Journal Club: Bi/Pan Identity Pathways

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This month, the ace journal club discussed

“‘I Didn’t Know Ace Was a Thing’: Bisexuality and Pansexuality as Identity Pathways in Asexual Identity Formation” by Canton Winer et al. (2022) https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/agnd8/ (freely available) (Please note that this is a preprint, and has not yet been published.)

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 asexualagenda@gmail.com for an invite.

Our discussion notes are below the fold.

Summary
This paper explores ace people who also identify as bisexual or pansexual, or who have previously identified as bisexual or pansexual as they were figuring things out. It measures prevalance and makes quantitative comparisons using the 2018 Ace Community Survey, and explores motivations using qualitative data from Reddit and AVEN.

Results discussion
– Ace people with a history of identifying as bi or pan were more likely to be of multiple races, and less likely to be Asian. We thought that was very interesting. We wondered if the multiple race correlation might be mediated through age.
– Ace people with a history of identifying as bi or pan were more likely to be gray-asexual or demisexual. We were curious if this was specific to bi/pansexuality, or if it was also true of aces who identify as heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or with any other orientation.
– The quantitative analysis compares ace respondents who have at some point identified as bisexual or pansexual, to the set of all ace respondents. It seems like the more standard method would be to compare two disjoint groups.
– We liked how the paper acknowledged that participation in forums requires internet access, describing this as a “class ceiling”.
– “I must be bi” seems to be a common phrase among aces who assumed they were bi.

Identity pathways and transitional identities
– The paper made an interesting distinction between an “identity pathway”, which describes how aces identify as bi/pan because they’re unaware of asexuality, and a “transitional identity”, which describes how people may identify as bisexual as a “queer apologetic” to heterosexist expectations.
– However, in discussion, we challenged the idea of a transitional identity. It’s described as “an attempt to maintain heterosexual privilege”, but this seems unfair. The process could be entirely unconscious, or it could come from people who are facing serious discrimination.

The “Split Attraction Model”
Disclosure: Siggy, Coyote, and Sennkestra, authors of the posts linked below, are participants in the journal club.
– To establish the term “split-attraction model”, the paper cites a 2019 blogpost by Siggy.  Unfortunately the authors seem to have missed the message of that post, which is about how many different ways the phrase “the split attraction model” is an imprecise and insufficient term. It was recapping some prior discussion by Coyote about where the term came from and how the phrase contributes to conflation and identity policing.
– In this context, what might fit better instead is “differentiated orientation,” “multi-orientation labeling,” or “romantic orientation.”
– For example, we liked how the paper acknowledged that when people identify with multiple orientation labels, those aren’t necessarily necessarily sexual and romantic orientation. This paper sometimes describes this as “multiple identity labels” or “multi-label identity constructs”, which seems appropriate. But by discussing the “split attraction model”, it imports the bias that multiple orientations must each refer to a different kind of attraction.

Citations
– This paper cites the Evelyn Elgie thesis, which has been criticized for severely misrepresenting the ace community. For example, Elgie claims that the ace community has neglected to interrogate the concept of romance, despite mentioning wtfromantic aces within the same paper. Elgie’s claim is contradicted by the presence of at least two articles cited in this paper: Siggy’s 2019 blog post above, and to a post by ask-an-aro.
– The paper refers to a lack of academic sources commenting on the historical and ideological connection between asexuality and bisexuality. Yoshino 1999, already cited by this paper, is actually a great example.
– The paper cites the Sounds Fake But Okay podcast for claims of a shared asexual/bisexual history, but the podcast just refers to autismserenity on tumblr, and it would make more sense to cite that directly.

Nitpicking
– When discussing the Ace Community Survey, this paper uses “asexual respondents”, and we think this is intended to refer to asexual spectrum respondents. This was particularly confusing when it said asexual respondents with bi/pan histories were more likely to be “gray-asexual, demisexual, or elsewhere along the asexual spectrum.”
– The paper uses “post-structuralist” to describe younger generations’ approach to gender and sexual identity, and that seems like the wrong term.
– AVEN is lauded as a source of a lot of academic knowledge on asexuality, but we put forth that this is actually a bad thing, because it limits the perspectives represented.

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: Bi/Pan Identity Pathways

  1. On behalf of myself and my co-authors, thank you so much for all your helpful feedback on our article! Community engagement is a professional value for each of us, and we are committed to improving our scholarship in ways that align with and serve ace communities. We’re always impressed with the pace of community expertise, and we would advocate for any of you to serve as a reviewer for academic journals.

    Your comments highlighted several things that we have applied to the article and will continue to implement in our future research. The version of the article you read had already been accepted by the journal, but we were able to make some changes during the page proofs stage. Primarily, we changed the language around the “Split Attraction Model,” borrowing from and citing Sennkestra’s 2020 blog post about differentiated attraction. We also clarified throughout the article that our sample represented folks on the asexual spectrum, not necessarily those who label themselves as “asexual.” The finalized article is now available online: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/13634607221085485. It’s paywalled, but anyone who needs a copy can email Canton Winer or myself.

    Thanks again for taking the time to read our work and offer feedback!

  2. Pingback: Top Mistakes in the Academic Field of Asexuality Studies | The Ace Theist

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