Welcome to the September Carnival of Aces! Carnival of Aces is a monthly blogging event where bloggers write about a particular topic related to asexuality. Last month’s Carnival was about “Stages of Coming Out” and was hosted by Demisexual and Proud. This month, I’m very excited to be hosting again with the topic “Asexuality Before AVEN”.
In 2001, David Jay founded the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. It was one of the first on-line communities where asexual people could gather, and the first to make serious inroads promoting asexual awareness in larger society. Whatever your relationship to AVEN is, your ideas about asexuality and the vocabulary you use to talk about it have been heavily influenced by this community.
And yet, as little as twenty years ago, there was no such thing as AVEN. For most of human history, those whom we today would think of as ace-spectrum people had to navigate society and make sense of their sexuality without the support of the modern asexual community. How did they do it? How did they understand themselves? How did society understand them? What, in other words, was it like to be asexual in a world without AVEN?
There are a myriad of ways to approach this topic. Here are just a few suggestions:
- If you’re old enough to remember a world before AVEN (so, like, over 25), what are your memories of the pre-AVEN world like? How easy or difficult was it to fit in, form relationships, understand yourself?
- What was it like to be an ace-spectrum person in the 20th century? How would 20th-century aces have understood themselves and their relationship to greater society? Can we even speak of “ace-spectrum people” before the language of asexuality existed? How did sexual liberation, feminism, queer rights, etc. affect asexuality and asexuals? Was this effect positive or negative?
- Heck, let’s not stop at the 20th century! What might it have been like to be asexual in the Victorian era? The Renaissance? The Middle Ages? The Classical period? Feudal Japan? Mughal India? Five-Nations Ontario?
- AVEN was not the first organisation to identify asexuality, or something like it. What do you think of other insights, such as Kinsey’s “X” classification, or the asexual space on the Storms square? How important are they, historically? To what extent are they similar to or different from modern understandings of asexuality?
- What other mentions, allusions, or suggestions of asexuality were there before the 21st century. Again, how do they reflect thinking that is similar to or different from our current ideas about asexuality?
- Can you think of any historical figures who may have been asexual or ace-spectrum? How about fictional characters? Is it fair to take modern ideas of asexuality and superimpose them on pre-21st-century people? How might their different historical context have caused them to express or experience asexuality differently from modern aces?
- Imagine you could talk to someone from before AVEN. How would you explain asexuality to them? What kind of language would you use? How easy do you think it would be for them to understand you? What kind of effect might knowing about asexuality have on them?
- What were some of the other early asexual communities? How was their approach different from AVEN’s? How might our ideas about asexuality be different if these other communities had received more attention?
- Even though AVEN has been around for a while now, there are areas of society where modern asexual discourse is still unknown. What are attitudes towards asexuality like among people who have never heard of it?
- Suppose AVEN had never existed. Would another organisation have emerged to fill the gap? What would the state of asexual discourse be today?
- AVEN codified the idea of asexuality as a “lack of sexual attraction”, the difference between romantic and sexual orientation, the possibility of demisexual/graysexual identification, etc. Without AVEN, how might our understanding of asexuality and the language we use to talk about it be different? Might it be better or worse?
To contribute, write a blog post, make a video, etc. and publish it on your own platform. Then send me the link, either by messaging me through the “Comment” form or by commenting on this post. I can also host guest posts, if you like. Just send me the text and I will publish it as long as it’s not offensive. At the beginning of October, I will post links to all the submissions.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what people come up with. Happy writing!