I wrote about the re-launching of Ace Day to help spread the word of it. There are a lot of great submissions under the #ace day tag on tumblr and the #aceday tag on twitter! I was looking forward to contributing something myself, but sadly I didn’t have the time to, since I’m back to working full-time and already had a backlog of posts I need to finish. Those were taking up my time so I couldn’t think about what to write or draw as my submission for Ace Day, but I’m glad for everyone who did post something!
Ace Day is a project started by theasexualityblog. The first Ace Day event was May 8th, but due to issues with the first Ace Day, it will be rescheduled to November 26th. The Ace Card motif will still be a part of the event, but the card symbolism will be less restrictive than it originally was, by allowing participants to choose their own card, and explain what the card means to them.
It will be about a month apart from Asexual Awareness Week, which will be from October 19th to the 25th. AAW is celebrated in many different ways by individuals in the asexual community, but it is generally more focused on outreach to those outside the asexual community, to bring awareness of asexuality to them.
Ace Day will primarily be an intra-community project about bringing members of the asexual community closer together, to show solidarity, and share their experiences. Participants in Ace Day will be encouraged to share how other parts of their identity intersect with their orientation, and share other parts of themselves, to show and celebrate the diversity of the asexual community.
Theasexualityblog is also looking for translators, to spread AceDay into other languages to spread it to the rest of the asexual community.
I knew of the first Ace Day event, but it was on short notice, and I was too busy to participate, but I’m looking forward to participating this time!
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.
(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?
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.
*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.
This is part 2 of my submission for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections
Part 2: Site of resistance against the hypersexual world
In part 1, I referred to the collection of communities that the English-speaking asexual community may recognize as being “celibate”, even though some of these communities contradict each other.
I specifically associate with the community about “celibacy” that is: voluntary, for non-religious reasons, for life, and this rejection of sex is an end in and of itself. Ideologically, it’s very different from the other “celibate” communities, and could be regarded as being in a class of its own. It actually has more in common with the asexual community and its goals than the others. Wouldn’t we be natural allies?
There’s just a very glaring issue: For their rejection of sex, they/we primarily identify as antisexual instead of celibate, and use a definition that not a lot of people recognize, not even in the asexual community. This led to both groups shutting themselves off from each other, and I believe the reasons why are unfortunate.
Both have many similar goals, fighting against compulsory sexuality and sex-normativity, aiming to raise awareness on how there’s nothing wrong with not wanting sex, and that some people don’t ever want it. Both also seek others who are alienated by the hypersexualized world.
They’re both separate communities and need to be, but it’s sad that differences in language, terms, and framework, keep us from understanding each other, and both sides think the other is the enemy, and against their goals. This issue has frustrated me ever since I found the asexual community. Since I did, I’ve constantly felt like I’ve forced to pick sides, and I feel burdened by massive conflict-of-interest issues.
This is part 1 of my submission for the February 2015 Carnival of Aces: Cross Community Connections
Part 1: Greetings from the “celibate” “community”! (There’s a reason why both of these are in quotes!)
Note: This first part is about the communities that the English-speaking asexual community may recognize as being celibate*, so for this post, I’m going to use “celibacy” as the umbrella term for people choosing to not have sex. Also as you can see with how I’m referring to the asexual community in the third person, I’m speaking as a “celibate” person first, asexual second.
I could say that I’m part of the celibate community, but that sounds misleading. To narrow it down, I could say I’m part of the community of people who are celibate for non-religious reasons, but that still sounds misleading, or it may even sound contradictory. It’s not a cohesive community, at least not in English, and I’ve written about this conundrum before. Yet, it’s technically what I identify with before my asexuality, and having this perspective does make me feel like a mercenary to the asexual community, and this is further complicated by the faction of the “celibate” community I most strongly identify with.
In English, there appears to be multiple factions with contradicting ideas of what constitutes celibacy, including some who could be considered celibate, except they use a definition that excludes themselves, and some that might not count by other people’s standards. Who counts, who doesn’t? These contradictions make the boundaries, and the existence of a “celibate” community unclear.
It was frustrating for me to come to this conclusion, because I’m trying to reach out to people who don’t want sex, and contribute to the “celibate” community, or a particular faction of it. Complicating this further, is the overlap between asexuality and “celibacy”. Many asexuals are sexually inactive, and are happy to never have sex. However, as the preliminary results from the 2014 AVEN Community Census show, nearly 90% of the sexually inactive asexual spectrum respondents don’t identify as celibate, so they might not consider themselves part of any sort of celibate community.
One of the main reasons listed in the survey results for not identifying as celibate, have to do with the connotations of celibacy as a term; it suggests a deliberate effort to not have sex, which might not apply to asexuals. Some people (asexual or not) say that asexuals by nature can’t be celibate, saying that asexuals have no sexuality to resist.
That’s consistent with what I’ve observed; many asexuals can relate to the concept of “celibacy”, or whatever not having sex is called, but can’t identify with it directly if they feel like their asexuality is the main factor behind their decision to not have sex.
I haven’t seen many asexuals say they’re part of any “celibate” communities, and I wonder if it’s because so many sexually inactive asexuals don’t feel a need to be in such a community? Another possibility that isn’t mutually exclusive, is that the different parts of the “celibate” community have different goals than the asexual community, and some of them don’t account for asexuality that well. That can lead asexuals who want to associate with celibacy, to feel alienated. If these communities want to be inclusive of asexuality, they have to listen to asexuals first!
