Got a problem with AVEN?

In a recent post on AVEN, Asexual Curiosities  asks, “Protesting AVEN? Wishing something would change? Wishing there was SOMETHING you could do?”  A number of valuable suggestions are offered, and I wanted to continue this discussion, drawing on my own experience on AVEN’s Project Team (PT).  I will do this over a series of posts, as I have a great deal to say.  In this first post, I will discuss my own background to establish my perspective on the matter.

When I first found asexuality nearly five years ago, AVEN was pretty much the place for asexual organizing with the small exception of LJ.  The forum was too big, and I never really was able to feel connected there.  The first time I really felt connected was through working on some pieces for AVENues, and then I dived in and got involved on Apositive in the first several vibrant months of its existence, and then my primary involvement was on the asexual blogosphere.  Even though AVEN was without question the hub of asexual organizing, I didn’t really feel an important part of it until I joined the PT two years ago.

A PT position provides an interesting position for understanding AVEN’s politics—I have obligations to the site, I have access to the admods only forum and I’ve developed relationships with a number of PT and admods, but my PT duties often give me the option of being more or less involved in any particular bit of drama that arises.  The experience has taught me a great deal about group dynamics, about the workings of power, and how those who have power find themselves greatly constrained in what they can do with it.  Because of issues of confidentiality regarding the admods forum, all posts in this series have been run through one of AVEN’s admins to make sure that nothing I say would constitute breaching.

In thinking about how we can improve AVEN—and how we can improve the asexual community more generally—I find helpful two basic assumptions.  These are basically truisms, but are worth making explicit.

1)  Finding problems with the system is a vastly easier task than finding politically viable solutions to those problems given the many constraints on the system.

2)  If you have problems with a system or institution, there are basically two possible strategies: A) reform it or B) destroy it (or at least discredit it).

To take an example that I’ve spent a lot of time with, the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistial Manual of Mental Disorders, a profoundly influential classification of mental disorders in the US) has enormous problems with it—this is openly acknowledged by many of its chief architects.  For those with political interests relevant to it, some attack the credibility of the DSM (and possibly of psychiatry or even all of the mental health professions as a whole).  Others take a more limited approach, and focus on specific areas and try to think carefully not just about what’s wrong with it, but what can be done to improve it.

My preference is almost always for reform.  The question, then, is how this can be brought about.  I’ve seen a number of people try to do this, but I have only seen a handful of attempts that seemed to have any promise of success and a great many more that, in my view, do more harm than good. In my future posts in this series, I want to discuss 1) various approaches to improving AVEN and which have more or less potential for reform, 2) what I believe is necessary for developing viable alternatives to AVEN, based on past successful and failed attempts, and 3) discuss potentially productive ways of addressing the specific criticisms currently circulating.

(Note: As I don’t have a tumblr account I regularly post with, I would prefer for responses to be in the comments here rather than on tumblr).

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37 Responses to Got a problem with AVEN?

  1. morethandog says:

    Once upon a time, I posted on AVEN. Then there was a user who I shall not name here who started telling the general populace that transpeople and people with mental illness were not acceptable for people to see when researching asexuality. We should hide so people wouldn’t see us.

    At no point in this very long thread did the moderators step in to say “Stop.” As users left the site in droves, at no point did the moderators tell this individual to stop it. Even as people reported this person over and over, at no point did the moderators make any kind of public statement.

    This person has continued to say such things and, last I checked, was still on AVEN, still spouting the same stuff.

    Sorry, if the moderators aren’t stopping someone from this, over the course of DAYS (I think this thread went on nearly a week), if they aren’t protecting their membership from ablism and transphobia, then there is a systemic problem and it doesn’t seem like anyone can fix it.

    • Andrew says:

      One thing that bothers me about this criticism–and many of the criticisms of AVEN that are out there–is that the incidents involved are described in such vague ways that it’s nearly impossible to do fact checking. I know that some research on asexuality has excluded non-binary people, but this is generally because they are using standardized sexual function/dysfunction questionnaires for which there is a male version and a female version, and to take the survey people have to choose one of these two.

      • Siggy says:

        I agree that criticisms of AVEN are frequently vague, and that this is unhelpful. But it’s worth mentioning that this is just one side of a double-bind:
        1. Being specific about complaints is emotionally difficult for most people, since it’s basically inviting all that drama back again.
        2. Being vague about complaints is unhelpful to finding solutions.

        That’s the tough world for the powerless.

        Actually, I’m betting morethandog is referring to this thread. A few people were saying asexuality needed to clarify and narrow its definition before it can be taken seriously by researchers. I think you will agree that this is totally off-base, and has nothing to do with the real motivations of researchers. Hard to say what the admods should have done about the thread though, since I know nothing about moderating AVEN.

    • I have had that same experience. I try to report people or message mods when it seems appropriate, but I have the distinct feeling that the mods at large don’t actually understand why the behavior I’m reporting to them is harmful.

    • morethandog says:

      Actually, siggy, that’s not the thread. The problem goes much, much, much further back. Years, in fact. And the answer was as simple as a moderator stepping in and saying “This language is transphobic and ablist, please stop.” But at no point was that done. Ever. Those of us protesting against this specific user were begging for a moderator to step in and say “Stop.” And no one did.

      The reason I am not calling out this specific user is that I don’t think it’s appropriate, years after the fact (at least 18 months, but I think more like 2 to 2.5 years because my dog wasn’t born yet and I wasn’t preparing to get a dog yet when this thread went down and he’s 20 months now). I believe that the discussion took place in either September or October because I think some people in it had halloween avatars, but I’m not entirely sure.

      The incident in question, I can describe in great detail. I was exceedingly disturbed by it and still am to this day.

