Asexual communities, identity, and the question of unassailability

This post is for the August Carnival of Aces.

Author’s note: This post is inspired by this question posed by aqua-ace as well as some recent discussions (follow-ups partly captured here, but there seem to be too many different threads to easily reblog or link to here) about sex-averse and sex-favorable asexuals. It’s something of a long ramble but eventually arrives at a point.

For personal reasons, I recently took a total break from Tumblr for about 10 days and upon returning a few days ago significantly reduced the number of blogs I’m following as the number of posts on my dashboard every day was overwhelming and I felt like I was missing the content I really wanted to read.

The only reason I’m on Tumblr (I otherwise dislike its format) is the asexual community there. And the core purpose for which I seek out the asexual community is to gain benefit from others who share similar experiences in navigating the world as someone who doesn’t experience sexual attraction. So I decided to limit the blogs I follow on Tumblr to those which primarily provide content related to asexuality that is of interest to me. When it comes to other topics of importance to me, I prefer other formats and forums (primarily Twitter for online interaction).

Another thing I had come to realize even before this is that the subset of asexual blogs I follow is not necessarily representative of the asexual community on Tumblr as a whole. This again is because I primarily follow what interests and benefits me in navigating my asexuality. I don’t follow any “asexual advice” blogs as I’m not a newbie, and I don’t follow blogs that primarily produce 101 content as this is not very useful to me in my own life.

As it happens, a lot of the recent debates over how “the asexual community” treats certain groups or certain people have focused on either advice blogs or 101-resource blogs, none of which I had any idea about until reading the critique posts. People would be writing, “the asexual community has such-and-such attitude,” based on these blogs and I would have no idea what they were talking about or how exactly that came to be “the asexual community”.

It does matter to me if the asexual community (however defined) is acting in ways that are harmful to some of its members, or to other groups of people. However, I have neither the time nor the motivation to follow asexuality-related tags looking for such instances or to otherwise seek them out beyond what I come across via the blogs I regularly read (on Tumblr or otherwise). I also realize that by limiting my Tumblr follow list to blogs that primarily post asexuality-related content, I may be missing important discussions on blogs that usually post on other topics. I ultimately found that it was not sustainable for me, given my other commitments both online and offline, to spend so much time sifting through content that is not directly related. I have a lot of respect for those who are able to devote significant time to doing so.

Given this context, I’ve felt rather disconnected from some of these discussions, especially since being away for 10 days sometimes feels like being away for 10 months of non-internet time, and it took me quite awhile to even figure out what everybody was talking about! If this discourse is “the asexual community”, I wondered if I was on an island. This sense of disconnect is part of why I identified with aqua-ace’s post about feeling alone even within asexual communities.

Aqua-ace talks about feeling “broken” because of not fitting certain “narratives” about asexuality, and this has also been the subject of many recent discussions about sex-averse and sex-favorable aces.

According to many of these discussions and narratives, I seem to be somewhat unassailable as an asexual. I’m aromantic, non-libidoist, and celibate. I barely even experience aesthetic attraction. On pretty much every measure, I seem to be almost completely non-sexual. I’ve found it difficult to untangle my sex-aversion from a lot of things, but I have no doubt whatsoever about my asexuality and neither I nor apparently anyone else considers any of the above characteristics to invalidate it.

I’m also considerably older than most aces on Tumblr or even on many of the non-Tumblr ace blogs I follow (I’m 41). I didn’t learn about asexuality as a concept and sexual orientation until I was 31 and didn’t join any asexual communities until just two years ago (I’ve never been interested in AVEN because of its discussion forum format). I’ve had plenty of time to come to understand myself and to come to terms with myself. No asexual community or blogger defined any of that for me; the community only gave me a new set of words to express what I already knew.

Another factor is that I had already shaped my life long since around my sex aversion; I’ve been living on my own longer than many Tumblr aces have even been alive or they were infants when I first started doing so. I have never been interested in sex or romantic/sexual relationships and have always been sure that I wanted to avoid them. Because of both luck (in having parents who accept my choices) and privileges (including white, middle-class, conditionally able-bodied, cis, citizen), I’ve been able to structure my life to avoid entering such relationships and thus to avoid a lot of the difficult experiences many aces have had with sex and romance. While this is a privilege in many ways, it has also entailed significant disadvantages and limitations for me, which are beyond the scope even of this post to discuss. Over the last 20 years, these disadvantages and limitations had become normalized to me and it’s only been while considering new alternatives that I appreciated again just how profoundly my asexual solitariness has shaped my life and what costs I have paid for the particular freedom that I’ve won.

And, again, all of this is something I had built for myself long before I ever heard of asexuality as an orientation; asexual discourse has only provided me with new conceptual language for discussing it. The asexual community did not “give” me my identity in any way and it cannot take it away, whether I fit a narrative or not. That may be the ultimate in unassailability.

Returning to the larger question of sex-averse and sex-favorable aces that has been the focus of recent debates, I thought Ace Theist had a very perceptive comment during an earlier discussion of the same topics. They said that sex-favorable aces are more likely to feel that they don’t have a right to or don’t deserve to identify as asexual (i.e., their asexuality is assailable) while sex-averse aces are more likely to feel that the larger society is very hostile to our particular way of being asexual and that we need the asexual community to be a safe space for us from that. That is, the two groups are talking about completely different things. I think this is very true, and certainly fits my own experiences as described above.

As a political matter, I believe that the asexual community should prioritize creating a safe space for sex-averse and sexually-inactive aces, who often have no place else to go, whereas I see sex-favorable and sexually-active aces as being less stigmatized by the larger society because of being less different from the allosexual majority. It frustrates me when sex-averse and sexually-inactive aces are depicted as “elitist”, privileged (which is ultimately what being “unassailable” is presented as), or oppressive to sex-favorable or sexually-active aces for talking about our own experiences and identities (obviously, this is not to deny that specific individuals may act in any of these ways). To me this ignores important differences in how the groups are regarded by the larger society – which is after all where most of us spend most of our time (there not being any “ace neighborhoods” to live in or even “ace clubs” to hang out in). I see it as reproducing the dynamics of the larger society within our own community and ultimately as marginalizing many aces from a space that should center our asexuality. (That sex-averse and sexually-inactive aces are the majority of the community and are being marginalized makes it even more troubling, in my opinion.)

It’s honestly in being sex-negative as a consequence of my sex aversion that I feel most alienated from the asexual community on Tumblr, and it’s the issue I least feel I can speak freely on. If there’s a sex-averse “side” to the recent debates, I’m on it. I don’t want there to be “sides” and I ultimately want to seek a solution that supports both groups, perhaps through sub-communities or sub-spaces. But I do feel that treating the two groups as if they are positioned the same way, or that it’s just a matter of “accepting diversity” among aces, creates a potential for injustice because it ignores the larger societal structures* and forces (particularly compulsory sexuality and amatonormativity) that asexuals must deal with. To me, there is no point to having an asexual community if it doesn’t help asexuals in finding out to lead livable lives within the larger society as people who don’t experience sexual attraction. It’s not just a social club!

As much as the concept of “unassailability” is used within debates about sex-averse/sexually-inactive aces and sex-favorable/sexually-active aces, and as much as it becomes associated with sex-averse and sexually-inactive aces to present us as a problem because our asexuality is felt to be less ambiguous either within or outside of the community, I have to ask whether this is really the right framework or will lead us to the best solutions.

I think that the concept of the unassailable asexual is better when it is used to discuss characteristics that are considered normative or privileged within the larger society, and which are also possessed by some asexuals, and how asexuals who do not possess these characteristics are excluded from narratives. This would allow us to focus on intersections of asexuality with sexual and racial trauma and with disability and to examine the representation in visibility efforts and in the media of asexuality as white and middle-class, among other issues.

*This also applies to the many other societal structures and forces that impact asexuals aside from their asexuality, including patriarchy, white supremacy, economic stratification, and so forth. However, I do not address these issues in this post.

