Mercenary from unknown lands: part 2

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.


Footnotes:

*”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.

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11 thoughts on “Mercenary from unknown lands: part 2

  1. luvtheheaven

    This is interesting for me, although I will admit a little complicated to follow and confusing for me as well, since I had heard nothing about the “antisexual” community before you started writing about it… and you’re basically introducing me to a lot of these themes.

    Thank you for sharing your perspectives!

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    1. Aqua Post author

      Thanks! It’s complicated, and I may not have been clear enough at some points, but is there anything that needs clarification?

      It’s sad that I’m one of the first people to ever write about this in-depth in English. It’s daunting, it really is. I took to writing about this, because I’ve seen no one else do so. I couldn’t wait around for someone to, so I had to. I’ve met other self-identified antisexuals, and I keep fearing that they’ll get chased away if they speak up about their experiences on AVEN. When I joined AVEN, I was hoping to find them, so they’d know that someone in the asexual community is on their side, but I fear I was too late, because I joined AVEN at the end of 2012.

      Some aren’t asexual at all, and know they aren’t, but can strongly relate to some experiences, especially the pressure to have sex, and the pressure to have to justify not having it. Their/our experiences aren’t simply sexual abstinence, nor celibacy (which in English-speaking asexual spaces, is often used synonymously with “sexual abstinence”), nor sex-repulsion. Their/our experiences don’t automatically mean hating those who are different from them/us.

      Making that assumption is like assuming that all vegans must hate people who eat meat, or that all straight edge people must hate people who do drugs or drink alcohol for any reason. Asexuals get stereotyped as hating others for having sex, just for being asexual. That’s something that needs to be fought against, but I’m against AVEN pushes that on me and my comrades in the process.

      I’ve been told it wasn’t intentional of AVEN to do that. I know they’re right about that, but lack of intent doesn’t matter.

      I couldn’t stand the silence anymore, and AVEN trying to define what we are, what our labels mean, using only the harshest definition without listening to us. I was sick of us being spoken over, sick of our diversity being erased. I can’t always tell if they’re demonizing us, or telling us we’re using the wrong labels, but even the latter is insulting. They’re saying we’re wrong, but give no viable alternatives in return.

      Sometimes I still fear that I’m making the asexual community look bad because I associate with them, and feel like I won’t be accepted on AVEN unless I assimilate, and simply identify as a sex-repulsed asexual, disregarding my other reasons for not wanting sex, disregarding how my experiences don’t all fit into the sex-repulsed asexual label.

      When I wrote my post about feeling broken and alone within the asexual community, this was what I was referring to.

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      1. luvtheheaven

        One thing to keep in mind is that AVEN is just a bunch of people on forums, and different people hang out on different sections of the site – or spend different years of their lives around the site – etc. So there could be plenty of places, currently, on AVEN where no one has already heard misconceptions and “bad things” about the “antisexual community” so you could explain to them you’re “anti-sex for your own life” and that’s what it means and people might be intrigued.

        I will admit I saw someone on tumblr wondering if there was any difference AT ALL between the things celibate people face for being celibate and the things asexuals face for being ace, so I was arguing that yeah, I think there is some difference. They were kind of trying to argue that living life as ace is not “worse” or not “more difficult” than living life as a celibate allo, so I was trying to come up with ways it might yes, be slightly different/worse. I didn’t intend to make it an us vs. them thing and acknowledged that celibate people and asexual people often would have many relatively similar things to face, too, though… but the way the tumblr poster had worded the original post, I felt defensive of the fact that yeah, the asexual life is difficult and unique.

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        1. Aqua Post author

          When I was talking about AVEN, I meant more about the “official” stances, and the wording that they use, that’s usually considered official. I’ve felt like one of the most important communities to me has been misrepresented by AVEN for years, having got caught in the crossfire between them and the Non-libidoism Society many years ago. I’ve even found talking about “celibacy” on AVEN to be quite difficult.

          Finding people who have chosen to never have sex isn’t difficult anywhere in the asexual community, but not many seem interested into looking into it further. I understand that many I’ve talked with see their asexuality as their primary or only factor for choosing to never have sex, but that’s not true of all asexuals, and it shouldn’t be assumed to be true for all. There can be many other factors, but whether they are related to an individual’s asexuality or not have hardly been discussed.

