Writing From Factor X

November 29, 2010

A Response to SlightlyMetaphysical

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sciatrix @ 8:58 am

Okay, first, SlightlyMetaphysical has an interesting commentary on a post Dreki made a while ago up on his blog. Go read that first, because this is something that should be a comment on that post. However, Blogger is not allowing me to post that comment on his blog for some reason, so I’m posting it here so that he can actually see it.

This actually was linked on AVEN some months ago, and I discussed it then, though as I recall my conclusions revolved more around Dreki’s points about catering to sexual members on an asexual forum and defining a safe space than on the worry that an asexual safe space might encourage true antisexuality. (Among other things: AVEN likes its tone arguments.) I could probably link you to that if you wanted to read it.

On your worries that an asexual safe space might disintegrate sharply into antisexuality, which in turn oppresses nonasexuals: yes and no. Yes, in that unchecked and unwatched, those tendencies can get pretty nasty. (See here: some of the things I’ve seen in asexuals who haven’t had any kind of community at all and have to muddle along on their own. People come to some pretty strange conclusions about the nature of sexuality!)

But I’ve watched a lot of people come to terms with asexuality, and I’ve seen a lot of people go through this phase I think of as detoxing. That is, they’re coming out of a culture that expects everyone to want sex, anyone in a romantic relationship to have it, and they find this space that’s validating their disinterest in sex or their outright repulsion at the activity. And they’re excited, they’re relieved, they’re integrating this new identity, and they sometimes get pretty enthusiastic about how terrible sex is and how much they hate it, because they’ve never had anywhere to say that before and have people nod their heads and say “yeah, I get it, I don’t experience that desire to have sex with people either.”

What needs to happen in asexual communities is a validation of personal feelings about sex for oneself (that is, if you are repulsed by sex that is okay, and if you love sex to bits that is also okay), while not allowing that detoxing stage to spill over into criticizing other people’s choices. (That is, no saying “sex is inherently bad, no one should be having sex, sex should be banned.”)

And until recently I was a regular poster on AVEN, and this treatment of detoxing newbies was not what I was seeing. Rather, I was actually seeing people beginning to detox and people would tell them sharply not to be antisexual–even if they were talking purely about sex for themselves. I remember one post in particular where someone had been pressured repeatedly to have sex she didn’t want, and she was venting about how horrible she found sex as an experience for her, and people told her to stop being antisexual. It is reasonable for these people to have this frustration!

And if there’s no safe place to vent it, if not even the asexual community can be a receiving place for that kind of anger and upset, then people ARE going to shift into actual antisexual views. Because if you have a lot of (largely justified!) frustration with sexual culture, and the sex-positive asexuals over there are telling you that frustration is not okay and you’d better can it while the antisexuals over here are telling you “I KNOW, it’s TERRIBLE, there should be a LAW” a lot of people are going to go where the acceptance is.

On Dreki’s last charge, the one about policing our community image: well, I am no longer posting on AVEN as of a month ago. And the reason I am no longer posting on AVEN stems partly from an incident in which an otherwise highly privileged poster felt totally free to ask AVEN’s transgender, neuro-atypical, and mentally ill posters to shut up about their trans and disabled experiences because he felt that they were giving the site a bad impression to nonasexuals and he didn’t want to be associated with them.

(No, this is actually what he said. This was not subtle hinting or implication or innuendo.) And he was agreed with by several other people.

And then the leadership of the site did absolutely nothing of any kind, and refused to enforce its brand shiny new anti-discrimination clause in its ToS for several blatant examples of ageism and ableism unrelated to that (as well as that incident, in which several posters expressed ableist and transphobic viewpoints). That’s why I’m not posting on AVEN right now.

All of this, by the way, was several months after that blog post of Dreki’s. I’m depressed that they were able to foresee that, honestly.


  1. Found it!

    “What needs to happen in asexual communities is a validation of personal feelings about sex for oneself (that is, if you are repulsed by sex that is okay, and if you love sex to bits that is also okay), while not allowing that detoxing stage to spill over into criticizing other people’s choices.”

    Hell yes. More difficult in practice than in theory, but I definately agree that that’s the best thing to aim for. Making sure that the venting happens in a community which is strongly sex-positive, and also a place that isn’t where sexuals come to judge us and see if we’re all cranks.

    I was completely unaware of the recent troubles on AVEN. How scarily right Dreki was.

    Comment by SlightlyMetaphysical — November 29, 2010 @ 9:13 am | Reply

    • There have been a lot of recent troubles on AVEN, frankly. I know of four splinter boards created in the past two months by various groups who are pissed off at the site leadership, and I’m active on two of them.

