An online archaeology expedition: Keeping up with documenting the asexual community’s history

This entry is for the July 2015 Carnival of Aces: Asexual History

One of the asexuality-related topics I’ve blogged about is the history of the online asexual community. I find it so interesting being a community with a social movement surrounding it that have changed so much in a relatively short amount of time, but also because it’s important to write about it so that the newer generations don’t forget.

I’ve only been involved in the asexual community since late 2012, so there are still a lot of gaps in my knowledge, but I’ll be happy to get input from long-time members in the community who could fill in the gaps.

The asexual community as we know it, originated online, and is still predominantly organized online, because of how geographically scattered many asexuals are from each other. Other groups, such as the LGBT community, and the groups within it, have been large enough and visible enough to have their own communities, and their own spaces in-person.

The internet has allowed for people to find others like them. The online asexual community started with a handful of individuals who wrote about their experiences, which made others realize that they felt the same way. Its origins in English can be traced back to an article written in 1997 called “My Life as an Amoeba”. In its comment section, many commenters also came forward about feeling the same way. Some may have known of their asexuality, but didn’t have any name for it, while others just realized it from reading that article, and the other comments.

History for a community that is predominantly organized online, moves very quickly. It’s easy for so much to be lost. Sites have come and gone,and archaeologists have the challenge of documenting history before it disappears. So few people are left from the early days of the online asexual community, so few people are left to give first-hand accounts of the earlier eras of its history. Those accounts are highly scattered, many may be in long-buried, very difficult-to-find threads in different places on AVEN, and some may be from asexual sites that are long gone.

A project has been made to archive all of the known zines. The zines are important in showing a “snapshot” of the asexual community as it was during the time they were written.

AVENues (note: at this time, the archives page is down), the newsletter written by various members of AVEN, is also important in showing the trends and issues of earlier eras of the asexual community’s history. It’s unfortunate that it hasn’t been active in a few years now; the last issue was published in 2013.

Documenting the earlier eras of the asexual community’s history is also an important way of getting others to understand and appreciate what it is currently. It can seem like so much of the current culture of the asexual community, such as the etiquette surrounding it, and the models and terminology we often use, have been firmly established for a large percentage of its history, but it hasn’t.

It still may not be perfect, but writing about the earlier eras shows the newer generations to not take the asexual community as it is for granted. Its history shows a lot of trial-and-error to learn from, but has also had its share of quirks that aren’t around anymore.

I’d break down the online asexual community’s history into eras like this:

pre-1997: There have been several accounts of famous people throughout history who didn’t have sex, and reported showing no interest in it. Asexuality began to be identified by researchers in the late 19th century, and later again in the mid 20th century. There were writings about asexuality during this time in advice columns, some mentioning asexuality by name, but a community surrounding asexuality had yet to be founded.

1997 – 2004(?): During this era, asexuals were still finding each other in order to build a community. For some time, there wasn’t a fully-agreed on term to use, but people banded together based on shared experiences, and several early asexual sites emerged.

The Haven for the Human Amoeba (HHA) was established in 2000, and it was for a time the largest of the asexual sites. Within it, and the asexual community as a whole, there were opposing factions within it that disagreed over attitudes towards sex in general, and how to define asexuality.

Two of the activists within the HHA created their own sites, with opposing viewpoints: Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN), and The Official Asexual Society (OAS).

Two Livejournal asexual sites also were created during this time by other people, with opposing viewpoints: Asexuals and Asexuality (the former was sex-negative and actually about celibacy though). This early era is experimental, marked by opposing ideologies and definitions dueling for dominance within the asexual community, as it was trying to define itself and what it stands for.

By 2004, according to this account from Apositive by a former AVEN member, the lack of sexual attraction definition, and the focus on inclusion and a sex-positive (or neutral?)* approach that were championed by AVEN and the Asexuality LJ group had largely won out, and they became the dominant asexual communities. “Sex-negative”** viewpoints of any kind got relegated to the fringes of the asexual community.

I’m finding it difficult to determine the exact cut-off for this era, but I’d say it ended when both asexuality became the agreed-on term, the definition used today became the dominant one, and the approach taken by AVEN and the Asexuality LJ group had become dominant, which by some accounts, happened by 2004.

