Blog Rants: The Early Ace Blogosphere

This post is part of a series; you can view the masterpost here. It also fits the theme of the July Carnival of Aces on Asexual History, although it’s slightly late!

Previously, I contextualized my personal history with both blogging and the asexual community leading up to my decision to join WordPress. Now, I want to talk about the formation and history of the Ace Blogosphere proper.

(Warning: while I will not be getting into it here, I do briefly mention abuse/sexual assault and some of the links may discuss it in more detail.)

I want to note that I don’t (generally) count LiveJournal blogs as part of the Ace Blogosphere, because most of them had a totally different goal. While there were a couple of people who made blogs on LJ with the intent of discussing and educating people about asexuality, those were short-lived, and the vast, vast majority were personal, social, and often private. LJ blogs don’t really resemble the kind of topic-focused, public, and search-engine accessible writing/publishing formats we have now. So I consider the formation of a blogging network off of LJ to be the true start of the Ace Blogosphere; the earliest of those blogs appeared in 2007.

When I started Shades of Gray (now called Prismatic Entanglements) back in 2008, there was not really an ace blogosphere so much as there were a couple of individual blogs dealing with asexuality. The most dedicated, frequently updated blog was Ily’s Asexy Beast. Ily was also a prolific and upbeat commenter—she still holds the record for most comments ever at my blog! David Jay had a blog too, but he didn’t update regularly; most of his posts were transcripts of his podcast.

There was a wave of people all making ace blogs around the same time that I did, including: Venus of Willendork (a then-questioning potentially-asexual lesbian who ultimately identified as not asexual after all, and then moved to a new blog), Rainbow Amoeba (a French ace whose blog is now long gone), and Andrew Hinderliter. I can’t recall who else made a blog at that time, though. Most of these blogs are now either gone or no longer updating, including Asexy Beast.

It was sad news for me that Ily had moved on, although I completely understand it. By that point, things had changed so drastically that it felt like we were in a new era—the number of blogs had grown exponentially, to the point that, as Ily described it, “you are not limited by a lack of asexual writings online, but only by your time to read them all.” So I consider this point, 2012, to be the point where we can say that the early era is officially over, with 2011 being a turbulent transition year filled with acephobia and rage. I’m mostly talking about the times before then.

The time period I’m talking about for this post, then, is 2007-2011ish.

Tumblr wasn’t a thing. It existed, apparently, since 2006, but it wasn’t popular (with aces)—the first ace blogs on Tumblr seem to have started in 2010. I don’t recall any interactions with them until a year later.

AVEN was far more of a centralizing force back in ’07-’08, and blogs were on the frayed edges of the community, barely noticed—and that was more comfortable, for me. I had some serious beefs with AVEN, and I was definitely not the only one who found it inhospitable. Apositive began in January 2008, and I fled there for a few months… but it quickly became uncomfortable as well. A forum format is not ideal when you want to work through prolonged personal issues. I was frustrated, at the time, with how very little discussion there was of nuanced topics related to asexuality, and how completely inadequate the resources available in 2007 and 2008 were for my situation (which I didn’t recognize back then as abusive; it took until 2010 for me to realize that).

Everything was, perpetually, about explaining the basics of asexuality, in such a simplistic manner, to the point where I’d had no way to even begin to talk about anything more complicated. No one I knew had even a sufficient 101-level understanding of asexuality, nor did they show even the slightest interest in learning more. Most people responded with a callous, “Who cares?

I heard “nobody cares” one too many times, and then I was angry enough to cut ties and start a blog. It didn’t matter if nobody cared what I had to say. The point was, nobody else was saying it, and it would have helped me immensely if anyone had. So I was just going to go find a little corner of the internet and scream.

Apparently the assertion that “nobody cares” is demonstrably untrue.

