This is part 2 of my submission for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections
Part 2: Site of resistance against the hypersexual world
In part 1, I referred to the collection of communities that the English-speaking asexual community may recognize as being “celibate”, even though some of these communities contradict each other.
I specifically associate with the community about “celibacy” that is: voluntary, for non-religious reasons, for life, and this rejection of sex is an end in and of itself. Ideologically, it’s very different from the other “celibate” communities, and could be regarded as being in a class of its own. It actually has more in common with the asexual community and its goals than the others. Wouldn’t we be natural allies?
There’s just a very glaring issue: For their rejection of sex, they/we primarily identify as antisexual instead of celibate, and use a definition that not a lot of people recognize, not even in the asexual community. This led to both groups shutting themselves off from each other, and I believe the reasons why are unfortunate.
Both have many similar goals, fighting against compulsory sexuality and sex-normativity, aiming to raise awareness on how there’s nothing wrong with not wanting sex, and that some people don’t ever want it. Both also seek others who are alienated by the hypersexualized world.
They’re both separate communities and need to be, but it’s sad that differences in language, terms, and framework, keep us from understanding each other, and both sides think the other is the enemy, and against their goals. This issue has frustrated me ever since I found the asexual community. Since I did, I’ve constantly felt like I’ve forced to pick sides, and I feel burdened by massive conflict-of-interest issues.
I don’t want to have to pick sides, but this is one of the times that I have to. I believe that those who identify as antisexual, meaning for themselves that they rejected sex, shouldn’t have to “assimilate”, and give up what we found useful in order to be understood by the asexual community. Maybe I’m biased, because I found the Antisexual Stronghold first, and find their framework useful. Consider this a follow-up to my Asexual Agenda interview published last year.
The (self-identified) antisexual community originated in Russian with ru.antisex in 1995, and uses such a different framework from other “celibate” communities (i.e: the involuntary celibate community, Celibrate, Celibate Passions), and the online asexual community. It originally developed in different context and language, and is older. For comparison, the oldest known asexual community is either Haven for the Human Amoeba, which originated in 2000, or the comments section of the article “My life as an amoeba“, published in 1997.
ru.antisex might have been among the first of its kind, as a community of people who don’t want sex, before the existence of the online asexual community. It’s possible that many Russian-speaking asexuals identified with the antisexual community first, knowing that they didn’t want sex, but didn’t know of asexuality.
The inverse phenomenon happened in English: many of the earliest sites about “asexuality” in English were more about rejecting sex, and are actually about what the English-speaking asexual community would call “celibacy”. The first LiveJournal community about “asexuality”, originally called Asexuals (now called Asexuals We Are), was technically about “celibacy” instead of asexuality.
Curiously, very early on in the history of the English-speaking asexual community, there wasn’t a set label to identify with:
“Since the early days of Usenet there have been murmurs from people who report not experiencing sexual attraction. They used a variety of words to attempt to describe their experience – celibacy, nonsexuality, antisexuality, and asexuality to name a few.” (A Look at Online Collective Identity Formation, p.3)
In both languages, the split happened when asexuality started to gain visibility, though in Russian, the split didn’t happen neatly. In English, the split happened due to an increase in asexual visibility, “asexual” being the agreed-upon term, and the definitions of asexuality, and the other terms diverging over time. The problem is the way it happened in English. It led to us being shut out of the asexual community, and feeling resentment over it.
I was expecting the asexual community to understand us, since so many asexuals don’t ever want sex, but when I found the asexual community, especially AVEN, and what some of my comrades had to say about them, I felt betrayed by what I saw. It’s still an issue to this day; one of the biggest problems we have with the asexual community is being spoken over, and AVEN is the worst offender.
So many times, have we seen AVEN define antisexuality as absolutely meaning hating sexual people, or hating sexually active people, conflating what we mean with asexual elitism, while telling those of us who identify as antisexual and don’t mean that at all, as being wrong.
This is hypocritical of AVEN, which prides itself in acknowledging terms as being flexible, but here, they’re enforcing absolutism. I feel resentment towards AVEN over this, but I know that I can’t entirely blame them. I was among those who had the misfortune of being caught in the crossfire.
Part of it was definitions diverging over time. “Sexual” became the understood term for people not on the asexual spectrum. That may have over time led antisexual to end up redefined as being against “sexual” people. That may have been reinforced, and codified because of the era in AVEN history when former members of the Official Non-libidoism Society took to AVEN en masse (keep in mind that most of them didn’t even identify as antisexual):
Ironically, a lot of AVEN’s rhetoric of being against “antisexuality” has nothing to do with most people who actually identify as antisexual. Another irony is that the Non-libidoism Society’s viewpoints go too far by the Antisexual Stronghold’s standards, though practically no one in the asexual community knew this, and some-identified antisexuals didn’t either (most likely because they were going by information in English, which is very outdated).
