Asexual activism, and what is the ‘game’ to play, or not play?

Rotten-zucchinis linked to my first Unassailable Asexual post, and mentioned another take on “the only winning move is not to play”. It’s one that didn’t cross my mind at first, but I’m glad it was pointed out!

When I was using that phrase, I meant that the ‘game’ that is played, is the obstacle course that is asexual activism. The internal and external pressures that asexual activists face make it into an obstacle course. I was thinking that only way to (technically) ‘win’ that game is for the community to collectively not attempt activism, which includes not sharing individual experiences, since asexual activists will get their identities assailed no matter what. But in this regard, I don’t count not playing as a ‘win’, because no progress for the asexual community, which includes the increased visibility, education to the public, and reaching out to other asexuals, can be made that way.

If it does count as a ‘win’, it’s merely a Pyrrhic Victory, because the costs of collectively not attempting asexual activism greatly outweigh the benefit of saving asexuals’ identities from getting assailed. Without any efforts of asexuals sharing their experiences, not taking the risks that come with it, how many of us would still be invalidating our own asexuality for various reasons?

I’ve seen many recent newbies to the asexual community think they couldn’t be asexual, even though they heard of asexuality beforehand, because they thought libido, romantic attraction, aesthetic attraction, were all the same thing along with sexual attraction. I’m someone who realized I was asexual pretty much on my own, and this was years before I found the asexual community. For every person like that, there are many more who would’ve never known they were asexual without the efforts of the asexual community. To make any progress, we have to play the game, and we have to go through this obstacle course, even though it’s stacked against us all.

They (rotten-zucchinis) mention some posts they made 5 years ago on Apositive, that are related to this issue, and are still relevant today. We, the asexual community as a whole, have found ourselves in a situation where, despite the tremendous growth of asexual activism in the past 5 years, and despite all the dialogue discouraging the ideas of ‘real’ or ‘pure’ asexuals, there are still so many of us who are doubting their place in the asexual community, or doubting their right to associate with it!

A lot of the dialogue discouraging the ideas of ‘real’ or ‘pure’ asexuals addressed internal issues within the asexual community at the time. This was in an earlier era of asexual community history*, the idea that ‘real’ or ‘pure’ asexuals don’t have sex, or that someone can’t be sexually active and asexual, were widespread**. That got very thoroughly challenged with the AVEN thread “What is asexual elitism, and why does AVEN discourage it?”***

The Unassailable Asexual concept, and the harm that it does, has been discussed over the past 4-5 years since the term has been coined, or at least described. We all should know by now that the asexual community is diverse. I’ve seen many posts on tumblr and AVEN, affirming asexuals that have any trait that ‘fails’ the Unassailable Asexual test that it (that trait) doesn’t invalidate their asexuality. We should know this, or perhaps we do, yet there’s something holding us back? Their post, and why mine was linked to, affirms my suspicions that there is now internal pressure to conform to the Unassailable Asexual idea, when it used to only, or largely be externally imposed.

Their take on “playing the game” referred to playing into the divide-and-conquer dynamics that undermine our community’s solidarity, in an attempt for mainstream acceptance (for only part of the community), such as buying into the idea of the unassailable asexual as something to try and emulate. This is where my post was mentioned:

And for various reasons, our community became communities. That was useful for spreading the word about asexuality to new and vast audiences, but it left us vulnerable. And it meant that the “within-community ideal” and the “public-acceptance ideal” didn’t stay separate. They merged in a single shape-shifting trickster to form this double-bind—between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place—condemned-if-you-do-comdemned-if-you-don’t situation. It’s an impossible situation. And we can’t win ( unless we refuse to play: ).

To not play the game, in this case, is for the community as a whole to reject those divide-and-conquer tactics, and reinforce our solidarity with each other. Now that is a real way to win!


*As rotten-zucchinis noted, Apositive has changed a lot since it was founded. Apositive was founded during this earlier era of asexual community history, where intentional asexual elitism was a large problem within AVEN, so Apositive was created to be much more open.

**This is related to the concept of the “Gold Star Asexual”, which Fox, one of the co-bloggers of The Dragon and the Fox, notes is a separate concept from what’s been described as the Unassailable Asexual. The “Gold Star Asexual” is an internal restriction on who counts as asexual or not, and while it has largely been discredited by the asexual community, it seems that the Unassailable Asexual concept ended up taking hold within it, when it had originally been only an external set of restrictions.

***Not to say that issue is completely resolved. Recent criticisms of asexual elitism still being alive in the community argue that it’s still there, but it’s a lot more subtle than it used to be.


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