      The thing is, I think that doing it that way–accepting frustration while gently reminding people not to extend that frustration to other people–is completely compatible with creating a safe space for asexuals. Actually, I think it’s necessary, because if you let people get antisexual in that way they’ll start making the space unsafe for sexually active aces or aces who actually enjoy sex or kinky aces or all kinds of other asexual groups, and those groups have enough crap to deal with as it is.

      I think that removing the focus on “being the place where the sexuals can come to judge us” or on making AVEN an actual source of visibility would be enough to do that. Well, that and making it safe for asexuals who have other axes of oppression. (That is, don’t fucking let transphobia and ableism slide.)

      Comment by Sciatrix — November 29, 2010 @ 9:24 am | Reply

  2. So where are these new sites? See, this is the trouble with not being on AVEN, you suddenly find out that everthing’s been happening while you weren’t aware of it.

    I think (and I’m largely quoting you from that AVEN thread) that the main advantage of Dreki’s theory is the seperation of safe spaces and visibility spaces, with another question mark on 102 spaces. The difficulty is that visibility is what AVEN does best, but it also has a whole community around it.

    I think that protecting the more sexual asexuals is not just a good reason for stopping generalised antisex comments, it’s a good justification as well. Detoxing asexuals will still tend to respect other active users of the safe space, which will probably include demisexuals coming to terms with their demisexuality.

    Comment by SlightlyMetaphysical — November 29, 2010 @ 9:40 am | Reply

    • Hah. And this is why I need to revamp my links page, for that matter. I keep meaning to link to them. (And I need to include a link to Kaz’ blog, too–I’ve been paying attention to her Dreamwidth blog for ages.)

      Anyway, the new sites that I am aware of are:

      The Asexy Place, founded by Dreki and KayleeSaehir, focusing on a safe space for asexuals. Very quiet right now.

      Asexuality 2.0, founded in what looked to me like the aftermath of a really drama-filled and embittered demodding? I have not been active on this one at all and I’m not really paying attention to who’s involved in it.

      Knights of the Shaded Triangle, founded by you*hear*but*do*you*listen, also an attempt to create an asexual safe space. I’m pretty active on this one insofar as it is active–it’s also pretty quiet, comparatively.

      The Transyada forum, which is in part created as a response to the same incident I referred to in my original comment. It was founded by a group of posters referred to the “transyadas” on AVEN who started as a group of non-binary-identified trans aces but has broadened significantly since then. The board basically is attempting to serve all queer-identified aces. It’s also, I might add, by far the most active splinter community despite being the newest. I’m active on this one also (although I’m cisgender) and played a minor role in helping it get set up.

      I think 102 space and safe space can be used… interchangeably, really. When I think of safe spaces for minorities I’m thinking of spaces which are basically set up for the benefit of that minority’s discussion, where the focus is not on the majority’s issues. Stuff like Racialicious and Shakesville, where it’s assumed you have a basic background in $MINORITY’s issues and know enough not to derail the conversation from whatever the issue is in that space.

      I mean, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most asexuality blogs (including mine) have disclaimers like “this is not a 101-level space, this is a space where it’s assumed you know the basics about asexuality, and if you don’t, go here.” Where “here” usually means AVEN. It seems to me as though most of the 102 discussions are happening here anyway, except that we’re not as connected as we could be. And I think… hm. It’s harder to designate the ‘sphere as safe or not because we’re so under the radar that it’s hard to know, because we (by and large) don’t attract trolls. Or I don’t, anyway, I can’t speak for anyone else. It’s safe by virtue of being invisible.

      And also–yeah to the justification bit. I actually just came up with that, and I think I like it as a justification a little better than “don’t hurt our sexual allies” because it keeps the focus on working to make sure that people who are part of the asexual community have a safe space rather than shifting the focus onto nonasexuals who maybe don’t actually need a space just for them right here. (Also, I’d had a temporary moment of idiocy and forgotten about grey-As and demis. Thanks for reminding me about that.)

      Comment by Sciatrix — November 29, 2010 @ 10:17 am | Reply

      • But are 102 and safe spaces really interchangeable?

        I participate in a few 102 fora, but I’m mostly there for the 102 discussion, not the safe space. It’s not because I felt chased away by attitudes on AVEN; I’ve personally have not had these problems. It’s because I wanted higher level discussion with less noise.

        And when we talk about detoxing newbies… these are newbies! They need a safe space, not a 102 space.

        Oh, and speaking of blogs, I think mine is in an odd position. It’s one of the few asexual blogs that has some moderate popularity among readers who are concerned with other things (like skepticism and physics). So I feel obligated to give a bit of 101, although I’m obviously much more interested in 102 material. I do get trolls, actually. Although most trolls are much more interested in the fact that I’m gay… go figure.

