Question of the Week: September 9th, 2014

We’ve been having a lot of discussions lately on my feeds about how the asexual community relates to itself and specific smaller groups inside it.

What do you think of when people say “the asexuality community?” Do you think of communities primarily online or off? Do you think of the community being centralized or spread out, and where do you think it’s located?

I am sometimes terribly self-centered and think of “myself and the people I routinely listen to on the Internet, mostly on Tumblr and WordPress, and also the people I see every week for ace meetup” as the asexual community. Except it’s not; it’s just my asexual community. I try to keep myself from doing that, though, and instead try to envision “the asexual community” as, roughly, “the set of people who identify under the asexual umbrella and talk to each other about it.” That’s not one amorphous blob, either; it includes people who only look at Tumblr and people who only look at AVEN and people who only talk to their ace friends on Dreamwidth and people who really don’t engage online at all–which raises the question of whether or not I even actually believe there is one ace community. What do you guys think?

About Sciatrix

Sciatrix is an American graduate student studying ecology, evolution and behavior. She identifies as asexual and has mostly given up trying to sort out the whole romance thing for now. She has previously blogged about asexuality at Writing From Factor X. In her free time, she trains in canine agility and knits oddly cabled hats.
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13 Responses to Question of the Week: September 9th, 2014

  1. luvtheheaven says:

    I agree with the basic “the set of people who identify under the asexual umbrella and talk to each other about it” definition, usually. I think pretty much of “the online English-language community” only, though.

    I started going to an Ace Meet-Up Group in real life over the past few months (I’ve been to 3 meetings, and met sometimes the same people but also sometimes different folks) but I don’t think of them as part of the asexual community necessarily, I just consider these people “asexual people who I’ve met”. The “community” is… idk, I guess mainly people where the term “asexual community” is tossed around the most. I’ve seen this phrasing the most on tumblr and wordpress/dreamwidth/etc. Asexual-Umbrella based blogs, so I think mainly of the people there.

    But I think I also extend it to anyone who discusses their own asexuality (or gray-asexuality, or often also romantic orientation) on the internet, be it only on Reddit, in fandom circles (like by writing their own fanfiction about ace characters and doing so as an asexual themselves, or by participating in this dreamwidth community: or whatever), AVEN, etc. I don’t know. I mainly think that anyone who is asexual could potentially become part of the community, but in order to join it you need to actually participate in (online) discussions of it. The discussions don’t have to come in traditional forms – in the comments on a AO3 fanfiction story could count as good enough for me, I think. I’m not sure if I consider the fact that allies could be part of the community too, non-aces, but… but maybe I’d be okay with that as well. Any person engaging in discussions about asexuality fuels our community, I think. (As long as the allosexuals fully respect the ace-spectrum folk themselves, and don’t talk over them or do other questionable not-being-a-good-ally things.)

    I think the reason I limit my own personal definition to being an “online community” is because the real life groups are so separated, and no one outside of one real-life meet-up group will know what was said there, whereas the internet places I’m talking about are never “private”.

    Plus, in my own experience going to an ace-meet-up, asexuality is relatively rarely discussed; we’re mainly just a bunch of people who happen to be asexual and are hanging out doing things friends might do… and if asexuality-related-topics are brought up, they begin from a point of knowledge acquired on the internet anyway. This is my own biased, very specific experience, but it shapes part of why I don’t consider these people necessarily “the ace community” too and why I still think of it as an online-community only.

    The online discussions are in places where other aces or questioning potential aces could find these discussions and join in too.

    The reason I limit my own definition to the larger English-speaking community is because I think when you say “the” asexual community you’re talking about one single big thing, and somehow in my mind I have combined all of the English-speaking ace community places into that. Not sure if it makes sense, or is really fair, but I think online communities based in other languages are “separate” – are their own asexual communities, essentially. I think of those people participating in non-English ace online discussions as “in an asexual community”, of course, sure… just not in “the” one that first comes to my mind. Certainly some poly-lingual people could be a part of both “the” English one and the one in their native language, but I then think of them as being in two asexual communities. I, personally, still think of them as separate communities.

