Category Archives: Asexual politics

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.

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It wasn’t just me thinking this? Rant about sex-positivity in asexual spaces

(warning: talk of sexual coercion and repulsion-shaming)

I read the newest issue of F-ace-ing Silence, which brings up the topic of sex-positivity in asexual spaces, which to me personally, has been one of the thorniest topics for a multitude of reasons.

On AVEN, back when a call for submissions was announced, and I was tempted to write a submission.

Reading through the third volume, it brought up the issues that I’ve been concerned about. For so long, I didn’t know if I weren’t the only one who actually felt that way, or if I had just taken a lot of things the wrong way when I first found the asexual community, particularly AVEN. Thinking I was still taking things the wrong way was what held me back from making a submission.

When I first found the asexual community, I was sure I wouldn’t be welcome. The issue here was two-fold, and both sides are directly related. Issues with terminology, since I’m not originally from the asexual community was one reason. The other is that my first impressions of what I recognized as “sex-positivity” were very bad.

When I was lurking AVEN, one of the first things there I remember reading was about how “sex-positivity” is enforced, and I took it to mean that one is supposed to only say positive things about sex, and be open to, or at least indifferent towards it personally, implying that it’s bad to be repulsed by sex or have ideological reasons against it, even in asexual spaces!

I saw others on AVEN respond that someone can be sex-repulsed but still be sex-positive, a statement that I found highly objectionable. I interpreted that statement as: It’s okay to hate sex, as long as you’re still open to it, or at least be apologetic about never having it, and cheerlead everyone else’s sex lives.

“You Know, But Let Me Tell You”, on page 8 of the zine sums up how exhausting the approach taken with a lot of asexual visibility efforts is. Having to put in so many caveats makes what one intended to say a lot longer, and a lot less clear, making what’s said less about explaining asexuality itself, and more of it is reassuring others that we aren’t shaming them, whether they want sex or not.

If we’re talking about asexuality in a matter-of-fact way, shouldn’t it be implied that there’s no intent to alienate or shame anyone?

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The flip-side to being the “perfect representative”

This post could be considered part 2 to my Carnival of Aces entry for this month. I’m writing it, because Luvtheheaven’s entry reminded me of something.

When I’ve written about the pressure for everyone in the asexual community to be the “perfect representative”, by making themselves, and the asexual community as a whole “presentable” to mainstream society, I was referencing the pressures brought about by “Unassailable Asexual” concept.

The Unassailable Asexual concept is a series of observations showing that asexuals so often get their asexuality invalidated because certain other parts of their identity are used against them to invalidate it. I’ve been subject to this myself.

By being “presentable”, it implicitly means hiding away the traits that can be assailed, lest someone be accused of reinforcing the stereotypes or misconceptions. In other words, it’s the “We’re just like everyone else (heteronormative society), minus this one thing” assimilationist rhetoric at play, and it permeates our community due to internal and external pressures.

Assimilationism only gives visibility to those who conform the most, and/or stay silent about their other differences. Some asexuals don’t mind having sex, and may have it to please a partner in a romantic relationship. Some who prefer to date other asexuals want a traditional romantic relationship, and some also want children, but it’s a problem when these subsets of the asexual population are the only ones getting visibility, because it presents a narrative that doesn’t challenge societal views about sexuality, gender or relationships in a significant way, reassuring heteronormative society that asexuals and our experiences are different in just one way.

They (heteronormative society) want a narrative that in their eyes, doesn’t “complicate” things. Aromanticism and nonamory aren’t mentioned in the Unassailable Asexual test, but aromantic and or nonamorous asexuals have reported feeling marginalized within the asexual community. Assimilationist rhetoric erases them.

I said that it’s a battle that we’ll always be fighting against, but the most effective option is to encourage diversity, to support those who are under-represented in our own community.

