Why community demographics matter

Some time ago, I did analysis of the 2011 Asexual Awareness Week Community Census.  It is the largest asexual community survey (~3400 respondents) that we have.  Now I find myself referring to it time and time again, because it is so relevant to virtually everything we talk about in the asexual community.

For example, a common dynamic in the asexual community (especially AVEN) is that people feel so alone, and want to find other people who are just like them.  “Aren’t there any other aces who experience _____???”  The other day I reassured someone on AVEN that plenty of aces feel repulsed by sex.  But  I can say more than that.  Repulsed people are in the majority in the community (55%).  You may have felt alone, but that was just a matter of perception!  A lot of times when people feel alone, it is just a matter of perception.

Of course, not all the things we talk about in the community are common.  For example, many people doing visibility work are quick to tell people that aces can also have or enjoy sex.  And that’s true.  But sometimes people complain that this is too confusing.  If people who have sex and like it can be asexual, does the word even have any meaning?

But it isn’t really that confusing, as long as you have a sense of perspective.  Yes asexuals can like sex, but it’s only a small minority (1% of asexuals, 4% of gray-As, and 11% of demisexuals, 4% overall).  Doesn’t it make sense that at least some asexuals would like sex?  And even though I am among those 4%, I think it’s perfectly sensible for people to frequently discuss things that are relevant to only 96% of the community.

Or consider the perpetual debate over whether heteroromantics and aromantics are queer.  Did you know that only 22% of the community is heteroromantic?  And only 13% of those people identify with the LGBT community?  I’m not going to forsake queer heteroromantics just because they make up a measly 2% of the community, but it should give us a sense of perspective.  When we argue that heteroromantics have the right to some space in LGBT communities, we should remember that most heteroromantics aren’t interested in exercising that right.  I’m more worried about aromantics, among whom 31% identify with the LGBT community.

Besides the critical perspective offered by the survey, there’s a lot of stuff that’s just plain interesting.  For instance, you can see some of the differences between AVEN and tumblr, the two major asexual communities of today.  Compared to tumblr, AVEN has more men (16% vs 11%), more heteroromantics (25% vs 17%), and fewer bi/panromantics (19% vs 27%).  This isn’t too surprising if you’re familiar with the respective cultures of tumblr and AVEN.

Currently, even further analysis of the data is in the works (not by me).  What other trends will we dig up?

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
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9 Responses to Why community demographics matter

  1. ace-muslim says:

    I remember pausing over the question about identifying as LGBT. I’m an aromantic asexual and the specific categories indicated by the LGBT acronym don’t seem to include a space for me. It might be interesting to have a future survey where aces are asked if we identify as queer or as gender and sexual minorities. There may be heteroromantic and aromantic aces who chose the “do not identify” answer because they don’t feel that it includes them, not because they actually consider themselves to be straight.

    • nextstepcake says:

      I definitely agree – heck, it might be interesting to compare all three (GSM, queer, LGBT), since they all refer to slightly different groups.

      Because personally, I do identify as queer, and as part of the large LGBTQ+ community; but the problem with the original question was that it wasn’t clear if it was asking “do you ID as specifically L, G, B, or T?” (which would be a no) or if it was asking “do you identify as part of the general queer/sexual minority community referred to commonly as LGBT” (which would be a yes).

      It doesn’t help that for some people LGBT is assumed to be shorthand for all non-heterosexual people (including pansexuals, asexuals, intersex, etc.) whereas others interpret it strictly as lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and trans people only. Ambiguity always makes things confusing.

  2. Eponine says:

    I think it’s surprising that even among demisexuals, only 11% enjoy sex. I’m among the 1% of asexuals who can enjoy sex, and sometimes I wonder if I’m really ace, because almost all I see on AVEN is how other aces feel sex is disgusting and/or boring. I guess one possibility is people on the ace spectrum who can enjoy sex are less likely to find out they’re on the ace spectrum.

    • nextstepcake says:

      Part of the reason that number is so low may also be because of the way the survey these are from was written – the part about “enjoying sex” was a sort of sub part of a broader question and many people may have just not paid attention to it.

      The original question was a check-box system where you could select all that applied:
      12. What is your attitude towards sex?*
      -I am sex positive
      -I am somewhat repulsed by the idea of (myself) having sex
      -I would be willing to compromise and have occasional sex (in a relationship)
      -I am indifferent to the idea of (myself) having sex
      -I would not be willing to have sex
      -I am completely repulsed by the idea of (myself) having sex
      -I would be willing to compromise and have regular sex (in a relationship)
      -I enjoy having sex
      -I am anti-sexual/sex negative

      I also wonder if the number may be lower because people who have not had sex – but could potential enjoy it – may not answer it, since they may not be completely sure. And of course what “enjoying sex” means can be different for each person.

      • Siggy says:

        Yeah, that particular question was actually three questions in one, and also people could check off multiple boxes when they should have been forced to choose one per question. Kind of a mess to disentangle. About 13% did not check off “completely repulsed”, “somewhat repulsed”, “indifferent”, or “enjoy having sex”. It’s impossible to tell if they just weren’t paying attention, chose not to answer, or just felt that they didn’t fit in those boxes.

  3. Pingback: What does it mean to say asexuals are queer? | The Asexual Agenda

  4. Amy Koyman says:

    Hi there, do you know what’s happening with the yearly census? I don’t remember how many times it happened/if 2011 was the last one but I’m really keen to get involved if there’s any efforts for another one!

    • Siggy says:

      The 2011 AAW survey was the only one ever done by AAW. AAW wanted to do another one, one with IRB approval, but was unable to decide on the questions before the volunteers lost momentum. Sara Beth Brooks is the person to ask if that’s going to continue.

      AVEN also did a survey in 2008, with a few hundred participants. They are currently discussing doing another survey (one which is not necessarily confined to AVEN). If you would like to help with that, you should contact the AVEN PT.

  5. Pingback: Do the activism that suits you | The Asexual Agenda

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