I am not your dirty secret

Content warnings: mentions of sexual violence, but no specifics

Fellow aces, we need to have a discussion about how we treat sex-averse and sex-repulsed aces.  Sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces are by no means a minority in the community–according to the AAW census, 65% of asexuals, 51% of grey-As, and 37% of demisexuals are either “somewhat repulsed” or “completely repulsed.”  And yet, as several people have pointed out recently, sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces are consistently viewed almost as a dirty secret the community should be ashamed of.”  This treatment of sex-repulsed aces goes hand in hand with a series of ideas: Being indifferent is the Real Way to be ace.  If you’re sex-repulsed, there’s something wrong with you, and you need to see a medical professional.  If you’re sex-repulsed because of experiences of trauma or sexual violence, then you definitely need to see a medical professional and sit down and shut up and stop making people think that you’re a “normal” ace.

A strange extension of this erasure and/or silencing of sex-repulsed aces is that aces who aren’t sex-repulsed are pressured into having sex by members of their own community.  It means that it’s significantly easier to find narratives from and advice for aces who have sex (and that’s just things I found in ~5 minutes of going through bookmarks) than it is to find personal narratives from aces who are sex-averse,* despite the fact that, according to the AAW census, only 1% of asexuals, 4% of grey-As, and 11% of demisexuals enjoy having sex.  (It’s slightly easier to find stuff about aros who don’t have sex and don’t want to have sex, probably because, as everyone knows, it’s totally 100% impossible to ever have a romantic relationship without The Sex.)  It means that people who seek out ace communities because they don’t want to have sex can feel alienated by their own communities.

Let’s start by getting our terminology straight.  I’ve collected a couple of definitions of sex-repulsion/aversion here, but just to briefly recap: “Sex-repulsion” and “sex-aversion” are two terms used to refer to people who are averse to/repulsed by some element(s) of sexual activity.  As with most other things, sex-aversion/repulsion is a spectrum.  On one hand you have the people who are A-okay with other people having sex, watching sex scenes in movies, talking about sex, giving sex ed advice to anyone who asks, and/or drawing anatomical charts from memory, but would really rather not involve themselves in any sort of sexual activity.  On the other hand you have people who are repulsed by sex talk, mentions of sex, anatomical diagrams, and/or or PDA.  (Note: There’s an important difference between being personally repulsed and shaming other people.)  There are also people who may be “partially repulsed” or “somewhat repulsed”–for example, they may be repulsed by some sexual activities but not others or they may be repulsed by sexual activity except under certain circumstances.  Both asexual spectrum people and allosexual people can (and do) identify as sex-repulsed/sex-averse, so sex-aversion has little to nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation (although obviously a sex-repulsed ace is probably going to have different experiences than, say, a sex-repulsed bisexual person).

I have been sex-repulsed for as long as I can remember.  When I was 11 or so, I had a very visceral “DO NOT WANT” reaction when I realized that sex wasn’t just Something Adults Do but rather something I would have to do as an adult.  As I entered my teens, I kept expecting my feelings on sex to suddenly change; certainly, the adults around me kept telling me that would happen–when they weren’t too busy calling me a “prude,” that is.  Every time someone started talking about sex, I felt like everything they were describing was something I would have to do in the future.  Needless to say, given my “DO NOT WANT” reaction, I was pretty deeply uncomfortable around sexual conversations.

Interestingly, the thing that contributed the most to me becoming more chill about sex in general was the realization that I didn’t have to have it.  Suddenly, people talking about sex became a thousand times less threatening, because they were no longer talking about something that I would have to do in the future.  They could talk about That Thing They Did on Saturday Night, and it had nothing to do with me.  I would never have to do That Thing, so That Thing could be dealt with mentally in the same way as bungee jumping–something I do not want to do (at all, ever), but that other people enjoy.

I do not consider my sex-repulsion–because it existed before I had any sort of experience of sexual violence–“more legitimate” than the sex-repulsion of ace survivors whose negative reactions to sex are a direct result of trauma.  I do not consider my sex-repulsion “more legitimate” than the feelings of ace survivors who don’t know whether trauma caused them to be sex-repulsed.  I do not believe that I have a “better reason” for being sex-repulsed because I have experienced sexual violence–if you don’t want to have sex, you shouldn’t have to defend your desire not to have sex, especially in ace spaces.  I do not like that certain people, both inside and outside ace communities, feel that they have the right to police other people’s attitudes toward sex based upon whether they have a “good reason” for their feelings or not, especially since people who clear the “trauma bar” are often told that they should go get therapy because their attitudes toward sex are “unnatural” or “unhealthy.”