From the beginning, there were already a handful of people who quickly found my blog and came to join in the discussion. I read their blogs, too, and our combined discussions became ever more lively, ebbing and flowing with each post, and slowly, steadily growing in the number of participants. There were a lot of people who started blogging for only a year or two, and then drifted away again. It felt to me like there were particular times that were almost like a tide, when several new blogs cropped up all at once, and then it gradually receded as only a few of them really stuck around—but still, the water level was rising as a whole.

The following moments highlight the rise of momentum:

  • In 2008, Keri Hulme (author of The Bone People) commented on Asexy Beast
  • In 2009, AVEN featured a feed of ace blogs on their home page, which brought a lot of new traffic and discussion. This isn’t feasible anymore due to the sheer amount of blogs available, but it was a big deal at the time. I think it did a lot to popularize the idea of ace blogging, and subsequently there was another wave of new blogs.
  • In 2009 (I think??) a journalist interviewed me for an article about gray-asexuality which was, as far as I know, the first mention of such a thing in any media, outside of asexual-only spaces. That article no longer exists, and as far as I can tell, was never archived.
  • Also in 2009, there was a dialog with Joy Davidson (who once appeared on a talk show’s asexuality segment and was portrayed in an “invalidating skeptical expert” role) on Asexual Curiosities; prior to this, she had always appeared to be somewhat hostile to the idea of asexuality.
  • In April 2010, I started a big survey on sexual assault—which was not limited to the asexual community, but had a lot of ace participants. It generated a lot more interest than I thought it would, many people shared their stories with me, and I use the insights I gained from it daily. The writing project I originally started this to support turned into something else completely. This was one of the times when I really started getting collaboration and support from outside the ace community.
  • In September 2010, after a lot of discussion of flibanserin (which many aces opposed), I hosted an interview with K, who ran a blog called Feminists with FSD (female sexual dysfunction). She then interviewed me in turn. These generated a lot of discussion, and brought to light some issues that were previously under-discussed.
  • In December 2010, there was a blog carnival on asexuality and autism, orchestrated by Sciatrix, Kaz, and Ily—here’s the roundup post.
  • In 2011, the Carnival of Aces began in earnest. This brought a whole new level of collaboration between bloggers and opened up the format to people who don’t normally blog about asexuality.
  • Another thing that happened in 2011: that same journalist from before included me in a new article about grayness without my permission, after I had stopped IDing as gray-area. (I mentioned this recently.)
  • We all know what else happened in 2011—(A)sexual on Netflix, the Tumblr explosion, and The Great Ace Hate (much of which, btw, originated on LiveJournal, not Tumblr)
  • When I asked Ily for some highlights to include in this post, she recounted an adorable story of one time when she got fanmail—someone sent her a book on “hug therapy,” and while she doesn’t remember when that happened, she said that it was “extremely sweet.” Aww.

You can see a trend of the blogosphere accumulating more and more voices and visibility, and bloggers beginning to collaborate more actively with one another—both within the ace community and in other communities. I recall several other points where we were acknowledged and had dialogue with individual feminists(/womanists), disability activists, and sex-positive bloggers that had less longevity—many of those blogs are now deleted, and since they were often personal blogs, I wouldn’t be comfortable linking to them anyway.

You can see us also gradually expanding our topics to explore intersectional issues, and focusing less on trying to pin down things like definitions, and what different kinds of attraction mean. For the first few years, I recall there being a lot more discussion of things like HSDD than there was later on, after it was settled that asexuality would get a mention in the DSM-5. Towards 2010-2011, I started getting a lot more people coming to me to ask advice, which I think reflects a widening audience. I think many others started coming to bloggers instead of AVEN for advice as well, which led to the creation of advice blogs.

It’s interesting—and annoying—that I found myself in the position of being quite possibly the most visible “gray-asexual” person for a little while there… even after I no longer thought of myself that way. I had to jump through some hoops to break that perception of me. That kind of visibility was never what I wanted, or expected. I mostly thought that I’d primarily be talking to other asexuals, with hardly anyone else taking notice. Since, after all, “nobody cares,” right? Ha.

I’ll leave that discussion for another time, though.

