Asexuality is most frequently defined as “someone who does not experience sexual attraction,” because that’s what it says on the front page of AVEN, the website that dominated the asexual community for a decade. But there is also a long tradition of questioning that definition.
Right this moment, there is an ongoing discussion about how the definition is overemphasized. The complaint: Many people identify with asexuality specifically because they are sex repulsed, or because they don’t want sex. Sexual attraction is not the distinguishing factor for everyone. Emphasizing the one true definition is identity policing.
Also right this moment, there is an ongoing conversation about revamping AVEN’s front page, which leads to controversy over whether the definition should be changed or clarified. The complaint: “sexual attraction” is too ambiguous. Either “sexual attraction” should be clearly defined, or it should be replaced with something else. An ambiguous definition leads to people adopting the wrong identities.
Did you catch the difference?
It turns out that not everyone who questions the definition of asexuality wants the same thing. In fact, some of them want opposing things. There are two ideals:
Ambiguity: People clearly identify as asexual or asexual spectrum for a variety of reasons, and also disidentify with them for a variety of reasons. We need a looser definition to accommodate people’s individual needs.
Specificity: People who initially encounter the idea of asexuality frequently find the definition confusing, and come to incorrect conclusions about whether or not they’re asexual. We need to collect our best wisdom and create a clearer definition to alleviate this problem.
And of course, there are the moderates, who favor the status quo.
This is a distinct issue from inclusivity vs exclusivity. Some people argue for a more specific definition on the grounds that non-asexuals are incorrectly identifying as asexual, while others argue on the grounds that asexuals are incorrectly identifying as non-asexual. Rather, the issue is whether the boundary should be precisely defined, or left more up to interpretation.
It’s no secret that I am not a moderate. I advocate a looser, more ambiguous definition of asexuality, although not necessarily on the AVEN front page. I will make my arguments in an upcoming series of posts (to be under the “asexual ambiguity” tag), but for now I leave you with this brief description of the problem. Let me know what you think so far!
See Part 2.