Do You Have the Time, To Listen to Me Whine, About Writing and Tumblr All At Once?

This post is an intended contribution for the March 2015 Carnival of Aces: Writing and Asexuality call for submissions.

Kind of inspired by Redbeardace’s post, I thought it might be a good idea to look back at my own history of writing about asexuality, and writing asexual characters.The majority of the writing I have done has been non-fiction. On my old blog, I was never a prolific blogger. I didn’t make a lot of posts, and I didn’t update frequently at all. Nonetheless, I stuck at it for three and a half years, and as a result (going by the public posts on that blog) I wrote some 25,000 words of non-fiction about asexuality.

Many people have contributed more. But I have contributed some, so I feel happy. I wanted to continue my minor contributions to asexual visibility here on this blog, but have mostly failed. My busy life (work + school + some attempts at a meager social life) and lackluster time management skills would have doomed an attempt at the prolificacy I envy in others, but I thought I could at least keep up the pace of my old blog.

However, seeing the toxicity, cruelty, and bullying that is so rampant in the Tumblr asexuality community depressed me and created in me an apathy that kept me from writing again. (The Tumblr asexual community is probably the largest place for ace discussion and visibility work now, and much of its style of nastiness seems to be spreading to other asexual places.)

Write about asexuality? For who? For a bunch of people that will turn around call each other stupid, privileged scum, “literally trash”, etc for using a new ace term wrong? Asexuals who are more interested in watching for any possible excuse to trash other asexuals than in asexual education?

When I first starting writing about asexuality, in 2010, I felt so proud, and eager, to contribute something to other asexuals. The asexual community consisted of people who were largely kind, supporting, intelligent, or at the very least, possessed the bare minimum of human decency in the way they treated others. I felt that I was contributing to a movement that was doing good.

My writing would help validate others who had newly discovered their asexuality; it would spread information for curious friends and families of aces, my writing would be part of a growing mass of recorded ace information, perspectives, and experiences.

Maybe it did that. Maybe it continues to do that. But I have to wonder if that is the majority contribution now, or if it mostly serves as a link for a bully to post to score points on someone? A citation an ace can use to snarl at another ace that they’re too privileged to talk about their own experiences and opinions? Will I one day follow a referral link back, and see my own posts’ URL accompanied by the text “go kill yourself you alloromantic-privileged scum“? Or something similarly, almost unbelievably ridiculous sentiment that is nonetheless made commonly on Tumblr?

The possibility puts a real damper on the “I want to write something for the ace community!” motivation of mine.

Similarly, that’s what killed my asexual fiction attempts. For a while, I thought to abandon blogging and non-fiction writing for the glorious world of fantasy–after all, it’s so seemingly less controversial. No cringing at the possibility of people’s outrage over an opinion on terminology use, or asexuals’ position in the LGBT community, or privilege and asexuals…right?

I wrote 3,105 words of my asexual fantasy story, and I quite liked what I had. It was going to be much longer, and I showed it to my beta to go over a few concerns I had over the plot. We both agreed it should go in a different direction than originally intended, and I sat down to re-work the story a little. And before I began, I reconsidered. I re-examined my priorities. This was a story I was putting a lot of work into–more work than I usually put in writing, especially my fictional writing. And I could just picture the flak I’d get for it. Someone who didn’t like what I said about this or that stance in a blog post would accuse me of being racist and colorist for having a mixed-race protagonist or whatever accusation they could drag out of the text.

Because most people on Tumblr don’t research the statements they reblog, or check them for factuality and basis in reality, misinformation spreads like a wildfire.

Pretty soon, “Ace in Lace is racist” spreads. Someone mentions liking my story. They get an ask. “You shouldn’t read Ace in Lace, she’s racist and transphobic and a cis white male” someone says. OP apologizes “Sorry! I didn’t know. I’ll take that post down right now.

It sounds outlandish. It sounds paranoid and ridiculous. Only if you’re not familiar with Tumblr though. All the scenarios I’ve mentioned are things I’ve seen happened, and can post examples of if needed.

