The Ace Discourse, viewed from afar

One of the reasons I think The Asexual Agenda has declined in relevance, is that we never really addressed The Discourse.

By “The Discourse” I refer to the ongoing flame war that has consumed ace communities on Tumblr. To learn more about The Discourse and its history, I recommend this article on aro-soulmate-project and the links therein, all of which I found via jotdancing. The short version: The Discourse is about a group of people who are basically like TERFs, but antagonistic to ace and aro people. Precursors to The Discourse date back to 2010, but many people trace the current iteration to 2015, when it was likely sparked by The Trevor Project deciding to include ace people.

The Discourse is obviously important, from several perspectives. First, it’s important to the people who have actively been involved in the flame war, people who witness it on a regular basis, and even people who hear about it incidentally or second-hand. It’s important to all the ace communities that have been shaped by The Discourse. And finally, The Discourse is a forecast of the future. Ace activists of my generation have long speculated that after fighting ace invisibility, we might end up fighting ace antagonism. Such speculation seems much more concrete nowadays.

Some people have referred to The Asexual Agenda as a refuge from The Discourse. But if we’re a refuge, it’s only by accident. Why haven’t we talked about The Discourse?


The failed research project

I have suggested The Discourse as a topic many times in the backchannel. But nobody wants to talk about it. The first reason is that many of our writers are totally burnt out on The Discourse (some having written about it in other contexts, but others burnt out from just hearing about it). The second reason is that many of us don’t see much of The Discourse, and don’t feel qualified to talk about it. In other words, we haven’t seen enough to talk about it, and yet we’ve seen enough that we’re already sick of it.

I observe that blogging tends to be a thinky medium, and The Asexual Agenda is an especially thinky blog, but The Discourse is not much of a thinky topic. Ace/aro-antagonistic people are wrong, obviously wrong, in ways that are not always interesting to deconstruct. Their shifting set of arguments and ideas seem more deserving of the attention of a mockery-based blog like We Hunted the Mammoth.

I also observe that The Asexual Agenda tends to attract writers who are much older than the ace Tumblr median.  So yeah, we’re too old for this shit.

But The Discourse is still important, so the task of writing about it fell to me, the person who never seems to get burnt out (or at least, is bad at detecting it).  In 2016, I publicly promised that I would blog about it.  And I tried, I really did.

My first strategy was to do a bunch of research, so I could explain what it was, and why it was wrong. Then I felt that I should play to the strengths of this blog by focusing less on arguments, and more on the historical background. Then I had a few interactions that reminded me of how many people hardly even understand what The Discourse is, so I was thinking I would explain the background on a basic level.

But my research was a disaster, and huge time sink. There was a flood of contemporary commentary, usually overly-focused on countering some particular argument, assumed that the reader was already aware of precisely what they were responding to, and just lacked any larger perspective. It felt impossible to make sense of the thing with only a simple research project. The only way was to live through it, and then later reflect back on the experience. Which is how we’re getting histories of The Discourse now.

So I abandoned my research. Later I had this idea of interviewing someone, instead of doing research. But the last person I asked didn’t respond, and I never got around to asking more. I think what really helped, was finding the links at the top of the post, which released me from the obligation of having to write my own background.  Now I feel like I should just say something, even if it’s only a personal narrative of my research.

Feels bad to be three years late.

Distant rumors

The central problem is that The Discourse, while all-consuming on certain parts of the internet, is just a distant rumor to me. I just don’t follow any of the relevant tumblr blogs–not because I’m particularly tired of seeing The Discourse, but because (what’s the nice way to put it?) I just don’t like the content of the blogs that tend to discuss it. This is a matter of personal taste, but I don’t like to read blogs that post ten things a day, especially not memes or affirmations, or reblog chains. I want content that’s more reflective, long-lived, and curated to be reader-friendly.