However, it was in 2006 that the OAS (renamed Official Non-libidoism Society in 2004) had died out, and its members took to AVEN en masse because they had no where else to go. That event could mark the start of the next era, which was defined by the clashes on AVEN with the refugees from the ONS, and newbies who happened to share their viewpoints (mainly due to pent-up frustrations over feeling broken for so long).

A combination of the former ONS members taking to AVEN, and an influx of newbies due to another boom in AVEN’s membership led to asexual elitism becoming very vocal.

With AVEN being one of the dominant asexual communities by this time, and the largest, it seems like history was repeating itself like with the opposing viewpoints within the HHA years earlier. Like how AVEN was a splinter group off of the HHA, several splinter groups were founded off of AVEN during this era.

By 2009, it seemed that the viewpoints on AVEN swung too far in the other direction, with extreme sex-positivity taking over, so much that it became unsafe for repulsed members to express their viewpoints (let alone anyone who feels negatively towards sex for whatever reason), even when they were only speaking for themselves.

Some of the splinter groups were created to counter this, creating spaces that were sex-neutral, but safe for repulsed people to share their viewpoints in. This era, from about 2005 to 2012, is one marked by a lot of growth, but also a lot of internal conflict, particularly over how to address sex-positivity and negativity. This era could extend to as late as 2012 though, since it seems that this internal conflict had calmed down a lot by 2013.

I think there’s some overlap between that era and the next one. The next era, which may be from about 2010 to the present, could be marked by the asexual community branching out further, and is also marked by the greatest rate of growth that it has experienced.

The asexual flag that we recognize today was proposed and quickly adopted in 2010 after a community vote, (with a lot of discussion on other sites documented here) which helped greatly in boosting asexual visibility. The asexual tumblr community had been around since 2010, but grew tremendously in 2011, which is also the year that the documentary (A)sexual debuted. (A)sexual introduced many more people to asexuality, including asexuals, allies, and detractors. 2011 was one of, if not the most heated year in asexual community history, but due to conflicts between the asexual community and other communities instead of just within the asexual community.

Non-LJ asexuality blogs have been around at least since 2007, but the asexual blogging community became more organized with both the advent of the asexual community on tumblr***, and The Asexual Agenda. The latter was established in 2012, and serves as a hub for asexual bloggers, on and off tumblr.

Asexuals started to participate in Pride events, though with mixed reception towards the idea, but participation in WorldPride 2012 and 2014 were well-received overall. There have been online asexual communities in other languages since early on, but 2014 also marked a push towards the asexual community becoming more international.

The asexual community in general still struggles with a balancing act on how to support both sex-repulsed and favorable asexuals, and breaking that cycle is a challenge, due to its size and variety of viewpoints and experiences. As of the past year, many have spoken in favor of creating sub-spaces for different groups, which is something I’m definitely in favor of, as long as they aren’t used to exclude others from the main asexual community.

What do you think the next era in asexual community history will be like, and when do you think it will happen? I think that the cycle being broken will mark the next era, whenever that will be. Or maybe it will be marked by a growing number of offline asexual communities, or bridging the gaps between the asexual community and other communities.

I also plan on writing a page that will detail more about each era, including issues within the community, advances that were made, and the most notable media appearances. I’ve also been trying to pinpoint when gray-asexuality started to be defined, but according to this post by Pianycist, the concept was acknowledged and named early on, but what I’ve been wanting to know is when exactly did the current framework of a spectrum explicitly mentioning gray-asexuality started to be widely adopted?


Footnotes:

*Some say sex-positive, some say sex-neutral. The intent was to be non-judgmental towards others, whether they have sex or not, but as noted in the latest F-ace-ing Silence zine, even the asexual community has been guilty of enforcing a toxic version of “sex-positivity”.

**One of the unintended consequences was that saying anything negative about sex could be assumed to be elitist, and an attack on those who have sex, regardless of the context. That made it difficult to be able to talk about the ways that sex can harm others, or why someone would have ideological reasons against it.

***Sort of. There are many great asexual blogs, and discussions about asexuality on tumblr, but one of tumblr’s disadvantages is how difficult it is to keep track of discussions, and archive information.

