Tag Archives: asexual community politics

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

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Archive controversy: Archival preservation vs. blogger control and limitations of fair use

Over the past few days, a controversy over copyrights erupted between AVEN and many bloggers of the asexual community, much of it documented here, because as of the past few weeks, several posts from blogs have been copied, and reposted in their entirety on AVEN’s World Watch archives.

I’m late to this issue because real life life has been getting in the way over the past few days as this issue was erupting, but I’ve been catching up. Being part of AVEN’s Project Team, but also a blogger myself, I don’t want to pick sides. This isn’t anything official, and I’m just speaking for myself here, although an official announcement from AVEN was released earlier today, and AVEN wants to work with content creators to come to a solution to this issue.

I greatly appreciate AVEN’s efforts at archiving asexual history, and I appreciate the enthusiasm of some members to find articles and posts to add. When AVEN posts articles and copies them into the WW archives, it is a good faith effort to preserve them for educational and historical purposes, because much of the asexual community’s history is online and changes so quickly. Many websites have come and gone, and copying articles is to preserve them if the article’s website goes defunct or changes URL. However, there are two more immediate concerns:

  • The impact this has on bloggers, including control over one’s own content, and how this impacts their ability to retain readers.
  • Copyright infringement, and whether AVEN’s archiving efforts fall under fair use or not.

Under the first clause of fair use, AVEN’s status as a nonprofit that archives information for nonprofit educational purposes is in its favor.

On this page that that further elaborates on what counts as fair use, it says that a project that non-commercial, and has a benefit to the public, are two points that fall in favor towards fair use, but there are limitations.

One of the points mentioned is “Nonprofit educational uses — for example, photocopying of limited portions of written works by teachers for classroom use.” This ties right into the third clause of fair use, which is “the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole…”, which places a limitation on how much information can be copied. The guideline is usually quoting one or two paragraphs.

The fourth clause “…the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.“, may or may not apply. Few, if any of us ace bloggers get any revenue from our blogs, but if people can just read the whole article on AVEN, then they have no incentive to click the original link, which diverts traffic away from the original blog. I haven’t been impacted by this myself, but other bloggers have. Redbeardace explained that he, and some other bloggers are dependent on traffic and visitor stats to guide them, and what they write.

Another concern is bloggers’ control over their content, especially since some of the blog posts that were reposted on AVEN were personal stories written for the author’s blog, being re-posted to a much wider audience than they may have intended, or if the blogger removed their post for whatever reason.

Personally, I think it’s fair if a couple of paragraphs are quoted, the post summarized, and linked to. That still gives someone the incentive to click the link to see the rest, and give the original blog traffic. It is also important to consider the nature of the post, respecting the difference between posts that are more about general information vs. more personal posts. Privacy should be respected.

In light of all of this, will other bloggers be stating their stances on their posts being reposted on AVEN so that this incident doesn’t happen in the future? I’d like for a balance to be struck, so that AVEN’s archives can continue to grow, while respecting bloggers’ wishes.

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.

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.

The balancing act hasn’t been solved

(alternate title: current challenges with asexuality 101)

Wow! I didn’t know that my latest post would inspire this one! That means a lot to me!

Not only am I involved in the asexual community, I’m also involved in a particular subset of the celibate community (if it counts as ‘celibate’, and if there is a cohesive celibacy community in the first place, that is), and am the admin of a forum related to it. I’ve felt overwhelmed figuring out what to do with so little input, but so many issues to balance, and I’m also leading work on static content, and am looking for help refining it. In the first thread, I said that I’m envious of the fact that the asexual community is largely cohesive, and has had years of trial-and-error figuring out a balance. I assumed that the balancing act that’d have to be done for this would be similar to what the asexual community has done.

However, I wrote the first two posts of that thread under the mistaken assumption that the balancing act that the asexual community is currently struggling with, has been resolved! As can be seen from recent and ongoing discussions about the treatment of sex-repulsed/averse and ‘sex-favorable’* asexuals, which Sciatrix summarizes here, this is clearly not the case. When I was writing that, I was thinking of the most blatant examples of the asexual community being unbalanced in the past. (*’sex-favorable’ in quotes, because that group as being a separate category from indifferent/other not-repulsed asexuals, and that specific term, are disputed.)

This ‘balancing act’ issue is still there. It’s not as blatant as it used to be, but it’s still leaving the asexual community in a bind where asexuals who can enjoy sex are frequently erased, and asexuals who are repulsed by or averse to sex feel silenced, despite making up such a large portion of the asexual community. Those who enjoy sex, because of their erasure, might feel like they have no right to be part of the community, and those who are repulsed or averse question if they feel welcome. In most cases, I don’t think the exclusion is intentional or malicious, but it nonetheless has major consequences.

Beranyth makes an excellent point that we should reconsider how we are doing our visibility efforts, which overwhelmingly seem to be geared towards allosexuals, with a pressure to make asexuality as ‘presentable’ as possible to them. Yes, we do need some resources introducing asexuality to allosexual people, but it needs to be done in a way that’s respectful to all asexual sub-groups.

While the existence of ‘sex-favorable’ asexuals is important in showing that it’s possible for someone to want sex itself, and still be asexual (also showing that sexual attraction and personal attitude towards sex are indeed separate things), we need to consider that they’re only a small part of the asexual community. They are just as important as any other sub-group, but from the looks of a lot of discussions about asexuality and sex, it’s easy to overestimate the percentage of asexuals who aren’t repulsed (whether indifferent or ‘favorable’), and to underestimate the percentage who are repulsed or averse.

