The Asexual Agenda was founded five years ago today. To celebrate, we held a discussion about our blog, ace blogging, and ace communities in general.
Siggy: I am the only remaining founding member of The Asexual Agenda, so I’ll start out with a look towards our past. The goal of the blog was to further upper-level discussions of asexuality, and to stimulate other ace blogs. I’m very self-critical so I’m not always sure we have been successful. Although I’m always impressed with our contributors, I think most of them were impressive before joining our team. And ace blogs seem to have become less active in the past year. But I’m pleasantly surprised that we’re still here after 5 years, and I still hear from readers who appreciate what we do.
What do the rest of you think? Have we been successful at achieving our goals? Are there any highlights you’d like to mention? Where do you see The Asexual Agenda–and other ace communities–going in the future?
Sara K.: I think The Asexual Agenda has been very successful as a hub for ace blogging (particularly ace blogging which is not on tumblr). I think the most important thing The Asexual Agenda has done to connect the ace blogging community is the linkspam. Though the Carnival of Aces is older than The Asexual Agenda, it is The Asexual Agenda which has kept it going and that has also done a lot to stimulate ace blogging.
Ace blogging seems to come and go in waves. What I think of as the first wave of ace blogging started in 2007 with the first regularly updated ace blog in English, Asexy Beast. That wave of ace blogging seemed to end around 2011, when there was another lull in ace blogging activity (at least, there was a lull in the ace blogs I was following, perhaps my view is biased). In 2012, a new wave of ace blogs came out. I consider myself part of the second wave (with the notes which do not fit) and The Asexual Agenda itself is part of the second wave. I think a lot of the lull in activity is due to prominent second wave bloggers deciding to do things other than ace blogging, which is also what a lot of first wave bloggers did around 2011.
Will there be a third wave of ace blogging? At this point I do not know, but I think it’s a possibility. If there is a third wave, I’m not sure whether The Asexual Agenda will play a similar role as it did in the second wave or whether it will play a different role.
One of the directions I see the ace community going is having much more representation in fictional media. Though representations of aces in fiction are still rare, it’s been growing exponentially since 2012. Some of the energy which previously may have gone into blogging may now be going into developing ace fiction. If we were talking about ace writing in general rather than ace blogging specifically, ace fiction would be one of my candidates for a potential third wave.
Astarlia: I’m new as a contributor to this blog, but I was thrilled to see an opportunity to volunteer, as this blog was a really important part of helping me come to terms with my asexuality. I absolutely think we “encourage upper level discussion on ace issues and stimulate other ace blogs”. Blogging can be an incredibly lonely pastime sometimes, and I think this website provides such a valuable service by connecting people saying important things, to those that want to read them.
I have noticed the ace community spreading out beyond just tumblr and blogs, and more discussion happening on places like twitter and youtube. (you can follow our twitter here!) I’m also noticing more ace awareness and education being done by non ace folk in my circles which is delightful.
I don’t think any of that makes blogging less relevant though. In fact, I think it just makes sites like this more important so we can help collate and share all the great discussions that are happening out there, and continue being a platform for people who want their voice to be heard.
Talia: I’ve always thought of the collating Sara K. and Astarlia mentioned as an unofficial goal of The Asexual Agenda. Perhaps a sub-goal of stimulating other ace blogs is sharing what writing is already out there. Advertising through collating probably helps bloggers feel less like they’re writing into the giant void of the internet. By just posting in the comment section of our linkspam bloggers can get advertised the following week. I don’t think readers take as much advantage of this as they have in the past, but making the opportunity widely accessible is still pretty important.
Laura (ace-muslim): I’m one of the second wave of ace blogging that Sara K. mentioned, having started blogging on Tumblr in 2012. I do feel that this wave has largely run its course and that the next wave of ace writing may not actually occur on blogs at all, but in other spaces, whether it is ace fiction or aces on Twitter.