About Laura (ace-muslim)

Laura is an aromantic asexual, queer-identified, and a Muslim. She lives in the U.S., works in online tech support, and volunteers for a Muslim anti-racism organization. She blogs about asexuality, queer Muslim issues, and other topics at http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com and has written on asexuality for a number of Muslim sites.
This entry was posted in asexual identity, asexual politics, Community. Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Asexual communities, identity, and the question of unassailability

  1. Rae (@CSrae) says:

    Hello,

    TBH, I’m relatively new to the ace community on tumblr and I found this blog via a link from there. I agree how hectic tumblr’s dashboard can be esp. since they don’t have any filtering system in place. I never got into AVEN but I like blogs best because I can get a good sense of the author/creators than a giant forum.

    I just wanted to say thanks for running this WP and linking to interesting articles I’d otherwise miss because of tumblr’s instantaneous updating. I appreciate it and have a nice day 🙂

  2. I don’t disagree with the post, but there is one little thing I do want to be nitpicky about:
    “I see sex-favorable and sexually-active aces as being less stigmatized by the larger society because of being less different from the allosexual majority”

    I think this is a mistake. Generally, I’m pretty sure all sides of this issue think the other side fits in (everywhere) better than they do. For example, in my experience I find it is much easier to just let people assume I am sex-averse. People I know seem to be able to understand asexuality, but they often focus on behavior instead of attraction. Basically, as far as I can tell they can accept the weirdness of being asexual, but being sexually active doesn’t counter-act that weirdness- it just adds another layer of weird (basically I end up not just being asexual, but a weird asexual). So pretty much, the people I run into believe sexually-active asexuals are even more different from the allosexual majority than sex-averse asexuals- they are not only asexual, but they don’t even fit in to the majority’s idea of what an asexual is! Of course, that can apply to any axis of identity, so I kind of doubt anyone actually fits the majority’s idea (hey, unassailable asexuals). Terms like “less different” really just don’t make any sense here, because there are so many ways to view things and you never know what way someone is going to use (well, maybe they will just use whatever way they feel justifies them being a terrible human being towards asexuals).

    My point is we just don’t know, and my experience above (just like your perception of the lives of sexually active aces) isn’t enough to actually draw any conclusions. For the most part, I don’t think it’s fair to say any group in this debate is more or less stigmatized by the larger society (at the very least, we don’t have data for that claim). In general I suspect the difference between sex-averse and sexually active aces is not as great as we make it out to be, and chances are the allosexual majority doesn’t care about how you identify- they will hate you anyways.

    That said, I do agree that the asexual community should make a priority of safe spaces sex-averse aces as long as its not actively hurting sexually active aces, even if only because of the numbers. I also suspect that since most people assume asexuals are sex-averse, if we can attack the reasons why people hate sex-aversion generally (asexual or not), it would help all asexuals (in fact, when trying to think of legal issues facing asexuals I usually assume the hypothetical asexual is sex-averse, because issues affecting them will affect most of the community, and would be comparatively easy and sympathetic to bring up). I would just say people should avoid assuming they know what its like for sexually active aces unless they belong to that group (and the same is true for people assuming they know the experiences of sex-averse aces).

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response and I agree with many of the points that you made. However, I do think that your example of someone who is out as both asexual and sex-favorable or sexually active is kind of narrow as many times judgments are made without knowing about the asexuality. I definitely don’t mean to imply that such aces have it easy, but in general, having sex and enjoying sex seems to be perceived as more “normal” in our society than not doing so (which is kind of the whole point of compulsory sexuality) and thus sex-averse and sexually-inactive aces have two “not normal” things (i.e., our asexuality and also our behavior or attitude about sex) whereas sex-favorable and sexually-active aces would seem to only have one (all other things being equal for the purpose of this example). That was what I was trying to convey by “less different from the allosexual majority”.

      I had an interesting discussion with Talia in the comments of their recent post[1] here on sex-favorable aces and they noted that sex-favorable aces can find a place in sex-positive spaces if they “pass” by de-emphasizing their asexuality (they had said in the original post that they feel more comfortable in such spaces than in asexual communities). But sex-averse aces may not have access to or be welcome in such spaces at all. Again, that’s because there are two points of difference, not just one.

      [1] https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/reflections-on-the-use-and-boundaries-of-sex-favourable-asexual-as-a-term/#comment-4450 and https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/reflections-on-the-use-and-boundaries-of-sex-favourable-asexual-as-a-term/#comment-4460

      • L says:

        The thing though, and this had been the crux if my incompatibility with both ace and allo communities alike is that I (and I can’t possibly be alone in this) have sex, on occasion enjoy it with my partner, but am averse and sometimes repulsed in pretty much any context outside if that. I’ve gotten a LOT of hostility being an ace who is lukewarm about sex and who also has it. I can’t count the number if times I’ve been likened to a “dead fish”. The implication is that the intimacy my partner and I enjoy together on our own terms is, well, GROSS, for lack of a better word.

        And it’s led to a pretty strong feeling of having no community anywhere.

        • PurplesShade says:

          You are not alone. (Le me just say in turn, that I am so glad to not be alone as well. You’re the first person I’ve encountered who is moving in both directions like I am.)

          Outside of my partner all other things sexual make me want to run, and sometimes I have full blown panic attacks due to it.
          I’m sexually-active, but I’m also sex-averse when it comes to almost everything else.
          While I support other people having sex, the amount of sexualized things in the media, or allosexy-centric narratives permeating almost all the world can feel really hostile.
          I don’t understand or know how to explain why I have a loophole in the form of my partner, but that somehow for me everything else is not very okay, and not knowing or understanding makes me feel even more out of place.
          Would I really fit in a space intended to sex-averse aces if I’m grey-a, and have a sexual partner, a very odd and blatant exception to my aversion?

          I know that in the other direction it can be hard to fit in with allosexual people; even with close friends it’s really problematic to try to explain that I might just run away and hide in the bathroom during the a sex scene, or “sexy” scene during shows when they know I have a partner of my own, so the implied question is ‘why would this bug you?’

          People seem to like easily explainable binaries, but my puzzle pieces just don’t fit together.
          I’m not sure I fit exactly in either space, so I guess I’m part of the percentage overlapping in the middle.

      • Yeah, I’ll note my point with the example wasn’t that sexually active aces are *necessarily* considered more weird- because your analysis can work just as well- it’s just that with terms like “different” you have to ask “along what axis”. And because of that, you can frame things to make either one seem more different- and because the anti-asexual assholes are often, well, assholes, they will always frame it against the person they are attacking. So really none of us fit in. At the very least, I believe sexually active asexuals in practice are not seen as more normal- even if being sexually active normally is seen as more normal.

        An analogy, perhaps, could be helpful. For example, being sexually active is seen as normal. But if you add that this hypothetical person is, for example, disabled, then it’s not. In fact, sexually active disabled people are seen as more weird than sexually inactive disabled people. The same analysis *could* be applied to asexuals (but it also could be avoided- again, using the explanation you used). In practice, I suspect the anti-asexual people just use whatever helps them hate us.

        For what it’s worth, I remember reading Talia’s comments and thinking to myself “what world do they live in? That sounds nothing like my experiences”. I don’t know if this is due to me being more indifferent, or something like that, but I don’t think it’s safe to draw conclusions about sexually active aces from Talia’s experiences any more than just mine (and I’ll note again- I’m really in favor of just not drawing conclusions here because I think it’s a really complicated question). I think L’s comment gets at why I also don’t fit in in allo communities, although I’ll probably elaborate in responding to Sciatrix below.

  3. Demi Gray says:

    I agree that there should be a specific place for sex-repulsed/indifferent aces to go to escape any discussion or pressure related to sex entirely. However, I don’t really like the implication that aces who have sex are better able to fit in with society. People are drawn to the ace community for a reason—because they feel different—so it’s clear that they’re looking for a specific space which accepts and validates them as they are, with all the nuances of their individual sexuality. Your phrasing of “less different from the allosexual majority” sounds like its implying that there’s a way to be more or less ace and that’s just …not acceptable. I also question your use of the word privileged—it sounds like you’re implying that aces who have/desire/enjoy sex are privileged in some way, which is kind of gross as a blanket statement, because you don’t know why an individual chooses to have sex. I think compulsory sexuality would be a better term to use here.

    Maybe because you’re older, you already realized you were a certain way and you were able to make peace with it before you discovered the asexual community. But for a lot of us younger aces, we discovered the community as we were forming our identities and thus really depend on it for support. Like you said, the asexual community gave us our identities and can take them away and it’s really an unpleasant feeling to be aware of that. no matter what kind of ace you are.