But I still see rumors of The Discourse on a frequent basis. I recall one time a friend encountered an ace exclusionist comment, and he felt it was so absurd, so contrary to his entire life, that he went on a huge rant about it on Twitter. And I said to him that it wasn’t just one comment, it was this big flame war on Tumblr (and yes it really is that ridiculous). He didn’t know! I often skim news articles to see if they’re notable enough for our linkspam, and this is a common theme. Some people refer to The Discourse as if it’s the only issue anyone talks about; other people seem to have encountered only a comment or two, and found it so infuriating that it warranted a little rant in a news article.

From the snippets of commentary I hear from Tumblr, it seems that people think The Discourse is so dominating that it is suffocating ace communities. But it’s not every ace community. In fact, some of us feel quite isolated from The Discourse, and confused about what’s going on. But we still hear about it, and it still impacts us, and we still understand that it’s important.

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 Articles, asexual politics, Community and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to The Ace Discourse, viewed from afar

  1. kaikiky says:

    Yeah, I only hear about The Discourse second-hand, or I find an ace-antagonistic post after it’s already been responded to by several people saying how the opinion is wrong. The Discourse is not in my direct sphere so it’s easy for me to forget that it’s actually a thing that’s still going on.

  2. Alex Black says:

    I kind of like the idea of a mockery-based blog targeting The Discourse. But only as long as it’s done by someone else who isn’t me. I deal with enough invalidation on a daily basis without diving neck-deep in the gods-cursed Discourse.

  3. “So yeah, we’re too old for this shit.”

    Yep. This post sums up exactly how I feel about the whole thing.

  4. Coyote says:

    >”By “The Discourse” I refer to the ongoing flame war that has consumed ace communities on Tumblr. To learn more about The Discourse and its history, I recommend this article on aro-soulmate-project”

    I’m a broken record but it kills me that 1) people are still calling it that,* and 2) people think it’s new (that ASP link dates it back all the way back to… 2014. And doesn’t even talk about why it’s called that).

    *Obligatory “yeah, I’m fighting a losing battle, I know, just let me take a second to whine about it.”

    Anyway, from my point of view, the AA has always been engaging in ace discourse from the very beginning, actually, because ace discourse just means discourse (talk, communication) about aces. I don’t know that it’s technically accurate to separate out the Tumblr flamewarring as a separate set of Issues from the existing “can aces be queer?” “what’s the relationship of asexuality to other identities?” “what’s good or bad about the ace community?” etc. types of questions that have already been posted about here, even if the Tumblr flamewarring *is* unique as an ongoing Event with its own distinct impact and consequences (including burnout). So I don’t think there’s serious questions left unaddressed, just maybe a particular mode of discussion not being engaged with. In other words… what *would* it mean for the Asexual Agenda to address the flames? …I think you’d have to respond to strings of specific Tumblr post accusations in order for it to count, and the way that those things have been playing out, I just can’t see that being worthwhile on a WordPress blog.

    >”There was a flood of contemporary commentary, usually overly-focused on countering some particular argument, assumed that the reader was already aware of precisely what they were responding to, and just lacked any larger perspective.”

    Sounds about right, lol. Tumblr is horrible to try and do this kind of research on. And I don’t mean that it’s a bad website or that it’s bad at everything. I mean it’s specifically bad to try and track large-scale discussions on. It’s hard enough to just see what everyone has said on a single post, due to not having a comment section separated out from the other notes — and nothing is centralized. There’s no One single hub where everyone gathers to discuss a topic, or even two or three hubs. There’s just endless personal blogs and sideblogs and themed blogs circulating copies, and no way to make sure you’re getting basically the full picture or even a good enough roughly-representative sample. Not even a tag search will show you most of the conversation. You just have to be following the right people to see it — and there’s way, way too many people to follow them all. It’s completely scattered and unwieldy compared to something like a forum, where, if there’s drama or a fight, you can link to a few specific threads and more or less see it all.