I joined ace communities so that I could have a space where I wasn’t constantly being pressured into having sex that I really, really, really don’t want to have, but when so much of my dashboard is “Aces have sex too!” and “Indifferent is the way to be!” and “It’s wrong to be sex-repulsed; go to a doctor!” and “You should experiment sexually!” I feel really isolated.  I feel like I say the same things over and over and over and over and yet I don’t make a dent, because sex-repulsion is wrong and indifference is the real way to be ace and if you’re not willing to have sex, there’s something wrong with you, and if you’re an ace survivor you should sit down and shut up and stop making the “normal” aces look bad and aces like sex!

If ace communities are not a safe space for me, where am I supposed to go?  Where are the 55% of asexual spectrum people who are at least somewhat repulsed supposed to go?  Where are the 38% of asexual spectrum people who are not willing to have sex supposed to go?  Where are ace survivors who are massively triggered by the idea of ever having sex supposed to go?  Where are ace survivors who aren’t triggered by sex but just genuinely don’t want to have it supposed to go?  Where are aces who don’t want to (or can’t) justify their sex-aversion supposed to go?  Where are aces fleeing the demand to “just have sex, just try it, stop being such a prude” only to find the same underlying sexual normativity replicated in ace communities supposed to go?

Certainly, there are people who distressed by their sex-aversion.  If your sex-aversion/sex-repulsion causes you distress, by all means, seek whatever help you need.  But please don’t assume that, because sex-aversion causes distress to some people (or even to you, specifically), sex-aversion is inherently pathological.  Don’t assume that sex-aversion has to be “cured.”  Don’t demand that sex-averse aces go get “fixed,” especially if their attitude toward sex isn’t causing them distress.  If you are concern trolling sex-averse aces, you are dissuading people who feel isolated by sexual normativity from entering ace communities.  Even if someone’s sex-aversion is causing them distress and can be minimized or “cured” through medical or psychological treatment, yelling at them to stop being sex-averse won’t actually help them; yelling at people mostly makes them feel bad about themselves and retreat from spaces they might find helpful.

I won’t deny that it’s important to talk about aces who have sex.  It’s important to talk about aces who enjoy sex.  It’s important to talk about aces who are indifferent toward sex.  But if those are the only stories we tell, we are missing a sizable portion of our communities.  This isn’t just about making room for survivors; this is about making room for 55% of aces.  I can’t believe I have to say this, but asexual communities need to make room for people who just genuinely don’t want sex now or ever.  We need to open up space for the stories of aces who don’t want sex, who don’t enjoy sex, who aren’t having sex, who are triggered by the idea of having sex, who are afraid of sex, whose sexual experiences are overwhelmingly negative and violent, who will never have sex “just to be sure,” and who can’t (or won’t) compromise sexually.  We should not sacrifice and silence members of our community for the sake of seeming “sex-positive.”  We should not recreate and reinforce the compulsory sexuality that many members of ace communities are attempting flee.

How can you make space for sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces?  Well, it’s mostly little things.  You can stop saying, “Aces like sex” or “Aces have sex” and start saying, “Some aces like sex, and others don’t” or “Some aces have sex, but most don’t.”  You can stop derailing posts about sex-aversion/repulsion and asexuality with “But aces can have sex too!”  If you run an ace advice blog, rather than responding to someone’s fears about having sex with encouragement to go for it, you can remind them that they’re not required to have sex under any circumstances, and if they don’t want to have sex, they don’t have to have sex.  You can stop making blanket statements about aces’ attitudes toward sex (“Aces don’t hate sex!”, “Aces like sex; they just don’t experience sexual attraction!”, etc.), because no matter what you say, you’re going to be wrong.  You can stop treating sex-repulsed and sex-averse aces as though they’re reflecting badly on other aces just by existing.  You can start thinking about ways to be a better ally to ace survivors, and then stop thinking and start doing.

I am asexual.  I am sex-repulsed.  I am not your dirty secret.  Please make space for me, because I don’t have space anywhere else.

*redbeardace has suggested that people aren’t talking about sex-repulsion because nobody’s talking about sex-repulsion, but I also think it’s really important to remember how difficult it is to talk about something that A. very few people are talking about and B. is consistently denigrated and erased by other members of your community.