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26 thoughts on “An online archaeology expedition: Keeping up with documenting the asexual community’s history

  1. Siggy

    “Some of the splinter groups were created to counter this, creating spaces that were sex-neutral, but safe for repulsed people to share their viewpoints in.”
    Which splinter groups are you thinking of?

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    1. Aqua Post author

      The splinter sites were mentioned in the comments of this blog post: https://writingfromfactorx.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/a-response-to-slightlymetaphysical/

      I haven’t been able to see the others, but Knights of the Shaded Triangle is still online, and one of its intentions was to be a space where it was safer for repulsed people to talk about their experiences, as long as they followed the rules. However, I still haven’t seen an asexual space where “detoxing” in public was allowed, but it was supposedly a safer space than AVEN was at the time.

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      1. Siggy

        It strikes me as a mischaracterization to say that these splinter forums were primarily about creating sex-neutral spaces. That was part of it, but the other parts were intersectionality and mod politics. It varied from forum to forum. You can get an idea for the motivations of KoST from their site rules.

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        1. Aqua Post author

          I was aware of that too. I didn’t mean to imply it was the main or only reason, and should’ve mentioned that in my post. Looking at KoST’s rules page, I see that a lot of its rules are much like AVEN’s, but what stands out is that it mentioned that accusing someone of elitism isn’t to be taken lightly. One of the criticisms of AVEN at the time was that people are all too quick of accuse a repulsed person of elitism just for saying how they feel about sex. Granted, that’s still an issue today to some extent, but apparently, it was a lot worse of an issue back then, that a separate site was created.

          I also see that it advertised itself as an LGBT-friendly space where intolerance isn’t tolerated. Did AVEN have a lot of homophobic posters at the time as well? I’ve known of transphobic posters making AVEN unsafe for some trans people, and the criticisms that the mods didn’t crack down on those posts or posters well enough, and that Transyada was created afterwards.

          I’ve known of AVEN having issues with intersectionality mainly because of the tumblr community, and ex-AVEN members on tumblr saying that’s been an issue for years. Before tumblr, did any of the asexual spaces outright address intersectionality?

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          1. Sennkestra

            There were…certain individuals who were well known for having not-the-most-LGBT-friendly attitudes. Not necessarily outright homophobic, but more things like, “ugh why do you keep trying to lump us in with the gays, they’re all about sex and we aren’t”

            In general, the “Are aces LGBT” question was nowhere near settled at the time on AVEN, and people got into really really heated debates about whether asexuality should be allied with LGBT movements, about whether asexuals should or should not be allowed in LGBT spaces, etc…It wasn’t like tumblr (or even parts of AVEN now) where it’s taken for granted that of course asexuality is queer, and that anyone who is uncomfortable with that must be a bigot.

            Because of this, people who felt strongly about the issue one way or another sometimes expressed interest in splitting off (although I think the pro-LGBT side was more likely to actually do it).

            In terms of intersectionality…transyada was big on the nonbinary/trans/ace intersections, not sure about anything else. In general gender has been a common focus of intersectional efforts, more than other categories (race, religion, class, politics, etc.) In general though, AVEN moderation (esp. once DJ basically left) has been too much of a mess to really have any kind of organized agenda, positive or negative, if that’s what you were asking.

            “Intersectionality” is such a vague term though that it’s hard to nail down what should be considered “addressing intersectionality”. Especially when it comes to thinks like tumblr, where some corners are big on intersectionality, while others really are not…

            But basically, I don’t know of any splinter groups that explicitly made “intersectionality” a main point, but I also didn’t spend much time in splinter groups so I wouldn’t be the best person to ask.

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            1. Aqua Post author

              Thanks for clarifying that for me that it was because of the “Are aces LGBTQ”/”Should aces be included in the LGBTQ community” debate. I’ve noticed that threads about it still pop up every so often on AVEN, but the debate as a whole seems to have settled down a lot.

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              1. Sennkestra

                There may have been other incidents too, those are just the ones I saw most often. It’s been interesting to watch opinion on that shift though – that’s been one of the big changes since I first joined ace communities. There have always been a lot of big name ace bloggers and leaders in favor of associating with the LGBT community, but it’s only recently that most of the community (and parts of the LGBT community as well) have actually started to adopt that as a given consensus.

