Tag Archives: AVEN

Belated 1 year anniversary!

(warning: brief talk of sexual coercion)

This was intended to be the 1-year anniversary post for this blog, which was back on the 5th, but I had been busy keeping track of, and writing about the archiving controversy between AVEN and the bloggers, and have also been busy with some other projects, but better late than never!

It was in late July last year that I got encouraged to write my own blog, and contribute to the ace blogosphere, which I started with some comments on The Asexual Agenda, though it was on August 5th that I created this blog and made my first post.

I had so much to say, but there was a lot I was holding back on due to my fears of not being understood. That still held me back despite the encouraging comments I had gotten on my blog, and some posts on The Asexual Agenda. It’s self-defeating considering why I started to blog. When asked why do we in the asexual blogging communities, write our blogs, I would’ve answered that I blog to: contribute to asexual discourse, contribute to the discourse surrounding the rejection of sex, to share my experiences, and to find others who can relate, because they also need to be reached out to.

Sharing my experiences is the most difficult part, and it still is because I know I’m an outlier in the asexual community. I’m thankful that I’ve had commenters say that it does matter that I speak up about my experiences, as isolating as it may be.

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Archive controversy part 2: Working towards a solution

A follow-up to my last post, about the archive and copyright controversy that interrupted between AVEN, and the bloggers of the asexual community. The official thread and announcement by AVEN has escalated quite a lot, especially on the second page, but now it looks like some agreement is being reached. Some of the admins posted stating that being on good terms with content creators is more important than the completeness of the archives.

Keep in mind I’m still just speaking for myself here with this post, but I agree. I value the archives, but making them complete isn’t worth it if content creators are going to be alienated, and that would discourage us from creating more content.

Demiandproud proposed ideas for an asexuality community library as possible solutions to this problem, as something complementary to the World Watch archives, not a replacement.

This example has to do with retrocomputing and archiving old software instead, but one possible idea that comes to mind is following the approach used by World of Spectrum. Many of the other home computer systems, and game consoles from 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s have their own archives of software for them, but they fall under a legal gray area because: almost all were uploaded without the publisher’s permission, and are still under copyright, therefore it’s illegal, but the copyrights often aren’t enforced, or can’t be, hence the gray area. Some archived software are “orphaned works“, works that are still copyrighted, but the copyrights can’t be enforced. For others, the publishers or copyright holders don’t see a point in taking action if the abandonware archives aren’t profiting off of it.

With old computer software and video games, the justification used to archive it under this legal gray area is an understandable one: that physical copies of old software, and the computers themselves, aren’t expected to last long enough before the copyrights expire. Tapes, cartridges, floppy disks and CDs are all fragile formats. These “abandonware” sites exist to keep old software from vanishing off the face of the earth if there are no physical copies left that work.

Abandonware sites as a whole operate under this legal gray area, but WoS is one that stands out for operating in a fully legal manner, and shows how it’s possible: by tracking down the publishers, or current copyright holders, and asking for their permission to make copies of their software available. Most of the publishers contacted, agreed to it, and the site itself is officially endorsed by the owners of the Spectrum IP.

Under their header of “What are we after exactly?”, WoS states they want permission from the copyright holders without them having to relinquish their copyrights, and have a list of publishers and individual programmers who did or didn’t give them permission.

It’s not a perfect comparison since archiving blog posts or articles is different from archiving old software. There is a parallel in that there is an emphasis on preservation, since websites might not last long; many that go defunct either have no trace of their existence or only survive as incomplete fragments on the Wayback Machine. In general, there are challenges to preserving data, whether it’s a piece of software, or a website that partly, or completely disappears.

Archiving blog posts has its own set of concerns though, like posts that are more personal, or are edited or removed by the author for whatever reason. Another difference from the abandonware situation is that the publishers of blog posts in the asexual community can be easily found, their and our posts and blogs clearly aren’t abandoned. Many are still active bloggers, and some are actively in contact with AVEN right now. We’re here, and many of us want permission to be asked before being reposted on AVEN.

Otherwise, I think that same approach used by WoS can be taken by contacting publishers, and asking for permission, and also posting a list of publishers of asexual media, including bloggers that did or didn’t give permission for their content to be reposted on AVEN.

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.

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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What is it I’m on the Project Team for?

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.


Footnotes:
*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”.

One more thing: Preliminary findings of the 2014 AVEN survey are up!

I should’ve waited a bit before making my last post, because there was one more thing I was involved with during AAW, and that was helping out with writing the Preliminary Findings Report for the AVEN 2014 survey (now called the 2014 AVEN Community Census)! The results have just been posted up!