      What the person (and other users were backing him up–other cisgendered, fully abled users) was saying was this: The section of AVEN for trans users and the section for people with mental illness to find support should be removed. Why? Because AVEN is what people see first when they look up asexuality. People researching asexuality shouldn’t see transpeople and people with mental illness when they first see asexuality because it delegitimatizes asexuality. It makes it so people might think that asexuals have mental illness or are trans. So those sections should be removed and those topics should become topics that are not discussed any further.

      Basically, intersections should be removed. Only able-bodied and -minded people who are not trans and who look completely normal should be allowed to express themselves and their feelings on AVEN.

      This discussion went on for at least a week and was, iirc, 7 pages or MORE long. A handful of us, mostly asexuals who were trans or mentally ill in some way, protested, along with a small handful of the so-called (by this thread of discussion) acceptable asexuals. This was because posts by mentally ill and transgendered aces were showing up in the ‘new posts’ listing, near the top, because we were chatty. Our chatter was pleasant, we didn’t argue and, for the thread I was most involved in that was updated a LOT, quite often didn’t reflect that we were trans. We were just happy asexual trans people, hanging out with people who made us feel safe. After we (we being, in this case, the trans aces) spent pages being told we were unacceptable by other users and no moderator ever stepped in to say “Excuse me, but intersections between communities happen and we should support ALL asexuals,” a group of us formed our own forum. I say us, but I wasn’t on the programming end. I was on the early days of populating said forum, which is STILL thriving today.

      We were made to feel unwelcome. We went and built our own treehouse because the moderation did not step in. Period. We were not safe there. The only good thing I can say about that incident, specifically, is that I found one of the people in my asexual triad because she was supporting the non-binaries. There is nothing vague about this description and I see the exact same attitudes reflected in posts on I can’t AVEN, so I thoroughly believe that this same attitude goes unchecked to this day. Any time I go onto the forum, I see it, to the point that I have stopped.

      As far as I know, the user in question is still spouting the same attitudes, not just on AVEN, and the only place he goes uncorrected is AVEN (though he may have left AVEN recently since people I know who still go on AVEN haven’t reported any recent b.s. from him). That reflects a systemic problem. If someone can spend years making huge tracts of the forum uncomfortable and unwelcome and it goes uncorrected, this is a systemic problem.

      • Andrew says:

        This description is vague in the sense that it doesn’t provide much in the way of clues for going and finding the original thread. In psychology, a great deal of research has been done on memory, and it has found that human memory is fallible in many ways. From person experience, there have been plenty of times that I recall something about a thread one way, but when I go and double check (such as when doing research for a post), I find things were somewhat different than I had remembered. Because the event in question should still be available on AVEN, what I would like is a link so that I can see the thread in question myself.

        From what you’ve said and what I know about AVEN, I think I understand the issue: On AVEN, there has long been a lack of clarity on what exactly the purpose of the site is: Is it supposed to be a safe space for providing support? Is it for visibility and education work? Is it for advanced discussions of asexuality? Depending on what the goal is, you will want more or less strict rules for posting. If you want it to be for more advanced discussions of asexuality, you need to allow for the voicing of controversial opinions (including ones that will offend some people). If you want it to be a safe-space, then you have to make certain issues off limits for discussion. At present, there is hot box to provide space for especially heated discussions, with the understanding that more controversial opinions are OK there.

        As it stands, AVEN sort of tries to do all of the above things, even though these lead to contradictory demands–that is one of the problems of having one main asexual forum. Because of this, there are posters who say things that offend many people. At present, failing to be PC is not a warnable offense on AVEN, and this creates negative feelings towards AVEN among many.

        From what you’ve described, and from what I’ve seen on “I can’t AVEN,” it seems that the especially offensive comments come from one or two individual users, rather than being views that pervade the forum. AVEN’s forum software allows you to hide posts by individual users that you don’t like.

      • morethandog says:

        I get the feeling that you love AVEN and all you want is for everyone to love AVEN.

        When the moderation team does NOT STOP the people who CONSISTENTLY make others feel unwelcome, even when asked to please help, when they stand by and do nothing about acceptance, it’s not a community that I, or many others, want to be part of.

        I shouldn’t have to go to a safe space OR an education network OR a support network OR a space for the discussion of asexuality on a higher level and have to block some of the most active users in order to create an illusion that my particular group is not being discriminated against. If the group is going to be ANY of these things, then the moderation team NEEDS to ensure that they have clearcut guidelines on how to deal with ablist, racist, transphobic or any other ‘othering’ language. When users are calling to have entire sections of the site removed for their own comfort and to sanitize the site and the moderators do not say anything, that creates an incredibly UNsafe space.

        I could be wrong about you, but I get the feeling that you are part of a privileged group who has never been ‘othered’ by the asexual community. I really do. I think you are operating on an entirely separate wavelength than those of us who have been hurt and kicked by AVEN. You can’t see it because the problems don’t matter to you, they aren’t relevant to you. This is normal for people in a privileged group and it sucks for the rest of us, but you can’t help it.

        I could block other users. If the site is for advanced discussion, then I am excluding myself from the discussion by making the people who are treating my group like crap invisible. At that point, the site becomes useless for advanced discussion.

        I could block other users. If the site is for first contact level education, then I am allowing someone whose view of the asexual community is that of a white, able-bodied/-minded, cisgendered community of people who just lack sexual attraction to go unrefuted and alienate people like me who desperately need education and support. Education is a form of support, as I learned in my time touring schools and discussing homophobia, transphobia and bullying.

        I could block other users. If the site is for visibility, then I am allowing the world to see only one small facet of the group, the bigots, and allowing them to go unrefuted, which shows that we are accepting bigotry by our silence. Silence is acceptance. Is that how I want people to see the asexual community? No. Absolutely not.