About queenieofaces

QueenieOfAces is a graduate student in the U.S. studying Japanese religion. She is a queer asexual. She also blogs over at Concept Awesome and runs Resources for Ace Survivors. She is never quite sure what to write in these introduction things, but this one time she accidentally got a short story on asexuality published in an erotica magazine.
This entry was posted in asexual politics, Community, Sexual normativity. Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to I am not your dirty secret

  1. Ace in Translation says:

    thank you for writing this. When I first discovered asexuality, I accepted by own ace-ness almost immediately. But I’m still (2 years later) coming to terms with being sex repulsed. There is this little voice in me that doesn’t want me to be repulsed, because if I were at the least indifferent, I’d be more “normal”. And that really sucks. Not only that I have this internalized sex normativity, but also that I have little to no community to make me feel more secure in my feelings towards The Sex.

    Also, I can really relate to what you wrote about knowing you don’t have to have sex, and that making you feel far more comfortable with other people talking about it. I’m just overall really happy about this post!

    • luvtheheaven says:

      I relate to that too! Part of why discovering asexuality as a label is a “wonderful” thing is that for me it meant it was okay for me to feel the way I’d been feeling my whole life where the idea of sex kinda “weirded me out”. I think it was part not experiencing and therefore not understanding sexual attraction, but it was also the sex-averse part of me.

      Queenie, thank you so much for linking to my newest post in this, although the big sentence that encompassed the entire link, “Where are aces fleeing the demand to “just have sex, just try it, stop being such a prude” only to find the same underlying sexual normativity replicated in ace communities supposed to go?” made me do a double take and read it at least 2 times before I fully understood it and I’m still not sure it 100% applies to what I wrote there, lmao?

      But anyway the post is wonderful. Thank you so much for writing this.

      • queenieofaces says:

        I linked to your post specifically for this paragraph:

        That post reminded me of just how much pressure I did feel to “try sex”, probably especially because of learning that even asexuals “often” would have sex to “compromise” with a romantic partner. Sex-normative views influenced me more than I ever consciously realized, and aces within the community were not immune from perpetuating this “if you can possibly find a way to have sex, you really should” idea.

        namely because I’ve been through that same cycle of, “Oh, I’m ace, I don’t have to have sex!” ==> “Wait, aces can have sex.” ==> “Wait, I know aces who are having and enjoying having sex.” ==> “I should really be indifferent about having sex.” ==> and then a spiral into self-hatred because the idea of having sex is such a visceral DO NOT WANT, but I can’t say that I don’t want sex because I’m ace because aces LIKE sex. So, mostly I was linking to the first 1/3-1/2 of the post, but there’s no way to be like, “I’M LINKING TO THE FIRST HALF OF THIS, SO, YEAH,” whoops.

        • luvtheheaven says:

          I understand your wording a bit better today, after getting some sleep. But regardless, I always figured that’s what you meant to be linking to. (Only the pretty “relevant” portion of my monstrously long rambling essay – lol.)

          Anyway, I just want to say again that I really think you made a ton of great points in here and I also appreciate all the other links embedded within the blog post, which I make a point to check out 90% of, so thanks again for writing it.

  2. Pingback: Lying By Omission | FISTFELT

  3. Ace says:

    Reblogged this on The Thinking Asexual and commented:
    This is a very important post about the need to protect, support, and give visibility to sex-repulsed and sex-averse asexuals when educating the masses about asexuality. There’s this really weird tendency that’s cropped up in asexual spaces online the last couple years where sexually active sex-indifferent and sex-enthusiastic aces will actually put down their fellow aces who don’t have sex/don’t want sex, as if they care more about impressing upon sexual people that aces are sexually available to them than they are about liberating asexuals who don’t want to have sex, from compulsory sexuality. It’s fucked up. It’s wrong. I don’t care if certain aces have sex or like sex, but it is absolutely fucking ridiculous for those aces to be the ones at the forefront of visibility and education efforts when the majority of asexuals DO NOT want to have sex ever and are some degree of uncomfortable with it. Yes, asexuality is an orientation defined by attraction rather than by sexual behavior, like all other sexual orientations, but when asexuality–the one and only orientation that’s about NOT experiencing sexual attraction to others–is pushed to become more like the other sexualities, that’s bullshit. It’s symptomatic of internalized compulsory sexuality and a sick need to be validated as “normal” by the sexual majority, when it’s asexuals themselves trying to make that push and silence sex-repulsed/sex-averse asexuals.

    My activism is not about assimilation. Fuck assimilation. Asexuals are not and do not have to be and should not want to be identical to sexual people, just so that they can be easily accepted and romanced by those sexual people, without anything changing in our culture regarding attitudes toward sex. I, for one, am not here to be accepted or validated or proclaimed “normal.” I’m here to fucking revolutionize the world, for the better. I’m here to set myself and everyone like me free. I’m here to improve the world, not perpetuate the shitty status quo.
    I’m an asexual, I’m a virgin, I’m committed to lifelong celibacy, and I don’t care who you are, I won’t fuck you. And I don’t give a shit what you think about that.

