Journal Club: Polish asexualities

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This month, the ace journal club discussed

“Polish Asexualities: Catholic Religiosity and Asexual Online Activisms in Poland”, by Anna Kurowicka and Ela Przybylo (2019). (Requires journal access)

The journal club meets once a month on Discord, using text or voice as club members prefer. We discuss a variety of academic works in ace studies, ranging from gender studies to psychology. Don’t worry about journal access, we can provide access. If you’re interested, please e-mail me at for an invite.

Our discussion notes are below the fold.

This paper examined the political diversity on a Polish language asexuality forum, looking especially at their relationships to LGBTI allyship, and their relationships to the systems that uphold nationalism.

Comparison to English communities
– The paper spent a lot of time describing objectionable viewpoints expressed on the forums. Although these are from the Polish forum, several of us recognized them as viewpoints that used to be common in English-language AVEN around 10 years ago.
– English AVEN mostly isn’t like that any more, perhaps due to influence from moderators or from other communities like Tumblr.
– We were wondering how the paper might be viewed by someone from the English community who hasn’t been around as long. Would they think the Polish asexual community was particularly bad?
– One difference is that the English community is predominantly non-religious, where it seems the Polish community would be predominantly Catholic. Non-religious people might be especially keen to distance themselves from celibacy, since it’s so strongly associated with Catholicism. However, it seemed that the Polish community was also keen to distance itself from celibacy, and used similar arguments.

Relationship to LGBTI
– The authors expressed surprise that some aces would express such homophobic attitudes. This was not surprising to us.
– In the English community, it used to be the same way. Siggy once wrote about that.
– The authors cite Cathy Cohen’s 1997 book, Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens, which is a good starting point for challenging the cishet vs. lgbt binary in the discussion of sexual oppression.

– The authors quote commenters who describe asexuals as more “pure”. They describe this as asex-nationalism, analogous to the concept of homonationalism.
– This is an argument that we’re familiar with. It used to be more common in English communities, and still appears occasionally. Also see: people arguing that asexuality is the “next step” of evolution.
– The authors argue for a connection to white nationalism. Although that’s not how we usually understand these arguments, we’re receptive to the idea. Owen 2014 is particularly useful for understanding the connection.
– On the other hand, the evidence within the paper feels tenuous. For example, it seems to rely heavily on one quote of a commenter who says “master race” followed by a smiley face.
– There was also discussion of how the Catholic church invokes asexuality as an ideal, but there isn’t any documentation or evidence of this claim. Instead, there’s an example showing the Catholic value placed on wives and mothers, which is kind of the opposite of asexuality-as-ideal.

The Polish forum
– People who study online ace communities often seem to use AVEN, despite it being just one community among many. This was an unusual case, since it draws on the Polish AVEN forum. We’re not sure if there are any significant Polish language alternatives available for study.
– They made a choice to quote things from the forum without attribution. This seemed fine, but we were also curious about the context of the arguments, and who tended to argue on which sides.
– We also don’t have a sense for how much pushback there may have been against the objectionable views.

Neat highlights
– The paper cited a survey of LGBT people in Poland, which included asexuality as a main category. We found an English version of the report.
– “…asexual online engagement is activist in four specific ways: It hones asexual self-articulation, increases visibility, builds community, and challenges social commitments to compulsory sexuality.” This thought wasn’t developed much, but seemed insightful.
– The paper describes two types of goals that may be prioritized by a social movement: political change, and cultural change. “A movement may be unsuccessful in directly changing a political or legal situation, but at the same time may manage to shift the public understanding of the minority in question and thus introduce significant cultural change.”

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.
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2 Responses to Journal Club: Polish asexualities

  1. Carmilla DeWinter says:

    Thanks! The last point feels pretty significant. I often get asked about what politics in Germany can do for the ace community. And the main thing is actually enforcing decent sex education and decent minority rep in teaching materials. In everything else, we have a huge overlap with the goals of other sexual minorities.
    But the underlying problems aren’t political, they’re cultural – all the many small things people believe about sex, love, relationships etc. There’s no law that can change those directly. So, while working the cultural angle sometimes seems like too much work, it’s actually incredibly important.

  2. Pingback: Gray-Asexuality in Asexuality Studies | The Ace Theist

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