        I could block other users. If the site is for support, then I am allowing bigots to tramp all over people who desperately need support.

        If the answer to bigotry on the site is not moderator intervention, but individuals ignore-listing the bigots, then the site has become useless for any purpose relating to support, education or visibility.

        If you want to disregard my story on the basis of vagueness, that’s fine. But it happened as I said. My asexual triad came out of that great exodus. The yada community was born from it too. Entire groups remember it and still discuss it today and still stay away from AVEN because of it. So frankly, you can deny it, but you sound a lot like people who deny historical events because ‘no one had a camera’ or ‘certain people were worse than others, but overall, it wasn’t that bad.’ Denial is a nice place to live and you can cling to the papyrus, but the flood waters will eventually wash you away.

      • Calinlapin says:

        Can we have a link ? I know it may be problematic, but without a link, I can’t take part in the discussion. I can’t even make up my mind.

      • Andrew says:

        I don’t think that your charge history denial is a fair one at all. I’ve long been interested in the history of asexuality and have done a great deal of research on the matter. In doing history, if the only evidence available is personal testimony, then that’s what you work with, but I also know that they’re more than one side to any story. I don’t mean to offend, but the historian in me tells me that your account is far from neutral, and if I were to hear someone else’s version, it may be quite different.

        The camera analogy is an interesting one–while I won’t deny something just because there wasn’t a camera, in this case there was a (metaphorical) camera, and so I withhold judgment until I have seen the evidence that still exists.

        Now, with your accusations of privilege, this is an ad hominem. I confess that, as applied, I rather dislike the notion of “privilege.” I understand that it is common for members of one group to be insensitive to the needs/perspectives of other groups. (It should be noted that this can work more than one direction–a dominant group may be insensitive towards the experiences of an oppressed group, but it can work the other way too.) There is much to be said for listening to and understanding the perspectives of others. If this is what “privilege” was about, I would have no objections. But as applied, it functions to dismiss arguments/points/perspectives of someone based on who they are rather than on their own merits (or lack thereof).

        My perspective on this comes not from lack of understanding or concern for minority groups, but because I understand things from the perspectives of those having to run a site like AVEN. If your perspective were adopted as AVEN’s official potion, then there would be equally strong attacks from people accusing AVEN of censorship. The fact is, you can’t make everyone happy, you just have to try to do the best you can. Is AVEN doing things perfectly? Hardly. The question, in my view, is how to improve things–and finding viable solutions is a very different matter from finding problems.

      • Siggy says:

        Wait, so you’re talking about the whole thing with PiF which led to the yada split-off? I heard about that but never really saw it, ’cause people never seem to want to link it. What if I wanted to rage at PiF myself? I can’t because I don’t know what he said, you know?

        I agree that that particular situation was a problem, but I suspect it is a Difficult Problem. I mean, some people see problems like that, and become mods so they can fix it. But as you said, the problems continue today, so clearly they were unable. As I said, I don’t know much about moderating forums, and that’s why I’m interested in this series. Note that fixing AVEN and creating new communities (such as the yadas) are not mutually exclusive solutions.

      • Andrew says:

        Now that I’ve gotten more information, I believe that this is the thread in question. It’s very long, and so it’ll be some time before I am able to make my way through the whole thing.

      • nextstepcake says:

        I’m not sure about the particular thread you are talking about, since it sounds like it was before I really became active on AVEN, so I can’t say much on that. And in addition, most of the current moderators are different than the ones then, as are many of the community members, so I also don’t know whether the problems people have today are the same or different. I do hear about there being bad times in the history of AVEN, that we try to move away from, but I don’t know particularly whether this was one.

        For what it’s worth, even though I haven’t seen the “who is representing us” topic in quite a while, the mental health and/or gender identity threads that I’ve seen lately have mostly been pretty good. There’s of course sometimes people whose opinions I very much disagree with, but the problems with those opinions is usually pointed out.

        I think, though, that a factor in making many people unhappy with AVEN may be that it tries to be a safe space for everyone to the extent that it can, but it is not necessarily always a comfortable space.

        For example, there are a lot of controversial issues – like talking about whether the ace movement should be associated with queer movements, whether various factors may affect asexuality, etc. And in these conversations, there will inevitable be people whose opinions may make me uncomfortable, or even rather angry. However, I don’t think that they should be silenced just because they don’t toe the line of what’s typically considered “PC”. In a safe space, I think it is the purpose of the moderators to protect people from personal attacks and harassment – but not necessarily to protect them from opinions they disagree with.

        So, for example, statements like “I think asexuals should not be associated with queer movements” or “I think asexuality may be related to autism” or “I think that asexuality needs to have a stricter definition” may be very unpopular and not fit into the majority rhetoric of asexuality, but I find it uncomfortable to suppress opinions just because they don’t fit with the usual party line.

        I do realize though that drawing the line between unpopular opinions and outright bigotry can be difficult, which makes judging where to draw the line incredibly difficult.

        As for the moderation now, though, although I do not participate I can see some of what goes on behind the scenes, and I can say that they do take complaints and reports very seriously, and just because they did not act the way you wanted doesn’t mean it’s just being ignored.

      • morethandog says:

        Yes, I am referring to PiF. PiF is the reason that I don’t post on AVEN and a couple of other ace communities. The AVEN mods made little to no attempt to reign him in during days of debate. I finally left the thread and the site in disgust. It IS possible that PiF was reprimanded after I left, but the fact that I know for a fact that months and even a year later he was espousing the same opinions freely means that he didn’t take it to heart. Honestly, I’m so disgusted by PiF’s EXISTENCE that I will not click the link Andrew has found to confirm it is the right one, nor will I seek out anything that PiF has written. I apologize if that makes my data ‘too vague,’ but my own emotional well-being comes first and foremost.