There’s another, contradicting idea of the what the “perfect representative” is, that can occur within the community. Luvtheheaven noted it in the asexual spaces she’s been in, noting that there was a culture of being expected to be childfree, to never have sex, and to never date. She also notes that negativity towards relationships, sex, and parenthood were also expected in this culture:

It feels like the most acceptable narrative for an ace, the culture we’ve come up with, is one that fully rejects all conventional and traditionally sanctioned ideals. Asexual-spectrum folks are expected to be tolerant and understanding and embracing differences, but the default has been moved to “none” – no sex, no romance, no desire to ever have kids, etc. To not want romance, sex, or kids is to break the norms of society at large, but in the new subculture asexuals have created, the new norm is to reject all of it, as far as what I feel.

I responded here, feeling a sense of culture clash. There are two points I want to make. First is that her response was spot-on: it’s true that I don’t fit in with the asexual community culture. That I identify with the rejection of sex first, and don’t think it has to do with my asexuality, is not a familiar narrative to the asexual community, nor originates from it. It’s because I didn’t find the asexual community first. I know I’ve clashed with others in the asexual community over terminology, but that issue just hides the fact that I’m using an unfamiliar narrative to them in the first place. I don’t know if they’ll understand, regardless of what term I use or don’t use.

I don’t think I’ve seen for myself what she described in the asexual community, or subset she’s been involved with, but I have a guess where that dynamic she observed came from.

Keep in mind this is just speculation, but it seems like the most acceptable asexual narrative to mainstream society, is being “just like everyone else, minus the sexual attraction”. Sometimes this is considered the most acceptable narrative even within the asexual community due to external pressures, which is very frustrating to those of us who don’t fit that narrative. I say this as someone who doesn’t fit it, but it doesn’t surprise me that the culture in some asexual spaces is one that moved the defaults to no sex, no marriage or romantic relationships, and no children.

I think trying to establish that as a narrative is a way of fighting against societal expectations, showing that by rejecting sex, marriage, romance, and childbearing, that they haven’t internalized society’s expectations to be in a sexual-romantic relationship and bear children are the most “valid” way to live. After all, if an asexual person says they’re open to sex, how do we know that they really are, or feel pressured to be? Keep in mind these questions are legitimate concerns, and talking about consent in regards to asexuality is often a challenging topic.

However, it isn’t liberating to impose another default. It implies that anyone who doesn’t fit it is the “other”, who have to justify their decision to be in asexual spaces.

Luvtheheaven’s observations raises some questions, which I’m looking for input on: is it implied that those who are open to any of the things deemed “normative”, is a sell-out who internalized societal expectations? Is it implied that they’re going against the ideology of the asexual community?

When there is this culture of adhering to the defaults, or feeling like a sell-out for not doing so, there can still be self-doubt among those who adhere to the new defaults. Someone may have to continuously “prove” to others how much they hate sex, how much they hate romance, and how glad they are to be childfree, to show that their viewpoints haven’t wavered, therefore no change of having internalized societal expectations. This pressure could lead to feeling like a sell-out if they express any ambivalence, or if their viewpoints waver in any way.

The culture of the asexual community shouldn’t be having any defaults. Asexuality itself doesn’t have an ideology or specific lifestyle tied to it. It’s a sexual orientation. Contrast this with the celibate communities, including the one I the most adhere to, which may have their own defaults for a reason (some are more open to variation than others though); some aren’t simply about not having sex, but also have specific ideologies tied to them, and in some cases, also certain lifestyles that are central to the identity of those communities.

I’ve been through the same pressure to want to be the “perfect representative”, though it was before I found the asexual community. It was actually a result the frequent invalidation I faced. I felt like I had to show how much I hated sex and romance to try and prove to my unsupportive friends, and myself that I’m asexual (under the assumption that not hating all forms of intimacy must mean experiencing sexual attraction), and prove to myself that I haven’t succumbed to societal expectations. I doubted myself, because I was in a relationship even though I didn’t want to be, and felt like a sell-out.

Defining an asexual culture

This entry is for the April 2015 Carnival of Aces: An Asexual Culture.

This month’s Carnival of Aces poses a question that I find very interesting: Is there an asexual culture, or how would we define it?