  2. Ace in Translation says:

    I try to actively avoid the phrase “the asexual community”, and rather talk about “asexual communities”, just because the lines of where a community begins and ends are really fuzzy and everybody draws them differently. When I think “ace community”, I primarily think of the people in my own bubble; those I regularly interact with or whose posts I come across regularly because we hang out in the same circles and thus their posts appear on my radar. That’s not the entire community, though. So I prefer “communities”, to indicate that everybody builds a network or bubble around themselves and calls that “the community”.
    And then you’ve got the overlap between communities on different platforms and in different languages. I mean, I’ve run into people on English language platforms whom I’ve previously encountered in the Dutch language forum, and I see people I’ve met on Tumblr reappear on AVEN. Are we both part of several ace communities, or part of one larger community crossing language barriers and online platforms? The lines are really fuzzy. I guess if you add offline groups into the mix, it’s another axis of “what is a community anyway”, but I don’t have an offline community, so I primarily think of online communities when I think about “the ace community”.

    • I think this is what I do- I try to say communities now instead of community, because I don’t feel like there is one clear community.

      I’m also pretty sure when I say ace communities I actually tend to think of local meet ups and groups of friends, and then to a lesser extent Tumblr, AVEN, and this blog. That might have to do with the way I feel most of the ace discourse I have tends not to be online and public (as in, not on forums or websites- but maybe in emails or private messages on facebook, along with in person).

      • luvtheheaven says:

        I like the idea of just thinking of them as multiple communities. I think I already was kind of there, as whenever I’m tempted to say “the asexual community” I usually rephrase to what I really mean “the asexual blogosphere”/”the asexual blogging community”, for instance, is maybe the community I participate in the most, in my opinion. 😛

        When other people say “the ace community”, that is when I need to know what to think of in my mind, and when my own definition becomes the most relevant. That’s what I generally think people mean when I see them say it. But I personally don’t really like to use the term anyway.

  3. “I am sometimes terribly self-centered and think of “myself and the people I routinely listen to on the Internet, mostly on Tumblr and WordPress, and also the people I see every week for ace meetup” as the asexual community. ”

    Me too! (Except there aren’t any ace meetups here.)

    In practice, I mostly mean Tumblr and AVEN, since these are organized as communities and seem to set the terms of discourse in that people elsewhere feel the need to respond to what people on AVEN and Tumblr are talking about, whether they agree or disagree.

  4. Siggy says:

    I think “the asexual community” refers to the set of people who are connected to asexual discourse, either by listening or participating. But it can also refer to smaller subgroups, like the AVEN community, or the AVEN gray area subforum community, or the SF Bay Area meetup group, because those all have their own discourses with unique characteristics. So there are many asexual communities, which are part of larger asexual communities, which are part of the one asexual community.

    Relative to other communities I participate in, the asexual community is very cohesive, and there are no splits which are so large as to prevent thinking of it as one community. The biggest splits are along language lines.

  5. Aqua says:

    When I refer to the “asexual community” as a whole, I mean those who identify under the asexual spectrum, are involved in asexual discourse in some form. I mainly mean AVEN, the asexual tumblr and wordpress blogs, and other asexual sites; each of them are different communities within the larger asexual community, and they have their differences based on politics, differing overall viewpoints, or languages. I know that there are some asexuals, or people who might be asexual, who aren’t involved in any part of the community for different reasons.

  6. veerserif says:

    I don’t participate on either Tumblr or AVEN, mostly because neither of those formats are ones I’m any good at following. Instead, my main online community was Reddit’s /r/asexuality, until I left for various reasons.

    This is a relevant question because I’m in the process of starting up an asexuality discussion space in my university, and ran into an interesting problem. I advertised it in my queer students group as being “a discussion space for people who identify as asexual or as being on the asexual spectrum; questioning students welcome”, and was asked to clarify if that meant it was a closed group. I’m… not seeing where in that description I was implying it was open to all students, versus just ace-spectrum and questioning folks?

    Anyway, the question: when people say “the asexual community”, I usually think of an abstract universal asexual community, unless otherwise specified, When I say “the asexual community”, what I really should be saying is “those parts of the asexual community with which I have had direct access”. In terms of what it looks like… well, I don’t really believe that there’s a strong separation between online and offline lives, since they’re so heavily intertwined, but I also think that it makes much more sense to talk about asexual communities in a localized way. Plus, sub-communities exist under the larger umbrellas of things like the Tumblr asexual community, the AVEN asexual community, and so on. Right now I guess I’m personally in-between communities, having left the online one due to personal dissatisfaction, and am now trying to get an offline one started up?

    • Spade says:

      If you don’t mind me asking, what prompted you to leave /r/asexuality? I only spent a little bit of time there before ditching it for some rather petty reasons, so I’m wondering what impression you’ve had of it.

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