Why would I spend my time writing fiction or non-fiction, solely as a contribution to the community (which is still severely lacking fiction and non-fictional works about asexuality) to get treated like garbage? When I could…

1. Write something for an audience that doesn’t have the issue of rampant misuse of social justice principles, resulting in witch-hunts on writers and artists

2. Write something for myself

3. Play a video game with a friend

4. etc,

Point of this post being, once upon a time I loved to write about asexuality and longed for little more than for the time to write and contribute something to other asexuals. Now I’m so disturbed by so much of the asexual community on Tumblr that the passion and fire has gone. I probably sound like I’m whining and being self-important, but it’s not about POOR ACE IN LACE, it’s about weighing opportunity cost as a writer. When I write about asexuality, it means I’m giving up time I could be writing about something else. And when a community treats its members vilely, the incentive for members to want to interact with that community diminishes.

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11 thoughts on “Do You Have the Time, To Listen to Me Whine, About Writing and Tumblr All At Once?

  1. I’m horrified and sorry that you have had such a bad experience with the asexual community on tumblr, or with tumblr in general. I have seen a small amount of nastiness like you mentioned, but also I feel like I have seen a majority of positive things, and I don’t get the same feeling, personally, after being in the ace tumblr community.

    I wish people hadn’t discouraged you from your writings about asexuality, whether fiction or non-fiction. Especially fellow asexual people! :P

    I appreciate your perspective immensely. Thank you for sharing this here.

    • I’m horrified and sorry that you have had such a bad experience with the asexual community on tumblr, or with tumblr in general. I have seen a small amount of nastiness like you mentioned, but also I feel like I have seen a majority of positive things, and I don’t get the same feeling, personally, after being in the ace tumblr community.

      Nastiness is one thing. Ignorance and misinformation is another. 20 positive posts in the ace tag, and one ignorant hateful one? I agree, that’s a small amount of negativity, easily ignorable. It’s when you see a post that has over 50,000 notes, saying that “sex postive asexuals = asexuals who like having sex” that you start to get worried. Misinformation and ignorant, baseless assumptions passed off as fact spread like wildfire on Tumblr.

      I wish people hadn’t discouraged you from your writings about asexuality, whether fiction or non-fiction. Especially fellow asexual people! :P

      Thank you.

  2. Yep. Been there. Liberal application of the “Block/Ignore” features make that place far more tolerable. It’s really just a small group of people making most of the noise, and once you block them and their minions, it mostly goes away.

    And I’ve noticed that some people aren’t interested in helping to prevent issues before they happen, they only want to attack after the fact. I’ve written some things that have required sensitive language, and while I was working on them, I’ve asked for guidance. In once case, I got a recommendation from a person in the group I was asking about. In the final product, I went with their recommendation. When I published it, someone who was not a part of the group I was asking about started jumping all over it, screaming about how horrible and offensive I was being. Other times, I’ve gotten directly contradictory advice from different people. How am I supposed to do the right thing if no one can even agree what the right thing is? And sometimes, I’ve even been attacked just for asking for help!

    I’ve seen people demand that a specific topic be covered by certain writers, and then, when that topic is covered by those writers, I’ve seen those same people fly into unbridled outrage about it. “How DARE they write about THAT? What do THEY even know about THAT?”

    I try to ignore the hypocritical anger machines and the trolls. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes I feel like abandoning the whole thing. There have been times where I have had to step away for a while. On several occasions, that’s been the primary cause of the burnout that I’ve mentioned.

    And then I’ll get a note from someone whose life has been changed, and I remember why I bother.

    I think what annoys me the most about all of this is that I never see any of these people ever putting an effort toward making an actual difference anywhere. Screaming on Tumblr doesn’t do anything, except make good people give up. Why can’t that energy be channeled into doing something to change the world for the better?

    There was this post on Asexual Agenda a while back. It and the comments show this is a problem in general: https://asexualagenda.wordpress.com/2014/03/20/justice-anger-and-the-demand-for-perfection-why-tumblrs-blogging-culture-isnt-making-safe-spaces/

    I really wish there were some sort of Ace Writers Feedback Group, where we could all post what we’ve written to a small group that’ll offer useful advice and suggestions before it gets to the wider world. I’d like to get initial feedback from a bunch of people who won’t try to tear my head off because of a typo.

    • Thanks so much for that asexual agenda link from last year. I don’t think I ever saw it and I’m happy to read it right now. I have been spending a lot of time on tumblr lately, so this topic really fascinates me. ;)

    • There used to be an ace writer’s group on LJ, and possibly also on Dreamwidth? No idea if they’re still being used. I left LJ a long time ago, before I even got involved with ace writing really.

      I definitely do agree that some sort of private writing group/forum just for ace writers would be really, really helpful. I would work on making a website for that myself if I wasn’t already tied up with another project. The challenge there is that it would require a lot of rules and heavy moderation, as well as some way to keep others actually engaged in critiquing more than receiving critiques.