I’ve really appreciated the space that The Asexual Agenda has provided for upper-level discussions of asexuality. Most of my own writing is rather “niche” and would find little audience on its own, but TAA has given me a space to explore a lot of topics important to me in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Even though I’ve been largely inactive as a blogger for more than a year for various personal reasons, including burnout, I’m glad that TAA continues to be a supportive community for me.
DC: When it comes to whether or not The Asexual Agenda has achieved its goals, I personally think the answer is an easy, “Yes.” Before I became a contributor to the blog, I had a rather difficult time finding asexual spaces that were doing more than “Asexuality 101” or acting as a sounding board for people who wanted to vent out their negative experiences. While there’s nothing wrong with either of those goals or set-ups, I think I had begun to feel jaded by them and wanted to move onto something new. I tried doing my own blog on tumblr for a while, but I had been in high school then – maybe in the early stages of transitioning to University – and had very little experience with being an ace out in the world.
I simply didn’t know enough to make something new and eventually tried to be a resource for other aces. I had wanted to dedicate myself to digging through all the anti-asexual garbage I always seemed to find on the site so that others could find information and share their experiences more easily, but it didn’t take me long to become jaded with that as well. The Asexual Agenda pulled me back into ace-blogging by showing me the sort of format I had been looking for, and while I don’t think I surround myself with the ace community and news on asexuality as much as I used to, I do appreciate its presence and the opportunities it gives me to speak about my experiences (much easier to talk about now that I’ve grown and actually felt like I’ve been a part of something).
As for the rest of the ace community, I don’t know what I can really say about it. There are times when I feel like we’re still stuck in a place where we’re simply trying to get people to understand who and what we are as a whole, and there are times when I can see that we’re slowly progressing towards other things. As others have said above, I think a lot of the progression comes in the form of ace fiction. Every now and again I see posts where people have compiled lists of books and shows that contain asexual characters, and there always seems to be a lot of excitement on those things when they come out.
Maybe excitement is all we need to keep moving forward and to pull out of the burnout that a lot of people seem to be experiencing these days (myself included). Obviously being jaded isn’t going to let us get anywhere – whether that’s being jaded by the political climate or the trend of anti-asexual posts that crop up on our timelines – and maybe we just need to find new ways to fight those feelings with more excitement. But then that leads to the questions: “How do we do that? Where do we find the excitement to keep experiencing and fighting and posting and to pull ourselves out of this slump?” I don’t know. Maybe it’s in fiction and maybe it’s not. I just hope we find that enthusiasm again soon, and I hope it works wonders for our entire community.
Talia: I find it really interesting that Laura and DC both bring up fiction as the next place ace discourse might go. In my own research I’ve been exploring fiction as a medium that uses untruth or lies to say very real things that could not be said in another way (the author Ursula Le Guin is a great resource for this line of thought). I haven’t connected that research to asexuality and so I’ve been silent during this upswell in interest in fiction. I think my silence comes from an uncertainty of dipping my toes in (I should really just jump in already). Talking about ace representation in fiction seems very asexuality 201 to me, maybe even 301 if we want to keep adding numbers. To really make a meaningful contribution to the discussion you have to know a lot about how aces represent ourselves as individuals and in our communities. There are so many things that have been said and lots more to say. Ace representation in fiction is like meta-representation: using a representation as medium to comment on a representation. I’m very excited to see where these discussions will go, especially in terms of grappling with ace characters in fiction in terms of the unassailable asexual idea. I think The Asexual Agenda could play an important role in hosting and collating these future discussions.
Siggy: I like this idea of multiple waves of blogging brought up by Sara. I think the first wave was mostly focused on people sharing or venting personal experiences, and talking about asexuality 101. The second wave was more focused on systematic social critique, and that’s something I really tried to push. But it’s not like we stopped writing about personal experiences in 2011! Likewise, even if there’s a third wave where writers start focusing on other things, that does not spell the end of systematic social critique. That will always be a part of us, even if it’s not the same writers doing it year after year.
