Putting the cart before the horse: homophobic but ace-positive

Last week’s linkspam saw an article about asexuality on Conservapedia.  Among other things, the article notes AVEN’s “alliance” with the GLBTQ community.  You know what’s coming next:

This ignores the fact that the Bible condemns gay and lesbian sexual desires but does not condemn asexuality (so long as it is not a form that substitutes sexual self-stimulation for sexual relations between man and wife).

Conservapedia is a US Christian conservative wiki which has already been widely criticized for many years.  I think it is giving too much credit to Conservapedia to talk about this one article (which is the work of only one editor in any case).  Nonetheless, the article reflects some of my fears about how asexual visibility goes over among American conservative, LGBT-negative audiences.

To the point, having people accept asexuality, but not gay and lesbian people seems wrong.  Almost as wrong as accepting asexuality but not accepting asexuals who like self-stimulation.  Like they haven’t accepted asexuality at all.

But hold that thought for a moment, as I critically examine it.

It seems absurd to suggest that every social movement should wait for every other.  Should asexuals wait for people with autism?  Should people with autism wait for black women in the US?  Should black women in the US wait for black women in Africa?  Should black women in Africa wait for submissive men?  Should submissive men wait for people who can’t find jobs?  Should people who can’t find jobs wait for asexuals?  Demanding that every social change should wait for every other is really a way to demand we keep the status quo.

It’s also worth noting that it doesn’t go both ways.  Accepting asexuality without accepting homosexuality seems gross to me, but accepting homosexuality without learning about asexuality seems like a small step forward.   It’s fine when people learn about bisexuality before asexuality, but when people at an ace workshop ask what bisexuality is, I mentally facepalm.  But isn’t this just reinforcing the power structure in the queer movement, putting gay and lesbian people at top (despite them neither having the most problems nor being the most numerous)?  Or is it perhaps expressing the prejudice that asexuality is “complicated” while gay men are “simple”?

I submit that the ordering is partially based on practical considerations. Gay and lesbian activism is much older and more widespread than asexual activism.

But aside from that, it just goes against our whole messaging.  To start, we don’t want to be put on a pedestal.  That includes homo/bi/pan- romantic aces, who do not want to be put on a pedestal just because they are not homo/bi/pan- sexual instead.  (Plus some of them may seek homo/bi/pan- sexual partners, and may even have sex with them.)

Another thing is, we are not just a community of asexuals.  We also harbor many who are Unsure or Ambiguous.  People think that an asexual identity might be stifling, as if it prevented people from exploring their sexuality.  Asexuality is not stifling, but you know what is?  Not accepting homosexuality or same-sex sexual behavior, dammit.

I am grateful that I don’t have to spend any time spreading asexual visibility among LGB-negative conservatives.  If anyone has tried educating LGB-negative conservatives, I’d like to hear from you.  Is it as frustrating as I imagine?

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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18 Responses to Putting the cart before the horse: homophobic but ace-positive

  1. sablin27 says:

    It’s not unreasonable to be glad that the beliefs of LGB-negative conservatives are not harming all asexuals by promoting prejudice against them, even if their beliefs about sex are still harmful in other ways. Accepting asexuals doesn’t harm gay people and makes them more likely to be exposed to LGB-positive beliefs.

  2. acetheist says:

    “If anyone has tried educating LGB-negative conservatives, I’d like to hear from you. Is it as frustrating as I imagine?”

    I haven’t tried educating them, per se, but some of the Christian pastors I’ve contacted indicated that they saw gayness as a sin but that asexuality had “no moral implications” to them… As to be expected, they seem to favor cis heteroromantic asexuals (one guy responded to my question about aces getting married by answering in a way that presumed it’d be a 1 man, 1 woman marriage) and it seems like, among these types, there’s more acceptance of lifelong singlehood than of nonsexual marriages (which one guy outright called “oxymoronic”).

    I still have to go back and synthesize my results before I’ll say anything definitive, but right now, my impression is that ace-acceptance from LGB-negative conservatives should be held suspect. They seem to just view us as defective, mini heterosexuals.

  3. Huh, I’ve always assumed conservapedia was a parody site.

    Also, I’d note that I feel like a lot of asexual theory builds on LGB theory so I have a hard time imagining someone would actually accept asexuality as we conceive of it while still being LGB-negative. For example, do they still see sexual orientation as being about behavior? As a choice? Because that alone makes me think that they aren’t seeing asexuality the same way I do, and probably wouldn’t actually be accepting of the asexual community as I see it (although maybe they’d be accepting of just the cis heteroromantic aces who aren’t polyamorous or anything that seems too “strange”).

    • I agree with Captain Heartless here. I don’t think that conservatives (especially religious conservatives) actually understand asexuality the way that we do. They may appear to support it because they’re misunderstanding it as celibacy, but they may still think that experiencing sexual attraction/desire/etc is “natural” and thus that people who don’t experience it are unnatural.
      This is something I talked about in my post on asexuality, Islam, and queerness and have discussed at other times. As someone who is a nearly 41 year old “spinster” and who is not only asexual but aromantic, non-libidoist, and sex-averse, I don’t feel accepted whatsoever by religious conservatives. Even if they didn’t think I was “unnatural”, I’m not fulfilling my “womanly duty” as a wife and mother.
      I think that the asexual community needs to be careful of apparent acceptance that is actually based on a misunderstanding of asexuality.

    • Siggy says:

      Conservapedia definitely isn’t parody. Although when it was making news it was subject to lots of vandalism, so some individual articles may be parody.

    • The best page on Conservapedia is the one on Poe’s Law. If I ever have to defend humanity from a rogue artificial intelligence, I’ll show it that page and watch the paradox short circuit its logic processors.