These days, the Ace Blogosphere is vast. There is truly no way to read it all. So now, we have to dedicate a lot more effort to curating posts for others to read. Back in the day, I actually used to use the WordPress tags to find new posts (and blogs) about asexuality. Hardly anyone does that now.

I think there’s still a lot more room for us to continue to grow. Certain perspectives still tend to be over-represented, while others are quiet. I’d love to hear from many more people—even if you don’t think you have anything “worthwhile” to say. Remember, I didn’t think anyone cared about what I had to say when I started blogging, either! I still don’t think my opinions are of especially great concern, really. I’m more interested in hearing what you have to say!

So consider writing something. The Asexual Agenda is currently looking for more contributors.

I’ll leave you with some sage advice from Ily: try to write “like no one is reading” and don’t worry about people judging you, because otherwise you might feel paralyzed. Getting over that “I’m not good enough” self-judgment and anxiety is often the hardest part. But you know what Ily said to me when I talked to her?  She said, “Since when were blogs supposed to be good?” And I thought, yes, exactly! You don’t have to hold yourself to a standard like that—just be yourself, and write whatever you think.

More people will care than you think.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a 30-something asexual woman who is often mistaken for a lesbian, due to the fact that she is partnered to a lady. She is actually bi (but not biromantic) and somewhere on the aromantic spectrum. She is formally trained in creative writing with a focus on non-fiction and poetry, and maintains a blog called Prismatic Entanglements, where she mostly writes long-winded personal essays and social criticism. In her spare time, she enjoys being cat furniture, coming up with new Pokemon strategies and never going to church.
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16 Responses to Blog Rants: The Early Ace Blogosphere

  1. Pingback: Blog Rants: The Early Ace Blogosphere | Prismatic Entanglements

  2. Pingback: Blog Rants: Masterpost | The Asexual Agenda

  3. DG Arf says:

    “try to write “like no one is reading” and don’t worry about people judging you, because otherwise you might feel paralyzed. Getting over that “I’m not good enough” self-judgment and anxiety is often the hardest part. ”

    This is so hard to do on Tumblr. :/ No matter what you write, if it’s even slightly controversial, people will aggressively criticize you for being “problematic” somehow.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Yeah, I realize it’s a lot more difficult on Tumblr… and Tumblr culture spilling over everywhere else is probably a big part of why people are so anxious now. This advice may only be doable if you’re on WordPress or Blogger, and honestly… I’d advise people who have serious anxiety about writing (or being reblogged) to not blog on Tumblr for that reason. Or to have both WP and Tumblr and keep the posts they’re most anxious about off of Tumblr. I know that doesn’t help much if you already only write at Tumblr. :/

      For me, though, it’s seriously the only way I could keep blogging. Tumblr tends to quickly spiral out of control, and gets so triggering it’s just not something I can manage.

      • DG Arf says:

        Wait, is it really spilling over everywhere else? I didn’t know this was a trend (probs bc Tumblr culture is normalized to me now. D:)

        And yeah, I did get a WP but I have such a bigger audience on Tumblr! I’ve been working on trying to just …ignore people who are obviously trying to be dramatic/performative, which helps. It’s easy to forget that you can’t please everyone.

        • Elizabeth says:

          What mostly happened is that people started coming over to my blog from tumblr, and brought the attitudes/culture from there with them. Like… full text reblogs of my posts, and leaving commentary on those instead of on my blog—some of which I didn’t even get to see because I took breaks from blogging and when I came back the link was dead. Often they were very critical comments, and didn’t take into consideration the context of my posts (as in like, year of writing, intended audience, etc.) so I wonder how many people never even clicked through. I noticed this especially in 2011-2012, and maaaaybe even late 2010? There were quite a few trolls who discovered me that way, especially during the Great Ace Hate.

      • Brin says:

        DG Arf: No matter what you write, if it’s even slightly controversial, people will aggressively criticize you for being “problematic” somehow.

        Elizabeth: Yeah, I realize it’s a lot more difficult on Tumblr… and Tumblr culture spilling over everywhere else is probably a big part of why people are so anxious now.

