Question of the Week: May 7th, 2013

This is the Question of the Week, a way to stimulate conversation.  It occurs every Tuesday.

Asexual Awareness Week is starting to plan for its next big asexy census.  If you could get ace community statistics on any one topic, what would you choose?

I don’t know if this is what I’d want to know the most, but I’d be interested in identity histories.  When do people identify as asexual?  How much mobility is there between different ace identities?  Unfortunately this would require a whole lot of extra questions.

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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11 Responses to Question of the Week: May 7th, 2013

  1. Sciatrix says:

    I’m rather interested in whether people knew they were different before they discovered the word “asexual” or not. A friend of mine has a theory that about one third of aces assume that everyone thinks the way they do about sex and that people are exaggerating interest, and two thirds of aces realize that they’re unusual but think they’re alone before discovering asexual communities. I’m curious to know whether his ballpark estimate has any basis in reality.

    • Seth says:

      I’d also be interested in that, though you’d have to be a bit careful with the wording, because as they stand, those categories are not mutually exclusive. I, for example, did unthinkingly assume for many years that my disinterest in having sex wasn’t too far from the norm. However, I knew perfectly well that wanting to be sexless couldn’t possibly be normal. I just didn’t give it enough thought, and wrote it off as a pipe dream until my discovery of the asexual community led my discovery of the word ‘neutrois’.

  2. queenieofaces says:

    I can think of two things I’d be interested in off the top of my head:

    One is how people identified before they found the word “asexual” to describe their experiences. A lot of aces I know described themselves by romantic attraction (i.e. the heteroromantics described themselves as “not very good at being straight,” the homoromantics described themselves as being “weird gay people,” etc.), but I’d be interested in where the aromantics and greyromantics fell. It seems like, of the aros I’ve talked to, a lot self-described as “apathetic bisexual” or else “apathetic heterosexual” (no “apathetic homosexuals,” though), and I’d be interested in seeing if that’s a common trend or just a trend among people I talk to.

    Trigger warning: rape and sexual assault

    The other thing I’d be interested in is, unfortunately, sexual assault statistics. I’ve seen some informal polls that put them really high (40-50%), and I’ve talked to enough people about the problem that I suspect it’s not uncommon for aces to be sexually assaulted or raped (often “correctively”). I think having more formal statistics would be useful so that when people start the whole “nothing bad ever happens to aces” argument again, you can throw numbers in their faces. Plus, maybe if we prove that this is an actual problem, we can actually get some resources for ace survivors of sexual assault and rape? (Assembling a preliminary resource list is actually going to be one of my projects for this summer, so I may have a vested interest in this topic.)

    • Carmilla DeWinter says:

      Seconded on both items, with an added bit on suicidal thoughts.

      Though I’m not the person to go to if it comes to advice or help, given my somewhat insensitive nature… meh.

  3. nextstepcake says:

    I would also be interested in seeing studies that sample from both asexuals and non-asexuals who tend to hang out in similar spaces (tumblr, online forums, etc.) so we can see how asexuals compare to other problems.

  4. I agree with that it would be interesting to find out more about people’s identity-term histories, including how long they’ve had their current identity.

    I began identifying as asexual when I was 14, stayed that way until I was 20, then identified as gray-A for a few years, and then went back to identifying as asexual when I was 22. I wonder how common such changes as between ace-spectrum labels are in the current community.

  5. Seth says:

    I’d like to see some statistics on the prevalence of veg*nism/flexitarianism among aces. It’s something that I (and others) have casually observed to be possibly higher than it is for the overall population, but as far as I know, there are no hard data on it. It’d also be interesting to find out when those who are veg/flex started down that road and why. I went flex at age 7 simply because I had lost my appetite for meat (I’m vegan now, for ethical reasons). There’s only one place where I have ever heard of other people having a similar history: AVEN (not that I’ve spent much time looking, admittedly). It seems such an unlikely correlation, but who knows?

  6. Andrew says:

    People should keep in mind that the point of an “Asexy Census” is to create a relatively short survey that is then posted widely to try to get as large a sample as possible. With the AAW11 survey, it wasn’t intended to get us good data on asexuality, but because of it’s sheer size, it allows for analyses that no other dataset can. The problem is that some of the questions were badly designed (i.e. anything with tons of check boxes), and some didn’t ask about anything important (cake vs. pie).

    So if we’re going to run another one, it makes sense to throw some questions in there about things that people are interested in. Here are some general pointers about the sorts of questions/topics to ask about:

    1) Possible responses should be radio buttons, drop down menus, or a short list of check boxes. The options given should cover the general range of possible responses. “Other: Specify” doesn’t generally give good data, except possibly to suggest options that need to be included in future surveys. Questions with essay boxes for answers are not the kind of thing to put in an Asexy Census.

    2) The survey should be short. Maybe 10-20 questions. So every question should be there for a reason.

    3) If AAW runs one of these things on an annual basis, then it would make sense to include questions that we’d want to see year after year to see possible changes in community demographics over time. Surveys wouldn’t generally work well for things where the goal is to compare it to some sort of control group.

    4) Political opinions among asexuals vary considerably, and I would suggest avoiding questions about deeply divisive issues unless the goal is to gauge “public opinion.” If potential participants expect that their results are likely to be misinterpreted to advance a political view they do not hold, this will discourage participation among many in the community, which is inconsistent with the purpose of a survey like this.

    Anyway, my own personal suggestion for a question to add; Do people consider their asexuality/gray-asexuality/demisexuality to be an absence of sexuality?

    • Siggy says:

      It’s good to keep in mind what kind of questions would work for the survey, although my intention was to just see what sort of things people were interested. Then the team writing the questions could decide for themselves what sort of things were implementable.

  7. Victrix says:

    The main one I keep coming back to is:
    Did you initially dismiss/even consider the idea that you might be asexual when you discovered the term? (This could be done in a time scale)

    I’m more interested in this in terms of also looking at two other questions:
    1. How did you discover asexuality existed?
    2. Where you actively looking/questioning when you discovered asexuality existed?

    These questions would obviously need better refining in their actual wording but I’m mostly interested to see how many aces consider it applying to them upon discovering it or whether it wasn’t until a while later. I’m also interested in whether there is a correlation with the other two questions from a visibility point of view when reaching out to potential aces, as it may indicate an area that could be given further study to improve future community visibility programs.

  8. M. says:

    I’d like to second the requests for questions on experiences of sexual violence and suicidality, though I’m biased by my health background. An interesting resource for thinking about a survey that aims to be largely descriptive of a community is Genny Beeman and Sue Rankin’s “Lives of Transgender People.” In that survey, they asked many of the questions brought up in comments here. I also wanted to say that I think the census should be clearly informed by what the community is interested in knowing, not just what would be the perfect, least messy survey design.

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