    I know this isn’t real news or anything, of course. This comment is more general reflections for anyone passing by than it is for Siggy personally. I just think it’s… relevant, how the manner of the problem is intertwined with a specific platform that makes it difficult to track and research effectively. And that wouldn’t necessarily be a big problem except that… I care about this as someone who 1) is going to grad school in an attempt to become a professional researcher in communication, and 2) would like to research the asexual community, maybe. So it’s actually professionally detrimental to me that a big chunk of the asexual community have so much involvement with a platform that’s fundamentally at odds with research. >>

    >”I just don’t like the content of the blogs that tend to discuss it. This is a matter of personal taste, but I don’t like to read blogs that post ten things a day, especially not memes or affirmations, or reblog chains. I want content that’s more reflective, long-lived, and curated to be reader-friendly.”

    Hmm…. you contextualize this as a matter of personal taste, and that’s fair, but I wonder if there’s more that could be said about this. It seems like the flamewarring attracts (or produces?) a particular kind of tumblr blogger. As a venture into speculation for a moment here… I think infrequent, reflective, longform posting simply wouldn’t fit the demands of the participation cycle — it might be viewed as not “keeping up” with the immediacy of each new permutation of accusations, it might not be rewarded with as much attention in the form of “notes” because many tumblr users prefer to read and engage with shorter posts amid a stream of many on their dash, it might be missed entirely because it’s customary for tumblr users to follow many people and therefore not keep up with everything posted to their dash/potentially miss things that aren’t reblogged repeatedly to up the chances, it might (in style and wording) be viewed as taking an insufficiently strong stance or come off as too calm and dispassionate to feel attention-grabbing and urgent like the more customary yelling/bold/caps/hyperbole/hot-tempered mudslinging, etc. A “successful” participant in this flamewar must be constantly churning out strong reactions, affirmations of morale on their own “side,” attacks on the opposing “side,” and so on… hence the need for reblogging a lot of “you are valid!” posts to boost morale, and so on, plus participating in the reblog-addition-chain structure that tumblr users are accustomed to as par for the course in terms of how to engage in fights. If someone does more… long, chunky, written-over-the-course-of-two-weeks style blogging instead of memes and rapid reblog chains… then they’re *not* really participating in that form of circulation as such that characterizes the most recent wave of Tumblr anti-ace flamewarring. I’m not sure you could even get much if any attention that way. And attention is what this stuff’s all about, negative or no (or rather, especially the negative).

    >”From the snippets of commentary I hear from Tumblr, it seems that people think The Discourse is so dominating that it is suffocating ace communities. But it’s not every ace community. In fact, some of us feel quite isolated from The Discourse, and confused about what’s going on.”

    Man, you can say that again.

    I recently even got indirectly called “inclusionist” on pillowfort, ostensibly just because I’m an ace who talks about aces without lamenting how awful we all are or whatever. The comment was intended to address what we had in common, so it’s not like it was an attack or anything, and was well-meaning, but internally I was like… please don’t assume I share an investment in the idea of “the LGBT community” as something with a true essential platonist form, or whatever you’re implying. There are actually multiple ways to not be anti-ace, including ways that don’t organize themselves along the same Inclusionist vs Exclusionist lines that have become so solidified on Tumblr with the current harassment campaign.

    • >”It seems like the flamewarring attracts (or produces?) a particular kind of tumblr blogger. As a venture into speculation for a moment here… I think infrequent, reflective, longform posting simply wouldn’t fit the demands of the participation cycle ”
      As somebody who was in the middle of the flamewars for a good two years or so, this is exactly what happened. That’s one of the big problems with SJ culture on Tumblr as a whole, not just in this one instance.
      (And it’s also the one thing that I’d give Tumblr over Twitter. You don’t see the most thought out blogging on Tumblr but it does still exist, it’s just rare. Twitter’s character limit produces even more over-simplifications then Tumblr does).

    • Siggy says:

      I’m a broken record but it kills me that 1) people are still calling it that,*

      Incidentally, what to call “the discourse” and the “ace exclusionists” was another barrier to writing this stuff, so I’m just calling it whatever and not worrying about it too much. It looks like I went and used “The Discourse”, but I seem to prefer “antagonistic” over “exclusionist”. I’d also be satisfied with “the ace flamewar”, a more descriptive term.

