Tag Archives: queer

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.

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