        Anyways, I feel that it’s entirely possible to have a vis/ed-geared discussion that is also safe for all asexuals. Because I try to do that on my blog. It’s just that this requires some skill, and many AVENites lack that skill.

        Comment by Siggy — November 29, 2010 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

        • True. Visibility is different from detox, which is different from 102.

          I noticed the way you moderated your last post, Siggy. Very 102-oriented, while still respectful. It’s so much more difficult to do that on a forum than a blog.

          Comment by SlightlyMetaphysical — November 29, 2010 @ 4:59 pm | Reply

        • No, they aren’t.
          I hate the way that the thread on AVEN went, it was very ironic in that it was the embodiment of some of my biggest problems with the site.

          I gave up and just went with “102” because people would accept that. I don’t think I could have gotten people to hear “we need a place for people to detox” because I don’t think AVEN considered it safe to acknowledge there’s anything for asexuals to detox FROM.

          Safe spaces and 102 spaces are different. There can be overlap because generally a space where people know a good deal about a subject is going to be safer, but a safe space isn’t inherently 102 or vice versa.

          I also think there’s a big difference between a blog, where you have a great deal of control over the content and what subjects are brought up, and a forum or community, where anyone is free to bring up any content and subjects. It’s much easier for a blog to be vis/ed, 102, AND safe at the same time. It’s much more difficult for a community or forum to be vis/ed and safe, because asexuals are bound to say some things that make unaware sexuals uncomfortable and unaware sexuals are bound to say some things that make the asexuals feel unsafe, and it takes a much more delicate touch to manage that in a community than on a blog.

          Comment by Dreki — November 29, 2010 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

          • Part of the thing that bugged me about that thread was that the activism style being espoused–that of being ever-polite, ever-calm and ever-logical educator–is just… not my style. (Or rather, there were overtones of that espousal in the thread.) I do logic, yeah, but I do it with a lot of “fucks” and a lot more brusqueness, and when I argue I tend to argue for the third party more than I argue for my opponent, especially when dealing with strangers and especially dealing with the Internet.

            I feel strongly that AVEN privileges that style, the politely calm logical style, over more unfriendly, sharper styles of activism. I have a post in the back of my mind about that–about how you really need both kinds of activists to get anything done, and also about how some people are more suited to one style than the other.

            Comment by Sciatrix — November 29, 2010 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

            • Calm & polite has its place, but I agree that AVEN privileges it and ignores any other style.

              There’s also a problem that it basically discriminates against people who are very personally invested in what’s being talked about (in any given discussion), because that makes it incredibly difficult to be polite and calm. It basically says that the people most effected by something are the last ones who should be allowed to talk about it.

              Comment by Dreki — November 29, 2010 @ 9:14 pm | Reply

        • You know, you’re right about that. I tend to conceptualize them the same way, because… well, the spaces I tend to frequent tend to be both, but then those sites also tend to be personal blogs and comment sections. This looks like it might be sloppy thinking on my part.

          Poor newbies. It’s not a good world to be figuring out you’re asexual in, I think.

          On the blog thing–I think also, you can be Lord God King of the Universe on your blog, and no one can really do anything about it because it’s your space and you have a lot of control over the tone which is set. (This is a rhetorical you, although I can say that I like the Lord God Queen feeling, myself.) I like what Dreki is saying downthread about being able to control what gets said a lot more, but it actually goes deeper than that. Because single blogs are centered around the thoughts of the writer(s) of that blog, anyone posting on that blog does need to engage with the writer(s) if they’re not just drive-by trollbait. So blogs tend to attract reasonably like-minded commenters, and they tend to reflect the personalities and the viewpoints of their creators a lot more than forums do.

          (Especially as with AVEN, where DJ is just not a presence. Which makes me sad, because I have tons and tons of respect for DJ, although I respect his desire to take a little break from the asexuality stuff for a bit. But that’s my point, you can’t get away with that at all on a blog. Blog communities die if their writers aren’t providing regular new content in a way that forum communities don’t.)

          I do think you handle your commenters well! And I definitely saw that last troll you got there, and I was impressed by how calmly you were able to handle him. But I also think that part of the reason you can have those conversations is that it is on a blog you’re having it, and there’s a lot more control over such discussions and safety on blogs.

          Comment by Sciatrix — November 29, 2010 @ 8:49 pm | Reply

          • Sciatrix, Dreki, and SlightlyMetaphysical, you’re all correct that it’s much easier to control the tone on a blog than on a forum. To the extent that I implied otherwise, I stand corrected.