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                1. Omnes et Nihil

                  Don’t have much to contribute to this lovely discussion beyond sharing that I definitely had a few experiences back then on AVEN of people levelling flat-out homophobic hostility at me with some misogynistic vitriole to spice things up, often in contradictory ways. And the mods never stepped in.

                  One time was particularly appalling to the point that other people (not me) reported stuff to the mod(s) and the mod response was that (since they knew I wasn’t going to get nasty back) they were just going to leave it be so that they didn’t anger the person saying the horrible things more and make things worse. I guess their policy was only to interfere to break up a fight, and not to care about anyone saying harmful things that would make the space unsafe for a lot of people?

                  That was a long time ago (I think 2007 if I recall correctly from where I was living at the time?) and it was just before one of AVEN’s epic server issues resulting in months of lost data, so that conversation is gone. And I don’t remember details– but I do remember someone was trying to tell me and anyone else who wanted to condemn heterosexism to get out of *their* asexuality movement… (Because apparently heterosexism is a lie made up by the gays and the feminists to undermine society and the “normal” people?)

                  It was very bizarre because it was one of the few times I’ve been attacked for being both “a gay man” ** (which I’m not but I didn’t see any point in clarifying) and “too feminist” at the same time. But I certainly never felt safe talking about heterosexism on AVEN after that. So I talked about that stuff on A-Positive instead. (And I think part of one of my anti-heterosexist rants from 2008 is still hanging out on the front page of A-Positive with a picture of the Flying Spaghetti Monster if you scroll down a bit.) But as I’ve said before, and to echo Siggy’s comment, A-Positive is a very different place now than it was back then and I have no interest in participating in what it has become.

                  **A lot of people on AVEN assumed I was a man since I didn’t give any gender info (I think the options were only M and F back then anyway). And since I talked about heterosexism a number of people assumed I was a gay man. (In different threads and conversations other people assumed I was a lesbian– I don’t remember anyone ever assuming I was bi.)

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          2. Siggy

            Most of KoST’s rules are reactions to perceived problems on AVEN, even ones that appear to be ordinary rules. For example, it was perceived that AVEN mods would refuse to interfere with discussions where they should have. It was perceived that AVEN was too accepting of derogatory remarks on the basis of gender, race, and disability (which is what I was calling “intersectionality”). There was also a perception of respectability politics and concern trolling.

            In my view, Tumblr was concerned about many of the same issues, but was the first of the splinter groups to really be successful.

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  2. queenieofaces

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the publication of Understanding Asexuality, since that was a watershed in terms of media coverage of asexuality (to the extent that there was so much of it that sounded so similar that I was able to write a parody piece just of articles about that book).

    There was also the queer/trans ace exodus to the Transyadas in the late 2000s, which Sciatrix knows a lot more about than I do. (I started lurking in ace communities in fall of 2010 but didn’t become active until spring of 2012.)

    Like Siggy, I’m curious what splinter groups you’re thinking of–A-positive, maybe?

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    1. Aqua Post author

      I could still go back and add it in, but I also have in mind creating a page that will detail each era, including major community events and issues, trends, and the major publications and media appearances. Transyadas was one of the splinter groups, specifically because of transphobic posters on AVEN, though that’s all I know. A-positive is another of the splinter groups, though it was created earlier than the others, for the opposite reason, as a refuge for those couldn’t stand being on AVEN when very vocal asexual elitists took over.

      I know that also there may have been an exodus from AVEN to tumblr in 2012. Among the first things I saw on AVEN and tumblr, were threads on AVEN asking about why members are leaving, clashes between the two on tumblr.

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      1. Sennkestra

        So, if you are interested in making a record of major events/media/publications….I totally started a timeline project for doing just that, it just never really got off the ground because I’ve been too busy.

        Timeline: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YPDpiRf3QPpb_-vSrhzL4Px6sD4sqCqTOw4XsCmeb3k/edit?usp=sharing

        (you might need to join asexual-history@googlegroups.com first to edit – can’t remember what settings I had)

        As you can see, I set up the structure then never really put anything into it…but if you’d be interested in helping with restarting it I still think it’s a good project.