    Captain Heartless says it well with “I end up not just being asexual, but a weird asexual.” I can relate to this—I don’t really feel like I belong fully in the allosexual community or the asexual community. So there needs to be a space for everyone who is drawn to the asexual community for whatever reason. I wonder if aromantic allosexuals feel similarly—they are allosexuals, but they are “weird” allosexuals, so even though they experience sexual attraction, they don’t fully fit in with society.

    Please realize that pretty much everyone in the ace community feels marginalized. I came to this conclusion after a discussion with Sciatrix. So while I think it should be emphasized that most aces are sex-repulsed/indifferent, simply because that’s what is accurate (only according to the AAW census though, which everyone keeps citing), I don’t like the idea that one group is better off in some way than another group. People in this community are just far too individualized to make generalizations like that.

    I also don’t see sex-averse/repulsed aces being depicted as elitist. As far as I know, I’ve only ever seen people being called elitists when they say things like “you can’t be asexual if you like sex,” not when they talk about being repulsed.

    • Demi Gray says:

      Also, passing privilege is not real privilege… How are sex-favorable aces privileged if they have to de-emphasize their sexuality?

      • To clarify, are you referring to the discussion with Talia that I mentioned in an earlier comment here? The only mention of privilege in the original post was in the context of whether sex-averse aces who are considered “unassailable” have a kind of privilege. In the other comment thread, I presented the idea that access to sex-positive spaces may be a kind of privilege. This is not a blanket statement that “sex-favorable aces are privileged” since not all sex-favorable aces may have such access. Talia then explained further that they consider their access to such spaces to require “passing” and in a follow-up comment (which I didn’t link to separately above) I thanked them for clarifying what they had meant in the original post about their preference for participating in such spaces.

        If I’m incorrect that you’re responding to the comments on Talia’s post but see my own post as stating that sex-favorable aces are privileged, please let me know.

        • Demi Gray says:

          In my first comment, I was referring to your use of “privileged” in your OP, and in my second comment, I was referring to your conversation with Talia.

          With regard to your OP, I was responding to this sentence specifically, which I thought made it sound like aces who have/enjoy sex are privileged, because being sex-averse is not considered the norm in larger society.

          “I think that the concept of the unassailable asexual is better when it is used to discuss characteristics that are considered normative or privileged within the larger society, and which are also possessed by some asexuals, and how asexuals who do not possess these characteristics are excluded from narratives.”

          • You may find it helpful to read the rest of the paragraph from which you took that quote, as I went on to give specific examples of what I meant, including able-bodied privilege, white privilege, and class privilege. I was specifically arguing that unassailability should NOT be used in sex-favorable/sex-averse debates but instead in debates about disability, race, and class, among other issues.

      • Siggy says:

        I think “passing is not a privilege” is an idea you’re echoing from other contexts, and I’m not sure whether it applies to this context.

        As a gray-A, I have the option to pass. And if in some context I find passing so abhorrent, I also have the option to not pass by coming out. The problem with “passing privilege” is usually that there are fewer visual cues to immediately inform people as to who I am. But that doesn’t seem to apply here, since there are no visual cues for *any* aces.

    • I am not at all saying that sex-favorable or sexually-inactive aces should not have a space in the community; in the post I suggest that one way to provide for the needs of different groups may be to have sub-spaces or sub-communities where members of each group can talk among themselves about the specific experiences they face.

      What I did say is that I agree with Ace Theist that I feel sex-favorable and sex-averse aces feel marginalized within asexual communities for different reasons and that I feel the asexual community should first address the marginalization that sex-averse aces feel, because it is part of a much larger marginalization of sex-averse people by society as a whole, and then after that try to balance the needs of other groups. Right now, my perception is that the needs of sex-averse aces are not being sufficiently met by the community and that I believe this is due to sex-positivity (I’ve discussed this in some other posts and comments that are linked to throughout the post).

      I think there is also a confusion, and this is no doubt due to flaws in my own writing, that I am saying that sex-favorable aces are “less asexual” or are not being asexual in the “right way”. What I am trying to say is that asexuality (i.e., lack of sexual attraction) and sex aversion are two different things that people may be marginalized for. Sex-favorable aces are still marginalized for their asexuality, but may not be marginalized for sex-aversion, whereas sex-averse asexuals may be marginalized for both.

      • Demi Gray says:

        Alright, that definitely makes things clearer. Though, I have to say, my personal priority is helping others like me (I recently wrote about how I originally didn’t think I was ace because I liked sex, and linked to several asks I’ve received from newbies who are doubtful) because I don’t want anyone like me to feel excluded. I know what I needed when I first joined the community, and I want to provide that for others. That’s not to say I don’t validate sex-repulsed aces as well—I consciously try to vary what I post to reflect a variety of experiences, so that everyone sees themselves represented. So maybe as a community, the greater focus should be validating sex-repulsed aces, but individuals should also pursue secondary goals. I don’t really see a reason why we can’t do both, or why we have to do one after the other.

        • Sciatrix says:

          I’m not sure anyone has suggested that we shouldn’t do both.

          Honestly, I think that one of the eventual solutions will have to be a certain specialization in some spaces, so that repulsed aces and non-repulsed aces have access to dedicated spaces. I’m pretty sure a lot of this problem is that in some respects repulsed and non-repulsed aces, particularly sexually active aces, have conflicting needs. (Repulsed aces sometimes need to blow off steam about sex being terrible; sexually active aces who are worried about their welcome maybe need to be able to avoid those conversations, for example.) So if anything, setting up spaces that are clearly designed to help particular sections of the community is probably a good thing.

          • Demi Gray says:

            I guess the thought that was in the back of my mind this whole time was… How do I accomplish this with my blog? I don’t want to make it a safe space for only one group, so how do I balance everyone’s needs?

          • Sciatrix says:

            Nesting fail, so replying here.

            I do not think it’s possible for any single space to meet everyone’s needs. It helps to be clear about who you’re focusing on and why you make decisions to prioritize one group over another. Your blog is explicitly focused on demis and grey-as; I don’t think anyone is expecting you to be everything to all people. However, you say you want to make yourself welcoming space for all aces.

            If you’re concerned about that, I would encourage you to take some time to read the posts made by repulsed people that I linked you on Tumblr. Immerse yourself in their perspectives and concerns for a little bit. Think about what they’re upset about and why they don’t feel welcome. Try to keep yourself from getting defensive, too. Think about them for a while, and keep them in the back of your head when you’re writing. Know roughly what’s going on. If it’s too much to do for all repulsed aces, follow a couple of them (not me, I don’t talk about it enough) and listen to everything they say on the topic. I think you’re feeling really defensive in this conversation, and maybe you need to take some time to think it over before you can figure out how you can incorporate repulsed perspectives better. Use that time to read and listen and think about the topic.

            And then continue building the space for the sub-community you personally are focusing on. It helps to provide acknowledgement to those issues when it’s relevant; it also helps to acknowledge that sex-repulsed aces exist deliberately when you’re deliberately bringing up sexually active aces. (Part of the problem is that in the sea of people going “some aces have sex,” no one ever adds “and some asexuals don’t.” And things that are repeated by ace community sink in as “what a Real asexual is” in a way that allo assumptions about what asexuals are like don’t.) Link to repulsed perspectives when it’s relevant. Incorporate those discussions into the way you think about representation and handling questions. You know, just like we should be doing for all ace sub-identities we don’t personally share.

    • Sciatrix says:

      “I agree that there should be a specific place for sex-repulsed/indifferent aces to go to escape any discussion or pressure related to sex entirely. However, I don’t really like the implication that aces who have sex are better able to fit in with society.”

      Respectfully, it’s…. completely true? When we say “there is no place that sex-repulsed aces can go to escape pressure related to sex,” and that includes the ace community–where else do you think they should go? Sex-repulsed aces–sex-repulsed people period–have nowhere to go but the ace community with respect to both asexuality but also with respect to sex-repulsion. Being able to pass sucks, but it actually does mean that you are better able to fit in with society than not being able to pass. That’s what it means to pass. The fact that it comes with its own cost doesn’t and CANNOT elide that.