      I don’t know that it’s technically accurate to separate out the Tumblr flamewarring as a separate set of Issues from the existing “can aces be queer?” “what’s the relationship of asexuality to other identities?” “what’s good or bad about the ace community?” etc. types of questions that have already been posted about here

      But when was the last time we discussed the question of “can aces be queer?” We used to have that discussion, and I would certainly count that as “addressing the tumblr flamewars”, at least obliquely. But it’s been years. So to answer your question,

      what *would* it mean for the Asexual Agenda to address the flames?

      It doesn’t necessarily require responding to a specific string of tumblr posts. We can address topics obliquely, address common tropes, and go on tangents. I think we did that stuff early on. But in the past several years, we mostly haven’t.

      Note, I was *always* distant from the tumblr flame wars, even the 2010-2014 ones. To my recollection, one of my major mistakes was when I tried to address the “are aces queer?” question by applying 2009-era AVEN politics, only to find that it was hopelessly dated by 2014. I think this illustrates the problem. Yes, we could be discussing a flamewar-related question without necessarily framing it as a “Discourse topic”. But we don’t seem to do that much, because it’s hard to make relevant commentary on a thing without being familiar with the current (little-d) discourse surrounding it.

      It seems like the flamewarring attracts (or produces?) a particular kind of tumblr blogger. As a venture into speculation for a moment here… I think infrequent, reflective, longform posting simply wouldn’t fit the demands of the participation cycle — it might be viewed as not “keeping up” with the immediacy of each new permutation of accusations

      Yes I was trying to minimize speculation in the OP, but it seems to me that the inaccessibility of the flame war is no coincidence, and that flame wars most lend themselves to the very same kind of medium that is inaccessible to the rest of us.

      • Coyote says:

        Oh nice blockquotes. I’m gonna try that.

        Incidentally, what to call “the discourse” and the “ace exclusionists” was another barrier to writing this stuff

        That’s fair! They’ve kind of forced your hand because by now you almost can’t *not* call it that and make sure people know what you’re talking about. That’s the name its participants gave it, after all. Ergo that name for it is warranted as a part of the discussion.

        But when was the last time we discussed the question of “can aces be queer?” We used to have that discussion, and I would certainly count that as “addressing the tumblr flamewars”, at least obliquely. But it’s been years. […] It doesn’t necessarily require responding to a specific string of tumblr posts. We can address topics obliquely, address common tropes, and go on tangents. I think we did that stuff early on. But in the past several years, we mostly haven’t.

        hm. I guess that’s true. I was just figuring — well, you’ve said your piece on the subject, right? Unless your views have substantially changed, there’s not much use in going back to it and repeating yourself, is there? …Not to say that it’d be wrong if you did, I guess, more just to say, I understand getting tired of it or feeling like there’s nothing new to say.

        Yes I was trying to minimize speculation in the OP, but it seems to me that the inaccessibility of the flame war is no coincidence, and that flame wars most lend themselves to the very same kind of medium that is inaccessible to the rest of us.

        Continuing in this vein — this is part of why I’m interested to see what happens as Pillowfort* grows, because I want to see if the difference in structure (& TOS) makes any difference in how these same conflicts play out. The site’s got (proportionally) a lot of current and ex-tumblr users so far — not 100%, but enough that’s definitely noticeable and talked about — so in some ways, the userbase variable is more or less the same; in posts about asexuality there I’ve also seen some pretty direct participation in and acknowledgement of the same gatekeeping-issue topics, people with public blacklists where the list includes things like “ace discourse,” etc. And yet, despite the fact that communities (as in, the site term, the community function) so far don’t have much in the way of moderation tools… the (multiple) ace communities on PF have, to my knowledge, *not* been attacked, spammed, or flooded with harassment in the way the asexual tags on Tumblr have. In some ways, of course, it feels like it’s just a matter of time. Could be it’s just because of the small userbase so far (this is frequent speculation on there, that the site only feels the way it does because the userbase is small and things’ll quickly get uglier if it gets big). But like I said, I’m curious to see how it plays out, either way.