        My experience in forum management is that you MUST make a clearcut set of rules about what language is appropriate and, let me tell you, if support is even a tertiary goal of the forum, othering language is a serious, serious problem.

        Andrew, brush up on your logical arguments. Calling you out for denialism based upon privilege is not, in the context of this argument, an ad hominem. You calling ad hominem for me calling you out, however, is a logical fallacy known as a straw man. Way to fail.

        Frankly, I am not interested in reading anything further that Andrew has to say and will not be subscribing to this blog because of his presence. His knowledge of psychology in relation to memory is tenuous at best (details may be lost, but entire events are not, thank you for showing an excellent case of that here, Andrew, by remembering part of the facts in regards to research in memory and not the whole facts as the studies have found them!) and his hatred of having his own privilege called out makes him a poor choice to discuss the problems on AVEN, since they relate, largely, to problems of privilege–who has it, who doesn’t and what is happening because of that. The only way I will be subscribing to this blog is if there is a way to not get notifications for posts made by a specific user, because I don’t want notifications about his writing cluttering my wordpress dashboard.

      • Siggy says:

        You may feel that providing the link would be emotionally uncomfortable for you, and that’s why you weren’t morally obligated to provide the link. However, this doesn’t change the fact that without the links what you say is too vague for anyone else to judge, unless they happened to already be familiar with the incident (like I was, sort of). Andrew wasn’t saying your complaint was invalid, he was withholding judgment.

        There’s a very good reason we can’t take people’s word for it on these incidents without independent fact checking. Anyone can give a one-sided account and make it sound like they were in the right. That includes PiF himself! In fact, as I recall PiF would do just that, go to Apositive and complain (I left Apositive around this time). Would you rather: A) We withhold judgment on vague one-sided stories, or B) we immediately accept all complaints as valid, including PiFs?

        Another example would be this post on I can’t AVEN. If you don’t examine carefully, it looks okay. But I’m pretty sure this person is complaining that AVEN is too welcoming of gray-As. That pisses me off, but apparently I Can’t AVEN took it seriously? (ETA: I Can’t AVEN recognized the error and removed the offending post)

      • Siggy says:

        PS, I am not necessarily agreeing with Andrew on everything. I agree that we should require some evidence to take complaints seriously, but I think the standard of evidence he is using is too high. I also see why people generally don’t provide evidence, and I don’t think they are to blame.

      • Calinlapin says:

        I’ve read a good part of the thread and this is NOT OK. Why on earth did no official AVEN member intervene to state that all gender identities and/or mental health conditions were welcome on the site ? Just that would have been a good start. And god knows AVEN officials WERE aware of this thread…

      • nextstepcake says:

        Actually, I need to double check some dates to be sure, but I believe at least 2 mods and 2 PT (who were in office at the time) are there in the thread arguing in support of having gender and mental health discussions freely welcomed on AVEN, and against any exclusion of those topics. (In addition, some of the others arguing in support of inclusion were people who would take office later/had held office previously).
        I also noted that the only calls to mods were for them to sort threads into relevant forums. (Although I admittedly don’t know what was reported or mentioned in PMs. Also, remember that disciplinary procedures on AVEN are confidential (at the request of the membership), and so we don’t necessarily know whether anyone was warned or reprimanded for actions)

        Also I should probably mention that I’m probably not the best example of AVEN’s general attitudes: I usually find myself having a much more hands-off/no censorship attitude to modding, unlike most of the actual moderators, who I think do generally do more in terms of trying to avoid offense, controversial speech, etc. And I realize that my personal image of how moderations should be may not the most popular one, which is a very strong factor in why I have not run to be a mod – I acknowledge that my preferred ideas may not be the ones that are wanted by others. So, I think it’s worth remembering that my personal philosophy does NOT reflect the actual philosophy of AVEN as a whole, as I tend to be a lot more extreme in one direction.

  2. Lara Landis says:

    I have received one or two e-mails or messages on Tumblr from someone who felt there was a huge scandal brewing on AVEN. I either couldn’t follow up on the information or the issue the person complained about was so minor and ridiculous it wasn’t worth pursuing. (I have ethical reasons for not involving myself in AVEN or AAW directly, however.) However, there is a third option that can bring changes to AVEN. Introduce competition.

    Tumblr, despite its many problems, has done this. Th There is no longer one single, large asexual community on the Internet. It’s exciting. There has long needed to be more than one asexual community. Now if more asexual organizations with a real-world presence would form.

  3. nextstepcake says:

    I actually really like the idea of AVEN – even though I still feel that AVEN is a good resource, it’s still only one – and having only one community resource for an entire sexuality is nowhere near enough. And in fact, when it comes to other sexualities, pretty much none of them are as centralized as asexual communities, which makes asexuality a bit of an odd duck. I think also that having more distinct asexual communities will also help to legitimize asexuality in the eyes of outsiders.

    A large part of the reason that asexual communities have historically been so concentrated (esp. around AVEN) was that for a long time, there was simply nowhere else to go – for many years, AVEN, and perhaps livejournal and a few blogs were all that existed. Asexuality is very young and still rather small as a recognized community, so perhaps that wasn’t too surprising.

