I remember the Q&A threads on AVEN, where one of the most common topics was, “Is anyone else asexual and _____??” Many things would go in the blank, including “read porn”, “feel sick at the thought of sex”, “just love to stare at celebrities”, “masturbate”, “interested in maybe sexually experimenting”, “get obsessed with certain people”, “really hate romantic plots in movies”, and so on. People on all sides felt insecure and were wondering if anyone else had their very particular experience. I was one of the questioners too, although over time I felt less of a need for the validation of shared experiences.
Outside of AVEN, the conversation does not quite go the same way, but it’s still clearly there. Recently Queenie discussed how sex-repulsed aces are treated as a dirty secret despite actually making a majority of the community. And on the other side, I’ve discussed why it’s important to talk about asexuals who like sex. How is it that we have people on all sides feeling uncomfortable? Why does it feel like we’re on a see-saw, where every time one side goes up, the other goes down? What can we do about it?
In my post about asexuals who like sex, I thought it was important to talk about them (that is to say, us, since this a group that includes me), but I also expressed some reservations about the way we were being used for political ends. There’s a specific reason for my reservations: I have seen the Tumblr community. In some parts of Tumblr, it’s absurd the amount of attention that asexuals who like sex get. Somehow the message transformed from “a small number of asexuals like sex” to “lots of asexuals like sex” to “why don’t you like sex, what’s wrong with you?” I’m not surprised that sex-averse aces feel uncomfortable in this context.
That is not the kind of representation I want. Nor do I want ace fanfic to be dominated by stories of asexuals eventually having sex with their partners. While I don’t speak for all sex-favorable aces, who exactly are you trying to please? It doesn’t please me.
Many responses to my post were less reserved. Several sex-favorable people complained that there wasn’t nearly enough attention given to asexuals who like sex, and that they have felt so excluded and insecure. And I feel that. I’ve been there. But isn’t this situation ridiculous? How is everybody unhappy? It’s like we’re all living in different worlds, and each world is our own personalized hell.
Here’s a simple theory about why this is so, and a graph to illustrate:
[For each community (eg AVEN, Tumblr, LJ, Reddit, fandoms, AVEN in 2007, meetups, Facebook) there is a line representing the ace spectrum. A certain range within the arrow represents what is considered "normal" and fully included within that community, while things outside that range are considered "weird" in some way. Different ace communities have different ranges of "normal".]
There are three things going on here:
- In every community, there is a range of “normal”, while people on either side of “normal” feel like they don’t belong.
- Different communities have different ranges of “normal”. So no matter where you are on the spectrum, some communities might make you uncomfortable.
- Some aces perceive a narrower range of “normal” than others. In particular, inexperienced aces may perceive a narrower range.
Sometimes I’ve looked at this problem and thought, “Gee, maybe we should stop feeling so much need for external validation of who we are.” A revolutionary idea, but the problem is that it places the responsibility on the victims of exclusion, particularly the newbies. We really need some community-wide solutions.
Fighting for inclusion should always involve empathy for the other side. There have been times when I’ve seen sex-repulsed lash out against sex-favorable asexuals, apparently motivated by the unfriendly environment they’ve experienced. I sympathize with the underlying motivation, but it sort of puts me in this awkward position–do I now have to derail the conversation about sex-repulsed aces in order to talk more about sex-favorable aces?
But that’s just the start. What solutions can you come up with?