Monthly Archives: October 2015

About the making of the 2015 survey

The survey for 2014 was officially called “The 2014 AVEN Community Census”, while the 2015 survey is officially called “The 2015 Ace Community Census”.

The 2015 survey is online, and will be open to responses until November 15th. You can find more information about it here, from the asexual census blog ran by the AVEN Survey Team.

I’m part of the Survey Team this year, and I also was last year. The publication date ended up being later in the year than last year’s survey (which was published October 6, 2014, while this year’s was published October 22, 2015), but we worked hard to get it finished during AAW.

Several changes were made this year from last year, including:

  • Changing the citizenship question to primary residency.
  • Expanded on the “mental health” and “sexual attitudes” section.
  • Added “unsure” options to several questions that didn’t have it, but should have.
  • Expanded a lot on the “sexual history” section, and adding a separate section about sexual violence, including a screen that asks the respondent if they want to answer those sections, or skip them.
  • Replaced the “celibacy” section with the expanded “sexual history” section: I liked the celibacy section from last year’s survey. I thought it was interesting, but since any changes weren’t expected from last year, it didn’t seem necessary to include twice in a row, especially since other sections have been expanded. The survey would’ve been too long.
  • Cut the questions asking about strength and frequency of sexual attraction, how strongly someone identifies with their orientation, and whether asexuals consider themselves to have a sexuality or not. Some of these questions were confusing, or were asked for political reasons.
  • The questions asking about experiences with other asexual communities were cut. There was some potential with those questions, but it wasn’t used. I liked the idea of these questions being used to assess current ties between different parts of the asexual community have been, and how leaders of the different groups could improve their relations with the others, but nothing came of that.

The biggest challenge on the survey itself was writing the updated “sexual history” section, and the sexual violence questions, particularly finding the way to word them, so for the latter, we sought outside help. I don’t know if the people who helped us want to be mentioned, but I thank them for taking the time to look over the questions we had, and helped us refine them.

The mental health questions were also very difficult to write. There have been quite a few responses about it already, which I’ve responded to, looking for input on how to further refine those questions if they’ll be kept next year.

I’m also open to feedback and questions about the survey, but it may take me some time to respond since I’ll soon be back to working 40+ hours per week.

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About “sex-negativity”, sexual morality vs. ethics

It’s easier to ask a question about how someone personally feels about themselves having sex, but trying to ask about how someone feels about sex in general is a lot more difficult.

The 2011 AAW census had a question asking this, but it was flawed. Aside from actually asking about 3 different things at once, that question was biased. “Satisficing” is the pressure to pick the most “desirable” answer to please the researchers. How it was worded also erased the fact that there are people who identify as sex-negative and/or antisexual and don’t mean what they mean, reinforcing the assumption that whoever identifies with either of those labels must be an asexual elitist or conform to “puritanical” ideas about sexuality, which speaks over the people who actually identify with those labels.

The AVEN 2014 Census attempted to resolve this issue by asking whether one identifies as sex-positive, negative, or neither/both/unsure* and to ask if one agrees or disagrees with the following statements “I have absolutely no problem with sex between consenting adults”, and “Our society has too much sex in it, and it would be better if it were diminished”.

As shown in the discussion section of this analysis, the emphasis on self-identification with the sex-positive/negative question was because of the ambiguity of each label, so there was an attempt to infer what the respondent meant.

I’ve wanted to ask about morality vs. ethics in regards to sexual attitudes. From what I’ve seen, the reasoning among people who have a positive attitude towards sex in general seems consistent. On the other hand, people can have negative attitudes towards sex in general for various reasons, and I feel like it does a disservice to lump everyone together, which has happened due to biases in the questions. It’s a problem that the asexual community has assumed that having a negative attitude towards sex must mean believing in “puritanical” views on sex, which leads into one of the next points.

One of the things I wanted to find out is what percentage of the asexual community believe under which circumstances is sex in general morally acceptable, and a separate question about ethics. It’s a difficult set of questions to write though. However, some people I’ve talked with said that they don’t easily make the moral-ethical distinction I recognize, or don’t make it at all.

What I meant by morality distinction, is whether one agrees with the viewpoints of traditional sexual morality, often known as sexual puritanism (although as The Ace Theist explained, that’s a misnomer but the name stuck), is incorrectly believed as saying is sex is always evil. It’s actually usually believing sex is morally good or at least morally acceptable under a narrow range circumstances, and evil under the rest, with “acceptable” sex usually being defined as being: monogamous, between a man and woman in marriage, while open to the possibility of procreation.

By the ethics distinction, I meant under what circumstances does someone consider sex to be ethically acceptable, or rather, it asks questions such as:

  • Is it good for a person’s well-being, or is it harmful?
  • Does it overall have the potential to be good for a person’s well-being, or are they outweighed by the ways that sex can be harmful?
  • Given all the pressure to have sex, and how widespread sexual exploitation is, how feasible is consenting?
  • Is sex inherently “using” someone, and how?

Being “sex-negative” under the ethics distinction means believing that overall, believing that there are many ethical issues surrounding sex, and those issues, and the ways sex can harm outweigh any possible benefits. It’s a viewpoint rooted in concern for one’s own, and others’ well-being. “Sexual puritanism” in contrast, is rooted in whether one’s behavior follows a narrow set of pre-defined rules.

This is just a starting point, and I hope I can discuss these distinctions, and refine them.


Footnotes:

*The lack of “sex-neutral” option was a limitation of that question