  4. So I always feel a little strange about this subject because I’m never sure what to emphasize or add. There’s a couple of unimportant things that come to mind though:

    1) There’s something to be said about the idea that everyone is sex adverse or not and those are constant categories. I’ve gone from sex adverse to not (and sometimes started to head back again) throughout my life, and I’m not really sure what to make of that. On the other hand, I’m afraid to really explicitly mention that because then some asshole will try and use it for some normative point to say that aces can or should change with regard to sex repulsion. I think the only reason I ever feel like I’m not sex repulsed tends to involve environments and relationships where I know it would be okay if I was sex repulsed. I really just find myself uncomfortable whenever either sex repulsed or not sex repulsed aces are expected to change (okay I guess I’m just uncomfortable whenever anyone seems to be trying to control another person’s life in any way).

    2) I always have a weird disconnect between my experiences in person (mostly with straight people) and what I see online (mostly in ace communities). Most non-ace people I know assume all aces are sex repulsed (including me), and at least these days I often don’t bother correcting them or just mention there are exceptions but don’t explain it. So I’m shocked when anyone-aces or not- even knows that some aces have sex (much less that some enjoy it). There’s only one reason I’ve found mentioning aces who have sex is useful, and that’s…:

    3) The point of mentioning aces who have sex, at least when I’ve done educational work, is basically to emphasize that behavior doesn’t matter. That goes both ways; the only reason aces who don’t have sex aren’t used for the example is because- at least when I’ve done 101 work- most people assume aces don’t have and aren’t interested in sex. I sometimes wonder if aces who are pressuring aces to have sex are somehow getting the wrong idea from 101 work (because the whole trick works on the assumption that sex adverse asexuals are the default asexual that comes to mind, which might not work well for some ace audiences), or in some other way mixing up the 101 and educational roles with the inward community care taking roles (except that this stuff wouldn’t even be good from a 101 point of view, so even then it must be a failure of that). I guess I just wonder why anyone would tell an asexual (actually, anyone and not just asexuals) to try sex (unless the person said something like “I want to try sex!”).

    4) Are these coming from advice blogs (I try to keep my online ace-sphere pretty well trimmed to good people, so I actually have never seen an ace tell another ace to try sex outside of I think 1 reblog, to call it out)? I really dislike advice blogs/columns/etc., because they (almost) always seem to be telling people what they should do. Like seriously, can we just abolish the advice blog as a format? There are very few people who can actually do it well, and there are a lot of people trying to play hero who fuck it up, badly.

    • queenieofaces says:

      1) Yes, absolutely, and I wish that were emphasized more, but I don’t know how to say, “Hey, there’s some fluidity!” without non-aces taking it as a challenge to “fix” aces. I’ve definitely had EXTREMELY repulsed periods as well as periods where I’ve bordered on indifferent. I’ve also had friends who became less repulsed after realizing that asexuality was a thing and that they didn’t have to feel the same way about sex as everyone else did. So, yeah, fluidity: it’s a thing, but also it can’t really be controlled, so don’t try to control it. I’m not sure that’s the best tag line, though.

      2-3) Yes, and that’s why it’s really important to talk about aces who have sex, because attraction isn’t behavior, and aces having sex will have very different experiences than allos having sex (or so I’ve heard from aces who have sex). That said, when I’ve mentioned that some aces have sex when doing 101, a fair number of people have jumped to the conclusion that A. asexuality just means you have a low sex drive, B. asexuality is like when lesbians date men (???), or C. all aces are thus willing to have sex even if they aren’t intrinsically drawn to it. So I’m not sure how much the “sex-averse as default” mindset is there to begin with.
      Also, yeah, I think some of the issue may be aces mixing up 101 and interacting with other aces without preaching to them about how some aces have sex! I know some aces have sex; you don’t have to keep telling me.

      4) I don’t follow any ace advice blogs, so the only time I see their posts are when someone reblogs them onto my dash. Thus, the majority of the stuff I’m seeing is NOT coming from ace advice blogs. (That said, the few times I’ve scrolled through ace advice blogs, I’ve bailed pretty quickly, ’cause I’ve seen A LOT of this stuff.) I would say that 80-90% of what I see on my dash is either being reblogged by aces who have sex or aces who haven’t had sex but think they might want to in the future. There was a period in January/February where it seemed like about once a week I saw something erasing or (much less frequently) attacking sex-repulsed aces, usually something like, “Remember, aces have and enjoy having sex! Attraction isn’t behavior!” or “Aces don’t hate sex! Aces enjoy sex, ’cause it’s just physical sensation!” It was really weird.