        *Still no RSS feeds. 😦 I’m sorry.

        • Siggy says:

          I was just figuring — well, you’ve said your piece on the subject, right? Unless your views have substantially changed, there’s not much use in going back to it and repeating yourself, is there?

          I think repetition is good, because views change, and audiences too. But also, I could talk about new things. You know me, always a spring of new topics.
          -Nobody on either side seems to be familiar with the queer spaces they’re supposedly fighting over. So what is the fight really about?
          -There’s some interesting gender stuff, which I talked about on my other blog. Why didn’t I put that on TAA? Maybe I thought it was too speculative.
          -Tumblr is inaccessible and it’s surprising how unaware they seem to be of this fact.
          -I had a comparison between aces and immigrants, although it might be problematic. It’s this: immigrants don’t take jobs, they create jobs. Aces don’t take up space, they create space.
          -People have weird beliefs about reclaimed words and we should talk about it.
          -When being ace isn’t the deciding factor about being queer.

          Some or all of these topics may be unworkable for one reason or another. There’s also a strong possibility that if I were more familiar with the flamewars, it would inspire even more topics that I haven’t presently thought of.

          Thinking about topics is reminding me that I have in fact snuck in several points about the flame wars in recent years, without addressing it directly. (Namely, by talking about history in the 70s, and the way LGBTQA has been redefined.)

          • I would be interested to read about Tumblr’s inaccessibility, and even more about the whole fighting over theoretical* queer spaces and a platonic ideal of queer community that really, really doesn’t exist.

            Somewhat related, but not really: Last year there was a big feminist wave on universites –and high schools– here in Chile, and that brought the whole idea of separatism to the public discourse (because university feminist organizing is at a 70s-80s level of development still). Because of that, a group od psychology students decided to make a little reasearch project for class about separatist ace online groups in Latin America. What they discovered through the few interviews they did was that… separatist ace online groups are not a thing that exist. Latin American ace groups in Facebook and WhatApp are closed, but the vast majority of them don’t exclude people based on their (a)sexual identity (aka they’re not ace-only spaces).

            So that was my tangent about theoretical ace/queer spaces that people talk about but that don’t exist in real life.

          • Siggy says:

            @chrysocollatown,
            Yeah, that’s one of the topics that feels unworkable. Because what are people saying? I have a general impression that people are laughably unfamiliar with how queer spaces actually function and how they police their boundaries, but where does that general impression come from? Is that impression still applicable today? And who is to say that my experience with queer spaces isn’t just out of date?

            Upthread I mentioned an old conversation that TAA had about whether aces are queer. I’m referring to this string of posts. My takeaway from that is that Laura was correct, and my understanding was pretty out of date even in 2014.

  5. aceadmiral says:

    The other day I was talking to a classmate who was expressing frustration with the storm-in-a-teacup outrage that happened in her local liberal facebook group, and she was getting worked up about it because, like, saying milk is racist now or being mad at Duchess Whoever for being photographed in makeup and heels 6 hours after giving birth is not actually Solving the Big Problems. What about the people who don’t have any money to even buy milk?? What about the gender pay gap??[1]

    But what I said to her was, no, the problem with debating whether or not we’re allowed to drink milk now that the neo-nazis have “co-opted” it(??) is that you are chasing them around endlessly and exhausting yourself on an impossible and neverending task, whereas the way you actually advance your ideas is to control the conversation and frame things on your terms without getting baited and distracted.

    Her eyes lit up like I had just said something incredibly profound, so like… thanks tumblr trolls? I guess? But more importantly, what I value a lot about TAA is that the conversation here is not reactionary. From the moment of its genesis, it’s been a place that controls the conversation. That’s important to have, especially on an internet like this.

    So I guess I’m challenging the idea that TAA has “declined in relevance.” Has it declined in frequency of posting? Fair. But it’s an important venue, and between tumblr being scattered to the four winds (maybe) and indications being that the crusaders are starting to finally get Tired (and that several Olds have been wandering back in recently!), it’s serving exactly the function that people need right now. It doesn’t need to be plugged into The Discourse, and it shouldn’t be.[2]

    [1] #ERANow
    [2] As someone who follows I think every asexual organization that exists on twitter including quite a few in languages I don’t speak (alas), I would put TAA’s twitter in the top 3 most important ace twitter accounts also?