Skeptic’s Play wrote an account of celibate people invalidating asexuality. He noted that one of the misconceptions about the religious life, is that people in religious orders are asexual, and the author he quoted said that asexual people don’t exist, and thinks it’s an insult to be called asexual.
Skeptic’s Play also cited Celibrate, a support site for people who are sexually inactive for whatever reason, though it is more geared towards abstinence until marriage. They acknowledge asexuality, but their section on asexuality is very flawed, suggesting that gay men and lesbians are hypersexual, that homoromantic asexuals don’t exist, and that asexuality is the lack of sex drive.
The celibate communities can be just as prone to perpetuating misconceptions of asexuality as any other community. Was Celibrate trying to be an ally to the asexual community, but was doing it wrong? Some asexual activists have contacted Celibate before about their problematic definitions, but Celibrate refused to change their descriptions of asexuality. Part of being an ally is to listen to the group that one is an ally to! The asexual community is nervous of those who claim to accept asexuality, but not the LGBT.
On the other hand, the asexual community could learn some things from the celibate communities, notably developing a more nuanced understanding of celibacy, or the different reasons why someone would choose to not have sex.
The asexual community has done a great job naming and defining the various types of asexuality, and they’ve created a space where they can define themselves, in the face of mainstream society trying to shove them into a narrow box of how asexuals are perceived.
From my observation, I’ve been discontent that that the asexual community treats the people they consider celibate, as a monolith, shoving us all under the celibate label without giving us room to specify more about our experiences. I feel like the asexual community has that power over us, because the “celibate” communities aren’t united. We don’t have a large central hub like the asexual community does. But is this to be expected? After all, the asexual community is about asexuality first, so understanding the nuances of asexuality, but not celibacy, may be expected in asexual discourse.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that asexuality itself is celibacy (or sexual abstinence), but in the effort for the asexual community to distance itself from celibacy to clear up this misconception, I’m concerned that’s shutting out the opportunity to understand what celibate people really are like. It does a disservice to us, and seems hypocritical to not try to understand. We dislike being shoved in narrow boxes as much as asexuals do, for their asexuality.
The celibate communities could learn some things from the asexual community too, particularly that sexuality is a gray area, and that celibacy itself may have gray areas. That’s something I learned from the asexual community, though I’m not sure if the celibate communities should embrace that rhetoric, as the boundaries of the celibate communities are already unclear.
*The recognized definitions of “celibacy” vary by language. In English, there are several definitions, but in some languages, it’s still primarily defined as being for religious reasons. This does make me wonder how do asexuals in other languages talk about their decision to not have sex then?
A brief follow-up to my previous post, let’s consider this part 1.5. inspired by Ace Admiral’s account of the 2011 debacle. He mentioned that shaming of the repulsed was another issue during the debacle, among other issues.
This was during a time when asexual community overall just wasn’t a safe space for the sex-repulsed, aside from some splinter groups. By 2010, AVEN took sex-positivity too far, and the repulsed were being shamed, and accused of being elitists if they said something the wrong way. The splinter groups weren’t that active, so where else to go?
Sciatrix’s post that he linked to, her account of the 2011 debacle, reminded me of how difficult it was for me to go through the asexual tags on tumblr too. I can relate to so much of what she said. It was often nerve-wracking, but I read through the tags because they were the only part of the asexual community I was a part of at the time.
I felt like I needed to do it, after 2 years of self-doubt and feeling like my right to identify as asexual was taken away from me, I needed to get it back. I wanted to get involved, but was always on edge.
I felt like I was in a tightrope; one wrong move, and I’ll lose everything. In my eyes, I was just regaining my confidence and right to identify as asexual, after they had been taken away from me, and I was afraid of losing it again. Coming out to the wrong person, or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time could’ve cost me the progress I made.
I was almost afraid to contact my campus’ local LGBT groups, because of what I read about asexual inclusion in LGBT groups. I knew that some groups were inclusive, others not, and I had to cross my fingers and hope the local group was inclusive, or would at least tolerate me. I was lucky that they were inclusive. Many of the members didn’t know of asexuality until they met me, but were willing to learn, and were respectful. I was really lucky, because if that had gone badly, that likely would’ve scared me off from ever trying again, and lose what confidence I built up. Their acceptance helped me a lot, but I was still nervous coming out to others.
I thought the tumblr community would be safer than AVEN. In 2011, this wouldn’t have been the case. In 2012, there was the potential for change. The tumblr community was clashing with AVEN, and I knew that a lot of people were leaving AVEN because they didn’t feel welcome. One of the issues had to do with the treatment of the sex-repulsed on AVEN. The tumblr community seemed like the safer option, despite how difficult it still was for me to browse the asexual tags, and it was still difficult to talk about being sex-repulsed on tumblr.
This was in 2012, when things were cooling off somewhat. I can only imagine how much more nervewracking it would’ve been to go through those tags back in 2011! It’s probably a mixed blessing that I didn’t try to get involved until 2012. Those who endured the 2011 debacle are among the trailblazers of the asexual tumblr and blogging communities. They endured a lot of challenges for the rest of us, so it’d be a shame if this era of asexual community history were forgotten. We’ve come a long way in just a few years. I like Ace Admiral’s take on the debacle; we were getting heard outside of AVEN. We were pushing forward, and overcame a lot of resistance.
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).
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.