      • Sciatrix says:

        Possibly by saying “there’s fluidity in both directions! For example, I got more repulsed over time! so stop asking.” I mean, if the problem is that people get really excited about fluidity because they’re thinking that you might move in the direction of being more likely to have sex (possibly sex with them), then emphasizing that you might also move in the direction of being LESS likely to have sex (with them) seems like an obvious counter.

        Plus that’s my own experience with repulsion and fluidity, so.

        • I really should just use someone getting more sex adverse as my go to example when discussing fluidity (especially since if I’m discussing it, then it contrasts with how I went if they ever learn about that).

    • Aydan says:

      It’s interesting that you bring up the fluidity of categories, because sometimes non-aces will respond to the idea of asexuality with “No, you don’t understand, everyone goes through different phases of liking and not liking sex! You’re completely normal!” Which, yes, we are completely normal, but not in the way being implied. Perhaps there is just as much variation around the mean among aces as among non-aces, but in our case, the mean is shifted significantly towards “don’t like sex.”

      • Well I think part of the problem is the idea that orientation and behavior are the same thing; that an orientation is defined by how much someone has sex (or even by how much someone wants it). Like, the way I understand asexuality is that it’s about sexual attraction. Which is separate from an aggregate “want” or “desire” for sex (and would have to be, because that is so contextual). So the fluidity is just entirely irrelevant- asexuality isn’t about if we do or don’t want sex, it’s about why we do or do not want sex (and the specifics imply its about lacking a particular reason towards wanting sex, which as you say would shift the mean towards “don’t like sex”). But that’s such a technical, usually irrelevant, and often misleading thing to explain that I wonder if trying to explain it does more harm than good.

        • Aydan says:

          Yeah, it’s irrelevant to the actual definition but seems to be what people mistake for asexuality a lot. I don’t know if “we can experience something like that too, but it’s not our orientation” would do more harm than good.

  5. tschellufjek says:

    Thanks a lot for this great article. I’ve struggled a very longtime with doubts about being a part of the community or not. Instead of just accepting that I was sex-aversed, I tried to come to terms with the supposed fact that one day I have to face sexual interaction for keeping up or building up a romantic relationship, that it’s okay not to have sex but that it isn’t okay to refuse sex completely. As you said, I have no problems about talking about this issue or about the fact that other people have sex. It doesn’t bother me at all. It’s sad that people even find intolerance within their communities – this intolerance doesn’t have to be completely obvious!

  6. Miriel says:

    What especially gets me about this “true aces are indifferent” stance (which I see both in and out of the ace community – though in the latter, I also see plenty of “true aces are repulsed,” so there’s no way to win there) is that we’re the only orientation this standard is applied to. Nobody bats an eye if a straight woman is averse to having sex with another woman. No one thinks twice if a bi guy is squicked by the prospect of screwing someone he finds ugly and boring. Sexual people are free to be averse to sex with people they’re not attracted to (indeed, I think there’s some pressure on them to be nothing _but_ averse to it). But suddenly an ace feels that way and it’s pathological, or an indication that they’re not really ace, or whatever. Give me a break.

  7. salmelo says:

    I think part of this might be just people going overboard. As a sex-favorable ace myself, I’m usually very, very aware of my status as a minority among the ace community. I remember not too terribly long ago we were talking about how important it was to mention aces who have sex, because no one was talking about them at all. I also remember how much I struggled with my own identity, telling myself “I can’t be asexual, I like sex too much.”

    Honestly, the ace blogs I follow aren’t the ones spreading this sort of thing, so I don’t really have a proper conception of how bad it is. For me seeing sex-favorable aces mentioned at all is still a rare and pleasing event. Not that I’m saying your wrong or anything, just we follow different blogs. It’s funny how different two people’s experiences on one website can be.

    My point is just that some (though I doubt all) of this trend is probably just sex-favorable aces getting a little (or a lot) overexcited trying to make sure they’re not forgotten about. How we went from a minority no one talked about to seemingly the loudest presence in the community I have no idea.

    • queenieofaces says:

      Some of it may be who we follow–the majority of the response on tumblr has been from people who have been like, “YES, this is a problem, I see this ALL THE TIME,” but there have been a few responses from people going, “Really? I haven’t really seen this.”