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    2. Siggy

      No, Apositive was basically the opposite. It’s a splinter group created to make a more sex-positive space in reaction to the perception of sex-negativity on AVEN. It’s also worth noting that Apositive is older than the other splinter groups (2008), dating to the time when ONS went defunct and its members moved to AVEN.

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      1. Aqua Post author

        I should’ve been more clear about that, and that was what I meant to say. I meant to say it was created in 2008, as a more positive space in response to the elitism and fighting on AVEN. Is it accurate to say that A-positive was meant to be about both “sex-positivity” (and whatever that entails), and being an overall more positive space in general that is free from infighting?

        I saw someone describe AVEN as being like a war-zone at the time, and I know that the other splinter groups were created later, in response to other issues with AVEN, and one of those issues was that the repulsed didn’t feel safe there anymore. Over time, many of those espousing elitist viewpoints on AVEN either left, were banned, or assimilated or kept quiet. But was one of the issues that happened afterwards, was not knowing how to distinguish repulsion from asexual elitism?

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      2. queenieofaces

        See, that’s what my impression of Apositive was, which was why I was confused. Although a couple of years back I seem to remember reading a bunch of criticism of Apositive (coming from tumblr) about it being too sex-negative, sooooo, I guess the demographics shifted again? (Or tumblr is just even farther toward sex-positivity on the spectrum?)

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        1. Siggy

          As happened with most of the other alternative forums, Apositive saw a lot of initial activity, but slowly dried up. There just aren’t many ways to effectively advertise or sell an alternative forum. In its later days, the only new members it acquired were a few people who were banned from AVEN or otherwise thought AVEN was too “politically correct”. There was one particular individual who was infamous for motivating the departure of the transyadas. The admin of Apositive was like, “Yeah, we totally support open discussion and oppose censure!”

          And that was when I left Apositive. It is literally the worst asexual community.

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    3. Sciatrix

      Regarding the transyadas… goodness, that was five years ago now? A lot has gone a bit fuzzy. And it’s worth noting I was never one of the central ‘yadas in that point, partly because I’m not nonbinary/genderqueer and never did much more than question, and I think most of that I kept to myself. So I felt pretty weird poking my head into the huge long party-like yadathread, which was very fast-moving and hard to keep up with–topics would change extremely quickly–but I was also really interested because a lot of my friends from the larger site were there, and also a lot of people I wanted to know better.

      For example, I was and am a huge fan of Charles–god, I can’t remember his AVEN username now–ah, it was pugnacioun, I think–who blogged for a while and had a tumblr for a while under several names but has since deleted moved on. I think it’s easy to underestimate his contributions to ace blogging, since he’s rather determinedly deleted most of his connection to those discussions as he’s a rather private person. But he was really active then and he was probably the central person in the yadas, except maybe P who was also a pretty active poster and two or three other people, all of whom I liked quite a bit.

      Anyway, I only made the first post in the general ‘yada thread a week before I lost my temper and walked away from AVEN, and shortly after/at about the same time as I’d done that, P and a few other people approached me about joining a splinter forum. We had some long-running skype conversations about running it, I think I even chipped in a few dollars for server costs, and then a few weeks after I’d left AVEN we set up the yadaforum and the central people in it encouraged the yadas to check out this new place–but mostly, as I recall, in skype conversations and private messages. I don’t recall it being a very public exodus.

      Anyway. The exodus to the ‘yadas was honestly in large part driven by a user who went (at the time) by the name Pay it forward, which later got shortened to PiF. I think he showed up on the Agenda a year or so ago and we unceremoniously booted him after rot13’ing his comment. Anyway, he had this reputation for going around AVEN and posting these really nasty threads about how [$INSERT_CATEGORY_HERE] aces were making a bad impression on “normal” people, and how those people needed to be quiet about identifying as ace so as not to make the rest of the community look bad. He had a particular issue with the sorts of people who made up the transyadas, who were generally very young and very visibly queer and riffing on gender identity kinds of concepts. They were pretty well the most obvious group of people who were not “normative” he could have fixated on, and he would make a lot of needly, pointed comments directed at them but also at other groups.