      • Erin says:

        I don’t know that I disagree with you here, but I am pretty confused about what it means for asexuals of any stripe to “pass.” For example, I’m currently dating a person, we don’t have sex and we’re not planning to, but people constantly assume we do. Do I pass?

        • Sciatrix says:

          Yeah, passing is maybe not the best word to use, and I pulled it mostly because demigray used that terminology. The larger point I was actually going for is closer to “there’s shit I have to deal with even when I’m not out as asexual, and it’s completely separate to the problem of getting people to accept my sexual identity.”

          It’s not just about it being harder to get people to accept me as “really asexual.” It’s harder for people to accept my experiences and desires period, whether or not I out myself as ace. For example, the dating/committed relationship pool is much smaller if sex is not an option for you. MUCH smaller. So it’s much more difficult for repulsed aces to find partners. I also mean that I have to talk around my reality to medical professionals (or open myself up to corrective treatment). My experience has been that they don’t react well to even “I don’t want sex”, let alone “I find the idea unpleasant.” This is for me the biggest thing–there’s an entire medical establishment that is set up in such a way as to believe I’m sexually active, inquire into that, and try to fix me if I’m not, and it’s terrifying. And it gets very little discussion, inside and outside of ace spaces. In general, admitting repulsion or a disinterest in even trying sex is like blood in the water when it comes to attracting people who push to find some kind of treatment for your obvious mental or physical illness.

          I’ve also had different experiences from Capt Heartless et al in that people who know I’m ace are generally just as likely to assume that I’m up for not, and that in the past few years the number of people who assume that as an asexual I’m open to sexual activity has markedly increased. I’m not sure what kind of lines we can draw from the personal experiences of individual aces re: allo reactions, because I’ve run into plenty of allos who can understand not experiencing sexual attraction but can’t understand not being willing to have sex for one’s partner–otherwise, why are you inflicting yourself on the normal population. And yeah, as Aydan says upthread there’s plenty of allos who have precisely the opposite reaction.

          • THIS. This is what I was trying to express but not doing a very good job of. I think the question of passing is separate and that it was probably a mistake on my part to initially bring it up since it’s focused the discussion too much on a single issue, access to sex-positive spaces, when there are many other issues. Medical invalidation of sex-aversion is a huge concern and there are others as well.

      • Aqua says:

        You’re right. There aren’t spaces specifically for sex-repulsed people, and their experiences as the primary focus. The closest thing I’ve seen is the self-identified antisexual community, but it uses a different framework, and is a community that barely exists in English (and because there are so few English speakers, repulsed people are more likely to go to the asexual community instead). Sure, some people in it are repulsed, and have expressed pent-up frustration about sex, needing to detox. However, most of them I’ve met, including all of those who currently are members of the forum I admin, have never seem to have done that, and care more about intellectual discussions instead. They might not feel that need to vent and detox, and I don’t know if they even went through that phase in the first place. If they are repulsed, they don’t talk about it much, and I don’t know if it’s because they don’t feel much of a need to, or because they find that term and concept of ‘sex-repulsion’ unfamiliar.

        Sex-repulsion is hardly talked about there, of all places, and I haven’t seen it talked about in the broader ‘voluntary celibacy’ community.

        The forum I admin was linked to in one of the recent linkspams, and is an attempt at explicitly including repulsed people and their experiences. Over there, I’m trying to balance being informative, a space for people who want to have intellectual discussions about sexuality from the outsiders’ point of view, and a safe space for those who still have a lot of pent-up frustration, and I created a semi-hidden sub-board for that group.

      • So I think I actually completely disagree with you here. Well, I agree that sex-repulsed aces have nowhere to go and the asexual community needs to provide a place for them. But in my experience as a sexually active ace, I also have nowhere to go.

        I think L’s comment above gets at one reason why. Generally, I think one thing people are forgetting is that even if aces have sex, it’s often in a very different way and a very different experience. If I talk about sex, it *shows*. A lot. And I will be mocked for it, seen as weird, called a freak, or possibly a fag (straight people are so great /sarcasm). It’s not just about a pressure to have sex of any kind, it’s about a pressure to have sex in a particular way and to feel a particular way about it. We know this- it’s not like gay people are accepted in mainstream society just because they have sex. Likewise, if I’m talking about sex but I completely fail to adequately mimic the experience of sexual attraction (and proper interest in it), I’m not going to fit in the allosexual community. In fact, they are just going to think I’m lying about my experiences and start making up whatever they want to believe. It’s actually much easier to just let them think I don’t have any sex, because that’s something they can wrap their heads around.

        So we can argue about who the asexual community accepts the most and what to do about that (I’m inclined to say no one). But let’s not pretend I can just go to the allosexual community. They certainly bullied the shit out of me before, and I have no doubt they would do it again if I didn’t have the language and frameworks of the asexual community to support myself.

        • Sciatrix says:

          I had a longer comment here, but the internet ate it, so I’m going to leave a much shorter one in response.

          I’d like to note that I’m not talking here about bullying. I’m not talking about individual interpersonal interactions. And I’m not saying that sexually active aces shouldn’t be welcome in the ace community–for fuck’s sake, my initial foray into this discussion was to make that sentiment clear. So I really appreciate you telling me that I’m saying that sexually active aces aren’t fucking welcome. Thanks for that.

          Look. I get that everyone is feeling defensive. I’m feeling defensive too. I’m currently feeling exhausted and upset and noting that I am one of very few repulsed aces still chiming into this discussion, which is not a good dynamic for me. What I’d like out of this conversation is to have the ace community to pay as much attention to repulsed ace issues, and to care as much about explicitly mentioning their existence, as it does for sexually active aces. That is not the case for most of the short little one-liners I see, and that is upsetting. I feel like I see a lot of sexually active aces ignoring these conversations–not sharing them or commenting on them or necessarily listening to them–unless and until repulsed aces accidentally (or not) threaten sexually active aces’ status in the ace community. And that’s really disenheartening.

          And I’m further upset and disenheartened, because I feel like my initial attempts to get people listening to each other and talking to each other went from “I get that you are feeling threatened and upset, but so are repulsed aces, and you need to be as careful with them as you’d like them to be with you” to “We need to center sexually active aces’ feelings in this conversation, and that’s okay because Sciatrix said we’re all hurting.” It’s true. We are. But jesus, I have been trying to be very careful with everyone throughout all of this, and I am only seeing people get more and more upset and defensive, and I am seriously rethinking my participation here. It does not seem to be as if any of it is helping.

          So I’m going to leave one more comment that I wrote up earlier today and was ambivalent about posting, and then I’m going to bow out for a while, because I am tired and sad and I have been tired and sad all week.

          • I just want to say THANK YOU for your comments here, Sci. I’m glad that another averse/repulsed ace is taking part in this discussion and that the discussion overall has become more of a conversation among the different participants. I felt a bit overwhelmed at first feeling that I had to respond to a large number of comments all from the non-sex-averse perspective.

    • Aydan says:

      However, I don’t really like the implication that aces who have sex are better able to fit in with society.

      Whether or not they’re better able to fit in, there is a kind of vitriol, verging on disgust, reserved specifically for sexually active aces, from some people. I’m not talking about people who say they wouldn’t have sex with someone not attracted to them, that’s their call– I mean the people who accuse sexually active aces either of using their partners as masturbatory aces, or of being brainwashed into letting their partners use them (among other charming ideas).

      I don’t understand it and I can’t explain it, but aces who are sexually active don’t exactly get a free pass. (From anyone, including their own community. Siggy and Sciatrix have it right when they say we all feel like the most marginalized. We’re all damned if we do and damned if we don’t.)

      • epochryphal says:

        Yessss. Aydan and Cap’n, right on the money.

        I feel like Dan Savage has commented about sexually active asexuals as being deceptive and selfish for depriving their partners of feeling sexually attractive? And I’ve seen that sentiment elsewhere, that sexually active ace-spectrum folks are fakers and inherently harmful, that “your partner is sexually attracted to you” is a necessary ingredient in a sexual relationship.

        • Aydan says:

          Three things can be relied upon: death, taxes, and Dan Savage calling aces selfish for their sexual behavior no matter what that behavior actually is.