      I’m not sure I’d say it’s the “loudest presence in the community” or that sex-favorable aces are the originator of all of this discourse. I think during that push to talk about aces who have sex, a fair number of non-repulsed aces who weren’t having sex decided to help spread awareness of aces who have sex by posting a bunch of generalized supportive statements for aces who have sex. (You know, the tumblr-style one or two line statement that ends in a cute emoticon? I don’t have a short phrase that encapsulates that concept, but hopefully you know what I’m talking about.) Pair that with the tendency of certain aces to take any personal statement of sex-repulsion as an expression of anti-sexuality that must be shut down immediately, and you wind up with a situation in which there’s a lot of talk of aces who have sex (often from aces who aren’t having sex, as Siggy mentioned in his post on the subject), often in a not particularly nuanced manner (because, really, how can you make a snappy text post in one to two lines that captures nuance without it sounding so wishy-washy that no one will reblog it?).

      • For what it’s worth, while I haven’t seen a lot of the stuff mentioned above, in case it’s not clear I also really shouldn’t be seeing anything like that. My blogging these days is meant to find things I find interesting to engage with, not stuff I’d hate, so really I shouldn’t be seeing bad posts except as referenced by good posts.

      • Ace in Translation says:

        I think it’s partly the blogging bubble we all create for ourselves (and the lack of nuance in just about anything on Tumblr), but also partly whether or not you’re keeping tabs on the spaces first frequented by questioning asexuals and allosexuals. That’s (some) ace advice blogs (the advice blogs are getting a rough deal lately….), as well as other 101 spaces (AVEN, other language forums, etc.).
        Especially when people ask for advice on relationships – whether it’s asexuals or allosexual partners – people often dance around with vague statements that you “need to compromise” or “find a way that makes you both happy”. In a sex normative society, all too often that’s interpreted as “the asexual needs to have sex” – often without knowing whether the asexual in question is even ok with having sex. Hardly ever people say up front something along the lines of “not having sex is also an option”. That’s imho the most empowering statement for a repulsed person, because we don’t hear this being said anywhere else. It’s implied, but never directly stated. I think that’s exemplary of how the ace community as a whole deals with sex repulsion. It’s implied that it’s an option, but hardly ever explicitly stated as a valid experience.

        Also, I happen to sometimes come across statements that repulsion towards sex can be “cured” – again in contexts of relationship advice / allosexual partners struggling with their partner’s asexuality. Because while asexuality in our own community isn’t framed as unhealthy, repulsion is something that’s (unconsciously) framed as an unhealthy attitude in those statements. So instead of “curing” asexuality, it’s suggested you can “train” your asexual to be indifferent/sex-happy. So on top of dealing with allosexuals and their assumptions, we also have to deal with the internalized sex normativity in our own community (whether that’s coming from indifferent, sex-enthusiastic or repulsed aces).

    • Aydan says:

      I can relate to this, as my engagement with “aces can have and like sex” is strictly from the POV of having seen too many aces excluded, or self-exclude, on the basis of their sexual history.

      It’s interesting to think about how both aces and non-aces interact with this debate. We have the people who think you can’t know you’re ace if you’ve never tried it (a point towards the pressuring aces into sex side) and the people who think you can’t be ace if you’ve tried it (a point towards the ace purists side) and the people who think you can’t be ace if you like it (ditto) and the people who think you can’t be ace if you strongly dislike it (ditto of the first). It’s almost like the game’s been rigged so no ace can ever win, and “real” asexuals don’t exist.

  8. For me, the most important part of the post (which is a theme throughout it) is:

    “I am asexual. I am sex-repulsed. I am not your dirty secret. Please make space for me, because I don’t have space anywhere else.”

    This is a point that I’ve made before[1], and which I’ve seen beranyth make a few times[2] in a slightly different form.

    As a general rule, sex-averse and sexually-inactive people are more heavily stigmatized by mainstream society, and more negatively affected by compulsory sexuality and amatonormativity, than are sexually-active and sex-indifferent or sex-favorable people. For many of us, the asexual community is the first and only place we have found that accepts us as sex-averse and sexually-inactive.

    I feel that sex-indifferent and sex-favorable aces need to recognize that they are less stigmatized along this particular axis than we are, and to consider prioritizing our needs in this area, out of solidarity.

    Too often the discussions around this not only treat the groups as numerically equal when they are not, but they also act as if the groups are treated the same way by allosexual society, and they are not.

    [1] http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com/post/65198535942/so-its-ace-awareness-week-which-is-200-necessary-and
    [2] http://beranyth.tumblr.com/post/89316874569/ive-seen-a-lot-of-terms-thrown-around-recently

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Your post caught my eye as I was going through ace blogs to catch up a bit on what’s been going on in the community (I’ve been away from it for about a year and a half).