By “culture”, I mean more broadly the common characteristics of a group of people used to define themselves, and as a group, such as shared beliefs, values, symbolism, and rules. Another aspect of a culture is a shared framework that’s used to conceptualize the most important concepts to them, along with a shared set of symbols used to communicate concepts amongst themselves, and with outsiders.

Other sexual minorities have their own cultures. One of the hallmarks surrounding them is setting themselves apart from heteronormative society. It is partly because heteronormative society marginalizes those who don’t fit its model of cisgender heterosexuality, and distances itself from them.

Gay neighborhoods and bars are two of the most visible markers of LGBTQ culture, and they originated in a context of survival. Many youth who were disowned by their families moved to these neighborhoods, as those may have been one of their only opportunities left for housing and employment. Gay and lesbian bars served as way to meet others, but they weren’t safe spaces, as they had operated under the constant fear of crackdowns by the police.

The other side to the existence of LGBTQ and asexual cultures*, and why they set themselves apart from heteronormative society, is because of choosing to resist it and its norms; resisting the idea that being heterosexual and cisgender are the normative, or “proper” ways to be, while everything else is an aberration to be “fixed”.

Asexuals don’t have as high of risks of being disowned, or facing violence for their sexuality, but the existence of an asexual culture and community still has many parallels. The asexual culture didn’t originate in a context of survival like the LGBTQ cultures have, but like the LGBTQ cultures, it originated out of a need for solidarity.

Many LGBTQ and asexual people have spent a large part of their lives trying to live as something that they’re not, to fit the heteronormative mold. The existence of these cultures values liberation, being accepted as who one is, instead of trying to assimilate themselves at the cost of not being true to themselves.

Being forcibly outed when trying to assimilate for their survival is an act of violence. Some people are out and visible by choice (though some people still aren’t out, because it isn’t safe for them) as a way of showing that they aren’t ashamed of who they are, in a society that tells them they should be.

It’s why the the different labels under the LGBTQ and asexual umbrellas developed their own symbols: for solidarity within their own groups, and to choose to make themselves visible. The asexual culture has its own symbols, and its values that developed in a context of both countering compulsory sexuality and heterosexism.

Among the key values of the asexual culture overall are acceptance, and inclusion, which are done by validating asexuals’ experiences. It’s crucial to counter the misconceptions that lead to invalidation, to show that asexuality is a sexual orientation in its own right. However, Ace Theist notes that there are conflicting values within the asexual community and its discourse, and describes it as a culture in tension.

They noted that the way that rhetoric used to validate asexuality itself as something that’s “normal”, and absolutely isn’t caused by, or influenced by any other factors for anyone, can unintentionally invalidate other aspects of an asexual person’s identity that already tend to be assailed. This can lead to tension between those who can’t separate their asexuality from other experiences of theirs, and those who feel their asexuality is completely separate. How can we validate both groups?

There’s such an emphasis on making asexuality visible, that these assertions are common. Pianycist notes how those assertions strip away the agency of trauma survivors, and the disabled by denying it to those whose experiences tie into their asexuality.

This issue of unintentionally invalidating some asexuals in the effort to validate their asexuality also ties directly into the “Unassailable Asexual” concept. As this round-up on the Unassailable Asexual topic shows, it’s an unwinnable system at its core, as even those whom have all of the “unassailable” traits still get invalidated for one reason or another, but as Tristifere noted here, disabled asexuals and those with a history of trauma are among those whom face the worst of the invalidation.

The Unassailable Asexual concept is another force that shapes the asexual community’s culture. It is one of, if not the key underlying factor as to why the asexual culture is one in tension. When fighting against the forces that say that someone’s asexuality is “invalid” because of reason X, we have to be careful not to reinforce them ourselves.