      • I should note I don’t want to downplay the fact that aces who are not sexually active get their own special form of vitriol. It’s just that sometimes I think the people talking about sexually active aces just don’t understand who they are talking about (it often seems as if they think we are just straight people); and I’m pretty sure the moral of the story is everyone gets shit and we all rely on the asexual community- that’s why we are here.

        • Aydan says:

          I should note I don’t want to downplay the fact that aces who are not sexually active get their own special form of vitriol.
          Yes, I fully agree. It’s not like, aces all get one helping of slop in the face, and then sexually active aces, or celibate aces, get an additional helping. It’s more like, sexually active aces get a helping of red slop, and celibate aces get a helping of green slop.

          • Omnes et Nihil says:

            It’s not just about who has spaces to vent. And it’s not as simple as “sex repulsed/sex-averse aces vs. aces who have sex” because a lot of sex-repulsed/sex-averse ace *do have sex*. There’s also the very real issue of sexual violence.
            (cw: The rest of this message is about sexual violence including rape.)

            Sex-repulsed/sex-averse aces often *do* have sex. And that sex is very often coercive and non-consensual– including a lot of situations where people agree to it because they don’t feel like they have any other options. Sex-repulsed/sex-averse aces *should already be* a large part of the conversation about aces who have sex… but that’s not happening. I feel it’s very important for a space to focus on people who are subject to sexual coercion that isn’t being recognised as sexual coercion and who will experience more sexual violence if we don’t acknowledge this… even it it means that the (relatively small number of) aces who want and enjoy sex do not get to be at the centre of the asexual community.

            Way too many sex-repulsed/sex-averse aces are subject to sexual violence by people who *justify and excuse that violence by saying that asexuals can still have sex* (and that asexuals can still want sex, and asexuals should learn to like sex, etc.). And systematically, these people’s family and friends *do not recognise these experiences as violence* **because** “people are supposed to have sex” and because (as they learn from asexual discourse and materials) “asexuals can still have sex”. (This goes above and beyond the typical lack of recognition of sexual violence.) And very often, these aces are people who survive this violence for years without being able to recognise it as violence themselves– not just because it can take a long time to process and name experiences of violence, but because we don’t typically acknowledge this violence even within ace spaces. And don’t forget all the sexual coercion that sex-repulsed aces survive (justified in pretty much the same way, and systematically not recognised as coercion/violence) *because* “people are supposed to have sex in romantic relationships”. (Of course people who aren’t sex-repulsed aces are also at risk for sexual violence–patriarchal rape culture sees to that– but this is additional violence that proceeds in this particular way that does specifically target sex-repulsed people.)

            Asexual communities are already *not* doing a good enough job of fighting compulsory sexuality in *our own conversations in our own spaces*.

            *Even in asexual community spaces* people insist that corrective rape of asexuals isn’t a thing. And to be fair, this corrective rape targets sex-repulsion more than “asexuality” per se. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the *violence targeting sex-repulsed people for being sex-repulsed* gets flatly denied by so many aces or in so many ace spaces. Or that in all of *this* discussion here, people aren’t talking about that to the point where it’s controversial to suggest that sex-repulsed aces could possibly experience a “special form of vitriol”.

            I know way too many sex-repulsed aces in my own life who have survived sexual violence aimed at curing and/or punishing them for being sex-repulsed–almost without fail, perpetrated by people these aces cared about and trusted. And some of these aces are also survivors of childhood sexual abuse who experience their asexuality as linked to their trauma and who *therefore* felt for a long time that they had any right to claim asexuality– even after reading lots online asexual community discussions.

            On the other hand, I don’t know *anyone* that I’m aware of any ace who has survived sexual violence aimed at curing and/or punishing them for being an asexual who’s into/okay with having sex.

            The asexual discourse focusing on aces who can and do have sex *is used* to justify, excuse, normalise and deny the existence of sexual violence specifically targetting sex-repulsed/sex-averse (aces) for their sex-repulsion/sex-aversion. At the same time, the asexual discourse focusing on sex-repulsed aces *is not used* to justify or promote violence against aces who want to have sex. For me, that’s a very good reason why ace spaces *should* prioritise sex-repulsed/sex-averse aces and all challenges of compulsory sexuality (above prioritising “aces who want to have sex”).

            If we did a better job of that, stuff like this (http://theacetheist.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/this-week-in-discussion-disasters/) wouldn’t need to happen.

          • This comment is a response to Omnes et Nihil at 8:15 pm.

            Thank you for bringing up this very important issue. Along with medical invalidation of sex aversion and the potential of being subjected to “corrective therapy” as mentioned by Sciatrix elsewhere on this page, coerced sex is a major problem that is particularly dangerous for sex-averse aces. Most of why I have always avoided relationships (as discussed in the original post) is my fear of being coerced into sex, especially in a circumstance where a male partner would have significant legal and social power over me. This avoidance itself has had and continues to have significant costs for me, but I would rather bear those than the alternative. (I’ve written about some aspects of this in various other posts on this site.)

            I feel that many of the examples that have been brought up by others in this thread have the effect of narrowing the discussion to a few specific situations (access to sex-positive spaces, passing privilege, being out to people as both asexual and sex-favorable) in a way that inhibits discussion of the many ways that compulsory sexuality acts distinctively upon sex-averse aces, and I’m frustrated by my own inability to get past this narrowing, so I really appreciate those who have brought up these wider issues in the comments.

          • Aydan says:

            Or that in all of *this* discussion here, people aren’t talking about that to the point where it’s controversial to suggest that sex-repulsed aces could possibly experience a “special form of vitriol”.

            Captain Heartless took care to reiterate the point that sex-repulsed aces do experience a “special form of vitriol,” and I agreed. Sciatrix made a similar point elsewhere in the thread.

            On the other hand, I don’t know *anyone* that I’m aware of any ace who has survived sexual violence aimed at curing and/or punishing them for being an asexual who’s into/okay with having sex.

            That… doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It really, really does not.

            I’m concerned that we’re coming dangerously close both to erasing non-repulsed survivors, and conflating “sex-favorable ace” with “ace who will have sex with anyone who asks.” This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen. I know we can have this important conversation without going to those places.

          • Omnes et Nihil says:

            In response to Ayden’s post from 10:08 pm:
            “”On the other hand, I don’t know *anyone* that I’m aware of any ace who has survived sexual violence aimed at curing and/or punishing them for being an asexual who’s into/okay with having sex.”

            That… doesn’t mean they don’t exist. It really, really does not.

            I’m concerned that we’re coming dangerously close both to erasing non-repulsed survivors, and conflating “sex-favorable ace” with “ace who will have sex with anyone who asks.” This is not the first time I’ve seen this happen. I know we can have this important conversation without going to those places.”

            If you’re referring to sexual violence targeting people (usually women) who are okay with having sex that’s aimed at punishing them for their desire… that’s part of sexual violence generally. So is sexual violence punishing people (usually women) for denying other people (usually men) the sexual access to which those people feel entitled. Those are *not* experiences specific to *aces* who are into sex.

            I thought I was pretty clear about acknowledging sexual violence generally. From my post above:
            “(Of course people who aren’t sex-repulsed aces are also at risk for sexual violence–patriarchal rape culture sees to that– but this [corrective rape of sex-repulsed aces] is additional violence that proceeds in this particular way that does specifically target sex-repulsed people.)”

            But in case it wasn’t clear enough, yes of course it’s important to acknowledge all aces survivors of violence. Some of this violence targets people because of misogyny, homophobia, racism, disableism, etc… That violence affects people regardless of their asexuality or their feelings toward having sex. Some of it (e.g., the violence I was talking about in my post) is specific punitive/regulatory violence targeting *sex-repulsion*. Some if it is both. There’s no shortage of violence to go around unfortunately.

            My point was that some of it *does* specifically target the sex-repulsion of sex-repulsed aces, and that violence deploys the “aces can/do/want to have sex” discourse as a weapon.

          • Aydan says:

            @Omnes et Nihil:

            I’m having some trouble parsing your thoughts. Are you arguing that only repulsed aces experience ace-specific sexual violence? It seems like you are, but I don’t want to read you uncharitably or put words in your mouth.

          • Siggy says:

            @Omnes,
            I was annoyed at the same statement that Aydan was. I can definitely think of a situation or two specific to sex-favorable aces where there’s increased risk of sexual violence. Do I really have to explain, further centering this conversation on non-sex-repulsed aces again, or can we just accept this fact and move on?