            Comment by Siggy — November 29, 2010 @ 9:34 pm | Reply

      • There also was cakegasm, but I’m getting a “404 not found”. Do you know anything about that?

        Comment by Dreki — December 2, 2010 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

        • Cakegasm is the same as Asexuality 2.0. I believe the URL migrated. (They might also have renamed themselves since I was last paying attention to Cakegasm instead of Asexuality 2.0, I don’t know.)

          Comment by Sciatrix — December 2, 2010 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

  3. “But I’ve watched a lot of people come to terms with asexuality, and I’ve seen a lot of people go through this phase I think of as detoxing.”

    This is exactly what I’ve seen and what happened with me. I was incredibly anti-sex because my introduction to sexuality was a sexually abusive relationship where everyone around me told me how horrible *I* was for not wanting it. It wasn’t hard to assume that all sex was abusive and the norm was a horrible society where people preyed on each other. I’m now incredibly sex positive and have VERY strong opinions about how people need to be able to talk freely and openly about what they do and don’t want, as well as the importance on ACTUAL consent.

    But when I joined, it was okay to do this. I wasn’t let to go off on wild rampages agaisnt sexuals- but I also wasn’t condemned for my views. No one told me I was making asexuals look bad. You can gently let people work through their issues in a constructive way. The problem is that, when I left, that never could have happened, if I’d joined it even a year after I had I would have been very hurt by the community and likely would have ended up thinking my ideas were right and never been able to progress.

    Comment by Dreki — November 29, 2010 @ 8:00 pm | Reply

    • I remember it being more okay to publicly detox too, which is part of why I was so horrified when I started poking my head in and noticing that particular trend. (A friend of mine who identifies as repulsed actually had to clue me into what was going on, since I wasn’t paying attention to the newbie threads at the time.)

      I never did it about sex, since one of the benefits of being insanely lucky and coming across all the definitions all nicely laid out for you at fourteen means that I never questioned the possibility of asexuality and never… hm, I never felt particularly pressured to have it at the time. I totally did do it about romance a lot when I was in my midteens. At the time, I never vented–well, I wasn’t actively paying attention to the asexual community at the time, and I never had anyone to vent with. And I think that sitting on that frustration definitely made it worse for me than blowing it off with a couple of like-minded people would have been.

      Comment by Sciatrix — November 29, 2010 @ 8:47 pm | Reply

      • After I’d made the decision to leave AVEN, I looked through some of my earliest posts. I was so horribly stupid and had really awful ideas of sex, worse than I’d remember, and it just made it even worse how bad it’s gotten. I think I compared sex with murder at one point!
        I’ve seen people told off for saying things not half as bad as what I’d gotten away with saying then, and realizing just how important that was for me getting over those ideas. I really have no idea what would have happened if I’d joined AVEN a year ago rather than when I did, but I think I would have ended up really screwed up.

        I think you’re right what you said in your other comment- the world is not a good place to be figuring out you’re asexual in right now.

        Comment by Dreki — November 29, 2010 @ 9:35 pm | Reply

  4. I keep trying to decide if I care enough to ask you to fix the pronouns you used for me. I keep coming up with “no, I don’t think that I do”.

    And then the leadership of the site did absolutely nothing of any kind, and refused to enforce its brand shiny new anti-discrimination clause in its ToS for several blatant examples of ageism and ableism unrelated to that (as well as that incident, in which several posters expressed ableist and transphobic viewpoints). That’s why I’m not posting on AVEN right now.

    I kind of didn’t read the last 4 paragraphs the first time because I was so happy to see someone put the detox point into words… Yeesh. I wish you were joking. I wish I could say “I can’t believe it”. I wish I could be like Sally and say “That’s not my AVEN!”. But if that were the case I wouldn’t be a month away from 1 year off that site.

    This is horrible, but I’m not surprised. There’s a long-time moderator (GBRD. What are they going to do, ban me for saying it?) who’s been allowed to get away with saying the exact same thing in the admod-only area, that’s why I left back in January. Sadly the timing probably made it look like I’d left over something else… But it was that. The something else was getting straightened out, but that was too much. She said that, and no one had a problem with it. I didn’t even waste my time, because I’d just found out how intolerant and bigoted she was about the something else (and, again, no one cared). I just left.

    If moderators are allowed to say that trans & depressed people make asexuality look like a pathology, implying we shouldn’t be allowed on AVEN (and I think objecting to the gender forum’s existence, but obviously I can’t check now), the forum is NOT safe for trans people. I don’t know that it ever has been.