On a more positive note, another value of asexual culture is breaking down what “attraction” is, crafting models, and an elaborate a lexicon related to the different types of attraction, and their gray areas. These are crafted in opposition to the societal assumption that sexual, romantic, aesthetic attractions are one and the same with no gray areas. They’ve helped not just the asexual community with finding the ways to describe themselves that they couldn’t before, but also cross-orientation non-asexuals,

Another value that could be considered a tenet of asexual culture overall, is the emphasis on self-identification. This is influenced by the fact that sexuality isn’t black and white, and what “sexual attraction” and “sexual desire” are, can be ambiguous. As said on AVEN, members can’t say if someone is asexual or not, only point them to resources to help someone determine if the asexual label fits them. Another reason for this value is that some people who don’t desire sex, or don’t experience sexual attraction, might not want to identify with the asexual label, particularly if they’re part of a group of people who are frequently desexualized.**

I’ve mentioned before that the asexual community has its own framework, which is a collection of the terms, definitions, and concepts that they find useful, along with what aspects of sexuality do they prioritize. We communicate these concepts amongst ourselves, and in our outreach and education efforts. I’ve mentioned it in the context of explaining how I can’t fit my experiences into it, but I’ll explain what I actually meant by the framework used by the (English-language) asexual community.

  • In the English-language asexual community, one of the concepts that’s most prioritized is the asexual spectrum***, and where someone is on that spectrum.
    • On asexual blogs, and on AVEN, members usually specify if they’re asexual, gray-asexual or demisexual as either the most, or second most important part of their sexual identity, with the other most important part usually being their romantic orientation.
  • Many also specify their romantic orientation, seen as another of the most important concepts to prioritize.
  • In an earlier era of the asexual community history, whether someone was libidoist or nonlibidoist used to be prioritized. Now, few people specify it anymore except in threads or posts about it.

However, this framework isn’t used in all languages. It’s mainly associated with the English-speaking community. In defining an asexual culture, we do need to be careful to not erase differences in language, and how it shapes the asexual communities in other languages.

Another aspect of someone’s sexuality that’s widely discussed is their personal attitude towards having sex; the repulsed, indifferent, and favorable labels are usually used, although as of now, controversy is erupting over the “sex-favorable” label again.

The asexual community as a whole is predominantly internet-based, because of the smaller, and more scattered population of asexual people as a whole. Many people are also involved in organizing, and participating in offline meetups.

Asexuality has been written about before the creation of the online asexual communities, but it wasn’t until the widespread use of the internet that asexuals were able to connect with each other, unless they happened to know another person who was aware of their asexuality, which was very unlikely.

The culture of the asexual community is predominantly influenced by AVEN, but it could’ve turned out a lot differently, if The Official Asexual Society had overtaken AVEN in popularity and influence in its early years. Or it could’ve been different if tumblr had been around during that time. AVEN isn’t perfect, but it’s important that they value gray areas, and self-identification, as they allow more room for discussion and for the individual to question what label fits them best.

I have a lot to say about this topic, and may end up writing a part 2 to this.


Footnotes:

*When I write about the LGBTQ and asexual communities, I don’t mean that they’re mutually exclusive.

**By “desexualization”, I meant the forcible and systemic denying someone of an autonomous sexual identity, which can include either denying their asexuality (as that is an autonomous sexual identity), or forcing an asexual identity on them.

***In other languages, that there’s a gray area with asexuality may be acknowledged, but there might not be a term for it specifically. The existence of an asexual spectrum, as opposed to asexuality being on its own, and the gray area being considered part of the sexual spectrum instead, still has some controversy.

Mercenary from unknown lands: Assorted musings

Not actually part of the submission itself, but my submission for this month’s Carnival of Aces is the most ambitious one I’ve written. It’s going to have 3 or 4-parts to it, not including this. I’ve been working on it through the month, and feel like it’s a race against time to get all of it up before the end of the month.

There’s so much I have to say about this month’s theme. It’s one of the reasons I started this blog, it’s one of the things I blog for. There are many things I’ve been wanting to say since I’ve started this blog, but struggled with, but this month’s Carnival of Aces may be the perfect prompt to get so many of those thoughts out.

Some time ago, The Asexual Agenda asked what is it we blog for? I didn’t get to responding to it, because I’ve been so busy, but part of it is so that I can get many of my thoughts out, to try to find others who understand, and reach out to those who can relate.