          • Omnes et Nihil says:

            No, I’m absolutely *not* saying that only repulsed aces experience ace-specific sexual violence.

            To put this another way, when non-repulsed aces experience ace-specific sexual violence, I think it’s overwhelmingly because they’re *ace* and not because they’re non-repulsed (and violence that does target their non-repulsed isn’t systemically ace-specific sexual violence).

            Within the ace spaces (where we’re talking about what the discourse should be and who should be at the centre and who might be harmed either way), there’s violence targeting sex-repulsed aces and there isn’t a parallel ace-specific (or largely ace-specific) kind of violence targeting non-repulsion.

            It’s not that sexual violence targeting the non-repulsion can’t happen, but I really don’t think it’s the same kind of systemic thing in an *ace* way. Violence targeting non-repulsion and/or desire is a kind of general violence subjected to people (mostly women) as a mechanism of punishment or control, and isn’t specific to non-repulsed asexuality. And it’s not that non-repulsed aces would have the same experiences of that violence that they would if they were not aces, because all experiences of violence are intersectional.

            What I’m saying is that 1) the system of violence itself isn’t focused on the non-repulsed *asexuality* specifically (it’s focused on regulating mostly women’s desire generally); and 2) if and when the violence does happen, it’s *not* systemically using the asexual discourse of “a lot of aces don’t want anything to do with sex and that’s okay” as a weapon to perpetuate, justify or dismiss that violence.

            There’s violence targeting asexuality (which I hadn’t mentioned because I didn’t think that was relevant to this conversation because I thought it was obvious, but apparently it wasn’t) and then (largely within that but not exclusively within that) there’s violence targeting sex-repulsion.

            And the “aces can and do have sex” discourse is a tool used to perpetrate, justify and dismiss that violence.

            The discourse focusing on non-repulsed aces is actively being used (mostly but not entirely by people outside the asexual community) to harm repulsed aces in a systemic way. On the other hand, the discourse focusing on repulsed aces is *not* actively being used in a parallel systemic way to hurt non-repulsed aces.

          • Omnes et Nihil says:

            @Siggy
            You’re missing my point. I never said that anyone (including sex-favourable asexuals) didn’t experience violence in a way that’s specific to their social location and context– violence always plays out that way. And I repeat: there’s no shortage of violence to go around unfortunately.

            What I’m saying is that if you’re serious about tackling the violence from those one or two situations you’re thinking of that seem to target sex-favourable aces specifically, you need to tackle the *system* of violence that is at play. And that’s a large system which is *not* specific to sex-favourable (or sex-indifferent) aces.

            Anything that can be done to decrease violence that specifically targets the sex-favourableness (or non-repulsion) of sex-favourable (and/or non-repulsed) asexuals specifically is already necessarily about whole-scale change of a much larger system– a system that is *not* about sex-favourable (or any other) aces.

            And that’s not the case when it comes to fighting against violence targeting sex-repulsion. Because there is another system of violence that is about sex-repulsion. And that system has been taking up the asexual discourse of “some aces can and do have sex, etc.” as a tool for its violence.

          • I think that the discussion here about coerced sex and the different ways it acts upon different groups of aces, is an extremely important one – so important that it really deserves its own post and thread.

            I would also like to request all participants in this discussion to try to focus on the *meaning* of what Omnes et Nihil has said not get caught up on a single sentence or passage in their original comment that may have been worded unclearly. The whole reason this post has well over 50 comments is because people took huge exception to the way I worded a single passage in my post. Focusing on wording, or arguing about terminology when the OP was writing about a larger issue, can become a form of derailing.

            We should also try to assume the best intentions of each other, recognize that others may write poorly sometimes and we ourselves have likely done so in the past, and make extra efforts to seek common ground. I think that this should be true in general of intra-community dicussions, but especially so when sensitive issues like coerced sex are being discussed. Please be aware that this may be a deeply personal and very painful issue for survivors and that writing about the issue may be very difficult for them. Be forgiving even when things are worded in what seems to you to be a harsh or angry way.

  4. Siggy says:

    I took issue with this statement:

    It frustrates me when sex-averse and sexually-inactive aces are depicted as “elitist”, privileged (which is ultimately what being “unassailable” is presented as), or oppressive to sex-favorable or sexually-active aces for talking about our own experiences and identities (obviously, this is not to deny that specific individuals may act in any of these ways).

    “Asexual elitism” absolutely does not just come down to a few individuals. It’s a real thing, it’s systematic, and has affected entire communities, although perhaps not any communities you’ve been in. This was a major point of my see-saw post. The point was not that sex-averse and sex-favorable aces have symmetric problems (I fully agree that the issues are asymmetric), but that different communities are different.

    I don’t think this is a nitpick. I think this is the source of exactly the problem you’re complaining about. “Asexual elitism” is a concept that comes from prior communities where it was absolutely a real problem. But because people don’t realize that different communities are different, they imagine elitism is an eternal constant. And that’s why you see people misapplying the idea of “elitism” on Tumblr.

    • The post was primarily intended as a commentary on current discourse on Tumblr, rather than on past discourses or communities, and I should have made that clearer in the portion that you’ve quoted so I appreciate you bringing that up. I considered only posting this to Tumblr, since it was primarily about Tumblr, but then felt it might lead to a larger discussion about various topics included in it, so I decided to post it here as well.

      It’s actually kind of fascinating to me how Tumblr is such a distinctive culture. This is at least the third instance of something on Tumblr that I have struggled with that is completely unknown to or different from other communities. I’ll try to keep this more clearly in mind in future writing.

      • Siggy says:

        I personally feel that even on Tumblr, it is necessary to consider different communities in relation to each other. Not only are there people who come from other communities, the entire tone on Tumblr is in some ways a backlash against AVEN. (But now I see myself making everything about the AVEN/Tumblr divide yet again. Sorry about that.)

        • I agree in general; however I do feel it is appropriate to limit comments to current Tumblr discourse when commenting on a specific conversation going on there now, which is what this post largely is about. Were I to re-write it now in light of the discussion in the comments I would probably include a clarifying note but not delve into the history further.

  5. epochryphal says:

    Aha, hooray! Tumblr wasn’t letting me reblog and reply, so I’d made my own post and tagged it, but now I can link:
    http://epochryphal.tumblr.com/post/95407810627/response-to-ace-muslims-unassailability-post

    Also, re: all these comments…
    – Bluh “sex-favorable”
    – Bluh “passing privilege” (and yes I do think it’s relevant to this conversation, and no I don’t think it’s always a choice,
    nor is it better/worse, just different).
    – Bluh “more normative” and “better understood” and “fit in better” are just not possibly accurate outside of context. That’s the opposite of my LGBT-center/community experience. I am with DemiGray’s experiences and opinions 100% (I also agree with Cap’n).
    – I honestly don’t think it’s possible to address one issue first then tackle
    other stuff later?

    • Thanks for pointing out your post here as otherwise I would have missed it. I’ll try to reply on Tumblr later today or as soon as possible thereafter so as to keep the conversation in one place.

  6. luvtheheaven says:

    So much good discussion over here. I’m not sure where to begin adding my own thoughts so I’ll just lurk and soak in what everyone is saying.

  7. I wrote two more stand alone pieces on tumblr that are relevant to the discussion going on here and are pretty much just more forceful versions of what I’ve said here (although I’m not sure how relevant they are to the original post in general):

    http://captainheartless.tumblr.com/post/95492061321/why-we-need-to-stop-saying-sexually-active-or

    http://captainheartless.tumblr.com/post/95492797761/one-more-less-important-thing-i-find-strange

    I’m fine to discuss any of this here or on tumblr or where ever.
    And I’ll also add that I’m arguing kind of forcefully here to try and make a point but please don’t let that get to any of you (as far as I can tell right now, I’m mostly disagreeing with side statements by Sciatrix and Laura, but it’s something that I think has come up a lot recently)- like seriously, one of the main reasons I don’t blog much now is because I feel like anything I would think to say ends up being said by a blogger here on the agenda (and tends to be written better too). So like, even if I seem like I’m disagreeing a lot here I really do enjoy all the posts you all (as in, everyone here at the agenda) make.

