For the asexually curious and the curiously asexual

Archive for July, 2012

Worldpride Conference

So I realise I’ve used this blog to be mostly negative for a very long time. It’s because it’s a lot easier to write about something you dislike and want changed than something that you thought was perfect. Here’s a nice post:

I had the honour today of attending the Worldpride Asexuality Conference, which I think is the first non-academic asexual conference ever. And wow.

The conference had a bizarre sort of coherence to it. There almost seemed to be a single, complex narrative running through the day- I came away feeling like I’d read an incredibly well-crafted novel that I wouldn’t quite appreciate the genius of until the third re-read. I don’t know whether this was because of Michael Dore’s nuanced organising or the presence from the two key speakers, Nat and DJ. The relationship between the two was palpable; Nat addressed their talk largely to DJ, as a reminisce, which added to the sense that an incredible story was finally, in this place, being told (there wasn’t much you couldn’t find in Hinderliter’s history, but the use of first-person prounouns gave Nat’s version an edge). The symbolism of the conference was inescapable- from Nat’s prodigal return to the community that they had started and then slipped away from because they didn’t feel like a good enough representation, to DJ’s request that the asexual community not be about just telling the stories of people like him any more, and Michael’s ability to select a very wide range of voices for his talkers and panelists without any hint of tokenism. The message, so slickly and holistically presented that it goes straight to the subconscious, is that the asexual community has grown up.

 I really can’t fault the conference (apart from pointlessly trivial things like lateness and the disproportionate fruitcake/edible things ratio). When I tried to think of constructive criticism, I only got two things. Firstly, that it felt a bit like the researchers they got to talk to us are basically saying what we’ve been saying for years, but to a different audience and with bigger words. But then I realised that I may have been unique in that viewpoint, especially since I was already familiar with Foucault and had heard Mark Carrigan very recently, and a lot of the people around me seemed to find that segment really stimulating. Secondly, I feel conflicted as to whether I’d like DJ’s talk earlier- the conference seemed like a closed book of people I didn’t know before DJ worked his magic, and then became a network of awesome people to draw on and feed off- unfortunately, too late for me to really get stuck in. Again, that’s probably more of a personal issue, since there was a whole evening of networking opportunity afterwards that I couldn’t attend.

The talk by DJ was seriously incredible. If anyone finds a link to it online, please share it with me. I’ll probably discuss one of the concepts in a later post, the one which made every allosexual person in the room think ‘Get out of my head!’  After his talk, he got us all into groups of two or three to discuss activism. I thought it’d be pretty unproductive. I ended up in a three with Ily (who I embarassed myself in front of horribly by prattling on about her socks) and a guy who said ‘I’m good at comic book art but I have no story ideas’ at exactly the same time as the woman in the group behind said ‘I’ve got some ideas for ace comics, but I can’t draw.’ From the impression I increasingly get from DJ, I’m willing to bet things like this were probably happening all over the room. The guy is actually magic.

So there’s my nice, happy post. I’m not that happy with it, maybe its ‘cos there’s no conflict, but its about time I wrote one. Because today just showed me how amazingly well the asexual community is doing. And how much better it’s gonna get.

Also, on the topic of niceness and joy: Miller is auditioning for a group blog: http://godlessace.tumblr.com/post/26578358827/proposal-asexuality-201-group-blog

If anyone can do this, it’s him.  It’s also by far the best idea for a 201 space- centralised, but outward-looking, space for a big community without the sluggishness and maintenance of a forum, individualistic but collaborative, easy to access but well-moderated (although Miller’s typical troll-handling would be incredible if scaled up to a forum like this). I 100% emphatically endorse this. It’s awesome.

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Off-AVEN

On providing everything that is currently on-AVEN, off-AVEN. Here’s what we need. More precisely, here’s what you need to support, if you want to create an asexual internet that can exist fully outside of AVEN, which I’d argue is desirable, given the fact that the community can’t just be one site, and necessary, given the flawed definitions of asexuality that the AVENites seem to be moving towards:

I could link a whole load of other awesome stuff here- non-101 conversations, resources aimed at scientific research, asexual journalism, asexual advice columns. But these are the basics for anyone who wants to make AVEN a non-essential part of the asexual community. I’m especially excited about Asexuality Meetup Groups- it could be the perfect place to store all our information about ace-friendly LGBTQ groups, for example. I’d encourage everyone reading to make as much use of the above as possible.

Memo: Attraction =/= behaviour.

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.

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