This post was originally conceived as a submission to last month’s Carnival of Aces, hosted by Lib with the theme, “What are you Hoping to get out of the Ace Community?” I meant to publish it in August, but then… life happened. I’m publishing it now because I think it provides some useful context for my submission to the September Carnival of Aces.
A few months back, when my workplace had just reopened, when we were trying to adapt to new COVID-19 procedures amid hiring woes and maternity leave, when I was struggling to do the work of three people and all-but-literally tearing my hair out – I complained to a friend about how stressful it was not having any time or energy to work on my blog.
“You know,” she said, “your hobbies aren’t supposed to stress you out.”
She had a point. The job was a necessity. I worked in order to earn money so I could support myself. The blog was supposed to be fun. I did it because I enjoyed it; if I wasn’t enjoying it, shouldn’t I not be doing it?
It’s true that not doing the blog would have saved me a good deal of stress. Yes, I was busy, but not overwhelmingly so. I might be working ten hour days, but, especially in an era of lockdowns and social distancing, I didn’t exactly have a lot of other demands on my time. I could easily have embraced the routine of eat-sleep-work five days a week, cook-clean-family on the weekends. Only the conviction that the blog should be done, that I was shirking some responsibility by not doing it, caused me distress and anxiety. Why grant so much importance to a pass-time?
One reason, I think, is that the blog gives me a creative outlet, a way to express my thoughts and feelings. No matter where I am in life, it seems I need something of the kind, be it writing essays, making up stories, or creating art. Without such an outlet, I feel stifled and miserable.
But I think that’s only part of the answer. Because the blog isn’t just a creative endeavour; it’s also a way of participating in the asexual community. And that’s something that, I’ve realised, is also very important to me.
Is that because I have lots of friends in the ace community? I don’t, really. There are aces I get along well with and even a few I’d call friends, but even the ace friends I have tend not to be people I know through the blogosphere. I enjoy interacting with other ace bloggers, and I’m hoping to get to know some of them better, but they’re not the people I’m currently closest to.
Is it because I feel happier surrounded by other aces than out in the world at large? Certainly, the hypersexuality of modern society can get kind of depressing, and it’s good to have a community I can flee to, one where sex isn’t assumed to be everyone’s fundamental desire. On the other hand, I also know non-aces with pretty ace-friendly attitudes, so I don’t necessarily have to come to the ace community to find acceptance. And, since most of my closest friends are non-ace, I’m generally okay spending most of my time in non-ace spaces.
No, my reasons for wanting to participate in the ace community are much more abstract. For me, it’s much less about emotional attachment to the actual community and much more about an intellectual appreciation for the idea of the community.
I’ve alluded to this fact before. In “My Journey to Ace Identification” I wrote:
“The idea that there were actually people who experienced no sexual attraction whatsoever … made me feel like much less of a freak. At the same time, I was also keenly aware that I was not ‘a person who does not experience sexual attraction’, and so could not claim the ‘asexual’ label for myself. I was very glad that AVEN existed, but … I thought of myself as more of a groupie than an insider.”
That passage reflects my thinking during my first few years in the ace community, before I had the words “demisexual” and “ace-spectrum” to describe myself. But it still gets at something important about how I relate to aceness: I don’t need to identify with it in order to value it. My earliest feelings about the community were positive – even though I didn’t feel like part of it. And, even now that I do see myself as part of it, I still value it for itself more than I value my own place within it.
There are two ways to look at any identity-based movement. One is as a social-support group for the people within it. Its job is to make its members feel better about themselves and to give them a sense of fellowship with others like them. The other is as an advocacy group for social change. Its job is to break down the social structures that its members find oppressive, thus making the world more welcoming and safe for them.
What structures are oppressive to aces? The privileging of biological and marital bonds over other kinds. The assumption that people will sort themselves into nuclear families based on (monogamous heterosexual) marriage. The belief that sexual love is the best form of love. The belief that everyone has a fundamental need for sex. The belief that it isn’t possible to be happy and celibate. In a word: erotonormativity.
But erotonormativity isn’t just oppressive to aces. As I suggested in “If We Had a Parade, Who Would March in It?” and “On Being an Evangelist”, it causes all sorts of problems for people of all orientations. The ace community may be where these problems are most evident, but the truth is that most everyone stands to gain from a shift in how we think about sex.
Take me. When I first encountered the ace community, I didn’t consider myself asexual. Instead, I was a person who placed a lot of importance on friendship in a society that continually devalued platonic love. I was a person who had never had a significant dating relationship in a society that told me I needed to find “the one” I could settle down and spend my life with. I was a person who hoped to have sex in the distant future in a society where virginity after twenty was an embarrassment and most representations of people my age portrayed sex as our central pursuit. For me, the friendship-positive, norm-rejecting, cheerful celibacy of the ace community came like a breath of fresh air. It didn’t matter whether I, myself, was asexual. And the fact that I now think of myself as ace is still, largely, irrelevant.
For me, asexuality is about more than finding a family, a community, or a group of friends. It’s about pushing back against social norms and working to reshape society into a less erotonormative place. And I don’t just mean a place where people are more accepting of asexuals. For me, the worst positive outcome of ace advocacy would be a world where aces were accepted – and nothing else had changed. Where people still assumed that everyone has sex, wants to have sex, and should have sex – unless they’re asexual. Where identifying as ace gave people a free out on social norms – but those norms remained otherwise unchallenged.
What I want is much bigger. What I want is to break it all down, for everyone.
You may say that’s a tall order, but it’s not like I’m not willing to put the work in. I mean, not all the work, obviously. And not as much as some people. Not as much as David Jay or Julie Sondra Decker or Ela Przybylo. But I do what I can. I’ve been a member of the ace community for fifteen years now. I’ve talked to people about asexuality; I’ve organised meet-ups around it; I dedicated my graduate degree to it. This blog and the other blog are just the latest project. One day I will probably abandon them in favour of something else. But there will almost certainly be something else.
So why is this blog so important to me? Because this blog is my way of contributing in the ace community, of supporting it, strengthening it, and spreading its messages. And what do I hope the ace community will accomplish? Nothing less than to change the world.