Keep in mind that we have different reasons for rejecting sex, different reasons for identifying as antisexual, and differing attitudes towards sex. What being “against sex” entails (aside from it being for non-religious reasons) wasn’t clearly specified, but it never was meant to entail attacking or shaming those who do have it.
We may hate what sex can do to people, or hate how it’s pushed on everyone, or some of us may hate sex itself, but don’t go so far as to hate others just for having it. Whatever the case, I can confidently say that these viewpoints crossed the line:
- Attacks against allosexual (“sexual”) people just for being allosexual: It’d go against knowing that how much someone physically desires sex, may not correspond to how much they want or value it. It’d also be self-defeating, because a lot of self-identified antisexuals are allosexual!
- Arguments against sex that are about sexual morality or purity (but not ethics): Goes against the value of making an informed decision, as a lot of arguments about sexual morality and/or purity involve shaming and fear-mongering tactics, and those tactics don’t allow critical discussion.
- Being critical of sexuality is one of the key values, but the concern is about ethics, not antiquated ideas of morality and purity.
- Trying to impose one’s view on others: Goes against the value of the rejection of sex being voluntary, and also goes against the importance of making an informed decision.
The problem is that none of this was said outright, and not in English! All of this was only implied.
I can also tell that being “against sexual (non-asexual) people” wasn’t intended, because in Russian, “sexual” isn’t the term for non-asexual spectrum people. There isn’t an easy term, but I’ve seen “sexophile” used, but I’ve also seen “sexophile” mean extremist prosexuals*: The people who not only want sex, and think it’s worth it, but insist it’s good for everyone, and push it on others.
In the asexual community, English is the most widely-spoken language, and the English-speaking branch of the asexual community is by far the largest. Some of the alt-lang communities are highly influenced by it, while others are considerably different, and also face the same risk of being spoken over. Among the self-identified antisexuals, English is the alt-lang, influenced by the much larger and older Russian-speaking community!
Since most of the English-speakers don’t speak Russian, that leaves us extremely isolated. Some of us might turn to the asexual community, just because it’s larger, to find others who don’t want sex, only to realize that they don’t understand. They assume the worst in us, but we assume the worst in them too.
If being told we’re elitists isn’t the issue, then it’s us being told that if we don’t hate sexual people, nor are elitists, then we’re using the wrong label, and wrong definition, just because they ended up understanding antisexuality differently than we do. There’s pressure to say we’re either sex-repulsed or celibate instead, as if AVEN’s framework were the One True Way.
Some of us happen to be repulsed by sex, but sex-repulsion isn’t what we’re referring to, because that’s being grossed out by sex, not the ideological rejection of it. Saying we’re celibate would be more accurate, but that doesn’t seem like an option**. We need a term for the rejection of sex, and have one, but resent that AVEN has been taking it away, and not giving us an adequate replacement.
We know that our framework isn’t the only one, and some of us learned that the hard way, including me. I wish the asexual community, especially the English-language asexual community primarily influenced by AVEN, understood that their framework and definitions aren’t the only one. Enforcing it can make those of us whose experiences don’t fit it, feel “broken”, and I wish they’d try to understand our perspectives.
The asexual community has more power to enforce their concepts and definitions than we do in English. We’re fragmented and isolated, even among the “celibate” communities, which the asexual community in English also has power over. We’re trying to make a niche for ourselves, and are under the threat of losing it to assimilation.
If we switch, or assimilate to AVEN’s framework, we’ll lose many of the nuances that are important to us, and we’ll lose much of what helped us define ourselves, with no replacement. Us having a different framework, finding different terms and concepts useful isn’t the problem, and it doesn’t have to cause isolation, if there is mutual understanding, and acknowledgement that there isn’t One True Way to conceptualize everything.
*”Prosexual” meaning (presumably allosexual) people who find sex to be worth it, have justifications to have sex, or at least didn’t reject it. Someone can be prosexual and still negatively judge people for having sex, under the belief that other people are having the “wrong” kind of sex.
**Other English speakers and I could, because a lot of people in English do talk about “celibacy” without religious connotations, but the problem I have is that it feels imprecise, and without any qualifiers, the distinctions that matter, are erased.