Tag Archives: celibacy

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.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Started a page on voluntary celibacy!

I published the first version (though I made one edit before publishing this post) of a “voluntary celibacy 101“ page, which is also available under the “101-level resources” link in the menu.

I’ve been meaning to write that page for a long time, but for so long, I had been stumped on how to approach it, because of the lack of set term among those who could be considered celibate. I thought, how could I write a voluntary celibacy 101 page without it being a total mess? Then the idea hit me recently, I found a way to address this issue, and found a way that I could write about it.

I could still use some input on it, as there are sections I got started on adding, only to remove them before publishing. Should I add in a section about romantic relationships and nonamory, or would that work better as a separate page?

 

 

A tale of two sites

This is a tale of how I became the admin of two similar sites that have contradicting stances, and how to try and reconcile it, on top of having to reconcile that with my involvement in the asexual community.

Maybe I can’t reconcile it, but I’m the admin of Outside of Sexuality, but I’m also the admin of another related site called FORTRESS: For Those Resisting Sexual Society.

I wasn’t expecting to eventually create the latter site when I created Cake at the Fortress, so this wasn’t any deliberate foreshadowing months in advance. In March 2014, I created Outside of Sexuality, and I was expecting it to be the only site I needed to create as a resource for voluntarily celibate people, but a split happened earlier this year.

This post I wrote for this blog explains what led to the split. I wasn’t yet ready to mention it, but I had created FORTRESS just a few days before that post.

Regardless of what terminology and framework were to be used, I aimed, and still do aim for OOS to be a support group for voluntarily celibate people, to allow critical discussions of sexuality and how it affects others. I aimed for it to be as straightforward as possible, to reduce the chances of it being taken the wrong way, and to be more easily able to reach out to others.

Continue reading

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.

Tried to reconcile the unreconcilable?

I created Outside of Sexuality as a project to reach out to people who don’t want sex, and chose life without it. There’s nearly no visibility or affirmation for non-asexuals who don’t want sex, so I especially wanted to reach out to them.

A lot of people in the asexual community have written about the politics of having, or not having sex, and how those who choose to not have it deserve to have their choice respected. Many have written about their personal experiences, but they were writing as asexuals who happen to not have sex. We also need writings about not having sex, as people who identify with celibacy/the rejection of sex first.

I intended to first write about OOS for part 4 of my “Mercenary from unknown lands” submission (part 3, still in progress, will be about conflict of interest issues). However, I felt like an issue has been plaguing OOS, and I need to write about it: the discrepancy between what I intended, and what it turned out to be.

I never was fully honest with what I intended for OOS to be modeled after. I was afraid others wouldn’t understand unless they already knew, even if they never wanted sex, and were happy to find a community about choosing life without it. I intended use the framework and concepts directly from the Antisexual Stronghold as closely as I could, because at least some other English-speakers do, and I find those standards useful. However, that required adapting certain concepts into English, while also figuring out how to adhere to those standards while still trying to reconcile the fact that at least half of the OOS members are from AVEN and identify as either celibate or sex-repulsed instead.

I don’t want to alienate them. I know that it can be hard enough for sex-repulsed individuals to talk about their experiences in asexual spaces just for being sex-repulsed, and it’s troubling that this is still an issue.

I knew that the contradicting definitions of celibacy between those who identify as celibate vs. those who identify as antisexual would be an issue, and struggled with it the whole time. I realized that identifying as antisexual and adhering to the framework of the Antisexual Stronghold means that in order to be consistent, I’d end up invalidating those who identify as celibate without religious reasons. In order to adhere to those standards without invalidating those who identify as celibate would require being inconsistent (which would make things even more confusing). To use celibate as the default term means invalidating those who identify as antisexual, by telling them to identify with a label that they feel doesn’t apply to them.

After all, if celibacy doesn’t have to be for religious reasons, then why don’t those who identify as antisexual just switch over and say they’re celibate too? Do they know I intended to include them when I talk about “voluntary celibacy”? This is what I mean by being inconsistent! Why bother using an impractical term or use a framework that’s difficult to adapt into English?

Sometimes I wish I could say we’re all sex-free instead as a term that’d include all of us, and kind of wish that’d catch on. Whatever we identify as, we feel like we’re free from sex, and that we’re not missing out, like how the childfree identify as childfree instead of childless, because they feel free in their choice to not have children.

Personally, I’m hesitant to identify as celibate. I sometimes do, as it is the easier option, and technically applies, but sometimes am still hesitant. Part of me still feels like I can’t, because I don’t have religious reasons for my “celibacy”, but I have no intent to invalidate the choice of those who identify as celibate without religious reasons just because I feel those doubts about myself. I don’t want to take away from others a label they find useful for their experiences.