        Am I the only one who finds this framing of “Tumblr culture” confusing? I keep wondering if maybe the problem is that Tumblr was a lot of people’s first exposure to the social-justice subculture, so they think of problems with that culture as “Tumblr problems”. I was lurking and later commenting in the SJ blogosphere before Tumblr took off; believe me, it was like this before.

        (In a Typepad comment thread, I once saw someone say that before they posted each comment, they considered “If someone yells at me for writing this, how will I apologise for it?”. If the apology was anything other than “I honestly have no idea what the problem was, could you please explain so I can avoid it in the future”, if they could predict any angle that could be used to attack them, they didn’t post it. They seemed to think this was normal and healthy.)

        • Elizabeth says:

          I’m not talking just about general SJ blogging stuff, though, I’m also talking about very tumblr-specific things like reblogging the full text of a post and distributing it that way (see my reply to Arf above). That particular practice has subsided a lot since then, fortunately.

          I would say that generally, the ace blogosphere was not especially concerned with SJ blogging before around… 2010? Maybe late 2009? It was really isolated from the rest of the internet before then, and some ace bloggers or commenters on ace blogs not only didn’t have SJ concerns on their radar, but actively opposed them. A lot of us were feminists and would occasionally post about that, but sometimes that would result in “feminism 101” arguments in the comments or by private messages. Any mention of something like rape culture would bring out that sort of aggressive argumentativeness in certain people. By now, though, those people have mostly stopped being involved with ace blogs.

          Conflict-aversion was… hm, not especially prominent, shall we say? It usually stayed polite, but there were plenty of heated debates. In my case, I did occasionally post things I was somewhat conflicted about myself partially to listen to arguments against them, which I knew were definitely coming. In some cases it was personally very helpful. It strikes me as a luxury we didn’t have, to be able to just not post anything you could imagine being attacked by a particular angle. We are all very familiar with how asexuality would be attacked, because asexuality is inherently assailable. Blogging about it at that time, I think we all knew we could be attacked for being ace any time a random stranger wandered in. That’s still the case, but acceptance is more common, and comment moderation helps to insulate us a little better.

      • Arrela says:

        To me wordpress is a lot more anxiety-inducing than tumblr, to the point where even writing this comment is stressful. I believe what you are both saying, I just don’t understand how proper blogs are any less stressful than tumblr in any way. They’re all serious, and long and well-written and formal and imply that you think you’re an expert in what you’re writing about in a way that tumblr doesn’t.

        • Elizabeth says:

          So this comment kind of fell by the wayside when this AVEN drama started up, and I’m sorry about that! I really meant to get back to you sooner.

          I think part of the problem here is that WP has a very different perception now than it did back when I started blogging. It’s become really commercialized, and often presents itself as “Serious Business.” It’s popular as a content management system among business websites, and many places now pay people to write blog posts for them. (I know some people who would otherwise be interested in writing about asexuality are focusing on paying jobs instead.) Aside from that, WP has accumulated some “expert” bloggers who have just been around for a very long time—and those are who you tend to find here. Part of it is that a lot of us have known each other from blogging for a long time, so we’re already comfortable with both blogging and our co-bloggers. New people have a hard time entering the conversation now because it has been going on for so long. What I think you’re getting at with your comment is a feeling of sense of internal pressure to match our tone and level of seriousness.

          You really don’t have to do that. If you start a WP blog, it’s your space. WordPress is just a blogging platform. You can write whatever you want to, without limit. You can post silly memes all day long, or fandom stuff, or webcomics, or photography. You may have a different kind of audience than The Asexual Agenda tends to attract, and that’s totally fine. You might decide you only want to make a post about asexuality during the Carnival of Aces. Or you may decide that tumblr is really just the best place for you, and stick to that! People have different preferences. It’s okay to just stick with whatever works best for you.