    But now, we’re getting to a size and age where we have the people and the resources to start expanding, and I think we should – asexuals all differ in their experiences and desires, and by having greater numbers of communities and competing resources it increases the number of voices that can be heard, and it increases the likelihood that each person will be able to find the kind of community that suits them. After all, some people like small communities, some like large ones; some like things slow, others like things fast paced; some people want security, others love a heated argument. We have romantics and aromantics, greys and demis, queer identifying and non-queer identifying; sex positive and not, trans aces, ace POCs, and many other kinds of people. And satisfying everyone in a single community is nearly impossible, so having a plurality of communities helps to meet the needs of more people. In addition, it gives an opportunity for more varying discourses on asexuality to freely develop.

    And tumblr is a start to that, but I think it’s still not a complete alternative to AVEN, for a few reasons. First of all, it’s not really accessible enough to the general population. Although it’s a great community for aces who do use tumblr, the format is too fast-paced and disorganized for a lot of people, as witnessed by the vast numbers of people who just don’t “get” tumblr. It’s a thriving community, but it’s still a bit of a niche one.

    In addition, the tumblr ace community is very confusing as a newbie or ally trying to learn about asexuality: it’s a fun place to hang out, but can be difficult to find information. While there is some good content, it’s scattered around several blogs and often buried in archives – there isn’t any centralized data comparable to the AVEN main page. In addition, the tumblr culture can be very intimidating for the average person who is unfamiliar with social justice communities, as stupid mistakes can sometimes get jumped on in a way that can be discouraging for someone unfamiliar with the proper tumblr etiquette.

    Actually, in terms of resources and being available to the general population, I would say that Asexual Awareness Week is one of the few resources that really rivals AVEN in it’s ability to serve the general population. Asexuality Archive is a possibility, but it’s still growing and doesn’t yet have as many connections. But basically, what makes this format (as opposed to tumblr) useful is that I can say “visit asexuality.org” or “check out asexualawarenessweek.com” and someone can easily do that; but saying “oh, go make an account and then search for posts on tumblr” is not as helpful.

    Another factor is that AVEN and AAW are so far the only communities (as far as I am aware) that also have significant offline impact, in terms of visibility, education, and general impact. While there are active asexual communities such as tumblr, livejournal, etc, many of them are rather insular and not connected to the offline world. And I think that offline communities, and communities that reach out to non-aces, are the areas in which we most need to expand.

    Nonetheless, I still think that the advent of tumblr is an important event in the history of asexual communities, as one of the largest and most active non-AVEN communities; I think it is also significant in that it generates a lot of discourse that is completely independent of AVEN, whereas older communities, even if separate, still seemed very interwoven with AVEN. (although I may be wrong about that, as I don’t have as much experience with non-AVEN communities other than tumblr). Still, I think we still have a lot further to go, and I think that we still need significant alternatives other than just tumblr.

    (sorry for the essay)

  4. nextstepcake says:

    Oops, I lied, I have more to say:

    I also think having more alternatives to AVEN can also perhaps help improve some of the problems of AVEN itself, some of which I think result from AVEN trying to do too much at once. Because it was, for a long time, the only resource, AVEN has had to play several roles: it has tried to simultaneously be an educational space, a gathering place for asexuals, a safe-space for asexuals, a safe-space for non-asexuals, a gateway for newbies, a resource for non-asexuals, a forum for critical discussions, etc. And trying to be everything at once doesn’t work, because many of these goals do not always mesh well, and they can hamper each other. For example, a space that wants to educate non-asexuals may not be able to always serve as well as a safe space for asexuals, and vice versa. And focusing on helping newbies makes having more advanced discussions difficult, while conversely more advanced discussions may confuse or intimidate newbies, etc.

    If more communities arise to take over some of these roles, it allows AVEN to focus on a few and focus on doing them better. Personally, I see AVEN as being best as a gateway for people first encountering asexuality, as an educational/visibility space, and as an organizational space; although I could also see it going in other directions.

    Other things that I think might be interesting to see develop as independent spaces include:
    -primarily asexual-only safe spaces: that is, spaces that focus primarily on being safe spaces for asexual people, rather than trying to serve both asexuals and non-asexuals
    -also, more independent aromantic spaces (like aroplane)
    -spaces for more advanced conversation (like, perhaps, this blog!)
    -non-AVEN offline activist spaces (such as asexualawarenessweek)
    -offline communities in general (like meetup groups, college groups, etc)

    Does anyone else have any thoughts for the type of communities they’d like to see develop?

  5. Anon says:

    Since a lot of this discussion seems to revolve around Andrew requiring evidence, I spent half an hour or so having a look through AVEN. Whilst I’m sure there are probably better examples of threads out there, here are some links and quotes that show attitudes users may be meaning. Whilst yes, the mods do step in, the fact still stands that these attitudes exist in prominent members of the forums, and though threads are closed, the opinions still pop up elsewhere. Probably a trigger warning here for generally cissexist things?

    http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/76371-the-you-dont-exist-problem/
    All of these quotes are regarding a transwoman:
    “I’m not denigrating your opinions or your identification, I’m just saying that for you to describe yourself as a woman in such a way ignores what everyone else does or might mean by “woman”.”

    “”As for what makes someone a man or a woman, there is no way that you can set a definition”
    I hate to mention this because it really throws a wrench into your argument, but the answer to your question is: CHROMOSOMES! ”

    “To play Devil’s Advocate, some people have psychotic breaks and think they are God, Jesus, or a Mercedes Benz. I just read about a little boy who thought he was a train. Please distinguish between person A who thinks they are Jesus, person B who thinks they are a Mercedes Benz, and person C who thinks they are the wrong gender.”

    http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/76610-things-that-have-bothered-me-for-a-while-about-aven/page__st__30
    When discussing whether people should be called out for transphobic language:
    “But this is an asexual community, not trans community, as an asexual community, it welcomes everybody, but should not give precedence to the sensitivities of one group, over another.”