      As I recall, he was ALSO friends with some of the mods at the time, or possibly it was that the AVEN mods were just terrified of conflict. (There’s a lot I could say about AVEN’s issues with open conflict on the part of the mod team, and how that did a LOT to make sure that long-standing issues didn’t get resolved.) Whichever–they didn’t really do much about him one way or the other. There was a big, angry showdown about it and about general issues with the mods saying we had a no-discrimination policy and in practice ignoring it completely, and you can see some of that in the thread I linked, and in the end I think a lot of people at once went “this is not going to improve” and tried to start new communities. I think the yadas only survived as they did because they more or less brought a big userbase with them, although I don’t know how they’ve recruited or whether they’re still going in the past several weeks. Glancing at my emails, a whole host of little splinter communities got formed there partly as a reaction to that discussion and how souring it was, but the fact that there were so many meant that no one other actually had enough people on it to sustain a community for long. Which is what happened to KoST, as I recall.

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  3. Sennkestra

    I do tend to see 2004 as a sort of “end of an era and the start of a new one”, but that’s more because that’s when Bogaert’s first famous article came out, and in response to that the first major media coverage of asexuality – it was sort of the year that asexual communities (especially AVEN) went public.

    I also tend to thematically sort things more in terms of community structures than community attitudes, so I’d also see ~2011 onward as another “era” of sorts, but mostly because of the branching out that occurred – AAW was one of the first big organized outreach events; the first unconference was held in DJ’s backyard that year; tumblr became the first really successful post-AVEN ace community; student groups and meetup groups also seemed to be taking off around that time.

    tbh, the 2004~2010 period is where I’m least familiar with ace community developments – I’m familiar with 2010 on because I lived it, and I’ve researched and archive binged through a lot of the material from the really early communities, but that gets harder to do as the community grows.

    As far as “extreme sex positivity” on AVEN though….as a libidoist and sex-indifferent ace that became active on AVEN starting in around 2010, that was definitely not my impression. There may have been an official no-elitism no anti-sexuality policy, but in day to day use of the forums there was still a lot of general sex-negativity around. I think AVEN’s always had a pretty good helping of both strong sex-positivity and strong sex-negativity in the time since I joined, they just tend to form in sort of pockets in individual threads so it’s easy to only see one or the other depending on which subforums and threads you happen to follow. (And it can be hard to really tell which was actually dominant – for example, there was (is?) an reputation for a long time that there was no talk about aromantic orientations compared to talk about romantic orientations, but when I actually went and counted the threads one day there was actually much more discussion about aromanticism – so sometimes it’s hard not to be a biased observer, and often both sides perceive the other perspective as the dominant one (I know I’ve totally done it myself).

    I actually see early tumblr as more of a bastion of extreme sex-positivity (or something like sex-positivity), because it took the anti-elitist parts of AVEN, without most of the counter-trends it had been in response to/alongside, and then combined it with the tumblr/SJW/feminist trend to extreme sex-positivity.

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    1. Aqua Post author

      Did you think AVEN was drastically different then than it is today? I’ve read multiple accounts of AVEN being unsafe for repulsed aces dating to 2010, and those who were just speaking for themselves about being repulsed by sex, were attacked for it, or driven away, because they were assumed to be elitists.

      There are still repulsed aces who are worried about this happening today, but I was under the impression that issue was even worse back then.

      Strong sex-negativity barely exists on AVEN anymore, and I’m not sure if strong sex-positivity does, but at least I’ve seen some people call out the extremism associated with the mainstream sex-positive movement.

      I’ve had to explain to people on AVEN that someone can believe that sex does more harm than good without being elitist, or attacking others about it, though I may be using a different definition of “sex-negative” than a lot of people recognize. It seemed like a radical idea to have to explain this, and I was under the impression that few people on AVEN knew this.

      I remember that one of the clashes with AVEN on tumblr during the time I found the asexual community, was the tumblr community accusing AVEN of aromantic erasure. I saw that there were a lot of people wanting a separate aromanticism board on AVEN. Did you think the decision to not create a separate aromantic board overshadowed the fact that there were already several aromantic threads?

      When did you notice that the tumblr community shifted away from extreme sex-positivity, or did it? When I first found the asexual community, I’ve also seen accusations from the tumblr community against AVEN, accusing AVEN of being hostile towards repulsed aces.

