January Carnival of Aces – Re/presentation

This month’s theme at the Carnival of Aces is re/presentation, and one of the idea questions was:

How do you think that those of us who are asexual should present ourselves to others as a group, if we should do so at all, and why?

Is it really possible for everyone on the asexual spectrum to present as a cohesive group? I rather think not. No more than it’s possible for everyone who identifies on the queer label to present as one group. We’re too diverse, with terribly diverse identities and goals. Each one of us wants something different out of our asexuality.

There is nothing in the technical definition of asexuality that says “no sex”; it’s not always part of an individual’s working definition. Sure, it’s probably true more often than not, but not wanting sex isn’t a requirement of being an asexual. So nobody can say, “The asexual community is looking for freedom from sex/ual contact.” And because not all asexuals are repulsed by the thought of sex, you can’t say, “Asexuals are looking from freedom from exposure to sexual ideas in society.” In fact, compare asexual me to my sexual mother. I think society needs to be a little more open about sex and variant sexualities. She feels … differently. Very differently.

By the technical definition, the only thing everyone in the community has in common is a lack of sexual attraction – and some of these people want sex and some don’t care terribly one way or the other and some would sex up only a certain person/people and some really really really don’t want sex. But by working definition, people who experience some sexual attraction but don’t want sex can also be considered part of the community. Take in counterpoint the gay community: every member of the gay community wants a sexual and/or romantic relationship with a member of the same gender.

All we seem to agree on as a community is that we want:
– widespread recognition and acceptance of asexuality as A Real And Valid Thing
– positive representation of asexuality in media
– less crap to deal with in personal lives regarding asexuality (a direct result of the first thing)

Here’s the problem with that: nobody can agree on what, exactly, asexuality should be. I mean, we have the technical definition, and that’s all well and good. But we’re inclusive, like I said above. Anyone who wants to identify with the asexual community can do so. There’s no card-check to be sure you don’t experience sexual attraction, and even among all those who don’t, there’s tremendous variation. So maybe we have this technical definition of asexuality, that means shit-all when you’re describing “a person who identifies with the asexual community” which, let’s face it, is what you’re looking for when you think about “an asexual”.

If you can’t put together a description of a person in the asexual community (“may or may not experience sexual attraction, may or may not desire sex, may or may not have a sexual history, may or may not have a sexual present, may or may not wish for a sexual future” is sort of unhelpful) the way you can put one for the gay community together (“would like a sexual and/or romantic relationship with same gender” is a pretty good working model), then it’s going to be harder to find actual goals that the entire community is working towards. And it’s really hard to take community goals that may or may not fit any given member’s personal goals and actually get somewhere with them. If you can’t describe an ace, you can’t describe what the ace wants. And this disunity of goals means that presenting the asexual community as one cohesive group is going to be nearly impossible.

But is that a bad thing? I think not. Celebrate diversity. Besides, the fact that we do stick together, that we are a real community and support each other’s similarities and differences, despite not having a cohesive presentation – that speaks more about the members of this community than anything else ever could. I’m proud to be part of a community built on diversity, acceptance, and support. That’s more important than any cookiecutter presentation could ever be.


4 thoughts on “January Carnival of Aces – Re/presentation

  1. Pingback: Carnival of Aces: Roundup « quod inane vocamus

  2. You know, I kind of question the idea that you actually CAN say that everyone in the gay community “would like a sexual and/or romantic relationship with same gender,” as you say. There’s a lot of celibate gay people, and aromantic gay people as well. I think they gay community is similarly diverse, although it’s sort of washed over with this idea that people are more similar than they are in reality. There are plenty of gay people out there who do not actually want sexual or romantic relationships even though they feel that attraction, so I think probably the only thing you can say for sure about a gay person is that they do feel attraction to members of their own sex/gender, just like the only thing you can say for sure about asexuals is that we don’t. And the rates of exceptions to that rule (i.e. gray-a’s and the like, lesbians who occasionally fall for men, etc.) are likely about the same in the asexual community as they are in the gay community, though I’m still waiting to see some statistics comparing them.

    The question then in my mind becomes more like, “How do we avoid having our community’s diversity washed out? How do we avoid being presented as having a single ‘lifestyle’?”

    • You make a good point! I will still say that they’re probably more cohesive as a group than aces, though – it can be useful for some people to identify with the asexual community despite not being asexual, but I think this happens less so with other queer-type communities. (Perhaps the trans* community.) (And, of course, I don’t know any of that for fact. That’s just how it seems from where I’m sitting.)

      I think we do a pretty fabulous job of keeping our diversity! I would, however, question the notion that our diversity is accurately represented. (I would question the notion that, diversity aside, asexuality is accurately represented particularly often. But everyone else has been talking about that lately, so just mark me down for a bit “ditto.”) And I think the only way to do anything about any of that is to keep talking. The world needs to hear from every possible asexual experience.

      Thanks for dropping by and letting me know your thoughts!

  3. Pingback: Asexuality | kstruggles

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