    And on another note, PiF has already been mentioned here as someone who held opinions that were offensive for various reasons. Given he has been banned, I won’t list posts there. However, it is interesting to note other member’s views of him as they show an agreement with his attitude:
    http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/76707-the-use-of-possibly-derogatory-terms-gypsy-and-others/page__p__2194497__hl__gypsy__fromsearch__1#entry2194497
    “I miss PiF. He was someone who spoke his mind and didn’t bother with nonsense about offending people merely by having opinions of his own.”
    http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/76758-why-are-members-leaving/page__p__2196688__fromsearch__1#entry2196688
    “Come back PIF!!!”

    That’s just from a quick search around, hopefully that’ll give enough evidence to show why some people think it’s a problem – it may not seem a lot, but the fact that it is there and allowed (often) to go unchecked for some time, and the members allowed to continue stating similar things in other threads, explains the concern some may have.

  6. (replying to the comments above in general, rather than to any specific one).

    I really don’t think ‘fixing AVEN’ is that complicated. I think, Andrew and NextStepCake, you’re in danger of creating this unnecessary binary of ‘have the moderation exist as it is’ or ‘go P.C. and restrict conversation’. A simple set of moderator rules which, if followed, eliminate a good proportion of the problems might look like this:

    -Moderate hate speech and abuse. Define ‘arguing that people aren’t allowed into the community’ as one of those problematic things.
    -Don’t moderate people who disagree with OPs, if they do so respectfully.
    -Don’t tolerate the bad-faith starting of thread after thread after thread on the same topic by a tiny handful of people, especially when it hurts others and makes the forums a more unpleasant place to be.
    -Be aware that this is primarily a forum for asexual people, not allosexual people, the conversations you need to have are those that not all allos are going to get first time, and either accept that or explicitly contain all the relevant-primarily-to-allos stuff in a subforum.

    And I know that these are the rules as they officially stand. But there seems to be a reluctance to moderate to them. And the uber-rule:

    End the discussion that’s clearly not constructive any more. End the discussion that is just a slanging match, or confine the one that happens over and over and over and over and over again to only the threads it already has. Don’t champion people’s right to start these discussions and then go after the people who are pointing out that they’re not constructive.

    Also, non-AVEN resources. Because, as you admit yourself, Andrew, AVEN can’t do everything because the means are contradictory. So it’s not a case of *destroying*, of getting rid of AVEN, but of *reforming*, of making the system make sense by MOVING SOME OF THE FUNCTIONS.

    • Siggy says:

      To get a little meta, do you believe the comment discussion above is constructive? Arguably not, am I right?

      • nextstepcake says:

        I don’t know whether this was intended as an open questions, but as someone who is very much guilty of perpetuating the argument above, I think that it at this point is likely not to be very constructive – as much as I love to keep discussing it, it’s at a point where we have lots of unconfirmable facts and emotions running high, and where I think multiple of us are probably going to end up talking at each other more than with each other (I admit to being guilty of this sometimes); I think that we’ve also basically run into the root of the matter which is opposing ideologies that are not something easily resolved.

        I think it’s also been derailing from some of the other potential constructive conversations, esp. regarding the possibility of alternatives: I think we can all agree that AVEN is not capable of fulfilling all roles, so what roles would be like to see elsewhere? What kinds of communities or efforts would people like to see? Are there any that are maybe less well known that should be encouraged or supported?

        For example, I think the idea of a community that is intended specifically as an asexual (or ace spectrum)-oriented safe space, with a much stronger emphasis on safety and community for asexuals is something that would be a good community to grow. AVEN, with it’s emphasis on being an educational site for both asexuals and non-asexuals, will not have the same environment as one focused less on education or non-ace outreach, and more on being specifically a more heavily moderated safe space. (perhaps something like (h)AVEN (http://www.asexuality.org/en/index.php?/topic/78578-re-introducing-haven/page__p__2233185__hl__%28h%29aven__fromsearch__1#entry2233185), ?)

        I think that it is a niche and a need that has not been filled well – the closest I can think of is (h)AVEN (Although I’m not familiar with livejournal or others, so they may be similar?). AVEN clearly does not satisfy everyone, and when it comes to safety I’d say tumblr is ever worse, with no moderation at all.

        And we’ve already had some alternative communities develop as less-moderated alternatives to AVEN, so why not also develop a more-moderated alternative as well? Thoughts?

      • Andrew says:

        I agree that if such a community as you are suggesting were created, it could be a value addition to asexuality online. But no one has created such a community, and I assume that this is because there has never been anyone who had both the motivation and the necessary skills for creating such a community. We can talk and talk and talk about how great it would be for such a community to exist, but if no one creates it, it won’t exist. There have been a few attempts (i.e. Knights of the Shaded Triangle), but none has had long term viability, and I believe this is because lack of understanding of the technical and organizational aspects for creating such a community.

      • ‘Constructive’ was probably a really wrong word for what I meant. It focuses too much on the positive; ‘Is this discussion absolutely a useful thing?’. Of course most discussions on any forum aren’t ‘constructive’. And that’s fine. But there has to be a bare minimum of point- basically, I mean that the thread that makes community members feel like shit for no reason doesn’t have to be protected as much as ones which don’t, or which have a good reason, especially if it’s a rehash of a billion other threads.

        And for the record, by the warped definition of constructive I was using, I TOTALLY think this discussion above was constructive. I disagree with you and Andrew’s opinions and handling, pretty vehemently (if I understand them correctly), but I would never moderate it out of a forum. Unless it happened constantly, or in a different context (for example, in a thread specifically for people to talk about their bad experiences without having to argue about them, into which you and Andrew burst and, ignoring the OP, started demanding evidence).