    • I appreciate the arguments you are making here and in your stand-alone posts; however as you mentioned they are side points. Given that I have already written several comments on this thread, not to mention a 1100-word post on Tumblr responding to the critiques made of these side comments, I am not going to write additional response posts and I would prefer not to continue engaging these same arguments because I think everybody has made all their points already and to continue would be to divert attention from discussing any other issue.

      At times I have felt like the volume of response (three separate posts on Tumblr?) to a small section of what I wrote verges on piling on, especially given how few other people had engaged in the thread until last night and how little discussion there was of any of the other arguments or points in my post. I am fine with taking critique when I write something that others disagree with, but feel that the amount of time and energy people are putting into this one argument is excessive.

      • Yeah I should note one of the reasons I switched to tumblr and made separate posts is so I could try and have it not be about you or this post, because it’s really not. It’s more about the general statements I’ve seen. Which is also why I didn’t link to this piece (or any other), because we really don’t need more fuel for this comments section.

  8. I wrote a (rather long-winded response) to epochryphal on Tumblr, which can be read at: http://ace-muslim.tumblr.com/post/95499146906/response-to-ace-muslims-unassailability-post

    While I don’t want to repeat the whole post here, I do want to mention that I think there may be some confusion overall in this thread and in some responses on Tumblr about what I meant by “sex-favorable”. In part because I was absent from Tumblr for part of the discussion and in part because Tumblr makes it hard to find all the different discussion threads on a given topic, I wasn’t aware that some people on Tumblr have distorted the meaning of “sex-favorable” or are using it in very different ways (somewhat similar to the point Siggy made about “elitist” and its usage on Tumblr). I should have defined the term in my post. I understand it in the sense that Talia used, as aces who like sex, seek it out, and want it in their relationships (similar to the “enjoy sex” category in the community census). Thus my larger claim is that having and enjoying sex is considered normative in the society where I live, beyond allosexuality itself being considered normative, and that people who differ in more ways from this norm may be more marginalized by the society than those who differ in fewer ways (clearly, sex-favorable aces still differ by being asexual). This can and has been argued against, very cogently by a number of people on the thread, but I wanted to make sure we’re all on the same page what I meant.

    Do read the post on Tumblr if you’re interested in the longer version, and in my responses to other points raised by epochryphal.

    • PurplesShade says:

      Thanks for mentioning that here, the way you were using sex favourable (as liking sex, and potentially being open to it, or even seeking it out) is the only way I’ve heard it used up to this point. At least now I won’t be caught unawares. <.<

      As someone in the middle I have to say I very much appreciate your inclusion of this sentiment in your larger post: "I reject the idea that sex aversion and sex favorability are a binary, and agree that there are many ways for people to be in between these two categories, which are not necessarily linear." Thank you.

      I think your larger point kind of got sadly lost in the details, but I think I agree with most of what you said. (Reading further in the comments, I certainly agree that sex-repulsed aces aren't 'privileged' because of their sex-repulsion.)

      You mentioned that there are differences (on a macro level) in needs for those who feel alienated by multiple obvious aspects, as is the case for sex-repulsed aces, to the point of society at times feeling like a very hostile environment, versus those who can comfortably navigate that environment.
      It is certain that sex-repulsed aces most definitely need safe spaces, and that the asexual community is not currently providing those spaces (or at least not adequately).
      However, something I didn't see directly, but got the feeling of from some of the comments disagreeing with you, is that implication that sometimes people who are sex-favourable may also feel alienated and as though the allosexual sphere is hostile.
      Maybe talking about the middle ground might be helpful to include to the discussion? (Which to be clear I'm not saying you needed to mention it, it wasn't your focus and that's fine, just thinking that for further discussions on the topic it might be something to explore.)

      There are some people who are sometimes comfortable with allosexual spaces, and sometimes not, and there may also be people who are comfortable with some aspects of allosexual and/or sex-positive spaces, but not other aspects or not at other times.
      I know for myself that's true, I can feel comfortable in sex positive spaces when it's entirely clinical discussions, but when people move on to more personal things I want to run. Jokes are fine, even implied things visually, but full visual depictions of sex (or even close) are outside of my comfort zone, I get the urge to run and hide, yet since I have a partner that's hard to explain to my allosexual friends.
      There is a divide between those who are (your definition of) sex-favourable, and those who are entirely repulsed, but as you say it isn't a binary so there are ways the two may overlap. Perhaps talking about how/when/why otherwise sex-favourable, or sex-indifferent aces, are sex-repulsed, or feel shunned by the allosexual world, or find it inhospitable, in the context of how setting up spaces for sex-averse people might be helpful to them as well, would be a more broad-middlegroundy kind of discussion.
      It's a sort of broadening the topic, so I dunno maybe it's too far away from what you had in mind, but it could be a means to focus on the discussion of safe spaces for both those who are consistently, and inconsistently, sex-averse… I'm really not sure, those are just my thoughts. <.<

  9. Siggy says:

    When I left my one disagreeing comment earlier, I didn’t expect that similar disagreements would fill the entire comment section. And, that’s pretty uncomfortable to me.

    I feel like in my personal experience, being sex-favorable has been a net advantage, even though my formative experience was in an ace community which was not entirely friendly to the idea. Watching the trend reversed in the Tumblr community has been quite shocking. I mean, people talk about how tumblr SJ culture makes unusual identities into a sort of currency, but here I’m confronted with the brute reality of it. And it’s really gross to me. I really don’t know what to say about it, besides that it’s obviously wrong.

    If I understand correctly, the main conclusion of Laura’s post seems to be that “the unassailable asexual” is best used to address things like disability and trauma, and not to address things like asexuals who like sex. (Did I get that right?) I disagree, because “the unassailable asexual” is not an idea that belongs solely to the Tumblr culture of ~2014, and I don’t see the point of restricting its usage.

    But you know what? I want sex-averse/repulsed people to build the spaces they want, make mistakes, and piss people off about it. And then listen to the critics and make the appropriate corrections. And keep the spaces in the mean time.

    • What I was trying to say in the post is that sex-averse aces are being depicted as unassailable and that unassailability is also being depicted as a privilege, with the end result that the conversation about unassailability seems to end up being mostly about how sex-favorable aces are marginalized. I see this as erasing the way in which sex-averse aces are also marginalized, and I feel that such erasure is harmful. It is because I feel that the unassailability discussion as it relates to aversion/favorability is harmful to sex-averse aces that I would prefer to see it focus on other issues. If I didn’t consider the discussion to be harmful, I would have no problem with expanding it to cover the question.

      I actually didn’t mind your comment too much, although it disagreed with mine, since I felt that you understood what I was trying to say overall and made a valid point. I also really like your last paragraph here.

      • Siggy says:

        Yeah, I thought the reason you said that about “the unassailable asexual” might have been that somewhere, somehow, you saw someone use it in a way that pushed sex-averse aces by the wayside. With what I’ve seen on Tumblr, I believe it.

        “The unassailable asexual” is usually used to address the problems of people who don’t fit in with the community. Or rather, they don’t fit in with the *concept* of the community (as conceived of by themselves, other aces, or by outsiders). But that’s just one issue that people have. Fitting in with larger society is another issue.

        • It seems to me that the “unassailable asexual” concept is used in two different ways. One concerns whether the person’s asexuality is considered (by themselves or others) to be “valid” or “real”. The other (which I’ve seen discussed by swankivy, among others) is that people who are chosen (by the community or by outsiders such as researchers or media) to “represent” asexuals tend to be those who are seen as most “normal”. There is a lot of overlap between the two categories since many things that are seen as “not normal” may also be considered to invalidate asexuality somehow. In my closing paragraph I tried to present examples of both categories (the idea that disability or sexual or racial trauma “invalidates” asexuality on the one hand, the representation of asexuality as white and middle-class on the other).

          I would actually like to see more discussions about unassailability, the different forms it is perceived to take, and the consequences for different groups of aces who are or are not considered unassailable. But when the discussion ends up focusing too much on the narrow issue of “sex-favorable aces are assailable because people don’t understand how those characteristics go together but sex-averse asexuals are seen as ‘real aces'”, as I feel that it tends to do on Tumblr, then it becomes a challenge for me.