    • Siggy says:

      The critical component of “declining relevance” is I have trouble finding contributors! All the good things about The Asexual Agenda depend on having enough new readers that at least a few of them end up helping us. For example, in the backchannel I’m discussing dropping the QoTW, and reducing Twitter activity. I don’t think it is tenable to just cater to the same dwindling audience.

      Also, TAA has certainly covered community drama and flamewars in the past. Did you feel that we lost control of the conversation back then? Would it have been better back then, if we just served as a refuge for people who didn’t want to talk about that? I’m real skeptical.

      But in any case, there’s no risk of “The Discourse” dominating TAA any time soon. Because as I said in the OP, it’s only me.

      • aceadmiral says:

        In the same way that relevance and output are two different things, so too is having something to say about a controversial and timely topic vs. engaging in The Discourse.

      • Sciatrix says:

        Oh, I don’t know: I think that we controlled the conversation then just by merit of isolating those conversations in our own space, and not allowing/signal-boosting disrespectful commentary elsewhere. We would respond to the things that were being passed around, but we didn’t center exclusionist responses–didn’t allow them in comments or include them in linkspams. I think that’s an important feature.

        I think for me, part of the reason I stopped being able to come up with content was just that the Discourse was so exhausting and burned me out so much that I associated talking about asexuality with defending my right to exist, and that’s heavy stuff.

  6. Sara K. says:

    Yep, I’m one of those people who only knows of the ace flamewar second-hand, and while I would not say that I am ‘sick’ of hearing about it, I think I have much better ways to invest my time and energy than delving into that flamewar (or flamewars in general).

  7. Ace activists of my generation have long speculated that after fighting ace invisibility, we might end up fighting ace antagonism. Such speculation seems much more concrete nowadays.

    So much this, on so many levels and contexts! Around here, we recently went from people knowing nothing about asexuality to *ace person goes to a college house party and finds themself surrounded by psy students discussing how asexuality is fake and all aces are repressed homosexuals*, so i’m really feeling this.

    I too don’t follow the kind of blogs that tend to respond to “The Discourse”, so the little snippets here and there that i see have been mostly through my fandoms.

    Most recently, an ace fandom mutual who has recently decided to be vocal about the anti-ace antagonism they’ve found in said fandom, and who got attacked for it by anon haters. This is a fandom that, in my experience, has been pretty ace inclusive for has long as i’ve been on it, but since we both interact with it in different ways (aka i never go to tags and mostly hang out with bi, pan and ace writers and artists in their twenties and thirties) we also had different experiences Discourse wise.

    Also, remember when 2011 was called AceGate and The Great Ace-Hate? Ah, to think that could be as flame-y as it could get.

  8. Even being fairly active on Tumblr, in order to really follow “ace discourse” (or whatever we’re calling it these days) you have to be pretty good at picking up dogwhistles. There’s a whole package of community gatekeeping that tends to hang together under the benign façade of “protecting” community spaces. The post about gendered queer social groups linked above in the comments is pretty accurate to what’s going on, although the actual gender politics of the situation get messy with trans people being sorted every which way. (This is one reason why perhaps my favorite online discussion space at the moment is a nonbinary Discord server!)

  9. Sennkestra says:

    TBH, I don’t think not covering tumblr “discourse” is that much of a failing – as someone who still keeps tabs on it, much of that “discourse” is so site specific that it’s useless to anyone who doesn’t intend to spend time there, much in the same way that talking about AVEN’s backroom mod politics is useless to most people on tumblr these days and therefore not talked about at all. As such, a lot of analysis of those trends is often better situated on the site in question.

