:

        “Compromise” is often framed as a key element that happens in every mixed relationship. Like everyone in a mixed relationship will have to compromise (as in “find the middle ground”, “take some, lose some”) with regards to The Sex. And because it’s usually framed as specifically and only regarding sex, “compromise” becomes a euphamism used to say “the asexual has to have sex in some shape or form to keep their non-asexual partner happy”. If that is the definition used, you can’t ever compromise if your wish is to not have sex, ever – and if it is a key element in all mixed relationships, not wanting sex equates with not being able to enter mixed relationships, at all.
        And because the only aspect of the relationship that is included in this trade-off called “compromise”, oddly enough, the non-asexual partner giving up sex isn’t usually seen as a valid way to compromise – or even seen as something which isn’t a compromise at all (after all, if only sex is part of the negotiations, you’re giving up everything, while your partner gives up nothing) . That is strange, because if you expand the definition of “compromise”, someone can give up sex, while getting other things in return. For instance, types of sensual affection which an asexual partner might not be comfortable giving when it can lead to sex.

        So yeah, all I can conclude is that compromise is a word that’s used not just regardless of the power-dynamics of an asexual dealing with the pressure to put out (as you discussed in your post), but it’s actually reinforcing those power dynamics by saying that an asexual has to put out in order to make their relationship work.
        I find it telling that in many discussions about “compromising”, the topic is not approached as a balanced discussion between two individuals, but it’s framed as “the asexual has to compromise”. Oh really? And what about the non-asexual partner? They don’t have to do any compromising?

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    2. Aqua

      It seems like I can’t reply to your latest reply, so I’ll put it here:

      I’ve seen that criticism of how so often in practice, ‘compromise’ ends up meaning the asexual partner is expected to have sex, and if they don’t, then they’re blamed entirely for making their partner unhappy. Nevermind the fact that non-asexuals each feel differently about sex, and when ‘compromise’ is always taken to mean sexual compromise, it erases all the various other compromises that couples in general make.

      (tw: talk of sexual coercion)
      It’s said that the non-asexual person compromises on the frequency of sex, by not having it as often as their ideal frequency. But having sex at a lower frequency than what one considers ideal still isn’t equivalent to someone having sex at all when they consider their ideal frequency to be zero. I can see how this form of ‘compromise’ can pressure the asexual partner further, and even be used as a manipulation tactic if they’re being told “Your partner is compromising by having sex less often than they want to, so will it hurt you to do it every so often to make them happy?” But ‘compromise’ that pressures someone to comply isn’t really compromise, and is more like surrendering.

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      1. Ace in Translation

        I agree with you. There’s compromise and “compromise” (aka coercion), but sadly they’re all too often presented as the same thing.

        Also, if you want to allow nested comments on threads on more than 2-3 levels, go to your dashboard –> settings –> discussion to costumize this.

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  2. Siggy

    I am happy to see more people blogging who also keep in touch with AVEN. I am always trying to talk about the cultural differences there, but find it increasingly difficult to describe it in detail as I pay less and less attention to it.

    I think you may have perceived Tumblr/blogs as being especially conscious of sex-repulsed aces, but part of the reason is that you are seeing it in the middle of a backlash. A couple months ago, people started to realize that our community (particularly the ace advice blogs) has been turning sex-favorable aces into the default. This got people talking more about sex-repulsion and aversion, and that’s what you saw when people criticized your pamphlet.

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    1. Aqua

      Thanks!

      Oh, so that’s what happened. I got caught in the middle of it. I didn’t see the start of that growing awareness of sex-favorable aces being the default at the expense of the repulsed and averse.

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