    It’s not impressive that I was able to foresee that the bigotry of the mods would bleed out to the forums, just lucky that I was able to see the bigotry of the mods in all its hideous glory. I’m more impressed it took so long to happen.

    Comment by Dreki — November 30, 2010 @ 12:36 am | Reply

    • Actually, since I used the wrong ones–well, I guessed without going to check first, which is entirely my fault, and I should fix them since I got them wrong. I’ll fix that now, and I apologize for not checking first the way I should have and for failing to use your preferred pronouns. There’s even less excuse for getting it wrong on the Internet. Thank you for letting me know.

      Honestly, it was the fact that the moderation of the site both refuses to let anger out onto the forums–if you get too “heated,” the thread gets closed–and won’t address sources of anger like, oh, bigotry that made me get angry enough to leave. Because it doesn’t let the members take full responsibility for what is acceptable and unacceptable content–if you call someone a troll you’re told off!–but the mods don’t take that responsibility either, which means that there’s only so much you can do about totally unacceptable posts.

      I posted a thread about that time, displaying three incidences of ageism and ableism besides that one which had totally been ignored by the mods for about a week and asked to have that section of the ToS removed because nothing was actually being done about it. Unfortunately, many of the examples revolved around one single poster and the thread derailed around him. (To be clear: the ToS specified that, among other things, ageist and ableist content were grounds for banning. Apparently for “productive” members, that suddenly doesn’t apply?)

      I was still thinking about what I was going to do when I got an “unofficial warning” for my tone which asked me to simply report this behavior rather than posting openly about it, and that was my last straw. I don’t do things behind closed doors, and I certainly don’t do them behind closed doors when the whole point is that I don’t trust the moderating team to enforce their own rules.

      So yeah. I’ve been thinking about talking about this off-site for a really long time, but it’s been too raw and upsetting for most of that.

      Comment by Sciatrix — November 30, 2010 @ 8:22 am | Reply

      • No problem, thanks for fixing them.

        How is the hot box going, if that’s the case? I wouldn’t suggest going there to discuss bigotry if you expect it to get anywhere, but it would be great to hear “you can get angry- but only on discussions about abortion and bestiality!”

        if you call someone a troll you’re told off!

        I could be remembering wrong, but I think that there is/was a rule that if you think someone’s a troll- report/PM an admod rather than saying so publically. I can understand doing this, but considerng the admod team’s awesomeness at upholding their own rules… yeah.

        (To be clear: the ToS specified that, among other things, ageist and ableist content were grounds for banning. Apparently for “productive” members, that suddenly doesn’t apply?)

        This has been a problem even before I left. I’d heard a lot of members outright state or heavily imply that the admods’ favorites could get away with things other members get the hammer for.

        I was still thinking about what I was going to do when I got an “unofficial warning” for my tone

        I got 3 unofficial warnings and was told I could have been banned when the mods refused to step in on an incredibly ace-phobic & sexist thread in the Sexual Partner’s area until it got to the point where the aces lost their cool. This took a week. For a week 3 straight men were allowed to attack asexuals and women. When two asexuals finally lost it- we’re the ones who got in trouble. When I became a mod I didn’t have the guts to see how the conversation had gone down on that one.
        I think my reaction of “maybe I can be a mod to fix this” was a poorly thought out idea.

        Comment by Dreki — November 30, 2010 @ 11:50 pm | Reply

        • I have no idea about the Hot Box thing, since even when I was posting on AVEN regularly I was not spending much time hanging out in the Hot Box. I try not to go seeking upset, you know?

          That is indeed the rule, and it is actually a symbol of my frustration with the current system. As I said, I don’t do “behind closed doors.” I don’t see why, if someone is being clearly trollish, members shouldn’t say so. In fact, I think doing so is a symptom of investment in a space by members, and that if people care about keeping the space safe, they’re going to chime in on this sort of thing. If you get someone who’s obviously trolling and people don’t want to tell them off, I think that’s a serious symptom of a broken community or people who just don’t care.

          Also, you could not have paid me to be a mod. At any point, really.

          Comment by Sciatrix — December 1, 2010 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

  5. […] want, need a place to blow off steam and bond about their lack of interest in sex. I’ve written about detoxing and why it’s important to have spaces where that can happen. On the flip side, though, we […]

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  6. […] Gedanken über Sex Ausdruck zu verleihen, die sie vorher nie zu äußern gewagt haben (“detoxing“). Ein wenig unglücklich machen mich diese Aussagen dennoch jedes […]

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  7. […] mentioned the need for subspaces more than six months ago (as well as four years ago), and the need for more subspaces (including possibly subspaces for sex-averse aces) came up […]

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