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  4. Siggy

    I concur with Sennkestra that being around AVEN in 2009, I certainly didn’t get the impression of excessive sex-positivity. Although, it’s difficult to judge these things for many reasons: I didn’t have much of a basis for comparison, AVEN has long been very disjointed, I could have been affected by privilege blindness, etc. And of course other people may have had different perceptions; for instance, you linked to Sciatrix talking about detoxing.

    Of course, if there were consensus on where a community stands relative to where it should stand, then there wouldn’t be the conflict in the first place. I can only imagine what people from the ONS would have to say about the 2004-2008 period–it’s the winners who end up writing history.

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  5. Sciatrix

    Belatedly chiming in here, but as I recall AVEN, it’s never been any one thing. And also, the groups of people who felt pushed out of AVEN would get cycled out over time, such that at one point people would be upset because many aromantic aces felt erased in discussion and slut-shamed, and a few months later there would be a discussion because many sexually active aces felt erased and not discussd as “really” asexual, and then a month after that there would be a discussion about romantic aces feeling the perception of the community was that default aces were all aromantic, and then it would be repulsed aces talking about how people needed to stop calling them prudes. And these cycles would go on literally for years.

    Like clockwork. I honestly feel that a lot of this is just that the community was big, and inevitably some moron would wade in and blunder into someone else’s sore spots, and because the moderation is and was incredibly poor it was easy for those blunders to upset people to the point that in-community tensions would erupt. It’s very hard sometimes to share limited spaces for people with different needs and interests, and without good moderation it’s easy for people to start feeling shoved out and erased. So I would not call AVEN either “a bastion of sex positivity” or “a bastion of repulsed positivity” at any point in time, because I recall speaking to many, many people who had extremely different experiences with respect to AVEN at remarkably similar points in time. I’ve discussed this on tumblr before, but I really do feel that a lot of this is people having sore spots, feeling badly about their own position, and assuming that the “other” perspective feels comfortable and entrenched when that is not actually the case. No one’s comfortable!

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    1. Sennkestra

      Yeah, I think that’s a pretty good description of it. The thing with AVEN is that it just has thousands of users, some of whom are rabidly sex-positive and some of whom are rabidly sex-negative and the rest of whom fall somewhere in between. There’s just too many users at this point to have a consensus either way.

      I think the reason people often make statements like “ugh, AVEN is too X compared to tumblr” and “ugh, AVEN isn’t X enough compared to tumblr” at the same time is that the format of places like tumblr allow users to only connect with the content and people they’re interested in, avoiding everything else, whereas on AVEN you just get everything, whether it’s the corner of the community you like or not. (Although you can filter a little bit: avoiding the hotbox does wonders).

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    2. Aqua Post author

      Thanks for your insights! I knew that there were phases of certain groups feeling erased, but I wasn’t fully aware that it was simultaneous too back then, like how both the repulsed and favorable currently report feeling erased at the same time.

      What I’ve read, especially about newbies who needed to detox, but may have been chased away instead, gave me the impression that there was an era of extreme sex-positivity on AVEN at the expense of the repulsed because of backlash against the former Non-libidoism Society members, but that it went too far. I thought AVEN was still in that era when I first found it.

      I definitely agree though that balancing the needs of different groups within the community has always been a challenge, and may inevitably be for any asexual space that gets large enough. A lot of the discomfort that many feel in asexual spaces may be tied to the pressures identified in the Unassailable Asexual concept, which has been written about and challenged by many, but why do so many still feel uncomfortable?

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  6. demiandproud

    What a great post! It’s good to read about the Asexual community as it developed. Definitely gives me a better frame of reference. And it’s good to see that my WTF over how sex-positive vs. sex-repulsed being such a thing is just me having come in halfway through the conversation

    On looking forward, perhaps cool to mention would be:
    * The baby brother on the block, demisexuality? (www.demisexuality.org, amongst other sites)
    * The growing attention and acceptance of it in mainstream media and research, which is awesome.
    * The development of non-English asexual communities, such as AVEN’s foreign-language forums.

    Alright, that’s my two cents!

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  7. Pingback: Carnival of Aces July 2015 Wrap-up: Asexual History | Next Step: Cake

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