    I honestly thought to myself, “Really? Is that a thing that’s happening these days?”

    I’m a little bit shocked to see it’s turned around so much, because it used to be the exact opposite. I’ve been part of the ace community for a full decade (although you won’t find posts from me prior to 2008). When I joined AVEN, it was always the default assumption even among other aces that asexuals generally don’t want and often feel repulsed by the idea of sex. There were no forums inclusive of gray-A’s, and for a while it was like… you almost HAD to identify yourself as gray-A in order to not have your asexuality questioned by other aces if you expressed any interest in trying sex. Whenever a discussion of “true asexuals” came up, it was generally referring to celibate/repulsed aces as the “true” ones.

    In my experience, it still is the default assumption among people who aren’t familiar with asexuality. I should hope that any 101 material being produced does mention that SOME asexuals do have sex and can enjoy it… keyword: some. They probably don’t mention repulsion because it’s a tricky thing to talk about with outsiders, with their tendency to dismiss asexuality as a product of sexual trauma. And you’re right, that puts a burden on both survivors and sex-repulsed aces alike.

    So… I sort of see how this erasure of repulsed aces could have evolved, although I haven’t seen it happening myself until clicking a couple of those (very triggering and offensive) links that you cited. I really don’t understand why this idea of the “true asexual” is appealing to anyone at all, no matter what characteristics they think “true asexuals” have.

    Incidentally, I think I have had* a couple of people comment on my post that you linked saying I am somehow contributing to erasure of aces who don’t want to have sex… by posting a guide on how to approach those who do? I really didn’t understand that, as I wasn’t aware that there was anyone who even thought “true asexuals” can’t/shouldn’t be repulsed, and I thought I did a fairly good job of saying “hey, if they say they don’t want sex, DROP IT.” Multiple times. And I have to say, I got a bit pissed off by at least one comment implying that I shouldn’t even post resources like that at all because it somehow implies that asexuals should try to have sex. That was absolutely never my intent, and I think it is a complete misreading of my post. Perhaps it was someone putting too much focus on the title (which was a direct quote of a search term that had led people to my blog several times, and I wanted to try to reach those people to make them more considerate), or maybe someone confused me with someone else who WAS advocating compulsory sexuality. I don’t know. I realize that post does need significant revision, which I will get to one day when I am not so focused on other projects. But I’m not sure what else I could possibly do to ameliorate the erasure situation with that particular post other than emphasize (as I have already) that only SOME (keyword again) aces might want to have sex, given that its intended audience most likely already thinks that asexual people by definition don’t want to have sex.

    I think the issue may be too complex to address in a post focused on something else entirely, especially one that’s not even addressed to other aces. When I (eventually!) return to blogging, I want to make a separate post about it. I’ll acknowledge that to some degree, yes, I’ve probably had quite a bit of influence in changing the conversation to the extent that now there are a lot more resources for aces who DO want to have sex than for those who are repulsed. I never expected anyone to start thinking that the ONLY way to be ace is to be indifferent to sex though, and I think it’s INCREDIBLY fucked up to try to encourage people who don’t want to have sex to do it anyway. No matter what the reason for their disinterest… plus it’s very naive, because even if you tried it, it wouldn’t work. It would only make a repulsed person MORE repulsed.

    But while I never intended to erase anyone, I also can’t address every issue that any given ace person might have, because I’m only me. I’m honestly not really sure exactly what resources repulsed aces even need, because I’m not one myself. I suspect a lot of people aren’t posting about it solely because it’s an issue that doesn’t apply to them personally, and so they just aren’t familiar enough with it. I know there’s a lot of pressure to be sex positive out there, but me? I rarely notice it because I’m already sex positive. I’m realizing now that there seem to be a lot of people who confuse being sex positive with having positive personal feelings towards sex itself, and guilt people about feeling repulsion. That really sucks, and I can see how hard it is to write about for you because of that.

    But keep doing it! The only way to reduce the stigma about aversion is to call it out.

    Back when I started my blog, hardly anyone was talking about gray-A’s or posting resources for sexually active asexuals outside of a few forum posts mostly on Apositive (the members there were people who didn’t feel comfortable talking about that sort of stuff on AVEN–at the time, sex positivity was kinda shunned in the ace community overall, hence the split). Once I started talking about it, everyone else started to chime in too. It may not happen right away, but I think it will happen eventually in this case, too. You’re already making others aware of it, this comment is proof of that!

    * I have not been reading comments posted since I put my blog on hiatus. They are all just backlogged in moderation, so I’ve only seen a few.

