Looking back and looking forward on our 5th anniversary

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.

About Siggy

Siggy is an ace activist based in the U.S. He is gay gray-A, and has a Ph.D. in physics. He has another blog where he also talks about math, philosophy, godlessness, and social criticism. His other hobbies include board games and origami.
This entry was posted in activism, Articles, Blogging, Meta. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Looking back and looking forward on our 5th anniversary

  1. Vesper says:

    The Asexual Agenda has meant and will always mean a lot to me. thank you to all its contributors past & present for 5 years of unforgettable, superb blogging.

    on a side note, i like the way how Sara K. describes ace blogging coming and going in waves. that said, if the ‘third wave’ of ace blogging does revolve around ace fiction, consider me one sad ace…

    selfish? sure. but as someone who feels like representation of people like themself is even worse in ace fiction than in fiction in general, this idea leaves me cold and the current state of fandom has left me averse to any discussion of representation at all.

    • Siggy says:

      I’m rather apprehensive about more ace fiction myself. Probably the next big thing won’t be books, it will be TV. TV is so conservative, I could see ace fiction actually getting worse as it gets more popular.

      Although, it doesn’t seems like TV shows could constitute some sort of “third wave” of blogging. I mean, bloggers aren’t going to stop blogging because they’re all too busy working on writing television, lol.

  2. Congratulations!

    This is a fantastic resource. Pretty much any time there’s a discussion about *anything* in my local meetup group, I can point them to a post about it here. And if it’s not on here, I come here first anyway, because I know there’s at least a mention of it in one of the linkspams.

    May it last another 50!

    • And for a random trip down memory lane, I just dug up some of the original discussion posts that led to the creation of this site. Interesting to see how the final product came out when compared to some of the ideas floating around. Carnival of Aces and Linkspams? Check. Forums, advice site, and an annual book published from the Carnival? Not quite.

      And I still think you all need a full domain name…

  3. tristifere says:

    Congrats! The asexual agenda and its contributors did and do mean a lot to me. Here I’ve encountered so many interesting new blogs and read loads of very different opinion pieces which I would never have found if not for the linkspams or the authors contributing their pieces to the blog. I’m also sure I would never have started writing longer blog posts myself if it wasn’t for this blog. This really feels like a community hub, and I do hope it stays this way.

    That said, I’m not *that* happy with the conversation going the way of fiction, as predicted above. I get where this is coming from – it seems that lately all the more indepth posts I’ve come across deal with fiction. But even though I’m an avid reader and I want more representation, I just don’t feel connected. I’ve started and abandoned several posts on the topic already, because I feel the kind of books I read and what I have to say on the topic doesn’t connect at all to the conversations that are happening.

    • astarlia says:

      are there particular topics you would like to see more posts on? 🙂

      • Tristifere says:

        I’ve been thinking about this for a bit, and I don’t think I have a very satisfactory answer. I’ve always just followed linkspams and the Tumblr-blogs who post and reblog more in-depth stuff, and just really enjoyed the wide variety of topics, sometimes jumping in myself or simply reading about perspectives or topics which I don’t know much about.

        So maybe it’s not so much that I’m not happy about a focus on fiction (that’s a fine topic for discussion), but I think it has more to do with less activity meaning also a more narrow focus on a few specific topics instead of a broad spectrum. More people blogging = more diverse interests = loads of different topics being discussed….

    • Siggy says:

      In years past, I’ve tried to write about ace fiction several times, but it feels like it never really connected until we started the Ace Tropes series. A lot of this has to do with me simply liking very different kinds of fiction from other folks–I don’t like speculative fiction, for instance–and the ace tropes series lets me connect with other people even if we don’t read exactly the same things. Ace Tropes was, for me, a huge improvement over the previous discussion, which was more focused on specific works and fandoms.

      But I can see how the discussion could be alienating if it focuses on a category of fiction that you don’t read, or if tropes aren’t the part of the fiction that you’re most interested in.

      I believe there’s a separate set of discussions going on about ace fiction, which is more oriented towards creators–see Claudie Arsenault’s blog. Not sure if you’d find any greater connections with that.

      • Tristifere says:

        I think you really got to the root of it. I don’t really read the kind of fiction discussed (I’m a world lit and historical fiction reader) and because there’s 0 zero representation in my preferred type of fiction that is explicitly ace*, I don’t really feel I can jump into the ace tropes discussions (though I do enjoy reading them!).

        I’ve been trying to put my thoughts together on the books which I did read which had scenes depicting ace experiences – but I’m not happy with the dynamics of the discussions about “headcanons” which I’ve seen and I feel I have to find a response to that first before I can delve into a discussion of the books I read.

        Thanks for the link to Claudie Arsenault’s blog. I’ll check that out.

        *There’s pretty much only The bone people by Keri Hulme, which I do have on my shelves, but I still haven’t gotten around to reading…

  4. Lee says:

    TAA means a lot to me. Congratulations on 5 years and thank you for everything you’ve done for the ace community in that time!

    I’ve been reading TAA off and on for probably around 3 years. There was a lapse when I didn’t keep up with it, but earlier this year the ongoing ace discourse on tumblr was starting to seriously impact me and I was struggling with my feelings about my identity for the first time in a long while. I remembered TAA as a place that had given me support and affirmation in the past and made me feel less alone in my ace identity, so I started to follow it again. Since then, I’ve read every single post. I also stopped engaging in the discourse and distanced myself from friends who aren’t supportive, but TAA alone has been huge for me. It’s helped me to feel connected and confident in my community, and to begin to reclaim pride in my identity. Thank you so much for all of your work here. I look forward to whatever you’ll be getting up to next.