  4. Jo says:

    I was just thinking about this in the shower (as you do) and came to the conclusion that for me, you can’t quite be ace-positive unless you are also LGB positive. Because otherwise, everyone who isn’t a hetero-romantic ace (or an aromantic ace, I guess) is swept under the bus, and there is no engagement with heteronormativity and challenging the dominant ways of thinking about sex/relationships/love/life. That stuff is quite important to me.

    But I can also see your point on the waiting game, Siggy. It does seem ridiculous to need to be one thing before the other. In the case of LGB and asexuality though, there does seem to be a stronger correlation, especially when it comes to theory like Captain Heartless pointed out.

    • Siggy says:

      One thing I was worried about was sweeping yet another group under the bus: aces living in (American) conservative environments. Should they be barred from using whatever tactics work best in their own context?

      And then what about homo/bi/pan aces living in conservative environments? Seems like they’re swept under the bus either way.

      • Jo says:

        Yeah, that is true as well. I think scale is perhaps something to think about here – i.e. it is perfectly ok to use tactics that work in your context when it comes to you or people close to you, but perhaps not when you’re talking about asexuality in a visibility/broader-scale educational context? For instance, I’ve agreed that my partner can use the framework of celibacy to talk about our relationship to his mother, who is on the conservative, Christian side of the scale. In practical terms, it’s the easiest way of getting across that although we’re very close, he’s not ‘cheating’ on his wife or anything like that. (This is all a bit simplified, but hopefully you get what I mean.)

  5. Last year, in the comments section of the Huffington Post articles, I came across someone who was so excited that “sexually self-questioning teens” had a new alternative to being gay: They could be asexual, instead!
    There were a lot of terrible comments on those articles, but those struck me as the worst ones of the lot. Most of the comments were largely harmless misinformed people or intentional trolls, but this person felt truly dangerous. It wasn’t just “You don’t have sex, so you’re all pure and righteous”, which I find pretty skeevy on its own. In this case, it was clear that they were planning to use our sexual orientation as a weapon in their fight against “The Gay”. I had an image of them rushing off to their church group, all excited about what they’d discovered, and trying to figure out a way to convince gay kids to become this new-fangled pure and righteous and Bible-approved “asexual” thing instead.
    I think this is something we’ll see more of as greater numbers of people become aware of us. I think we need to be prepared to fight it.

    I wrote about these comments last year:

    • swankivy says:

      I remember this–I reblogged that post and wrote the following reasons why I thought it was dangerous for these folks to suggest they support us:

      1. It suggests asexuality is a practice (abstinence).
      2. It suggests others could encourage asexuality as an alternative to gay.
      3. It’s exactly what gay people who are against our inclusion in the wider community based on misconceptions suggest “we” are about: enforced de-sexualization of gay people.
      4. It reinforces the (wrong) idea that our orientation is supported by religion, when what I’ve heard is that being celibate in a religious context is about triumph over desire, and that only those who devote themselves to religious celibacy are exempt from “be fruitful and multiply.” If we’re doing neither, we’re definitely not supported by Biblical doctrine, and have been harassed in a religious context by plenty of people; we do NOT have a religious or moral community’s unequivocal support.
      5. It suggests we don’t have relationships at all, since it claims we are immune to “ruined reputations.” As most people (primarily women) will tell you, you don’t actually have to have sex at all to be shamed for what you did or didn’t do in a relationship. If a breakup is hostile, you can still be branded as a slut or as frigid regardless of how much or how little sex you had.
      6. It suggests that more education about asexuality is more important as “an alternative to gay” instead of what it really is: a realistic possibility for anyone.

  6. Bun Bun says:

    Um…being around religious conservative a lot, it is not that they support asexuality, they support celibacy, and are conflating celibacy with asexuality. They think asexuality and celibacy are the same thing. That’s why they seem okay to it. They are NOT supporting asexuality and trust me once we get seen as a sexual orientation, they’ll hate us, too. To tell young aces to come out because it’s “safer” than coming out as lgbt is incredibly dangerous and maybe deadly, too.

    • Siggy says:

      The Conservapedia article, for one, does not conflate asexuality and celibacy. I think this might be because the author is ace, and actually knows what they’re saying.

      But yes, I agree that this is a problem in general.

  7. For me, asexuality is explicitly queer. You can’t accept asexuality without accepting as a basis the idea that people can have lots of different, valid, orientations, that they should be free to act on their orientations, that they don’t owe you a justification for their orientations. And, furthermore, the more liberal we get about orientation, for example, the more we allow people to change identities over the course of their life and not label themselves if they don’t feel they need to, etc, the more helpful that will be to ace folk. A lot of ace folk I know are open to same-sex intimate relationships, and several have come to identify as trans* after identifying as ace. The christian conservative system (in my oversimplified opinion) aims to form a hierarchy where ace people are pedestalled and trans* people and people in same-sex relationships are reviled, and *often those traits can exist in the same person*. In my experience, it’s difficult enough negotiating those multiple potential identities starting from the baseline that they are or at least should be fairly neutral. Starting from the baseline that your asexual identity is revered and your other queer identities are reviled could be deeply traumatic. Aces have a right to question themselves or come to a deeper understanding of themselves without worrying that, if they come to the wrong answer, they’ll fall from grace.I think an asexual community or a societal view of asexuality which didn’t recognise that would be inherently rotten and broken.

    • And that we inherently *get* that, and get that asexuality as a cause lives or dies with general queer acceptance. Hence, aces combating homophobia isn’t mission creep, it’s an inherently self-motivated part of ace activism

  8. Pingback: Why aren’t there more Christians in the online ace community? | The Ace Theist

  9. Pingback: Mercenary from Unknown Lands, part 1 | Cake at the Fortress

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