      • nextstepcake says:

        @slightlymetaphysical: I think it’s pretty obvious where and why our opinions differ, but may I ask what specifically you object to in my “handling” (which I’m guessing refers to the way I’ve discussed my opinions?) If there’s a problem here other than just having differing opinions it’d probably be good for me to know.

  7. nextstepcake says:

    In a slightly unrelated comment, is there a way to set the layout to allow more than 3 layers of nested comments? Some of the conversations here might be a bit less jumbled if we could do that.

    • Siggy says:

      Yes there is, but I’m not sure it would improve things.

      • nextstepcake says:

        I’m mostly thinking of instances where I’d like to reply to something specific in a persons post, but the replies below have moved onto something different and a response at the bottom of all those would get lost or wouldn’t makes sense. Although I can see how raising the limit might just push the problem to the next set, so I can see why you may not want to. Sorry for the derailing ><

  8. Nextstepcake- Sorry, I was addressing Siggy. Didn’t realise the comments wouldn’t nest any more. I don’t disagree with the way you handled things in this thread, and *quick glance back up* I don’t think I have any major disagreements with anything you’ve said. In fact, I very strongly agree with what I think is your main point, that AVEN can’t be everything, and that we should put a lot of work into non-AVEN infrastructure. Hence my post listing non-AVEN things we can do, which Andrew is specifically disagreeing with in this post that we’re commenting on.

    Although I do think that AVEN could fulfil at least a few of the many functions it currently tries to, if it moderated itself better.

    • Andrew says:

      Sllightlymetaphysical, I agree with your observation on your blog that AVEN can’t be everything to everyone and that there’s much to be said for building non-AVEN communities, but I wasn’t planning getting into that in much detail until maybe the 3rd or 4th post in the series. (And then I got removed from the blog before the 2nd post went up.)

      • *Hopefully this comment will clarify some of the things I’ve been failing spectacularly to be coherent about in this comment thread. Hopefully.*

        Yes, I assumed you’d talk about extra-AVEN stuff at some point. My problem wasn’t with your post (though there’s things I disagree with in it), but with the way you, in the comments of this post, continually took all complaints against AVEN as seriously as if you were a judge and everyone complaining was a litigant, to be dismissed unless they provided conclusive evidence, despite the fact that it was explained to you several times why they weren’t/couldn’t. It drove people away from the discussion who should have been central to it, and I think it shows a bad-faith attitude to dealing with the problem- I know personally at least 20 people who’ve left AVEN, many at different times and with little previous communication with each other, because of moderator problems. I can think of one forum which was set up specifically because of AVEN’s failure to moderate antisex attacks, and two forums set up specifically because of AVEN’s failure to moderate transphobic/neurotypical attacks. When this many people, from this many different times, are telling you that there’s a persistent problem, I find it arrogant to insist on controlled evidence (which is then often disqualified on other means, like being too old or too young, or just one thread) rather than just trying to find ways to tackle the problem. If it’s been imagined/ over-exaggerated, then all you’re doing is putting safeguards in place in case it does happen.

    • Andrew says:

      In my approach to this matter, I take several points as basic:

      1) Policy changes can be used to address systematic problems, but not isolated bad things. The people running AVEN are unlikely to make major changes unless adequate evidence is provided that there actually are systematic problems.
      2) It’s impossible to make everyone happy.

      One thing that has troubled me about many of these attacks against AVEN is how extremely one sided they they. I understand people’s concerns, but from the comments I’ve seen here, people seem to think that understanding their concerns is equivalent to disregarding everything else, or at least making their issue have to trump all other concerns. I’m increasingly coming to believe that the actual issue is that some people really dislike PiF and Skullery and are quite unhappy that AVEN doesn’t/didn’t censor them as much as they.would like. But that doesn’t make for nearly as a good soundbyte as “AVEN is transphobic” or “AVEN is abelist.”

      A point worth considering is why nearly all of the forums created in protest to AVEN have proven to be such failures. I can speculate on the answers, but I strongly suspect that a big part of it is that the people running them didn’t really have a sense for what is necessary for promoting and running a viable online community.

  9. Pingback: How can we respond to problems with AVEN? | The Asexual Agenda

  10. PIF says:

    Moderator’s note: This comment violates our comment policy with gratuitous insults and trolling. It has been encrypted with rot13. PIF has been given a one-month ban. Please do not respond.

    Ernqvat guvf qvq znxr zr puhpxyr. jvgu ertneqf gb niraf ceboyrzf V jvyy rayvtugra n srj ohg orsber gura jurer bar be gjb snvag urnegf pyrneyl qb abg yvxr crbcyr jvgu bccbfvat bcvavbaf vafgrnq bs erfcrpgvat bguref znl unir gurz fb gurl ernpu sbe gur ercbeg ohggba V jvyy bssre fbzr pbeerpg vasb

    naba..vg’f boivbhf jul lbh jbhyq or tvira lbhe vapbeerpg, qrfcvgr zragvbavat zl anzr zhygvcyr gvzrf naq gelvat gb znxr bhg lbh jrer abg..V qvq ybbx ng gubfr yvaxf lbh cebivqrq ,,thrff jung…V qvqa’g unir n fvatyr cbfg va nal bs gurz..shaal gung ..tvira lbh ubcrq vg tnir rabhtu rivqrapr..bs jung? gur bayl rivqrapr lbh cebivqrq jnf gb fubj V unqa’g cbfgrq..bar jbeq sbe lbh…..fghcvq

    vs lbh ner tbvat gb gel naq nffvangr fbzrbarf punenpgre gura znl V fhttrfg cbfgvat yvaxf jurer gurl UNIR NPGHNYYL CBFGRQ va gung yvax bgurejvfr lbh jvyy nf lbh unir..znqr lbhefrys ybbx fghcvq