I understand the reasons why these factions use the labels that they do, so how can I acknowledge and validate both of these factions without any contradictions? This issue has been frustrating me since I created OOS. It’s why progress for the main page stalled so much, and it also held me back from some of the topics I wanted to discuss. I know what to say, but not how to say it in a way that’s concise, and will include everyone I intended to include. I’ve felt stuck the whole time.

At this point, OOS doesn’t have a default term used to refer to the rejection of sex. It might be for the best, to sidestep that dilemma, but it makes things confusing. Some members don’t bother with labels, and I don’t blame them. Sometimes I don’t want to bother with labels either. I’m concerned that I’m taking this too seriously, but I’ve been wanting to get this issue resolved to find the most effective way to achieve the goals I had in mind with this project.

Why can’t a character be written as asexual or aromantic by default?

This entry is for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces: Writing About Asexuality

I’ve written stories before, that didn’t have any romantic situations in them. Most of my stories didn’t touch on sexuality nor romance at all, but I remember that one I wrote had a one-sided romance in it that failed; the protagonist not only didn’t show any romantic nor sexual interest in this other character, but she (the protagonist) never showed any sexual or romantic interest in anyone.

I never specified her orientation, but she may have been the closest I had written as an aromatic asexual character. Maybe. I never said it outright, because I didn’t know of asexuality nor aromanticism, nor the difference between them. Was that character both celibate and nonamorous? Maybe, but I never said that outright either. I also had no interest in writing anything sexuality or romance-related into the plots of my stories, because it would’ve been out of place, and gotten in the way.

Celibate nonamorous characters were my default, as far as I was concerned. Probably. These characters didn’t ideologically reject sex or romance either (I didn’t really know that was an option at the time, except for religious celibacy); they just didn’t seem to care. Practically speaking, I wouldn’t expect a character to be thinking about romance and/or sex, or at least not try to seek it out when they’re focused on a quest, like saving the world.

It’s frustrating that when writing aromantic and/or asexual characters, it may need to be said outright that they’re aromantic and/or asexual, because of the contradictory ways heterosexism works, and affects how characters are portrayed in fiction. I might have written characters as asexual and aromantic by default, but many people wouldn’t see it that way. Granted, there are a few ways where sexual and/or romantic subplots could be worked into a story, but oftentimes, so much of it is gratuitous.

The worst is when the heroes of the story get these subplots because they’re “supposed” to, because the “good” characters deserve to have a love life (often a heteronormative one), as a way of humanizing them, and because it is treated as universal sign of human fulfillment.  It gets worse when villains are portrayed as being single, and their lack of love life is used to point to their villainy, and the villians who do reform, get love interests of their own.

For a long time, I wasn’t aware of these norms, and when I watched movies or shows without any romantic or sexual subplots, I made no assumptions about the character’s sexualities. Perhaps I assumed they could’ve been asexual and/or aromantic before knowing of asexuality and aromanticism, but I realize now that makes me an outlier.

One facet of heterosexism is that someone is assumed to be straight, unless specified otherwise, such as explicitly showing interest in the same gender. A character who hasn’t shown any interest in sex and romance may be assumed to be straight, but just hasn’t found anyone yet.

It’s contradictory, but another facet is that a character who isn’t explicitly portrayed with an interest in another gender, and seeking out relationships with another gender, is assumed to be gay, and just hasn’t found anyone yet.

Cinderace wrote about the latter, using Merida from Brave, and Elsa from Frozen as examples. Those are appealing interpretations, and they’d both be good representation for any of those groups, but nothing is said outright about their orientations. I like those interpretations, but it’s also plausible that they could be straight, but don’t value sex and romance.

Regardless, I like that they both go against the “Found a love interest, and lived happily ever after” trope, showing that romantic relationships aren’t needed for everyone to be fulfilled.

Those two facets combined, reflect a real-life dynamic I’ve seen in the asexual community: So many people who before they realized they were asexual, thought that either they must’ve been straight just because they knew they weren’t interested in the same gender, and those who thought that they must’ve been gay just because they knew they weren’t interested in another gender.

I’ve also seen many who thought they were bisexual (although bisexuality gets erased all the time in the media too), although not interested in sex, because they didn’t have a preference. They thought they were equally sexually attracted to the genders, though that sexual attraction is none!