The overarching theme of the multi-part submission I’m writing is that I see some communities who could’ve been allies, except differences in language keep them apart, and it’s sad. I also feel like I have to pick sides, since I’ve only seen maybe three other people try to pledge loyalty to both sides, and I haven’t heard from any of them in a long time. One of my ambitions has been to bridge the gaps in understanding. One of the things that has been nagging at me is if there really is a conflict of interest issue, or a divided loyalty issue in trying to do so. I’m not sure if it actually is, because this is one of those things I haven’t been able to talk about.

Because of that, and that I didn’t find the asexual community first, is why I see myself as a mercenary to the asexual community. I serve it, but have felt doubt over whether I can be part of it, because of my circumstances. If I had found the asexual community first, and adhered to their ideas first, I would’ve been, but things didn’t turn out that way.

Aftermath of the 2011 Ace Tumblr Debacle

This is going to be part 1 of a series I’m writing about, of the asexual community history since 2011.

2011 was a controversial year in asexual community history, especially for the tumblr asexual community. Epochryphal detailed the clashes and controversies that happened that year, and a post on The Asexual Agenda asked about this largely forgotten era of asexual community history.

Every community has its growing pains. 2011 was a year of a lot of growth for the asexual community, especially the tumblr community, which grew in prominence, and would rival AVEN by 2012. Up until then, AVEN was seen as the asexual community (aside from some splinter groups that formed in response to it) It was the year that (A)sexual was released, introducing so many people to asexuality for the first time.

Tumblr’s highly open format made it easy for many asexuals to get involved in the asexual community, but that same format makes it very open to outsiders. Some of these outsiders wanted to learn, and be allies, others were detractors, and there were a lot of detractors that year, in what some call “The Ace Tumblr Debacle”, or “The Great Ace-Hate”.

I first found the asexual community in the second half of 2012 through tumblr, and I remember that most of the issues of 2011 were still being debated. The flames only died down somewhat. 2012 was still a rocky year for the tumblr asexual community, but also for AVEN (but that’ll be for part 2).

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Tread carefully in this gray area

More writing about the sexual gray areas, including possible gray areas within consent.

(Warnings: sexual assault, rape, gaslighting, invalidation of survivors’ experiences)

The latest The Asexual Agenda linkspam rounded up many posts written in response of Queenie’s post on sexual gray areas and gray-area consent. In the comments, Elizabeth brought up some very important concerns, and I agree.

The concept of gray-area consent may be useful for some peoples’ experiences, and I found it useful for mine. Some people sincerely feel like their experiences were partially consensual, and don’t fit the all-or-nothing view on consent.

However, there are ways that the concept could be used, or misused for harm.

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Why is there still all of this doubt?

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.

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Asexual activism, and what is the ‘game’ to play, or not play?

Rotten-zucchinis linked to my first Unassailable Asexual post, and mentioned another take on “the only winning move is not to play”. It’s one that didn’t cross my mind at first, but I’m glad it was pointed out!

When I was using that phrase, I meant that the ‘game’ that is played, is the obstacle course that is asexual activism. The internal and external pressures that asexual activists face make it into an obstacle course. I was thinking that only way to (technically) ‘win’ that game is for the community to collectively not attempt activism, which includes not sharing individual experiences, since asexual activists will get their identities assailed no matter what. But in this regard, I don’t count not playing as a ‘win’, because no progress for the asexual community, which includes the increased visibility, education to the public, and reaching out to other asexuals, can be made that way.

If it does count as a ‘win’, it’s merely a Pyrrhic Victory, because the costs of collectively not attempting asexual activism greatly outweigh the benefit of saving asexuals’ identities from getting assailed. Without any efforts of asexuals sharing their experiences, not taking the risks that come with it, how many of us would still be invalidating our own asexuality for various reasons?