We also need resources that are geared towards asexuals, and those who are questioning. Ace Theist’s post here shows that our current visibility efforts still have other major shortcomings, such as how it handles the topic of asexuality and abuse.

On another note, I apologize for my reply in their related post, which “This Week, in Discussion Disasters” was a follow-up to. I assumed that the person involved in this conflict, the tumblr user who made that inappropriate response was out to invalidate nonsexual relationships. That’s what it looked like, I didn’t know that they were a survivor of abuse who doesn’t think they have the right to identify as asexual until the follow-up post. If what I said was out of line, in light of the follow-up post, I’m sorry for that, and I feel terrible about it.

I’ve been spending more time on tumblr, taking note of posts related to asexual visibility efforts and how to avoid pitfalls, and try to reblog them when I see them. One of the first I’ve seen is anagnori’s list of the common pitfalls in 101-level presentations. Taking note of all this has also made me rethink what’s the best way to reach out to sex-averse, repulsed, or other people who are, or want to be celibate, but I’ll also have to think of what pitfalls would be unique to that community.

Why I’m branching out

Another thing that motivated me to restart blogging, getting involved in the asexual blog community, and try to get back into the tumblr community was the recent realization that by spending all of my asexual community involvement on AVEN, I’ve forgotten about some less-represented viewpoints and experiences, including those that I fall under. I created, with the help of some other AVEN members, the mixed relationships pamphlet that was handed out at the asexual events at the 2014 World Pride. I wasn’t able to make it to World Pride, but I was glad I was able to contribute something to the asexuality events. From what I was told, it was pretty well-received overall, but still had its problems.

One criticism is that it prioritized able, indifferent or favorable, alloromantic asexuals over the more marginalized, which I didn’t intend. When I saw these criticisms, I regretted not asking the tumblr asexual community for input, because from having perspectives different from AVEN’s as a whole, they would’ve caught details that were overlooked, and helped my group avoid mixed messages, and unintended implications. My first response on tumblr was to give clarification to some points in the pamphlet, while asking for clarification on what others said.

Part of the problem was using the word ‘compromise’. When I first found the asexual community through tumblr, I learned that it can be a loaded term, especially for asexuals who felt pressured to push themselves into sex in a mixed relationship. This issue was going on right around the time I found the asexual community, which was 2 years ago, right around this time, but some time after joining AVEN, I forgot all about that issue. Nextstepcake’s response alludes to that major conflict between AVEN and tumblr that was happening at the time.

On the other hand, on AVEN, talking about ‘compromise’ (using that wording) in mixed relationships doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal, because there are plenty of asexual members in mixed relationships who’ve talked about it with their partners, and allosexual members in mixed relationships asking for advice on how it can work with their partners. These are mostly people who unlearned, and challenged the societal assumption that relationships are sexual and romantic by default.

The pamphlet was handed out mainly to people who are new to asexuality and mixed relationships, and these are people who may not have yet unlearned the assumptions about relationships that can pressure asexuals and/or repulsed people into sex, while their partner compromising by not having sex, isn’t seen as a possible or thought-about option. Because of that pressure, an asexual compromising by having sex, and an allosexual compromising by not having sex, aren’t equivalent. That’s something I overlooked, because from the discussions I’ve seen on AVEN, they look to be equivalent.

I understand that giving up sex as a compromise can be difficult for some allosexuals, because of what significance sex has to them, but societal expectations about relationships put more pressure on the asexual partner to compromise by having sex, and the possibility of the allosexual partner not having sex doesn’t cross a lot of peoples’ minds.

The points that were made on the pamphlet only implied that relationships shouldn’t be seen as sexual and romantic by default, but that’s not good enough. I should’ve said it outright, in order to more effectively challenge assumptions. Unlearning the societal assumptions about relationships should be the first step in navigating a mixed relationship, or any kind of relationship for that matter!

My second response on tumblr is admitting how terrible I feel about messing up the way I did. I’m sex-repulsed, voluntarily celibate, and an abuse survivor, and not a very romantic person (not aromantic, but close to it), and I’ve been in an unhealthy mixed relationship. From personal experience, I should know how difficult the topic of ‘compromise’ can be for many people in the asexual community!

How did I disregard that? I didn’t realize until it was too late that the voices of the more marginalized asexuals are still under-represented on AVEN. I thought AVEN as of 2013 and 2014 is more balanced than it was in 2012 (while in 2012, things seemed to be strongly skewed towards sexually active, sex-indifferent and favorable asexuals). Even if it is, there’s still ways to go. The more marginalized groups’ voices are still under-represented, even the sex-repulsed/averse, who make up about 55% of the asexual community!

Don’t get me wrong, I still like AVEN. I like answering questions and meeting people there. I won’t be leaving, but I realize now that I can’t have it be my only source of information on asexual community politics, because so much of it tends to be left out. I didn’t realize until recently that I had shut myself off from a large part of the asexual community. I shut myself off from a lot of under-represented viewpoints, and issues that I only thought were resolved. I shut myself off from a large portion of the under-represented groups, including those that I’m part of. No wonder why I’ve had a hard time talking about some of my experiences. I just thought I’d been feeling isolated because I consciously rejected sex (I saw it as a deliberate decision, and this is actually unusual for an asexual person), and am not originally from the asexual community.

I think that AVEN, and the asexual tumblr+blog community both have their own niches and goals, and it was a mistake for me to see my time spent on AVEN as a replacement for the time I used to spend in tumblr+blog community.