Why do many sex-repulsed/averse asexuals still doubt whether they’re welcome to talk about their experiences in many asexual spaces?
This is still a problem, even when it’s been clearly explained before that there’s no problem with someone discussing how they personally feel about sex, whether they find it delightful or disgusting, and that it’s only a problem if it involves attacking or shaming others in the process.
The line is drawn at expressing viewpoints in a way that attack other people, or being elitist.
To me, that sounds clear, but I wonder if some repulsed asexuals still don’t feel like they can express their viewpoints, because although they know what the line is, they’re still unsure if what they say isn’t on the wrong side of that line.
A recent thread on AVEN showed that some repulsed people don’t feel comfortable talking about their experiences, because of all of the threads that are about having sex. They fear that what they say will still be taken as an attack on those who have sex, even after making it clear that that’s not what they intend at all. Some said that they feared not being welcome, because they don’t believe that sex is good and beautiful for everyone, and feel that they can’t talk about the negatives about sex without getting attacked.
I still have this fear, though I haven’t been shamed for talking about the negatives of sex, by which I mean sexual violence, objectification, when people use others for sex, with no regard for the other person, or when sex is treated as something that’s “owed” in a relationship.
I wonder if part of it is because many asexual elitists, especially those who believed that they were better than non-asexual people, were sex-repulsed? There was an earlier era of asexual community history where asexual elitism was rampant: AVEN used to have a rival, called the Official Non-libidoism Society (formerly known as Official Asexual Society), which was notoriously elitist. Sometimes its members caused trouble on AVEN, but were largely contained to their own space.
When the ONS shut down some time in late 2006, its members joined AVEN en masse, because they had nowhere else to go, but took their hostile attitudes with them, and overall, AVEN ended up swinging into a very sex-negative direction. They believed that “real” asexuals never have sex, don’t have libidos, are sex-repulsed, hate anything sexual, and believe those things make them superior over others. This lasted from circa 2006 until 2008 or 2009.
Coinciding with this era, there was a huge influx in members on AVEN, because of some major media appearances featuring asexuality. Among this influx of new members, may have been a lot of people who had very bad experiences with sexuality, or the pressure to be sexual, and felt “broken” for so long. Finding AVEN was a relief to them, and they felt like they could finally vent their frustrations. However, there wasn’t much of a constructive way to handle it, because the real elitists being a lot more vocal, and could’ve ended up encouraging these newbies, who were just frustrated about sexuality, and needed to vent, into becoming real elitists themselves.
This era was over by 2010, when things seem to have swung in the opposite direction, to extreme sex-positivity, possibly out of backlash against the previous era. Sciatrix of Writing from Factor X noted that by 2010, sex-repulsed newbies who wanted to vent their frustrations were often attacked, and derided as asexual elitists, and that this even happened among sex-repulsed people who were talking about how sex is bad for themselves! This meant that a lot of newbies who just needed to “detox” first, could’ve gotten chased off of AVEN.
That’s sad and infuriating, because that means AVEN was turning away its own people in their time of need, and they may have had nowhere else to go. What kind of community does that? Those newbies should’ve been given another chance, but other members’ fear of them being elitists chased them away.
Asexual Curiosities noted that by this time, AVEN went too far in the other direction, to the extent that it wasn’t much of a safe space for asexuals anymore. Also, as they noted, there is the fear that repulsed/averse people’s viewpoints feeds into the ways that society demonizes or shames sexuality. This may have been a fear within the asexual community too. It’s true that groups who want to police sexuality, and want to restrict it, have a lot of institutional power. In a recent post, Ace Theist noted how in our social norms, and in dystopian fiction, aversion is seen as inherently oppressive, to oneself and others.
However, to say that society, or that these groups who have political power, and want to police sexuality, are anti-sex, isn’t accurate. They heavily regulate sexuality, believing there’s only one acceptable and fulfilling way to be sexual, and it is heteronormative. Shaming those who don’t fit it, is a huge part of how they try to regulate others’ sex lives, but these institutions and groups who believe that premarital sex is bad, usually believe that marital sex is the best thing ever, and the greatest duty in marriage. They aren’t saying that no one should have sex, but that everyone should have it in marriage, and everyone should marry, if possible!
Not even the Junior Anti-Sex League of 1984 believed that sexuality should be abolished in general. They believed it was still needed for procreation, and as a tool of control. The Party would deny people any outlet for their sexual desires, as a way of taking advantage of their frustration, and channeling that energy and anger into The Party’s goals.