I’ve seen many recent newbies to the asexual community think they couldn’t be asexual, even though they heard of asexuality beforehand, because they thought libido, romantic attraction, aesthetic attraction, were all the same thing along with sexual attraction. I’m someone who realized I was asexual pretty much on my own, and this was years before I found the asexual community. For every person like that, there are many more who would’ve never known they were asexual without the efforts of the asexual community. To make any progress, we have to play the game, and we have to go through this obstacle course, even though it’s stacked against us all.

They (rotten-zucchinis) mention some posts they made 5 years ago on Apositive, that are related to this issue, and are still relevant today. We, the asexual community as a whole, have found ourselves in a situation where, despite the tremendous growth of asexual activism in the past 5 years, and despite all the dialogue discouraging the ideas of ‘real’ or ‘pure’ asexuals, there are still so many of us who are doubting their place in the asexual community, or doubting their right to associate with it!

A lot of the dialogue discouraging the ideas of ‘real’ or ‘pure’ asexuals addressed internal issues within the asexual community at the time. This was in an earlier era of asexual community history*, the idea that ‘real’ or ‘pure’ asexuals don’t have sex, or that someone can’t be sexually active and asexual, were widespread**. That got very thoroughly challenged with the AVEN thread “What is asexual elitism, and why does AVEN discourage it?”***

The Unassailable Asexual concept, and the harm that it does, has been discussed over the past 4-5 years since the term has been coined, or at least described. We all should know by now that the asexual community is diverse. I’ve seen many posts on tumblr and AVEN, affirming asexuals that have any trait that ‘fails’ the Unassailable Asexual test that it (that trait) doesn’t invalidate their asexuality. We should know this, or perhaps we do, yet there’s something holding us back? Their post, and why mine was linked to, affirms my suspicions that there is now internal pressure to conform to the Unassailable Asexual idea, when it used to only, or largely be externally imposed.

Their take on “playing the game” referred to playing into the divide-and-conquer dynamics that undermine our community’s solidarity, in an attempt for mainstream acceptance (for only part of the community), such as buying into the idea of the unassailable asexual as something to try and emulate. This is where my post was mentioned:

And for various reasons, our community became communities. That was useful for spreading the word about asexuality to new and vast audiences, but it left us vulnerable. And it meant that the “within-community ideal” and the “public-acceptance ideal” didn’t stay separate. They merged in a single shape-shifting trickster to form this double-bind—between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place—condemned-if-you-do-comdemned-if-you-don’t situation. It’s an impossible situation. And we can’t win ( unless we refuse to play: https://cakeatthefortress.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/the-unassailable-asexual-the-only-winning-move-is-not-to-play/ ).

To not play the game, in this case, is for the community as a whole to reject those divide-and-conquer tactics, and reinforce our solidarity with each other. Now that is a real way to win!


Footnotes:

*As rotten-zucchinis noted, Apositive has changed a lot since it was founded. Apositive was founded during this earlier era of asexual community history, where intentional asexual elitism was a large problem within AVEN, so Apositive was created to be much more open.

**This is related to the concept of the “Gold Star Asexual”, which Fox, one of the co-bloggers of The Dragon and the Fox, notes is a separate concept from what’s been described as the Unassailable Asexual. The “Gold Star Asexual” is an internal restriction on who counts as asexual or not, and while it has largely been discredited by the asexual community, it seems that the Unassailable Asexual concept ended up taking hold within it, when it had originally been only an external set of restrictions.

***Not to say that issue is completely resolved. Recent criticisms of asexual elitism still being alive in the community argue that it’s still there, but it’s a lot more subtle than it used to be.

Other ways of being an assailable asexual

I finally got to reading the asexual zine F-ace-ing Silence, an ongoing zine about asexuals who feel silenced in asexual spaces. I was excited to see the publication of the first issue announced, would’ve read it right away, if not for the issues I was experiencing with my computer.

This zine is very relevant to the topic of the “Unassailable Asexual”, that is currently being discussed in a lot of asexual blogs, for this month’s Carnival of Aces. As soon as I saw this zine announced on AVEN, and calling for submissions, I wanted to write one, but just didn’t have the time or energy to try and write about my experiences. I still wonder if I should try again with that, if I’m already in the process of writing on this blog about the things that made me struggle in asexual spaces.