          That person on tumblr asked a good question, and it’s another one that has hardly been explored. I’d say that there are differences, but I can’t say who has it more difficult, but it’s important for others to look at the similarities and differences.

          Sorry it took so long to respond to this! I had been inactive for several months, and I’m trying to get back into responding to comments, and making new posts again.

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  2. snowflake0w0

    I feel you have some huge mistakes?

    For me ,A is trans
    and B also be trans.

    But it doesn’t mean A and B can be allies.

    C is gay ,and D is gay as well ,but it doesn’t mean C and D can be allies,malicious spread
    AIDS is quite common between gays.

    How could such easy to believe there’s celibacy allies?Don’t underestimate the power of “Divide and conquer”.

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    1. Aqua Post author

      I’m aware that communities all have their in-fighting, and it can be due to ideological differences within the same community, or someone within the community erasing the more marginalized members within it.

      I’ve heard of the “bug chasing” phenomenon within the gay community, but you’re referring to those who deliberately infect other people against their will? I didn’t know until recently that actually happened, so not only does the gay community have to struggle with in-fighting due to ideological differences like just about any other community, there are some within their community who are a danger to their own!

      The “celibate” community isn’t even cohesive in the first place. We’re already divided, since the different groups who may fall under the celibate label contradict each other, which is why it’s so important we defend ourselves.

      “Divide and conquer” is a threat to each community, and allows the status quo to remain. Allowing the most privileged members of a marginalized community into positions of power in mainstream society doesn’t advance acceptance for the rest. But some people within those communities don’t care, and have the mindset of “Screw you, I have mine!”, or “I don’t care about your struggles now that I have acceptance and power within mainstream society”.

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      1. snowflake0w0

        >but you’re referring to those who deliberately infect other people against their will?

        Yes.

        >The “celibate” community isn’t even cohesive in the first place. We’re already divided, since the different groups who may fall under the celibate label contradict each other, which is why it’s so important we defend ourselves.

        That’s why I dislike use the word “we”,there’s no “we”.And I don’t understand what are you defending,join into a internet celibate community doesn’t mean you are defending yourself.

        >“Divide and conquer” is a threat to each community
        I think it’s a normal phenomenon,if you view it as a threat ,then how to deal with it ?Ban some people not “fit in”as AVEN?Most of community did it.

        > Allowing the most privileged members of a marginalized community into positions of power in mainstream society doesn’t advance acceptance for the rest. But some people within those communities don’t care, and have the mindset of “Screw you, I have mine!”, or “I don’t care about your struggles now that I have acceptance and power within mainstream society”.

        You talked a lot ,do you mean those gay/trans/disability/asexual people who have a lot of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$?You can just say it directly.
        Welcome to capitalism,it’s normal phenomenon.
        Even poor gay/trans/disability/asexual people join into a very cohesive internet community ,it doesn’t mean they can get more acceptance in real life.

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        1. snowflake0w0

          >I’m aware that communities all have their in-fighting, and it can be due to ideological differences within the same community, or someone within the community erasing the more marginalized members within it.

          Not must because ideological differences and $$.
          I made a post about I hate breast cancer community because their members who have higher survival rate discrimination against members who have very low survival rate.

          I hate human.

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  3. Pingback: The flip-side to being the “perfect representative” | Cake at the Fortress

  4. Blue Ice-Tea

    Pretty interesting. I didn’t know all that about the celibate community or the use of “antisexual”. However, I agree that there should be alliance/coöperation between the asexual and celibate communities. While there may be important differences, they both present a challenge to erotonormativity – much as homosexuality, bisexuality, and other orientations under the “Queer” umbrella all present a challenge to heteronormativity. If they can form a sense of collective purpose, why not us?

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  5. ettinacat

    In some ways this reminds me of the split between actual lesbians (women predominantly or exclusively attracted to women) and political lesbians (women of any orientation who choose to only date women for ideological reasons, usually connected to radical feminism).

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