    Lower post frequency and difficulty finding contributors is definitely a thing, but i’m not sure how much of that is because of “discourse” as opposed to what feels like an overall decline in wordpress blog style long-form writing across internet in general (and possibly increased competition from single-contribution sites like the asexual as well as the fact that easier-to-learn platforms like tumblr and medium make it easier for individuals to run their own blogs without leaning on an asexual agenda style group blogging infrastructure.)

    • Siggy says:

      Yeah there are other reasons for declining activity on TAA. I wouldn’t claim that not covering the flamewar is the biggest reason.

      The difference between Tumblr flamewars, and AVEN mod flamewars, is that I don’t hear about AVEN drama in random news articles. I do hear about Tumblr drama in random news articles. It may well be site-specific in that only people on the site seem to understand what’s actually going on, but it’s not site-specific in the sense of actually staying on the site. Like, the reason TAA doesn’t talk much about Tumblr flamewars is not that we don’t hear about it, but because we’re exhausted and confused. The reason Tumblr doesn’t talk much about AVEN mod drama is that they’re not aware of it in the first place.

      I really do think this style of ace-antagonism is going to be a thing. It’s not going to disappear in a decade the way that mod drama from a decade ago did. It will grow the same way TERFs did.

  10. Blue Ice-Tea says:

    Huh? What do you mean The Asexual Agenda is a refuge from Ace discourse??? Isn’t your mission statement “Furthering upper-level discussions of asexuality”??? The Asexual Agenda, AVEN, me, other bloggers, other people in the asexual community: aren’t we all engaged in a discourse about asexuality??? Are you using “discourse” to mean one specific discussion that is happening within ace discourse? If so, what? You never define it!!!

    I’m so confused.

    • Siggy says:

      Are you joking? It’s defined in the second paragraph.

      • Blue Ice-Tea says:

        Well, it kind of is and it kind of isn’t. It says that the discourse is “the ongoing flame war that has consumed ace communities on Tumblr. … The Discourse is about a group of people who are basically like TERFs, but antagonistic to ace and aro people.” Which, is… not very explanatory at all. Like, there are a group of radical feminists who want to exclude aces from their community? And there’s a discussion about them? With the arguments being… what, exactly? It’s not at all clear.

        I guess I have to follow those links to find out what it’s actually all about. Fine, I’ll do my homework. But, seriously, calling whatever this is The Discourse is terribly confusing and uninformative. Dude, we’re all engaged in discourse. Discourse is awesome!!!

        • Oh yeah, we are aware that calling Tumblr calling its flamewars “Discourse” sucks because the actual concept of discourse is awesome. Alas, as Coyote mentioned above, Tumblr has been doing it since 2015 and it’s not likely to stop any time soon.

          Also, to be clear, the “Ace Discourse” is not the only “Discourse” going on in Tumblr. There’s the “Queer Discourse”, we’re people claim queer is a slur and should never be used as a personal or community label; the “LGBT Discourse”, where people claim only folks who identify as L, G, B or T can be part of the LGBT community (and it’s kind of a parent to the “Ace Discourse”); there’s the “Self Diagnosis Discourse”, about people claiming the self-diagnosis of mental or physical illnesses or disabilities is inherently harmful in all instances ever; the “Anti Discourse” in fandom spaces, about people claiming certain fictional (relation)ships and scenarios are inherently harmful and abusive and nobody should ever create any kind of content involving them or they’re condoning and promoting said harm and abuse…

          Tumblr is full of flamewars of all kinds, and all of them involve rampant harassment and abuse. And all of them are called Discourse.

          • Blue Ice-Tea says:

            Wow! Thanks for explaining that to me; I had no idea the word “Discourse” was being used so… selectively.

            I guess this is a “You keep using that word” kind of situation. We can point all we want to the dictionary and say, “It does not mean what you think it means”, but that isn’t going to change the way it gets used on Tumblr.

        • Siggy says:

          there are a group of radical feminists who want to exclude aces from their community?

          Not too far off! Although like TERFs, their feminist credentials may be dubious.

          I feel pretty convinced, after this post, that I should just refer to “The Discourse” as “The Flame War”, or alternatively “The Ace Flame War”. The issue is that there are many ace flame wars, and I’m referring to a specific one: that one *points at links*. Not really much I can do to define it, besides just pointing to the links.