          The atmosphere around here wasn’t always this way, and that’s what I’ve been trying to get at with these posts. We all started somewhere, and it was a very small room back in 2008—with some lively discussions, yes, but still. Hardly anybody was reading, so we weren’t really worried about visibility (through blogging itself) until later on, but rather just using it as a place to discuss things without having to deal with forum drama. AVEN paid absolutely no attention to us (although DJ himself did) except on the few occasions we brought conversations to them. (They had us linked on their home page in 2009, yes, but how many AVENites look at the front page?)

          So to explain how WP feels safer for me than anything else, it’s mostly that it’s more isolated from the most toxic elements in the community (unmoderated shit-stirrers on forums), and far less likely for the acephobic trolls on tumblr to see it. Those are the things that are most stressful for me—and in a way, you could say that my blogging tone is somewhat of a defense mechanism from them. If my posts are longer and more tedious, they’ll get bored and wander off instead of engaging. That sort of thing. But… it does have a negative effect of making people like yourself also feel too intimidated to engage.

          You don’t have to try to match anyone’s tone, okay? You don’t have to be an expert to have an opinion. You can write however, and wherever, you want. Or not! 🙂

  4. “Everything was, perpetually, about explaining the basics of asexuality, in such a simplistic manner, to the point where I’d had no way to even begin to talk about anything more complicated.”

    This is exactly where the aromantic blogosphere seems to be right now, which is why I find it almost completely useless. It’s encouraging to know that the ace blogosphere got through those growing pains.

    I really appreciate reading about this history and learning your perspectives. I remember looking for asexual blogs a few times in from 2009 to 2011 and not finding a whole lot (though I didn’t discover your blog until late 2011 or early 2012 so I may not have been looking in the right places!).

    It was actually the Great Ace hate of 2011 that led me to realize there were a lot of aces on Tumblr although I didn’t start my own Tumblr until June 2012.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I think for me back then, the easiest way to find ace blogs had been through comments and pingbacks—following active discussion threads tended to lead to active blogs. Without knowing where they already were, it must’ve been hard, especially since as Siggy mentioned there were so many abandoned blogs. 2009-2011 really stick out in my memory as surge-then-recede years way more than the others.

      I kind of wonder, with regard to the aromantic community, if the lack of a forum dedicated to aromanticism has left a lot more basic education work to blogs, and that might be holding the discussion back. When I started I very much had a “go to AVEN if you’re just learning” attitude, but it seems like there isn’t a similar open-discussion place to direct newcomers to with aromanticism. That, and decoupling aro discussion from ace stuff seem like the biggest challenges.

  5. Siggy says:

    I love this history, because it’s the era of blogging that I remember! And I feel flattered that two of the major events in your timeline were IIRC my ideas (the blogging carnival and the interview with K).

    I mostly remember 2009-2010 as being a time of a lot of abandoned blogs. I was a big fan of Asexual Curiosities’ old blogroll because it included the time of the last update, which was necessary to sort through dead blogs. When I entered, I brought in a lot of ideas from the atheosphere about what a blogosphere is supposed to look like: political, nuanced, and vast. It looks a lot more like that now.

    • Elizabeth says:

      They were good ideas!

      There were a lot of abandoned blogs. I remember there being a bunch of people saying “hey I made a blog!” and asking me to link to them, only to abandon the blog a month later. In a way it felt a lot like a skeleton network at the time (especially more towards 2010), but then there were also a lot more commenters and readers.

      And as I recall, I think I happened to have (just coincidentally) started reading atheist blogs a lot more right around the time that you started posting about asexuality. A lot of that influenced me pretty heavily as well.

  6. Carsonspire says:

    Now you’re speaking my language! I loved Ily’s blog and had wondered what had happened to Venus of Willendork. I was also a fan of the model-building/-theorizing that David Jay did on his blog.

    The non-linearity of Tumblr confuses me. I will stick to the blogs and to the forum, although I do wonder sometimes what ace community developments I am missing by not following Tumblr.

    In any case, thank you for continuing the community’s history!

  7. Pingback: Carnival of Aces July 2015 Wrap-up: Asexual History | Next Step: Cake

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