Both of these facets of heterosexism also feed into compulsory sexuality, and amatonormativity, assuming that everyone wants sex and romance, therefore whoever isn’t interested in it, hasn’t found the right person yet, or it’s assumed to be a phase. Or it’s caused by something, and is “cured”. The most notorious example of this applying to asexuality being portrayed, is the House episode featuring an “asexual” character, the one who’s asexuality was the result of a pituitary tumor, while his wife faked being asexual.

Not seeing any portrayals of characters that affirm it’s okay to not desire sex, and to not want sex, showing that they can live happy lives without it, also feed into the idea of asexuality as something that is just a phase, or needs to be treated, and these messages can be internalized. Aromanticism is also similarly pathologized.

What about writing a character who is explicitly shown to be sexually inactive, is happy about it, or at least doesn’t care, and has no intention of ever finding a sexual partner?

They could be asexual, but could be celibate too, and if nothing is said on whether said character desires sexual relationships, you might not be able to tell. However, such a character could be a step in the right direction for everyone; if they’re in a romantic relationship, then they by example can show that sex and romance don’t have to go together. The pitfall of making romance the center of their lives and as a sign of fulfillment would need to be avoided though.

Or if they have no desire for romance, or don’t want it, then they show by example that there are people who can be fulfilled without either sex or romance. Care would need to be taken to distinguish sex from romance, to show that they’re separate things.

When writing asexual characters, there’s the challenge of showing that sexual attraction and romantic attraction are separate things; an aromantic asexual character may need to be written in a way that shows that their asexuality and aromanticism aren’t the same thing, and that asexual characters who do experience romantic attraction aren’t simply “hetero/homo/bi/pansexual lite”.

If mixed relationships are going to be written about, a lot of care also needs to be taken to not feed into the ideas that: asexuals can, and should compromise on sex, that the “compromising” must mean the asexual partner having sex, and that they will do it for their partner, since they’re “the one” and it’s “true love”, because that also feeds into the idea that a relationship must have sex in it in order to be valid, or that it’s the most “valid” expression of love.

Writing more about it, it’s frustrating to think that every effort to write an asexual and/or aromantic character, to explicitly portrayed and recognized as such (as opposed to subtext), may need to be written with the intent to educate the reader.

How do you do that without slowing down the plot? Is that the only way to get an asexual and/or aromantic character recognized though, and the only way to break free from the expectations that make it difficult to write an asexual character without saying it outright? Can’t asexual and aromantic writers write for themselves, or do we have to write for an audience while having to educate them in the process?

Mercenary from unknown lands: part 2

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.

Continue reading

Mercenary from unknown lands: part 1

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.


Footnotes:

*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?

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”.

This is a shout-out to the visitors interested in celibacy!

Since this month, search engines have become one one of my main sources of referrals here. Often times, I don’t know what the search results that brought someone here are (they only display as “unknown search terms”), but there have been times I saw that people found this blog through searching for “non religious celibacy” and “voluntary celibacy”. So, if you found this blog through either of those searches, or any related searches, welcome!

My blog is about both asexuality, celibacy (specifically, the kind that’s voluntary and for non-religious reasons), as well as how they can intersect. For the time being, my blog has predominantly been about asexuality.

I’ve been wanting to write some 101-level material about voluntary, non-religious celibacy, but I’ve gotten stuck from a near lack of input. There’s not much in the way of resources for us either, but I’m trying to do my part. I want to reach out to people of any sexual orientation, who don’t want sex.

Remember that you’re not alone for not wanting sex, nor are you alone for not having religious reasons behind your celibacy. If you don’t want sex, and are not asexual, you’re also not alone, nor if you rejected sex, but don’t identify as celibate!

I’m also part of the asexual community, and very involved in it, but it has bothered me that celibacy seems to be taken for granted, and it’s difficult to actually talk about there. One of the hardest things I tried to explain is how celibacy isn’t simply long-term sexual abstinence, but a sexual identity in its own right, that some people primarily identify with.

I believe that separate spaces are needed. I’ve seen celibate non-asexuals join asexual spaces, because they can relate to feeling ostracized in a hypersexualized society, and that many asexuals also don’t want sex. Sure, they were welcome there, as long as they follow the rules like anyone else, but it’s just not the same, because they were just guests. We, as voluntarily celibate people, need spaces of our own to call home. I feel that way too, because I often feel like I’m just a mercenary serving the asexual community, not actually part of it.

Making those spaces is a challenge though. Whether the non-religious celibate community even exists, is a question that stumped me. I can’t tell if the better option is to push for unification, or to embrace the disjointedness of the “celibate community” and the contradictions between its different factions. There was someone who told me that looking past all the differences in labels and definitions, the most important thing is that we share experiences as outsiders of the sexual world. What are your thoughts?