  3. I agree with you, there can be some really nasty bullying on Tumblr. I’ve seen a big ace resource blog being bullied away by a handful of people who just kept on pounding on the person running that blog. Me telling those people to back off resulted in them yelling at me (thank god I had anon asks turned off!). Being someone who’s visibly trying to contribute to the community is extremely stressful in such an environment. The more visible you are, the more likely it is that there will be someone who takes offense. You can’t please everyone and nobody is perfect. Yet, Tumblr is just about the most unforgiving environment I’ve ever been in. I hope it’s ok that I share some of my thoughts and experiences about this issue here:

    In her post on the Asexual Agenda (as linked by Asexuality Archive), Queenie talks about the anxiety she can feel going on Tumblr. I relate to that so much. In fact, whenever I post something of my original writing or other longer posts I get really anxious. I’m just waiting for someone to pound on me, to tell me I’m wrong. Though, looking back, I’m happy with the things I’ve written about asexuality. In nearly two years of blogging, there is only one conversation I seriously regret and I wish I had handled differently.
    The fact that, despite me feeling happy about my previous efforts, I still feel anxious when I post something and that I actively avoid discussing certain topics even though I might want to talk about it, tells me that it’s not me, but Tumblr that’s the problem. So I try to make my bubble a pleasant and positive environment. I have massively cut back in the Tumblrs I follow, I blacklisted all the topics I don’t want across my dash, and I stopped checking the ace tags (too much vile in there, so it’s too triggering). That means I might not know everything that’s going on in the ace community on Tumblr, but at least I know I’ll be having a positive experience when I log on.

    Also, I really focus on positive and encouraging people. That Asexual Agenda actively stimulates blogging as well as encouraging posts by other ace bloggers like Redbeardace (write what you want to read! no-one else will. yes, message received, loud and clear!) have really helped me to start writing what I wanted to write. When I write about asexuality, my imagined audience is this group of ace bloggers and readers who I trust to be thoughtful and – if I made a whoopsie – they critique what I wrote, not blindly attack me as a person. That’s what keeps me going: respectful people. I think those are in far greater numbers than those few loudmouths and bandwagon-jumpers that make Tumblr such a toxic environment. Sadly, they’re not always as loud, nor as visible. I sometimes wish there was a more concerted effort to make the discourse more courteous outside of the little bubble I’m currently in. I don’t want to feel like I have to stay out of certain parts of the community in order to feel like I’m in a safe and positive environment. But that would mean challenging that bullying culture and those bullies directly, knowing you will receive retaliation, and who’s got the energy for that?

  4. Pingback: March 2015 Carnival of Aces Roundup – cinderace blogs

  5. This is exactly what has kept me off tumblr. I saw that happening and it was way too similar to some of the ways that I’ve been abused over the years. It’s exactly what Queenie mentioned in a comment on the article linked above:

    “some aspects of tumblr call-outs can mimic or echo abusive behaviors and/or communication styles (which is part of the reason why they can be such a big NOPE for certain people)”

    It’s to the point where I try not to even check what’s going on when I see my posts getting linked on tumblr, unless I’m in a mood where I can likely handle it. I also notice a lot of people coming from tumblr just want to criticize, but don’t have any suggestions for how what they’re criticizing could actually be changed to be better. Sometimes it’s even a “how dare you write that at all” sort of attack. I’m at least fairly used to receiving harsh criticisms from writing classes though, and I always require the person to prove their point has merit before accepting the critique. When there are basic misunderstandings about who a piece is meant for, and things like that, it’s especially hard to find people who are able to give good suggestions.

  6. This is all very true!
    To be honest, I joined tumblr for things other than the asexual community, which is why I’m still on there- but the social justice side can be quite scary sometimes.

    Last month I made a problematic post, you called me out here, and I recognised and apologised for that post.
    But responding on here and waiting for a reply was utterly terrifying because the kind of call-out culture I’ve been exposed to (second-hand, not personally so far) is Tumblr’s call-out culture: which gets very extreme, very fast, with no room for forgiveness or acknowledgement that they may have learnt from their mistakes.
    You see so many stories of blogs abandoned because of the harassment people get in their ask boxes etc.

  7. Pingback: Small observations about the culture in the asexual pockets I’ve been to | From Fandom to Family: Sharing my many thoughts

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