Queenie: Going off of the wave model that others have mentioned, I consider myself part of the second wave–I’ve been blogging for more than five years now. I think one of the catalysts for that particular wave was the entrance of asexuality into more mainstream discourse. Understanding Asexuality by Anthony Bogaert came out in 2012, and (A)Sexual came out in 2011. Those were both huge, huge things in the community at the time, and the Bogaert book especially triggered a whole wave of “Wow, asexuals, I guess they do exist” articles (so many of them that it was possible to write a parody version of those articles). So in the wake of the Great Ace Hate in 2011, we suddenly had outside “experts” validating our identities, and that was really powerful for some people. Plus, suddenly outside the community there were people who already knew Asexuality 101, so you could start having more complex conversations about 201 level topics like asexuality and race or sex-positivity or larger LGBTQ communities. It was really exciting in 2012-2013 to suddenly see this shift offline from my coming out and people going, “What’s that? Is that a real thing?” to people going, “Oh yeah, I read an article about that.” It made a huge difference in the kinds of conversations I could have with people.
TAA has obviously been an integral part of my ace blogging experience; although I wasn’t part of the original team, I did join in the second round of contributors and I believe I’m currently the contributor who has been writing for TAA the second longest (after Siggy, of course). You all know by now that I’m biased, but I do think that the linkspam and Carnival of Aces are a big part of why TAA has been relatively successful as a blogging hub. More than that I think among the contributors there’s willingness to engage with other pieces written in the community that’s really valuable. It’s not just you dropping your ideas out into the void to be more or less ignored–there’s always someone reading and willing to engage, whether in the comment section or on their own blog (or occasionally in a follow-up post on TAA). There are a lot of posts that I would not have been willing to release into the wild if it weren’t for the other contributors being willing to lend their eyes ahead of time and say, “No, you’re saying something valuable and you should post this…and then I’ll come and leave you an essay in your comment section about it.” That’s always been the beauty of TAA for me.
As for what I’m hoping for moving forward, I was hanging out with aceadmiral a few weeks ago and we were talking about the need for more inward-facing resources. Ace communities at the moment are very invested in vis/ed (for reasons that have a lot to do with our historical trajectory, I think), and I’d really like to see more time and energy (and money, for those of us who have it) put into support. Blogs are great, but there are really cool projects like the Ace Scholarship or Ace Shelter or even Resources for Ace Survivors that are generally run by a very small group of people (or a single person), which means that when that group or individual burns out, the project dies or goes on hiatus. I think these types of projects are increasingly necessary as our community becomes more established, but (speaking from experience) it can be hard to run them. So I’d like to see more people who are willing to lend their time and support to those kinds of projects, even if it’s just in small ways! Blogging experience doesn’t necessarily translate well into support projects, but there are skills that can be transferred over and there are always things you can do to get involved and ease the burden on the people spearheading them.
Talia: I’ve been thinking a lot about support too. People in ace communities design so many resources for non-ace spaces and put a lot of energy into visibility. It’s such important work and yet I don’t do it. One of the reasons I was first drawn to apply to The Asexual Agenda was because (in my opinion) the whole blog didn’t try to do that. I was over having to explain, legitimize, and validate myself. Being a part of this blog felt like side-stepping all of that and saying no thanks I’m going to have a conversation over here, at least for now. The time for me to go back to that “original” conversation hasn’t come and maybe it never will. I’m perfectly comfortable over here. It feels a lot like living my own little utopian community, aware of the outside world but not forced to engage with it (kind of like the feminist utopia of Sally Miller Gearheart’s The Wanderground where the free women know about the old patriarchal city and some of them venture into it for political reasons, but most choose not to). For me The Asexual Agenda existing just as it does is a form of support. I’m excited about other projects and resources that exist, but I’m also really looking forward to thinking more about support through blogging in the next little while.