      • Blue Ice-Tea says:

        Hey, Siggy. Sorry if my comment was kind of… complainy. I think I was tired yesterday, which made me cranky. I also get cranky when I’m confused, and I get confused when I hear a word that I think I know the meaning of used in a way I’m unfamiliar with. I mean, when I read “Ace Discourse” the first thing that jumps into my head is:

        Oh, like how we talk about romance without sexuality! Like how we have words for all different kinds of attraction, not just sexual! Like how we’ve created terms like “queerplatonic partner” as a way of validating close, non-sexual relationships! And like how that language we’ve created is slowly seeping into the mainstream consciousness! Hooray for Ace Discourse, reshaping the way we talk about love and relationships since 2001!

        So seeing the word used to mean a specific flame war strikes me as deeply weird. And kind of sad.

        Anyway, I read the Aro Soulmate Project’s post, and now I understand that it’s related to the inclusionist/exclusionist debate, which I’ve heard of, though I don’t know much about it. I realise now that I’ve also heard The Discourse mentioned elsewhere – I just didn’t understand what it meant!

        I guess the moral is that I’m like you: for me, The Discourse is a distant rumour, not something I really encounter in my blogging experience. I read Tumblr content sometimes, and some of it is very good, but I tend to spend more time in the WordPress bubble. And, based on your article, I’m probably better off that way.

    • Coyote says:

      Huh? What do you mean The Asexual Agenda is a refuge from Ace discourse???

      Good to know I’m not the only one who find it completely jarring and ill-redefined.

      • Carmilla DeWinter says:

        Lookit, this is the tumblr fail in a nutshell. (At least, to me.)
        1. Discourse is _everything_ that’s contributed to a topic (by a somewhat simplified definition).
        2. People on tumblr rarely seem aware that there is, in fact, an internet outside tumblr. We’ve regularly had people surprised there were ace appearances at big prides hereabouts. It wasn’t on tumblr (or it wasn’t reblogged much on tumblr), therefore there was no way to even think of the possibility and use a search engine.
        The non-thread-y nature of tumblr requires you to be online as much as possible if you want to follow a discussion. Also, tumblr’s format doesn’t lend to easy interaction with other sites. Thus, tumblr keeps its users in its own space, which means the business model works like a dream. Better than facebook, even. Tumblr is, by nature, exclusionist to non-users.
        Summary: If it isn’t on tumblr, it doesn’t exist to most tumblr users.
        3. Therefore, it is only logical that the flame wars on tumblr are being called “The Discourse” as an absolute.
        4. Which doesn’t make any sense to people who have more than one ace space.
        5. Cue eyeroll, reason depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

  11. a potato aroace says:

    Ohhhhh boy, the shitcourse. Yeah, it’s just TERFs influencing Tumblr again. Anti-TERF groups are very positive about aces, which isn’t very surprising if you knew anything about TERFS besides “terf bad”. Because Tumblr is a lot of teens and early 20s people with a lot of time on their hands, the shitcourse keeps on going until something else comes up (I think queer people are the new target). The shitcourse is always against people TERFs hate that isn’t too on the nose (“expendable” groups like enbies, aces, pans, bis, intersex, etc.) It’s hardly productive since most statements by exclusionists are horrible insults. I’m 17 (yes I am a young bab™) and chill out on Tumblr but I’ve gone on less and less because of mental health reasons, and now just chill in leftist subreddits on Reddit. Shitcourse research is exhausting and props to you for trying to do research. Maybe get in touch with a few bloggers on Tumblr and see if they can provide a good picture? Also, writing up on the shitcourse might introduce some people, good or bad, to the blog from Tumblr so maybe it’ll help with that?

  12. Pingback: Regarding The Discourse™ | This Too Shall Eventually Pass

  13. Pingback: Let’s use this Aro/Ace bridge | The Asexual Agenda

  14. Pingback: Ace exclusionists and gender | The Asexual Agenda

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