  5. Rivers says:

    Even though I haven’t been following TAA for that long, I really enjoyed this post. TAA is my favorite ace blog (for reasons covered throughout the post), and I’ve learned a lot since I discovered it.

  6. Sennkestra says:

    Wow, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long – it seems like just yesterday that I remember hearing the concept of the Agenda proposed. It’s so good to see that it’s still going strong! While I don’t know that it increased or decreased the overall level of blogging much, it definitely made blogging easier to find and follow, and it’s been such a useful introduction for people looking to read up on ace blogging for the first time – it’s almost always one of my first resource recommendations now. The linkspams and the carnival are definitely huge successes.

    As far as the future of ace communities online, I think one of the big recent trends has been a sort of dispersal of online ace community conversations, moving from the older model of a few central public hotspots (Like HHA, AVEN, livejournal, later tumblr tags and the handful of popular blogs that all linked to each other) to more dispersed, sometimes more private groups on a larger variety of social networks. (For example, there’s been a huge rise in the number of discord-like chat groups and private facebook groups over the last several years, both of which have conversation that are only visible to members – but there are so many that it’s impossible to actually join them all).

    Alternatives to “classic” blogs, like tumblr microblogging or the whatever style medium is have also changed the landscape – while the last “generation” of big bloggers has become less active (I know my writing too has decreased massively since I started working full-time), there are new generations of active writers popping up – they just aren’t using “oldschool” platforms like wordpress or blogspot; they’re using platforms like tumblr instead (as much as I might grump about that).

    In other trends, I think there’s also been a large move of conversations from online to offline as the offline presence of ace communities continues to increase. For example, there’s a lot of more sensitive or complicated discussions that I’ve found I actually prefer to have offline or in private groups when that’s an option – conversations that used to be hashed out on wordpress or tumblr simply because offline or even semiprivate discussion wasn’t even an option yet. There’s also been a huge uptick in private or semiprivate facebook or other groups for lots of local offline communities over the last several years, and I’m in a couple that frequently have great conversations – just not ones that are always available to the whole public. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I think this kind of fragmentation, specialization, and privatization are important options that older public places like tumblr and blogs weren’t able to provide, and it’s how most mature movements end up – but it definitely makes for a change from the early days of the ace community when it really was just one community.

    Overall, I think trend of increasingly fragmented and sometimes private discussion options makes resources like the asexual agenda even more important. Because as vital as having safer private spaces is, and as important as having specialized spaces for specific groups is, these resources are useless if you can’t find them – which has become harder as the amount of overall ace activity has become too much for a single person to wade through without help.

    • Siggy says:

      It’s hard to track exactly how much blogging activity there is, but our page views peaked at the end of 2015, and I think linkspam activity peaked around that time too. So when I say blogs seem to have become less active, I’m thinking of just the past year and a half.

  7. luvtheheaven says:

    This blog means so much to me. I don’t feel like I necessarily discovered it till 2014, after I was sure I was asexual and thinking of starting my own blog. I imagined my blog would be about a lot of subjects and only a little bit about asexuality, but the ace blogosphere inspired me in ways I hadn’t anticipated, and having a Carnival of Aces every single month and a way for me to find other ace bloggers through this site and read tons of other posts helped a lot with stimulating me to write a ton of asexuality related blog posts. I track it super regularly, have back tracked & read posts from before I knew I was asexual, I’ve clicked the vast majority of links in so many of the linkspams, etc.

    One thing I’ve noticed is… I was kind of “behind” in my journey from where many of the bloggers here were, so while reading about their experiences coming out, going through relationships, or otherwise living in the world as asexual seemed interesting it even somewhat relevent back when I first read them, the fact that the posts are still up and I can, whenever I wish, revisit them is huge to me too because as I go through my life, entering the workforce, entering a queerplatonic relationship, breaking up with that partner, coming out to more people and becoming more social… many of these posts here are easy to find again because I can just Google the thing I vaguely remember about its subject plus “asexual agenda” and I don’t even have to remember who the individual author was! And the old blog posts can resonate with me in fresh and interesting ways!

    I do feel personally that I’ve been wiring a bit less about asexuality, that I’m more comfortable in my identity now, have less to say that hasn’t already been said, etc – and plus, I am focusing more of my energy on other things, including in-person ace related things! I think moving some of my efforts offline has been the next step of my journey and I’m looking forward to Creating Change being in my city this coming year and I’m trying to see if there’s anything I can do to make it extra welcoming for aces, even more like we belong as part of the whole LGBTQ spectrum there. As an example of something immediately on my mind.

    I’m really excited by ace fiction conversations too, though, and it’s got me happy and excited again in many ways, although sometimes it can also feel frustrating. But especially the tropes series is right up my alley. I think Sara K. in particular publishing individual reviews of so many books containing ace characters is what will finally push me to read some books with ace characters! I see myself getting back into writing fanfiction and maybe eventually original fiction, some (perhaps a high percentage!) of which should contain asexuality and/or aromanticism in done capacity as the next phase I go through, going forward, and that too makes me feel excited.

  8. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    I’m definitely a seconf wave blogger, too – starting mid-2011 and slowly abandoning ace blogging for a somewhat wider scope as an ace feminist writer. That was the time my first novel was published, so I’m spending more time promoting and networking. Also, 2014 onward, the offline activities of AktivistA got off the ground, so meta-thoughts get derailed by yet more emails in the inbox and yet more networking. (Which is all in German.)
    However, TAA is a blog that I’ve been following nearly since its inception, and I’m very grateful still. You always manage to me point out things and intersections that I haven’t thought about.

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