Question of the Week: March 29th, 2016.

What questions do you wish academics were asking ace people? 

A few days ago I filled out an online survey about what it’s like to be asexual. Some of the questions surprised me and seemed really on point. Others were phrased in ways that didn’t sit well with me. I stared at the check boxes in frustration. None of them seemed quite right. When I got to the end of the survey I was shocked to find not a blank box that I could add extra comments in, but instead a thank you for participating. Close webpage. Survey complete. I felt inadvertently silenced by someone’s methodology. Then I wondered, what might it look like if ace people ourselves had more input on what research was being written about us? What questions would you want to be asked? Or would the research look like something else entirely?

About Talia

Talia is an asexual, nonbinary, vegan-feminist that drinks a lot of coffee and stays up very late playing Blizzard video games and writing fiction. They are working on a PhD in Environmental Studies where they think a lot about oppression as intersectional and impacting identities differentially. Talia has a particular fondness for asexuality, fandom, and Critical Animal Studies. Their personal blog is
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24 Responses to Question of the Week: March 29th, 2016.

  1. luvtheheaven says:

    I was glad there was a section for comments at the end of the survey linked here: Because I felt frustrated by that entire survey, and made to feel like my experience was not even considered as a possibility, despite the fact that many aspects of my experience that were overlooked are actually quite common among aces, I know this because of who I meet in my local ace meetup group and because of all the blogging I read online lol!

    “what might it look like if ace people ourselves had more input on what research was being written about us?” – probably in some ways, the answers are what the AVEN Census Surveys have looked like, more recently (2015?) called just an Asexuality Community Census if I remember correctly. All sorts of questions there and all were influenced by aces themselves. I’m not sure those are perfect either. Those are biased toward gathering statistics about our demographics as opposed to the nuance of what some other surveys are like.

    Maybe specific questions about what it’s like to be out as asexual for a long time to certain people close to you in your life, like do you have to keep re-explaining or explaining a new aspect of it, like first you explained being ace, then you clarified being gray, or being sex-favorable, or what your romantic orientation is, or some other aspect of your identity? Questions about if the non-ace people in your life who know you are ace are committing microagressions or committing larger hurtful acts against you. Questions about if you have other ace people in your life or not. Questions about how closeted you feel overall, what percentage of your social circles know you’re ace, where are you still closeted, why do you choose to remain closeted, etc.

  2. epochryphal says:

    Ask Me About Models

    seriously please ask questions about how we feels about models (of attraction, of greyness, of repulsion, of any other identiy words or axes)

    more questions about actual experience, unclarity.

    and questions not just about sex-repulsed-indifferent-favorable but conflicted and arc and flux, and about touch in general (and paper and stone).

    • luvtheheaven says:

      I would really love to be asked about all these things too, and about if I do any kinds of touching in my current friendships/relationships/etc or not… because I’d like to know how many asexual-spectrum people are closer to my end of things where I don’t need any touch at all on a regular basis. Where I’m not a cuddler with my friends, etc.

  3. I don’t have particular things I want researchers to ask, but I wish researchers would stop doing research on the erectile function of asexual-spectrum cis men, and on the vaginal lubrication of asexual-spectrum cis women. I understand that researchers doing these want to prove that asexual identity is not the same thing as less genital response, but in the process of their research they are endorsing the idea that validation by Science ™ is necessary for someone’s choice of sexual orientation label to be valid.

    Additionally: Erectile function research has a dark history of having been used to “prove” that trans women seeking transitional medical care were “just fetishists,” and to “prove” that gay cis men were hypersexual.

  4. paminam says:

    Unfortunately, the system would not accept my reply 😦

    • Siggy says:

      Contact us by e-mail for commenting problems.

      • paminam says:

        The message I received in response to my first reply was something like “Your comment cannot be posted.” However, the system accepted my feedback as above?! I subsequently saw a message indicating that my first post was ‘awaiting moderation’. Pity, that wasn’t evident originally. It would have saved confusion 🙂

  5. elainexe says:

    Gosh, pretty much every time I fill out a survey I go on some kind of frustrated rant to my friends XD; Like…..maybe…two of the dozen or so surveys I’ve taken about sexuality have only ended in minor frustrations. The rest of them have just been insultingly bad. (In other words. This is going to be a complain-y comment XD Warning you now)
    The AVEN survey has been pretty nice. But like luvtheheaven says, that’s demographics, and probably too extensive for more specific research purposes. Still, I do get frustrated at the lack of some demographic questions like religion which I find is pretty important to almost all of my experiences.
    I would like the inclusion of more relationship types in questions. Now…some of the worst surveys in this regard are I think ones I took about women or lgbtq people rather than just asexual spectrum identities (and may not have even had “ace” as an option for orientation). But whether it’s for ace people specifically or more broadly, I would like it if “dating” wasn’t the only kind of wording used for relationships. Researchers could ask questions about, what kind of relationships are important to you? Check all that apply. Or: Do you want to get married (or are you married?) Now that I think of it….I can’t even remember any surveys I’ve taken that even ask about marriage. It’s all about dating or “partners” (and mayyyybe friends, family, and QPPs).
    Or just, don’t adhere to the relationship escalator or other types of assumptions in the first place about what types of relationships aces form and want to form. And don’t assume some word like “partner” or “dating” can somehow cover all relationships that aren’t friends or family. Partner is so unspecific…like are you excluding QPPs or not? Do you mean this exclusively in a sexual sense, since that’s a common meaning in everyday language?
    Like for me. If I was to seek a married relationship, which I do want, my relationship escalator would look probably look similar to many orthodox Muslims: arranged introduction (internet counts, at least for me) -> chaperoned courtship (mayyyyybe some dates in which you aren’t alone?) -> marriage. This just doesn’t fit with the assumptions that like…90% of these surveys make.
    And then there’s the lack of non-monogamy type questions. The last survey I took, the one luvtheheaven linked, had a really awkward question that was something like “Are you monogamous?”??? I feel like, if you’re going to ask about non-monogamous relationships, you probably need more than one question (and if you do just have one, don’t word it like that). Non-monogamy is something harder I think…well, at least for me. I wouldn’t know how to set up questions for it. I just know I couldn’t answer that one strange question, and even if someone did have more questions I’m kinda pessimistic that I would feel represented.
    Well, just in case any of you (or any potential researchers) are thinking of making a survey, this is me: theoretically open to polygamy, but not part of the polyamory community or poly identifying; it’s not a relationship preference (or unpreference). Polygamy is illegal in the US and I don’t want any law breaking or someone in a relationship meant to be like marriage but without the legal rights of a spouse. I would like to stay in the US, therefore I am unlikely to ever be in a polygamous marriage whether I want to or not.
    I can’t remember what kinds of questions I might have seen besides the one above about non-monogamy. But I would have some concerns for any surveys just based on how I typically see people talk about non-monogamy. Like, again, only using words like dating and partners. I would like to see questions that don’t assume all non-monogamy falls under polyamory and poly identity. Do ask about marriage. And do ask about how relationships with different people could fall into different types of relationships as well.
    And finally. I think surveys could use questions about what kinds of components people would like in relationships. Rather than just relationship labels. Maybe better worded as “Is X something you would like to have in any of your interpersonal relationships?” more than “Would you like to do x with a partner?” unless you want to ask the latter question for every type of relationship.

  6. butterflo says:

    I think that the asexuality being not a choice but a stable latent property, makes it a measurable variable. I feel that, the “not a choice” part of asexuality needs more studies with quantified approach.

    Personality metaphor is the one I like. Personality is not a choice and remains generally stable over time, while is fluid in some sense and has a possibility to change.

    I’d like to see studies on asexuality continuum in a multidimensional sexual orientation space, like the one described in Storm’s Model. Heterosexuality and homosexuality already have studies like neural response differences to androstadienone and estratetraenol, which, as far as I know, are mediating substances in sexual attraction.

    (please note that I am talking about sexual orientation itself, not sexual orientation identity. I tend to focus on the former because I feel more safe that way.)

  7. Coyote says:

    This isn’t a general issue, but when it came to the most recent survey on discrimination, I was kind of dismayed there weren’t more opportunities to share experiences that weren’t bound to that 6-month timeframe. I get that they were looking to measure frequency and all, but considering some of my worst experiences have occurred longer ago than that… I felt like I had information that would have been relevant to their research goals that I wasn’t being allowed to share.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Yes! THIS!

      I also had a hard time even remembering what happened in the past 6 months, honestly. I feel like a year would’ve been a better time frame, if they wanted to keep it focused on recent events.

    • luvtheheaven says:

      I had SO much issue with the 6-month time frame. All the negative stuff that’s ever happened to me was well over 6 months ago, so I started to want to frame one little thing that did happen to me RECENTLY as worse than it really had felt, to maybe consider it in the new light of “oh yeah that truly *wasn’t* cool of my brother” so I’d at least have something other than N/A to answer for every single question… At least in the box for comments at the end I was able to explain that the 6 month limitation was REALLY limiting.

      • Coyote says:

        Oh, not to mention, the way the questions are framed, it doesn’t really account for “I haven’t experienced this, but that may just be since I socially isolated myself/have started interacting with proportionally more aces and a lot fewer non-aces.” Feels kinda relevant to the data collection that I preemptively limit my social ties to the extent that I do.

        • THIS. That factor is highly relevant to my answers to that entire survey.

          • AceAdmiral says:

            Well, and, additionally it made it out to be something you experienced in discrete events instead of as a background buzz. I made extensive use of the comments section at the end, too, and the example was: I’ve been arguing with my parents for the past three months as I’ve been looking for housing about what would best fit my needs. A lot of the qualities I valued were inextricably tied up in part in my asexuality (e.g. being within walking distance of public transportation so I can go do things in the city and meet people and not sit alone in my house; only getting a one bedroom because what would I even do with a second???; not living in an area that’s literally all married couples with kids; etc.). But my parents’ inability to deal with my asexuality was never *explicit*; it was just an unhappy subtext. So–I forget how the attitude was phrased, but–did I experience it constantly or never? And the fact that that attitude was *built in* to my search and the highest importance was placed on things that could mitigate it, I mean, that’s not someone else saying it; that’s me internalizing that attitude.

            I don’t know, I felt like it was not very well structured at all, but maybe they have some specific goal or other study they want to compare it with or something?

  8. Pingback: Comments on survey design | Prismatic Entanglements

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