    Zbergunaqbt…oyrff lbh, v gubhtug lbh qvqa’g cbfg ba nira nalzber orpnhfr lbh pbhyqa’g pbageby jung crbcyr gubhtug naq jrer nyybjrq gb fnl naq fb va gur aba erny jbeyq ohoo;r lbh yvir va lbh sbhaq gung uneq fb uhssrq bss

    urer’f gur guvat, gur vagrearg vf choyvp..vg’f abg whfg lbhef naq choyvp sbehzf jvyy unir nyy jnyxf bs yvsr jvguva vg. V crefbanyyl guvax fbzr va guvf guernq ner fcvaryrff snvagurnegf jub frrx gb fhecerff bguref bcvavbaf va gur jnl gur anmv’f qvq ol gelvat gb sbepr guvre ivrjf ba bguref be fuhg gurz qbja…V ba gur bgure unaq jbhyq nofbyhgryl qvfnterr jvgu lbh ohg erfcrpg lbh unq gung evtug gb qvfnterr…naq V’z gur onq crefba? Na vagrerfgvat vs vafrpher nethzrag

    nf gb gur zbqf abg qbvat abguvat, gurl pbhyqa’g..V fgnlrq jvguva gur ehyrf sbe gur terngre cneg, gur snpg fbzr pnzr vagb zl guernqf whfg gb zbna nobhg gurz fnlf zber nobhg gubfr crbcyr guna zl bcvavbaf

    zl onaavat gura..yrgf rayvtugra naq pbeerpg n srj pbairavrag yvrf

    nsgre gur rtq vffhr V unq terng qvssvphygl jvgu ubj gurl unaqyrq vg..jung rtq qvq jnf naq jvyy arire or shyyl xabja..jurer v unq vffhrf jnf gur thgyrff jnl gurl pynvzrq gb znxr n qrpvfvba ohg arire qvq..v.r. rtq jvyy abg or nyybjrq gb zbq sbe 6 zbaguf, 6 zbaguf pnzr gura vg jnf ..jr fnvq n zvavzhz bs 6 zbaguf..juvpu gurl qvqa’g…ohg gur cebprff jnf hasnve gb gung zrzore orpnhfr ubarfgl naq gur onpxebbz vf abg fbzrguvat gung tb unaq va unaq

    fubegyl nsgre V jnf vaivgrq jvgu nepurglcr naq 1 bgure gb pbzzhavpngr jvgu qnivq wnl qverpgyl gb frr ubj jr pbhyq znxr nira orggre…qw nf hfhny jnf gur fcyraqrebhf pubpbyngr sverthneq naq fbhtug gb qvsshfr jvgu yvrf jurer cebzvfrf jrer bssrerq..univat unq znal qw cebzvfrf jura oybj hcf unccra bs punatr gura arire frrvat n fvatyr bar V orpnzr qvffvyyhfvbarq jvgu nira naq qw naq fnvq V jnag ab cneg va qw’f qvfubarfgl..gur ybat naq gur fubeg jnf V nfxrq sbe zl nppbhag gb or onaarq,,vafgrnq..v guvax zber guebhtu srne bs frrvat onaarq va zl cebsvyr naq gur dhrfgvbaf gung jbhyq sbyybj, gur zbqf/n zbq? fhfcrarq zl nppbhag gvyy 2014

    bs vagrerfg ..qhevat gung fhfcrafvba zl nppbhag jnf onaarq pynvzvat gung v unq n fbpx nppbhag..V qvqa’g…naq nf cebirq erpragyl nira unf orra onaavat vaabprag zrzoref juvyfg npphfvat bgure zrzoref bs bcrengvat fbpxf jub ghearq bhg gb or abguvat bs gur xvaq ohg gubfr irel fnzr oenaq arj vaabprag zrzoref…jub xarj gurl pbhyq trg gung jebat 😎

    Qbrf nira arrq gb punatr? V nofbyhgryl nterr jvgu lbh..vg unf orpbzr n ornpba bs abg jung na nfrkhny vf ohg jung na nfrkhny vfa’g juvyfg pynvzvat vg vf. gur zbfg npphengr vqragvsvpngvba bs na nfrkhny vf ba gur sebag cntr…tb vagb gur sbehz naq zl bar yrttrq oyvaq yrfovna zvkrq enpr qbt pbhyq pnyy gurzfryirf nfrkhny naq trg njnl jvgu vg..fb jr arrq gb er-rzcunfvfr jung nfrkhnyvgl vf naq jung vg vf abg..vs gung bssraqf fbzr gura V fhttrfg gubfr ner cebonoyl abg nfrkhny naq xabj vg ohg qba’g jnag gb urne vg…gbhtu gvggl

    ynfgyl..sbe gubfr bs n snvag urneg..vs crbcyr qvfnterrvat jvgu lbh ba gur vagrearg unf lbh ernpuvat sbe gur ercbeg ohggba…lbh arrq gb trg bhg zber, vs lbh tb vagb gur ubgobk gb or bssraqrq fb lbh pna ovgpu naq juvar nobhg vg yngre…V’z thrffvat lbhe fvatyr, vs lbh srry bguref fubhyq abg unir na bcvavba orpnhfr vg vf abg gur fnzr nf lbhef…uvgyre gevrq gung naq snvyrq gbb.

    Orlbaq gung, vs lbh unir gur znghevgl gb yvfgra gb bguref bcvavbaf rira vs lbh qvfnterr, nf V qb gura V’z bire ba gur ninynapur sbehz ohg or jnearq nyy fvqrf bcvavbaf ner yvfgrarq gbb naq ercbeg ohggbaf ner eneryl cerffrq

    Unir n terng qnl

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