When the Unassailable Asexual concept is talked about, the traits for alleged unassailability are the following: Neurotypical/allistic, no mental health issues, no physical health issues, is cisgender, indifferent towards having sex, is sex-positive, between the ages of 20 and 40, is nonlibidoist, doesn’t have sexual problems, and has no history of abuse. However, there are other traits an asexual could get their asexuality assailed for that aren’t mentioned.

Some of the submissions talked about these other traits. One of them, by an anonymous submitter on pages 14-17 detailed invalidation and silencing for being religious, conservative, and having a fear of sex. When I think about it, I don’t recall anything that addresses how those traits don’t invalidate someone’s asexuality, maybe except that some asexuals who grew up in very conservative households, still realized they were asexual, because they didn’t have the struggle to abstain from sex that most of their peers did. But what about those who didn’t realize their asexuality so easily in comparison?

From accounts I’ve read of people who defected from Christian fundamentalism, and the Purity Culture teachings heavily associated with it*, there are some people who for all intents and purposes shut down their own sexuality in order to cope, becoming functionally asexual. They were raised to believe that even sexual fantasies before marriage are a sin (specifically, they’re considered adultery), and that all sex, and sexual thoughts before marriage are morally disgusting (and can ruin girls and women forever!), and sinful, yet that sex becomes the best thing ever upon marriage, and is the wife’s greatest duty to her husband**, which she’s supposed to always be available for. The various harms of these teachings should be obvious.

What does it mean when someone who defected from this culture thought they were asexual as a result of this coping method, only to realize over time that they’re not? This has happened to some people. What can we do and say to be considerate of these people and all the struggles they’ve been through, while also trying to prevent “You only think you’re asexual because of your upbringing” from becoming another tactic to invalidate those who’ve been through a Purity Culture upbringing, but are asexual? How can we support people who’ve been through those experiences, whether they’re asexual, or not, or are questioning? Same goes for sex-repulsion or aversion; what if someone’s repulsion or aversion towards sex was conditioned as a result of their upbringing? I’ve hardly seen this talked about, so I’d really like some input.

What about asexuals who didn’t defect from a conservative upbringing, and stayed? The anonymous person who submitted that entry for F-ace-ing Silence said she feels silenced in both conservative and asexual spaces; conservative spaces for being a sexual minority of any kind, and asexual spaces for being conservative and religious.

I don’t recall seeing anything, maybe except for a tumblr post or two some time ago, about supporting asexuals and/or repulsed people who are afraid of sex, and their fear isn’t something that they need to get rid of. In many 101-level materials, it’s noted that asexuality isn’t sex-repulsion, a fear of sex, a phase, etc. While that’s true, these materials usually don’t make it clear enough that those things aren’t inherently bad (okay, maybe except for when asexuality gets conflated with sex-shaming), and not something an asexual person should be ashamed of.

I understand very well why someone would want to explain that they’re “actually asexual (and/or sex-repulsed or voluntarily celibate), and not afraid of sex”. I’ve had to do that, to defend myself from friends who thought that I rejected sex only because I’m afraid of it. I’m not, but so what if I were? So what if someone who is repulsed by sex, has a sense of repulsion rooted in fear? There are a lot of other activities that people can be afraid of doing, and have no desire to change that. Their fear of that activity isn’t causing them distress. Why does sex have to be treated differently in this regard?

*Purity Culture beliefs are mainly associated with Christian fundamentalism, but aren’t exclusive to it, and it’s possible to internalize all of its viewpoints on purity, defilement, and the concept of being “damaged goods” without having a religion, nor mentioning sinfulness.

**The Christian fundamentalist movements in the US aren’t actually that cohesive, so I shouldn’t be asserting these claims about the Christian fundamentalist brand of Purity Culture as being absolutes. Some do see sex as a gift to be enjoyed within marriage (and see premarital sex as ruining the sacredness inherent to sex and sexuality), while others believe it’s seen as a necessary evil that should be contained within marriage.