This is the 1-year anniversary of my election to AVEN’s Project Team. Full terms last for 2 years, and barring something like wanting or needing to step down, or winning a moderator election that was too tempting for me to not run in, I intend to serve a full term.
Specifically, my role that I was elected into is the Resources and Survey Director, a position created for an election in early 2013, as a way to restart the official AVEN census in English. The only official English AVEN census done was in 2008, and while later attempts to restart it had been made, they hadn’t been successful.
My history marks me as a very strange candidate for the Project Team. They’re a group of volunteers elected on AVEN to manage projects on asexual visibility and education, and are considered responsible for the AVEN brand name. Of all the Project Team members that AVEN ever had, I know that I’m one of the least representative, because of my history, and because of it, I feel like I can’t be trusted with handling their brand name. How did this weirdo win an election, and what am I in it for? I really did see myself as a darkhorse candidate.
Like anyone else who has ran in a PT election, I’m enthusiastic about raising asexual visibility and education. I spend much of my time on AVEN greeting newbies in the Welcome Lounge board, and answering questions in Q&A. When the Resources and Survey Director position became available again later in the year, I was eager to run for it, because I have a background in psychology, and from it, a background in statistics and research methods. I could put some of that knowledge to use for the survey. I’m also interested in the history of the asexual community, and how much it’s changed over the years.
So many people I’ve seen on AVEN’s Welcome Lounge board, and tumblr’s #asexuality and #asexual tags, wrote about how they felt “broken” or lost before they found the asexual label. It’s also sad that many have dealt with a lot of sexual peer pressure, and thought they were “broken”, or something was wrong with them that had to be fixed. Some wrote about how they went to far as to try to “cure” themselves. It was all because they didn’t know that asexuality is real, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
However, my focus isn’t just on asexuality, and I’m concerned about possible conflict of interest because of it. It’s been nagging at me ever since I ran in my first election. That’s why I said I feel like I can’t be trusted with the AVEN brand name. As you might know, I identify with the rejection of sex first (your terminology may vary!) and asexuality second. There are parts of AVEN’s terminology and framework that I disagree with, and there have been times I’ve been discontent with how “celibacy” as a concept gets taken for granted, leading to the assumption it’s simply not having sex, and not something that needs to be elaborated on.
With the survey, I took matters into my own hands. This is not to say that I singlehandedly wrote the survey. Certainly not. Writing the survey was a team effort. Each of us were mainly involved with different sections. The preliminary results supported what I’ve observed in the asexual community about celibacy/sexual inactivity: Most don’t actually identify as celibate as part of their sexual identity despite all the talk about “celibacy”, mainly because of the connotations of that term. Most would just say they’re sexually inactive, or don’t use a label for it, and that many of them don’t have a set length for their sexual inactivity.
It’s important that there are now statistics behind these observations. Talking about “celibacy” is actually pretty confusing in asexual spaces, and the results from the survey may give a better idea of what a lot of people in asexual spaces mean by that term, and show that even for asexuals, it can still be more than just not having sex.
There’s nearly no visibility for celibacy/long-term sexual abstinence that’s voluntary, and for non-religious reasons. I believe that’s detrimental to the voluntarily celibate*, including those within the asexual community.
The stereotypes that asexual and voluntarily celibate people face, are many of the same ones. A lot of great efforts have been made to fight against those misconceptions towards asexuality, and asexual visibility has grown a lot just this year, and great job to everyone who contributed!
However, that understanding of how asexuality doesn’t mean sexual repression, or that it doesn’t mean shaming others just for having sex, may not extend to the voluntarily celibate. Asexuality isn’t any kind of celibacy, and distancing asexuality from it, because they aren’t the same thing, is necessary. However, not acknowledging celibacy, other than “asexuality isn’t it”, may undermine one of the intended ideas the asexual community fights for, and that is to not have sex is a valid option.
People aren’t likely to connect the dots and think “Oh, I get it! Many of the stereotypes surrounding asexuality also apply, and people who don’t want sex, regardless of sexual orientation, are also erased by society, and may feel like something is wrong with them too!” I don’t want them to be left behind, because of the harm of not knowing that not having sex is a valid option. Not everyone who doesn’t want sex is asexual. I’m afraid that there’s this unintended message of “It’s okay to be asexual, but not okay to not want sex”, or “It’s okay to not have sex, but only if you’re asexual”.
I’m advocating for asexual visibility efforts that save people from falling through the cracks. This includes positive acknowledgement of related groups that have a considerable overlap with asexuality, whether individuals in that group are asexual or not. Within the asexual community, there are ways sex-repulsed asexuals fall through the cracks, and ways that aromantic asexuals do too, making it difficult for either group to talk about their experiences. The understanding of alloromantic asexuals and sex-indifferent asexuals, who are considered more “familiar” to mainstream society, won’t extend to aromantic and repulsed asexuals respectively, unless those groups are outright included, in a way that doesn’t try to gloss over them. Right now, I’m trying to do my part with creating 101-level resources.
Sometimes I’m surprised I made it this far on the PT, but I did make it to my goal: To be on the PT for at least 1 year, and finish the 2014 survey.
*I know I’ve flip-flopped between multiple different terms here, but I often use “voluntary celibacy” as an umbrella term for anyone choosing to not have sex, regardless of what label they actually use for themselves, because this terminology issue is a minefield to navigate. It sounds contradictory, knowing that there are people who’d rather identify as other labels (myself included!), but it’s easier than saying “people who choose to not have sex”.