    • Yeah, I’ve felt weird commenting here because my contention is just when people start to act as if non sex-averse aces don’t experience the same problems in allosexual society that I keep seeing people bring up for sex-averse aces (like most of what Omnes brings up above). So it’s really just with the narrow statement about sex-averse aces facing more stigma. I was almost not going to post anything, but I keep seeing that come up and I fear it’s becoming an accepted thing. That and it reminds me of people who say stuff like “if only my mental disability were physical, I would be taken seriously!”, which is another one of those awful tumblr statements that makes me want to flip tables.

      But the problem is, that’s not the point of this post! I’m pretty sure you could remove that sentence and much of the post could still stand. So I’ll just go discuss stuff on tumblr.

      And I’ll add, I want there to be sex-averse spaces. I’m even okay with the whole venting process, which often involves basically telling non sex-averse aces that they don’t belong (honestly, I think even I did that once upon a time). But I just don’t want people doing the whole “oh, you other group, everything must be better for you!” when 99% of the time I see a sex-averse ace talking about issues they limit to sex-averse aces it’s something that also applies to all aces (i.e., corrective rape, problems with doctors, bullying, fitting in allosexual spaces, etc.). I find myself relating more to the supposed sex-averse aces than the life they think I have, and that’s a terrible sign.

      • “But the problem is, that’s not the point of this post! I’m pretty sure you could remove that sentence and much of the post could still stand.”

        This is EXACTLY what I would like people to remember. I have stated elsewhere in the comments thread[1] what the point of the post was. Only a couple of Siggy’s comments have addressed this point at all. All the rest of the now 50+ comments are on other topics, mostly responding to a single side comment in the post or debating with other commenters about their responses.

        I would love to see people address my main point, or to address any of the other topics I discussed in the post (check it out – I wrote a good 1,700 words and there are several topics that could be discussed!).

        [1] https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/asexual-communities-identity-and-the-question-of-unassailability/#comment-4894

        • Omnes et Nihil says:

          When you mentioned above that sex-repulsed aces are depicted as unassailable… that really depends (as you and others have already mentioned) on who is doing the depicting and for what purpose. Because one of the main issues behind where the idea of the unassailable asexual came from is that people are always trying to find reasons to discredit asexuality. There’s no such thing as an “unassailable” asexual– we are all assailable in some way, for some reason (and our asexuality can be dismissed or questioned *because* we’re sex-repulsed/sex-averse or *because* we’re sex-indifferent or *because* we’re sex-favourable). And they all happen. No attitude or feeling about personally participating in sex is unassailable for asexuals. The “unassailable asexual” is an ideal. We’re all assailable– some of us are just more assailable than others, and that changes depending on the context.

          You wrote above:
          “I think that the concept of the unassailable asexual is better when it is used to discuss characteristics that are considered normative or privileged within the larger society, and which are also possessed by some asexuals, and how asexuals who do not possess these characteristics are excluded from narratives.”

          That’s actually where this whole discussion started, way back in 2009, more than a year before Sciatrix coined the term “unassailable” asexual. And that conversation came out of the conversations about prescriptive/descriptive identity. This came out of discussions about some aces basically being given a personal stake in our own collective marginalisation. And about how this stake was leading to people questioning their own asexuality or not feeling “asexual enough” for the community.

          It’s been almost exactly 5 years since then, and I guess that prediction/explanation played out perfectly because here we are. (Ily linked to their response to one of those early conversation in their blog post about it back then: http://theonepercentclub.blogspot.ca/2009/09/ideal-asexuals.html)

          And now people are fighting about who is more “unassailably asexual in the asexual community– repulsed or indifferent/favourable aces. That’s depressing. But it’s not surprising.

          The whole point from back in 2009 was the importance of *not leaving anyone behind* in our quest for mainstream acceptance. That might be a useful one to get back to. As you said, focus on “how asexuals who do not possess these [“unassailable] characteristics are excluded from narratives.”

          I’d like to see that happen. That and for people to start paying attention to the impact these narratives are having and who benefits and who’s being harmed.

          • Excellent comment and I appreciate the link to Ily’s blog post and the resources linked to from there. My hope is that the Carnival on the Unassailable Asexual will allow us to explore all of the larger issues that you have mentioned here. My purpose in writing the post was to critique a particular, and very narrow, discourse about unassailability on Tumblr that I feel is harmful and which ultimately distracts from the more important larger issues.

            I’m particularly interested in what forces or factors lead to the creation of narratives of unassailability and how they are generated. Are they unique to asexual communities, or are they manifestation of larger privileges which the asexual community reproduces from the larger society? How can we structure asexual communities to more effectively combat these narratives?

  10. Pingback: The balancing act hasn’t been solved | Cake at the Fortress

  11. I would like to make some general comments about my perception of how the discussion in the comments of this post went, and why I am concerned about this.

    The purpose of this post was to raise a concern about a particular, and very narrow, type of discourse about unassailability that I have seen on Tumblr and which I feel is harmful to sex-averse asexuals. I analyzed the form that this discourse takes then presented an argument that it is harmful. In the course of making this argument I made a statement, tangential to my main point, about sex-favorable asexuals that a number of people felt was problematic or incorrect.

    Nearly the entire discussion thread (50+ comments and counting) in response to my post focused on this one statement, seeking to rebut it. In addition, three response posts were written on Tumblr all focused on this same statement. I responded to the first of these with my own Tumblr post, which then generated further responses.

    My perception is that the overall effect of such a huge response was to derail the discussion from the question of discourses that harm sex-averse asexuals and to re-center it on sex-favorable asexuals. Even when several participants brought up issues that they feel have a unique impact on sex-averse asexuals, many of the responses to their comments continued to turn the discussion away from sex-averse asexuals to sex-favorable asexuals.

    In addition to this, I feel that a small number of comments took quotes out of context from others and that in several cases commenters engaged in classic derailing behaviors (see, e.g., “Derailing for Dummies”).

    I was contacted privately by an anonymous sex-averse ace who expressed similar feelings to what I have described here. They told me that they felt that the environment created by the discussion here deterred their participation in the comments.

    And that is my concern with how things have gone in this thread. The lesson that I think many sex-averse asexuals may take from it is that they need to be extremely careful to avoid talking about sex-favorable asexuals because if they word even one sentence wrong, they will be faced with a flood of angry comments that drowns out what they were trying to say about sex-averse asexuals. I fear that this will deter some sex-averse asexuals from writing about their experiences or their feelings and I see that as a bad thing.

    I read a number of blogs by sex-averse aces and over and over again I see them expressing the same feelings. They do not have any other place to go except the asexual community, because there are no allosexual communities that center the experiences of sex-averse people. They feel marginalized by much asexual community discourse around sex and that they are often expected to engage in sex cheerleading and to center views other than their own *without getting the same consideration in return*. They feel that their experiences are not adequately represented by discourses that take a sex-indifferent or sex-favorable perspective as a default. They would like non-sex-averse aces to acknowledge that sex-averse asexuals have unique concerns that need to be addressed on their own terms.

    My aim in writing this post was to challenge one small part of this marginalization. Unfortunately, I feel that the discussion in the comments simply reinforced it.

    I would like everybody who has participated in this comment thread to reflect on how we can all do better in the future (including myself).

    • Aqua says:

      I understood what you were saying, but only made one reply, because I couldn’t keep up with the rest of the discussions. Of the other discussions in this thread, I liked the one about creating sub-spaces. I mentioned that there *technically* is one other community that acknowledges sex-repulsion/aversion, in regards to where do the sex-repulsed/averse have to go. I can relate to the frustrations of being expected to be a sex cheerleader, and I’ve felt that frustration for a long time, but kept it bottled up. I’ve clashed with people over this; they told me I’m not wrong for being repulsed or averse to sex, but it still seemed like they weren’t trying to consider my point of view, and I just couldn’t understand theirs.

  12. Siggy says:

    Moderator’s note: We are closing comments on this post because we don’t want to spend our own time to moderate further comments. You are free to continue discussion elsewhere.

  13. Pingback: WTF, romantic? In which I try to understand romantic attraction and relationships and fail | The Asexual Agenda

  14. Pingback: Ace Survivors as Rhetorical Devices (part three): The One True Narrative of Sexual Violence Against Aces | The Asexual Agenda

Comments are closed.