The making of the 2014 AVEN Survey

The AVEN 2014 Survey is up, and you can take it here!

This is the second official AVEN survey in English*, and we hope to make it yearly, as was originally intended. The other English AVEN survey was in 2008.

The whole process of working on the survey had its share of trial-and-error. It was slow at first, because while I have a background in statistics, research methods, and know how to write survey questions, I never coordinated anything of this scale before. I’m fortunate that I had such a good team helping me along the way!

I learned a lot along the way while working with the survey team, but we had our share of setbacks. Communication, and being able to coordinate when we could work on the survey at the same time, was the most difficult part. Often times, I found my schedule clashing with everyone else’s, because of the hours I was working earlier this year. During the months of May and June, making progress was difficult, because many of the people also involved in the survey were also involved in preparations for WorldPride. It would’ve been perfect to get the survey done in time for WorldPride, so it could’ve been announced during the beginning of the International Asexuality Conference, but we suffered another schedule slip.

Coordination could still use some work, because the survey’s announcement on AVEN didn’t come immediately after its addition to the front page, nor did we get to sharing it on tumblr right away, but thanks to Demi Gray for picking up where we didn’t, by being the first to share it there! Because of timezone differences, the survey’s addition to the front page happened while I was away from the computer, so the announcement was made hours later, after several people already took the survey.

Another difficulty was two of the survey’s sections: The one on attitudes towards sex, and the one on celibacy/sexual abstinence/long-term sexual inactivity, because of the sheer difficulty of writing concise, clearly-worded questions for them. I’ve seen some comments on tumblr already on how some of the questions have confusing wording, and I suspect that either of those sections are the worst offender when it comes to confusing wording. We’ll definitely need help to improve it for next time.

When writing for the celibacy or sexual abstinence section (it was obvious that I wrote most of this section, isn’t it?), there were a lot of times I fumbled over the wording, thinking “Is ‘abstaining’ really a good word choice for this, because I’ve heard asexuals say that sexual abstinence isn’t a meaningful concept to them!”, and “What if calling this ‘celibacy’ will cause people who don’t identify as celibate, but other terms instead, to be under-represented?” “Referring to this as ‘not having sex’ is too clunky”. I don’t know if I was worrying over nothing with those thoughts, but I know how much wording can affects the results of a survey, so I was trying to be careful.

It was important to work on both of these though. The ‘celibacy’ section is a completely new addition, that’ll give some numerical data to some observations (i.e: what percentage of sexually inactive asexuals find the celibate label meaningful for themselves, and if they don’t, why?) and the “attitudes towards sex” section was created to be much more clear and detailed than the question that the AAW 2011 Community Census asked.

The AAW 2011 Community Census question about the respondent’s attitudes towards sex was methodologically flawed. As the new analysis on the AVEN Wiki described it, it was asking three questions at once: What’s someone’s personal attitude towards sex, their attitude towards others having sex (or attitude towards sex in general), and if they’re willing to have sex. That was a triple-barreled question! Another problem it had was with using specific terms for different sexual attitudes; in particular, ‘sex-positive’, ‘sex-negative’, and ‘antisexual’. In practice, those labels have a lot of ambiguity to them, because some people identify with those terms, but don’t mean the definitions given. Those definitions given may have been ambiguous too.**

Because of this, the questions were written in a way to avoid using specific terms, and instead describe the specific attitudes. Showing just how important this issue is, is one of the worst (read: misleading) interpretations of the answers to the AAW 2011 question, in an otherwise very good article. Queenie wrote a post prompted by that article, explaining the different ways each of those terms are highly ambiguous in practice, and I’m glad that something like that was finally written!

The Asexual Agenda linkspam that linked to the article has some commentary on it, including a link to an analysis showing further flaws behind the original question.

There were a lot of challenges creating the survey, but I’m glad that after all those challenges, it’s up! One of the goals behind the 2014 survey is to overcome the shortcomings, or what was left out in the AVEN 2008, and the AAW 2011 surveys. I agree with what Nextstepcake (another of the survey team members) said about it, and hope that the results will show who is being represented, and who is being left out, and work for a more inclusive survey next time.


Footnotes:

*The Spanish-language AVEN board has had a survey every year since 2011, and had their newest one released earlier this year.

**Another reason why I took those labels and their definitions the wrong way in that question, was because it wasn’t specified if those definitions referred only to consensual sex or not! It feels odd saying that, but as I’ve explained in some of my other posts, my first impressions of sex-positivity were from extremists who were ignorant of what real consent is.