So here’s the facts:
52% of AVENites polled said that we should change the definition of asexuality to ‘does not experience sexual attraction and/or has no desire for partnered sex’.
In another poll, 47% of AVENites said the definition should be ’does not experience sexual attraction and/or has no desire for partnered sex’, while 49% preferred the old definition.
In a third poll, there was a 50/50 split between those who don’t mind and those who disagree with changing the definition to ‘the lack of an inherent inclination to engage in sexual relations’.
The third thread is particularly interesting- ‘rewording the definition of asexuality to increase clarity.’ It’s a wonderful euphemism- minor policy change, got to consider the PR angle…
It doesn’t say ‘Change to the operational definition of asexuality which will invalidate the identities of thousands of asexuals.’ It doesn’t say ‘Change to the operational definition of asexuality which will encourage slut-shaming and anti-sexual elitism in our communities, and representations of our communities.’ It doesn’t say ‘Change to the operational definition of asexuality which will drive a wedge between the ideological basis of asexuality and those of other queer identities, which will cut asexuality adrift from every other discussion of and campaign for the rights of sexual identity for the last century.’ No. ‘To increase clarity.’
I don’t have much to say about this. The first thing I want to say is, as an allosexual person, I call bullshit. Sexual attraction is totally, 100%, definitely, A Thing. (Personally, I’d go so far as to say that it’s actually Several Different Things). I can’t describe it(/them). Someone on one of the AVEN threads said that an asexual describing sexual attraction was like someone who had never eaten chocolate describing the taste of chocolate. It’s a good analogy, because an allosexual person describing sexual attraction is like someone who has eaten chocolate describing the taste of chocolate. It still can’t really be done, unless the listener has tasted something relatively close, and even then, never perfectly.
So I’ll just say this. I’ve experienced inherent desire* to have sex with people without being sexually attracted to them. Not often, and it doesn’t tend to be especially person-specific (because that would make it sexual attraction), but still. Also, I’ve been sexually attracted to people without having any inherent desire to have sex with them. Often. And definitely.
*I’m defining ‘inherent desire’ as desire free from pressure, experimentation, desire for partner’s happiness, etc. I’m not sure that’s a line that can actually be drawn, but that’s a post for another day.
Secondly, I’d like to use this timely interval to remind people that no other sexuality has an Official Website. The way I see it, the AVEN Project Team, the AVEN FAQ, the AVEN Media Team and the AVEN Meet-up Mart still do fantastic and necessary work. But why do they have to be connected to the forum? A forum which gains an official status simply by its connection to them, and a forum which is now apparently getting to the tipping point where the majority of its members believe that asexuality should have a partially/entirely behavioural definition. If AVEN forums keep on this course, I see only four ways of developing the online communities from here:
1. The AVEN project team, etc, breaks off from the forum.
2. The people behind the AVEN project team get involved in other things, and leave the forum to organise its own resources, with whatever definition it chooses. AVEN ceases to be the one official site.
3. There is a contradiction between the very definition of asexuality as agreed by the AVEN members and as publicised by AVEN’s media wing.
4. AVEN’s project team and media wing change to the behavioural definition.
I dislike the behavioural definition. I think it doesn’t fit real experiences, it causes anti-sexual elitism and it alienates us from other sexuality movements- unsustainably. The common analysis is that rejection of the behavioural definition in favour of the orientation definition is the only reason AVEN survived while other early ace communities failed, and I think it’s as important, if not more important, now than in the early days of the movement. Of course, the AVENites have a right to their views on what defines asexuality. If they want to have a website based on their definition, I wouldn’t wish to stop them. But I think we have to consider whether we can still link to them as the main hub of asexuality, when their definition is so misguided, both in terms of truth and PR. I have always been in favour of more extra-AVEN resources, and this news just strengthens my views. The future belongs to the orientation model. And the future does not, I fear, belong to AVEN.