June 2021 will be a historic month for asexuality in the mainstream media. I know this, because I have statistics!
As regulars know, I use Google Alerts to track asexuality. Google Alerts is a service that e-mails me whenever there are new search results for a given search query–mostly mainstream news articles. A small fraction of these end up in our weekly linkspam. I have also amused myself by collecting the really absurd articles. Anyway, I have all these e-mails going back to 2017, and I’ve got statistics on the number of alerts per month.
In both 2019 and 2020, there was a threefold increase in the number of alerts during the month of June. Extrapolating to 2021, I estimate that I will receive about 175 alerts this month! There was a decline of activity in 2020, but now that the pandemic is over, we will see the media interest in asexuality come back in full force.
To commemorate this occasion, I’m embarking on a project to journal my way through the alerts this month. Each week, I will look through the alerts, record my reactions, and gather statistics. This mini series will appear under the tag “asexuality alert journal“.
This alert journal is an idea that I’m developing as I go along, but here’s my initial expectation. Many articles will be unworthy of comment. For example, many of them have the word “asexual” as part of a list of sexual identities, but are otherwise unrelated. Other articles are about asexuality, but are very generic. Some alerts send me to random Reddit threads. There will be some good articles… and some antagonistic ones. And there will be a bunch of stuff about corporations putting flags on their products. As you know, I’m a perpetual complainer, so we’ll have some fun.
To give a taste, here are my reactions to day 1.
I received 9 alerts on the first day. Four of these articles just mention asexuality in lists or glossaries, but are not otherwise related. One article includes Angela Chen’s Ace in a list of book recommendations. Two articles are from Reddit. Two of them are news channels.
The most notable event is this CBS News segment on asexuality. I got two alerts for this story–oddly neither of the alerts was from CBS News itself, but from local news channels reusing the segment. The segment interviews Nathan, a nonbinary aro ace, and Sara Rosen, a queer-affirming sex therapist. They refer to a statistic from the Trevor Project which says 14% of LGBTQ youth are ace spectrum–the segment turns this into 14% are asexual.
The segment is decent, although it doesn’t cover much ground. One issue is that Nathan seemingly defines asexuals as aromantic as well–which might just be how they cut the interview. And as a world expert on ace surveys, I’m eyeing that 14% figure, because how do you even recruit a fair sample? I’m getting flashbacks to Rothblum et al. 2020, which reported 1.7%… based on phone interviews of people who identified as LGB. The Trevor Project used targeted social media ads to recruit, which isn’t perfect, but *shrug*, probably about as good as you can get.
One of the Reddit alerts goes to someone asking how they can find dates as an unattractive person. A couple people suggested that they could look for asexual people. This is some incel shit, isn’t it? Not all the Reddit posts are this bad. Just… half of them. The other half are from r/asexuality or thereabouts, and you won’t see many of these because I exercise responsible linking practices.
Among the articles that aren’t specifically about asexuality, I’m seeing a pattern where asexuality is often referenced in relation to its flag. One article observes that if you Google “Pride”, Google will shower you with pride flag confetti–including the asexual, demisexual, and aromantic flags. Another article explains what a bunch of flags mean. I like the flags, but I’m afraid they lead to some shallow explanations and shallow rainbow capitalism.
And that’s only day 1! I’m sure I won’t go in as much depth when I’m journaling a whole week at a time. If you have any feedback, let me know so I can adjust my process as I go.
For the purpose of this project, I also subscribed to google alerts for “aromantic”. I haven’t tried this before, so I don’t know what to expect. So far I got one alert, which was identical to one of the asexuality alerts.
To see the rest of this mini-series, follow the “asexuality alert journal” tag.
Appendix: Technical notes
I’ve been getting Google alerts for about 8 years, but I didn’t used to get them by e-mail, so my statistics don’t go back that far.
Here are the queries I use for Google alerts:
asexual OR asexuality -reproduction -craigslist
“aromantic” -chemical -chemicals -aromatic
As you can see, I exclude certain search results to cut down on background noise. Alerts for “asexuality” would give me a lot of results from biologists studying worms or somesuch. And there was a point in time when I had to filter out Craigslist personal ads, back when Craigslist still had personal ads. On my first attempt at alerts for aromanticism, I learned that the aromantic/aromatic confusion is real, so we’ll see if I can filter those out.