If people in The Party were asexual, and/or voluntarily celibate, The Party wouldn’t have approved, because they’d have one less way to control them. The people who actually identify as antisexual*, regardless of what they mean, still wouldn’t fit in, because they rejected sex altogether, and their rejection of it is voluntary.
The extreme sex-positivity that took over AVEN during this era, feeds into the ways that society glorifies sexuality, and treats it as compulsory, such as the idea that sex is a required part of a romantic relationship, and shaming the sex-repulsed within the community. This comment and the ones below it detail the trend of the asexual community shifting from very sex-negative (at the expense of non-repulsed asexuals), to very sex-positive (at the expense of repulsed asexuals)
As far as some people are concerned though, this is ancient history now. There are few members left on AVEN who were there for either of these “extreme” eras. I didn’t find the asexual community until 2012, and during that year, AVEN was still skewed towards extreme sex-positivity, though not quite to the extent it was in 2010. I was a lurker for a while, and I don’t think I saw someone get attacked just for being sex-repulsed, but I still didn’t feel welcome to join at first. I believe that AVEN as of 2013 and 2014 is considerably more balanced, and is closer to sex-neutral. I believe that both of these earlier eras have an impact today, and serve as a cautionary tale against going too far in either direction.
From what I’ve read about accounts of the Non-libidoism Society members, and their viewpoints taking over AVEN for some time, the issue wasn’t that the were sex-repulsed, nor being non-libidoist (as the term is used today, simply meaning the lack of libido), nor that they never had sex, nor being all 3 of these. The issue might not have even been that they were sex-negative (maybe; depending on what is meant by that term). The issue was with their extreme degree of sex-negativity, and their elitism.
They asserted that being repulsed, never had sex, don’t have a libido, and are extremely sex-negative, is the only “real” way to be asexual (see the first type of asexual elitism below), and that it is superior to other asexuals, and non-asexuals (see the other type of asexual elitism).
Asexual elitism takes two forms:
- Policing others’ asexuality, using definitions that exclude much of the community, saying that those who don’t meet this narrow definition, aren’t “real” asexuals. Usually, it’s saying that “real” asexuals don’t have sex, which conflates behavior and orientation.
- The other form, closely related to the idea that “real” asexuals don’t have sex, is that asexuals (particularly those who don’t have sex), are superior to everyone else, shaming and attacking them.
Another problem, as documented by Apositive’s “History: Asexuality & the Nonlibidoism Society” thread, it wasn’t that they (ex Non-libidoism Society members, and newbies who happened to share their viewpoints) talked about how sex is gross to them. It was that they attacked others in the process, shut down a lot of conversations, didn’t even try to understand other viewpoints, and made exclusionary threads. There were no efforts to talk about the issues surrounding sexuality in a constructive way.
The repulsed people I’ve seen on AVEN who are expressing their concerns today, made it clear they’re not there to attack others. They’ve tried to understand other viewpoints, and are asking for some understanding in return.
Is the wording used, when explaining how repulsed people can talk about their viewpoints, part of the problem? Specifically, the explanation is worded like “It’s okay to talk about how sex personally repulses you, or that you personally hate sex, but it’s not okay to attack those who feel differently”. Does that mean it’s okay for sex-favorable to talk about their viewpoints, even if they attack repulsed people? It may sound that way.
It sounds like a double-standard, because it seems to be very clearly understood when sex-favorable asexuals talk about their viewpoints, because no one tells them to be careful how they word it. It’s understood that they aren’t attacking repulsed/averse just for talking about how they personally like sex.
However, sex-favorable asexuals are a lot fewer in number, so the odds of seeing someone who is sex-favorable AND expresses their viewpoints in a way that attacks the sex-repulsed/averse are just much lower, but they’d be held to the same standards: it’s okay for someone to talk about how they personally feel about sex, as long as it doesn’t mean attacking others who feel differently.
The asexual community in general wants to be understood by outsiders, and the asexual community is diverse. We shouldn’t have to silence parts of the community to be accepted by the public. Within the asexual community, repulsed asexuals are still looking to be understood, and feel like they can be safe.
*Obligatory note on terminology: Many of the linked posts, and the Apositive thread talk about “antisexuals”, but those are not what I’m referring to. Those posts meant the “asexuals (who don’t have sex) are superior to everyone else” type of elitists. A post I currently have in progress is one that questions and explains where this discrepancy comes from.