    • Cleander says:

      Actually, your point about the opposite attitudes in the past on AVEN are I think probably a part of what’s happening. I know that I as a baby ace I had tons of problems with people assuming I could never like anything remotely “sexual”, assuming that I must be disgusted by sex, people thinking they needed to avoid talking about sex around me. Which was incredibly frustrating! And there was also the intra-community strife over who was a “real” ace – and although it was before my time, there was lingering memory of the issues between AVEN (which preferred more open definitions of asexuality, including aces who like masturbation or sexual activity) and the Official Non-libidoist Society (which shamed anyone who had a sex drive as not real asexuals).

      Because of this, most aces from that generation learned that they had to fight fiercely for the rights of sex-indifferent and sex-favorable aces, and that we had to fight for the rights of aces with sex drives. I think many of also get nervous talking about sex repulsion and the possibility of sexless relationships because so many of us have seen conversations about those subjects turn out really really badly for us, and even in friendly spaces that nervousness around the subject remains. And when we started coming to tumblr, we brought those attitudes with us.

      And I think because of that, the newer generations coming to tumblr have had a very different experiences – because so many of us have learned to be very careful to include the option of sex-indifference and sex-favorability for all aces, newer folks have (fortunately!) never had to deal with that kind of invisibility to outright hate for sex-indifferent or sex-favorable aces.

      And so in turn, we’ve gone from talking maybe too much about sex-repulsion and not enough about sex-indeference/sex-favorability to maybe a bit of the reverse, although we still get a bit of both.

    • queenieofaces says:

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment; I’m not sure I can respond to all of it, but let’s see what I can do.

      I think the reason you may be getting some of those comments on your post is that I’ve seen it linked a few times as, as Ace in Translation put it, a How to Train Your Sex-Repulsed Ace guide. Which was not the original intention of the piece, I am 99.9% sure, but certain people (ace bloggers, even) have sort of picked it up and run with it. Another option is that people have poor reading comprehension, or are skimming and then responding without reading properly. That happens quite a lot, unfortunately. (I’ve had people write offended responses to posts, apparently under the impression that I was arguing that exact opposite of what I actually wrote.)

      I agree with Cleander’s characterization of different ace communities–I started by lurking on AVEN, and I didn’t really see as much “real aces are indifferent about sex!” sort of rhetoric there. (Although I did occasionally see some “repulsed aces should see a doctor ’cause that’s unnatural!” comments.) I really only started seeing the sort of comments I linked in the post when I joined tumblr. Some of the tumblr ace community’s attitudes toward sex-repulsed/sex-averse aces may have been affected by the Great Snafu of 2011, when I know the Anti-Ace Brigade went after sex-averse aces particularly badly, but as I wasn’t around then, I’m not sure I can really make that substantial of a comment. I do know there is a very strong push to always be sex-positive, both in general and personally, and I’ve seen people who post about being personally sex-repulsed get slammed for being sex-negative or shaming people who have sex (?), which makes it very hard to talk about disliking sex/having had negative sexual experiences/just genuinely not wanting sex.

      On your “true asexual” point, I’m actually running the August Carnival of Aces, and I think I’m going to pick “the unassailable asexual” as the theme, so hopefully we can get some dialogue started on that front.

      • AceAdmiral says:

        To your comment about the Troubles of 2011: I don’t see a connection between the Anti-Ace Brigade and the No True Asexual (is repulsed)-backlash. Rather, there were new people coming into the TumblrAce community at the time who started to tell aversive aces that we needed to go to a doctor/psychiatrist and get ourselves fixed, and then a reverberation of that sentiment out. This is where I draw the first line mentally between TumblrAce generations because it saw an increase of “casual” tumbloggers talking about their asexuality, as opposed to people who talked mostly or exclusively about it. Maybe others had a different readership and will disagree(?), but by the time other aces started turning against us on tumblr, the Anti-Ace Brigade had moved away from harping on repulsion.

        • queenieofaces says:

          Okay, that makes sense, especially since I saw a fair amount of the early anti-repulsed-ace sentiment coming from the “casual” tumbloggers.

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  19. Hannah says:

    Thank you so much for writing this wonderful masterpiece! Lately I have seen a lot of the “aces have sex too!” posts and as a sex repulsed asexual it has been kind of bothering me. You literally put everything I have been feeling into a well written and definitely agreeable article/post so really thanks for that. 🙂

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  40. slasher48 says:

    This is such a fantastic piece, and so important, especially because the people who get targeted SO often, in my experience, by people outside the ace community, are sex-repulsed people, and every “But aces fuck!” just derails people’s attempts to point that targeting out and address the problems behind it, in the broader queer community for one, and in society in general for two.

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